A Canadian Thanksgiving
Just because a person doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they aren’t loving you with all they have.
I wonder how many people stay with an abuser after they read something like that.
Another way to look at it might be to consider this add on. ‘They might be loving you with all they have but their shortcomings and addictions and abuse are not your problem either.’
In the big beautiful picture of ‘til death do us part and if you really love someone, there is an obligation to see someone through the rough times. When I was in an abusive relationship it wasn’t so much rough times here and there as it was a systematic breakdown of my self-worth with some rough patches thrown in.
I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic because it’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada.
Not even a decade ago around this time I was getting ready to make a legal commitment to a douchebag. I wasn’t speaking to my parents at the time after the latest drama that made me unlovable and whatever I had done unforgivable.
Just before I got married I was sitting in a room designated for the hockey wives waiting for the grand entrance to center ice. I was watching the St. John’s vs. Manitoba game on closed circuit television with my bridesmaids.
When the time came for everyone to go out on the ice, all the girls left the room and I waited for my queue. I felt like they took the air out of the room with them. My chest hurt and I went to that ephemeral space of nothing that I reserve for times of extreme panic. I was nowhere near Mile One stadium at that moment.
My head was about an hour away, wondering what my mother was thinking. That image I have of her that saves me from harm and wants what’s best for me.
Yet another person who loves me in her own way and with all she’s capable of.
So did it matter that she probably cared even though she wasn’t there?
No more than it mattered when I left that mistake of a marriage a few months later. I called my mother to tell her I had some extra furniture if she wanted it. I quickly added in that I had left my then-husband and waited for her condolence, support, words of comfort.
She said “No thank you, I don’t want anything from you.” And she hung up.
I spent the next few years starting over. I got the support and love I needed - just not from them. It all worked out for me when you really look at it. Maybe I wasn’t born at the right time or to the right people but the universe has taken care of me.
That doesn’t mean in low times, I don’t sit and wonder what was so fundamentally wrong with me that my parents, both of them, were able to just walk away.
These days I blame the blog. Surely that’s why we don’t communicate right? But no, that’s not entirely accurate. Long before I ever put words to paper, I was left out in the cold.
When I told a social worker at school that I’d been hit until I peed in my pants, my parents told me I could find another place to live if I ever tried to break them up again. I was fourteen. When they decided to move an hour from the city during my first semester in university, I was told women shouldn’t be in university anyway and I would just end up taking a job from a man who needed to support his family. My father had no intention of including me in the move because in his words, he was leaving his problems in St. Philips. I was seventeen.
When I helped a member of my family move out to get away from their consistent parenting style, I was out of the family once again. “You need me more than I need you. You’re dead to me.” The social worker who got involved that year was told “I should have let him hit her more when he had her down.”
I was twenty-six.
When they got in touch a few years ago wanting to be friends again, I thought I was much better at communicating and setting boundaries. Until I was told “I will always be on your father’s side. Always.” It’s funny to me when I see these exact same people reach out with open arms to my siblings in their times of need. We’ve all pissed off our parents and done unforgivable things. Somehow, my stuff sticks. Now that I find myself 2000 miles away from the whole mess, I am thankful for boats and planes and cars that help create distance. I am thankful for those kind souls who give you a family when the one you were born into lets you down.
I’m grateful for the intelligence it takes to realize, it was nothing I did. Long before they had an excuse to cut me out, I wasn’t wanted. Whether it was my crazy feminist ideas or how long I spent in the bathroom or how late at night I wanted to do laundry, there was always an excuse to send rage my way. Obviously there are other things in my past that affected me. But the guy who abused me was a sexual predator. Who expects any better from a person who preys on children? My abusive ex-husband left women in his wake who refuse to speak his name. No surprise there how things turned out for us as a couple. I guess I’m also thankful for family tiffs that provide escape from places I don’t want to be. Yes it still hurts. And maybe venting my anger just lets them know it bothers me. That’s fine too. I don’t write for them. Sharing this connects me with people who get it. I have yet to get an email that says “my parents don’t like me either but it’s because I’m such a jerk.”
I’m so grateful for books like “The Courage to Heal” and others like it that spell out the family dynamics that lead to abuse and the patterns that lay out all the players – the scapegoats and the enablers and the abusers. I know there are many more out there like me who are far from perfect but definitely not deserving of the treatment they receive.
It sucks. No doubt about it. But life goes on and there are so many other good things out there for all of us.
There is life after abuse. There are going to be people who don’t like you and maybe they’re not totally wrong – but they are not the only options either. For every jerk I’ve met, there’s been at least one person who more than made up for it. So I guess I owe those abusers in my past some thanks as well. Karma being what it is, they’ve actually been sending me loving friends who balance the whole thing out. So in a backwards kind of way, thank you for the love :)