I started writing here out of necessity, almost urgently, without a plan or much of an introduction, because this space is for me. I don’t know if many people will ever read it. If they do and it helps them, awesome, but that isn’t what it’s for. This space is for me to process. And I decided that what I want to process next in my journey is not what I’m working through in real-time right now, but my past. I find that reflecting back helps me develop empathy and grace for myself.
I find it easy to have empathy and grace for others. I excuse others over and over, to the point of enablement. And when someone comes to me complaining about others, I give so many excuses for the others behavior – even if I’ve never met them – which is both illogical & nonsensical (because I don’t know that person and if they have any good excuse for their behavior or are just a bully), and demeaning to the person I love standing right in front of me. I.E. when Brave Lion comes home from school and wants to talk about someone who made her feel crappy, instead of saying, “I’m so sorry, that must have really hurt you”, I find myself saying “Wow, they must have had a really tough day, think about what they’re going through.” In reality, people can be jerks, and my kids need my empathy and support, not to feel like I’m supporting a stranger more than them. So, as I type this up and process through my journey, I want to recognize that flaw in myself – both towards the ones I’m closest to, and myself. I’ve been through some times that were a real strain on my stamina, my resilience, my mental health. I share my tendencies to quickly empathize for strangers over the ones I love, in recognition that… I’ve got work to do. I need to develop empathy towards the ones I love most, as well as myself… I want to love the human God created, in all my imperfection, as he does.
I was born in the 80s and lived in suburbs of Flint, Michigan for the first 12 years of my life. My family moved a lot. My parents met in the army, and when they found out they were pregnant with me, they left at their next opportunity; they didn’t want to raise an ‘army brat’. I was an only child for 4.5 years, then was joined by a younger sister. Then, 18 months later, another sister. Not many memories stand out from early childhood, probably normal considering I’ve been on this earth for over 35 years now. I vaguely remember my original youngest sister being born, I remember being in the hospital and told to count backwards from 100 when I was about to have my tonsils removed, and I remember our giant circular goldfish pond, and feeding ducks at the park by the bookstore owned by a lady from church. I have lots of memories of my grandparents, some I recounted in my post about my Grandma who recently went to be with Jesus earlier this year. I remember girl scouts and church youth group. I had stability in my church family and attended the same church from my earliest memories, until I was 11 years old. I also have a few early memories of getting bullied at school by a couple different kids, and later by a neighbor. Instead of embracing my differences and presenting myself as cool, I stayed quiet and reserved and took whatever people said to me as truth. I didn’t defend myself; I absorbed their insults and believed I was a weirdo. We moved every couple years, and I really looked forward to it, as I knew I’d get to start over with a new group of friends, and have another chance at being ‘not a weirdo’. I was passive, quiet, reserved. I was an observer, and rarely got into conflict with others; until 4th grade. I don’t think my parents were ever called about a minor altercation with a girl at school, but I recall standing up for the first time. We moved about 6 months later, and it was time for a new group of friends. This was temporary, and I spent 6 months in a suburb closer to Detroit than flint. I joined a soccer team. From a young age, my mom had taken me biking. I remember her teaching me some hand signals, how to cross roads and when to turn at intersections. Biking was my freedom, and I found my way around several local neighborhoods. Shortly thereafter, we moved back towards Flint, but in a different suburb. This time, I didn’t feel like a tagalong in a group that didn’t seem to want me around, or just had me around as a pawn to control. For the first time, I had friends who actually wanted me to hang out with them.
After a couple years in this town, it was time for a bigger move. This time, we changed states; from Michigan to Illinois. Illinois was flat and boring, and there weren’t near as many trees. When we moved out there, my Dad and I went quite a while before my Mom and younger sisters, who stayed to finish out the school year. I’d miss my friends, but I was ready, and my parents decided I could move before school was done for the year. It was spring, and I was always ready to move and start over. When we got to Illinois, we lived in a Holiday Inn for a while until we could move into our new house. I was my Dad’s helper and loved being the big sister who went there to prepare. I hung out at the hotel while my Dad was working, and in the evening we shopped at the mall and got the house ready to move in. The house was in a great neighborhood; it was a great place to bike. There were several other connecting neighborhoods, and I could ride for hours. I enrolled at the local school to finish up my 7th grade year, and it was at this point that I’d meet friends that I’m still in contact with today. Just in time too; I had friends to go to the local skating rink with all summer long. I have vivid memories of these years; what came next would be the best friendship of all.