The new year is fresh, like a newborn calf finding its wobbly feet.
I sent a voice text to one of my dear friends trying to recap the first eight days of January. She listened deeply and gave a heartfelt response. "Are you sure you are okay" was her immediate reply. I had to think about it for a second and tried to recall the words I had sent. It was a lot to jam into a 2-minute message; it replayed to reflect on the points I touched on. I need help remembering. While relistening to the voice message, my eyes welled up. I could hear my tender words, trying to soften the weight of emotions. My voice was shaking, sharing only a fraction of my feelings. My voice text held only brief versions of stories, while I thought I was holding back the intensity of grief; my body vibrated.
This past year was a tremendous opportunity for growth.
It's a new year, and I am wobbly.
I was born into intergenerational abuse and experienced childhood trauma. Through my family of origin, I inherited unhealthy ways of coping with high control, manipulation and abuse. I married young, had children, and only knew how to participate in dysfunctional relationships. As an adult, I sought new systems of powerful influence that differed from my upbringing without understanding that I was recreating cycles of harm.
Last week I spoke on a podcast (dropping January 25, I will tell you more then). I publically share my history of starting therapy when I was 21 because I needed help. But for many years, I have felt like those early years of remedying trauma were a waste of time because I didn't find the proper support to break the cycle that showed up in many corners of my parenting life. That thought landed differently; for once I saw my success, I noticed that I worked with what was right in front of me early on in therapy. I used to joke that my therapist saved me from going to jail, which is true. I didn't want to be the same kind of parent that raised me, and though no one went to prison, times had changed. Jokes aside, it was better but not great.
People got hurt.
The reality of not comprehending the impact of my own trauma was that I wasn't raising my hand but frequently raising my voice.
The outgoing voice message to my friend was about how the holidays blew up. My children are adults now; our parent-child relationship is changing; we are at a threshold, reckoning with the reality of complex past interactions that left them with deep emotional scars. To see their bravery and vulnerability with me and to hear how my complicated inner life had complicated our outer life. It was messy. I certainly messed up, navigating the uncharted water of responsibility and ownership of the pain rendered. No matter how much therapy, memoir writing, journalling, healing, or therapeutic trips to undo the knots of trauma had not fully prepared me for the heartbreaking moment.
It was messy.
Last year, I attended a Forgiveness class with Janja Lalich, read books, more therapy, more drugs and more hard conversations that keep me accountable. I am grateful I have the tools to apologize and forgive myself.
Proudly and painfully, I am breaking intergenerational chains, which is a shaky beginning. I found Helen Austin on Tiktok sharing her story about being a cycle breaker. Her content is familiar, and our stories are similar, yet shame keeps us silent.
I am growing alongside you, beloved and delightful Substack community. So many things about 2023 that feel different already. This community makes me grateful.
Thank you for being part of it. Thank you for listening.
Ps. Leave a comment below or hit "reply" and connect if you feel like it. I read all of your replies.
We all have/had growing pains. But the results make it worth it. Mwah!
Powerful. I can relate to the generational abuse, the shame, and the quest to learn and grow while striving to not repeat the dysfunctional patterns. I find the challenges difficult at times and constantly look for ways to give myself credit for the amazing work I have done. I hope you will give yourself the credit you so deserve for all the ways you have continued to grow and prosper.