Early Onset of Abandonment
I’m the product of a lifetime of abandonment issues that began, I believe, when my sister was born. I started believing I was no longer necessary, no longer lovable, no longer wanted, though for years, I looked for love in all the wrong places. After getting knocked on my ass, or kicked in the teeth enough times, I became the perpetuater of of my own solitude.
Tired of being rejected, I learned to sabotage anything that gave me too much of a sense of well-being; of belonging. In my twisted brain, breaking things off first was the only way to protect myself. The only relationships I allowed to continue were with my cats, and even there, each death I couldn’t prevent was, in and of itself, another kind of abandonment.
It might seem, from what I’ve written so far, that I like it this way. Nothing could be further from the truth. The trouble is, I don’t really know how to change 60-odd years of self-protection, and conditioned responses to perceived threats. I’m a cross between a cornered badger and a possum, lashing out in anger, and playing dead so everyone will go away and leave me alone.
The Pain of Rejection
There was a song I sang in childhood that went something like this:
Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. I think I’ll eat some worms. Long, thin slimy ones, short, fat juicy ones, itsy bitsy, teeny weeny worms.
In a lot of ways, I came to believe the words of that song, and incorporated them into the way I lived my life. It isn’t, and never was what I wanted. Like my mom before me, I desperately wanted and needed to be loved without reservations or judgement. Yet deep down, I was convinced I didn’t deserve it either. So I continued to sabotage relationships one way or another.
In my lowest moments, I consider how my parents left, and wonder if it’ll eventually be my exit strategy as well, though long ago I vowed to never put my children through the same horror and pain. For now, I hang onto the belief my cats need me, so I promise myself I’ll stick around as long as they do. After that, I can’t make any promises, but will make sure my affairs are in order so no one has to clean up my messes.
Buffeted by the Winds of Change
Mary Poppins promised the Banks children she’d stay until the wind changed. Perhaps what I’m promising is I’ll stay as long as at least one feline friend still needs me. I can’t see any further down my personal timeline than that right now, much less, when or how I’ll make my grand exit.
Without real, strong, convincing connections, life is pretty empty. Alone is fine, but lonely is like a creeping cloud of poison that slowly engulfs not only the body, but the soul until any residual bit of individuality succumbs. I’d like to believe it matters to someone, but have learned it isn’t that simple or clear cut. I’ve allowed no one to play that role for me, and I’m not sure I even know how to open myself up to all that entails. Heck, I don’t know what it means to be completely open to another soul without finding another excuse to panic and shut down.
Sure, the need is still there, but it’s overshadowed by the more powerful belief that trusting is dangerous, can be used against me, and whoever I trust will ultimately leave, and with them, another piece of my battered, bruised, and broken heart.
As I write, the rain is beating on the roof, and dripping from the patio overhang. It seems a fitting counterpoint to what is, to many out there, nothing more than a pity party. Maybe it is. I’ve miscommunicated often enough. But from where I’m sitting, it’s simply recognizing there are times I feel like I’m broken beyond repair, and have reconciled myself to my brokenness…to my aloneness.
I know from experience the feeling passes. I crawl out of the dark place where I retreat when I feel overwhelmed. Over time, it’s grown easier, in part because I’m not as isolated as I want to believe. Daily gratitude posts and Facebook Lives are read and watched by more people than I realized. When I enter a period of radio silence that lasts more than a day or two, it no longer goes unnoticed whereas in the past, I could disappear for a week or so and no one was affected but me.
People reach out. Compassionate souls who believe whatever’s wrong in my world right now can be fixed; that everything in life is temporary, even pain and disillusionment. I’m truly grateful they think I’m worth the trouble. I may believe for a moment I was raised to be abandoned, and to stand alone on the mountaintop looking down at the world, the communities, the people who know how to give and receive love unreservedly. I realize now I never learned how to do that, but over time, I’ve gravitated towards people who do, and who can teach me what my birth family couldn’t.
The Path to Healing is Rocky and Crooked
I talk a lot about healing, and have healed wounds acquired later in life. It’s the deepest, darkest, oldest ones that live on, and have wound themselves so tightly around my being that removing them scares the living daylights out of me. Yet deep inside where my inner child often cowers, there’s a glimmer of light; of hope there’ll come a time when those old wounds will be brought out into the light where they’re not as frightening as the darkness makes them seem.
I hope those who are doing their best to reach out and teach me to not only be compassionate with others, but with myself will stick around long enough to shine their light and guide me on my stumbling, fumbling path towards healing what I’ve carried around for far too long.
I can honestly say I’m not yet ready to say good-bye; to throw in the towel on a life that’s given me an unhealthy share of grief. Surprisingly, I’m not yet ready to give up and stop learning whatever lessons I have left to learn. I’m fumbling my way through some setbacks, but in time, I know I’ll realize some things are meant to be released, even if the initial break hurts like hell. It simply means I have an ability to care that exceeds my own expectations.
I am ready to stop trying to exercise muscles that are no longer pliable enough to grow and change. I’ll try to stop hurting anyone by words, actions, or deeds. I’m ready to disengage from anyone else’s healing process before I short-circuit the progress they’ve made. If it means letting go of people I’ve loved too much, maybe that’s what we both need. Maybe I was smothering their own need to grow and heal.
Keeping the Gratitude Flowing
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the people who’ve tried to help me break old patterns.
- I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been allowed to learn.
- I’m grateful for my cats who give me a reason to get up in the morning, and actually do something with my day, even if it’s just cleaning up after them.
- I’m grateful for another day, knowing they aren’t guaranteed.
- I’m grateful for people who’ve shown me deep abiding love is possible, even if I can’t experience it myself.
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income.