Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This...

I haven't written much lately because my usually traveling husband has been spending an unusual amount of time home. That has been an incredible blessing and a great way to start the summer. It also means that instead of writing to process all my overthinking I lay it on him. He has an amazing ability to take all the complex craziness in and make it seem okay. And since he is an incredible judge of character, the fact that he loves me and believes in me have helped me overcome many obstacles.

Recently I read a novel about a family that suffered a horrific tragedy akin to the tragedy(ies) my own family of origin endured. It was bizarre to read this story while remembering how my family members absorbed the pain ... watching how it ripped this fictional family apart while considering the path of destruction it carved through our lives.

My younger kids ask about my dead brothers a lot because they never met them. I think they're a bit like me in that when I love someone I want to know every single thing about them. Recently, in talking with Peyton, I likened my brother Chris to the sun. Of course this was just my perspective and certainly everyone in my family would tell a different story, but to me, he was the center and the rest of us orbited around him. When he died, everyone kind of spun out of control in different ways. When my next brother died, those wounds that had scabbed and scarred but never actually healed were ripped back open.

When my dad died, the one common thread holding us together--our affection for him--was severed.

In a prophetic moment a few weeks before he died, Chloe said, "Mommy, I'm afraid if Papa dies everything will fall apart." By everything, she meant my family of origin. And in many ways, it did. I don't have the kind of close relationships with my siblings I hope my kids will have one day.

I look at my siblings now, and I think they're good people. They're great parents and friends. They contribute to the world in positive ways. The few times a year we see each other, we're mostly able to enjoy each other's company. Considering our history, that's pretty good. Sometimes, when I look at other familial relationships I feel sad for what we don't have. But our common ground is a burial ground of secrets and pain. But in many ways I think we've all created the lives we wanted, and I don't know about them, but I no longer care to look back. Families of origin though...they always remind you where you came from, who you were, what you shared.

My dad wasn't really part of the fa├žade; he was pretty real. We talked about everything. He was at times the worst person I knew and at others the best. A lot like me. He was black, white and a million shades of grey, but I understood him because we were the same. Learning to understand my dad, loving, forgiving and accepting him flaws and all helped me to do the same with myself.

And now when I look at my family ... my husband and kids and friends I realize they are the family I always wanted. People I can trust and rely on. People who love and accept me unconditionally. People who remind me of everything that is good and pure and loveable about me instead of pulling me back to dark places I'd rather forget.

Not too long ago a very dear friend said to me that she thought we had a perfect life. We did a good job of faking it. And in many ways we still do. But, I have a hard time with fakeness, superficiality, small talk. It was always hard for me to smile and nod and pretend things were great if they weren't. On Father's day, Brad saw through my attempts to be cheerful and asked what was bothering me. I didn't want to ruin his day, so I simply said, "It's father's day and my dad is dead and I don't want to talk about it."

That frankness is hard for some people, but I can't be responsible for other people's stuff anymore. I'm way more comfortable with someone divulging their deepest darkest secrets than a conversation about the weather. I mean I can make small talk because I am enough of a pleaser, a good little girl, that I want people always to be comfortable, but I'd really prefer not to. This has always been one of my biggest struggles with my mom. My mom's chief forms of communication are jokes and gossip. She doesn't want to talk about feelings, and I don't want to tell her anything that is happening in my life because she just turns it into gossip.

It's a super weird dynamic. I've pulled myself back enough from the madness now that I can see how it plays out. I can see how she plays my siblings and me against one another. I had to see that in order to deal with the underlying causes that drove me to binge eat. When I was little, my mom controlled every single aspect of my life. What I wore, what I watched on tv, the activities I participated in, who I played with ... she even pulled me out of elementary school and home-schooled me so as to exercise complete control. My sister rebelled against my mom by not eating. I think probably the same way my mom rebelled against her own mother. However, I took the opposite route.

