Monday, October 23, 2006

Answering Some of my Own Questions

This is not a pity party, but it might be a reality check:

If you know me, you may know some of the following about me:

I was four months old when my birth mother left my father. He was suddenly stuck with me and my 3 year old brother.

My father couldn't handle us. He had parties to go to, drugs and alcohol to consume, and women to do all of the above with.

So, for awhile, he tried to keep it a secret that he wasn't doing so well. He would find someone to watch us...anyone. It might be an acquaintance or a friend of a friend's mom or just whoever he could charm into the task. He'd drop us off and leave us for a "few hours." A few days later, the impromptu sitter would be calling around frantically, trying to find him. I'd be sick or out of diapers or my brother might need medical care. We'd be out of clean clothes and I'd be out of formula.

Eventually, he'd turn up and take us somewhere else. Several times he left us completely alone for hours while he went to play basketball or tennis or party.

Finally, word of his behavior got back to his parents. They stepped in and took us in. He was all too relieved. When my grandmother insisted that he bring our clothes and blankets and toys, he brought in bag after bag of dirty laundry. Most of the clothing she had to toss. It was bug infested and most of the clothes were unsalvageable.

I was twenty-two months old when my grandparents intervened. I was not walking. My ankles were weak...a doctor had told my dad to get special shoes for my feet, which he did not do. Most of the time when he had me, I was strapped in a high chair or left in a play pen.

Within weeks, with better shoes on my feet and a little encouragement, I was walking. However, the alignment of my feet was not right. My new doctor told my grandparents that they should have my legs broken and reset. They did not have the heart to do that. Today, my ankles curve in and as a result, I have bulging disks and back pain from the improper alignment.

But I had some security. Stability. I had food to eat, which, according to my brother, had been rare up until that time. He told stories of us eating dog and cat food when the hunger pains became too much for us.

We now had a good diet of fresh, home grown vegetables. We had a big, fenced in yard in the country to run and play in. We had all kinds of kitty cats to love on and cuddle with. We didn't have to worry about having to move from house to house. We had toys and clean clothes and stability.

When I was three, my dad went to prison for drug possession. He signed over his custodial rights to my grandparents. By then, my mother was remarried and had started a new family (which she would later walk out on, also). A hearing was held to offer her the chance to regain custody of my brother and myself. She did not attend, so, as a result, she forfeited her rights to us. My grandparents legally adopted my brother and I when I was five years old.

I say, again, we had security. We had stability. We had food, shelter, clothing, toys, and many advantages that we previously lacked. My grandparents did what they did out of love, I believe. However, neither or them really understood how to nurture a child emotionally.

My grandmother resented "giving up her retirement" to raise "someone else's children." She constantly let us know that.

Every day we were reminded that:
"We didn't have to take you kids. You'd better consider yourselves lucky. Your grandfather and I had plans that we put to the side for you ungrateful kids."

I do not remember ever getting a hug or a kiss from her growing up. She was a strict disciplinarian. She had an explosive temper. We were afraid to cross her. This was made worse by the fact that she was going through the change of life. Her mood swings would often result in violent outbursts. Either we would hide in fear or have chunks of our hair pulled out of our heads. Often we would have anxiety issues when we were about to get off the bus, wondering what kind of mood she was in.

When she was in a good mood, times were good. She baked lovely cakes and read to us; she would take us shopping. Even though I didn't understand it at the time, my brother was scorned far more than I was. You see, she had three boys of her own. She never had the girl she dreamed of having. I was that girl that she always wanted. I was a feminine version (looks-wise) of my dad (her youngest) with reddish gold, curly locks and dainty dresses. She would spend hours picking out patterns and hand sewing dresses to make me look like a little doll.

However, my brother looked like my birth mother, who was my grandmother's biggest source of anger. Grandma resented my mother for leaving us, leaving my dad, ruining her plans for the rest of her life. She took her anger out on my brother a great deal as a result.

My grandfather: a gentle, quiet man, sought only to keep the peace with Grandma. Most of my childhood he sat behind a newspaper, saying nothing. Or he worked long hours, even working two jobs after his regular job forced him and all of his department to take early retirement. If he wasn't at work or behind the paper, he was in his woodshop, making swings to sell.

On the rare times we were out alone, we had such fun with him! On Fridays, Grandma would get her hair done. Grandpa would take us to the park and push us on the swings, and run and laugh with us. At my brother's little league games, he would buy us candy, and we would all act silly and have a great time. When we went home, he retreated back into his shell.

I know children learn what they live. This upbringing taught me both good and bad things. I do see some major blessings that came out of my childhood. My Sunday School teacher all through my childhood was a psychologist. Often, it was just she and I alone, talking. After our lesson, we talked and as a result, I got free counseling from a wise Christian lady. She helped me cope, taught me to not take too much to heart.

What I did learn to do was to try not to inconvenience people. I ended up being a people pleaser. I have a lot of friends. I have good friends. However, I never have been good at asking for help if I need it. I have a hard time accepting help from people.

The most negative thing I learned from my Grandmother was, "I am not worth your time." As a result, that has been a struggle for me. I often accept less and do more. I end up caught up in being a giver until I exhaust my own internal resources. When I am sick or need a break, I don't stop until I am too sick to lift up my head.

The worst thing someone can say to me is "you let me down." I don't think I could handle hearing that.

That's MY thought process that needs changing. I need to learn to set boundaries and stop thinking that whatever people do or say that is hurtful is okay. I have to stop feeling so insecure, thinking if I left my job, I would make a shamble of any new venture. I know I am intelligent, but I have a hard time letting go of things. I don't transition well unless change is forced on me. I'm the one who will be "beating a dead horse," long after other people would have quit.

What good came out of my upbringing? Like I said, I have a lot of friends. I am reliable. Very reliable. I love animals and I love to read. There were many things my Grandmother taught me that I will always cherish.

In the end, in the last few months before she passed, she became a peaceful, sweet woman. She hugged and kissed me. She told me she loved me. Her spirit softened. So, God granted me some lovely last days with Grandma. I don't harbor any bitterness toward her. I know at the time she was raising us, there was a great deal of pressure on her shoulders, and not a lot of resources. There wasn't Prozac back then, and going for mental health counseling was frowned upon in her generation. She was angry, and didn't know where to turn.

This post is just to tell you, everyone has a reason for why they are the way they are. Some people might look like they have it all together, but the truth is, very few do. We all struggle, we all find ways to cope.

In my life, I've had some times when I coped very well with what I faced. There were times when I was one step from the edge of oblivion. So, if you're going through pain, depression, indecision, loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, fear, anxiety...whatever, know this: I've been there. By the grace of God I am surviving day by day. With each new day, I take a deep breath and try to keep going. It's all I can do. You know?


PJ said...

Kristi you are so so soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

We DO have a lot in common. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I was so touched by what you wrote and happy to know you better. You are beautiful and I wish I could hug you for real (thank the Lord we'll have eternity together though!).
lots of love, P.

Holli said...

Yep, I do know what you mean sister. Take a deep breath and let it out. One foot in front of the other. Do the best we can do that day and remember that tomorrow is another day.
I love you and I think you are truly wonderful and gifted. God has annointed you!

Elliemarie said...

Thank you for sharing such a big part of your history with us. For better or for worse, our past shapes who we are. And it has made you an absolutely wonderful person.

neicybelle said... know...i have felt like that since the time my mom carried me, someone has made it their goal to destroy me...physically and makes me wonder how some people live through this, and some people don't.

i'm so glad you did and not only that, but you came into my life. thank you!