loving oneself

Until a week ago, I really believed I had healed the part within myself that holds such self-hatred. I’ve struggled with the concept that I’m unlovable all my life. While going through therapy I somehow tricked myself into thinking I loved myself. Deep down, it was a lie.

There’s still a part of me that constantly wants to go behind the wall I built as a kid and push away the world. There’s a part of me that doesn’t believe I’m worthy of friendship or love. And there’s a part of me that doesn’t understand why anyone would care about me. It’s still there, haunting and familiar and safe. It feels safe to be alone in a cocoon where another person can’t touch me, can’t hurt me.

“No one likes you. We only took you in, because we feel bad that you don’t have a mom.” An aunt said this to me during some argument we were in when I was nine. I don’t remember the details of that argument, but I remember that statement and I remember crying myself to sleep that night. If my family didn’t like me, who the hell could?

When my mom left us, I immediately developed abandonment issues. And then when my dad moved me between family members until I hit eight grade, they deepened. So I push people away, because they probably wouldn’t care to get to know me anyway. I tend to draw in folks who ignore me and cast me aside. I tell myself that if I were them, I’d ignore me too, so I always understand and even come to expect it. I tell myself it’s my fault, because I’m unlovable. And when someone doesn’t go away even when I’ve tried to push them away, I try to find every excuse I can to exemplify that they have ulterior motives. I don’t allow myself to believe that they could genuinely care for me.

We’re told that others can only love us if we love ourselves. And I’ve found this to be very true. I’m a firm believer that we’re all connected and made up of energy and that we draw in what’s really going on inside of us. Because I had very little love for myself for basically all my life, I drew in people who would confirm my beliefs. But I’m very tired of being hurt. I’m tired of hurting myself. I’m tired of hating myself. It seems easier to love yourself than despise yourself, so I’ve been working on this and it’s a lot easier than I thought.

Because of the way others treated me, I made an agreement very early on that I was unlovable. But I know better now. I’ve said before that when others treat you badly, it’s usually because of something inside themselves and has nothing to do with you. I was made to feel unlovable when the underlying reasons given, had nothing at all to do with me. I hated myself for no solid reason, which is so damn illogical. No one in my family has ever seen the true me and I was misjudged very early on. They never had a clear view of who I truly am and therefore, never gave themselves the chance to love the beautiful soul hidden beyond their muddy glasses.

But none of that matters now. What matters is how I view myself. I’m learning to love myself every day and it’s a wonderful feeling.

I’ll make it out alive
Find a beautiful life, a beautiful life
We all wanna find, a beautiful life, a beautiful life…

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forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it

I don’t remember receiving any affection growing up. No one really told me they loved me or gave me hugs or praise. To pinpoint a healthy relationship in my life while growing up is difficult. So now as an adult, I’m left to pick up the broken pieces of the mirror that’s been my life. As if they’ve been lying there on the ground, waiting for me to tend to them and put them back together so that my life can be reflected back to me in a whole new way. One where I’ve cried the tears necessary for the little girl that’s still a bit battered and bruised and hold her with love and compassion, which was all she had really needed at the time anyway. One where the empty cracks of my heart are sealed back together and my spirit, healed. So that I may forgive all who have hurt me and forgive myself for holding so tight to the notion that I deserved all of the hurt. So that I may finally let go of the resentment and anger for having been abandoned by both of my parents and then treated as if it was my fault, as if I was the bad guy. So that I may finally have peace and know what it feels like to have a healthy relationship with both myself and those around me. The mirror has been mended quite a bit, but I still have pieces waiting to be added.

I was going through old photographs the other day, which is what led me to this major reflection of my life. I’ve been slowly healing for over a year now, but it’s hit me that I’ve yet to examine the catalyst of it all: my mother leaving. The word ‘mom’ is so foreign to me. I don’t even remember how old I was when she left my life. I don’t remember if she ever told me she loved me or sang me to sleep. I don’t remember if she ever hugged me or kissed me. I don’t have memories of her attending my plays or choir shows. She was never there to talk with me about boys or show me how to do my hair. She wasn’t at either of my graduations. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother to go to when you need to cry or laugh or vent. I’m not familiar with a mother’s love.

