I recently borrowed the first season of Felicity from a friend, since I am a sucker for almost any show on DVD. For those of you who had better things to do in the early 2000s, I'll recap: In the first few episodes, Felicity lays claim to her life, and starts making her own choices. She moves far away from home to go to college in New York, and discovers the joys of cereal machines in the cafeteria, dorm life, and general freedom in refreshing 47 minute increments. Unfortunately, every time I watch an episode, I dissolve into a ridiculous mess of tears and choke on my repressed teen-aged dreams.
A long time ago (longer than I want to admit) I stood in front of a cake I had made myself, and carefully arranged 18 candles in a seemingly random pattern. I called my mother in from the couch in the other room where she spent nearly every hour of her life. She slept there all day, and watched TV all night wedged in sagging cushions that were older than me. When the need struck her (at least once a day) she would settle in her nest of tattered blankets on that same damn couch, and explain in heart breaking detail how I had single-handedly ruined her life. In reality I had done nothing more than grow up, but since that meant I would soon leave her alone in her insane misery, it was an unforgivable offense.
When I yelled that my cake was done, my mom moved slowly into the kitchen, wrapped her robe tightly around her body like a security blanket, and complimented my frosting decorations in her best pretend-happy voice. The two of us sang a pathetically thin rendition of Happy Birthday, and when it came time to blow out my candles, I only managed to snuff out three or four before my breath caught in my throat. I stared at the still flickering mass of candles, trying to breathe, but knowing full well if I let it go, only sobs would follow. I gave the rest of the candles my best shot in a sad attempt to salvage my wish, but a heaving cry which shook my body was all that came out.
As I listened to my mother yell at me for next several hours, and played along with her drama explaining all the reasons she shouldn't kill herself on my birthday, I felt my future slipping away. I knew I would never be able to go away for college like I had planned, because I believed that her endless threats would become real, and I would find her dead on my first visit home.
I watched my friends move out. I stayed home. My mother got worse.
I stayed home. I watched my mother dissolve. My life got worse.
So there I was a week ago snuggled up in my basement and watching a mildly entertaining Coming-of-Age Drama, so far removed from the hell that was my reality for so long. I realized that even if I went back to college in search of that adventure, I would never find it. I will never be 18 again. It was just one more of those experiences in life that we envision happening a certain way-- the normal way-- that was taken from me by my mother's illness.
However, I actually think my lame fixation on Felicity's antics is a sign of progress. Instead of being so damn mad about my past as a whole, I have taken a moment to mourn this small episode, and hopefully to move on.
Next step in the healing process: Enact a Nationwide Labeling System for content which might unexpectedly act as a springboard for deep introspection, so that the damaged and the emotionally fragile among us can watch/read/listen accordingly.
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