I grew up part of a family that I have frequently referred to as “poor white trash.” When saying it out loud it comes off as slightly humorous, but putting it down in print, makes me realize what a disservice I do to them and to myself. They each did the best they could with what they had and who they were. I don’t even really know where I got that idea from originally, but I do know it’s been part of my self-identity for as long as I can remember.
My mom was a teenager when she had me. She married my dad, but they divorced less than a year later. Her choice and probably with some influence from her mother. My dad was never able to be part of my life for 40 years, until a year ago. Now, he and I have sometimes stilted and awkward conversations on the phone. Both of us wanting to make up for a lost lifetime, but neither of us really knowing how to do that within the limitations of our lives and our selves. The thing is, he moved on with his life and his future pretty quickly after realizing he wasn’t going to be allowed to be part of my life. My mom and I, well, we just moved around. A lot.
Mom got married two more times by the time I was six years old. Neither of those marriages lasted. Her third marriage ended because of an inappropriate relationship initiated by my stepfather with me. That one lasted about five years, two of which contained that ill-fated, ill-advised, and illegal relationship between he and I. So, by the time I was eleven, going on twelve, I’d had three father figures, whose only legacy to me was a deeply rooted sense of abandonment. I doubt that was the intent of any of the adults involved, but it’s what happened.
At that point we bounced around from Texas to Alabama, back to Texas, and ultimately landed here in Oregon, shortly before my twelfth birthday. By that point in time, I was a lost, confused, angry little girl with an unrealized and undiagnosed compulsive eating disorder. The person who bore the brunt of those things was my mom, who was seriously overwhelmed and depressed, unbeknownst to me. Things got so bad between us, that I told her I hated her and didn’t want to live with her anymore. At which time, she signed guardianship over to her brother and his wife. She went back to Texas and lived with my grandmother, until a few months later when she was found by my grandmother, thought to have committed suicide.
Needless to say, I wound up being one emotionally and psychologically messed up little girl. A pre-teen who was the sudden responsibility of a couple in their late 20’s, who had their own issues to deal with. I guess it’s safe to say that none of us knew how to be anything other than hurt and hurtful people. The next several years between the ages of twelve and sixteen, were filled with drama, angst, hurt, anger, and broken relationships. I tried running away several times and then finally succeeded in leaving and staying gone with the father of my son.
Divorce, dissociation, and disconnection have been the themes of my life, from early childhood on. Sadly, these themes became the themes my two oldest children would endure over the next 25 years or so. Fatherless and emotionally absent mothers have been the reality for at least three generations on my moms side of the family, if not more. Over the past year or so, I have discovered these themes have played out in various ways throughout extended branches of our family tree. Perhaps they are just part of the norm of every family. I hope not.
I guess that’s one of the reasons why I still have never officially divorced my son’s father, even though I haven’t seen him in almost 23 years. It’s also one of the reasons why I have been in and out of the relationship with the father of my youngest child for almost 16 years. Why I’ve fought as hard as I have to make it work out and be ok. Meanwhile, only perpetuating the cycles of depression, abandonment, and emotional instability as well as spiritual, material and financial instability.
Once upon a time in my 20’s, I had a family of choice, but now, they are all but gone from my life. Sometimes, a couple of us will check in with each other here on facebook, but mostly we’re just silent facebook friends whose only interaction is game requests. I have mourned the loss of both the family of choice I pieced together and the fact that I’m not very close at all with many of my family of origin. I’ve been angry with myself and with them both for letting the relationships deteriorate and dissipate until there’s nothing left but memories and longing.
The thing is, I have a new family of choice. This family of choice is slowly growing. Not just in numbers but in relationship. There are a few from different churches I’ve attended over the years. There’s one that dates back 22 years to when I attended and graduated from a school for pregnant and parenting teen moms. There are even new online people who are becoming like a caring, encouraging, and supportive family to me as I seek recovery from the compulsive overeating disorder.
However, more importantly, isn’t the family I have chosen, but the family God has chosen me to be a part of. Many of the people who are mentioned above are in that family as well. The bible says not only have I been saved, but I have been adopted by God, because of Jesus. It tells me I am an heir to God’s kingdom and that I have a Father in Heaven and a Brother in Christ, as well as the nurturing and empowering Spirit of God living in me. I frequently have difficulty accepting these things and walking my daily life in the truth of that knowledge. But, the days and times that I am able to do so, are invigorating, healing, and joyful. Even when the circumstances and people around me are not any of those things.
It’s good to know that I’m loved, wanted, cared for, and that I am a daughter of the King.