Sometimes I just feel like taking a deep breath and pulling back the curtain. 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.

eclectic vignette

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.

Blue and white vignette

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.

white petunias

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.

purple daisies

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.

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83 Comments

  1. I truly enjoy all of your posts and especially ones like these where you are open, honest, and vulnerable. You could write a book, your life has been so interesting… from the outside anyway, I’m sure being the one living it, interesting might not be your choice of words! Thank you for continuing to share with us Brenda.

    Tania

  2. There you go again ~ healing yourself by helping others.
    Your honesty is breath-takingly beautiful.
    And your strength is phenomenal.
    There is a saying in the Maori language of New Zealand ~ “Kia kaha” ~ it means “Stand Strong”.
    You have done just that ~
    Hugs ~

  3. Hi Brenda! What a moving story that brought me to tears! Nobody will ever think less of you telling us your heart breaking story! The main thing is you are a survivor and you will continue to grow beautifully just like your flowers and Charlie, that you take care of. Your parents don’t know what they missed out on…a very caring, kind, considerate, compassionate and talented woman! Your blog is the only one that I read that doesn’t have new recipes that they make every day. Have a wonderful weekend coming up!

    1. How often I’ve wished that I loved to cook! But sadly, I don’t. Food to me is mainly a means to an end.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve always felt you are brave and courageous for the way you meet things head on and deal with them. And now, I feel even more admiration for your strength and ability to pick up the broken pieces and move on.

    I used to read a long list of blogs where everyone was moving their furniture around every few weeks and decorating with another style for whatever reason and it got really boring. Now I’m down to your blog and just two others that I follow regularly because the three of you have something real to say. And that enriches my life and gives me food for thought. Thank you.

    1. Sometimes I move around the furniture too. But I find it more fruitful to search inside myself and try to fix what feels broken

  5. You are one of the most honest bloggers I read almost daily. Your post immediately made me think of my childhood which was nothing like yours. I grew up in a sheltered home environment, small town living, church, so many things most people would find appealing. But somehow your struggles made me realize how little I knew about the world when time came to step out into it by myself. What a strong person it made you and to this day I still feel that meekness I always hated about myself. Did you think because you opened your heart and soul we wouldn’t embrace it? Blogs are not always about decorating, shopping, etc. Very often we need to be reminded of what struggles others have had, it can only make each of us a better person. A heartfelt thank you for sharing yours.

    1. I always envied the girls who “seemed” to have everything. A loving family, a nice house, a seemingly smooth existence. But now I know nothing is ever that easy. Believe me, I have my meek moments! In terms of decorating blogs, etc., I once said: “I am not just pretty pictures on the wall.” I know that’s what many bloggers choose to share, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I would be bored to tears if that was all I did or shared.

  6. Sometimes it takes courage to tell certain things and I applaud you for doing that. My Bible says ” judge not ” . I always enjoy your posts so keep them coming . I can relate to you on so many levels. Maybe one day I will tell you part of my story. Have a blessed day.

  7. I whole heartedly believe that our past experiences shape us on so many levels. I can’t put into words how much your post moved me, but thinking of you alone, reliving these times alone in your bed, makes me want to remind you of the advice we’ve all heard: we can’t change the past and we shouldn’t dwell on it. You are a different, stronger woman now. Your future is what you decide to make of it. I hope you find your dream, your plans on how you want to live your life to its fullest. And then go for it. You deserve it and I really think you are well equipped to do it!

    Sending love,

    Jane

    1. I have my dream. To be able to write and be able to take care of myself and Charlie. It was always my dream not to have to depend on others. Because then they have something to hold over you. Charlie and I are just fine. Enjoying our days together, in many ways bonding all over again.

  8. Thank you, Brenda, for your openness and your honesty. I just want to affirm that there is not one thing “wrong” with you and never has been. The deficit is not with you, it is with your parents who could not accept the responsibility of caring for and loving a child that they had created, albeit, probably unwittingly.

