Today I turn 45. I’ve never been one to regret growing older. I’m grateful to have made it this far. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always had this feeling that I was going to die young. I never really knew how young, but I knew I would never make it to grandparent age. I think I often pictured it to be in my 30s or 40s, so to make it to 45 is pretty good. Why? No idea. Just something I’ve always “known”. Not a suicidal thought, just regular old dying…like disease or accident or something out of my hands. Kind of like how I’ve always known that living “happily ever after” was never in the cards for me. I grew up knowing I wasn’t the type of girl who was going to have someone fall madly in love with her and want nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with her. Sometimes, I would imagine it, but inevitably scolded myself for dreaming about things I didn’t deserve. I was never quite sure why I didn’t deserve them, but I was smart enough to be aware of it. Like not living to be old, it was out of my hands. These are things I’ve just inherently known, like knowing I was female, or I was Native American, Italian and French…you are who you are and the things that are going to happen, well…they just happen.
Now that I’ve started on my journey this year, I think I’ve started to unravel the mystery of why I’ve always had those feelings. They seemed so normal my whole life, up until this year. Now I know they are not normal feelings…unless maybe you have unresolved childhood trauma. It makes sense for me to feel my life is not in my control. How could it be? It never has been. At 9, I learned the first lesson: It just wasn’t in the cards for me to have my mom want to stay. At 13, I learned it wasn’t in the cards for me to choose with who and when I wanted to have sex for the first time (and second, third, fourth….15th…20th time….). At 14, I learned I could not control the anger of my stepmother, nor her impulsive rage towards me. It was out of my hands. Just how things were. At the same age, I learned it just wasn’t in the cards for me to have a dad that could protect me from her. Through the rest of my teen years, I kept on learning that first sexual lesson I received at 13. Actually, for the rest of my life I kept learning that lesson. I can’t remember at what age I figured out that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to ever know what real emotional intimacy felt like. It’s sad that this realization didn’t make me sad. It was something I accepted before I even realized it. I knew I wasn’t worthy. I even had come to the realization that it wasn’t in the cards for me to have kids, because really…how can that happen when no one is going to love me? Thank God I was wrong on that one…I have somehow been blessed with two of the most lovely, compassionate, amazing boys anyone could ever dream of having. I’m always surprised at how these two awe-inspiring human beings were created from the nothingness of me. I knew I didn’t deserve them. I figured I must have slipped one past God, and was so terrified that he would realize the mistake and take them from me. So far, he hasn’t noticed, but the fear still exists.
I’ve come a long way in the past year. I’ve started to understand how I’ve become who I am. I understand why I have that hole inside my soul. Heck, even understanding there is a hole in my soul is pretty amazing. I always thought my feelings were normal. Just how I was. Now I know they are from trauma. Lots of trauma. So much trauma that I kept hidden in a box, deep down inside of me. The jagged edges of that box are what carved the hole inside my soul. That’s often how it works…one trauma sets you up for the next, and so on and so on. It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself because it’s all you know. Since it’s all you know, as far as you can see, it’s normal. It is what it is. People can live and die without knowing any better. Luckily for me, I happened to stumble across a little glimmer of light while in couples therapy. It turns out, that little glimmer of light was a crack in that box I kept my trauma in. Amazing how a little bit of therapy with the right person, at the right time, using the right tools (writing in my journal, meditating) is powerful enough to crack open that box. I ended up spending the past year diving head first into that box. I saw the darkest parts of my existence and for a while, I thought I might suffocate and die in there. By the grace of God, I came out. I’m not all the way out…I think my feet are more often than not, still standing in the box, and sometimes, I get tired and just lie down in there, but other times I step out of it. I stepped out enough to realize that I actually have some control over what happens to me. The trick is to understand that I can’t control what others think or do, but I can control how I respond, how I act….what I’m willing to let happen to me. It took me reaching the age of 45 to realize I control me. I control me. I could have just taped up that crack in the box and went about my business. I think that would have been a lot easier, but you know what? That just wasn’t in the cards for me.