When you’re say, eighty, and looking back to your life, how would you see it?
Her childhood is unheard of. She’s the dutiful daughter and sister. Her teenage years and growing pains passed by in a blink of the eye. The first defining moment of her life was her marriage. It was her rites of passage. How strange it is that her first “autonomy” was acquired when she submit to devote her life to a man she never met before. But that’s just what you’re supposed to do as a woman. There’s no question on that.
By getting married, she fulfilled the first milestone of her life. It’s her only option to be accepted and be safe from never-ending communal pressure. A bit late as compared to other women in her generation, but, she’s married, at last. Her husband was her reason to exist, no matter how much he betrayed her. And when she had kids, her life was complete. She was whole, because she saw herself through the lens of other people’s expectation.
After all those years, during her senior age, the time has come when she has to let go of trying to control other people’s life, the way other people directly or indirectly control the passage of her life. She, the one whom people depend upon, felt hard to accept that it’s her turn to depend on her juniors. She had to stay with, life by means of, and under her junior’s authority. In this situation, nothing and nobody could please her. It’s even harder to accept that things are just not the way it was.
She held in contempt that her grown-up children who were living in a distance did not ring as often as she expected. She felt neglected, forgotten, and especially lonely. It felt somewhat like another hint of betrayal though she knew her hearings had passed its prime. Her own ears betray her, her weak legs, her ever-painful body, her shaking hands … exactly in the time when, very late in life, she finally aspired to show to other people how accomplished her life is.
She wanted to show it through controlling the kitchen and awe people with her dishes—the thing she could be most proud of herself. Or, by showing off her objects of personal adornment such as her shiny jewelries and her collection of beautiful garments. She tried to gain back whatever was left, such as return to her hometown and built her house anew—the house that had been abandoned for ever. This short period was as quick as a wink, until her glorious glittering things couldn’t save her from falling in her bathroom, alone. She could do nothing but return to live as a dependent.
It is to her utmost repugnance that other people couldn’t care less about living their life according to her expectation, no matter how blurry it might be. After all, she had dedicated her life for other people: her parents, her siblings, her husband, her kids, the ever-nagging surrounding community who never really cared. It felt like being defeated, and no, she wouldn’t give up as yet. Her constant bitterness was her way to fight back.
As her grandchildren, I am impressed by her bitterness. I am also aware that it’s toxic. It could perhaps affect me unbearably more than I want. Hence, the question: how difficult it might be to live and not end up bitter? For now, I don’t know. But, the more I observe people, young or adult or old, the more I realize that bitterness is prevalent.
Here, as unsure as I am, I attempt to avoid ending up bitter. Hence the title “Bitter Me, Not”.
I suspect that bitterness could stem from betraying yourself in order to conform to ready-made values that you never challenge and never dare to question. Just as explicitly and bluntly said by Jeanette Winterson:
Everyone, at some time in their life, must choose whether to stay with a ready-made world that may be safe but which is also limiting, or to push forward, often past the frontiers of commonsense, into a personal place, unknown and untried.
And when you choose to stay, the raven said, your heart turns into stone.