I always felt different.
I would ask my mother if I was adopted and she’d deny it vehemently. In fact, she’d act completely offended and insulted.
I have three older siblings, each two years apart. All are tall, and striking, with thin lips, and thin noses, and they all look very much alike. The perfect family portrait. I always wanted to Sharpie myself into their childhood photos. I am ten years younger, Yes, ten. YEARS. I am too short to reach the top shelf at the grocery store without using the shelves below as a ladder, with big lips, a round nose, thick hair, and giant eyes. My siblings are all incredibly talented, both musically and artistically. I can’t whistle, or trace a stick man.
Growing up, I frequently heard “You look nothing like anyone in your family” which only reinforced the feeling that I just didn’t belong. I desperately wanted siblings closer to my age. I don’t recall living with my siblings as a child. I have snippets of memories, which are likely created by stories told and re-told over the years. I remember wanting my mother to adopt a child. Preferably Webster. You know the child actor? Emmanuel Lewis. Yes, him. I longed for a Webster. I cried and begged my mother to please, please adopt Webster for me. Although, in looking back, had she adopted the fictional non-Caucasian Webster, I still would not have looked like my sibling. I didn’t think that through. I wanted someone to fight with. Someone to laugh with. Someone to lessen that feeling of being alone.
Most of my life was spent with just my mother, an always struggling, always working single parent. We moved from the country to the city when I was eight years old, and my siblings stayed behind. Many a boyfriend came and went; none leaving a positive mark on my life. Some leaving negative marks. I adored my mother growing up, although she was not around often, and she made some pretty poor choices. She was all I had, and no matter what was happening in our lives, I always knew she loved me. She said it; she showed it with hugs and kisses; and with little gifts I’m sure she couldn’t afford. As an adult, she became my best friend, and my biggest fan. She was funny, brave, smart, and beautiful. If you wanted the entire family to know something, but you didn’t have the time or energy to tell them yourself, you just told Mom. And within minutes, they all knew. Strangers at the mall knew.
You see, normally, she could not keep a secret to save her life.
But she kept one secret. For eighteen long years.
I think she kept it so long that even she no longer knew what was true.
I went away to university, fresh out of high school. I desperately wanted to figure out who I was apart from my mother. When I was home visiting one weekend, I asked her one simple question. I have no idea what we were talking about at the time. I don’t recall why felt compelled to ask in that moment. I remember only my question, and her answer.
I asked my mother: “Dad isn’t my father, is he?”
“No”, was all she said.
And with that one word, my entire life was changed.
That lie became the foundation for “my story”. At times, my story made me stronger. I made it through that, and all that followed. More often though, it made me doubt everyone. And I no longer belonged anywhere. Even with my family, I was, in fact, different. Now, I’m recognizing that piece of my story is just a part of who I am. Just a chapter of my book. I don’t have to allow what happened from that moment on to impact the rest of my life. I am so much more than that little girl who was betrayed, and then rejected by both of my “fathers”.
I realize now that I have viewed much of my life through that filter. Perhaps not intentionally, but every relationship, every person I met, I saw through that filter. Could they be trusted? Was I good enough for them to truly love me, just as I am? Was it even worth the risk?
This blog is my journey to owning my story, but to not living it any more. I am surrendering my story. I am unburdening myself of that story I’ve told myself over and over – – that I am unlovable.
I wonder how I will feel if I let go of it for good? I’m excited to find out…
“Do the best you can, until you know better. When you know better, do better”
– Maya Angelou