But I remember the times she’d take us to her boyfriend’s house and go off with him while my brother and me played with his sister’s kids. I remember the times she was late to picking me up from pre-school. I remember the times she’d smoke and drink while talking about leaving my “asshole of a father” (her words, not mine). I remember the time I finally learned to tie my shoelaces for the first time and ran to tell her, only to find her under the sheets with a random guy. And I remember the time my dad picked me up from school one day to explain that she had disappeared. I remember all the times that she would show up out of the blue and then leave again without notice.

The first time she ran away, her parents and siblings were moving to North Carolina. I woke up one morning to the sounds of her shuffling about, throwing items into suitcases. My brother was playing with his toys, oblivious to what was transpiring. My father was at work and I asked where we were going and if Daddy was going too. She said that we were going on a trip and that my daddy couldn’t go. I’m not sure how long we were in North Carolina or what the days consisted of, but I distinctly remember balancing on rusty train tracks with my brother while following my mom to the grocery store to get groceries. Her family didn’t treat us very well and had refused to drive us to the store that day after running out of milk and such. I suppose my mom realized that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side, so she told my dad where we were and he drove over a thousands miles, in the dead of winter, to come get us.

I’m not sure why she ran away with us that first time. I can’t recall the environment of the home we lived in, but I know that my dad was a workaholic and liked to drink a lot. I don’t remember whether or not they fought at all or if they were happy. But before she ran away the second (and final time), I know that there was a lot of tension in the house. My dad was gone all the time, working as much overtime as he could. And my mom was always with one of her boyfriends.

Those are my memories of my mother. The last time I saw her was at the age of eleven. She contacted me for the first time since then when I was in college. How she got my number, I’m still unsure, but it’s been a struggle for me to let her back into my life. I’ve only spoken with her a few times since, unsure of how much of what she’s saying is truth. I don’t want to be incapable of empathy though. I don’t want to be so cruel as to not give a second chance– to not try to see things from her perspective.

My childhood, especially while she was still around, is very fuzzy. There are so many unanswered questions and clouded memories. My dad has never felt comfortable answering any inquires I’ve had, so I have little to go on. I do know that my mom’s life has been a struggle. Her parents didn’t treat her very well and she was molested at a young age. How she internalized her experiences and how they affected her, I’m not sure, but since she had my brother and me at such a young age, she was not yet mature enough to be a parent. She still wanted to party and date other guys. And perhaps her inclination to have many boyfriends and sexual partners, stemmed from her broken childhood. Perhaps her and dad fought too much and she wasn’t happy with us. I’m not sure.

But when I look at the photographs from my childhood, photographs that were taken while she was still in my life, for which few other photos were taken of me after her absence, it hits me that she really did try. There are dozens upon dozens of pictures and many of them even had the dates written on them. She just wasn’t yet ready for children and the sacrifices that come with having them. Her destructive behavior was selfish and by no means, okay, but I forgive her, because I’m so tired of carrying around the anguish and resentment. I’m so tired of pretending to hate her.

After she left, my family tried really hard to make me dislike her. I’m not sure why, but I think it might be because they were afraid I’d follow in her self-destructive footprints. That maybe if they didn’t keep a tight hold on my feelings towards her, I’d search for her and be subjected to her influence. It really makes no sense if you think about it. She’d reappear once in a while and when she did, my family made me feel ashamed to talk to her. As if it was a horrible thing to have a relationship with my mother. I think that’s another reason why it’s been so difficult for me to reconcile with her, because they made me feel as if it’s wrong. But what is so wrong with wanting to know your biological mother? No matter what happened in the past, she’s still the person who gave birth to me and nothing will change that. And besides that, she hurt me, she left me, so isn’t it up to me, whether or not I forgive her and allow her back into my life? I understand that they probably thought they were protecting me, but it’s time to shed these negative ideas. It’s time for me to decide what to do about this situation and their opinions aren’t subjective. I don’t want to regret not having known my mother when she dies; never knowing the answers to questions that have been plaguing me for years.

