Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let Go

My whole childhood was made up of letting go. 

Letting go of the things that mattered the most to me, the people I held close to me,  and the plethora of dreams ever little girl dreams about her future. I never hung onto them for long. Letting go so often to accommodate the “real” life that I was surrounding by became second nature, almost automatic; expecting anything different became, as it were, a dream in itself.

My life was chaotic at a very young age, and it was so unfair and unkind. It was a life where truth was relative to the situation; a truth to fit the moment. It was a place where truth was tarnished and not at all relevant, because everyone had their own version of the truth. 

And that is a tragic and scary place for a little girl.

It was confusing for someone so young;  and it was because of the uncertainty in my life that I believed my parents when they said, "it is all going to be alright,” and then life became even more confusing. Of all the people in the world, I trusted my parents first and foremost; and that is why I couldn't understand why life was spiraling out of control. At five year's old, that is a huge burden. 

My perfect family was one found only in my little girl dreams.

And so I had to grow up fast and furiously, and letting go was expected and considered normal. It happened much more often than was fair and reasonable.

I had to let go of the "Brady Bunch" mentality. Shows like that just messed up kids like me, and frankly, those families rarely existed. Instead of our family staying together and growing up together and getting out of the house, at the right time, with my sister and brothers, we instead drifted out the front door way before our time, and we never drifted back in.

Letting go of the “normal” things was the hardest; In hindsight, the way things played out in my life, and the lives of so many others kids I knew, was that that way of life was sadly considered “normal.”  

Divorce in the 1970's was like a Tsunami, and it wiped out my family, and so many other families with one swift hit. Divorce exposed hidden faults and unsettled argument and alcohol abuse and skeletons in the closet of unmentionable issues ...  all leading to D-I-V-O-R-C-E. 

In my families circle, there weren't too many families that made it out unscathed and still functioning from divorce, including my next of kin.  Even the kids I went to Sunday school with had been touched by it; or torn apart by it. It was one of those things that happens to everyone else's family, not yours. But then it does happen to your family and you find yourself, at a very young age having to hide and lie and let things go. You just didn't talk about it.

It happened more than I care to remember.

But lets get back to letting go.

The one thing, or should a say, the one place, that I lost during that time, that meant the most to me, was my childhood bedroom. It was my safe place, with all of my books and my secret hiding places. It was where I hid my journal and money and treasures like earrings and bracelets and samples of Avon's Red lipstick and random gifts of whimsy. 

It came with a complimentary escape route out the bedroom window to the yellow phone in the basement. It was the phone we used to make secret phone calls and get a hold of someone like my Grandma to come get us, for whatever reason. She was always there just in case something wasn't quite right at home. 

It was from that window I learned to jump 5 feet to the ground to get to the basement door to the phone. Five feet is high when you are only four feet tall and only 6 or 7 years old. 

I pretended I was Superwoman.

I let go of my collection of story books. My Little Golden Books, and Dr. Seuss and "Where the Wild Things Are." My collection of brown glass jars my Grandma started for me was left on the shelves in the order of their height to collect dust;  and my baby-dolls lost their Momma too, along with stuffed animals and picture albums and drawers full of cloths I never wore again.

The big window in my room was my favorite spot. It let the day and night in, but it also let me out if I had a need to get out, for whatever reason.

Home wasn't necessarily "Home Sweet Home."

I had the best vantage point of the night sky laying on my bed. I could lay there for hours and look out into the dark, clear night and see millions of stars on which I made millions of wishes and waited for them to come true. I remember how the stars twinkling at me, they seemed to have a special way of talking to me, a special language it seemed, letting me know everything was gonna be OK. It was like they were telling me "No matter what Amy, we will always be with you - just remember to look up." I remember falling asleep looking at those stars.

I did a lot of wishing on twinkling stars, but reality always reared it ugly head. I still had to let go of my family as I knew it. It seemed to happen in slow motion, and eventually, after about ten years, it was completely gone. There were no remains of a family anywhere to be found. 

After a "divorce" there isn't much left to do really, but to try and make what is "left - over" work, and that takes a lot of pretending too. Letting go of the "Brady Bunch" ideal was painful but necessary; so was finding a new reality, a new normal and  new place in the world; that was the reality after divorce. For everyone.

And so I had to let it ALL go.

There are no rules after divorce. Not for parents or for the kids. There are no right or wrong ways to "continue as normal" once divorce happens. Because divorce isn't normal, nothing about it is happy or nurturing. I was on my own to figure out how I was going to survive it, and I got to make up my own rules. Looking back; the effected it had on each of us was so different, I am only able to tell my version. 

