This book was supposed to be one of my summer pool reads. Seems summer passed my reading time by, however this became my first autumn read. I have listened to Iyanla Vanzant live tell parts of her story on YouTube. She is a wonderful writer, but she is an even better speaker. My reading experience was greatly enhanced because I could hear her real voice in my head.
While my life has been very different than hers, the "pathology" she describes is eerily similar.
"My story, like so many other stories, is a demonstration of the generational karma visited upon women..." "What I am offering is that there is this thing--something--that moves through generation after generation of women, affecting how we see ourselves and how that identity often works against our best interest. It is an energy that many of us are born into, live through, and struggle valiantly to live beyond." page 5
"When you have no positive pictures and, are unable to access the feelings those pictures would evoke, you have a tendency to make up what you want the pictures to be. More often than not, the pictures you create are not fully developed, causing you to live life in the blur of false images." page 10
I couldn't have admitted it at the time, but with 25 years behind me now, I can see that although I had no real idea what a healthy & stable family looked like, at 17 I was desperate to create one of my own. I can't say that I had any friends who had great family lives, but from each dinner or stay the night I gathered pieces that I cobbled together to form a picture in my head of what I wanted for a family. I was engaged at 16 to my high school boyfriend and anxious to get out of my family home. I felt lost and neglected and unwanted and unworthy in my family home. My parents were so overwhelmed in their own lives that they had nothing of worth to give me or my sister. There was a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, clothes on our bodies, a carton of cigarettes so we didn't spend our lunch money on smokes and there were feminine products. I don't want to make light of what each of these items meant to me. I was very grateful that my parents provided what they could. They were so wrapped up in their own pain & struggle & overwhelm that they had little other than "things" to give us. At the time I thought they were awful selfish people. I spent so many hours wondering why they had kids if they didn't want us.
Iyanla writes page after page describing her attempts to get the attention of her dad and the people who stood as parents in her life. Prior to reading this book, I didn't realize how many hours of my life I have spent trying, begging, pleading for my parents to notice & love me. I am sure it must have started normal enough; if I get good grades they will be proud of me or if I do what I am told they will see me and love me. But at some point, I like many children of neglect turned to negative attention was better than no attention.
Unfortunately for me, my parents lives were spinning out of control at such a speed that I was sucked into the cyclone. By age 12, I was smoking & drinking with regularity.
At far too early an age, I craved attention from anyone who would see me. Thus began my relationships with boys. I never knew time without a boyfriend. There was three boy friends before I met the boy that would be my first husband. All back to back to back. I didn't like being alone. Right before my 17th birthday I was engaged.
"You simply cannot pay the debts that come along with believing you are unworthy. Unworthiness always puts you in debt to anyone and everyone who shows you the slightest degree of attention or love or energy." pg 55
The first year I dated my soon to be first husband Erik, seemed pretty normal, or normal for me. We went to school during the week and worked several nights a week. On weekends we followed the party scene and drank & partied hard. He graduated from high school and got a full time job. It was during that second year that things started to slowly change and the winds of my personal cyclone started.
This boy didn't want simple teenage sex, this boy wanted to do and try everything, including other people. My heart was crushed that the man I had fallen in love with and was going to marry, didn't think I was enough. Instead he wanted other people and wanted to share me with other people. His love and attention came at a high price, things that made me uncomfortable and made me feel shame. I feel blessed that I did not grow up in a time with the internet and cell phones. Oh the prayers that have been said thanking God that the photos were poorly taken and truly shitty & silent whispered prayers that they never surface. As I was underage it is even more awful. I was terrified that one of the people he sent them to would write him back & end up local & a date would be scheduled. 6 months of worry soon stopped as we got caught up in the final wedding day planning. That consumed most of our free time. Suddenly it was all about us & our new life & moving to Florida so he could start college.
Most or enough of the ugliness was gone & things seemed normal again. My definition of normal had become heavy drinking, sleeping, and normal sex. My parents allowed him to move in with me in the final months. I used to wonder had they not, would I have found the space too breathe and the silence to hear my gut screaming "stop this now while you can."
There were a couple of nights when I just wanted it all to stop, but by that point everything had been purchased and family was on the way. Moments later I was elated at what a beautiful wedding I was going to have & how everyone would see how fabulous & normal my life was going to be. This was me starting & creating my own bright future.
A year later, we returned home. He wasn't going to go to school. We lived in the student ghetto in Gainseville, FL and the drinking and partying continued. I tried very hard to be a normal grown up, but my marriage wasn't normal and my husband didn't see marriage as I did. He saw it filled with other people, games, and porn. In my head all I heard was that I was not enough.
Iyanla describes "a pathology of abandonment and shame; abuse and self abuse; betrayal and guilt; unworthiness and loss. My story is very much like my mother's story. Her story was very much like her mother's..." page 6
It would be a hand full of years later when my mother would let slip that our marriages had been very similar. Many things I had seen as a child, but been told I hadn't seen, were true. I did see my parents with other people. My parents "friends", were way more than normal friends. My parents were in the beginning stages of ending their 20 year marriage, my mom was angry and the information she shared helped me make sense of parts of my childhood that I had been told I was crazy about. I wasn't crazy, they were liars, shutting me up by telling me I wasn't seeing what I thought.
"To be a good fighter, you have to be stripped down to nothing. A fighter is trained to forget what they know and who they are outside the ring. Once a fighter is stripped down, they can be built up by one voice, the trainer's voice. And it is assumed that the trainer has the fighter's best interest in mind." page 46
The voices of my trainers have not had my best interest in mind. They have been predators, abusers, neglectors and the selfish. I am working very hard to hear my own voice. It takes a great deal of strength to peel off the layers and illusion and stand in bright, shiny nakedness! I am ready for the next full moon!!