    My biological father abandoned me before I was born. I later came to know him and I really didn’t like him. I always have felt glad that my mother and I didn’t remain in his and his parents’ family. I think I would have been much the poorer for it in many ways. However, even though I have had two step-fathers, one who died young and one who was the salt of the earth, I still suffer from feelings of abandonment. Being essentially abandoned by one or both parents is something one never really puts to rest even tho’ you think you have. So just try to remember that you are perfect and have always been perfect and beautiful as the person you are. And, quoting Lily Tomlin, “that’s the truth.”

    1. But we are stronger for it. I used to wish I had an easy life, never to worry about money or essentials. But some of the unhappiest people I’ve ever known had money and it seemed to make things worse instead of better. I think it is better to push through on your own and know you have that strength to fall back on. The kind I know you know about, given your past.

      1. Yes, I think that you are right. Out struggles can make us stronger and more compassionate people if we can accept them and use them in positive ways. I agree that we become stronger through surviving them and continuing to have a meaningful life.

  9. Brenda you shared a very sad story in a very beautiful way. Your writing is a talent which no one has been able to take away or corrupt. You so kindly share it with all of your readers. Thank you.

    How could we as readers think less of you for sharing the hurt you have experienced? You did not ask to be treated so badly! Even now you ask nothing for your self. You share that others might be helped.

    You are kind, loving and thoughtful.

    1. Diane, the words that come to me, that I write, have been my salvation in so many ways. It is the way I express myself, console myself, explain myself. It is the way I drain the sadness and celebrate the goodness in life. Thank you for your words and your support. It has meant the world to me to have all pf you here when I’ve needed you the most.

  10. I read your story and I have no words to let you know how I ache for the child you were. Thank you for sharing your story with your readers.

    1. I ache for the children who are abandoned by or separated from parents. Those adults have no idea what the long term effect is. I thank you for being here to read and to comment and to be a bright spot in my daily life.

  11. I’m so glad I found your blog! You’re such a wonderful person and I’m glad we’re getting to know you! I felt so connected to you since we just lost our beloved collie! Don’t be so hard on yourself, you do the best you can with what life throws at you!

    1. I used to be extremely hard on myself. Over the years I’ve mostly worked that out. Having all of you here has helped immensely. You are my sounding board and my people (in lieu of family), and I appreciate you all so very much. I don’t know what I’d have done without you all since losing Abi. Losing her set me adrift again for a bit. But I’ll be okay.

  12. Brenda,

    I read this post this morning and it has stayed with me all day. I was unable to post a comment because I simply could not believe how many people took advantage of you. YOU ARE SO BRAVE and WE are so lucky that you feel as if the followers here are worthy and kind enough to read your story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I am sorry for what you had to go thru as a child, shame on your parents for having chidden they could not care for. Sadly, it is something that happend/happens often.
    My mother in law was the child of a 13 year old who did not raise her and it has affected her her entire life. She is 91 now.
    My grandfather was “left behind” as a 6 year old when his parents moved with his two brothers to California. They said they were going to come back for him and they never did.
    I hope you know that there are good people in the world and that they are here for you, to be your friend, to offer help and whatever else you need.

    Take care of yourself and your little Charlie.

    1. Bloggers like you have helped me. Readers have helped me. I consider you all friends. And you all have held me up when I felt like falling down.

  13. Brenda you are the most honest person I know. Your life has been full of challenges but through those.challenges a very strong, wonderful woman came to be. We, the readers, don’t judge you because we too have had lives of ups and downs. You continue to inspire us and to challenge us to be better people by your example. Your posts touch our hearts in ways you can never imagine. Thanks for sharing your life’s adventure with us and we get strength from your words and your example.

    1. You all have helped me so much. Your participation here has been a highlight of my daily life. It has grounded me. Helped me to become stronger.

  14. Brenda ,
    No fear about telling us this time in your past. It only lets us get to know you more and understand you a bit better. ❤️

    1. I thought it might explain a few things about me that I hadn’t quite approached here before. I got close, but I couldn’t seem to say it all.

  15. You are shining a light on the dark shadows in your life and in doing so, you are helping make people stronger. Thank you for that.

    1. I think when you shine a light, then maybe it provides another women with a direction, a course of action. A path to walk down.

  16. You are the one who needs to comfort that lonely, crying child inside of you. Hold her tight and tell her she did the best possible with the cards she was dealt at that time. Give her that extra love you poured out on Abi. With no guidance, you (and she) have done alright.

