It’s the Way I Grew Up…

(paraphrased)

“Do you know how many people I’ve told about you? About your story? You came from nothing and here you are…”

(end paraphrase)

It’s the way I grew up. The fights. The yelling. The hitting. The name-calling. The hurting. I thought it was the way everybody lived. I never doubted even for a second that my dad loved me – I knew he did. I doubted if anyone else did.

As a child, all my extended family either died or disappeared from my life. By the time I was 11, everyone seemed to have left. Our family was dysfunctional at best. My dad tried – he tried to be the peacemaker, tried to take us to church, tried to turn us into a functional family – but the damage was already done. Everyone had left and I didn’t understand why. I hated being home – it didn’t feel like home. Yeah, I survived and I’ve even learned how to deal with my family as an adult, but some scars don’t heal quickly. 

I didn’t really have friends in elementary school. I was smart and I knew I was smart and I held onto that. There was a group of girls I would play with outside at recess – until the day they told me they didn’t want to play with me anymore. I remember walking away feeling heartbroken – these people I thought were my friends really weren’t my friends. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. I cried and tried to have fun at recess, but my feelings were too hurt. I didn’t really make friends after that. I stumbled across one around the fourth grade – we had known each other in preschool and I feel like God brought us together when we both needed it. We both needed a friend at school and so He gave us each other. My mom would spend the rest of my school years comparing me to her. Everything was a competition and I had to win over my best friend. It made me feel like she wasn’t my friend at times – she was someone I had to win against. But she was my friend. Was being the key word – I lost her in October 2012. She’s fine – don’t worry – but I made some bad choices and we grew apart. Part of me wishes I would have reached out to her and told her what I was going though. Part of me felt an overwhelming need to protect her from my life. In the end – I lost. 

I remember wanting to try out for volleyball. I remember my mother’s words. “You’ll never make the team – only the rich kids will make the team.” Way to crush my hopes and dreams. Everything was always about money – my family didn’t have enough, we were poor compared to other people, we were in debt. However, we never went hungry. There was always food in the house. We stopped going to the doctor and the eye doctor and even the dentist annually, but at least we never went hungry. 

All the relationships around me were rocky. My dad’s relationship with my mom was rocky – to the point that I remember the day he asked me if I thought we would be better off if he divorced her. I remember the tears in his eyes – he was scared that if he divorced her that he would never find someone who would love him. I question sometimes if my parents ever truly loved each other. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful they met and married or I wouldn’t be here and my little brothers wouldn’t be here – but I question what their marriage was built on. My mom’s relationship with everyone was rocky – there were more arguments than I could count. I remember the hitting and kicking and yelling. I remember the day I realized I was big enough to fight back. Most of the time I just wanted everyone to stop. The relationship with my brothers changed as often as the time on the clock. The relationship with extended family didn’t exist. I grew jealous of my classmates who talked about spending the weekend with their grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins. I may not have had friends in school, but I hung onto every word my classmates spoke.

I remember my first crushes. Some of them went on to become really amazing guys. Others not so much. In sixth grade this boy asked me to the dance – I was crushing on someone else (hoping he would ask me) and so I said no. The whole class thought I was mean and that other boy never asked me. In seventh grade I asked an eighth grader to the school dance after art class one day. It had taken me days to get up the courage to ask him. He said yes and I was so excited. A day or two later he came back and said that he couldn’t take me because he had to take his girlfriend to the dance instead. Then I moved onto someone else who I would spent the majority of middle school and high school crushing on. He liked just about every other girl in school – except me. We became friends and we studied together. He started to attend church with my family. I admitted how I felt to him. He didn’t feel the same. We stayed friends for a while and then slowly drifted apart. I gave up on boys after that. Three strikes and I’m out. About halfway through college someone new entered my life. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not – but he gave me attention and at that point in my life, I was craving some attention from a boy. We were good friends and I knew he liked me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He would give me my first kiss. He would become my biggest regret. I guard my heart to this day because of what transpired.

Sometimes I drive people away before they can hurt me. It’s what life has taught me – that people will leave you and people will die and then I will be left heartbroken. The people who haven’t been driven away are the special ones – they’re the ones I realized were worth fighting for and will continue to fight to have in my life. The guys I’ve dated here and there though – those are the ones I tend to drive away before they can hurt me by leaving. My heart can only take so much heartache. 

Losing my dad ripped my heart apart. I didn’t know it was possible to be in so much emotional pain until he died. It all still haunts me. I would give anything to wrap my arms around his neck once more. To tell him I love him. Sometimes I feel guilty when I laugh because he’s not here to share it with me. Other times I’m relieved that life is working out okay. It’s a struggle.

