Thursday, August 10, 2017

21 years 5 months and 8 days ago Ryan and I were married. We've experience a gamut of emotions. What I realized is that neither one of us was emotionally healthy enough to chose an eternal companion in 1996. We both were raised in flawed homes, who isn't. This is in no way criticizing either of our parents. I believe they did the very best they could. Just as Ryan and I are doing the best we can raising our own kids in a flawed home. Mine was more structurally flawed. 
We functioned at or below poverty the entire time I was living at home. My mom is a survivor of abuse, my dad abandoned by his father as a child. There was no "higher learning" for them. They married as a result of a teenage pregnancy.  They became parents at the young age of 18 and 19.  
My dad had a temper and only wanted 2 children. He had big dreams and the talent to make them happen. Those dreams did not include raising 12 children on a laborers pay. However, God had a different plan.  He had a family to provide for so he went to work at the local steel mill. I remember holding Ryan's hand and thinking "His hands are so soft and white," I was a little perplexed. I only knew my dad's hands as being rough and discolored from hard labor. To say he hated that job is a huge understatement. Yet, he went day after day for 25 years. He wasn't equipped to raise 12 kids, let alone amid poverty. He loved cars, he dreamed of his old 57 chevy. But he drove cars held together with heaven only knows what. His clothes were always tattered and worn. The stress he was under is incomprehensible to most.  It doesn't excuse his behavior those years living at home. But I've learned to have compassion and empathy for what he was asked to shoulder. I believe he did the absolute best he could. 
My mom was incredible. She somehow overcame her past to raise and love 12 highly spirited children. She could do anything. She may only have a high school diploma but the knowledge she has gained is far beyond most. I remember her trying to process emotions with us and teach us how to cope. "I feel_________, because__________."   There wasn't a day that went by that she didn't wrap everyone of us in her arms, hug us tight, kiss our faces and tell us she loved us. She taught us to love reading, taking us to the library weekly to check out books. I can still smell those books. She read to us nightly, tucking us in each night; again hugging, kissing and saying I love you. She taught us we could do anything and become anyone. She encouraged us to experience life, see the world and never quit. Even though we qualified for every government program, she chose to live within the means my dad provided. We went without a lot. I can't imagine the stress she must have felt trying to clothe and feed us. She was an amazing cook, she could turn the simplest ingredients into a delicious meal. She had her weaknesses; she was head strong. I remember the school sending free cheese home with the younger girls. My mom sent them back to school to relay the message, "We don't need free cheese."  I think so many people criticized her for having 12 kids and accused her of not being able to provide for them she was determined to prove them all wrong. She was asked once, "How are you going to educate all those kids?" inferring we would become a drain on society. 
I am a product of this upbringing. I learned to love but I also learned to not trust. I learned that people who are suppose to love you often hurt you. I can remember the day I decided to never let my dad see me cry again. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I let anger become my primary emotion that day, masking all the softer more vulnerable emotions. In essence, shutting them off and burying them.  I wasn't ready to make that life changing decision at 23 when I said yes to the man of my dreams. 

It would take 21 years 5 months and 6 amazing kids later before I would be much better prepared to make that decision. I find it interesting that God knew we weren't ready to adequately choose each other in 1996 yet He still put us together. It's been living life, learning about myself amid the chaos and stress that I found me. The me that would not have chosen Ryan at 23, the same me that would never leave him at 45. I believe my true happiness will only be found with him.  It's been a bumpy road so far, full of ups and downs. I've learned that love is a choice and it is much different than romance. Love has the ability to heal, grow and provide comfort. An emotional earthquake occurred the summer of 2016 at our home. I think we all have felt the aftershocks.  We are rebuilding and sometimes that can be slow. I found that I was experiencing some of the same emotions that motherhood had provoked. I remember the hopelessness I had felt before I started writing. It was in writing each night, processing the emotions, allowing myself to feel them that I finally figured out motherhood. It is my hope I can find the same understanding writing about marriage. I hope it will bring the same joy and peace I happened upon alone the journey of motherhood. 

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