Have you ever wondered what you would be like if your circumstances growing up were different? I’m completely serious. What if you weren’t bullied in school (or at home)? Would you still be the you that you are now? Growing up,...
Growing up, I was mercilessly picked on at school, and I had no escape at home, because of the abuses there that were waiting for me. Who knows what my brother and I would be like now had we been brought up in an actual proper loving home. It’s something that crosses my mind from time to time. The two-worded question that everyone asks every now and again: ‘What if?’ Some of us ask that question more than others. For me, it’s part of my job. I’m a writer, so that question’s constantly at the forefront of my mind. ‘What if… a chicken bit a cat? Would the cat squawk like a chicken?’
The way I was brought up, I was mercilessly and openly resented. Sure, I’m told ‘no, I do not recall this...’ all the time. Rather than be a grown-up and own the actions that have left quite a mark that won’t go away (even with time, it’s still there), it’s best to claim convenient memory loss, and thus again leaving me to fend for myself. Thanks a lot…
Recently, there was a small snippet of conversation – just about something they were doing for the day - I had with the person who ‘does not recall’ what I have witnesses to the fact of things having gone down the way that I have been not silent about. The message they left off with was, ‘I miss you.’
Do you, now?
What, exactly, do you miss about me? The fact that I was too scared to speak up all those times I was being hurt? Or is it something like you miss the fact that you can’t tear me down anymore? I replied, in kind. But, my message of ‘miss you, too,’ was something entirely different than I’m sure theirs is. I’ll tell you: I miss the person who actually – however briefly – did legit love me. For me. Didn’t openly resent me yet. Didn’t call me ugly things, didn’t attack me, and certainly didn’t enable the most vile abuse anyone could ever face and then hit me and send me away because you ‘couldn’t control’ me. I miss that person. But, I have not seen that person since I was a little, little kid. Not since I was first learning to read or spell my incredibly difficult-to-spell-for-a-little-kid name. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be an Okerberg. My Grandparents, my Aunts, my Uncle, my cousins, all of them I am proud to be related to them. I am still working out how I feel about the one who openly resented me for the majority of my life. You cannot abuse a dog for a long time an then all of a sudden think that you’re going to be besties and the dog won’t be wary of you and your motives.
As is the case with your own children. Make no mistake: I am grateful for many things: I am grateful for the lessons I was taught. I was taught that people can be vicious without provocation, and to avoid them. I was taught that just because someone claims to ‘love’ someone doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. I was taught who I DON’T want to be. So, thank you for that at least.
Next month, I will be another year older. I am still learning how to navigate through things like ‘unconditional love,’ ‘tenderness,’ ‘acceptance.’ These are all completely foreign concepts to me. I am navigating what it means to be called ‘beautiful.’ I have never, ever, been called ‘beautiful’ by my parents. Ever. I have only ever been called ‘ugly,’ ‘fat,’ ‘whore’ (that’s delightfully confusing to be called such at twelve on upward through the years!). Not until my Jesus came alongside me and started whispering loving things to me in my heart and it took me a LONG time to come to terms with what He has been trying to convince me of all this time: that I am not disgusting, that I am, in fact, LOVABLE. Worth being treated like a person should be treated.
I have to wonder, though… Why couldn’t they be bothered to say these things to me? And then last Friday, it happened that I finally just let it all out at the Foot of the Tabernacle. I got into a shouting match with my God. It needed to happen, and unlike the parents that I was saddled with growing up, He patiently listened to me, and He wept with me. He gave me something I have always wanted, but never was blessed or fortunate to have from the very people I was supposed to be taught what love – true, unconditional, whole and entire love – is supposed to look like. He sat and He held me and just let me sob and yell and cry it out.
It hurts me beyond any ability I have to vocalize truly how deep my wound is. I am trying so hard to work to a place of full forgiveness, and I’m getting there, but there’s setbacks that keep coming up that must be dealt with. Like an emotional game of Whack-a-Mole. Knock one thing down, and then four new memories pop up that yank things open again.
There are people I have that I can turn to, and God love them, they have been wholly loving and gentle with me in my ugliest, darkest moments, and have not ever rebuked me for my pain. I have hid this for so long, and now that I am working on allowing myself to face each thing down, I am not going to allow anyone to tell me I am wrong for doing so. Especially the miserable person who insists ‘does not recall’ anything, yet claims to ‘miss’ me.
I keep circling back to that question I asked at the start of this article: What would I have been like had I been raised in a properly loving (not openly resentful and abusive) home? Sainthood is borne of suffering. If God didn’t send this (and I am certain He did not), but He permitted it, there has to be a reason for that. I’m trying to understand what His thought process was when He did so, but I promise you: I am not going to be silent. I am working to a place of forgiveness, but the neat thing about forgiveness: I do not have to trust the two who have harmed me so viciously for so long it has left a deep, deep wound on my heart and mind(and I promise, I don’t and won’t). I do not have to ever allow them too close to me. And I do not at all care that they don’t like it. They can cry that they are ‘hurt’ by my distance, but they certainly did not care when they were the ones causing the issues that brought me to this place.
Something I recently heard in a homily that keeps resonating with me is ‘tough love’ isn’t love. Love that needs to be earned is not love. Love is – and should always be – free gift, or it is nothing.
Everyone and everything is sent to your life to sanctify you. That every single person in life, whether we like it or not, has been given to sanctify, whether we want to cooperate with that or not.
