Today, I am turning another year older.
Yay, me…I guess?
My family has made arrangements for they and I to go to a local restaurant and celebrate my birthday tonight. They have preplanned, prepared and invited family and friends to come together and lift me up on this calendar day; the day I came into the world.
Yet, I feel like it is just like any other day. I feel as though I have no reason to celebrate.
I appreciate them for doing this for me, and I realize that it is because they love me. I’m grateful. The acceptance, understanding and my personal views have changed over the last several years when it comes to self-praise.
As I was growing up, I had very little praise of any kind from others. It was there, but it was always limited through my eyes. I suppose it could have been more easily recognized if it was something being demonstrated by my nurturers, but the predisposed thinking from my early developmental years had caused a thick fog of inadaquacies to rule over my ability to determine true, loving praise from them. Within a dysfunctional and abusive environment, my childhood had set the stage for a very misunderstood definition of healthy praise.
I would see many kids at school whose parents were supportive. They would make the obvious efforts of lifting their kids up by keeping them encouraged with their individual versions of love. They were providing them with things for school-related activities and the everyday basics. Most kids were provided with clothing that would not be worn several times throughout the week. In hindsight, I can see the kids who were learning about respect and manners, the do’s and don’ts, kindness and self-esteem. All of those little things that were provided in order for a kid to feel more adequate. The small sacrifices that most do for their kids. The things that help to build character as a kid is learning about the true values of the world while experiencing the competitive stages of development alongside others of their age. Things that would aid in a healthy experience.
Unfortunately, my experience was not really all that great. For all I know, some of those other kids that I saw as model may have had a pretty crappy life as well? Outside looking in though, I only saw the greatness that was present within their exteriors. It looked nothing like my own. I had few clothes from the cheapest department stores, one pair of shoes for the school year and jackets from the Goodwill. At times, I went without lunch. I often had people making fun of me for wearing the same clothes over and over, and to top it all off, I often had huge cold sores on my face from ongoing stress in all directions.
Now, I’m not here to say that my parents were the worst. They had a lot of marital problems and their choices were very destructive, but they were human like the rest of us. And no, we were not dirt poor. It just sucks that they never recognized the toll it all had taken on me until it was too late. They were always too busy pointing fingers at each other for the problems they should both have owned up to. Their same dysfunctional ways of thinking still linger in the current, both within me and within the one who is still living. I can no longer try to understand either one of them and humbly accept their ways of being all of my life. One is dead and the other sees absolutely nothing wrong with the way they have ever been. Like I had said, one blamed the other and the other now only blames anyone but themselves for anything that goes wrong or has ever gone wrong. And, unfortunately, I have to keep my distance from the one who still fights battles within themselves- battles that were there far before I reaped the consequences of their harbored pain within my early years.
I guess I have learned to see what love looks like by other means. Since I was not really getting much of it at home, and since I was longing to have what others of my age appeared to have, I went elsewhere to find it. For many years, it was found within circles of people who also had the same woe is me, f%*k my life attitude. I would cling to the outcasts and the addicts. The rebels and the heartbreakers. The people who were growing from puberty to maturing a*%$#@es. Those, much like myself. I would engage in the things that they would do that did not involve common sense or foresight of consequences. Those things were things that I was not learning much about at home, anyway. I’d run to the one who would call me their “buddy,” only to find out in the long run that I was only their buddy when it benefited them in some way. That same lack of love in their personal lives always reflected in the temporary, fleeting care they would have for me. I ran from one group, one drug-addicted gang, one woman with no self-worth and one good buddy to the next. All of them as broken and beaten as me.
This all made me very bitter. One heartbreak after another will sure do that.
I became very distant and very isolated. Very hateful and didn’t need anyone. I was fed up with nearly everyone, so I just worked and kept to myself. I would try to have relationships with women, but my inner-turmoil would only hinder those short flings. I was fed up with the world, and I really didn’t care about the feelings of anyone. I really didn’t care about my own. I didn’t care about my worth, nor did I really have much of a reason to live. Thank the Lord He has changed all of that, since!
I suppose that praise is not something that I can take with a humble grain of salt. I’ve been burned so many times by those I had placed my trust in and by so many whom I wish I could have trusted. I guess that is just something within God’s plan for me that will heal in His time. As for today, I absolutely know that those who will be at my celebration are, for sure, praising me because they love me and know what love looks like.
I’m also thankful for the experiences of the past. Yes, not really having much of a relationship with my parents is a hurtful thing, and I do pray that the things that stand between my living parent and I will heal in time. I just have to keep humbling myself, much like the humbleness that I have experienced since Christ made His way into the battered heart of the world’s making.
Being completely honest, though, I am not really able to say that I have a healthy understanding of self-praise. I am constantly keeping these boundaries- the walls that have been built up because of the past- defined by my own healthy and unhealthy reasoning. This is an ongoing process that is being continuously fashioned by the relationship I have with God, and by the fruits that only He can bear. Nothing I can find, or will ever find, within this mess that I call, “myself.” This constant battle of flesh and Spirit that I am is a very hard thing to understand.
I just cannot, for the life of me, accept some things. No matter how hard I try, I find it hard to accept praise, especially on days like today where it puts me at the center. I don’t ask for a million things, and I’m so appreciative for all that I receive. Already, I’m incredibly spoiled in my own eyes. I have more that I ever could have imagined. My cup truly runs over. I just look forward to the smiles that I have been bringing to the faces of those true friends and family since I’ve stopped giving so much of my precious energy to the wrong people, places and things. I hate the fact that some things are the way that they are with my family, but they have wise and unwise decisions to make, just as I do.
I wish so many other people could be at the celebration tonight, but that is just the way things are right now.