Despite all that, however, the memories didn't flood in like you'd think they should. At least not the good ones. Rather, my first 15-20 minutes of reminiscing was filled with trauma, pain, betrayal, loss, embarrassment and anger. All true memories. All real events. But not all that happened in my childhood. Yet I struggled initially to recall a truly joyful memory with any real clarity. It felt as if only the bad has any real staying power in our hearts, at least in mine.
I did come up with some good memories - lots of them actually. But the initial flood of bad memories has been bothering me ever since. Especially as I think of my own children and the lifelong relationships I crave with them, I keep asking myself, "What will they remember?". Why was I only remembering every terrible snapshot from my childhood and how I can I navigate my own children toward a different experience?
These questions have been floating through my heart all week and have given me a new perspective on myself and my life over the past few years. I've realized that remembering the bad and traumatic of childhood isn't where it stops for me. In "introducing" myself to some new friends recently, I've found it difficult to express who I am without mentioning the devastation of losing our foster son a week before his adoption should have been finalized and all the other relational and spiritual unraveling that surrounded it. Granted, it was a true series of unfortunate events that wreaked havoc on our careers, our family, our friendships and our faith. But it all happened three years ago. Three years that have been filled with new careers, new friends, new life. And yet the pain and the loss is what feels like the most crucial information to share about myself. Why? It's all true, all real, but not all that I am.
I've thought and I've thought this week and stumbled across a pretty clear revelation about myself. I see now that trauma and pain is often where I let my heart dwell and my mind wander. It hasn't been an intentional decision, but certainly a lifelong habit. In my late teens and early twenties, when I would "tell my story", it would usually be full of the painful, life-changing trauma's that I experienced as a little girl - addiction...abuse...betrayal...failure...It was like one stepping stone of trial to the next with all the green grass of good lost in between. I repeated these "stepping stone" stories so often in my mind, that I think they eventually became the only dominant or real memories I had left. And I wonder if this is something we all do - walk along these stepping stones of pain in our mind and lose sight of all the good along the way.
That's what I've done with our more recent losses. I've let them define me:
I am Pain.
I am Loss.
I am Failure.
I am Devastation.
I am unloveable, unfriendable, unfindable.
One stepping stone of pain to the next, walked across over and over and over again in my mind and my heart until it has become the dominant story of who I am today. But it's so, so incomplete; so warped and so biased. It's rooted in reality, but has become a reality all its own that's not accurate and not fair. As much as I know that painful experiences will always be a part of my story, I never want them to be the whole story.
In realizing this pain-dwelling habit, I've been challenged to fill in the missing pieces; to paint a more accurate picture of who I am, for myself more than anything. Here's what I see today:
I am Brave.
I am Vulnerable.
I am Authentic.
I am Alive.
I am mother, wife, friend, daughter.
May I become her more and more.