On a recent hike with one of my younger brothers, he and I talked about our childhood and the joys and sorrows of growing up in a large family. As children, we suffered through huge financial burdens, our mother’s chronic illness, addictions, and even the death of our younger brother; but my childhood was good. I was surrounded by people who loved me, and I was keenly aware of that. There was never a lack of the sense of belonging to others.
As we hiked, my brother and I reminisced on the countless occasions of bike riding with our dad, exploring the woods in our backyard, playing hockey with our neighborhood friends, swimming at the pool with mom, and even the simple, but always anticipated Sunday breakfasts when our dad made pancakes (from a box)!
Having that discussion with my brother has helped me to see just how good things really were for us growing up in a big family. And I say that because there have been countless times when I have reflected back on those days and look at all the negatives: as children, we knew the financial burdens of our parents, mom wasn’t around very much because she was always sick, my siblings and I had way too much responsibility, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy to look back and say, “I will never raise children that way; I will never put my family in those types of situations.” But that’s ridiculous because I don’t know my future. Sure, I can make choices based upon the knowledge that I have from my past, but I also have to take it one day at a time.
Growing up wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, no one’s life is. However, even when life was really hard and I questioned my role within my family, I never suffered from the feeling of being unwanted. I knew that I belonged to my family; I knew that I was loved and cared for just because and for some reason, that gave me a great sense of peace and security.
Now, almost five years removed from college and my family, I can say that these past years have been the most difficult of my life because I have had to fight for that sense of belonging. I am grateful for the community that I have; I am grateful for the women whom I live with and the friendships that I have made, but I still desire to belong to another. I yearn to have my own family, and my own home; I want to make a life with another.
Although it’s been really difficult, I know that God is purging me of myself and preparing me for something greater than I could ever conjure up on my own. I think in these past years I’ve come to recognize that there is meaning in everything. If I am honest with myself, I don’t usually feel that my life is a blessing, but intellectually, I do believe it. Sometimes I am bitter and I don’t want to open my eyes to the beauty that surrounds my life, but deep down I know that life is good; life is a gift and I want to be grateful.
Looking back on my childhood has helped me to look at my life differently and to be attentive to the blessings that surround me. Even though I don’t always feel it, I do belong to others. Perhaps the current trials are helping me to see the need that I have for relationship with others. I may not have my very own family right now, but I am not alone. I am constantly surrounded by others who love me and I want to be receptive to their love so that I may then go and share that love with others.