I laid awake thinking about decades of my life last night. I had finished reading a book that reminded me of some things that happened to me early on.
Which, I suppose, meant that I naturally thought of the years after as well.
I’ve learned that it isn’t what happens to you. It’s how you react to what happens. It took me a long time to understand that concept.
In my earlier years I just reacted. Emotionally reacted. I wish so very much that I had thought things through more. But hindsight is, as we know, 20/20.
With time and maturity you can put distance between major events that happened and think about them more clearly. You can learn to forgive yourself for the things you could have handled with more finesse or patience or courage.
When I was young, I didn’t quite understand that I had a say in things. And sometimes I didn’t have a say.
Therefore I was easy pickings. I was the kid whose parents didn’t care enough to stick around. It was a small town. So I might as well have had a neon arrow pointing at me wherever I went.
I didn’t trust, but being vulnerable really just means it doesn’t matter. Because those who will take advantage will smell your vulnerability like a shark in the water smells blood.
After my great-grandmother died two months after I turned 13, I went from being a shy young girl to throwing all caution to the wind. I started drinking with the older kids, and then with the boy/men coming back from Vietnam.
At that point in my life, the only protection between me and the rest of the world was gone, tenuous though it was to begin with.
I was angry. I was rebelling. That shy child who had spent much of her time at the library didn’t see much point in going to school. I completely switched from who I’d been to who I then became. And maybe some of that was due to teenage hormones.
I knew that many parents didn’t want their daughters, my friends, coming to my house because there was no parental supervision. My child-like grandmother was more child than grandmother.
I resented the fact that just because I didn’t have parents meant I was not just different, but in some ways I was tainted. But now, having been a parent myself, I probably would have reacted to the circumstances the same way those parents did.
If you’re a child with that kind of history, you wonder why you are never, were never, good enough. Why they chose to leave you in the first place. People, no matter what they tell you to your face, will often look at you and wonder the same thing.
I felt hurt and obviously rejected. Abandonment by those who are supposed to love you the most leaves an indelible mark on you. You never quite get past it, no matter how educated you may become; no matter the mental health professionals who tell you that it was not your fault.
In my twenties, I was seeing a mental health professional, a doctor, who took an interest in me and in some ways became my mentor, though he was only six years older than I was. That would ultimately lead to a lifelong series of mistakes on my part.
After a few years, I needed to move on, but he wasn’t going to make it easy. It was like he owned me just because he had opened up everything in my past and exposed it to light.
It had happened before. At 17 I had a foster father, a minister, who took me in to take care of his two young boys while his wife worked the night shift at a newspaper. We lived right next to the church.
That was one of the filthiest places I’ve ever lived. I could not imagine how anyone could live in such an environment. And it was up to me to clean it up.
I was pregnant at the time, so my choices were limited. I needed a roof over my head and food in my mouth. So I did what what needed to be done and didn’t question it.
In some ways I thought they cared about me. In other ways I felt like they just needed someone to clean up their messes.
This was another time in my life when I just wanted to get away. By then it should have been easy, as I was of age and lived in my own place with my baby. But for various reasons it wasn’t.
The minister had become unreasonably and obsessively attached to me. One day, without anyone knowing, I picked up and left, like a thief in the night.
He too found me. It took him some time to locate me in another city. But still he showed up at my door one night when I least expected it.
I’ve always wondered what it is about me that my parents didn’t want me at all, and alternately caused some men to not want to let me go.
Who will hunt you down no matter where you go or how much mileage you put between them and you.
It’s happened to me twice now, and those two occurrences have in many ways shaped my entire life.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this now. I guess because I was thinking about these events last night, letting my thoughts take me back to what created this person I am today.
Maybe, after all these years of writing this blog, I just felt the need to pull the curtain back a bit more.
Maybe, for whatever reason, it just seemed like the right time to tell you.