TW: mild themes of DV
“Break the cycle, my daughter. Don’t end up like me.” My mother would tell me.
The earth has felt the footsteps of countless women before me who’ve fallen victim to the cycle of abuse, passed down from mother to daughter. Like the sun that sets when the moon appears, abuse became the relentless rhythm of repetition. With it, tradition formed the lyrics to this sombre tune, its haunting echoes swirling through the bloodlines, replaying on a constant, agonizing loop. Effortlessly, the mother teaches her daughter the melody of silence. And the lives of each generation blur together when the experiences of mother, daughter and granddaughter become all too similar.
Until this very moment, I saw myself as the breaker of this cycle that my mother had fallen victim to. It was me that was refusing to succumb to the generational curse that was passed down through my lineage. The curse that my mom and all the women leading up to her had to endure, long before my heartbeat materialized into this cosmos.
I felt like collateral damage, caught between the bridge of a curse continuing or a curse breaking. I think every child of a broken home feels that at some point between their innocence being violated and their youth being stolen. I felt like I was on a solitary journey, tasked with finding the safety that I was robbed of.
But when memory met reason, it dawned on me that I was never truly alone. How could I have been, when the woman that brought me into this life never left my side for even a split second? How could I see myself as collateral damage, when my mom was the one that had no choice but to live out this cycle so that I could be the one that got away?
So, this is for my mom, a woman who has found strength in ways that I will never understand. A woman who was thrown into a cycle of abuse, drowned in silence, and buried in hopelessness. And at the same time, she made sure that I could emerge from the grave that was dug for us, made sure that I rose through the dirt and saw the sunlight. She made sure we survived.
“Work hard, my daughter, and get yourself out of here. There is a world outside of these walls. Brick by brick, you will build a new life for yourself. I’ve given you everything you need.” My mother would tell me.
“But it’s so lonely, and I’m tired mom. I didn’t ask for any of this.” were the words that never left my mouth.
I was resentful.
It’s very confusing as a child in this cycle. A person that was meant to protect me (my father) was capable of such violent actions against another person that was meant to protect me. How was I ever to feel safe? Even if I was never physically hurt, witnessing the abuse against my mom was a reminder that the risk was always lurking.
Why did I even have to be part of this curse? Why could no one come and save me? Why did I have to be so alone? How could I possibly do anything when I was so helpless?
Obstructed by my pity party, I became eclipsed in my own struggle. It was only when I began to hear the small spaces between the sentences and syllables in my mother’s words that understanding began to seep into my being. For the first time, I began to embrace the seamless yield of truth that painted my mother as the entirety of the person that she was, with a whole past in her, that no soul had ever seen. Entire decades of her life where no one had ever comforted her. Entire visions that she never had the opportunity to see through.
Little did I know, I was never alone. That my mom was slowly unbolting every screw that made the wheel turn, so that by the time it was my turn, the structure was already half-collapsed.
I realize now, that if she had a choice, I would never have been a part of any of this. That the so-called 'curse' would never have even touched my fingertips. But it did. I was born into it, and she had no control over it. So, instead, she promised that I would be more than the sum of my upbringing. My mom showed me that being abused was not my spiritual birthright. That even though I was surrounded by it, I didn’t have to become it.
How much lonelier has it been for her? The one who cracked the cycle so that I could get away from it altogether. The one who’s been silently waging her own battles, invisible to the naked eye. The one who had to tend to her wounds, alone.
And yet, she gave me everything that was taken from her. My mom gave me a voice. She taught me to sing and scream when her own melodious expression was barely seeping through broken breath. She disentangled the cluttered words on my vocal box when her own were buried deep beneath the earth, with roots forming sentences that were never allowed to sprout. She taught me to dream when that luxury had been ripped away from her. She taught me to fly without ever having been gifted a pair of wings. She taught me self-worth while her own was being shattered. She taught me courage while she lived in fear.
Yes, my mother lived in a curse, encased by darkness and terror. Regardless, she was still the entire cosmos condensed into a person-sized scale. What is darkness when my mom can draw on the light of every star in the galaxy?
It took me years to understand this: that even though she was a victim, she was a survivor. That even though she was scared, she’s the bravest soul I’ll ever know. That even though she was trapped, her heart could soar to no end. That even in the shadows, she was light. Even though she was always eclipsed, the sun, at the end of the day, will always be the most powerful star.
You can never truly eclipse that kind of light. She is the whole that exists in something broken.
I wonder if she knows how powerful it is to continue to rise despite being struck down. I wonder if she’s conscious of how her eyes illuminate possibility. When the ground is unreliable and the path is uncertain, when moving ahead feels daunting and overwhelming, I wonder if she knows that she is my hope. Or that her immense courage has crept into my bones. Or when I’m lost, I wonder if my mom knows that she’s my map, showing me that all roads begin with one foot in front of the other.
I was never alone. Never the sole the cycle breaker. My mother was always there. Gently and discreetly, breaking every barrier that was supposedly set in stone. And I reaped the rewards of every single silent struggle she’s ever faced.
I wake up to calm when she had to wake up to chaos. I watch my life take off, while she had to mourn hers. She lost her beginning, so she gave me a chance at a thousand, endless beginnings.
“Break the cycle, my daughter.”
“But you’ve already done it, mom.” is what I’d tell her now.
- F.J Red.