Abandonment issues stem from my mother’s absence and because she wasn’t around, I lived a childhood filled with abuse. I was robbed of having a normal and loving childhood, but in turn, I’m the person I am today, and I really like this person. There are times I still feel cast aside. I’m hesitant to consider anyone a really good friend/best friend, but wish I had a close relationship like that and am working at being open. I still find excuses to push people away and I feel a strange distress at being left out of things, like I’m being abandoned again, like I’m not wanted. But again, I’m getting much better. It’s time to shed these negative beliefs, because they no longer serve me. It’s time to release the resentment and anger at my mother as well as my father and focus on the present moment. My mom is still on earth right now and although it’s hard, I would like to get to know her and let her be a part of my life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be comfortable calling her “mom”, but my hope is that one day, I can call her a friend.

I still have tons of healing to do, but even when the mirror is fully repaired, cracks will always be apparent. I see this as a gift though, because even when the mirror is fully repaired, I may look into it and remember how far I’ve come and be proud.

I have a confession to make…

It hit me a few weeks ago that one of my worst habits is not being true to my word. I think I acquired the habit from my parents. It never comes as a surprise when my dad breaks a promise or changes plans to fit his own needs. And don’t get me started on how many times my mom was untrue to her words growing up. I don’t have the best role models when it comes to being reliable, but even so, I felt horrible when it hit me that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

I have continuously encountered people who are unreliable and constantly breaking plans. It hurts when you have a plan to spend time with someone and they declare a raincheck, not once, not twice, but usually three or more times. It’s hard not to take it personally after a while. Taking a step back though, I see that this is simply a reflection of myself. I, too, am very guilty of exhibiting the same behavior. I’m not sure about others, but because of my lack of self-worth, I also possess a habit of assuming that others can’t possibly like me. I have this fear that once someone really gets to know me, they’ll see how unworthy of love I actually am.

I distinctly remember a good friend lecturing me years ago after I once again broke our plans. She told me that when someone says they want to spend time with me and invites me to things, they mean it. I always assumed it was because they were simply trying to be nice. Because again, how could they possibly want to hang out with me? So right before I’m suppose to hang out with someone, I usually convince myself to get out of it, I convince myself that they won’t care either way. It’s selfish to think this way though, because I’m putting all of the focus on myself and zero on the other person. Pulling away and keeping people at a distance is a defense mechanism, but it can be very selfish.

I have been hurt many many times, but it never occurred to me until now that I am capable of hurting others as well. I truly didn’t believe I was hurting anyone by not being true to my word and breaking promises and plans, but I did. And most importantly, I hurt myself too. It took me years to come to the realization that exhibiting these fears and behaviors is selfish and unkind, though that was never my intention. I don’t like the kind of person that it makes me and I’m changing now, today. Though this epiphany came to me weeks ago, it didn’t really hit me until today.

My friend, Amy, lost her grandmother on Monday. She is a beautiful soul who, just a week ago, was walking around and making me smile as she always does. She seemed okay that day, but a few days later her health took a dramatic turn. This made me realize how quickly things can change– how quickly the familiar can be taken away from you. Seeing her lying in a hospital bed made me re-examine my life and the people in it. Every moment is precious and petty things take up too much energy. It’s very important to always be true to yourself and have integrity. Be true to your word, not only for others, but for yourself as well. I know now that I am worthy of love and that I am likable, that people do care. And if they don’t, that’s their problem. I’m thankful for those close to me who have remained by my side and have forgiven me countless times without me ever apologizing for my actions. And I’m thankful to still be here and for another day.

gratitude and meditation

As I was imagining how to decorate the apartment this year for Christmas, I was contemplating the past year and what I’ve been blessed with and continue to be blessed with daily.

