La Llorona: Of Fear, Demons and Motherhood
I remember lying in bed with the sheet pulled to my chin and eyes intently watching the fan propped in my open bedroom window. The terror within and the heat of the Texan summer, even at night, caused me to sweat profusely. There was still no way I would let go of that sheet, possibly the only thing that kept her away from me. I hated the sound of the fan because what if she was out there. How would I know if she was approaching? But it was too hot that evening to close the window or not have a fan running. Eventually I fell asleep watching the blades whir and wheeze. That fear never left.
In my culture, from the time you are small, you hear about La Llorona. Bad children beware. The wailing of a child is a beacon to her. She longs to be reunited with the children, legend says, she drowned in a river after falling in love with a wealthy man that did not want a family. When he learns of her misdeed, he leaves her. In her despair, she kills herself. The end. What a bedtime story. What bad parenting! As a mother myself, I would never deliberately terrify my children into behaving, as much as I’m sometimes tempted to do so.
As a woman, as an adult and as a mother this story now frightens me for other reasons. It makes me think of the exhaustion and desperation I have felt in motherhood. It’s difficult to admit that at times I am that sad woman, but everything tells you, you shouldn’t be. Don’t make noise. Be quiet. Get on with it. There are those moments when the exhaustion is like a sticky tar that weighs more than my body can lift. It covers my eyes so that it’s difficult to see clearly. When I haven’t showered, I’m running late, and my hair is scraped into a greasy bun, I can’t help but to want more.
This was not more apparent than before my last pregnancy. I would drop my children off at school and cry in my car in the driveway. La Llorona could be staring at me in my rear-view mirror, ready to take me away, and I wouldn’t care.
Disengaged. Afraid. Frustrated. Sad. Restless. Ashamed. I suppose everyone hits a wall in their life and I had hit mine.
I felt disengaged from family life because that was my only job. I felt afraid because, what if I became pregnant for a third time. Frustrated, it had been over a year and was not pregnant. Sad because I was happy with two children, but my husband was not. Restless, what else is out there for me. Ashamed, that my family was not enough. There was an abyss inside of me with creatures of fear and demons I thought long exorcised from past mistakes.
Where would I turn now? Don’t get me wrong, I love my children and husband, but restlessness has yellow greedy eyes that always manages to sneak a glance out the window of the fast-moving train that is day-to-day adult life to an outside world where possibility and spontaneity still exist. It growls at me whenever I’m around my aging in-laws that one day that will be me. One day my body and mind will fail me. The demon has done its job and has planted a little seed of fear. Time is short don’t let it pass you by.
I panic when my fears are confirmed, like the time my eldest tossed his phone at me and barked, “I hate you.” His voice so full of scorn and wrath butchered me like a maniac’s knife. My hurt pooled around me. I’m just trying to be a good mother. I’m just trying to lay down rules so he doesn’t turn out to be a big jerk later in life. Am I too late? Then my sorrow turns into anger as I hear him huff and make unnecessary noise as stomps to bed. There will be hell to pay if he wakes the little ones. More anger rises inside of me. How dare he tell me he hates me when he has so much. This kid is going skiing for Christ sake in the spring. Does he really think I enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn to play uber driver in traffic with two children in the backseat?
On my worst days, those anxiety addled dark-cloud-ready-to-burst with acid rain days, I wonder where I went wrong. The fear of wondering if I got it all wrong. If someone had shown me a catalogue of all the little things that is required of a parent would I have done it? The devil is in the details.
Maybe I should have spent more time working or I should have studied something else in college. I should have, why didn’t I, what will be left when they are all out of the house. Why did I turn this corner and open myself to something so monumentally important with so few tools to cope? I come from a broken home. My relationship with my mother is threadbare because she never knew her mother. How does one know how to be a mother when you never had one yourself? Is this why I put so much pressure on myself to get it right and when it doesn’t, I automatically think I’m a failure.
I don’t think La Llorona is out there, she is inside of me. Her voice is a silky thread that warps itself around my heart and mind until it’s as tight as an Anaconda’s death grip. She whispers, “not good enough. Be afraid.” At times it’s so easy to fall into that pile of laundry, dirty dishes, grocery list, homework hole. Feeling overwhelmed is like an icy touch that leaves me trembling with an eager anticipation for the day to just end.
My only sheet is my own voice saying, “Yes, you are enough and you are doing enough. It’s ok to not be perfect or get it all done at once.” If I didn’t have my children, I wouldn’t be the better version of myself. They have taught important things about life and love. Until the end they will be my greatest inspiration in everything, especially writing.
Are good things ever easy? How will my children learn perseverance if I don’t have it myself? They need me happy, complete.
I take more time out for myself to write and enjoy things that are just for me. I’ve chosen to speak up when I need a break, to have confidence in, “No means No.” If I keep worrying and wailing, then those small moments that make up the quilt of life will be missed. I don’t want to miss a second because they are growing so very fast.
La Llorona does not come for you unless you invite in her in. She isn’t welcome anymore.
About Violet Castro
I am a Mexican American woman from San Antonio, Texas, and my culture is my first inspiration. There are so many stories I could tell you, but I’ll save those for the books 😉 My Instagram is littered with old photos of my early years growing up in Texas. I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel the world, which heavily influences my writing. This background picture was taken as I ascended Mount Kilimanjaro!Finally, the complicated thing that is motherhood has also shaped what I write and how I write.