Monday, October 17, 2011

Father, Stepped

I came across this picture of my step-dad in a box of my mother's things this weekend, and it has put him into the forefront of my mind since.

Mike was a beacon of light in my early life.  Up until he came into the picture, mom struggled with single parenthood and hard work as a cocktail waitress.  I practically lived with babysitters, and saw mom in the afternoons and Sundays.

I was too young to remember the evolution of their relationship, but I do remember he taught me how to ride my bike without training wheels.  That memory is very strong.  Soon, he and my mother married and our lives became a bit more stable.

Knowing that my real father had abandoned me, he stepped up and adopted me, giving me his last name.  For the first time in my life, I felt I had a father figure and a name to be proud of.  Also for the first time in my life, mom and I had the same last name (this is a big issue for me in a world where divorce is the norm and children grow up without identity).

Things weren't all happiness and light though.  We moved into the beautiful house his parents built in the country and while it was an ideal setting for me, mom found it too solitary and lonely so far from civilization.  Mike was a long-haul truck driver, so he was away from home for weeks, sometimes months at a time.  These factors evoked mom's alcohol use and mistrust of my step-dad.  After mom was involved in a car accident while she was drinking, Mike separated from her and filed for divorce.

After the divorce, I spent some time being shuffled around; living with family and friends until mom was able to take custody of me again.  By that time, Mike had moved on with his own life and I didn't see him or hear from him.  I spent five years in Bellevue, Washington struggling to get through a life filled with poverty and unhappiness.

Circumstances were so bad at the end of my Junior year in high school that I was failing terribly.  On vacation in Oregon, I met up with Mike again and he offered to let me move in with him to finish high school.  Against mom's wishes, I left Washington and moved in with Mike and his new wife.  I knew instantly it was a mistake....his wife despised me and I suppose she had good reason.  I would not have been able to handle taking in my husband's children from other marriages, especially one that he didn't father and had only an adoption relationship with.

While I did graduate from high school that year, it was terrible living with someone who disliked me so much.  The day of graduation, I packed my things and left their home.  I visited them a few times after they moved to another city, but I never really felt welcome.  To this day, his wife hasn't really allowed me to have contact with them (I've attempted to contact her several times through Facebook to no avail), and I have no idea how else to reach him.

I miss Mike very much.  It would have been nice to have him in Faith's life while she was growing up, especially since she has so little family and her father has basically abandoned her.  History seems to be repeating itself there - mom's dad walked out on his family, my real dad abandoned me, Faith's dad abandoned her....I sure hope it ends with Faith if she has kids of her own.  Children really ask for so little from their parents, and it takes so little effort to make a difference in their lives.  I wish so much that I had a dad in my life to share things with.  I don't have a mom anymore.  I've never really had a dad.  It's hard to make a go of life sometimes without those important relationships.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Heart Fulfilled

I am so wide awake right now, but for once it's not insomnia torturing my mind.  Tonight, I am awake because I'm in love.

I know, it sounds trite.  Honestly, I'm searching for words to describe the incredible feeling that is coursing through my soul right now, but none seem right.

I am not a woman who has experienced real love.  I've considered myself "in love," but I've never really, truly felt it.  It sounds as confusing to read as it is to experience, so bear with me.  I married my ex-husband because he was good to me at the time.  Did that mean I loved him?  Perhaps, but it was not a fulfilling love.  It was very one-sided, and I quickly grew away from my feelings toward him.  The most recent relationship I was in was the antithesis of love.  I thought what I was feeling was love, but it was not....he was able to manipulate me into believing his hollow words.  What I was really feeling was a deep need for him to cherish me, and that never happened.  In between these two men, there have been others with similar emotions.

Tonight, I felt what love really feels like.  I heard the words for the first time, spoken without expectation or manipulation.  My heart made a funny leap and my stomach filled with butterflies.  My head spun as I felt the impact of those beautiful words, and my breath was but a sigh.  For once, my mind didn't fight against the reality, rather it wrapped itself around the emotion and I felt a rush of endorphins.  There is no drug in the world that can compare to knowing you are loved.

The intensity of the love I have for him is deeper than I have ever felt.  I had emptied my heart long before I met him, convinced I would not find anyone who could love me with my flaws.  I became an empty shell, going through the motions of life but not really experiencing it.  Then, he came along and like a pitcher of hope, filled me until I was brimming with happiness.  As I said to a dear friend, that is a gift I don't know how to say "thank you" for.  I will make it my goal to show him every day how happy he has made me.

My heart is fulfilled.  I love you like I have loved no other.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Confidence She Wears

My lovely daughter gave me the most cherished comment in my life yesterday.  As we were walking through Fred Meyer, she said "Mom, I love the way you walk."

Astonished, I asked her why.  "You walk with your head held high; chin in the air, your arm swinging.  I love you." she said, almost shyly ("I love you" is used as a compliment in this context, more than as a statement of feeling - similar to "I admire you").

The full impact of her compliment was a burst of happiness through my soul.  It's an amazing thing to hear yourself so highly regarded by someone special in your life.  It brought about some insight that I thought I would share.

I walk with confidence.  It's not something I always feel, but projecting it can convince me that it's true.  Sometimes it's an armor against the world that I feel is judging me.  Other times, I feel it so intensely that it's impossible to contain.

My goal is to trust myself enough that self-confidence becomes a comfortable outfit, rather than one that is tight and restrictive and ill-fitting.  It will be a final step in learning to love myself and to accept love from others.