    1. Losing Abi made me vulnerable and old haunts came back to haunt me. I know I’ve “done all right.” I do. And thank you.

  17. Brenda, thank you for sharing your gut-wrenching story. I takes such bravery and strength to be as honest as you are. It’s amazing the horrible things men do to women and then turn around and blame those very women for “allowing” themselves to be mentally, emotionally, or physically abused. These men are bullies–gutless wonders with no morals. You, on the other hand are amazing. You feel fear at telling your life’s story, but then you do it anyway. Now that is fortitude. That takes real guts. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many other women–each with some story she hesitates to share.

    1. I guess we fear judgment. Women are often judged harshly. I wish more women would realize that when we share, as we do here, then we embrace one another with support and understanding.

  18. Think less of you? I think so much more of you. You are one of the bravest women I have had the privilege to “know”. To go through all you have gone through in your life, and come out on the other side such a strong woman is a real testament to your courage. I look forward to reading your posts every day. You are a true inspiration!

  19. Dear Brenda ~ I found you ‘again’ through Dewena’s blog’s sidebar. I am so glad I did. What a lot of courage it took for you to share this part of your life. It touched my heart, spoke to my soul, brought tears to my eyes. Last year I was released from guilt over my past and the relief has been immense. The trigger was the reminder of God’s great love, tenderness and forgiveness, that no matter what, He still LOVES. I am one of His lovely creations, regardless of things in my past. What I’ve done, what I’ve gone through and grown through has made me into who I am today. Hopefully, that is a more loving, kind, and encouraging person. I am still a work in progress. Every day is a gift, may I live it joyfully and thankfully.

    I look forward to visiting you regularly now that I’ve found you again. How do I get reminded of your new postings and follow you?

    FlowerLady

    1. If you’ll send me an email, I’ll add you to the email list through my service, Mad Mimi. I have to have your email, which I don’t get when you comment here. Or you can go to the bottom of the page and subscribe. Also, we become compassionate human beings due to our experiences. Those who judge generally have not had enough of those experiences to understand.

      1. **we become compassionate human beings due to our experiences. Those who judge generally have not had enough of those experiences to understand.** Oh so true.

        I signed up at the bottom of the page, for updates.

        Have a good week ~ FlowerLady

  20. And who are we to judge? We don’t, we accept you as is and please don’t ever feel as though you can’t share your dreams/heartaches/worries/concerns with us, because you can. I’ve said this before Brenda, you are a strong woman and you do not give yourself enough credit for picking yourself up and making this wonderful little apartment with Charlie that you share with us on a daily basis. You should be proud of yourself. I look forward to seeing yours posts every day!
    Carol and Molly xoxoxo

    1. For the most part, I am proud of myself. I have my cozy little apartment and Charlie and I am content with my lot. I just felt like I’d left a big part of my life out of the mix, and wanted to say so. And I thank you, Carol and Molly, for your support!

  21. Brenda. ?
    Times were different when you were a girl, making it easy for do gooders and not so gooders to prey on you. You were about as vulnerable as a a child/teen/young woman could be. I’m certain there are many readers of our generation who can relate to what you told us today. A life experience like yours is not forgotten, only survived, learned from, to some extent buried in an attempt to move forward. What happens to us in our growing years shapes us in ways that are obvious and yet tricky to connect to that early experience. I’m thankful that you survived what your parents did, you survived yourself and others during the acting out, coping and hormones of the teenage years. After all is said and done you have finally landed in a safe, made by you for you life. You are a strong and intellegent woman. You have a kind and thoughtful heart. I’m glad you found this venue to communicate with many. Thanks, Brenda❣️

    1. I tell myself it was not all for naught. It was so I could use words and this blog to share it and hopefully, help other women.

  22. Your post makes my heart break and makes me furious at the same time. Why do people have children when they don’t intend to take care of them? And how did such people as the preacher manage to become foster parents? Are there no checks and monitoring? It wasn’t your fault that so many adults in your life performed abysmally, but you’re the one you suffered. The injustice of it makes me so angry, angry only because otherwise I would despair.
    You have tremendous courage.

