Friday, July 26, 2013

Hot damn. I'm baaaaack!

So I took an extended, albeit unannounced, leave of absence from the blogosphere. I needed some time and space to keep weeding through and discarding some of the emotional detritus from my past. It's been an interesting seven months. (Since blogs are tone-of-voice free and since I am Queen of the Understatement, let me just translate the word "interesting" for you. It's been fantastic, gut-wrenching, amazing, and incredibly draining. Thank god for good friends and a good therapist.)

Those of you who have been following me for awhile (thanks, by the way! I am awed and humbled and touched by all of your comments) know that I have been battling for years to extricate myself from some pretty damn destructive family-of-origin patterns. I grew up in a very repressive, very judgmental born-again Christian household. (To be clear for any evangelical Christians who may be reading this and bristling, I have nothing against Jesus. He was a pretty awesome dude. I do, however, have a lot -- a looooooot -- against being raised by a family who taught me that I would never, ever be good enough and who slapped a religious coating on that belief and called it gospel.)

My mom is a capital-H Hoarder who has, at last count, managed to fill a four-bedroom suburban home, garage, yard, and variety of sheds with absolute crap. Because you might need it someday, you know? She struggled with depression and, I suspect, hypomania the entire time I was growing up. This part is hard to jam into a nutshell, but I spent my formative years in the role of mother, taking care of her. I was home-schooled until high school, so there was, quite literally, no escaping the chaos and the dysfunction.

My parents were married, but in that "I hate you with the fire of a thousand suns" kind of marriage, where their volcanically caustic relationship poisoned everything around them. My dad lived with us, but we didn't see him much. He spent most of his waking hours (and all of mine) at work. Years later, he came to me and apologized for not taking better care of us kids "because I never knew how bad it was at home." I'm sorry, what? How? What? I have no words. But that's a post for another time.

My dad loves me, I know, but has his own issues around anxiety and shame, especially of the religious variety. Talking with him is like emotional dodgeball, as he lobs giant verbal balls filled with guilt and shame in my direction. Don't get me wrong -- he does his best. It's just that his best kind of sucks. As an adult, I can see that with reasonable clarity. As a child, his constant disappointment and disapproval of me was soul-crushing.

It's been a long road (16 years and counting) to weed out which parts of me are actually me and which parts of my inner voice come from my parents. It's an important road and I am fully aware that I'll be traveling it for the rest of my life, but sweet mother of all that is holy. It's a lot of work. Good work, necessary work, but still. These last six months or so have been pretty intense for me in terms of making peace with my need to turn my back, if not on my family, on much of what they have taught me and on the parts of who they are that diminish me.

It is wretchedly and wrenchingly difficult for me to stand tall and take care of myself, given that I was explicitly and implicitly taught for years that to do so is unacceptable. The good news, the news that brings me peace and joy and amazement that life can be so incredible, is that I actually can. I can take care of myself, and I can love myself, and I can give myself all of the nurturing and understanding that my parents weren't able to when I was growing up. I deserve to be loved, and I deserve to love myself. I wake up in the morning now and am filled with a gratitude so profound that it borders on joy. I am safe. I am happy. I am me, and it's pretty damn fantastic.