It is amazing when your past comes up and strikes at you! My past and my current life collided at an Eagles concert in 2004. Because the music took me back to my childhood, all the memories that I had buried came unearthed and needed to be examined. I felt, at this point, with the life experiences behind me, I was better equipped to take a fresh and honest look at what I was feeling. That is how the journey to myself began.
There are many journeys that one takes on the road of life. However, none are more important than the journey of understanding and accepting oneself.
There are certain moments in everyone’s lives that define us as people and make us who we are. They hover over us waiting to strike at any time. My moment was in the summer of “1976”. It defined me as a person and had a profound impact on the development of my character.
My mother was married to my stepfather, whom I have always considered my father. I was a typical sixth grader, growing up in a nice neighborhood with successful parents, a great family and friends. I thought I had it all, but my world came crashing down on me one morning when my parents told my brother and me they were separating. It is unimaginable what I felt about losing my family. Truthfully, part of me died that day. To me my family was wonderful; I had awesome parents who were compassionate, adventurous, loyal, and devoted to my brother and me. They did the best they could with the knowledge and experience they possessed, but it was not enough to keep us all together.
My mother had decided to shield my brother and me from the initial impact of the divorce by sending us to stay for the summer with my Aunt and Uncle on their ranch in Montana while she moved to a new house. This was a rare opportunity because my Aunt and Uncle were living on an Indian reservation, and we were going to be experiencing a new culture first hand. We had spent many holidays with my Aunt and Uncle and, in many ways, they were my second family.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened. I came face to face with my Uncle’s demons when he sexually abused me the entire summer of ’76.’ As if my family breaking apart was not enough for me to deal with, I had to cope with this very confusing and horrifying situation.
One of the many things that happens to a child when they are going through a horrible or painful time is that a part of them separates, and the painful child becomes wrapped in a protective cocoon. The part that develops is another person all together, one who learns survival tactics and instincts and becomes a master in the art of detachment.
I had several traits develop during this period of my life that make me who I am today, some good – some not so good. I choose to celebrate the good and I am just now discovering the scars. The traits that I celebrate are independence, intuition, bravery, loyalty, combativeness, and passion for life.
Independence – I learned very early on that I could count only on myself. I exposed my uncle in my late teens and had to decide whether to accept him in order to stay close to that part of my family. I chose not to accept him. There are so many things that I lost including holiday and birthday celebrations, but most of all, I lost many years of memories that will never be. I was very close to my biological father’s side of the family and went through hell for many years because of my decision. I no longer feel the pain in my heart that consumed me at one time. I have learned what family is to me and have given it a new definition. I no longer think of family in terms of blood alone, and I believe you can find family in other people and they will fill important roles in your life.
Intuition – My instincts are right on in all the situations I have faced in my life. I trust and listen very carefully to my inner voice. It has never steered me in the wrong direction, and every year of my life gets better and better. I have been given many gifts, but none more important than insight.
Bravery – Knowing that I can count on and trust myself has given me a confidence to try anything. I have traveled the world by myself; scuba dive, jumped out of airplanes, and explored all my dreams. I have chosen to speak up for myself and not let anyone decide my destiny. I am learning more about myself as I let go of the fears that have paralyzed me. I have gained freedom to explore the many avenues of my imagination. Many have tried to change my course but my steadfast determination cannot be broken. It is my belief that you will always find success when you try your very hardest to accomplish your dreams.
Loyalty – Over the years, I have developed special bonds with people whom I can count on and have made myself a reliable person. I pride myself on my dependability to my family and friends, and I am extremely loyal to them. My friendships are lasting and very deep in substance. This enables me to trust in them. I nurture them with great pride and care. I feel proud that people who know me consider me a very loyal and dependable person.
Combativeness – Because of what happened to me, I have been active in children’s causes for many years. I have had the wonderful experience of belonging to Voices for Children, in San Diego. Voices for Children has given me a purpose and allowed me to use all my skills where they are needed most and has enabled me to help children who have no one to fight for them. My experience gives me great insight into their pain and suffering and allows me to help them cope and survive. Because I never had anyone fight for me, I can help the children understand that they can make it without anyone’s help by trusting in themselves and realizing that life gets better.
Passion – As I cherish all these celebrations in my life, it has given me a new–found passion in my life that makes what I went through seem worthwhile. I live each day making everyone around me glad to be alive; this, in turn, makes me glad to be alive also. I cherish what has happened to me to a certain extent, because I would not be the unique person I am today without all of my experiences.
In addition to the foregoing traits that I celebrate each day, the scars that are now becoming evident to me are starting to peel away like an onion. As I start to deal with anger, detachment, and an inability to fall in love, I am beginning to find the painful little girl in the cocoon.
Anger – In the beginning you feel anger because you do not know what real pain is. As I became older, I realized that my anger had become part of my identity, and I was terrified of letting it go, because without it I would not recognize the person in the mirror. I was angry at the whole world but most of all my family. I had to fight my battles all alone while wishing that someone felt I was important enough to fight for. My anger became my security blanket and excuse for everything that went wrong in my life. Anger took over my life in many ways but none more important than how I treated others. I could not accept weakness from anyone, and strength became my religion. The old saying about time heals all wounds is very true, and I am living proof of it. Recently, I found strength enough to let go of anger and have allowed myself to grieve over my past thereby empowering me to take charge of my life. This is going to be a battle I will wage the rest of my life.
Detachment – The question I always ask myself is: if I can walk away from any person or situation and feel nothing, did I ever feel anything? I have explored this side of myself for more than 40 years, and I still have not come up with an answer. It always puzzles me how little I can care about people and yet care so deeply for issues. There are people in my life for whom I care very deeply, but the knowledge that I can walk away from them and in so doing discover that I am hollow and have no heart frightens me. What does it all mean? I do not know, but I am hoping as life’s journey continues and I explore this side of myself, I can lose this fearful detachment and escape the power it exercises over me.
Inability to Fall in Love – 2004 was a unique time for me. After more than twenty years, my mother got remarried. Her marriage helped me discover that I had been holding a fantasy deep inside for almost 30 years. My parents were not getting back together. In my mind, having my family back together would have made me whole again and would have enabled me to relive a time in my life when I was happy. I was happy for my mother and her opportunity to love again, but at the same time, I felt saddened to realize that my fantasy would never be realized. It made me come to terms about my own life and fear of having a marriage and family. I have run away from love because I never wanted to deal with the pain of losing what I lost as a child again. For years, I have nurtured that pain with every breath that I took, and now it is coming out of me like a hurricane. Where do I go from here? I have a choice; I can run and build another cocoon or blow myself apart and allow the pain to be what it is. I have a lot of work to do, but I am ready to explore a new beginning for myself.
In 2010, a new journey began for me and my fantasies came to life. I embarked on a journey over the past 10 years that saw me publish my first book, start a fashion design career, become a film maker and release my first documentary titled ‘The Journey to Myself’ which is the continuation of my journey.
As I start my new journey, I look back on my life and feel sadness and emptiness, but as I look to the future, I feel strong, happy, adventurous, excited, hopeful, and free. I have come to terms with the hand that has been dealt to me and have decided to embrace my past. Everyone has choices in the directions they can go in their life. I hope the exploration of all these celebrations and scars will give me a chance at a great life filled with possibilities but most of all love with a partner who will cherish my celebrations and embrace my scars.
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