Aug 17, 2012

I Choose Me!


I am 40 years old.
For the first 39 years of my life, I have been known as many things...
  • The Mischievous Daughter
  • The Annoying Sister
  • The Sub-Par Student
  • The Dependable Employee
  • The Fat Girl
  • The Mother-Hen Friend.
  • The Gullible Girlfriend
  • The House-is-Too-Messy Wife
  • The Worry-Wart Mom
  • The Self-Depreciating Blogger
  • The Good Cook
  • The Wanna-Be Homesteader
  • The Optimistic Business Owner
I played each of these "Life-Rolls" with varying degrees of success.
As the 40 year old me looks back on my first 39 years, I find myself confused and also a little ashamed.

When I was very young, I was the little girl who found normal every day life quite boring.
This lead me to "express" myself in quite creative ways...
I was the story teller Liar.

I had the entire congregation at our church convinced that my Mom and dad were going to adopt a baby.
The sweet new baby would sleep in my room and I would take care of it. Imagine my parents surprise when the head deacon congratulated them on Sunday!

My school bus passed derailed circus box cars, and I would report the hilarious stories about the escaped animals when I reached home.

You see, my stories lies were relatively harmless, they were never told to get someone in trouble, and they were usually not to keep me out of trouble...
They were to make life more interesting...
They gave me a captivated audience...
I loved it.

There were snowball fights, paper routes, home-made cookies, a Pretty Blue Canopy bed, an awesome record player, sleep-overs, Girl Scout camp outs, Atari, Lemonade stands, & Jungle gyms

I also had some "heavier" things to deal with when I was a young child..

My parents divorced.
My mom re-married.
My new step-grandparents made it very clear to me that I was dumb, ugly, and unacceptable.
My baby brother was born, and died several months later due to a heart defect.
My sister was born the following year.
My big brother Dan and I were physically abused by our step father.
I had the added bonus of sexual abuse at that age as well.

For some reason I didn't tell...
I didn't tell my friends.
I didn't tell my teachers.
I didn't tell my brother.
I didn't even tell my mother whom I trust 100%.
I don't even remember thinking of it as a "Big Secret",
It was just something I knew I didn't like,
I knew I wanted it to stop...
But (until a few months ago) I never told...
...anyone.

I don't know if I was ashamed, or if I thought it was "normal", or if I thought, with my well-known liar status, no one would believe me...
No matter the reason...
No one knew...
Because I never thought to tell them.

Life went on...

In Jr High a lot changed...

We moved to North Carolina without the evil step-father.
We shared a split-level house with my grand-parents.
I met my first boyfriend. He and I became life-long friends.

Weekends were filled with long walks and long talks with my big brother Dan, swinging on vines over the creek, sneaking into the Country Club pool, Hot Fire Jolly Rancher candy sticks were enjoyed with small glass bottles of real Coke, & there were ghost stories around the backyard fire.
I was very involved in a wonderful church youth program.
I had lots of friends.
Nights were filled with games of Flashlight-Tag and a living room full of teens watching movies and talking late into the night.
I went to my first formal dance.
I was a Candy Striper at Duke University Hospital.
I got my first "real" job at Baskin Robbins.
I dated some really great boys as I was maturing into a young woman.

My head & heart shared all those amazing memories with some horrific & life-changing ones too.

My grandparents began quietly trying to shake my faith in my mother, well... they tried to shake my faith in anyone other than them!
I had my first broken heart.
My brother, Dan, was hit by a car on one of his nightly walks.
He lived for 23 hours after the accident... And then he was just gone.
I lost what tiny bit of interest I had in school and failed the 8th grade.
My grandparents didn't know how they would ever "Hold their heads up at church ever again." because I was such a disappointment for failing that school year.


My mother, realizing that living with my grandparents was no longer good for any of us, re-married and we headed for Texas.


Like most young women in  High School,, I had all sorts of grand plans.
I was going to be a strong independent woman.
I was going to conquer  the World.

But at the same time I was dreaming up these plans, something inside me began to change.

I became sort of withdrawn,
Unless I was at work, playing the customer service super-star, I was no longer the talkative popular one,
I was that girl in school who everyone saw daily, but no one knew her name.
I was battling with major insecurities..
Was I thin enough?
Pretty Enough?
Smart enough?
my answer was always a resounding NO.

