I am just going to come out and say that my father was a real piece of work. He was beyond abusive. He was evil. There are a lot of ways that abusers manipulate and control their victims. Turning siblings against each other is one of those ways. Only in this case the manipulation was is offering to spare one for the other.
For years my sister and I had no relationship. That is not to say that I did not follow around behind her and get into fights with anyone that tried to bully her. She is my sister and I needed to keep her as safe as I could. She was and is the diplomat. She reasons with people and uses great people skills to defuse conflicts. She has lived with my mother for many years and has put up with a lot. And used those amazing skills (which I think is her super power) to help my mother to modify some of those behaviors that made it so difficult for me to live with her.
Today we talked about some very painful stuff. We looked back on our childhood and talked about some of the hard stuff. None of which was easy. She has felt guilt for a long time about some of the things that happened to us. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say to the world (or whoever reads this) that though she may not know it she did more to keep us safe than she knows or remembers. And that no matter what my father told her she was a good big sister. She did work to keep us safe when there was no one else there to do it. She was that person who stepped up for as long as she could and did what she could.
Here, publicly, I want to say that it is an honor and a privileged to not only know you but to be your sister. I love you.
When I was younger I desperately wanted a family. At the time I was not particularly close to any member of my birth family. Because of this I would try to meld with others into their family, I felt like the proverbial cuckoo’s egg. I was trying to plant myself in to a family. Doing this is basically how I survived a large portion of my childhood. I would find a friend that would let me be a part of their family in a small way. Even if it was only in my imagination, I created family.
When I was twenty-one I moved from San Antonio to Massachusetts to be near other parts of my birth family. By that time the need for family had become so great inside of me. I just wanted to have family and here were actual blood relatives. At the time the need that I projected was so great that I am surprised that they did not just turn and run away. My need to feel nurtured or to nurture was so huge that I did not even recognize it. As time past I felt as though I was isolating myself from them in many ways. I felt that I was intruding into their lives. Or I would feel as though I was taking advantage of their generosity. As I saw the need in me I tried to be casual. I also felt their withdrawal from me as I withdrew. In some ways I was the unknown interloper trying to impose myself on them and their family. I did not grow up around them and I did not really know them. I had grown up thinking about them. And was jealous of their closeness to each other. And here I was an outsider trying to get into their inner circle.
As I gained more knowledge of myself and who I wanted to become I found that I did not quite fit in with some of the family that had welcomed me. Or this was my belief. Whether or not this was true it was what I believed.
I moved on and away from family at some point. I stopped trying to become one with them and stopped trying to find what I was missing. In time I found the man that would become my husband. Together we created our own family. A large, loud, and beautiful family. That I have been very honored to be with as they grow into adulthood. They have given me an immeasurable sense of being a part of something truly amazing.
I often look back with regret on the family that I seemingly scarred off. I don’t think it was all me. I don’t think that it was anyone’s fault or anything like that. I just regret that the only contact I have with most of my family is on facebook. I am just glad that the deep need that I had,from the time I was very little to be a part of a loving family, has finally been realized.
I have often wondered if others who have come from abusive homes have similar experiences of looking for family. I have a very big family now. I am close to my sister that I grew up with and I have created an extensive family of friends who function as family. My choice family rather than a birth family. There are many members of my birth family or extended family in my choice family. For which I am very grateful. I guess where I am going with this is that family is what you have. Even if what you have is family that you brought together and not one you were born into. If home is where your heart is than so is family.
I wanted to write about validation. I even wrote the whole post out. Then I realized how dark it felt. I realized I had tapped into all those negative feelings of invalidation that I have experienced. All the times I was told that I should not talk about the abuse or what happened were brought up to the surface. And it was not a happy post at all.
So to spare you that gloomy walk down memory lane I have decided to share a story. One that I hope is less gloomy.
Once upon a time there was a small ball. That ball was really a person. And that person had been told how small and insignificant she was on such a regular basis that she believed the words. She stayed curled up in tight little ball to protect herself as best she could. Sometimes she would open up the ball to see if danger was still there. In her ball shape she could move through her life.
Then one day a friend came into her life. That friend offered her his hand and together they opened up the ball. That ball had stood firm against so many waves. Trapping all the pain inside. And when it opened all the pain came rushing out and overwhelmed her. She struggled for so many years to stand up straight. The tightness of the ball made her bent this made it difficult to walk. Her friend was there waiting until she could stand straight. Holding her hand. Telling her she was amazing and strong. Validating all that she had experienced as real and hard.
Some people came into her life who tried to silence her. They tried to keep her story quiet because it caused them pain. They did not want to know such evil things could happen. So they tried to make her fell like she should go back in her ball. But there were friends always at hand to slay those evil feelings until she could do it for herself. The friends believed in her. And she began to believe in herself.
Soon it did not matter what others thought or said. A very strong wall of love and compassion had been built up. People who believed her stood by her. And very soon she began to grow. She was not bent and stumbling. She stood a little bit taller. And the wind did not move her around as it did when she was a ball. Sometimes though when things get too hard and she feels weakened by the stress she curls back up into that ball. But she does not stay there. She has become limber enough to know how to straighten up and stand. And wise enough to know when she needs to protect the softness of her heart. And brave enough to stand in the wind and move forward.