continued from Just me. part one.
The summer of 2010, we all went to a retreat for women where my sister in law was the guest speaker. My mother in law, three of my four sisters in law and my little sister all went up to Pinetop together. Even on the way up the mountain, I was feeling nervous. I must do this; I mustn’t do that… Lists of commands and things to remember flowed through my head and I was getting a stomach ache. How would I be able to accomplish this? It sounds like a little too much to ask of me but my family loyalty was running deep even though they never went out of their way to make me feel a part of the group; if anything, they helped me to realize that I really didn’t belong.
In order to not show any loyalty to one sister over the other, I distanced myself. This distancing was something that I had become accustomed to while growing up because it hurt so bad to be my true self… besides, I had homework. I didn’t realize that I was distancing myself; I just thought that I was an introvert. Besides, it was easier to find an escape in a novel or at the library. At least there, in the world of my books, I was safe. No ridicule there.
One night during the retreat, I felt that I needed to have my sister in law, Dawn, pray for me. I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what for but I was really reluctant. Really, really reluctant. As reluctant as I was feeling, I couldn’t make myself walk away. It was the strangest thing; like watching a car crash: you know that it’s gruesome but you just can’t turn away. So, I stayed and I waited for the time (I guess that I was actually waiting for the courage) to ask for prayer. Tears started flowing because I had a feeling that this was a big moment. Not only was I getting over my aversion of asking for help, I was also getting out of my comfort zone: I was going to have to move out of the background of everything and have everyone looking at me and listening to me and caring about what I was going to say. And, for me, that was very scary.
I walked up to her with the prodding of my little sister, “Just go ask her. Go ask her.” I walked up and asked for prayer. But, Dawn already knew that I’d wanted prayer so she already knew how to pray. This was good for me because when she asked what I wanted prayer for, I simply said, “I don’t know.” And, when I think about it now, I still don’t know. I was feeling like I didn’t belong there with all of these women who seemed so close to God. It certainly would have been strange to have a spiritual breakthrough with all of these seemingly mature women around. I don’t want to feel like a kid.
The theme of the woman’s retreat was spiritual growth and I was about to grow spiritually. Dawn and some of my other friends all prayed for me. Friends who, since this time, I have become really close to. They told me some of the things that God had told them but that He hadn’t told me: I was going to have kids that looked different from me, my life work is social work, but then they got to the things that I’d already known: my self-esteem.
“You don’t feel like you belong. This is a feeling that you’ve struggled with for your whole life. God wants you to know that just because you’ve married into another family who loves you, your loving them doesn’t make you any less loyal to your original family.”
And, that’s how I knew that it actually was God talking to me through my sister in law. I never told her that. How in the heck does she know the way I’ve been feeling… for my entire life?
“Your parents in law love you very much as though you were their own daughter. They’d do anything for you.”
It was happening. The tears.
“You’re not being disloyal to your mom and sisters and brothers. You’re blessed because now you have a bigger family than you could’ve ever imagined. You are free to be yourself. Don’t hold back. Their love will not stop.”
And the dam broke. I was sobbing. Crying out all of the pain that I’d held in for my entire life. I could feel that they loved me. When I was with my husband’s family, I felt accepted for being me: a kind of nerdy, book geek with a knack for organization, a witty humor and an insatiable need to be right all of the time.
The Beards loved me for who I was and didn’t point out all of the differences that we had… especially the most obvious ones. I hadn’t realized that I felt at home when I was hanging out with them at their house. I was free to be me.
Now, after being married to my husband and being a member of my new family for nearly seven years, it’s hard to remember the reluctance from his dad about his dating me. It’s hard to remember that my mom felt that I was ruining the family by marrying a person of a differing ethnicity. It’s also hard for me to remember the feelings of alienation and not fitting in to my own family… until I spend a lot of time with them (with my birth family).
And, I’ve had time to make peace about my feelings and the way I felt growing up and well into adulthood. As time has passed, I have begun spending more of my family time with my new family and less time with my original family. This is not a bad thing. I made a choice. Being with people who actually act like they love me is more important than an obligation to spend my time with people who don’t. I don’t feel guilty about my choice. I’ve talked to my mom and sisters about the way I allowed them to make me feel. They have said that they see how happy I am when I am with Wes’s family… that it’s like I am a different person than the one they’ve always known. But, I’m not different when I’m with the rest of the Beards… I am just me.