People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help. –Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior
I never thought of myself as a Warrior Princess. Though I grew up in a warrior-household where it was every man for himself.
We all had giant holes in our hearts but no one ever spoke of them. It just wasn’t done. But, “Oh my goodness, how the angry words did fly!”
We were the perfect American family. Hurting, broken, definitely dysfunctional, yet we went to work, to school, and to church always keeping our masks firmly in place.
We looked “together” in the very best sense–outside our doors. But inside, behind closed doors? We were alone. In fact, I am absolutely certain that “alone” was my first sense of who I was, identity-wise.
The mirror has no face
I always thought of myself as a piece of a family because there were five of us. But when it’s every man for himself you develop this really strange sort of coping mechanism–you carry a mirror image that has no face.
By that I mean, your image has no basis in reality.
You go about your daily life in an unreality.
It wasn’t until I was out on my own, in my early twenties, and interacting with friends and their families that I saw what a real family looks like.
I remember how surprised I was that families laughed together, and cried together, and played together… and talked to each other!
The “battered” generation
This is where I first began to realize how broken my parents were.
Years later my dad would use the term “the battered generation” when referring to himself because he and my mom, had lived through the consequences of The Great War, the recklessness of the Twenties, The Great Depression of the Thirties, and then World War II.
I guess I was supposed to give my folks “a pass” because they had not thrived–merely survived–but frankly, I wasn’t inclined to…
(Though I don’t think I was ever brave enough to voice that out loud.)
I think my resentment came out in more passive-aggressive ways.
The “go-to” guy
By the time I hit my fifteenth birthday my inner resentment was beginning to come into full boil. I was weary of being the “go-to guy” who was always supposed to “do the right thing” no matter the personal cost.
Mom had gone to work full-time when I was seven, so being the oldest daughter, I was expected to take over for her in the home. Laundry, cooking, and housework for a family of five, plus school and homework, left very little time for just being a kid.
I didn’t like it–being the responsible one–but I did it, because those were the only positive strokes. It was that or nothing.
Selfish Princess your broken is leaking
I was thirteen when I first started contemplating ending my life.
My mom found my yellow pad where I had been writing down my inner turmoil and talking about how much I wanted to die. She showed it to my dad, (who cried she said), so mom came back to me, shaking the pad in my face, and giving me the riot act for, “…being so selfish!”
I had made my dad cry.
Wow! It seemed even my own inner hurting was not really my own.
(And I was the selfish one?)
Right here is where I turned away from any respect for my parents pain.
I didn’t start “acting out” until fifteen, but by the time I was eighteen, all I could think about morning, noon, and night, was one thing–escape!
My parents had abandoned ship–why couldn’t I?
My spiritual life, (what there was of it,) began to seriously breakdown simultaneously with my parent decaying marriage.
The first major break happened when they decided to start attending separate churches. Then, it was no church. Since they didn’t go? Neither did I.
It seemed that it was now perfectly acceptable to ignore God.
So, I did.
In her book, Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton asks the questions, “What are we to do with our God-sized holes… How are we ever supposed to be comfortable down here with a big old hole in the middle of our hearts?”
At eighteen, I assure you, I didn’t have a clue!
And, I didn’t know that, only God could fill the holes in my heart.
So I did what Glennon did.
I began to attempt to fill up the empty spaces in my heart with all the wrong things; poisonous things; stuff that left me more broken each time I tried, and failed.
Are you a runaway? A Prodigal? Feeling hopeless?
God loves Prodigals, end of story.