I was haunted by one massive question.
Why had God taken my brother?
He was the "Good" one...
He was the smart one.
He was the popular one.
He was the handsome one.
He was Honest.
He was a better Christian.
He did everything "right", and I felt like everything I did was.... WRONG.


He was the better...
...everything.


This never-ending burning question affected everything I did & everything I believed.
If I got into trouble for getting a bad grade, I was certain it was because my mother wished I had died instead of Dan.
If a boy I liked, didn't like me, I knew it was a punishment for being the "wrong" one left alive.
My mother never ever said anything or did anything to make me think those things..
They were feelings that, for whatever reason, came from within me.

I did have one very close girlfriend in High School, we were inseparable.
She was my life-saver.  She is my best friend to this day.
She was the wild one. She helped draw me out of my solitude, and I helped keep her feet on the ground. We were a good team.  I was the "Mother-Hen" friend... I held back the hair after a party, I was the designated driver, the bad boy chaser-offer, the excuse-to-parents-maker-upper. The "Cool" head in a crisis friend.

I began to date.
I was always drawn to the "Bad Boys".
The bad boys who I would walk in and find in bed with some random girl.
The ones who would get physical when angry.
The ones who, basically,  treated me like crap.

Once again, I kept quiet.
When I would catch them with another girl, or with hickies on their necks, I would never say anything about it, I pretended it didn't even happen, then I would go home and cry, but act like everything was fine the next day.
I would hide bruises, and accept apologies too quickly.
I don't know if I didn't think I was "worth" anything better?
Or if I thought they would change when they saw that I would stick beside them no matter what...

But, I didn't say anything...
...again.

I became very skilled at putting on a show.
I played a strong and confident woman, when inside I was unsure of everything.

Before too long, I found myself 20 years old, and a single mother.
Once again, I didn't say much of anything.
I didn't ask for child support.
I didn't demand help.
I didn't want to "bother" or inconvenience him.

One footstep in front of the other, (and with LOTS of help and support from my mother)
 Life went on...

I met the man who would become my husband.
He was a good guy.
It wasn't a passionate affair by ANY stretch of the word.
But I was confident he would be a good husband, & a good father.
We were married and had 2 more children together.
During the marriage I felt taken for granted,
My wants and needs were treated as an afterthought.

And, just like always, I didn't say anything.
I didn't demand respect.
I didn't scream for honesty.
I didn't ask for tenderness.
I didn't request kindness.
I believed the countless empty promises.
I hoped things would change.
They did not...
When I noticed it was affecting my children,
 I decided to end the marriage.

Unexpectedly I soon met, fell in love with, and married the "Man-of-My-Dreams"
He made me feel cherished, He made me feel special, He made me feel lucky!.
I fall more in love with him every day.

As I got older I started realizing that I didn't really know "who" I was.
I was Mom & Wife & Daughter & Friend, I knew these rolls well.
But...  I didn't know who "Dana" was.
I don't know if I ever really did.

When I turned 40 it's like a switch flipped.
Gone was the girl who kept her mouth shut.
Gone was the woman who would fiercely protect those she loved while doing nothing to protect herself.
Gone was the woman who let people walk all over her.
Once I opened my mouth, I didn't stop.

I feel comfortable in my own skin,.
I feel confident in who I am.
I am smart.
I am competent.
I am Worth It!

But...  I still have one burning question...
Why did it take 40 years  for me to share my secrets?
Why did it take 40 years for me to realize I was worthy of being happy?
Why did it take 40 years for me to realize I deserved respect?
Why did I keep my mouth shut for so long?

I was never alone.
I have a very strong woman as my roll model, I have always trusted her 100%.
I had a very protective big brother.
Why didn't I tell them?
They would have listened.
They would have helped.
They would have protected me.

Why didn't I say something... anything?

No..  I don't have the answer to share with you today.
But... I can promise you.
That quiet, doormat of a woman is dead.

Hang on to your hats.
My next 40 years are gonna rock!



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41 amazing comments. Talk To Me!!:

Harvest Moon by Hand said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I know a lot of people will gather strength from reading it. Very inspiring!

Lacey said...

Woohooo!!! Go Dana!!! I'm not quite 40 yet, but I'm beginning to really understand where you're coming from. Love your posts...keep em comin!

