I’ve recently gone through some serious health issues that have left me unable to work, so I sit in a chair a lot, and have decided to use the time to write a memoir, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve been reading through old journals, old files, old emails, etc., looking for stuff to include, or to motivate me. That’s actually what caused me to come back to this journal, after 12 years.
A few days ago, I was reading through some years-old emails I’d exchanged with a friend I’d had strong feelings for for a very long time. We’d briefly tried a romance, but it didn’t work out, and I was dealing with my feelings the way I usually do – by writing. I was explaining to him that I’ve come to realize that I expect people to reject me. So this entry is going to explore that.
I am my mother’s oldest child. She was 18 when she had me, and if my math is good (and it most likely is) she got pregnant on her 18th birthday. She was not married, and my biological father disappeared from her life before I was ever born. I was the first grandchild and the first great-granddaughter. I was well-loved and probably spoiled.
My mother was still unmarried 3 and a half years later, when my brother was born. His father didn’t stick around, either. Mom worked to support us, and I don’t remember where we stayed when she was working. What I do remember is feeling unloved. I also don’t remember this particular exchange, but when my mom shared it with me, it explained a lot to me: Apparently not long after my brother was born, I asked my mom why she didn’t love me anymore. She cuddled me, and explained to me that it wasn’t that she didn’t love me. Eddie (my brother) was a baby and helpless, and required so much of her attention.
As I said, I don’t remember that exchange, but I do remember that from that point on, my mom would make a huge fuss about every little thing I did to help her. If she needed a warm washcloth, she’d rave about how it was the perfect temperature. If I’d bring her a picture from school, she’d hang it up, and brag about it to everyone who came over.
It was a sweet and loving attempt at giving me the attention that I craved. Unfortunately, it translated to my tiny child brain that I had to work and excel to earn love. I grew up falling all over myself trying to do well just to hear her tell me I was her good girl.
This did not change as I grew older. My mom married when I was four years old. He, like she, was young, and taking on an instant family with small children was certainly overwhelming. He and my mom had two more children, and as the oldest, and the most eager to help, I became very independent.
Here were the outcomes of this: With four small children, I was always “too big” to be held and cuddled. I was often shoved impatiently off of whoever was playing with the little ones at the time. “Too big,” translated to “too fat,” in my little girl brain, for reasons I’ll go into another time. But I began to dislike my body very much. I always felt so large and awkward.
Being so independent meant that my mom knew I would “understand” if she skipped my plays or choir concerts or band events, because it was too big of a hassle to round up the little ones. I started school on my own, because I was far enough ahead of my siblings, that she had to take them to first days of school, and couldn’t go with me.
Fortunately, I have worked past this, but before we can get to that, we’ll have to go through a few other stories.