Usually when we hear this word, it is associated with something negative -And for good reason.
Dictionary.com defines abandonment as: the act of leaving completely and finally; forsake utterly; desert, to give up, to give up the control of, withdraw from etc.
However, one thing that is not always discussed in relation to abandonment is whether or not it is always optional or voluntary.
For me, I believe my experience comes closer to something of the latter. My parents divorced when I was still a young girl, but the term abandonment was never something that registered to me as being something I had experienced. For example, both of my parents were very present in my life. It wasn’t that either of my parents had walked out on us or just willingly chose to forgo all their parental responsibilities. They were both always there to support and take care of us. We were fed, clothed, and had a place to stay.
Unfortunately though, because of the way the custody had worked out when we were kids as well as the circumstances at the time, it was decided that my mother would have sole custody of us and we would see our dad only every two weekends.
I never realized how this situation would have an effect on me but with new found wisdom and maturity I’ve since discovered some profound ways this situation would come to influence my life.
Its not all good or bad. In all honesty there is a lot to take away but that doesn’t mean no good or bad existed at all.
Within the last two years or so, I decided to seriously prioritize my health. But not just my physical health… –My emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. So I decided to try and find a therapist. I had written this approach off as not for me but luckily found the ‘right’ person I could connect to on my first try this time. And to my surprise, my angel of a therapist immediately started helping me to unearth things I had long been looking to make sense of myself for a long time. Or perhaps I could have but I just wasn’t ready in the past to confront these darker emotions.
Ahh. Relationships. Not that I went to her because I needed advice on them but for me, they didn’t always have the most positive connotation. But why? Well to put it simply, I didn’t want what happened to my parents, to happen to me. Here were two people who definitely loved each other but because life just goes the way it does sometimes, had ended up separating in a way which was well, devastating for the children who were born into this world seeing these two great people as their example of love and what love was meant to be like, utterly come crashing down before their eyes. It wasn’t that we feared love. But what we did fear was its finiteness. We knew early on that our fairy tales of perfect pictures were wrong and that indeed even if you could be so incredibly in love with someone for some portion of your life that it didn’t always mean it would last forever. But then if something as great as love can’t even last, what in our lives can?
As a kid I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it to you in this way but I see now that maybe this is why I can revel in any occurrence of consistency in my life. I was never a big fan of drastic changes and yet I had to learn to rely on the fact that nothing in my life would remain constant. Motion is a part of life and while I understand this to be true, it doesn’t mean I can always manage the anxiety that it can cause. Sometimes it’s immobilizing. I also had such a fear of abandonment from my own romantic relationships. The thought that perhaps if the ‘one’ I was investing in would leave, that I would be ruined. It would be the thing to end everything. But why? My father never left me? It wasn’t like those other stories I had heard about where someone’s father just leaves them with nothing to say or no explanation.
And yet, here my therapist asks me straightforwardly, “Do you ever feel like you were emotionally abandoned by your father?”
Talk about Ouch! (Granted I loved that she asked me this question though and in such a blunt way because often I can be a bit of a skeptic but she really laid it on me and didn’t give me any room to budge.)
I remember this moment so profoundly because I could feel a knot rising up in my throat when she said this and tears swelling, coming to my eyes. I remember this so profoundly because quite possibly I had already known the truth, which was that I had always felt this. I just didn’t know how to say it.
And furthermore, a part of me had never wanted to admit it because I thought I would be doing a disservice to my father if I ever admitted that this was the case. It wasn’t until recently that I started to realize that I could feel emotionally abandoned by my father while still acknowledging that he never would have chosen to voluntarily abandon me in such a way.
So thus, I present the nuances of life that we all too often don’t want to address. –The reality that maybe sometimes circumstances provide the right scenarios for us to get hurt but maybe it’s not really anyone’s fault either. Part of growing up I find is recognizing the gray areas of our lives that do not always give us clear answers to our problems and accepting the bitterness that comes from them. As well as more importantly, learning to let go of them too.
I find that a lot of strength has been found within myself because of the experiences I have had. I think living out of a suitcase every other weekend prepared me in the best way possible for traveling. And I laugh at the irony of it all now. Because there was a time when I questioned if this lifestyle was for me? If I would be able to handle it?
And yet I have managed just fine. I know how to minimize what I pack because I know what clothes pair well to mix and match. I don’t have very many material possessions I value and the ones I do have are usually pictures of my family or things associated with them somehow. I learned that I can take home with me wherever I go and carry the ones most dear to me quietly and tenderly in my heart. I learned self-reliance and that I have everything I need within myself so I never need to fear that the realistic possibility of falling out of love with someone would be the worst thing to happen to me. Ironically its allowed me to love all the more unapologetically and fiercely. I recognize the urgency in living for right now because I know all too well what the feeling of ‘lost time you feel you can never get back’ is. And most of all it taught me that finiteness is a part of life so I awake each morning appreciating the moments I can share with those who I care about most since at least these memories remain.