Jayne said...

My heart aches for that little girl I would have done anything to protect. I am VERY proud of the woman you have become - fantastic person, friend, mother, and defender of anyone who you feel is being abused. I feel blessed to be.....Dana's Mother.

small farm girl said...

Great post Dana.

Dina said...

Strong and inspiring. 40 is often the game changer, and you are a fantastic example of a phoenix rising. Congratulations on finding your authentic self!

jamie miller said...

As I sit here with tears rolling down my face. Thanks for sharing this. With everything my kids and I are going through it give me hope that it will get better.

Renee Skaggs said...

Thank-you for sharing your heart. I turned 41 this year and I totally understand what you're saying. I think at 40, we realize how short life is. I've had my share of struggles as well and am now in a great place, thank the Lord. I'm so happy that you are finally happy, I love your sense of humor, and I'm so glad I found your blog!

Anonymous said...


I am glad that you are able to purge all of this. You have always been a great mom, daughter, sister, wife and the best friend anyone could ever ask for. You always made the best of every situation. Thanks for being the "Mother Hen" for holding my hair after some awesome parties and following me in your car when I decided to take off with a stranger on the back of his motorcycle!

When I grow up I want to be just like you....

love you,

Marlene

Anonymous said...

Wow! I came across your blog by accident (or by God's purpose). I too am 40...gonna be 41 next month and I too have just started to find my voice. My heart cries for your past just as it rejoices for the new you! I know some of the feelings of why me that you shared. Thank you so much for putting your heart out there for random people to see. It did my heart good to know that you came out ahead and perhaps I will too! Love, Traci

Lisa g said...

Amazing as always!! I love that you share with us your most intimate secrets. Thank you for being so open.

I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Congratulation Dana! Your story could have been mine with a few different details. Seems 40 is the magic number for a lot of women. I turned 40 almost 13 years ago and when I did it was like the light came on. I told my husband of almost 20 years I was done and wanted a divorce. I too, realized I was not a doormat, found my voice and have been using it ever since. I also met and married the man of my dreams!

Stephanie said...

You are one Incredibly, Awesome, Inspiring, Amazing Person. Keep that fire ablaze and enjoy every following moment of being YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

You are a amazing,inspiring person.

Anonymous said...

I am very glad that God gave you to us to learn from, to admire, to share with, to hope with, to dream with, to love. You've found your voice and I am so very thankful that you have shared it with us. With a tear in my eye reading your story, I now have the realization that there is hope. God bless you.

Kim said...

40 is a magic age.I too was sexually molested as a child and never told my parents. At 42 I left my husband of 14 years. We had been together a total of 22 years. I was dying, slowly killing myself to stay and endure the verbal and emotional abuse. It was serving no good purpose for my girls to remain. It took a catalyst, not just getting into my 40's but finding someone to lean on through the process. Since then, I too have met the man of my dreams, and everyday I feel like pinching myself when I wake up because I find it hard to believe he's for real. I had no idea it was possible to be treated so well by another. I am so happy that you have found this happiness through it all, and I am happy for myself too. Thank you for all that you share with us.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I love Pinterest. It takes you places you would never find otherwise! Your story was terribly sad and amazingly inspiring at the same time. I am a late bloomer. I'm just starting to figure this out at 47. 47!!! Why do we feel like we have to be "good" for everyone else and stifling who we want to be? Why do we feel that our happiness doesn't count? Your post and several of the comments give me hope that wonderful things await me too! And I can't wait! Thank you for a wonderful blog post. It was crazy brave.

Elizabeth

Judy said...

Wow, what a life! I have tears and am in awe of your courage to share. I am soon to be 44 and have woken up to some stuff in my heart. Why does it take so damn long!??
I guess God gives us what we can handle when we can handle it. I am inspired and encourage by all your honesty and glad I found that sweet tea recipe!! LOL! Thanks

Anonymous said...

There are no words........thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

i just came across this and loved it. It was unusually honest and I can relate so much with all of it. bravo.

Anonymous said...

I was lead here by your detangling doll hair post (Thank you!) and then I clicked on this post. What a God-moment. Thank you for standing up and spreading hope to others.

Sandy Mullins said...

I so lived your life and found you detangling doll hair post. I wont lose you.

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