January 14, 2021 – Emotional Roller Coaster

I am writing to you today with very little ‘gas in my tank’. In other words, this girl’s running on fumes. It was yet another sleepless night in my household. Between the storm raging outside and the storm raging inside, I could not manage to turn off my mind and actually rest. It’s like a nightmarish roller coaster ride. One minute I was happy, the next I was sad. Part of it had to do with all of the ‘stuff’ I’ve been attempting to process. By ‘stuff’, I mean my questionable mental and emotional health and whether it’s possible to heal. After much delay, I finally managed to crack open one of the books recommended by my therapist, ‘Changes That Heal’ by Dr. Henry Cloud. It’s been a real page turner! I’m not a religious person and I was resistant to reading the book because it’s full of biblical passages and references; however, despite my reluctance, I gave it a go. My opinion so far? The logic expressed makes total sense! How it aligns with my own upbringing and the fallout that ensued as a result is so spot on!

The first part of the book references three things that are vital for healing, which are ‘Grace’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Time’. It emphasizes that unless you practice or apply all three, you will not get lasting results. After just the few pages I have read, I actually feel hopeful that someday I might be able to look forward to living. This is the first time in a long time that I feel like change for the better is possible. I know it’s not going to be easy and that it’s going to take work but everything I’ve discussed with my current therapist along with all of the reading material she has recommended has been far more helpful than all of the advice I have received over a span of 30+ years from a wide range of therapists. Why is she different than the rest? I think the biggest difference between her and all of the others is that her explanations and viewpoints ‘hold water’. I have been trying to figure out for so long why I scare people off so easily. I have spent countless hours trying to understand. With her, it took two sessions.

All of my other therapists said I grew up ‘without a foundation’, which is true. But that doesn’t explain the whole picture, just a part of it. There were a lot of wheels in motion that got me where I am today. Lack of a foundation is one and an emotionally distant mother is another. But the one that really ‘takes the cake’? Daddy issues. I always knew something wasn’t right but I never could put my finger on it. But I finally get it. Finally! Do you want to know what happens when your biological dad (that adores you and makes you feel special) up and leaves without saying goodbye and then another father-figure steps in that crushes your spirit? You get someone like me! Yay! Of course, there are other factors, too. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s the pre-Larry and post-Larry life I experienced. According to the book I’ve been reading, before Larry was part of the picture, our family functioned through ‘Grace’. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, ‘Grace’ in this case isn’t or wasn’t necessarily good. A quick explanation of ‘Grace’ is ‘all is forgiven, no matter what’. Why was it considered ‘bad’ within the context of my family? Because it operated independently from ‘Truth’. Before my stepfather showed up, it was ‘anything goes’. It was the nine of us kids running amok. There was no structure or guidance, no rules and no consequences (at least within our family). Outside of school, we pretty much did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. There were no expectations placed upon us, not one. When Larry entered the picture, all of that changed. He brought along ‘Truth’. A quick explanation of ‘Truth’? The best way I can explain it is that it’s punitive. It’s about law and order, judgment and condemnation. My stepdad’s goal? He wanted to bring some order to our unruly family. And he didn’t waste one minute trying to implement this new ‘plan’.

The problem? Try stepping into a family with 9 children (6 of whom are teenagers or young adults) and telling them that their freeloading days are over and that they will now be required to do daily chores (without compensation), along with a whole host of other things. I can tell you this, it’s not a recipe for success. What happened? A lot of rebelling. The ‘top 6’ were not about to eagerly start performing for this ‘intruder’, they wanted no part of this ‘new and improved’ regimented life. There’d be no more blasting the stereo, no more coming-and-going all hours of the night, no more delinquency and no more nonsense. My three oldest siblings that were adults and had already left home, stopped coming around as much. And they each had had their own fair share of troubles up to that point. My two oldest brothers spent some time in a boys home (for behavior issues) and my sister was farmed out to our aunt and uncle on the other side of the country. The next three? Sigh. Something went awry there.

One of the girls had been sent to stay with my grandmother and within a matter of weeks, met an abusive alcoholic, got married and got pregnant (I cannot guarantee the order of events). The other girl went ballistic. She made life Hell for everybody and then ended up leaving home before she even reached 18 years of age. She did everything within her power to break up my mom’s new marriage and almost succeeded. That’s Diabolical Debbie, by the way. And then there’s ‘Wily Fox’. He’s the family conman and he’s always been a handful. I don’t know what took place exactly but I know that when he was around 14 years of age, he got sent to a juvenile correctional facility on the other side of the state. After that, I didn’t see much of him. The three of us at the bottom? We were all too young to really have any option other than to stay and make the best of the situation. But it wasn’t easy. Larry brought ‘Truth’ and ‘Truth’ is punitive. Our lives were ruled by the ‘chore chart’ and if things weren’t done to Larry’s standards, there were consequences to face!

How is it possible to ‘heal’ with so many layers of stuff to work through? As I said earlier, according to the book I’m reading, you have to combine ‘Grace’ with ‘Truth’ and ‘Time’. And I’ve got a lot of layers to sift through. ‘Abandonment’ is probably the greatest issue I have to deal with. That little 8-year-old girl with the big hole in her heart (that lives within me) is still trying to make sense of what happened. Why did my dad leave? Is it because I’m unlovable? Until that wound is healed, I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘happy’. But I am glad that I’ve been able to recognize how being abandoned has affected me and my relationships. It explains why I’m so good at ‘running people off’. I cannot tell you how many people have left me. Or how many were showing signs that they were getting ready to ‘vacate the premises’ before I’d beat them to the punch. “You’re going to abandon me? Not this time! I’ll abandon you first!” I’d think to myself as I rationalized dropping yet another person from my life like a hot potato. It hurts a little less when you’re the one ‘leaving’ and not the other way around.

Can you understand now why I wasn’t able to sleep much last night? All of that crap was swirling around in my brain. Between that and the windstorm that blew through town, sleep did not enter the equation. Of course, I should add that since I was going to be going in for another counseling session, I thought it’d be nice to print out some photos of me throughout the years so my therapist could have a visual reference. When I did go back through all of my photos, what did I discover? There isn’t a single picture of me with my biological father. Zero, zip, nada. How is it possible that there isn’t one photo of us together? There aren’t even photos of him without me. It made me think, did I dream this guy up? There’s no proof he even existed. Except there is! Remember how I told you the day before yesterday about how he used to take me and Clover and Dapper Dan out for a meal on occasion? Yep! There are witnesses. Whew! I didn’t dream it up!! I was beginning to think I was really starting to unravel.

I just have to ask, does it seem odd to you or is an 8-year photo dry spell totally normal? I just don’t understand how there isn’t one single photo of or with my father (Big Beluga) during that timeframe. And yet, I have 3 with my stepdad in it. The first one is on the day he married my mom and I actually was smiling. But the other two? One was at a birthday party and one was on Christmas day. I’ll put it this way, there is nothing that remotely resembles ‘joy’ in my face. Pain? Yes. Joy? No, not one scintilla. Life made an abrupt ‘about face’ when Larry entered our lives. Significant changes happened that created lots of ‘scar tissue’. But does that mean I must forever remain in this state of pain? No! I cannot change the past but I believe I can do what is necessary to heal ‘that child within’ and reclaim my life. It’s not going to happen overnight but I think with continued therapy, along with plenty of ‘Grace’ and ‘Truth’ and ‘Time’, I can heal my heart and find joy again. And if along the way, I find some new friends, maybe I won’t run them off as I have most of the others. That sure would be nice for a change!

Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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