Because of you

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This was me – still could be in a lot of ways.

I struggle every day not to always take the safe side, to dare, to try, to put myself out there and immerse myself in this life rather than sitting back and watching safely from the sidelines.

There was a time in my life that I really didn’t have my own identity. I was “Mrs. Mike”, the boys’ mom, a sister and daughter…but Karen was nowhere to be found. I don’t mean that those other identities aren’t part of me – they are an incredibly important and vital part of me – they just aren’t the whole of me. I think everyone struggles with this in some ways. I frankly don’t know a Mom who is being honest with herself who won’t say that at least occasionally she has felt like she “lost” herself. The difference is that I wanted it that way. If people only knew me as an extension of my husband or kids then they would not get a chance to figure out that I wasn’t really worth knowing.

Then the bottom dropped out and Mike and I separated. While I don’t recommend the method to everyone, I have to tell you that suddenly finding yourself flat on your ass and alone with 3 kids with no idea of who the hell you are or what you want will go a long way toward scaring the shit out of, forcing, helping one to find ones self.

Funny enough though, there was a self to find. It was a frightened self, alone and naked and wanting to hide, but with just enough self preservation left to get mad, take a look around and decide “Fuck it – I am NOT going down like this!” I’ve made it a priority every day since then to nurture that self and while it’s not always easy and there are days that I still really would like to hide, I’ve pretty much found someone that I can love and that’s something I don’t remember feeling before.

I look at my 3yo daughter and see that she is so completely in love with herself. She has yet to learn to be ashamed or embarrassed. She does not self-edit and while she is learning empathy and to consider others people’s needs, she does not automatically value others needs as greater than her own. I see pictures of myself at that age and can see that same love of self in my own eyes. What beat it out of me and why did it take so long to find it again?

The answer is unfortunately in the question – it was beat out of me. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was beat into me until it was hidden under too many layers of bruises, belt marks, black eyes, and scars on my heart from every bitter insult screamed at me from the depths of their pain. Buried under years of watching as they hurt each other physically and emotionally and living in dread of the certainty that they would eventually turn it towards my sisters and I. Buried under the guilt of not being able to protect my sisters from it and the shame of knowing that sometimes I was relieved that it was them and not me. Buried with my own anger…

See, the real me that loved herself so unconditionally? Not only did she learn that she would be punished for being herself, but she was ANGRY! She hated what was going on and that anger and that hate was simply too ugly – too much like what she saw in the people who were hurting her – it made HER just like THEM. So it needed to be buried deep where no one would ever find it.

Now I’ve taken that little girl back into my heart. I’ve let her know that it’s OK to be angry and to hate what happened, but that at the same time it was OK to try to see THEM a little more clearly and forgive them for acting on their own anger and pain.

Mike and I were able to forgive each other and repair and recommit to our marriage and I am now the mother of four rather than three. I am thrilled to still be “Mrs. Mike” and am very proudly “_____’s Mom” but at the same time I am also that little girl who loves herself so very much. The three of us join hands, gather together all of our other selves, and dance this dance with joy and abandon – more determined than ever to live the hell out of this life we’ve been given. I still get scared, I still get angry, and I still get hurt – but I’ll be damned if I’m going to hide from it anymore. I’m going to face it and work my way through it because on the other side? On the other side there is joy and love and forgiveness like I’ve never allowed myself to feel before and I want that – I deserve that!

While it may have been “Because of them” that I spent so much time hiding from myself, it is also because of them that I am here and there were many moments and glimpses of love and happiness that co-existed with the anger and pain. They didn’t enter this world, begin their marriage, or decide to have children with the intention of hurting each other or us. They were doing the same thing we all do, trying to create the happiest life that they could and they got lost along the way. They are both gone now, but my most fervent hope for them is that wherever they are they are, they have been able to shed the anger and pain and are once again enjoying the love and happiness so evident in their young eyes and that they both so richly deserve…


Anonymous,  March 17, 2010 at 11:25 AM  

I have been sitting here crying for some time now as your words ring so true for so many parts of my life. I also looked at a picture of myself as a child and wish I could find that part of myself that just loved life and was happy just because. Now although there are happy moments, the smile on my face is a practiced one because that is what I was taught, ALWAYS show the world what they want to see. No one wants to see a grown woman curled up like a little girl crying just wanting this horrible charade to be over. I hope I am one day as strong as you are, I just don't know how to get over the past and push on and find who I am. Since the loss of my last parent I am struggling to find any bits of self worth I feel they may have died right along with my parents. You do give me a glimmer of hope maybe I can overcome everything and find my lil girl again too. Thank you

Karen March 17, 2010 at 2:36 PM  

I’m so sorry for the loss of your parents…I know that for me, even though I had worked through so much, on some level I still wanted to take my Mom’s hand and finish this healing journey together. (My Dad died many years ago)

For whatever reason (or hundreds of reasons) we were not meant to make that journey together and I came to accept that, but when she died this past fall I felt the loss of that dream sorely.

At the risk of sounding like some fool on the internet who thinks she knows something about anything at all…Please know though that your self-worth did NOT die along with your parents. It might be buried underneath tons of crud that you need to dig through, but I firmly believe that it is there and that it burns as brightly as it did when we were those carefree little girls. (now *I’m* tearing up "smiles")

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