“Must – must – all broken children end up as broken adults?”

A close friend here recently said, “If a person has only one problem, that problem will take up 100% of that person’s time. If however,” she reasoned, “A person has problems A to Z to deal with, then that 100% will be distributed among them. As such, maybe problem A will instead take up only 5% of a person’s time because there are too many things to worry about.”

“With all due respect,” I replied, after the initial shock has subsided, “It’s not that I don’t appreciate your thoughts – I know you put in a lot of thought into writing this – but it’s not that I’ve only one problem in my life to deal with; I just don’t talk about everything else that I’m dealing with. And this work woe,” I insisted on clarifying, “Keeps recurring because I’m frustrated. I think I’ve been putting in efforts to make it work for not against me, yet I keep finding myself at the same spot.”

I keep thinking of the word ‘tip-toe‘ these days.

Why do I live my life paranoid to the core; afraid of missteps and exhaustingly intense?

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” I confided to my closest Miri friend last week as we seated ourselves on the hard plastic chairs of the hospital while waiting for our friend, “Why I am the way I am. I’ve been trying to trace the root of my complexes. Why am I the way I am?” I paused, contemplating on my next thought. “I love my mother,” I began, the same way I would always preface any statement about her, “But I think I am the way I am because I grew up tiptoeing around her.” I let that sink in; he nodded silently. “I think I am an over-thinker because I grew up with the thought that in any situation, the worst case scenario is always the default. That’s how my mother is: she would always plan for the worst. And that’s great because that’s being realistic – but it’s also damaging to a degree, I think. I feel the effects now, as an adult. I get into this crazy headspace, thinking and overthinking, weighing every option and alternative in my head all of the time because that’s how it is at home. That was what it’s like, growing up with her. All my moves are carefully, thoughtfully calculated.”

 Both of us were silent, as if neither dared to break the moment.

“She’s this magnanimous presence in my life with clear likes and dislikes. She defines them definitively. I’ve lived my entire life tiptoeing around her likes and dislikes to the point that even the smallest, trivial things matter. I don’t do certain things, for instance, not because I don’t want to – it’s because I know how much she dislikes them. And because every problem must be dealt with by considering the worse case scenario as base case… every problem therefore takes priority. To a degree, I’m so intense not because I want to but because literally, I don’t know how not to be. I don’t know how else to turn out.”

I do not know how to undo the effects of time and… love.

“She didn’t have the best childhood when she was growing up,” my best friend’s younger sister said to me as she tried explaining why her sister, my childhood best friend, is hardest on their mother. But I was unmoved. “So?” I retorted back. “I didn’t either – but is that reason to think my mother deserves punishment?” My voice shook in anger.

I think the root causes of all my complexes, in all honesty, will all and always point back to my mother.

“We don’t get to choose our mothers,” I said with a finality to my tone, “But we get to decide how we choose to treat them.”

Must – must – all broken children end up as broken adults?

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