  23. I just decided that, since I’ve been this honest, I might as well tell you the rest. I ended up suing that doctor so he’d leave me alone. And over a decade later, he located me living in another state. And I was weak and fell right back into line and married him. That is something I’m quite ashamed of.

    1. Brenda you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately no matter what I say, you control how you talk to yourself on the inside. You were taken advantage of, you were abused. That was never your fault – how does a child who was abandoned know any different, how can she possibly sort out the users from the genuine? How do you know who to trust? Why would you turn away when you’re being shown a caring side – which is what they always do before they abuse. You should never again use the word “ashamed” when you talk to yourself, let alone others. Remarkable that you have come so far, and had the courage to leave your abusers. Celebrate the strong woman you are.

  24. Hello Brenda,
    Google brought me to your blog for the first time today to “Pulling Back the Curtain” which, I suspect, was because of my recent searches for sheer curtains. So, wow, I so appreciate your honesty and your sharing and your vulnerability. Many thanks. I’ll be a regular going forward.
    Best,
    Cathi

    1. Well, that gave me a laugh! You were looking for sheer curtains and you ended up finding me. And welcome here. We are women who share our stories.

  25. Brenda you truly are a wonderful, kind, honest, giving and loving person. I am sure all of us have made bad choices at some time, but these do not define us, or at least we shouldn’t let them.
    Much love to you and Charlie

    1. Sometimes it just registers in my mind, all of it, and I feel sad about it all. And then I often share with you all so I’m not alone with it anymore. I can’t trust a mental health professional. That’s where many of my problems came from early on.

  26. Thank you for sharing your story Brenda. I was feeling really sad today thinking about the past again. I’ve come a long way in finding peace, but the sadness is always there. Sometimes deep, so the days are pleasurable, but sometimes right on the surface. Then the days are filled with regret, sadness, bitterness. Very hard to understand. Your story reminded me that many of us struggle to overcome our difficult past. I’m not alone. For that, I am so grateful. Please don’t think we will think less of you. It is the exact opposite. We all need to be more open and honest. Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone then. Bless you.

    1. Feel free to share with me. I’ve run the gamut of emotions over things I’ve done, so no judgment here. Sometimes there is just a sadness, a thread that runs through the fabric of our life. It blends in with other things, but sometimes rears its head.

  27. Thank you, Brenda, for having the courage to again share some part of your past that you weren’t sure anyone would want to hear about. It can be so hard to open the story of one’s life to a page that doesn’t have a pretty picture on it. You never know how people will react. I can say that whenever you share some part of your past, such as you did today, I can always find something in the post that connects in some way to my own experiences, and it always helps me understand myself a little better. The connection isn’t always a good one — with today’s story, I thought about how my parents would have been the ones who wouldn’t let me visit in your home. My dad had an important job in town and because of that fact my parents seemed to create an atmosphere that led me to think that we were better somehow than other people. I overheard my parents having conversations about other families, so I picked up on their attitudes toward people and adopted them as my own. The bad thing was, since their message seemed to indicate that I was something because of who my father was, I didn’t develop a strong belief in myself as an individual with my own value. That led, of course, to me looking to other men besides my father for the source of my identity once I became an adult. That didn’t work out so well! But part of the reason your blog draws people back again and again is, you are candid about your life and share how you work through your issues, you don’t try to hide the parts that aren’t so pretty, and I think your attitude creates an environment here where others can feel safe and able to do the same thing. Thanks so much.

    1. I suppose we are mere reflections of what we learn in our formative years. Shouldn’t be a surprise. If you aren’t to learn from your parents, then who are you to learn from?

  28. Thank you. By writing this about your life you are helping others. God bless you. You are a healing angel to many. Again thank you. Karie

  29. HI Brenda – I love your honesty! I read your blog every day and you write beautifully! You should write a book on your life, I for one, would buy it!
    Have a great day!
    Jamie

    1. I guess I don’t want to write about my life, other than here in bits and bobs, because I’d have to revisit all that for an extended amount of time.

