Planet Waves | Abandoning Abandonment | Genexhibitionist by Maya Dexter


Abandoning Abandonment

Genexhibitionist | By Maya Dexter

I never really thought of myself as someone who had been abandoned. I mean, sure I've been through the run of the mill stuff: lovers and friends, parents choosing adult relationships over spending every waking second with their only child. Nothing particularly tragic. My parents love me; I have never doubted that for a minute. They make me feel held up, revered, proud to have come through them and learned from them. I don't have to pretend to be anyone I'm not, or become someone they want me to be, or be extra nice and not call them on the carpet for their own mistakes. I have always felt surrounded by their love.

But over the past couple weeks as the topic of abandonment trickled through the crevices of my mind, a sound came forth, slowly, taking form piece by piece until I finally recognized it as a song my mom wrote some 25 (or more?) years ago:

I can't seem to find you anywhere
Oh I can't seem to find you anywhere
I looked across the table
Just as far as I am able
But all that I can see is your empty chair
Oh I can't seem to find you anywhere
I can't seem to find you anywhere

That song used to inspire in me the most outrageous tantrums you ever saw in a child. And if you've been around children enough to witness a truly outrageous tantrum, you can appreciate what I am saying. Hearing that song I would imagine myself in the house we lived in when I was a little less than two, searching high and low and fruitlessly for my mommy. I can still see what I saw; I can still hear every note. I hated that song as desperately as I've ever hated anything. Mom thinks that's a real shame, because it's the best song she ever wrote. But she can certainly see my point.

Right around the time of the avocado green shag carpet and the checkered kitchen table that has branded itself permanently on my memory, my mother left. I don't know what was happening between her and my dad. I know that she was trying to cope with a lot of difficult things in her own past, and I would guess that she was somehow trying to escape her own skin. It wasn't the first time she'd tried.

I guess that's kind of a big abandonment, huh? I wasn't even two and I remember that time so vividly. She came back for me a few years later, I got the chicken pox while my dad was out of town. She drove four hours down with her boyfriend to pick me up, and when dad got home I was gone. I've always felt that somehow made me an accessory to that time in her life. It sat on my conscience like a heavy quilt for years.

How did those things affect me? Well, aside from crying every time I heard that song, and throwing a fit whenever my mom's friends would come to visit, I suppose I have always waited for everyone in my life to leave. In many cases I rather prefer it. If I am done with a relationship I would rather drive that person away than state my case and lay any sort of blame. At least I know how to handle that, but I don't know what the hell to do with my own power. Mostly though, leaving is not something I want, but something I expect. I have this feeling that the other person is, at any moment, going to wake up and see me for who I really am. And then they'd want to run screaming for sure. Because on the surface I am so together, everyone says so. I am composed and mature and thoughtful and kind and generous and compassionate, blah, blah, blah. Nobody's that perfect. So for sure the minute I succumb to a bad day or something makes me angry, they will surely leave. If I am perfect enough, no one will go anywhere. I am always trying to fix things, to smooth them over ­ I'm forever apologizing. If I do everything I possibly can then it's not my fault, right?

Or at least that's the way it's been. I refuse ­ I mean REFUSE ­ to play victim to a circumstance beyond my control for the rest of my life. Now, at twenty six years old, I know without a doubt that there was nothing my little 18-month-old self (or my five-year-old self) could have done to change anything in my mother's downward spiral. That was her life, her choices, not mine. And those circumstances gave me some of the best growth opportunities of my life. So from here on out, the choice is mine: I can learn to love the lesson, or I can continue to sit in the classroom and sulk. I cannot be one of those people willing to use their victimhood to justify behavior that is simply another turn of the cycle of abuse.

My mom and I are great friends, believe it or not. She is my biggest fan, my most open-minded sounding board, and is as busy in her own processes as I am in mine. She's growing in leaps and bounds, Chiron bestowed a tremendous blessing on her at its return. I'm happy for her, not angry. I went through resentment and anger, I tried them on for size and I found that they don't fit me very well. My mom was a victim in her own right of circumstances beyond her control that had her in such a tailspin of pain that, like a wounded animal, she lashed out desperately in order to somehow escape it. There is nothing I can do in the face of that knowledge but love her and forgive her and be infinitely proud of her for finally working her way through it. And do my best to follow suit.

So what are the positive effects of this experience? What are the gifts hidden within the giant hole that her abandonment left inside of me? First of all, I am constantly trying to improve myself. I am willing to look my flaws dead in the face and do something to change them. That's a great one, a lot of people in this world are too caught up in ego trips and in too desperate need to be right and someone else wrong to be able to look for anything within that might stand a little improvement. I could definitely learn a little better that nobody in this world is perfect and no one expects me to be. I need to realize that everyone else cuts me as much slack as I cut them.

And here's another one I could stand to learn. I mean, I know it intellectually, but it's not something my soul understands very well yet: entitlement. I am entitled to ask for what I want. I deserve what I dream of and if something's not going well, I have every right to stand up and demand changes. I am tired of clinging desperately to people and things and hoping that the winds blow fair. I am learning to be in charge of my own happiness. Now it's true, if I hadn't gone through what I did I would already know how to be this way. But would I appreciate it? Would I understand it? Those of us who have grown up with certain inalienable rights have the luxury of taking them for granted. But those who have come by them through sweat and tears and years of self-analysis are conscious of how far they have come every waking moment. There is a tremendous gratitude that comes from having climbed out of dysfunction. It makes every day a little brighter and more miraculous. It makes every decision a little more blessed and profound.

I spoke to a friend on the phone last night about writing this article. She told me that as a child she often wished her mother would leave. She actually prayed for abandonment because her mother was in such a crazy space. My friend suggested to me that abandonment can be a good thing because sometimes it's better to leave than to inflict your misery on everyone around you, especially in the case of children. I have to say, she has a point. It's a hell of a lot easier to work through being left than it is to work through being tortured. Of course, ideally no one would have to go through any of that and we'd all grow up functional. But we're not there yet ­ there are still too many people working in the personal power syndicate, trying to steal back the emotional dollar that someone took from them. Those tides will turn someday soon, I suspect. There is an alchemy occurring within that pain, more and more, growing like a secret revolution.

Call it the mounting energy of Chiron awareness, the increasing public acceptance of therapy, or whatever works for you. But more and more of us are finding little nuggets of gold in the pile of shit that got handed to us at some point in our pasts. Most of the people I know now who have been through some sort of childhood hell are using that experience for clarity. They are using the codependent habit of being highly aware of the people around them (once used to avoid being yelled at, beaten, or worse) to begin to see the thread of their actions all the way through the web, to understand how they affect the world and begin to tread more gently and purposefully as a result. There are cycles of abuse shattering every day. If you listen closely you can almost hear it.

I have come to truly bless the awareness that has come with the trials of my life. If I were given the choice to go back and do it all over again, Cleaver style, I don't know that I would do it. My life turned out just the way it needed to in order to make me the person I'm becoming, and she is someone I'm proud of. I revel in the feeling of gratitude that comes from waking up each day a little better. I'm not interested in taking my experiences for granted. Working toward freedom is a beautiful purpose. And each time I get a little closer to freedom, I get a charge of elation that makes even orgasm seem pale by comparison.++

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