Recently, someone recently said to me the wise words, “We have the will to live right, but not the strength to do it alone.”
This phrase means a lot to me because for at least ten years of my life, this has been my MO and I thought it was realistic, but what do you expect from a teenager?
Let me give you some background. In the mid-2000s, my mother caught my father cheating on her, instant messaging and emailng his high school sweetheart. His job allowed him to travel often and he did, a couple months gone, a couple months back. I don’t know how much cheating he did in person when he was out of town, but something tells me he wasn’t being faithful. Disclaimer though: that’s an assumption on my part. My mother was aware of odd behaviors and considered he was cheating on her for a while, but she is someone who isn’t going to do or say anything without solid evidence; even when you have that feeling or something is a little off, she still believes in innocent until evidence that proves one guilty. So despite her feelings, she did nothing until she stumbled upon him. I can’t remember how she learned, but I think she interrupted him messaging her.
Anyway, catching him with his hand in the cookie jar, she was devastated. 22 years of marriage, a devoted, stay-at-home wife. Even at this point, she didn’t flat kick him out. She knew that fathers were important for the stability of children, and there were four of us, ages ranging from probably 9-17 I think. As a Christian, she also believed in holding your vows to God. She offered him the option: stay with the family and work the issues out or he could leave to live with his new girlfriend and the marriage was over. She still hoped that he would go to counseling with us kids to try and heal our relationships. He chose the girlfriend and left. He didn’t just choose to abandon my mother, he chose to abandon the kids. Sure, he went to counseling 2-3 times, but then stopped. He didn’t care. He didn’t visit us. He had a new wife and a new family.
My father abandoning the family was like pulling the foundation out from a building and everything quickly collapsed. To this day, I can look at my siblings, myself, and my mother and see how his abandonment affected us. Parental choice to abandon children is destructive, but considering how you can analyze the fallout, it’s also interesting. I’m not going to mention my sister much in this because what really affected me was the men in my family.
My oldest brother, Brolin, took note from my father. We were raised in a Christian household, but now, seeing his dad defy the Bible, defy God, he wondered why he needed to follow any of the rules. He also wondered why he needed to respect my mom because clearly, his father didn’t. I don’t know if these specific words ever came out during their interactions, but they fought and Brolin did whatever he wanted, having pre-marital sex, smoking, and drinking underage. He questioned authority and thought it was his place to take leadership in the house because he was the oldest male after all. After the way he watched our father discard our mother, I’m sure there was some part of his mind that thought he had just as much right to disregard her value and treat her however he wanted.
My second oldest brother, Stephen, was bi-polar and I’m pretty sure he had some other mental issues going on. He had a disability where he couldn’t write any of his ideas down, but he was full of ideas and very smart, but he was crippled immensely by the bipolar and suicidal depression. He spent some time in a hospital after he tried to kill himself. Before my father’s abandonment, he smiled often, he might’ve had his trouble with doing certain things, but what really set off the chemical destruction was when my father left. Maybe this has do with him hitting mid-teens at the same time our dad left, but I can’t imagine the abandonment didn’t affect his disorder and depression.
Brolin, the oldest, decided he didn’t want to listen to house rules or argue anymore, so he moved out. That’s when Stephen decided now he’s the oldest man in the house and so he should be in charge. He would get angry and lose it over every little thing and he was a big guy, over six feet tall and well over 200lbs.
At this time, I remember when we lived in a house in Richland. I remember getting into a fight with someone at the house. I can’t remember if it was because I smiled all the time — because for a while when I was a teenager, I learned to cope by smiling and being unresponsive to the situation. My mom was often upset, my brothers were going crazy, and at age 13-14, I thought someone in the house had to remain strong and since everything was so out of control, I would be the one to stay strong for everyone else. In conflict, I would smile and assure everyone it would be okay. I remember being called a robot by my family. I remember my mom freaking out at me for smiling in response to bad situations, but that was fine. I was doing it for her good.
I remember after this fight, I was going to the bus stop behind the house, I might’ve been going to the library because we needed space. I don’t remember exactly where I was going, but I remember saying to myself, “None of them can be strong. None of them know how to act like men, to be what men should be. To be strong and loving and loyal. My dad couldn’t be a model of a good man; he doesn’t know what that is and so my brothers don’t know either. If that’s the case, if they can’t be good men, then I guess it’s my job to show them what a good man can and should be.”
Fifteen at the time, for the next ten years, I would try to be the rock in my family. I would try to provide whatever I could and to work hard so I could eventually provide for my family. I would try my best to honor my mother (and we would still fight, we obviously still had our issues). For the next ten years, I would try to do everything I could on my own and rely on other people as little as possible. Do this day, I find it difficult to trust others, whether it’s a simple task for work or something bigger like watching my dog while I’m away (though I trust my mom to watch my dog completely lol).
In my early 20s, I never stopped being a Christian, but I did rebel against God. Through my actions, and even sometimes in prayer, I would tell Him, “Look, I know you’re all knowing, I know you take care of people, but I know what’s best for me. I don’t need to rely on you for this. I can take care of myself.” So in specific parts of my life, in becoming a single stone of my own, I told God that I could live the right way without His help. I knew what was right. I had the biblical values and I knew that I could make the right decisions in a mixture of what He said and what I knew I needed.
That rebellion (and cockiness?) caused me to make some mistakes. Some mistakes that would leave me moving through the world, making few other human-connections during the time I was 21-25. I had never been good at making friends anyway. I was the freak at church growing up and I had a difficulty connecting with other kids my age, but because I couldn’t trust people, because I had to be strong on my own, I didn’t much open up to anyway and I didn’t get personal. Everything at UAA and UT was “Get the work done.” I found a small group of people I’d like to call friends at UT, but I feel as though most of that was surface. There are a couple people in that group that I consider more close than others, even if we don’t talk every day, but in 2.5 years, the people I sat at the table with on the first day are the only people I ever really talked to and I never opened up to any of them.
Because I couldn’t.
I was on a path of taking care of myself. I thought I had the strength to go through life, to live right, on my own. I would be the example for others in how to live right. I was a virgin, I didn’t drink, I’ve never done drugs, I work hard, I’m loyal, I’m also obviously very humble.
I just turned 28 a month ago. A couple of years ago I made a change in my life after realizing and admitting to God (and myself) that I couldn’t keep doing this alone. I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I had the will to live right, but not the strength and presently, I’m aware that I cannot keep doing it alone. It’s impossible.
Now, I’ve also realized that I spent what are generally considered as the MOST IMPORTANT years to find a life partner telling the world that I could do it alone. That I don’t need you or anyone. I don’t want this to end with me sounding codependent or desperate or any such case. I’m moving forward, but I learned a couple years ago, as the cockiness of young adulthood wore off and I faced the damages and reality of my life and past, that you cannot go it alone. You cannot shoulder all the pressures of life by yourself and you must learn to trust certain people enough to shoulder the burden with you. Without the help of others, the pressure from the world will crush you.
It’s not easy to trust, it’s not easy to build trust, and it’s definitely not easy to find a stranger whom you know for certain you can trust. This is something I struggle with regularly and some recurring damage from the abandonment of my family, but I’m trying to give a little every day. These last two posts have been more personal than those before as I try to allow myself to be vulnerable and to share and trust others with my vulnerability. Maybe someday I’ll find someone I can help through their journey and they can help me through mine as partners.
Don’t make the mistakes I did and think you can shoulder it all alone. While you can keep it up for a while, long term sprinting with weights isn’t something to think you can maintain for the long haul.