The pattern of leaving Shannon started young.
My father walked out of my first birthday party, shortly before I took my first steps, and my family unit was over. June 1, 1981. My dad was gone. He didn't want me (and my mom) anymore.
Fast forward several years, my mom had remarried and they had my little sister, Blair. Her leaving had a much greater finality to it. She was hit and killed by a car in front of me, the only eye witness. May 26, 1989. I was not quite nine.
After that my mom and step-dad slowly left me emotionally; their grief was all-consuming. They had nothing to give for quite some time.
A few more years passed and one of my grandfathers suffered a fall, a traumatic brain injury, and died. This man was a giant in my life, in all of our lives, gone. July 1996.
I exited childhood, entered adulthood, found faith, and a calling found me, and eventually found the guy who would become my husband. I choke on those words. Husband. He was anything but that. His leaving was a daily rejection, visceral and physical in nature. He clearly communicated to me that I was worthless, on a daily basis. My presence in his life was a hinderance, a burden and I would never be an acceptable wife, or woman. His every action communicated that, for nearly ten years. Until finally I left. March 2012.
The leavings that occurred after my decision to leave my marriage were staggering. Friends left 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. My church told me to leave, 2013. My aunt, a loving figure in my life, died, 2013. Ultimately, my best friend of 14 years decided I was selfish, a burden, and she left too, 2014. My brother's cancer returned and threatened to make him leave as well, 2014. Thank God he didn't.
To say being left is written in to my being would be accurate. A black mark against my existence. A wound that has affected how I relate with others.
Despite that, I have continued to move forward in my life. Committed to the idea that the past is not where I exist. I continued placing myself in situations where I again could be left. Enrolling in seminary. Making new friends. Dating, developing relationships. While doing those things I have struggled through the fear of being left, again. I have steeled myself against risk. Protecting my heart and soul from rejection by only offering my mind to those relationships, those scenarios. But as my commitment to growth required me to, I began offering my heart, knowing I could be left again, at a deeper level. And it has happened. More have left.
I have come to the place where I now understand I will always feel just a little bit "left."
Through no fault of those in my life and no fault necessarily of my own, there is a broken piece of me that will continue to feel those wounds. There is this desperate little girl inside of me that is willing to do whatever it takes to no longer feel left. She'll perform any task, dance any jig, climb any mountain just to ensure that no one ever leaves her again. To silence her is impossible, but what I can do is to help her feel heard.
People will leave. I will need to leave some of them. They will be unhealthy or we will be unhealthy for each other and one of us will decide to go. I'll leave jobs or churches or friendships of my own accord. And the little girl will scream, she will want the pain to stop. She just wants to STOP losing PEOPLE. It hurts. But that is not real life. People come and go and it just is. The problem comes from expecting that to not be. And from interpreting other actions that are not leaving as rejection. Every subtly as a mark against you.
You can't stand in a group of people without someone there having abandonment issues. Perhaps everyone there does. It's written into their story. Someone left them and they carry that wound with them. It enters their relationships and how they interact in their workplace. They're just slightly skittish wondering if there is a landmine somewhere that will result in being left again.
I forget, we all do, a couple of things when I relate this way. Most of what everyone else does to me, around me, says to me, has nothing to do with me. It is them telling their own story. They are speaking from their own place. Their actions and words, or lack of words is, about their own needs, fears, inadequacies, selfishness, on display. But I/we don't see that. We see their actions as a statement about us. And when we misinterpret (interpret from a self-centered approach) another's actions we are almost guaranteed to feel badly. When we forget that the same ego in us that is driving us to think it's all about us, is in them driving them to think only about them, we are destined for pain.
We also forget that leaving isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes people have left me and months or years later I have been grateful because the pain has lessened and I see that their leaving was the best thing for me. Sometimes we have left people knowing we were doing so out of good motivations on our own part. I have ended some friendships where I know the other person was wondering why, possibly feeling rejected, but ultimately it was the best thing for both of us.
It's hard to carry that wounded little girl around inside of me. Sometimes I wish she would just grow up or move on, get over herself already. So selfish and self-centered, god, it's annoying. I don't usually treat her with kindness. I want to squelch her and shut her up. Usually I'm the least kind to myself. Shutting her up doesn't make her go away, it just prolongs the pain. The path to health is compassion, a willingness to listen to how much it still hurts. Understanding that the pain from some of those wounds is deep and really hard to heal. The path to healing probably means I need to abandon the phrase I repeat to myself "just don't cry." As if crying is a sign of weakness, or maybe more accurately crying means the pain is real, and if I don't cry I can still deny feeling it.
There are still broken parts of me. But rather than seeing those pieces as hinderances to overcome, maybe they are gifts that create in me an awareness of how better to interact with others. Perhaps I spend so much time trying to squelch the pain that I forget to use the pain as a tool to be more authentically me and in so doing give the gift of my whole self to those I love. I fail to see my broken parts as gifts, I want to be shiny and new and whole. But the only time I have truly been able to sit with another person and help them hold their pain was when I was willing to acknowledge my own. That I had been there too. Hell sometimes I was still there in that moment. I may always feel a little bit "left." There might not be this place of illusionary complete security on this planet for me. But if there's not, then that wound is still with me because it is useful. God wastes nothing. Not even broken little girls.