I would sneak bags of cookies and chips up to my room and eat under the covers. Then, when she would go to bed, I would watch forbidden tv shows. And sometimes, I would steal my grandmother's cigarettes and smoke them behind the garage when I was swinging on my tire swing. Once she caught me and said, "You didn't put that [the cigarette] in your mouth did you?" I told her no and she was able to stay comfortably in denial.

One reason I feel compelled to talk about everything is that my whole life was filled with secrets. It was a show--not one my mom approved of--and we were the cast. Pretend everything is okay. Lie about the bruise on your face. We don't really know how Chris died--it was an overdose. Blame Brian's suicide on his "demons"--the demons actually lived in our house. But no one ever told the truth about what the fuck was actually going on.

Once, my mom, gossiping about someone else said, "I feel so sorry for her. I don't think she had very many happy holidays when she was growing up." I asked her, "Were you ever at one of our holidays? Where someone nearly always got beat, cussed out or stormed out in a rage?" The windows of our glass house are jagged shards.

So, I decided to look at all this stuff again, slog through it, and try to be done with it once and for all. I can't change anything that happened and honestly, I wouldn't. It all brought me to where I am surrounded by people I love and who truly love and accept me. People who dislike me are dealing with something in themselves, and though I offer them compassion I no longer feel driven to gain their affection. Sometimes that desire still wells up inside me, but I feel it and move on. It's not a bad thing to want people to like you, but sacrificing who you are to gain acceptance isn't healthy. That statement seems so commonsensical, but it's taken me a good part of my life to truly believe that my worth isn't contingent on anyone's approval.

I'm not going to "share" this because it's too real for Facebook. But I felt compelled to write it whether it was just for me or if it would help someone else. I listened to a great message last week by Steven Furtick, and in it he said that two of the most powerful words we can say to another person are, "Me too." So, if you've lost someone you love, me too. If you've felt not good enough, me too. If you have felt undeserving of love and grace, me too. Thought you were broken or flawed? me too. Strived for acceptance? Me too. Made bad choices? Me too. Wondered if your family would be better off without you? me too. Drank too much? me too. Sworn at your kids? ME TOO. Done things you're ashamed of? Me too. Questioned your sanity, your worth, your goodness, your purpose, the reason you're here? Me too. Keep going. You're worthy. You're deserving. You're good. You're loved more than you'll ever imagine. If you're breathing you're here for a reason, and you have a purpose. Me too.



5 comments:

  1. Mary, I came across your blog in a weird way. My niece commented on something her friend did about healthy gut...or belly. Anyway. And so did you. I knew your name and followed to your blog.
    I hope you don't mind, but I pretty much devoured everything you wrote.
    I knew you when you were young.
    Maybe you remember me.
    I was Chris' housemate's (David's) girlfriend.
    I'm sad when I read about Chris. And Brian. And I'm sad when I think of David, who is dead too.
    I think.
    Young men, all of them. Half my life ago, and it's still hard to think about sometimes.
    You know I'm one of seven too? The youngest, like you. And it turns out the house you grew up in was a lot like mine. Funny, you'd think I'd be able to recognize it from across the street. But we keep our secrets well.
    So. You are a fabulous writer. Your brothers would be over the moon proud of you. I know that. Keep writing, you never know who you might touch.

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    1. Thank you so much for reaching out and for your sweet words. It was a pretty different world we grew up in. I remember your face. I loved all the girlfriends and imagined them as my sisters :) Sometimes it feels like everything that happened was a dream. Thank you for your gentle reminder that it was real and for the generous gift of your sweet words.

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    2. Thank you. Because it was hard. And it took me a year to write them.

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  2. The idea that you can put it behind you is folly. You can never exorcise your past. You can forgive. You can accept. You can let go. But your past made you who you are for better or worse. Personally I think in your case that it's for the better. Diamonds are made by pressure. Just know that no matter how you deal with it, that your past is like grief: it never goes away, you just learn to live with it and hope that eventually you get to where it is not an utterly crippling fist squeezing every drop of joy from your heart.


    I am also available for parties and bar and bat mitzvahs with my cheerful message of happiness.


    Love you.

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    1. I love you and mostly agree with your cheery musings.

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