Rules for Being Raised by My Mother (I'm sorry I am the way that I am)

1. When your mother lectures you on how you will crash and burn, do not cry. Crying will only prove her right, this time. Keep your eyes dry with your Sahara heart, scorch the rainforest that grows there until everything is brown and dry. Do this out of spite. Do this and you will win.

Note: You will still cry.

Note: Pretend that you didn’t. Maybe, this time, she’ll believe you.


2. When you do well, do not tell her. If you want to be happy, you will keep your accomplishments to yourself, or to your friends. If you tell your mother, she will find a way to tear them down, to make your Empire State Building into the Tower of Babel and you will spend the rest of your life turning your mountains into molehills and wondering why others are standing so much higher than you. Hide them, instead, and know that you and your mother are speaking two different languages; she will not understand how to be happy for you.


3. Remember that you are a person, with all the wonderful mistakes that that entails, but also remember that she, she sits at the right hand of God. Do not raise your voice to her, do not comment on her actions. Remember too that she is always justified. You are not. Learn this: you are not justified, you are in the wrong, always. Assume this, in everything you do, you are wrong. You mother, darling, is a pot of boiling water, which will bubble and boil over and burn you if you push her too far.


4. Better to not touch her at all.


5. Everyone is a pot of water. Do not touch them, just to be safe.


6. Do not cry when you are burned.


7. Love your body. She will not. In your body, round, and heavy, and soft, she will see all of her own failures as a parent. She will see herself, and think it hideous.


8. It is not her body to love, so love it anyway.


9. You were born with a rainforest heart and open-sky mind. The birds of your thoughts fly free and wild there; she will hand you cages. Do not take them.


10. Remember that it is not wrong to want to hate your mother.


11. Do not cry when you cannot.


12. Remember that it is not wrong to want to love yourself.


13. Do not cry when you cannot.


14. When your mother hands you a violin, learn it. Don’t let your eyes stray to the monster in the corner, with its thousand black and white teeth. If you let them sink into you, it will tear at your skin, and work its teeth into your heart, work its claws into your mother’s.  When it leaves, she will be hurt, and blame you for its loss. “It is beautiful!” You say. It is deadly; let it be silent.


15. Work hard. You can fail: that is okay.


16. She will say this. She will not mean it.


17. Learn it anyway.


18. When you feel The Spirit for the first time, do not cry. There is no Spirit. It’s just you, trying to figure out this world you were told is right. There are many religions in the world. Do not cry when you leave this one.


19. When she tells you you need to lose forty pounds, do not cry. You do need to. There is no shame in that.


20. She will never know all four of your friends names. She will not care. Do not try to make her.


21. When you are wrong, do not cry. She will not love you, even if you had been right.


22. When you fight, words flying like fists, remember that her tongue is a snake, and that she is a snail. You are a slug, with no protective shell to crawl back into.Her words will hurt you, and you cannot run away. Do not cry when she hurts you this way.

Note: Even if the fight is about your feelings, you will lose. They were wrong. Do not cry.

Note: Even if the fight is about how to manage your life, you will lose. She shouldn’t have to be involved, but since she is, she knows best. You will say that she should know about your life, if she wants to manage it. She asks why.

Note: Your life is unimportant to her. Do not cry.

Note: If you do not explain, you are lying to her. If you explain, you are being condescending. Do not lie to her. Do not cry.

Note: Her hatred of your emotions is uncontrollable, just like your own paralyzing anxiety. Don’t try to make her understand that this is not fair. Fair is what she says it is. Do not cry.

Note: Even if you are right, you will lose. Do not cry.


23. It is not wrong to love your mother.


24. It is wrong for your mother to not love you.


This poem is about: 
My family


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