It’s been an insane year, especially the past few months. So many wonderful changes sprinkled with a few not so wonderful, but they were all definitely awesome learning experiences, none the less. I’ve made big shifts in my life the past couple of months and I’m anxious to see how things unfold in the next year. A new job, new friendships, new outlook, new…everything.

I took up meditating a couple of months ago and have fallen in love with it. There’s such a stigma surrounding the word ‘meditation’, so many assumptions. It took me a while to warm up to the idea, but once I did, I kicked myself for not starting sooner. Meditation allows me to see things in ways I normally wouldn’t– to see the uniqueness in the mundane and beauty in the weird. I get inspiration in the oddest of ways now. I’m also a hell of a lot calmer than I use to be.

While meditating this morning, so much love was blasted to me. Love and gratitude. I was instantly thankful for everyone in my life, especially the ones who have hurt me. I found it easy to forgive them and be grateful to have crossed paths, because they helped me learn things I wouldn’t have learned otherwise (even my lovely ex-coworkers). As sappy and cliche as this may be sounding, life really is too short to hold grudges, to hold onto negative remnants from the past. Forgive (because it benefits yourself more than the other person), find the golden lessons, then apply them and let go. Move on. I’m learning now to let go of the past and move on, because the past shouldn’t take precedence over the present. All we have is right now, so why waste it by focusing on things that are no longer taking place?

So today (and every day), I’m thankful for every single person I come in contact with. I’m thankful for every lesson (good and bad), that I’ve learned thus far. I’m thankful for my health and peace of mind. I’m thankful for the food I eat and the air I breathe…I could sit here for days typing out every little thing I’m grateful to have, and even then, I’d run out of typing space. So for this very moment, I’m thankful for my beautiful Christmas tree and the eyes to see it.

another lesson learned

People often ask how I manage to be so happy and positive and I always tell them that it took a hell of a lot of work for me to get to this place. I quietly suffered from depression from my adolescence until my early college years. (A hell of a lot of emo poetry and lyrics derived from those years though, so at least one good thing came of it, right?) My world was broken and I never really had anyone show me unconditional love and acceptance. So for a long time, I searched for happiness in all the wrong places.

I finally found my happy place this year. Simple things bring a smile to my face: flowers, my morning coffee, ice cream, sweet messages from friends, being outside. I’m pretty damn easy to please. For the past two weeks though, I’ve allowed someone else to take my happiness away from me. First I got lost on a well-trodden path of gossip, then I tripped into a ditch filled with other people’s problems. My anxiety has been on an all time high, my patience thin. A couple of days ago, I was a hair’s breadth away from searching for a cave to burrow in, and if it weren’t for prayer and meditation, I just might have.

Like a shotgun, I’ve been hit with lesson after lesson the past few months. This latest one finally occurred to me today. A couple of people at work have been unhappy with me for various reasons (petty reasons, really) and their method for handling the situation, has been to simply ignore me. In the past, when we’d have a problem and I’d attempt to work it out, my words would reach closed ears. So this time, I didn’t bother. It ate at me though, not being able to solve the problem, not being able to make any of these people happy again. I also became paranoid, because I’d hear a statement or two that sounded eerily like gossip concerning me. I literally had to lock myself in the bathroom a few times to talk myself out of an approaching panic attack.

As I mentioned though, the lessons I believe I’m suppose to take from this are being okay with disharmony, that what others say about me behind my back is truly none of my business, to not let petty drama take over my world and to not take things personally. The problems that they have with me stem from problems that they have within themselves. A lot of it stems from ego (jealousy, pride and fear), but it has nothing to do with who I am as a person. In the past, when someone has shown discontent with me, I’d immediately try to figure out what was wrong with me and what I needed to change so as not to trouble them again. That takes a whole lot of energy and very little self-respect. And it usually goes unnoticed.

