How I Survived My DNA
We always like to think that we get our personality traits from our mother and father. But what do we get when our parents are dysfunctional? I grew up with alcoholic parents who verbally and physically abused each other and verbally abused their children. I hear many people say – ‘well my parents were like that and that is why I’m like that today.’ Growing up I knew that was the furthest of whom I wanted to be! I always wanted a family like my friend’s; who did things together, who were loving towards one another and encouraging. What happened to Ozzie and Harriet? Here’s my story….
FRL: What would you say was the hardest thing about hearing and seeing the abuse from you parents? How did you deal with your feelings during that time, how did you cope?
The hardest thing about hearing and seeing the abuse was fear. I was fearful that it would turn on us kids or that someone would really get hurt. The fighting usually started on a weekend after they went out for dinner and drank. By the time they came home my little brothers were already sleeping in their room and I use to pretend that I was sleeping in my room. What I was really doing was praying for God to stop it. (At that age, I don’t remember how I found out about God, as we didn’t go to church). After the yelling and fighting my mother would come into my room and sleep with me in my bed. I absolutely hated that as it brought the fighting and yelling into my room.
FRL: How did that affect your view of marriage?
My marriage was my escape into normalcy! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I would bring some of my parent’s traits into my marriage. I thought marriage would be easier than what it was. I’m not saying my marriage was difficult but I think anytime two people come together in marriage and move in together there are difficulties during the change. We are all very different in what and how we do things and a common ground needs to be found. I’m thankful my husband came from a good family and was very laid back. He was very loving. I was trying not to bring those traits from my childhood into my marriage, yet living through what I did made me a strong person wanting to be different. Since we were married in our early twenties I would say we grew up together. Once I was out of my childhood home and making my own home and marriage, my life was getting better.
My marriage was my happy place at that time. I loved my husband and enjoyed being with him and working towards our goals together. He came from a very loving family and I enjoyed being around them. My in-laws moved to Florida during our first year of marriage so we would visit them often. They were warm and loving towards me. They had a good marriage and it was a good influence on me.
So when my temper got the best of me, he stayed calm, never reacted. He loved me unconditionally just like Jesus does. My temper slowly dissipated. I learned how to discuss my viewpoints without a raised voice. We worked together towards a common goal, something my parents didn’t do. I received love and affirmation from my husband which was something I really didn’t receive too much of as a child. During our marriage we went to a catholic church as my husband’s family was catholic. They showed me the joy and peace you get from believing in God and going to church. Church at that time for me was a peaceful place. I really felt God there.
FRL: When you realized that God is the one who offers joy and peace, how did that impact how you felt about how you were raised? How did it change your view of your marriage?
I was looking for joy and peace everywhere but God. When I found out that God was my heavenly Father, that He loved me unconditionally and I didn’t have to prove myself to him, I found my joy and peace. God knew I was a sinner that I wasn’t perfect and He didn’t judge me! What a relief because I hadn’t made all the right choices in my life. I wasn’t a nice person all the time, but He had and always will love me. What I think this realization did in the long run was take off the expectation and disappointments I had in my parents. They weren’t perfect either. They worked hard to provide for their family. But I was still loved unconditionally by God!
After finding the joy, peace and contentment I no longer felt to control my marriage. I learned to put God first in my marriage and then my husband. We worked together more harmoniously and the word here that is important is together. We were on the same page! It was an easy marriage after that. Oh we still had our ups and downs but we knew we weren’t going anywhere and that we would work our problems out.
I still have some of those traits from my parents but I have managed to figure out – is it worth losing my temper over something or is it better just to turn it over to God? My friend has this saying – “It is what it is!” You can’t control everything. Through my trials in life I now say – “It is what it is” and I don’t fret the small stuff. Life is too short for that. My husband was raised Catholic and I didn’t come from a church background. But since I was a little girl I knew there was a God and that there was something better there. We attended a Catholic Church. I felt very calm being inside Church and thought that I was closer to Him because it was His house. I didn’t particularly enjoy the rituals, but it was God’s house. I believe those beginning years of going to church helped bond my husband and I together because we were focused on God.
FRL: Going back to your parents, what did they say to you and how did that make you feel? How did you react during that time?
I don’t ever remember receiving affirmation from my parents. My mother use to tell me how stupid I was in school and I think that made me stop trying. I loved my Art classes and received A’s in there. But she didn’t appreciate my artwork and suggested that several of my sculptures should be used as doorstops. After not getting encouragement or affirmation a person just stops trying. I really wish I had had a mentor or a close adult that I could have been close with and have been guided on life.
