There are game changers, paradigm shifts, that leave a person grasping for threads of reality, some shard of a comfort zone, a leg on which to stand. One of those turning points happened to me seven years ago when my first child was born. My whole world changed hue: my eyes saw differently and my brain processes were permanently altered in ways to multitudinous to enumerate. That was an incredibly difficult time period for me - over two years of feeling like I was on a flaming, sinking ship rather than "over the moon" (which was how I thought I should feel about the beautiful little boy I'd been gifted with.)
Almost seven years to the day later, I've reached another long-sought-after pivotal event: I had a real conversation with my father. A genuine heart-to-heart, devoid of the amorphous tension that has plagued our interactions for too many years, wherein I got to ask some of the hard-to-ask questions I'd only recently been able to formulate coherently and to which he responded openly. There was no sense of judgment, no feelings of regret or necessity for apology; I had no attachment to or desire for any specific answer. We just talked.
I opened the conversation via email because it was comfortable to me to do so. That gave me the opportunity to carefully craft what I wanted to express, give all the background I felt was pertinent, make sure I meant everything I said and that it held both the gravity and genuine curiosity which I felt without laying any blame or pointing any fingers.
What I truly felt was needed for my healing to progress was for some gaps to be filled. What I experienced was infinitely more profound: the entire story required intense revision. I'm still working on bits and pieces of it but the basics have been modified so wholly that it's left me a little lightheaded. My husband even commented that my conversation must have gone well because I seemed much more happy than I'd been in a while. He was right on the money.
In its grittiest short form, the story I'd believed for so long that I'd simply accepted it as whole cloth, was that, as I was nearing the end of third grade, I had to go live with my grandparents because they were the only ones who could take me. There were multiple, emotionally charges layers in my mind as to why this was: I was too much of a burden on my stepmother because she had two small children of her own with another coming in a few months; my mother didn't have the financial resources to care for me; my grandparents only had one of their four children still at home so they were stable enough to take me in. All of these factors, for me, carried a sense of me being a hassle, a challenge to be dealt with, a frustration that needed to be handled because it couldn't easily be gotten rid of all together rather than a child who needed to be loved and cared for. Of course, it was never said to me in so many words - these are concepts that I applied later as I tried making sense of my memories as my mental processes matured. Not having any other evidence or input than my experience (which no doubt included things the adults in my life said to me without realizing the impact they'd have for me), I went along for the better part of three decades with an omnipresent sense of abandonment, perpetually questioning the love that should have been obvious but which was, for me, always in doubt.
What my father gave me was context. My mother had surmised much of what we discussed, but he filled in many of the varied circumstances and situations at play at that particular time in our family's history: extenuating financial challenges, intense work stresses, family in-fighting, the crossroads he was at personally in his career. The decision for me to go live with my grandparents, at its most basic, was based on everyone's desire for me to have a stable school environment. I'd already been in four schools in three states (VA, FL and MI) over the course of my first through third grade career so this factor alone had significant impact. The other obvious benefit was that my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, doted on me so it was understood that it would be a loving home for me. I admit that I was spoiled while I was there, but it certainly was a place where I felt fully loved.
What I missed was the sense of belonging - when I left my sisters and my brother-to-be, the home and parents I'd known for so many of my very early years, I never again felt like a proper part of that family. I was a guest, a visitor, more like a close cousin than a sibling/child. Strangely, however, my sisters and brother have always felt fully my siblings despite the fact that they share a mother with each other and, biologically speaking, I only share a father with them. I don't know whether that feeling is as strong for them since they were so little when I departed their daily lives, but they've never seemed like "half-siblings" to me.
My challenge now, my opportunity for growth, is to use this chance to make my personal history revisions and move forward with more confidence, more solid footing that this greater understanding of my life brings to me. It's a gift that has great potential for outward expansion; in what ways might I use this knowledge to be of service to others, helping them heal from their old wounds? Yes, mine own wounds still need careful ministration, more healing salve, more holes need filling in. And that's just fine.
I can say with certainty that this one conversation will ultimately prove integral to the next steps in my spiritual and emotional evolution - with any luck at all, I'll be able to permanently dissolve some of the angst that's nipped at my heals incessantly throughout my adult life. Exercises like this post will help me document those feelings so I can recognize them should they start stealing their way back in as well as solidifying my new story. I like it.
In what ways might you be able to examine your story and act as your own life editor?
19 hours ago