I’ve written about this before and well, the issue never really completely goes away, so it’s always good to revisit it from time to time. Not to dwell on it, but to acknowledge its real impact on life and well-being. It’s a topic in my therapy now and probably always will be!
I have the good fortune to have a fiance who has an amazing family. Sometimes, when I think about it, I wonder if other people have families like his or if they are rare and unique (lol). I say this, because they are genuine and open people; super welcoming and supportive and just easy to integrate into and feel that you belong. Growing up, I had a vindictive, spiteful and gossiping extended family who were just vicious and cruel. I guess I kind of thought that was the norm.
One thing that really threw me off and made me think that my upbringing was typical is that I was surrounded by a lot of material stuff. I had the latest things that most children and teens could ever want. There was never a lack of “things”. I had the jeans everyone wanted, a warm, clean and comfy house, standard vacations to the beach and day trips to amusement parks. If I wanted to go skating or to the mall, I always had a ride and money. So, from the outside looking in, my life was idealistic. My childhood bully even contacted me as an adult and told me during an apology lunch that she bullied me because she was jealous of the “things” I had. I should have told her about the many times I sat in my room waiting for my dad to come home and spank me, or the times he would put his hands around my neck. I still dream about it all these years later.
I thought it was normal to have people sit around on Christmas Day and say things like, “Well, you know how SHE is!” or “No surprise coming from HER!” and other tidbits while you literally are sitting right there. So, when I went out into the world, I guess I gravitated towards the same type of people. Not recognizing that I was emotionally damaged and living without an understanding of what love and kindness was, I wound up with people who used me, took advantage of my need for love and attention and boy did I make a lot of bad choices. I even wound up marrying a very nasty man, had two children with him and endured years of severe emotional abuse and physical abuse until his death when he was 40. (He died in a single car crash and a B.A.C. of .24; he was obliterated from alcohol).
Still reeling from the death of my mother from cancer, I was dealing with the news that my father had cancer when my husband died. I remember so many relatives with the standard, “Let me/us know if you need anything!” It wasn’t until I realized that they were never going to do anything that I started noticing who was actually doing something. It was the people I chose to be in my life; the neighbors, friends and others who actually showed up and KEPT showing up. Sure, there were a few people in my mother’s family who wrote a few checks for the kids, but they were done with me after that. Years later, at the untimely funeral for my sister’s husband, I would discover that not much had changed. Why I felt like I still wanted to be in their life has confounded me to this day.
I remember sitting there talking with a cousin who was holding her toddler as she was telling me that she was expecting another baby. I was never told about the first one and the announcement of the next one was like one of those time filling conversations, you know the ones where you talk because you don’t know what else to say. So…empty and devoid of caring. Being with my fiance’s family is like being truly wanted. It’s hard to explain since it’s new to me, but it certainly has been worth waiting for. I guess I never really knew I was waiting for it.
I always knew that my mom’s family talked about me behind my back, but all through the years, I’ve never been able to get a real answer as to why they abandoned me after my parents died (and I’ve asked). While it may seem that I dwell on it, as I do write about it and talk about it from time to time, it’s more of an internal reminder of how shitty even family can be to you and an important lesson for believing in myself. If I did something so terrible, tell me. Or, if by my being adopted and the death of my parents made you feel I was no longer family, tell me. I’d rather know. There are people I’m not related to (yet) that I’ve hugged more times than I hugged my own mother or other family.
Maybe getting older wakes you up to this sort of thing and you can no longer tolerate it? Ten years ago, I longed for their love and attention and now I’m like, whatever. I’ve sat many a times and wondered why I dwell on these negative things and not remember the good times and all the fun I had. Today, I no longer look back on the pictures from my own childhood and instead I truly enjoy the photographs and stories of my friends and loved ones posting pictures of their family adventures and pictures of their kids and lives. I like looking back on MY new life and revel in my growing happiness. I feel that I can finally do that now too because I really only spend time with people I care about now and who care about me, genuinely. Maybe you do have to process all the crap before you can understand when the good is right in front of you?
It is so very nice to be loved. I’ve waited my whole life for it. Sure, I’ve always had the special love of my children and that is something that I will cherish, but the kind of love that makes you feel safe and cared for…that’s the kind I never knew existed until now.