By not receiving encouragement or affirmation from my parents, I think I stopped trying in school and ended up taking vocation courses even though I really wanted to be a teacher. Okay, maybe I wasn’t the best but I tried. After a while I would start believing my mother. I had a brother three years older than me and as I would follow in his steps in school, several teachers would say that they hoped I was as good as he was! That didn’t help me! I just wanted to crawl under a rock. I never seemed to be able to bloom into myself. Junior and High School were very awkward for me. My parents and I never talked about what I would do after High School graduation. (I guess they didn’t think I would graduate.) My dad told me it was better for my brothers to go to college, as they would be supporting a family and that I would just be a housewife! Out of three brothers only one went and I have worked full-time for most of my adult life except for maybe eight years. No one ever asked me what I wanted to do. The day after graduation I started a full-time job not realizing there were ways for me to go to college.
During my career I did have great mentors who encouraged me to take evening college courses. I took management courses at John Carroll University and accounting classes at night at the local college. I was receiving affirmation in the work place and I kept trying to prove myself there and worked to move up on the ladder. Even the last several years I attended seminary and received my degree. I have good friends that encourage and push me. Yes, I can!
FRL: You now have a beautiful daughter. How deliberate were you in raising her?
Becoming a parent, I found out that there really isn’t a manual on how to be the best parent you can. But I did read several books about parenting. Even before I gave birth, I was reading to her and talking to her. I loved being a mother and I had a great husband who loved being a father. I like to think that I gave our daughter affirmation, encouragement, empathy when needed, discipline (not much was needed there!) and love. I pray that her father and I were able to give her the skills to make the decisions that she has needed to in life and to feel comfortable with her decisions. So far, I think she has done a really good job. I’m very proud being her Mom.
Every day was a special day being a mother. I wanted our daughter to have a better life than I did and we tried to give that to her. But on top of all, she was very loved. We wanted the best education for her, and I always told her she was going to college. Somehow, someway it would be there for her to do what she wanted. My husband and I always encouraged her, made sure she had the necessary items she needed to succeed in whatever she was doing while I was working full-time. I’m proud to say she went to college and then on to Law School.
Every day her dad and I made sure to tell her that we loved her and that we were proud of her no matter how successful she was. God gave her to us to raise in love, just like how he gave Jesus to us to be loved.
FRL: How has Jesus changed your view of your parents and your view of yourself?
God gave me my parents and they did the best they could with the tools and skills they had. I believe that they did love me in their own special way. Both my parents are gone now and I like to think that they are with the Lord and I do miss them. I don’t hold grudges against them; I learned how to accept them as to who they are. Once I left the house, it was so much easier, because I would only go to visit and then leave and go to my home. I would say my Dad and I grew closer as we got older but he wasn’t the type to have those deep conversations with. My mother and I – well my mother ended depending upon me a lot after my parents divorced. That was hard because our roles were switching in life and a child doesn’t like to think of their parents as a child and being a parent towards them. Through all of this I have come to know the Lord. Would I be a follower of Christ have if my life would have been different. I believe my circumstances made me search for something more in life and I found Him.
When I did come to Jesus I was broken just like many people are but I received him in my heart and have been forever changed! I’m so thankful for that! I’ve been in a relationship with him for over 25 years and every day I keep getting closer and closer to Him and leaning on Him more. That’s not to say my walk with Him has been easy. On the contrary I think it gets harder as we go along. It would be so easy to get into an easy groove with Him but if I did how would my faith in Him continue to grow and how would I depend on Him even more? Even as I sit here and write this I am in amazement how much I love and depend on Him for my life. I cannot imagine not having God in my life or a Bible in my house to read. The joy, peace and contentment that are in my life now are really indescribable.
God brought me good friends in the faith that holds me accountable, who give me affirmation, encouragement and who love me unconditionally. Would I really have these deep relationships if I weren’t walking with the Lord? I like my life with God. It always hasn’t been easy as I lost my husband eight years ago suddenly. We never knew he was sick. Then I lost three other important family members all within two years. There have been many challenges since then but I’ll take the challenges everyday as long as He is walking beside me. How could I even think about going through life without Him? Philippians 4:13; “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This verse became my life verse twenty years ago and I still have it today
FRL: What do you want someone to know from the lessons you have learned?
My DNA hasn’t changed, but I have changed how I react to circumstances and with God who is in my heart and soul guiding me. I feel that I am that better person. I’m not done yet as I still have a lot to learn and my walk with Him will continue to get stronger. He isn’t done with me yet either and I hope that others will find their way through God as I have and be blessed with the simple things in life; joy, peace and contentment.
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