This keeps drawing me back over and over again to re-read it. I’ve had conversations with the person who gave this very homily, and I look up to them a lot. This person is one of the wisest, kindest souls I’ve ever been blessed to have part of my life – and hasn’t run screaming from me. This person knows more about me than any one person on this planet does, and yet still cares about me as a parent should care for their child. Sometimes, secretly, I wish I could build a time machine and take this person back to when I was little and have him show them how they messed up and how to do it right.
Do I think they’d have listened?
I dunno, honestly.
One discussion that was had, it was pointed out that God knew I’d had a terrible upbringing with equally terrible examples of what parents should be and do for their kids, so He came alongside me and said, ‘I know you’ve had a horrible start to your life, no real solid man to show you what fathering is supposed to look like. Here, daughter, have three gentle souls you can look to for fatherly love in a way that I meant for you to have. And I know, daughter, you have had a resentful mother to raise you and make you hate yourself undeservedly. Here, have a whole parish full of women who love you as their own. Also, and most especially, you are welcome to share My Mother with Me. She loves you and has always had your back, too, even long before you ever met her.’
We Catholics talk a lot about ‘doing our purgatory on earth so it’ll be shorter when we die.’ Because Purgatory is going to suck. And trust me, kiddies, it will. We will have the Beatific Vision to look toward to get through our time in Purgatory, but will still have to face the purgation of the marks the wounds of sin have left.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, what that means. Lately, I’ve been working super hard at fighting old demons that demand my attention. I am sick of their torment. I was tormented more than enough for at least a population of a small university growing up, I don’t appreciate the further torment of my brain goblins running amok.
For me to sit and talk about this, you should know that I am really starting to allow myself to address things and really dig them out at their root.
While no, love is not something that comes easily to me because of all the hate that was disguised as ‘love’ all my life, I have decided to start doing something proactive about this. I’ve started handing them to God.
I went to a Healing Mass/Conference/thing this past weekend. During Adoration on Friday and Saturday, we did the song, 'Reckless Love' a couple times among so, so many others. 'Reckless Love,' though... the bridge in that song, got me right between the eyes like a 2x4 during Adoration Friday night. It hit me HARD. Then, again on Saturday morning, also during Adoration, we were sitting there enjoying the Presence, and I'm just blown away by the realization of who I really am in God's eyes. His Precious Love for me... I am trying to keep out of His way and let Him do what He does best: Be God.
This morning's Divine Office was a clear, CLEAR message, 'I have you, daughter. You are My beloved. Whole and entire, I love you!' The words, 'Whole and entire' kept rolling around in my head last night as I was getting ready for bed. Then to see Romans 8 as the NT reading for this morning's reading... Pretty beautiful symmetry.
I feel like God's really been doing a lot of reno in my head lately, and I'm so excited about it. Like I said, I have decided I’m going to be productive and proactive. I have also decided something: I am going to offer my pain and trauma up for the conversion of souls. And for the suffering holy souls in purgatory, especially those who don’t have anyone to pray for them.
I’m serious when I tell you that love isn't something that's easy for me to accept (when I first started coming to my parish a few years ago, it was VERY hard to be able to allow myself to be hugged, and now? My parish family has gone and turned me into a hugger! It's unreal!), but when we were sitting in the Sanctuary over the weekend up at St Pete's during the Fr McAlear Healing Mass/Conference/thing, during Adoration when we were doing 'Reckless Love,' it hit me right between the eyes and I had that 'WHOA.' moment of, You really do love me, don't you, my Jesus! Like, wholly and without reservation or condition.'
For someone who grew up being OPENLY AND UNDESERVEDLY RESENTED by the very people who were supposed to be raising her in a loving environment, a moment like that is powerful.
It really is something I am going to treasure for the rest of my life.
There were a lot of other things I realized over the weekend, too, that I am still working out, but WOWSA. God sure does know how to make Himself known, doesn't He!? I have been working on a lot of things this year, a LOT of things and the deeper I'm diving into His endless Sacred Heart, the further I am nestling into Him, and the further I am bonding with Mama, it's ... honestly? It's like walking on air. Like, like floating. I know there's going to be hiccups in the road, and I know that this won't always last, there will be moments when it will not be there, but when it comes back? Oh, yes. It'll make me appreciate it that much MORE.
I don’t know what will be waiting for me each corner I turn, or each fork in the road I face. I DO know that my Jesus, my Precious, Beloved Jesus, will be there, always open and inviting and unresentful and completely welcoming of me, His beloved. Even with all my ugly scars, my trauma, my painful shyness and inability to trust and with how plain and homely I am, in all my awkwardness… Each pain that surfaces, I am offering up for the conversion of souls. Each break in my already severely fractured heart, I offer to Him for His use for someone else to know they are not alone. I started really aggressively working through my trauma earlier this year, and I do not regret a single ounce of doing so. I am just going to further dig in and not let anything – or any one – rattle me enough to get me to leave my Jesus. I know He won’t give up on me, nor will my Mama. Neither of them has, and they won’t start now. Ever. I know that with His help, I am going to be able to come to a place where I can fully forgive the two people who have torn me to pieces and stomped on me rather than be good and loving people to show me how to love myself from the beginning. Each time my own anger starts to crop up, I’m going to pray through it and leave it to God to sort it all out. He’s better at working out things, anyway, than I am, and so is my Mama.
I am beloved of God. Whole and entire. While I don’t quite know its entirety what this means, I am grateful just the same for His willingness to rescue me and willingness to hear me when I’m torn to pieces when a new thing has reared its ugly head. He isn’t going to let me face anything alone. Nor will Mama, because she is good and wonderful and takes care of her children.
My Jesus, I trust in You! Mama, pray for me!