Grief helps us face and ultimately release what happened or didn’t happen to us. I read this this morning in the book by Dr. Edith Eger called The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life.
Her book caused me to ask myself some important questions around my childhood losses.
Losses that daily make appearances in my life as an adult.
Losses that cry out for my attention and compassion.
What did I want that I didn’t get as a child?
There were times when I caught glimpses of these things in my life. Just long enough to have hope that they would continue. Only to be crushed when they ended.
We were eating at a nice restaurant in a Georgia mall. I was so excited about my meal of a giant hot dog covered in bright orange American cheese and French fries. I felt special getting to eat there with my father. He got a Reuben sandwich. I couldn’t wait to see the Mynah bird in the pet store across the mall. His name was Arthur. He wasn’t for sale. They had another bird they were selling named Merlin. But he was too expensive. If my father had kept his job. If we hadn’t lost everything. If my parents had stayed together, maybe I could have gotten the bird. Stayed at the same school. Lived in the nice house. Maybe I would have felt safe to be myself. I thought it was my fault that they ended. My adopted father was abusive and an alcoholic. My mother his enabler. I was a scape goat. I was an escape from his pain, too. I wanted to be a kid who had parents who raised me to be who I was supposed to be, not a kid who believed she was to blame or that she was to fix their pain.
These are the things I’m still grieving. I survived despite what they did. I have given my own children the freedom to be themselves. I haven’t done it as well as I would have liked. But I do believe I gave them the chance to at least be themselves without fear of thinking there was something wrong with them. I have overcome much. I have made many mistakes. But I am not a kid anymore. I do not have my parents screaming at me for messing things up. It is safe to be myself. To enjoy the restaurant, the birds, without fearing the bad that is to come. I always believed if I prepared myself for what was to come it wouldn’t take me by surprise. Maybe if I did everything right I could keep the abuse from happening. That was the only hope I had.
I can buy the bird if I want to. I can be myself. Bad comes for everyone. It is unavoidable. No matter what we do. We can only live one day at a time. One moment at a time doing the best we can with the wisdom God gives us. We cannot control the choices of others. We best get out of the way and let them choose for themselves when they are self destructive. Don’t take their blame. Give them back their choices. Accept whatever happens in life. Be grateful for the good. Grieve the losses. Honor them by paying attention. Give others what you didn’t get that you needed. Forgive yourself for going after those things in unhealthy ways. Make better choices. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t take the blame for the abuse of others. Love while you can. Without expectations. Without planning to. Just be present. To the moment. To the birds and the dog and the cat. On the walk. Unloading the dishes and the laundry. Driving through the traffic. Turn up the radio. Let down the window. Breath the fresh air and the gas fumes. While you wait. It all matters. They matter. You matter. In a New York minute everything can change. But right now is all we have control over. Choose to be alive in this moment.