“Because each life must be lived in it’s entirety by it’s individual, it’s probably best for us to love, honor, and give space for the people around us to truly live.” ~ Good, bad, ugly by LaQueshia Jeffries, My Iced Tea
I’m not 100% sure where I’m going with this today. It may just be rambling thoughts, but bear with me please, after all, it’s my journey.
Two of the people I love most in this world are my two adult children, Marco and LaLa. I love them with all of my heart. I love them so much I ache because, for this season, we are semi-estranged from each other. Part of it’s normal and natural. LaLa is 19 and is a bit of a lost soul with a strong determination to make her own choices and live her own life. Marco is 25 and has lived more life and experienced more than his fair share of difficult, painful, and rocky circumstances. This is the season in their lives when they should be separating from me and establishing their own lives away from me.
What makes this natural separating and process of individuating more difficult and painful for me is the fact that many of the difficulties and pain that they have experienced are a direct result of my relationship with Jerry. The instabilities inherent in that relationship, in combination with my own difficulties in parenting them through my depression and fibromyalgia while trying to recover from the pain and dysfunction of my own upbringing, meant that their childhoods were full of chaos, stress, emotional pain and neglect, even periodic abuse, much to my shame. So, they have very strong opinions and feelings about me and the fact that I am deciding to continue the relationship with Jerry.
On the outside looking in, especially from their perspective, I am the poster child for a woman who stays with her abuser. Let me be clear, I am not an abused woman.
What I am, is a woman who has made the mental, emotional, and spiritual commitment to love in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer. Ours relationship just seems to have a larger portion of sickness, worse, and poor financial prospects.
In the early part of my relationship with Jerry, it looked very much like the volatile and destructive forces of a victim finding and adhering to her abuser. The reality is that we were both two very insecure and needy people trying to get our love and belonging needs met by the other, and neither of us had it to offer. Our mutual need for respect, love, and comfort turned into fighting and grasping for control, dominance, and authority.
Yes, Jerry is insecure and immature and struggles with impulse control and anger management. The rest of the story is that I have been verbally and emotionally manipulative, subtly domineering and undermining. I am the talker, the story teller, the one who knows how to use words to convey and convince. These characteristics have been tempered somewhat, but 16 years ago, they were sharp and rough, cutting and battering each other, ourselves, and my children.
Sadly, my two older children got caught in the middle of that mutually destructive relationship. They were the casualties of a domestic war of words, emotions, and occasional physical battles. This is my burden of guilt. It is a core issue of my depression, I am sure.
It has also been part of the reason why I’ve been “stuck” and unable to move forward with any level of consistency and what I consider to be success in my healing and recovery process.
Recently I have come to the conclusion that I have to let go of the guilt regarding my older children and the paths their lives have taken up to this point. I have to forgive myself and stop playing the blame game. I have to do what I can to make the amends without allowing them and their feelings hook me back into guilt.
When I operate out of feelings of guilt regarding them, I subjugate myself to their opinions, beliefs, and attitudes about who I am. I find myself feeling the need to rationalize and justify my current choices and actions. While I understand why they question my ability to make good, healthy, and constructive choices and I completely get their concern regarding Luna and their desire that she have a different upbringing than they did, they do not have the right to decide that I am unfit to make my choices and live my life or say how Luna is to be disciplined and raised.
I am fully cognizant of how damaging and destructive an atmosphere of tension and anger can be, even if there is no overt physical, verbal, or emotional abuse happening. I’m also aware of how living with a primary caregiver who is barely present due to depression, pain and fatigue can detrimentally impact the social-emotional growth and development of a child. After all I am a product of such an upbringing.
It is because of these realizations and the knowledge of the damage done to Marco and LaLa when they were young, I am doing everything in my power to choose differently and do better for Luna. I am continually engaging with and seeking services with organizations and agencies that can help ensure that Luna doesn’t fall through the cracks: of society or of the dysfunctions between Jerry and I. Jerry also understands that everything isn’t o.k. and that we need to do all we can to ensure Luna has all the support she can. He actually voluntarily initiated contact with a pastoral counselor whom he will be meeting with on his home time visits.
So, where is the clarity in all of this? I don’t owe my adult children an explanation, justification, or rationalization for why I am continuing in the relationship with Jerry. I don’t owe those things to anyone. I have to own the fact that my past decisions and dysfunctions harmed them, myself, and others. However, I also have to own the fact that I am now responsible for moving beyond those things from my, our, past if I am going to successfully give Luna a different life.
I love Marco and LaLa and I will do everything in my power to keep the lines of communication open and let them know that as long as I am alive, they will be able to have a relationship with me and with Luna. A relationship that will have boundaries of respect and acceptance that we are each adults making choices that may or may not meet the approval of the others, but we have the right to make those choices.