I only know my truth.

I do know that it seemed like I had a mom and a step-dad that looked the other way as I walked out the door at 14, and I didn't come back for a long time.

Eventually they figured out where I was and would usually call to check on me, but it wasn't to see how I was. It was always about how bad I was and what I did or didn't do that prevented them from coming to take me, (or any of us) home. 

Those moments were so painful; being told those things by a parent really stung. But after a while of not seeing them, the words had less effect and they rolled off my back like water off duck feathers, and I learned to ignore them.

The words eventually started to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher; just a lot of noise. 

So who could blame me for being confused about a parents role? I never felt missed, or loved or even liked by them, and I always wondered if I actually mattered or if I was even valuable. The reality was that I only felt scolded and punished and alone, and after awhile you get good at hiding all of that stuff you have to stuff away, and life continues on, and all is well in the world.

I had to let go of what other families "seemed to be" and face the fact that my family had no definition. I had a mom, who though she wanted to, couldn't love her children the way she wanted to, the way she was supposed to when there is a NEW man in her house. A step-dad in the house. And this man was trying to be my dad. A man I didn't know or trust and frankly, didn't want to know. not at all. 

Normal was gone; and dysfunction moved in. Dysfunction became the norm; and there was plenty to pass around. 

Normal got tossed in the Let Go pile too.

One time when I was 13, I was told by my mother over the phone,  (who was surely influenced by more than her own thinking, and possibly drinking), that I couldn't come back because I was the one who left.

Honestly that stung worse than a back-hand across the face. I was 13, she was my mom? Even at 13 I though for sure it would go differently. I expected her to stick up for me. I had to let go of family allies, I was now on the opposing team. When I did go back home it was only briefly; and with great angst.

And my dad, he had a new family too. He left us for them. He was a truck driver, so all week long while he hit the road with his semi-truck, they were waiting on him to come home to them, and he skipped us(me, my sister and brother), and there was never enough of him to go around.

I never went to his house much. At first I did because of "visitation rights," but as I got older I tried to stay as far away from there as possible. My step-mom was not in my plans and frankly, back then, I felt torn in loyalty to my mom when I was around my step-mom. I never lived there. I really don't think I could have, not with my dad being gone all the time. I had to let go of ever living in the same house with my dad. 

There was only a short time right before my parents got divorced that I lived in the same house with my both of my parents. I was about 5 when they got divorced. I was too young to even remember what it was like to have him tuck me into bed, but I am sure he did. I remember vaguely him reading stories at his house with my step-sister around but I wasn't much on sharing my dad and I made sure she knew it. 

I was expected to share MY dad - I fought it every chance I got. 

And eventually, I had to let go of my dad, being MY dad, and let him be a dad to my step-sister and my new half-brother. I had to share him now; so I just let it all go. I didn't want to be the brat, the jealous one, so instead I was the peaceful one, even when on the inside I was dying.

Sharing my dad - what a crazy idea. There was no explanation for us either. No adult ever tried to help us understand, it just was and we had to let go of what was behind us, just because. 

Because they said so.

I eventually ended up lived with my Grandmother who, bless her heart, did all she could to provide for me and my sister and brother, but it was never like it should have been. I lived with her on and off until she died, in my arms, sitting on the back step of the trailer we lived in for so many years. It was the one place I think I lived the longest and could always "go home to;" but it was still a sacrifice for my Gram. How I wish I could thank her.

Some people have said that growing up like I did and letting go of so much makes me a survivor. It clearly made me independent and able to handle life better; sometimes, but not always. It changed the whole course of my life and I so often wonder, what my life would have been like had my parents NOT been divorced?

If my life could be lived over again, my parents would have never divorced, and I would have lived my life so differently no one would even recognize me.  

Being a survivor is honorable enough I suppose, but its the thick skin I'm not always so proud of. It keeps me from feeling things sometimes. It keeps me in my own little world and I think sometimes people find me hard and unable to let them in.

I'm working on that.

Letting go all through my life has simply gotten me to a safe place where I can live and be happy. It is a place where I guard my heart and the people I hold close within it. I don't have to let go of anything I don't want to anymore. 

I believe the life we create for ourselves, with the help of a God who loves us more than we can ever imagine, includes the perfect family, and I finally have that in my life.

Psalm 68:6 says that "God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."

I honestly can say that this is what he has done for me. He has placed me with people who are my family, and I will never be lonely, or scattered, or have a need to be rebellious for any reason; and I will never have to let go of anything ever again.

That is the way life should always be.

To everyone in my family ... I am glad you are part of my life.