a thousand feelings behind the smile
i’m just going to dive right into it.
I was raised in an emotionally abusive house. My dad is severally mentally ill and my mom admits she was fairly checked out. I mean…my dad was not easy to live with so it’s hard to blame her other than she had 2 children depending on her. That sounds way snarkier than I mean it to. My mom was in the same emotionally abusive house trying to do the best she could.
I was 12-14ish when I was told my dad would find and kill us if we tried to leave so my mom decided we would stay. Knowing this was a risk, I still begged her to leave..hundreds of times through the years.
Not every memory of my dad is a bad one but man…do I have some stories from those days.
Like most emotionally abused people, I tucked it deep down. I didn’t necessarily feel shame or as if I had asked for it somehow (as many victims do) but the invisible scars ran deep nonetheless.
I saw myself as the warrior (still do). I was the one strong enough (mentally and physically) to protect my mom and younger brother from the wrath and craziness of my father.
I was the one who would lash out with words and actions to distract him away from them.
I was the one who would bait him to hit me so he could be forcibly removed from our home (it never worked).
I was the one who continually failed to protect my mom and brother because a child simply can’t compete with a crazy man.
Years later I learned how to forgive myself for continually failing to protect them from my father.
The thing is…it wasn’t my job. No matter how much I thought it was.
My mom tried so hard to give us normal, middle-class lives and at times it did feel normal…until my dad would slam on the brakes in the middle of the highway with cars whizzing by us – for no apparent reason other than to terrify us.
And oh God…it was terrifying.
Years and years went by. I graduated college, married, divorced, remarried, birthed three children, bought homes, changed jobs, etc.
All very normal stuff. I looked normal, led a normal life, had normal children, a normal job, normal dogs, etc.
I even numbed myself normally – food, drink, overspending, overindulging.
I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t sad. I didn’t know who I was or what I enjoyed and I didn’t much care at the time.
I most certainly wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around.
I was surrounded by people and yet dreadfully lonely. It was easier to be unlikable than to muster up the energy to engage in friendships. I convinced myself I didn’t like people.
I literally walked around proclaiming this proudly – as if it was a badge of honor to dislike people. I cringe.
Think about it though… I grew up with the message that I wasn’t loved or worthy. My brother and I weren’t worthy enough for our mom or other adults to step in and save us.
I wasn’t lovable enough to protect.
I wasn’t loved.
As an adult, it’s easy to look back and logically know this wasn’t true.
But try telling that to a kid who thought her dad would kill her.
My mom and dad did love us. My mom thought she was protecting us by staying. My grandparents loved us and probably didn’t know how bad it was at home. My aunts and uncles were young and off to college or starting their own adult lives with their own adult worries.
I don’t necessarily blame them or not blame them…I’d like to think I would choose differently if I knew my nephews were in an abusive situation…but until we’re actually in a situation we don’t really know how we’ll act.
Any guesses what my mantra is to help me get through dark times?
i am worthy. i am loveable. i am loved.
so what did i do?
I TURNED MY FIERCE, MAMA-BEAR, PROTECTOR, WARRIOR SELF INWARD.
I asked 8 year old me what would help her feel safe and loved? She told me she needed love and hugs and patience so I gave her those things. She said she was tired of feeling alone so I found her friends to play with. She wanted her heart to feel life so I gave her adventures. She didn’t want my own daughter to grow up feeling sad so she helped me learn to be a better mother.
I asked 12 year old me what would ease the nightmares? She told me there wasn’t much so I respected and left her alone. She’ll tell me when she’s ready.
I asked high school me – the one who slept around trying to find a guy to help her feel loved – what she needed and she said you already have him. So I worked to deepen my relationship with my husband. He’s a good man…he deserved better than I was giving him. After so many years together I truly opened my heart to him and allowed him to be my safety and protector.
I NO LONGER HAD TO DO IT ALONE.
I learned how to self-mother..to give myself the love, safety, nurturing, etc. that I didn’t receive as a child or adult.
I discovered I actually do like and need people.
I softened into this next version, next iteration of myself.
and i mostly healed.
a few other random tidbits
I played Mother Superior in my high school production of The Sound of Music. Climb every mountain, bitches.
I love Aquaman insanely and I’m not sure why other than he’s buff and plays with dolphins.
I have a habit of sticking my foot in my mouth so I’m finally claiming that as a talent..hence Going There because…well…I go there (even when I didn’t necessarily mean to).
I have a knack for getting locked in bathrooms in foreign countries. Trust me – it’s not as fun as it sounds.
I have a few tattoos I culturally appropriated a long time ago so now when someone asks what they mean I answer with, “Stupid white girl.”. We both laugh uncomfortably and move on to better conversations with other people.
I sometimes (more than I should) laugh at inappropriate times when discussing uncomfortable topics. Hence why my company name is Socially Awkward Since 1970. Embrace it, baby.
I’d love to know more about you! Send an email with your quirks and let’s be friends.
me being me
She builds others up because she knows what it’s like to be torn down.
~ unknown ~
Words commonly used to describe me include silly, joyful, playful, irreverent, no filters, transparent, empathic, safe, down-to-earth, adventurous, courageous, risk taking decision-maker, and other qualities that make me smile.
My very favorite compliment? Being told I’m like coming home at the end of a long day and slipping into your favorite pajamas, lighting a fire (or some candles), sinking into your favorite leather chair with a cozy blanket and a cup of tea or glass of wine. Isn’t that a lovely image?
I’ve also been called a lot of horrible things – narcissistic, selfish, bossy, loose morals, slut, spic (migrant) lover, a liar, sneaky, ugly as a dog, annoying, stupid, not worth the special prom dress, hard hearted, and lots and lots of other things.