I write to share a story of healing .. much of which is a direct result of living as a full time caregiver, attending this site regularly and a visceral response to watching a program called “Ilanya Fix My Life.” This is an attempt to express my gratitude.
I sit here, as a 60 year old woman, who began walking a path of self-enlightenment in her 20's, yet has felt bereft of love and family. Admitting it is at once freeing and deeply painful.
It's freeing to acknowledge what I usually deny. I put on a strong face and front, even in the mirror. I've taught myself to live without love for so long, because it's less painful than trying one more time to engage with another human being and be hurt again. I can and do look in the mirror and love myself ... to the extent that it's protective against potential hurt. I surround myself with a protective blanket (I've progressed, it used to be a brick wall) that repels. Repels emotions and connections.
I can trace the source of pain. Molestation as a child, and no one knowing (not even myself, until my late 20's). A family that gave me mixed messages about love: I remember in my 20's talking with my mom about feeling loved by her and her telling me, ".. but I tell you every day: I do your laundry, keep a clean house, keep you safe." and me responding by saying that I also needed to hear the words and be hugged. She supported me in many other ways, but I never got the hugs, I heard the words only when I asked. Pain and tears were kept behind closed doors. There is a core of anger in me, still, that I have to walk away from something to ever get a response that looks like someone cares.
I came out of the closet to my dad in my early 20's (in an era when being gay was barely acknowledged), and found an amazing acceptance from him. My mother, however, just wanted to know where she went 'wrong' (what I heard was something was wrong with *me*). My two brothers have distanced themselves from the entire family, despite my being the eldest and their pseudo mom for a decade. My other sibling, my sister, tried for years to be the glue between our family after my mom died. My sense is that she gives 'love' out of a sense of duty, rather than something heartfelt, because she is also self-righteous and bitter. But that's MY filter, I'm sure.
After my mom died, my dad remarried .. to the woman with whom he'd had an affair during his first marriage. This woman is a self-righteous narcissist. Because my dad said he couldn't abide being alone, I worked, for many years to accept her as his spouse, and finally declared to my dad that I couldn't be around someone who couldn't be bothered to call his eldest child when he was admitted to a hospital (I found out, in an email from my brother).
All of my relationships have been disasters. I know I never felt good enough. That no matter what I did, it would never be enough. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that always ended painfully. I would open my heart and then the fear would enter and I'd shut down. I'd find myself sabotaging the relationship, hoping that the love for me was stronger than my weaknesses.
My saving grace was finding myself homeless, without prospects of work. The only thing that presented itself to me, took me back to my roots in nursing, that I forsook for a more lucrative career path in my 20's. For the last five years I've been a live-in caregiver for a (now) 90-year old lady who suffered a stroke. When I first began working with her, I kept my distance, telling myself that it was the professional thing to do. Around the third year of caring for her, I found myself feeling bereft again, thinking that the end of life was very near and I'd welcome it. One day, while explaining my feelings, I had an epiphany: I was channeling my charge. I was literally taking on her feelings of end of life. To overcome this, I chose to *acknowledge* that I love her. And love her, I do.
She has brought such meaning into my life. Without being aware it, she is my teacher, is a light in the darkness I'd forgotten I was living in. I feel my heart more open than it's been in decades. That light shines on the losses, too. I don't know that there's any more that I can do to heal the rifts between my brothers and the family (they're locked into a paradigm that closes the doors between us). I am close to my dad, again. I'm working on a better relationship with my sister. I've finally acknowledged that there are others I love who don't know it, because I've never shared it .. and I will fix that.
This healing is a process. I'm not asking for help or seeking guidance .. I'm well on my own way. I simply want to say .. Thank you. To all those who put their hearts on their sleeves, to the woman who produces that TV show, I say thank you. I have felt my heart blossoming and the tears flow. And I'm grateful.
Thank you all for sharing your journey and for being a source of light.
Thank you, Thank you, thank you.