So I’m taking my happiness back and accepting the fact that I’ll never be able to please them. They have never liked me and probably never will, and the reasons have nothing to do with me, but all to do with themselves. And that’s a shame, because I’m pretty darn good company to have around.

what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger

If you go through my blog and look at the amount of times I update, it’s apparent that I’m not as consistent as I should be. This post is a difficult one for me. I still struggle with being vulnerable, especially when my words are put out there for anyone to see. Hell, I struggle with the topic of this post, period.

I saw Straw Dogs a few weeks ago and afterwards, I was so shaken that I couldn’t go home for a couple of hours. The violence in the last half triggered memories from my past. Although it had nothing to do with what I experienced, my mind started playing personal memories on a loop.

A big chunk of my childhood is blocked out. If Freud was here, he would say that that’s because my unconscious mind is repressing traumatic experiences in self-preservation. There are bits and pieces though, that for a long time, I thought were deserved and normal. Every child gets beaten when they do something wrong, right? Every child is forced to sit in a pitch black bathroom for what seems like hours, when they don’t do what they’re told, right? Every child must be constantly reminded that they’re the worst behaved child and that they’re stupid and will never amount to anything, right? Because otherwise, how are they suppose to learn? WRONG.

It took me a long time to realize that the way I was treated was not normal, was not deserved. I didn’t see myself as a victim of child abuse and even now, it’s a strange concept. I was fortunate to live with my extended family for long periods of time, because that kept me away from my ex-step-mom. My brother, on the hand, was around her until the divorce. He’s always been a quiet person. Shy and reserved. He was a very sweet boy and was always getting picked on, both at home and at school. There are times when I feel guilty for not being there to protect him. I remember one particular incident when we were maybe six and seven and my brother didn’t want to eat the fish sticks she had made for lunch. If you know anything about my brother, you know that he HATES fish and doesn’t consume much meat.

He sat at the kitchen table, pushing his food around his plate for I’m not sure how long, but long enough for my step-mom to lose patience. When he told her he wasn’t hungry, she got angry and grabbed the closest thing within reach: a feather duster with a plastic handle. Grabbing him by the arm, she twisted him around and began striking him. We both were crying and I yelled for her to stop, stop and I’d make him eat. But that only made her more angry and we were soon forced to sit in a windowless bathroom without light for what seemed like eternity. To this day, I get claustrophobic and am terrified of darkened enclosed spaces.

When we hit a certain age, I think our teenage years, the physical abuse tapered down, but the verbal abuse never did. My dad can also be very cruel with words when he wants and his words always were more biting than hers. What hurt more than getting hit though, was being ignored. And an aunt I lived with many times is guilty of that. I remember getting a C on a report card that needed to be signed and she refused to sign it and then ignored me for a few days. I’ll never forget that.

My father has always been a work-a-holic and I was always a daddy’s girl. I’m not sure whether he knew what was taking place in his home while he was working, but I don’t remember ever telling him. Since I was at a different school just about every year, sometimes twice a year, the counselors were always bringing me into their office to “get to know me”. I remember one time being asked point-blank whether my step-mom ever hit me when I did something wrong, and for some reason, I told that counselor, that no, she had never laid a hand on me. I often became a teacher’s pet, but only because they always kept a special eye on me and constantly had me at their desks helping with things. I even remember having lunches with the principal at my fourth grade school quite often. I never thought that any of this was odd, but looking back now, I see that coupled with moving around so often, they probably saw something off kilter. I never told any of them what was really going on.

I tried to tell an older cousin once, but he tried to reason it out and say that I was overdramatizing its (the abuses’) relevance. That made me think that perhaps, I was. I never told any other family members after that.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I explored my past and the different things I’ve gone through. It wasn’t until this year that I saw myself as a victim. I remember it hitting me at one point and I just cried and cried for that little girl who sat in a darkened bathroom after being struck, because her and her brother were making too much noise, or she hadn’t finished her food, or she had talked back, ect, ect, ect. I was once told that no one in the family liked me, because I was the worst behaved child. That one statement spiraled me into an obsessive compulsion to please every one around me. To be perfect. To be good enough. But I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried.

