My family background is complicated. It's not uncommon problem and although it all feels very normal most of the time, sometimes one event, one shift, one change leaves me questioning my decisions, my relationships and my humanity.
I am estranged from my biological paternal family. I grew up with my mum, my step-father who has been in my life since I was two and a half years old and call dad, and visits that were sporadic and awkward with my biological father and occasionally his parents until I made the decision to cease contact aged 19. From an early age the relationship with my biological father created a lack of my own self-worth- 'Why doesn't Daddy like me anymore?' and 'Did I do something wrong?' started at the age of around 6 when visits were moved or cancelled or decreased in frequency and coupled with some bullying at school by the time I'd reached my teens, I'd already decided that clearly I was a 'bad person' and that I just wasn't 'good enough'. It's a toxic combination that contributed to all kinds of difficulties through my teens and very early twenties and my only regret when it comes to choosing to walk away from a relationship the made me so very miserable, is that I didn't realise a bit sooner that I had that choice.
Fast forward almost 9 years and I'd suggest I'm a very different version of me. I'm still 5'5 tall, I sill love green and I still don't eat olives. But I've also fought hard to teach myself what I'm worth. First came graduation- I worked hard for it, and I earned it. Landing my first graduate job gave me confidence and moving through management and into other projects allowed me to relax into my own skin. In the last few years, running and cycling have strengthened my sense of self. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, I found a person who loves me enough to choose to spend the rest of their life with me and when I said yes to a marriage proposal, I never once wondered- why me? Am I good enough?
And then it all came tumbling down. Whilst I didn't consciously cut out my biological paternal grandparents at the time, I never heard from them again after walking away from my biological father. I have some fond memories of my grandfather in particular who was an East End boy evacuated to the Fens in the 40s. He died in November. It wasn't a huge surprise to hear, he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease some years ago but what did surprise me was feeling very little.
I felt sad for a his much closer family who were left with a much greater hole in their lives, I felt that it was a shame someone's life had come to an end. I decided that the funeral was place I didn't want or need to be- it seemed insensitive to show up for the first time in almost a decade when emotions are raw. And I started to wonder...
Should I care more? Should this bother me? Should I be prepared to brave a gathering of people I chose to remove from my life for the sake of paying respects to someone who wasn't technically at fault?
All of that spiralled into: I must be a selfish horrible person, because the death of a grandparent has not affected me. And then it struck, after a long, wine fuelled conversation about this whole 'thing' with Tom, he pointed out to me that I clearly cared, because it was on my mind BUT my reasons for choosing to walk away from this part of my life and my background were exactly the set of emotions and the feelings of self-doubt I sat there putting myself through right there and then.
It doesn't make me a terrible person or even someone who lacks compassion to choose not to engage with people who make me question my own worth or my validity as a person, a daughter, a member of society, even when those people are the ones who we believe should love us and support us unconditionally.
The point of this post? Well in part my blog has always been somewhere to work things through and to share some of the life lessons that have come my way. But I also know I'm not the only one with a complicated family or difficult relationships, and it's good to know that. It's good to know that someone out there understands and perhaps this message will reach someone else who just needs to hear:
You're not a bad person. Making tough choices in your own best interest does not make you a bad person. You only have to justify this to yourself, it's your business. You are stronger than you think or know.