I had a recent life-changing realization. I became aware that I approach my family and others in general as if I were the beggar at the table. Putting it in those words has shed a huge light on my behaviour with others and an angle to my of anxiety.
I knew the feelings and perception of this concept all along but the wording is what allowed it to all come together into something more solid, enabling me to be able to have a good look at it.
In a variety of words and behaviours I was given the message all along. My adoptive father adopted me after marrying my mother only because my mother wanted to bury the having-a-child-out-of-wedlock status. The other five children in the family were his biological children and, therefore, he had no motivation to really embrace me as his own. It seems his paternal instincts were satisfied without me. I and all the other children knew that I was unwanted and a mistake from another man.
She said, a few times, that she wanted to abort me but had me to spite her father, whatever that meant to her.
She resented spending any money on me, acting like I was a mooch if I mentioned how my toes were hurting in my shoes and she knew she had to buy me new ones. It wasn’t a lack of finances for this as my younger sister was close enough in age that she could have had some of my hand-me-downs but she received only new clothing, so we weren’t desperate to save money in this area. As an example, when I was around ten-years-old she once attempted to by me black boys’ boots (the kind with the red stripe at the top) because they they two dollars cheaper than the girls’ boots until the young sales girl convinced her not to. She saw my tears from a feeling of hot shame and intercepted, and may God bless her for it. Trust me, my mother didn’t care about saving two dollars, she just thought it was unnecessary to spend on me.
I could go on with the examples but I think it all just comes down to this: my mother hated me, she told me, she truly despised me. I think I was a reminder of whatever she hated about herself or her decisions and it was imperative that she tell everyone in the family that she hated me for who I was instead of her hating me for who SHE was. She had to supply the explanation for why she would scream at my for the slightest things for up to half-an-hour sometimes. She couldn’t look like a monster to her husband’s children, after all, so she told them in various ways that it was my fault, even though they could plainly see that she was volatile. She had to keep up her image and I was thrown under the bus.
So, my mother despised me and my adoptive father tolerated the fact he was financing six children instead of five. I felt this in small and large ways, although I was a little naive about it all. I just shook it off, not really seeing it for what it was since he was the only father I knew and didn’t have the sophistication as a child to see this family set up through the eyes of a full-grown man. I just took his slights as just part of the whole package of there being something wrong and unlikable about me, which was the role set out for me in the family.
Until recently. Then it all came to me in clarity. And it had to do with a violin.
I’ve never been a musician type. I was a dancer and sketcher but not a music-maker. But I have always loved the sound of the fiddle and in later years thought it would be nice to know how to play one. It was a distant dream because I didn’t think I could afford one.
One day this last year a former elderly neighbour, who plays the fiddle, asked me out of the blue if I wanted to learn. Of course I said yes! He lent me one of his violins and gave me a primer and I set out to learn on my own through online sources. I once mentioned it to my parents and my dad said that he had this violin that his grandfather made and played. I never knew this, I don’t remember him ever saying any of this or knew he had a violin. My father said he never had an ear for it and could never play, as much as he tried.
Anyway, my father was going to lend it to me so I could give back my neighbour’s one until my mother said that he might as well just give it to me since he never knew who he was going to leave it to, thinking none of us played. They’re on the path to downsizing and she was looking forward to begin to reduce their possessions. I thought I was being given such a precious gift! It has no real monetary value being homemade, but it’s a beautiful, old, rich sounding violin made by my own great-grandfather. He seemed reluctant, but he rarely argues with my mother (no one does). I was insulted by the reluctance and it hit me – he wants it to go to one of “his” kids, not me. It felt like a punch in the gut.
I had until that point assumed my parents really believed the “united family” thing they had going. When my parents got married my adoptive father had three children older than me from a previous marriage and my mother had me on her own. After a few years of marriage they adopted each other’s children along with having two more together. As my mother accepted his kids as their new mother I assumed he accepted me the same way despite my having a few suspicions along the way that I shrugged off.
I couldn’t shrug it off anymore. It was so blatant that as he’s getting older and thinking of leaving things to his kids that I’m not exactly one of them, even though he had adopted me. It’s sad to come to the full realization that the adoption was by paper and not by heart.
Someone could ask if the fact that he never said he loved me might have been a clue, or that when we were little he always had fun playing with his kids and I sensed him losing a little of the joy when play-interacting with me along with them, as if it were a duty to “treat me the same”. Well, there was that, I guess. He did act “as if” as best as he could when I was younger, but I felt the slight emotional aloofness all the same. I missed the clues because my mother never said she loved me, either. I had already accepted (erroneously) that there was something different about me that made people not like me.
I felt rejection and, although it hurt and I felt shame for being so naive, I’m also feeling a bit angry. I realized this is how he must have felt all along, but I’m recognizing it as his failure as an adopter, not mine as one who was adopted as a small child.
As I sat ruminating on all this, the whole history, I was finally able to nail down the feeling I had in my childhood and that I feel today when dealing with others – I am the beggar at the table, the one who is from the outside but in the benevolent toleration of others I am giving a plate. I’m required to feel grateful by both my parents in a way the legitimate children (both by nature and in view) are not required to. I was lucky that any resources chosen to be shared with me were proffered in the first place.
I always felt I was approaching my parents with needs like I had my hat in hand, having to provide an explanation as to why the request is being made. I approach ALL people in this same way, I realize. I need to explain, validate, and be make reasonable all my requests and opinions. I know others don’t do this, but I strangely, without thinking, went by the assumption that the rules were different for me.
This is part of my anxiety with people, that I feel I don’t have the place in this world as they do. I’ve felt like I’ve had to answer for myself. I’ve felt like I’ve had to come up with a good reason to participate, in anything. This is partly why I feel I explain too much when talking, why I don’t look people in the eye, why I put on a “nice” voice when I really just want to state something, why I wonder what people really think of me when I leave their presence, etc., etc., etc.
I will be looking at this aspect more and more and will share if it pans out to being something that changes the way I view myself, the world, and changes the way I make decisions to interact. I truly hope it does. But in the meantime, I am now declaring to myself that I will never again behave as if I’m required to give an explanation for my opinions, requests, my self. I am determined to be free from such an impossible and crippling burden. I am not a beggar at the table of life, my true Father in Heaven has specifically invited me with a place set before I was even born.