I remember the day Allison invited me to stay at her house. I didn’t know what to say or do. I had moved out of my mom’s house a couple months beforehand. Allison cared and was offering me what I needed most – stability. I remember watching how her family interacted and being amazed. They functioned like a “normal” family should. There wasn’t the fighting and kicking and hitting going on. I saw what it looked like when two people who love each other work together to raise a family. I was amazed every single day.

Later I found out that she was worried I wasn’t going to graduate college. I had shared with her everything that was going on and she spent a while worrying about me. She would also introduce me to the college therapist and I would spend the next thirteen months trying to figure out life in that office. 

I cried a lot in therapy. I tried to work through everything that had happened. I tried to figure out how to move forward. I tried to make good decisions. It was a struggle. There were so many things to talk about, so many things to work through, so many things that I needed to say.

I was a very independent person – even back then. My therapist saw it, but he also saw how guarded my heart was. I was trying to protect it from being broken again and I was willing to protect it at any cost – even if it meant being a loner. I still hear his words to this day. “You don’t need anyone to save you, you can save yourself, but someday, it might be nice.” He’s right. I don’t need anyone to save me. I can save myself. One day maybe it’ll be nice. One day maybe I’ll be willing to take a chance with my heart. One day maybe I’ll find someone who’s worth the risk. 

My guilty pleasure from high school onward was Walker, Texas Ranger. Gosh – I still love that show to this day. But it was never the action that pulled me in. In was the way that the good guys always won. The way you knew everything was going to turn out. It was the way Walker protected Alex and how you could always tell how much they loved each other. I was never drawn to the fighting scenes – I was drawn to the way Walker loved Alex and I often wondered if anyone would ever look at me the way he looks at her. I understood it was a fictional television series, but in my childhood world of wondering what it was like when two people loved each other, Walker and Alex were the example I found and hung onto.  

I’ve loved animals since the beginning of time. Have you ever looked into an animal’s eyes? You can see straight into their souls. Each one has a story and each one has their own moods and emotions and attitudes. I wanted to go away and study pandas as a child. Then I wanted to ride free on the back of a horse. I thought about becoming a vet but science and I were never friends, I decided against it. Now I have dogs with dreams of recusing and fostering more one day. 

I love writing. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, but when it does, I can spend hours upon hours writing. Sometimes it’s a story that’s popped into my head. Sometimes it’s something that someone says to me. Sometimes it’s just how I’m feeling. I drift away from writing from time to time, but I tend to always find my way back to it. It’s the hobby I won’t let disappear, no matter how much time lapses. 

I want to get healthier. I want to finally run a mile without stopping. I want to look in the mirror and love what I see. I want to see what other people see in me. Sometimes I’m just not sure how. 

God and I have drifted apart many times throughout my life. I aim to be a good Christian, but in fall short daily. I will go periods of time without going to church or reading my Bible. I haven’t prayed daily in years. Yet, I know that despite all my struggles, God doesn’t leave my side. He walks with me and talks with me. He’s my comfort when I lay awake at night crying. He protects me when I can’t figure it out. Most of all, He loves me – despite everything that has happened in my life. 

Which leads me to here – what is the point in me writing all of this now? My friend said she wanted to understand why I’m so scared – she wanted to help. I don’t understand myself sometimes and I didn’t know where to start so I figure I’d start at the beginning. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sort through all the feelings running around my head, but it’s easier to sort through them when I write. 

I’m scared of falling into financial trouble like my dad. I’m scared I’ll marry the wrong person and have a marriage like my parents. I’m scared I’ll never have kids and if I do, they’ll lay awake at night questioning if I love them. I’m scared I’ll raise them the way I was raised, despite my promises to myself that I would never do that. I’m scared that I’ll never find a group of friends who I can rely on and will always be there whenever I need them. I’m scared of leaving my comfort zone and I’m scared of falling. I’m scared that I’ll always hear the words ringing in my head that I’ve heard all my life. I’m scared of having my heart broken again – I’ve barely survived it every time before when it’s broken. I’m scared of being in a loveless relationship. But most of all – I’m scared of missing out on wonderful things because I’m scared. 

There are people around me who I know will always be there for me. I’ve discovered which family members will be there through thick and thin; and which ones I need to set boundaries with. I’ve discovered co-workers who have become family. I’ve discovered a family I never knew I needed but always wanted.

Sometimes I feel guilty for this – for loving the people in my life. I’m on this path because my dad died. I’ve met most of these people as a result of this death. I wish I could say I would give all of them up to have him back – but honestly, I don’t want to go back to my childhood life. I just wish he could be here and I could keep them. It makes me feel guilty most days. But I can’t feel guilty for living. 

