I’m a child of divorce. I know, I know, that’s such a common thing these days, but I don’t like that it is! And it doesn’t change the way it feels. Especially to a kid.
Honestly, I thought I was one of the lucky ones. My parents have been divorced for as long as I could remember, so I didn’t actually have to watch it happen. And they are friends now, so that’s pretty cool.
I know that my parents are probably going to read this, so I just want to start this whole thing by saying that I love you both, I know you love me, I know you did the best you could, and I am so happy to have the relationships we have now.
But, when you’re a kid, you don’t think like that. You don’t know what it takes to keep a marriage alive, you don’t know what it feels like to be a parent or even an adult. All you know is something isn’t right.
So regardless of my parents getting along in different houses, I still made assumptions and created a reality based on the fact that they were not together.
Because really, they were supposed to be together right? When two people make a commitment and then decide to bring life into the world, they’re supposed to stick together.
I didn’t hear any of the other kids talk about having two Christmas mornings, or trying to decide where they were going to sleep that night. I wasn’t like the other kids. My homes weren’t like their home.
Was there something wrong with me? I was the last kid they had before they split, was I supposed to stop this from happening? Did I somehow cause this?
Those questions were a constant presence, no matter how many times I heard my parents say “I love you,” or “this isn’t your fault.” Try reasoning with a kid who knows nothing of relationships or adulting. All we know is what we see.
Watching my parents build their own lives while I was trying to understand school and hormones and what growing up entailed, I became entirely closed off.
I watched other relationships come in and out of their lives. I listened to them fight over money and who was driving us kids where and when. I developed an attitude of resentment as the pressure to choose where I was sleeping that night turned into a decision that could carry the weight of betrayal.
I found myself constantly questioning how every action I did or word I said would effect the delicate balance they had created. I didn’t want them to feel upset. I didn’t want them to think I didn’t love them. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want them to have any reason to think that I was the reason their lives were broken.
They provided everything. Seriously… as many sports and instruments as I wanted to play, elaborate holidays and birthday parties, friends over whenever I wanted, and I was encouraged to say “yes” to every opportunity.
But it was the little things that chipped away at me.
I was exhausting every effort to ensure that I was someone they could be proud of. I was consistently molding and shaping my life to work around theirs.
And as I got older, I got tired. And confusion turned to anger.
I had parents who decided to create new lives instead of following through with the one they had already started. And I was the one who had to be uncomfortable so they could be more comfortable. How is that fair?
I understand now that people change and it’s okay to start over (I mean, I kind of promote it with MAVERICK!), but little-Maggie learned to believe that she wasn’t good enough, that our family wasn’t good enough, and they needed better.
One parent insisted on throwing money at me to keep me happy, instead of holding a conversation or doing something together.
I understand now that this parent wasn’t sure how to relate to me, but little-Maggie learned to believe that love wasn’t real, it was earned.
One parent decided it would be a good idea to compete with me, instead of encouraging me to explore what made me happy.
I understand now that this parent was proud of me and liked who I was, and wanted to be a part of it all. But little-Maggie learned to believe that she would never be able to do enough.
As an adult I still find myself on edge around them. Am I saying the right things? Doing the right things? Am I disrupting the family balance? Am I making them proud? Do they even like me?
You have no idea the anxiety I feel even posting something like this… what if I hurt their feelings? And they will probably call me within the hour I post this and remind me of how much they love me, but there’s fear. I created a reality in which I had to constantly change to make them comfortable. And really, I believe that about everyone I’m around.
Now I am on a mission to create a reality in which I am my most authentic self. A reality in which I trust that the people who say that they love and care about me, mean it… even if they don’t like every little thing I say or do.
What I believed about myself: not like everyone else, not enough, not lovable, responsible for other’s comfort and well-being, I’m the problem
What I believed about other people: they only love you if you earn it, they only love you if you keep them happy
In an effort to start creating a life in which I thrive, I’ve created a “New Reality.” The purpose of this tool (as described in my previous post) is to reverse-engineer a better, but still true, reality. And I’m going to stare at it, re-read it, and flood my conscious mind with it until I fully believe it, solidifying it in my subconscious.
As always, thank you for the space to be raw and real. Every step we take together strengthens the bonds within this beautiful MAVERICK community. And please, if you feel lead to, share your stories too. We’re hitting some heavy topics, and sometimes it just feels good to know we aren’t alone in our “messes.” While we all experience hurt differently, emotional pain feels the same. There’s no such thing as “worse” or “not as bad.” Please hear that.
I’m always open to connect… that’s what this community is for.
Chapter 3 next week! Be well, MavPack!