An important source of my guilt and pain is the money my aunt left us to go to college. It paid for me to go away to school, with in state tuition and not living in a very opulent way, but to the school which would have been my first choice regardless, and to do do this without working. A smaller inheritance from another relative in that generation allowed me to study abroad. My aunt’s money filled in some gaps in later graduate school, when the cost of living began to rise, although graduate school was mostly paid for with TAships and fellowships.
I never considered using my aunt’s fund for private school tuition or for foreign study, even though I could have technically, because it had not been left to me alone and one must be judicious. Still, my parents were really hurt by the independence we had and also the choices we made — large, urban, public, research oriented universities. They were upset as well at the tastes I had, inappropriate for a nineteenth century lady or a mid twentieth century, marriage and family oriented college girl.
I have spent my life trying to make this up to them by not going too far in the directions that seemed to hurt them so, the directions that made them set their mouths just to hear of. With this post I am giving that up.
I was always aware that whatever we did not spend, would be our parents’ inheritance and retirement. Every year we spent at school would diminished that. Yet the actual issue appears to have been control over where and we studied, which my aunt V had delivered into our own hands. She was perceived to have stolen us, and she had been perceived as interfering before.
Another element in it all is that I told my brother he did not have to be as frugal as I was, even though the money was not left to us alone. I knew it was guilt that was making me so cheap and also guilt/shame that kept me from working more: (1) I would be taking work from people who actually needed it; (2) I would be growing more independent and thus hurting our parents; (3) I was only competent to study, anyway, not to work. If my parents know I told him not to imitate my attitude, that may have exacerbated the issue they still have with all of this.
An additional difficulty may have been that I resemble my aunt — keywords education, business, career — and that my parents resented this. Then there were the facts of my not having resigned myself to sadness and frustration as I had been told an adult would do, and not wanting the right kind of compensation: a house with a garden and children in school. In short, not performing class or gender correctly in any way.
And it appears my parents really thought I was not competent and had to find a man to protect me. It appears that their disapproval of my own nature and choices was love. Yet from this I did not feel stolen by my aunt, but freed, and that freedom was a betrayal of my parents. Knowing how much pain it caused them made me weak and still does.
Still I was freed, and I would like to take hold of that freedom now. I would also like to honor the memory of my aunt. I have often been told what terrible burdens she laid upon us all but these always felt, and feel now, like blessings and gifts.
Much of what I have done, and not done in life up until this point has been undertaken in atonement for having received the inheritance that made it possible for me to go to school. I have always felt that my achievements were not quite legitimate, since they were fueled by the support of this person who had invaded and oppressed other family members. The Emeritus Professor, whose dissertation research my aunt funded, looks down upon me because I “did not do it all on my own.”
I have also always felt that my achievements were hurtful to my parents. If I did something truly great, so much my own that they could not find a way to claim it as theirs and take credit for it, I would be driving a stake through their hearts. I should only take just a little being, just enough to stay alive; this would alleviate their pain.
But I wonder if there is anything at all we could have done or been that they would not criticize or that would not hurt them, or that they would not try somehow to take or destroy. Perhaps driving that stake through their hearts is not a bad metaphor, after all; perhaps I should do it now.
I think all the recrimination about that inheritance was abusive and if I may say so, polluting. I have been feeling badly about it for many years, and it — the recrimination, not the inheritance — was the largest element in the abusive relationship I formed with myself.
I believe I may begin to channel the person I could have been without this burden of recrimination. I think this will be a very good exercise. I am going to channel Aunt V who for me means love. I am going to channel the loving things all the older relatives, including my parents, did and I am going to make that my background — not the envy and the destructiveness.
If I could have channeled my Aunt V before as love, it would have strengthened me. It amazes me now how the mere thought of this makes me calm and relaxed, makes me trust my knowledge, makes me believe things can come out right.