Are We Only Truly Free After Our Parents Die?

In Beastly & Beautiful, Psychology, Psychology-Self by Louisa Leontiades

There’s a time in your life. One where you are an adult, but still a child. For many of us it co-exists unperceived until one hideous moment, when you finally become the oldest generation. Our parents’ death can be a welcome end, or a senseless tragedy, or both. But in all cases it means that your relationship with your parents is over. That cycle has come to an end. And you are no longer the child in the family.

Amid all the conflicting emotions you may have, the one thing you might not expect is relief (and even if you did, you probably can’t admit it out loud). You don’t need to look over your shoulder anymore, or report back on your progress. Or justify your decisions. So out of the tragedy, what you gain from such an event is freedom. But it’s a high price to pay and few would say it was worth it.

Some people are fortunate enough to be able to experience that freedom even whilst their parents are still alive. It’s the utopia. That small select bunch of people who are free to express their voice fully all the while maintaining a loving relationship with their parents. I don’t know any of those people. I only know people who hide things from their parents to varying degrees. Whether it’s smoking. Sexual activity and inclination. Feelings about their childhood. Or they compromise …to experience freedom away from home and never talk about it. Some have enough freedom that they don’t need anymore, some don’t even know they desire freedom whilst others have been only too painfully aware, that without freedom they can never be happy. They might even be willing to pay the price. Are you one of them?

Be careful what you wish for. Because in this life there are acts and their are consequences. I have paid the price of losing my parents, not through death, but through choice. I have taken the freedom available to me because of my circumstances and sailed with it. With my writing I have voyaged over seas without social boundaries, fought inherited values and discovered many taboos you can’t even imagine.

I have written about rape, maternal narcissism, domestic abuse, sexual exploits and my difficult upbringing… which like anyone else’s wasn’t always pretty. My bid for all out freedom and to express my voice has brought me untold joy. It has brought me growth, power and limitless opportunity. It has brought me love, integrity and honesty. It has allowed me to master my life and my experience of it. I can truly say I am grateful for all of it. But the price I paid was the relationship with my parents.  They are not dead, and yet they are strangers to me.

Some think that the price I paid for my freedom was too high. But this price is relative according to the worth of your relationship and only you can decide whether you’re willing to pay it. And yet, there is no question in my mind that all of us would benefit from some more freedom. I would wish for the majority that they wouldn’t have to choose. That they could have more freedom and keep contact with their parents. Because it’s the ability to express ourselves more fully. The courage to step into a daring future. An empowerment of the self. And still be loved.

In so many cases our lives are owned by others. Our purposes are defined for us by society, our parents or our religions. But not mine. Our loss of contact was the choice we all made, but it has allowed me to shake the foundations of life, to confront my past openly and ask the scary questions which threaten to overwhelm me like monsters from the deep.

So how does paying the price feel? I think much of the time we get what we intend in this world, even if we don’t know what it is fully we’re intending. I think I intended, at least at some level, to cut with my parents. It showed in every word I wrote and every convention I flouted. I knew the consequences, even if I was surprised when they happened.

Sometimes I feel cut adrift, even though I was the one who crafted the scissors, and hacked through the threads of the tapestry we had painfully constructed over the years of lies, deceit and bitter recrimination. For years I wore their absence like a shroud around my shoulders. But although I drifted aimlessly on the open seas, buffeted by the storms I conjured myself from my grief, I also found that had the tools to fashion an oar. And I used that oar to paddle my way into the unknown, into a life which held no parental duty expectation or obligation. Into a land of different colours and magic. It’s wonderful here… now. But it took me many years to change that shroud into a cape and learn how to fly.  And the price was high.