In order to understand who you truly are you must examine your past. The past shapes you but I believe that each person has the responsibility to decide what they keep and what is not useful or might even be dangerous to hold on to from their past. Sorting through your early past can be a mix of joy and pain for some lucky people. Then there are others that don’t have a lot good to say about thier childhood. The best thing I can say is that it made me who I am.
My mother, and father for that matter, had issues. There were huge issues that prevented them from parenting me. I know those issues preceded my birth but they seem to have escalated with every year of my life. One parent was always stealing me from the other. I spent long stretches in New Orleans with my mother and her sister and then back to New York with either, both parents, or just my father. My mother tended to take off. Most of these issues were related to drugs and alcohol but I’m sure a fair share was just plan old mental illness. A therapist told me she thought it would be helpful to read the book “The Glass Castle”. She thought I could relate to it. I have it, and read the first chapter, but can’t seem to get much further. I probably should read it but having seemingly lived it I prefer to write my own stories.
Many difficult years followed but I always knew that I wanted a different life and a family of my own. There was something in me that knew life was not supposed to be the life I grew up in. I knew it even when it was happening. Years later when I worked with children I would see that in a select few. That knowledge, that although they come from chaos, they had no intention of living their future that way. It seems to be very important factor in how difficult the future will be for those individuals.
At 16 my parents lost custody of me and I lived in a group home with other kids that were incorrigible runaways. Of course I had nothing to run from, I was homeless, but 35 years ago there weren’t a lot of places to put me, and parents rarely lost custody of their children.
Now before you think that I’m writing this to run my parents into the ground, please know I’m not. I believe people do the best they can. Sometimes their best sucks and you need to distance yourself from them. I did that but also took care of both of them until they died a few years ago. I did that from a distance too, because I know what was best for me.
I also believe that at a certain point in life everyone, no matter where they come from, is responsible for their own actions. I have spent a good portion of my life working with kids to help them see you don’t have to be your roots of origin. Taking responsibility for your life gives you power and control over it. Not necessarily the easy route but definitely the only way to really change your circumstances.
Having been raised the way I was is exactly what was supposed to happen to me. I read once that they only true forgiveness is when you are grateful for the experience. It has taken many years to be grateful, but I am. I have utilized all of my experiences to become who I am. I really like me now and I am the sum total of all of my experiences, both good and bad.
For the next two weeks I am renting a gorgeous old house in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The kids are here and they’ve brought their friends. Friends of mine are also here. We’re quite the large, laughing, loving group. I look around this 214 year-old house and wonder what the lives of all of the people within these walls entailed. How much happiness, sorrow, regret and joy happened in this house? How many of those people were able to take the hand that life dealt them and make a beautiful house of cards as I have. Yes, I treat it like a house of cards because you never know what life will bring. Happiness like this is a very delicate and fragile thing. I feel incredibly grateful for my past that has brought me to this point in my life. There is very little I would change, huge mistakes of my own included. It doesn’t define me but it certainly helped mold me. I just continue to make alterations in this evolving project that is me and am constantly deciding what stays, and what needs to go, in order for me to be healthy and productive.
|“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”|