I use to think: “Why would anyone want me? I’m damaged goods.” So I kept a wall around me and hid, because who wants someone broken and damaged like me? I remember hitting my little sister while babysitting, because she did something “bad” and that’s how you’re suppose to treat a child when they’re “bad”. I have so much guilt for that, though at the time, it was all I knew; it was my “normal”. I remember relaying the incident to a friend in high school once and her response of “You know that’s not normal, right?” blew me away for a minute. The idea that not all children get slapped and beaten as a form of discipline was planted, but I somehow convinced myself that it was because we deserved it. And so for us, it was normal.

For a long time I had so much hatred for my ex-step-mom, and a whole lot of resent for my family. I understand now that perhaps we were treated the way we were, because that’s how she was treated. Perhaps to her, it was normal. Though I don’t remember her ever hitting my half-sister the way she did my brother and I, her words were just as cutting. What she did wasn’t right and this isn’t a justification by any means, but I’ve come to realize that perhaps she wasn’t aware of the damage she was inflicting. Perhaps she had been hurt too. And that has helped me to forgive her.

Knowing what I know now, I would never use my hand as a form of discipline for my children. I would never bully them or be quick to point out when they do something wrong. It’s not nice and it isn’t respectful. Children need love and respect and balance. I’ve been haunted many years by things that happened when I was only four and eight and twelve, ect. When you tell a kid that they’re worthless, they’re going to remember that for the rest of their life. It’s imperative that parents, grandparents, aunts, cousins, ect, are aware of the implication of their words to others, especially children. Because it’s very easy to have a negative influence on their beliefs of themselves. Children are innocent and susceptible to whatever adults tell them.

It’s taken me a long time to get where I am today, but I’m healing. Finally. I try not to let my past haunt me now. As I said before, I truly thought I was unlovable and that no one was capable of caring for me, because I was damaged and broken– not good enough. But going through things like what I went through and healing and coming out on the other side makes for some really strong, beautiful people. I grew up very fast and have learned things that I might not have, had I not experienced what I did. There’s no justification for the things that happened to me, but I’m thankful for the lessons learned.

perseverance is key

I recently spoke to a woman who told of an experience when she was about eight or nine, of one day drawing a charcoal picture. She took it to her art teacher who told her she couldn’t have drawn it, because she isn’t talented enough to have drawn something so beautiful. She put the picture away and hasn’t drawn since.

Our words have such an impact on others, especially children. It’s important to be aware of what you say and how. For years, I lived my life by words that others said to me. I was told I wasn’t pretty, so I saw myself as being ugly. I was told I wasn’t smart, so I saw myself as being dumb. I was told I was fat, so then I really saw myself as being ugly. I was told I was unlikable, so I saw myself as being a horrible person.

But none of those words were true. Just as the art teacher’s words weren’t true. His words made her believe that she wasn’t capable of creating something like a beautiful charcoal painting. And even though she loved to draw and paint, she didn’t. And she regrets it now.

She shared this story with me after I told her why it’s taking so long for me to pursue my dreams. She told me not to do what she did– not to forget my dreams or shelve them simply because someone told me they aren’t possible. A lot of successful people weren’t coddled or always told positive things to keep them going. Instead, they had to find something inside of themselves: that inner voice that whispers, “It’s possible. Trust.”

I’ve found that not everyone is always going to like you. Not everyone is going to support you. And though it’s motivating to have someone else validate your dreams and goals, you won’t go anywhere unless YOU validate your dreams and goals. It’s not always easy and I’ve stumbled many times, but I’m learning to believe in myself more and more each day. Because the only person who can stop me from achieving my goals, is me. Not the person who said I wasn’t capable. Me.

The world lost an amazing visionary yesterday who is a perfect example of someone who lived his life the way he felt was right and pursued what he wanted, despite any naysay. If he had listened to someone (like the woman’s art teacher) who told him he wasn’t capable, I probably wouldn’t be typing this right now…

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma– which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs