I have written a great deal about the struggle I have with the relationship with my parents, my father in particular. A lot of the words I have written were almost therapy, a way for me to explore things I remembered, turn them over and over and try to make sense of them. It is easy in an overview to see things as black and white, with a hero and a victim. There are many reasons I have struggled over the years, battled depression, and questioned myself. I do believe with all of my heart that the foundation I was given led me to a struggle with my self esteem and gave me more obstacles to overcome at a young age. However, I do know I can’t blame everything on my upbringing or my father’s alcoholism. I know that I am still responsible for choices I have made, and paths I have chosen.
I have never been good with money. I can remember so vividly being in Mrs. McCune’s math class in middle school crying my eyes out because I could not balance my imaginary checkbook that was given to us as a class assignment. This wasn’t Algebra or Calculus. It was addition and subtraction. And I wasn’t a stupid kid. Outside of the checkbook register, addition and subtraction were easy. Put in the context of paying bills and shopping, I couldn’t make it work.
Some of my struggles over the years with money have been just not having enough of it, working three jobs trying to make ends meet, eating spaghettios almost every night to survive. But as I found career success and made a great salary, I still had issues. Some of it was due to retail therapy and comforting myself because other things were lacking, and some of it was just my lack of money management skills.
My relationship choices did have a predestination quality, we learn what we live—how we are taught to love. But at some point, you have to say to yourself people who hurt me are bad, those who don’t are good, and learn from it. I was a slow learner to say the least.
So, yes, I know that my childhood shaped me, maybe more than I would have liked. But even amidst the pain and at times, bitterness, I know I gained some things from my parents that are the better parts of me.
I have my mother’s heart. My mother’s compassion is a gift I am thankful for, even though it causes me to feel things 100 times more deeply than I should, causes me to cry over small injustices every day. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel things so deeply, and have, over the years, wished I didn’t form such intense strong attachments to people, but I know that the opposite would be worse. I have watched my mother love without worrying about anything in return for much of her life. Although I know it isn’t healthy, it is at times still amazing to watch.
I have my father’s wit and sense of comic timing. In times of stress, I learned to borrow this gift from him to ease tension, or divert everyone away from the negative forces in our lives. Though shy outside the house when I was younger, I could be a clown and a performer at home when I needed to be. Although the circumstances may not have been ideal to grow this trait, I am thankful I have honed my sarcasm over the years, and my ability to always laugh at myself. I think that in particular has helped save me at times.
The weird thing is, all of us grow up in completely different circumstances, some good, some bad, and you can’t ever completely predict how any one person will turn out. There are some psychological profiles that we can expect given certain things, but truthfully, it all seems like a weird lottery to me. Someone who grows up in a family of abuse, neglect, and horror can grow up to be successful, warm, giving, and healthy, while someone from a seemingly healthy, loving home can grow up and lose their way or worse, find a life of crime.
The best and worst of the two people who raised me is the collage of the person I have become. While some people deal with pain by withdrawing, I have expressed it openly in various ways including writing. And writing is like breathing to me. I cannot imagine my life without this need and love for words. I don’t know if I was born to write, or if my circumstances carved this notion into me. Probably a little bit of both. Out of everything I have and am, and even if I never find true success at it, I would not want to lose my love of writing or the ability to do so. Do I wish there were things I didn’t have to see, endure, learn or know to get where I am? Definitely. Are there things I regret and wish I could have handled differently? God yes.
But there is no way to pick and choose the parts you can delete and still remain yourself. Even in my lowest times, when the world seemed so dark to me—I would ask myself—do you wish you were someone else? And I could never answer that question affirmatively. I knew I didn’t want to be in the pain I was in, battling what I was battling, but at the core of it all, I didn’t want to change who I was. Sometimes that still amazes me. That even as flawed and hopeless as I have felt, I wanted this heart, this mind, this body, this face, these gifts, these burdens.
And today as I try to reconcile so many things, I still do. All the pieces, flawed and unblemished, broken and repaired, silent and screaming, loved and forgotten...are why I am here today, finally happy and whole. Loved by myself and others for all those reasons.
What a gift that is.
The amazing collage pictured above was done by Gloria Martin at