  30. Brenda, I like how you are able to allow us a window into your life, even the uncomfortable memories you might have of the past. I can relate to much that you have experienced. You are like my soul sister.
    My parents did not desert me, and I had a very loving mother. But my father was a very strict disciplinarian, and he drank to help him cope with his mental issues. My mother had no say in anything, my father dominated her and made all the decisions. My parents finally divorced after I was married and had children. He eventually committed suicide. I never tell anyone that, it is a secret.

    But that happened years later, after he kicked me out of the house at 16 and I lived here and there, even to the point of hiding out in friends closets until their parents went to bed so I could have a place to sleep at night. Being hungry much of the time and not knowing where my next meal would come from. thankfully I never prostituted myself, but depended on schoolmates to help me survive until
    I got a job as a live in nanny, (one of many), mostly for single mothers. I cleaned, did laundry and cared for the children. All for room and board and a small pittance.
    Oh, I could write a book. My children do not know anything about my experiences trying to survive in the world without an education.
    I also get reminded by something I read, or see in a movie. I am my own worst enemy, and I spent many years beating myself up over mistakes I made. Only in my recent years have I pretty much made peace with myself. I finally realized I did the best I knew how to do at the time. Inexperience and lack of maturity caused me to make choices which weren’t always the best, and sometimes there really was not a choice. Now I say, “That was then, and this is now, and now is better.” And I try to forgive myself for some of the bad choices I made trying to survive. I think as we get older we start accepting ourselves and make peace with the past.

    1. Thank you for being so transparent. I think we probably are soul sisters. Each knowing what it does to you to settle for bad choices. Thinking we have no power. I recall hoping my friends’ parents would allow me to eat supper, and maybe spend the night. I know how small you feel when it comes to that.

  31. It takes a lot of courage for self disclosure and especially in a public forum like this.

    There was absolutely nothing about YOU that caused your parents to be as they were. It’s important for you to know this. Parents who could not be parents will answer for themselves but in the meantime you must know you were as lovable as anyone. Warts and all Brenda and because there isn’t a single person in all of humanity that doesn’t have them. The fault was entirely theirs.

    Yes, attitude is everything. Understanding you have choices may seem so foreign to a child of neglect, abuse etc., and I so know this personally too. But, understanding your own sense of self (worth) is a big step in releasing victim hood too.

    I’m not surprised this is happening at such a time as Abi’s loss. You see those special ones come for so many reasons. When I said they are divine … it’s because they really are.

    Bless you …

      1. Brenda, you are more honest than any one I know. How difficult it must have been growing up, and now again, how difficult to bring up such painful memories. You are so strong..you are an inspiration to all women. Through all of the hardship you have endured, you can stand tall, and be very very proud of yourself…Remember that God is always looking over you…

      2. All losses feel like abandonment even the death of those we love. I’m sure that losing your heart dog, sweet Abi Rose, is leaving you feeling vulnerable.
        Thank you for sharing this with us. I know what it’s like to have a past filled with hurt. Unlike you, I don’t have the talent to put it into words. It helps to know you’re not alone.
        You are loved. I know it’s an older book, but if you can find it, reading Necessary Losses was extremely helpful to me.

    1. Thanks Melanie. That means a lot coming from you. I know it is always a risk to put this kind of thing out there. Sometimes it’s a risk to keep it inside.

    1. Well, thanks. I was worried it would be the opposite. Because I carry those feelings from long ago even with me now when it comes to the things I wrote. The intelligent part of me knows different. But the child/teenager in me still feels bad.

  32. Brenda, I think you are one of the most courageous and authentic people who blog! Your words touch so many people so deeply, and your ability to share painful parts of your life is simply inspiring!
    People who care and read your blog know this about you and it’s what keeps us coming back day after day to read about your life journey. Please know how special you truly are in the best ways possible –
    and thank you for being so open and honest – it’s a beacon of light in a world where so many put on false fronts.
    Wish you only the best days ahead, Pippa

    1. I like to be honest and straightforward. But all the time I was leaving some things out about the story. So I felt it was time to fill in some blanks.

  33. You have truly touched my heart, as your writing so often has. I don’t think I’ve ever responded to one of your posts before, but certainly today’s moved me to do so.

    Hugs to you and that young, vulnerable girl you were. I’ll think about what you’ve written for a long time. I can’t organize my thoughts enough at the moment, to offer more than that.

    Cheryl

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