Apparently, there’s nothing like figuring out some big things at 46 to put you into a midlife crisis.
Figuring things out in my life is nothing new. I’m always trying to heal, learn and grow—but this time, for some reason, hit me hard.
This time, it is a huge chunk of the onion that is my life. For those of you that I just lost—I call lessons onions. Each layer of a raw onion makes you cry. Some layers are thin, and some are big and thick. The thicker they tend to be, the more you get and the more you tend to cry.
This latest lesson all began with a conversation with my husband. While driving one day, he told me he’d recently experienced a realization. He proceeded to tell me how, for my whole life, my family had put me down, told me how I was wrong and constantly criticized me, all so they could keep me exactly where they needed me. They doomed me to think I was a failure and made me feel dependent upon them, when, in reality, they were dependent upon me.
The more I thought about my husband’s words, the more I saw he was right.
I was the one they called for help. I was the one whose job it was to handle our mother so no one else had to. If I tried to step away from that role, they would make me feel that I couldn’t do anything right.
It is an awful realization, this—to recognize that I was subconsciously undermined my whole life just so I could be controlled.
As I type this, tears well, because it’s staggering to me that someone can do this to another person. I see all I did to help and how that help was rewarded with put-downs. And if I ever needed help? No one was to be found.
While pondering my husband’s thoughts, while trying to make my way through, while trying to heal from the fresh wound, my family had their annual vacation at the beach. Perhaps ironically, the only reason this tradition exists is because of me. I so wanted to know my nieces and nephews and have special times with my family that I made it happen, birthing our yearly beach house getaway.
This year, with this new awareness, I felt like an intruder on their “perfect” little time. It was a weird thing, looking on, most of the time seeing how “not perfect” any of it was.
As I said, I constantly work to learn and grow. I question things, and I rely on my instincts. My family frowns on this, this effort to learn and grow and question—and this is causing a rift. The more I question, the more I heal. The more I heal, the more I question. The more I question, the more my family tries to put me back into the space they have apportioned for me and my limited role.
I have always known this on a level, but with my new perspective, I actually SAW it. I saw it in everything I said or did. I could say nothing without it being wrong.
My son had caught bait fish, and my mother told him they weren’t bait fish. I disagreed. She disagreed more adamantly. I even went to the Florida Wildlife and Game site and found the fish and showed her that, yes, they were bait fish. She just smirked and said my brother Steven says they are not, so clearly they are not.
Seeing it in this new light showed me how many times this has happened in the past. In pretty much everything in my life from a silly bait fish to talking about rape, I was wrong, and they were right, even in the face of proof otherwise.
I am in a tail spin. I question myself. If my whole family feels this way, then just maybe they are right. I then see my children, my husband and my friends and wonder how my family sees me so differently than my children and my husband and my friends see me. How can they see this version of me and my family can’t? It hurts. And so I mourn. And I look back, and I cannot remember a time I was told I was smart, a good person, or pretty. I recognize how much pain this has caused. And I remind myself that I will never hear them say these words.
But then I remember something else. I remember how blessed I am. It took a bit of a pity party, but I’m digging myself out. I’m getting stronger and realizing why I always doubt myself and how that doubt is grounded in other people’s issues.
This doubt gave me so many tools along the way. Growing up in that environment helped me learn to question when things don’t add up. It helped me see a different perspective and to learn and grow from it. It helped me see who I very much don’t want to be. It helped me find the strength to not be that person. It helped me give my kids the things I always needed but never got. It also helped me find friends that are family to me, that I love more than life itself.
Now, when I look back, I see how I could have been different when choosing my friends. All the friends that I had that did not last—I see that it was just me trying to do what they wanted. It was me letting all my family’s words get into my head and make me doubt myself. It was me feeling that I was second fiddle. It was me. It was me all along. It was the me that my family saw.
The more I grow and become this stronger me, that’s when I find how much more true my friends really are and how much more they are the family I need. The more I see, the more the ones that still question me and talk down to me stray away. I wish them well, but I’m so very thankful I’m beginning to see.
The more these things happen, the more I don’t need to be told those things I so wanted to hear in my life.
I can finally just be me.