My mother read one of my poems today. It took her a few minutes to finish it and when she did, she was silent. She kept staring at the screen she held in her hand.
So I asked her, "You're still reading it?"
And she said to me, finally meeting my eyes, "No." That's when I knew something was off, by the way she took a deep breath and closed her eyes before looking back at me. "Honey, you write like those unhappy people."
She couldn't even say the word depressed. And all I did was stand there and look at her. My eyes felt heavy, as if tears threatened to fall, and I had to fight back the words that wanted to fall out. Because I almost said, "And what if I was?" But, like the coward I am, I said to her instead, "It's not like they chose to be unhappy."
And she looked back at the phone and only shrugged, "I know. Because people get like that when they come from broken families or their parents neglect them or..." and she proceeded to list off the reasons.
All I could do is listen to her, all while my thoughts were screaming. Because you don't need a reason to be depressed. Because even people who have everything can feel the same way. She stopped to look at me and I thought for a single moment that she saw me differently. Not the daughter she has idealized me to be, but the daughter who writes because she doesn't know what to do with the aching in her chest. The daughter who writes because she doesn't know what else to do, because the voices in her head get too loud. The daughter who happens to feel a little broken inside. But just as soon as that realization hit her, she replaced it with a smile. And I knew then she was pretending that part of me wasn't there staring right back at her.
Instead, she said, "You always want to be out there."
And I looked at her. "Because that's what writers do."
But that's not true. I don't publish my works so that I can be out there. I publish my works in hope that my words will speak to someone who feels just like me. Trapped. Alone. Broken. I write hoping that they'll help someone heal. I write because that's the only way I know how to help. I write because someone out there in the world is feeling just like me, and if there's a chance that they'll come across my works and it moves them in such a momentous way, I'll take that chance. I'll take that chance a million times.
So I left my mother there, realizing that she doesn't really know the daughter she raised. And I held my phone in my palm, thinking about the poem that I wrote.