Redefining, Two Years Later.

It has been two years since I wrote Redefining.

I broke one of the cardinal rules in my family. I spoke openly about them, and not in glowing terms. I knew as I was writing it that it would not be well-received amongst my Mom’s family, but I wrote it anyway.

You see, I wrote it, like I do everything on this blog, for me. I shared it with the world, but I put those words to paper for me. I knew in publishing it that it would shred the last bonds that held me to the people that have done so much damage to me.

Their response was everything I expected it to be. And some even shocked me. But it was typical for them, gaslighting and meanness and the toxic attitudes I grew up in.

Those responses proved me right, that I had to, at all costs, protect my girls. There was no one to stand up for me growing up, but I will not let my children share that same fate.  I have been driven, since I held Sprout for the first time, to give them a better life than the one I had.

In taking stock of things, I’ve realized how far I’ve come.

My excommunication from the family no longer stings. I don’t find myself staring at the phone, or wondering why no one calls. This is simply how things are, and after I burned every bridge back to my family down, I built a new Family. I have this hodge podge collection of friends and some blood family, who are amazing, supportive, caring people. The definition of what family is supposed to be is found there, not with my Mom’s family.

The girls have grown, and changed. Sprout no longer asks for the family she knew, but instead plays with her friends, and shares a bond so tight with her baby sister that you cannot get a piece of paper between them. There came a morning when I realized the girls had forgotten the pain of the past, and I took my cues from them. Go play in the sunshine and pick flowers; and let the memories of the past fade away like a bad dream. Pudge is 2 now, with blessedly no memory of anyone in the family that has caused any pain, or drama. They are true California girls now, growing tan and golden in the sun, with an entire mountain chain standing between them and my family.

I have built a small bridge with my Dad. I find myself calling him more, sending him pictures and letters more. I can see him now, not as the monster my Mother’s family cast him as, but as he is. Flawed, struggling with his own demons, but human, and someone who loves me very much. I see myself in the girls, and that means I see plenty of my Dad. There was a time when I would have hated that. But now? It’s a gift.

I am the better for all of this. Several times in the past two years, I have doubted my choices. I have considered writing letters, emails, making phone calls, and starting to repair some of the damage done. I still haven’t, and I’m the better for it. I’ve learned who to rely on, and who to consider fair-weather, and who to just let slip through my fingers and keep going. I’ve finally, at closer to 40 than I am to 30, learned to see toxic relationships for what they are, and walk away. If I had paid attention, and been willing to stand up for myself earlier, it wouldn’t have taken this long. But at least I learned it.

There is no one to explain myself to. I parent differently than I was raised, I educate my girls differently, I’ve made a 180 in many aspects of my life. And I don’t have to explain any of those choices. By putting so much distance, literal and metaphorical, between me and them, I have freed myself of the expectations, and freed my children of the same expectations. We can simply be who we are supposed to be, without having to explain ourselves to anyone.

It brought Hubs and I closer together. We spent so much time apart, those first years, that I had no idea how to be with him. He was always away, when the going got tough, and I always turned to my family, even as the family used what they learned during those hard times against me. I still had not learned to come to him, when I wrote Redefining, and for a few months, I was a little off-center. But now, I’ve learned his shoulders are strong enough to carry my problems, that he is brave enough to face off against my family, that he never backs down. The qualities that made him so attractive, when he was a soldier, are still there. He is oftentimes my shield, my hiding place, my safe harbor. He is the best father I could ask for, the best husband I could want.

Let me pause here, and say that I am sorry for any pain I have caused. I did not mean to then, and do not mean to now, cause intentional harm. But I also will not just play along with everything, and pretend that things are fine, when they are not. I do not lie to my girls, and I will not lie here. No one has made any effort to see what prompted Redefining, nor have they made any attempt to reach out to me (save one person); so I do not feel too bad about the uproar the post caused. But I am sorry for causing anyone pain.

There is peace being on the outside. Out here in the desert, it is calm, and quiet; I can raise my girls and live my life, and be happy. I think I’ll stay out here a little longer.

~Jennifer

 

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