If I could go back to myself, 20 years ago, I would tell myself to not search for peace, security and happiness in a man, or any relationship; to not need from outside myself. I think the “need” fostered from a childhood with an alcoholic mother and broken family. My father was not in my life, until around the age of 10 when my mother allowed me to visit him, only to have him die of a massive heart attack one year later, when I was 11 years old.
I was constantly searching for that person — that man — to “save me” or “take care of me.” It’s odd, really, when I think back to it because I really am quite a strong, independent woman, even 20 years ago, but I think I felt I needed a man to “complete” me. I still struggle with this today but have more clarity as to what I need and don’t need.
I would tell myself to set boundaries. I now know my dysfunctional childhood didn’t allow for me to understand healthy boundaries. I would tell myself to figure out what my “deal breakers” were for boundaries, within every relationship in my life, and to stick to honoring those deal breakers.
I had NO normal script for relationships with men so I spent my years trying to follow the societal lead on what “normal” life should be. I sought relationships to be married, have children, support the husband’s career, be the caretaker, etc. I would tell myself to really get to know the men in my life; to not rush for a long term commitment before really observing how the relationship would enfold over a longer period of not only time, but experiences together. I would tell myself to stop picking men (albeit unconsciously) who were co-dependent and had addictive behaviors. I now realize I need to stop being everyone’s “savior.” I never sat and thought about what I truly wanted. This lead to a lot of careers and relationships of “figuring out” what I thought I wanted.
If I could go back to tell myself anything 20 years ago, it would be to deal with my grief over my childhood. I never grieved the loss of my childhood to an alcoholic mother. I never grieved the death of my father. I was busy being the caretaker for my mother throughout her alcoholism and through my father’s death. I never dealt with MY grief. I now know grief doesn’t go away; you have to deal with it or it compounds and flows into every aspect of your life; there is no way around it, you have to go through it to come out on the other side of grief. It is a painful and uncomfortable thing, but necessary to truly heal.
I would also tell myself to just trust God more. TRUST. I needed to give up the need to control things. Let Go, and Let God, as the saying goes. I was so set on trying to fill up the loneliness of not really having a strong family unit that I rushed a lot of relationships with men that were, in hindsight, obviously not in God’s divine plan. Those relationships were dysfunctional.
Hindsight is a beautiful and painful thing. It’s a “Catch 22” really because I can say I wish I had known and done all these things, but had I not gone through the immense struggles, I would not be who I am today.There is beauty and depth in who I am because of the struggles. Do I wish I could have “saved” myself from the pain? Absolutely! But, I can’t help wonder what my soul and heart would look like today without those struggles. Would I be as close to God that I am now? Would I be the deeply loving, loyal and forgiving friend and lover that I am? Would I have learned to give Grace to my enemies even after they committed the most egregious acts against me knowing that we are all broken and all children of God? Would I have the amazing, strong, intelligent, wise, and beautiful souls that are my children? Would I feel the fervent need to have my tests be a testimony and my mess a message?
Bobbi Mason a contributing author of #EMERGINGPROUD Through Suicide: Stories of Hope & Transformation. The series released on September 10, 2019, World Suicide Prevention Day. Bobbi is a mother to three amazing boys. She is on a journey to heal after her husband of 16 years committed suicide. She is actively involved in her community and has a strong passion to help other widows and victims of suicide.
I met Bobbi over three decades ago in junior high school French class. When my father committed suicide in 1986, I went to school the next day; grateful my desk was in front of Bobbi’s so I could confide in her. I was torn between grief and relief. Bobbi was the only other person I knew our age who had lost her dad, and I found great comfort in her understanding. We’d entered, unwillingly, into the “Girls With Dead Dads” Club. Bobbi, I don’t know if I ever thanked you for your much-needed understanding — a belated thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am grateful that Bobbi has been so open in her Dear Me letter–I think she will connect with quite a few people, giving many of us a reason to pause and reflect. Believe it or not, I’ve never considered how the loss of my dad may have influenced some of my choices around men. In many ways, I felt like I was my dad’s parent — similar to how Bobbi had to parent her mother. My dad was an alcoholic, abusive (though not to me), and whenever we had a restraining order against him, I was the one who had to answer the door when he showed up ‘illegally’ at our house and walk him out of the trailer park to avoid having him arrested.
I felt powerless as I witnessed his misery and downfall. So powerless that when he died when I was fifteen, I was relieved for him, for me, for my siblings–life was toxic, dysfunctional, and painful. I remember thinking that I never wanted to feel responsible for a man again. So how did my relationship with my dad influence my choice in men — I wanted little to do with a real, live man. I read romances instead. I wouldn’t even try to date and meet someone until I was 22. I’ll be thinking about Bobbi’s letter for some time. I look forward to an opportunity to see her speak.
Until next time, thank you for being you,
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