Friday, July 20, 2012


I think it may be pretty obvious that I have issues with being liked. It's all a bit twisty in my head but I really want people to like me and then I don't believe the ones who actually do like me actually like me. Crazy, isn't it.

I've said it before and I will say it again, I blame my father. I think the experiences we have as young children (all the way up to our teen years even) can really shape our perspective and view of the world around us. I blame my father for my lack of confidence in building relationships because he left. Sadly that isn't an unfamiliar tune and in my case, not only did he leave but he left me, my mother and my brother. My sister, he took with him as he and his new lady friend needed a babysitter. If you were to ask him he would say my sister chose to go with him but you would have to understand the horrifying experience she had just before the big fallout (being bribed with a pony didn't hurt either). While I was too young to truly understand that my father had abandoned the family and in fact kidnapped my older sister (who really did the bulk of caring for me as our mother was suffering a depressive episode at the time) I did know on some sort of visceral level that I was left behind and in a matter of formulating it all in my mind I determined that I was simply not good enough.

This idea that people who should care for us can up and leave at any time and do just that put a damper on my social skills. I remember spending much of my childhood running home in tears and experiencing some sort of melt-down or another because I felt unliked. It probably was not true, at least not in the way I perceived (young children CAN be fickle at times, it is their wont). But either way I built up this flight response to friendships.

Leave them first, don't become attached and they can't hurt you.

That was my unspoken mantra. It also turned me into a super shy teenager. A super dorky, vintage clothes-wearing, bespecktacled, crooked toothed wallflower. I was so fearful of interacting with my peers I became known as the pale stuck-up girl. My first year in highschool, I developed a reputation for being a  narc. Yup, that's me, just add me to the cast of 21 Jump Street.

All wasn't too awful. I stepped out to make friends my final year in junior high and have even managed to keep one  or two of them. My first year in highschool was all kinds of awkward but I found a solid core group of other wallflowery types and we created our own gang of sorts. But this post isn't about that, it's about how I grew up without a father who, by the way is most definitely alive and kicking and that my friends, kills me. He left my brother and I with a very sick woman. Don't get me wrong, I loved my mother immensely. It still makes me weepy to think of her gone. It's making me weepy as I type right now but truthfully she was sick. She was physically ill with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and mentally crippled through depression both inborn and as a result of our father's leaving (they were junior high school sweethearts). She self medicated with alcohol (Kalua and vodka from my early years, wine in a box for my later years) and often could be heard crying herself to sleep. What kind of foundation do you think that gave me?

So, when I was three, my father left. He placed my mother in a mental facility and stole away in the night with my sister and his new family. He left us with a mortgage payment that could not be covered and an empty bank account. Up until that moment he took care of my mother, he took charge as a man should as this was the early 70s. He left and he never paid child support or alimony and so I grew up on welfare and food stamps. My crooked teeth probably could have been fixed but my mother was defeated by life, my asthma probably could have been helped but she didn't know how make things happen. Her medications were so awful she was prone to blackouts and so having a drivers license was out of the question. We walked or took the bus everywhere and we survived on the kindness of neighbors, family and strangers (it made high school an uncomfortable embarrassment for me always having to decline or allow my friends to pay for my Taco Bell).

Whatever you make of this, what I am trying to articulate is that I know I always whine and poke fun at myself as being socially inept but the truth is I am. When I was young I played by myself much of the time so didn't really get a lot of practice in the social circles of my youth. So now, I'm kinda always a little bit on the outside, not quite getting the joke, saying things that may be considered thoughtless or rude and well, I'm just happier muddling by myself yet so ridiculously wanting of good friends I'm a constant contradiction.

With a capital "C'.

I can engage and people seem to like me but it doesn't stop that underlying fear that I'm mucking things up left and right and so, I blame my father. He was the first domino that tipped and well, we all know how that goes.

The crazier thing is that I "ran" into my stepmother online. Pinterest of all places and well, that's a rabbit hole I'm not ready to fall down just yet. But I ask how can people proclaim that family is the most important thing to them when they took a man away from his own. Okay, took isn't the right word, he left of his own accord but, BUT he also took us away from my mother calling her unfit and kept us for all of six weeks before the great abandonment happened and THAT my friends, was because of this woman. This woman whose face leers in my memory as she yelled at and slapped my three year old self...constantly. I can still feel her fingers, sharp and pointy as they dug into my arm with a yank this way or that way and she claims that family is the most important thing and I suppose she is right but it has to be HER family. See? I kinda slipped down that hole and believe me it doesn't go to wonderland.