It’s often easier for other people to realize how strong you are as a person. When I look at my life, I don’t see myself as someone who is strong. I see myself as someone who has learned how to survive but at the expense of being fearful. Other people see a strong person who has overcome so much to get to where she is. 

Perhaps it’s easier for others to see our strength. We don’t see it within ourselves because we are too busy trying to figure out how to survive. Maybe it’s about taking a step back and realizing everything that you’ve overcome. Maybe it’s about realizing that there’s still a fight left within you. Maybe it’s about fighting for the life you’ve always dreamed of.

It’s not always easy to keep fighting for what I want, sometimes I need a nap from all of it. It feels like an endless battle. I’m not sure if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. 

But maybe if I fight long enough and hard enough I’ll finally have the family I’ve always dreamed of. 

“A warrior is the woman who gets up despite the enemy trying to destroy her. A woman who declares her victory before seeing it. A woman who believes she will receive her miracle because she knows the Lord she serves is alive and by her side.”

Excerpts from a Book I’ll Never Write

“Just tell me when it’ll all be worth it,” her eyes were begging to know. 

“I can’t tell you when.”

“Why? Why can’t you tell me when? You want me to take this giant leap of faith but you won’t tell me when it’ll pay off! Can’t you see how scared I am? I need to know!” she declared, tears streaming down her face. 

“You have to trust that it’ll all work out.”

“I can’t do that! I don’t know how. You don’t have to give me an exact date – just give me a year or tell me how old I’ll be when it finally pays off.”

“But then you’ll spend all your time waiting and you won’t ever do the things that will get you there.”

Tears streamed down her face. “Will you tell me about the moment I will know it has paid off then?”

“There will be a couple moments when you know it has paid off. The first is when you run that mile without stopping and you finally look in the mirror and are happy with what you see.”

“How do you know I’m unhappy?”

“It’s written all over your face. You think you hide it so well. You don’t hide it from me.”

“Okay – so I’ll be happy when I finally run a mile. Is that it?”

“No. There’s a few other moments that you long for but are scared will never happen.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked as she fought the urge to run and hide. 

“It’ll be worth it when you realize you’ve found your soulmate – the person who understands you and loves you just as you are. The first time you kiss, it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. When he wraps his arms around you, you’ll feel safe. You will talk about where you want to live and all the things you want to do and how you want to raise your children – and you’ll believe him. The day he asks you to be his wife – gosh – you’ll realize all the dreams you held onto for so long are finally coming true. Oh you’ll be scared – scared it’ll all fall apart – but the love the two of you share will see you through. You won’t plan a big wedding – you’ll probably elope. You’ll settle down into a nice house with a little bit of land and you’ll live a great life.”

“That’s it? But what about…” tears came to her eyes again as she thought about her greatest wish. She was so scared it may never come true. 

“What about children? You can say it. It’s your greatest wish and your fear. You want it more than anything but you’re scared to want it. You’re so scared it may never happen and that is your greatest fear. You’re scared that you’ll have held onto this dream forever and then it won’t come true. You’ve promised yourself since you were a little girl that your children would be raised differently than you, but you’re scared you won’t ever get that chance. You’re so scared that you’ll disregard the symptoms until you visit the doctor. That’s when you’ll probably find out you’re pregnant. In that moment, you’ll start to realize that it was all worth it. You’ll be so incredibly happy. When you see your baby on the ultrasound for the first time and feel your baby kick – you’ll know it was worth it. But the day of your firstborn’s birth, that’s when it will all finally sink in. On that day, you’ll realize that it was all worth it – the painful childhood, losing your dad, losing yourself and struggling for years to find yourself once more, throwing caution to the wind and not letting your fears dictate your life, going on that date with your future husband and realizing he was the one, getting married, buying a house, and admitting to yourself that you wanted all of it. When you look down at your child, you’ll realize that it was all worth it – all of it – and you’d do it all over again to end up in that moment once more.”

“Promise?” she asked barely above a whisper as the tears flowed unchecked down her face. She looked at the ground, to scared to look up. 

A hand reached down and lifted her head. “I promise, but it all starts with you.”

She nodded her head. “I’m trying. I promise I’m trying. I’m just so darn scared.”

“But you can’t let fear run your life. I know you’re scared. I know how much it hurts. I know that your mind is telling you everything that could go wrong. Have faith.”

She tried to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“It’s okay to cry. You’ve earned every single one of those tears. Just remember that it starts with you and it’ll work out – I promise.”