Last night I made the trek from Sylva, NC over to Franklin, NC to see my mother and step-father. Until earlier this year when my younger sister had gone into the hospital (for something very different that I) I had not spoken with them for over a year.
I have always been very hard-headed and also very independent. Growing up I mostly felt lost in the world of harshness and chaos-being an Idealist has never been easy but it was particularly difficult for me when I was younger and still it is something I wrestle with on a daily basis. The ideas that we must spend the incredible life we were given-working or doing things we don’t want to do has always been something I have wrestled with.
I grew up in private schools, skipped sixth grade and was an incredible student until I transferred to public school. The gossip and back handed treatment of “friends” just blew me away. People would ask my opinion about something or someone and I naively would answer back honestly-putting me in a very uneasy place. I was often the object of another person’s anger and because my parents were divorcing-I was completely at a loss.
Being the oldest in the family really means that you are the experiment child. While I had to wait until I was eleven to have a sleep-over birthday party, my youngest sister was sprouting them when she was eight and I think, possibly younger. My parents owned a restaurant growing up and worked day and night to take care of our family and provide. I rarely saw them through those years and while it was not easy for me to understand it growing up-I certainly have deep respect for them now.
But I was never much of an obedient child. I was a total nerd in many ways, preferring to spend my money on “office supplies” because I loved the smell of new paper, fresh pens and leather. Once I learned how to read I read everything I could and taught my brother and sister how to read because I felt it was the greatest gift. I kept my side of the room clean as can be-always vacumming and redecorating. The three of us shared an enormous room and had it spaced off as Ahna’s side and then my brother and sister shared the other side. I was the oldest so I was the ruler! But I had another side that was supremely tough. I loved climbing trees with the boys in the neighborhood, was passionately in-love with my bicycle and wore my brothers clothes as often as I could for years.
It was my strong-willed side that led to the drama. Once I realized that I didn’t really have “friends,” (or what I had always thought meant friends) my life really changed. I came to heavily rely on my boyfriends for support and friendship because I had always felt more at ease around guys. They laugh easier, joke easier and don’t take my sometimes brash personality-personally. Then I realized that pretty much all guys in high school just want to have sex, and well, that wasn’t happening either.
My first boyfriend was a new student from Florida. He colored his hair, painted his nails and was what we considered a “skater.” I was a part of the “popular” crowd (not sure why now) and so it was quite a shock to my friends when I began dating him. But he was sweet, he wasn’t trying to sleep with me and because he was also dealing with a lot of emotional pain-we made a great but combustible match.
I did not want to be in school, I did not want to do homework-I did not want to be a part of normal society-I felt that the greatest lessons were meant to be learned through living. I was extremely rebellious with my parents and went back and forth living between the two until I would inevitably upset one so much that I would move back in with the other. I was a ball of anger, fear, rebellion, and raw hurt. I seethed intensity as I do today, but I have learned to control that intensity better.
My personality was a gift from my father. I would come home and look at him before I spoke so that I knew what type of a mood he was in. Often I would just whisper hello and quietly walk by until he had calmed down or when he was happy and had time he would pull me onto a stool and make me tell him about my day. When he was happy there wasn’t anyone else that couldn’t be the same, but when he was upset-the stormiest oceans and fiercest thunder has absolutely nothing on him-and I am exactly the same way.
I tested my parents again and again over the years. I ran away to live in Colorado with my second serious boyfriend, I dropped in and out of school (college round one), I partied like it no one else I knew, and I traveled. I slept in my car when I didn’t have a place, I drove many lonesome roads, and had my heart ripped out countless times by the harsh realities of life. Inevitably I would come home, tattered, broke, crying and my mother would always welcome me back.
My father and I had our own silence for several years. When my parents divorced, the image of my perfect father was shattered and he became a different man. We could not find anything to agree on and his controlling nature made me even more rebellious.
I remember sneaking out one night after I had fought him on…something. He was downstairs in the kitchen working (our house was built on the back of the restaurant because we had been young when they first bought it) and I was hurting and wanting to see my boyfriend. I jumped off the roof, walked to the basketball game up the road and cried in my boyfriends arms before returning back. I felt powerful and I laughed at him when he came in the house and asked if I was calm yet.
The ordeal with my mother and step-father was of course, bent out of more rebellion. But mostly I think it was my own odd way of releasing my childhood and growing up. I have always been independent in action but very dependent with my emotions. I needed to be supported and understood-I needed to be told that I was going to be okay and had become dependent on those things from them. In a particularly vulnerable moment my mother was unable to be my strength and I was appalled and then disgusted with myself. Granted I can speak objectivity about this now-I certainly was not then. I was angry and felt it was her job to be there for me-to comfort me and understand. And because she was not, I was left feeling weak-which is close to death for me.
I pulled back out of hurt and what I thought was an attempt to not be like “her” but in reality, I was growing up. This was my mid-twenties and I believe a very challenging and renewing time for me. While it hurt me incredibly to be away from them-I knew that I had to. I felt it very strongly and while I couldn’t exactly explain why I had to pull away without being angry-I knew it was right.
Reuniting with them has always been like being baptized to me. I have come and gone so many times that I have had this feeling several times before and know it well. But I am a different person now. I am a woman. Although I will always rely on them, ask their opinions or question their guidance I do not believe that I will distance myself again. I am stronger now-I can ask for help without expecting it, I can hear their thoughts without feeling rebellious and truthfully, I want and need them in my life.
God has always been incredibly good and healing to me. He has always showed me a lesson in what pain I was dealing with, and he has always made sure that I have had love in my life.
We can love, we can have friends, and lovers and hobbies and things we are obsessed with but the truth is that we can never replace family-and that is whether family is meant in the traditional sense or just close friends, or perhaps an animal that has healed your heart.
May I always learn. May I always see. May I continue to grow. May I continue to love.