And now I am trying, trying, trying to wrap this all up in a positive note so what can I say? Oh, I know. So, if all of this wonky upbringing, wonky bits and all, deadbeat dad and all, bad abusive boyfriend included, I guess I wouldn't be the me that I am. I might still be quirky of sorts but I wonder how much empathy and compassion (and angst and off-humor) would define who I was because in a nutshell, all these not-so-great experiences have pushed me to think of the underlying reason for our behavior both good and not-so-good. It is what propelled me to study children and their development and it is what moved me past simply applying all those theories to the young child and laying them atop people of all ages. I can bitch and moan about people and actions that I do not like but ultimately, while I am bitching and moaning, I'm stepping back to view a wider picture to see if I can find that domino that toppled over and pushed them into the direction they are going. If I had not experienced so much chaos and confusion in my earlier years, I do not think I would be the observer I am and sometimes the best view at the dance is the one that holds up the wall.


  1. Anonymous7:06 PM

    I am crying right now.

    My mama was schizophrenic. I know a little bit about how a person takes the shit they lived through and vows not to let it define who they are.

    You are not an outsider, Jek. You are a survivor.

    Sending much cyber-love your way - FWIW. It's not the same as a real hug, but it's all I've got.


  2. Don't really know what to say...but didn't want to read and run.

  3. I can relate to a whole lot of what you said here.

  4. There are two big things I have learned in life that have saved me from the abyss. One I learned that repeat to myself when the dark comes calling: I don't have to like the things that have happened to me, but I do have to accept them. I like who I am now, and good or bad those things shaped the person I am today. Two is that I am over what people think of me. I am a good person, I try to do the right thing always. I don't owe anyone an explination for my actions because I am responsible for the things that I do. I also CANNOT change anyone else only myself.

    Those things freed me more than I can say. You are not that little girl abandoned by your father, because he didn't abandon you, he took the easy way out. That is no reflection on you or your worth as a the end things happen (even really awful things) and we survive, we learn, we adapt in ways we may not understand till we're out of those situations and have some perspective. You seem to have a nice life now, that YOU have built, through YOUR choices. Celebrate the things you do that are positive, (which I see a lot of here on your blog) and take the negatives in your past as the rough, hard building blocks that serve as a foundation for the life you've built now. The past can't hurt you if you don't allow it to and beyond any sadness there is the strength you've found from what you've been through. Every day you get up and share the hope in yourself with those that truely care about you, those times outweight and will always outweight the bad past.

    1. I couldn't have found better words.

  5. i had a similar upbringing. i understand about being the wallflower and finding your own group of misfits. good thing is, two of them are still my best friends. but i understand. i understand about your mother. and your father. my kids' dads both abandoned them. it hurt my daughter much worse than my son. i have an intense fear of abandonement because of my own childhood. like you, i wonder if people really like me sometimes. but i have a wonderful partner, and you do too. i don't know if i would be alive to tell the tale without him. i'm sorry you had to run into your stepmother. it's hard to know what to do. i wish you all the love and blessings there. and just know you are not alone, some of the rest of us understand xx

  6. My father and husband both had fathers who abandoned them- in my dad's case, his father left his wife and children for another woman and her children. I cannot fathom how any person can do that to their kids. Not even a little. I think both my father and husband have spent their lives not feeling "good enough". I hate that. My dad has probably been depressed his whole life and I think his greatest driving force has been to NOT be anything like his father. He took care of his mother, his own wife and children, numerous grandchildren and step grandchildren- he will never leave a kid out in the cold (though expressing his feelings is a whole other matter). My husband worries about losing those he loves, but the other side of that that he makes sure he's a person who treats others well. He is a great husband and father and steadfast friend. We've been together 27 years and my parents have been together 50 years. So what I wanted to say by blabbing on about all this is that it gives me hope for the human race when I meet or hear about people like them and you, because you are proof that even a heartbreaking childhood can be overcome. You have a wonderful partner and your blogs and flickr have brought a lot of happiness to a whole lot of people and you make little kids happy. In a lot of ways, you have transcended your childhood. I'm glad the internet was invented so I could get to know about you:)

  7. I read your blog regularly but rarely comment- feels a bit stalker-ish since I don't now you in real life. But I can't read this and then click away. Just want to send you some love and let you know that I like you. If we lived in the same state I would bake you something yummy and run it right over.

  8. Jek, this was such a moving post. I echo what others have said here, that your past does not have to define you. But I also wanted to let you know how much joy you bring to my life through your words and pictures. You share so much of yourself, and I find that so beautiful. This leads into some of the other posts you've written lately about not feeling like one of the "popular" bloggers, and I've wanted to just jump in and tell you to continue walking in your don't need to be like the others, and I think you know this in your heart. When I grow tired of the heavily-edited, "my-life-is-perfect" blogs (hey, I admit I love 'em and read 'em), I know I can find a refreshingly-authentic perspective in yours. I feel like your blog is like an old, close friend: brutally honest, no bullsh*t, faithful and true, the girlfriend who's got the coffee brewing and her shoulder ready to cry on, to share secrets and giggle with. And if you feel that that is what is keeping you from making it into the popular circle, then f*ck it. Your blog is the first one I read every day, so THERE, girlfriend.
    p.s. - thank you for sharing this particular really touched me.