I was in my mother’s womb, the full moon bright that night. Or so I’ve been told. I didn’t want to come out. I’ve been told that as well. I now tell myself that it was because I knew the person who was carrying me didn’t want me. This was something my mother told me time and time again after that night through words, actions, and, ultimately, inaction, the worst possible kind.
Even before I was born, it seems I was destined to learn the lesson that not everyone in my life would want a loving relationship with me. What no one told me was that this lesson would take many years and many relationships to learn.
I once had a friend tell me that in heaven, we pick our parents so we can learn the lessons we need to learn on earth. That way, we can evolve into unselfish, loving people who can help others during our time here. This friend also told me that this was the only way our species could ever develop the ability to love and find peace in all circumstances, even the most trying ones. I told myself that I must have picked my mother for a very specific reason.
Much later in my life, my mother told me the story of how on the night she held me in her arms for the very first time, she looked out at the full moon and made a promise. She swore to God how she would take care of me until I turned 18, and then she would leave. At that moment, it became clear to me she was speaking her truth, and instead of being angry, I appreciated her honesty.
From the day I was born, my mother was busy and distant. Apparently, she didn’t want my brother either, and he knew it. He took his anger and frustration out on me. I don’t think she wanted my father, and he took his frustration out on my brother. And I, well, I learned to keep quiet, keep to myself, and explore the outside world around me. I learned to live with whatever she offered and make due.
The world inside my home lacked intrigue and action. There was nothing interesting; there was nothing to figure out. It was devoid of emotion and connection. I knew my mom would be gone in the morning before I woke up, that she would come home at five o’clock and cook dinner, and then she would go to her room. On Saturdays, we would clean the house. It was the only time my mother and I ever spent time together.
To the outside world, we had what appeared to be a pretty stable family. We had a nice house on an acre of land in the country, a big beautiful garden, dogs, cats, chickens, and horses. Both of my parents worked, and I never felt the lack of material possessions.
We lived according to rules. We were a rule-bound family. Our family was structured. We had the same routine day in and day out. We took the same vacation every summer. I knew to look both ways before coming out of my room and running to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t run into my brother. I knew I could count on my dad for a hug.
The structure and monotonous routine created in me an almost insatiable appetite for variety. I woke up early every morning and rode my bike up and down hills behind my house. I walked a different path each day to school. I wanted to know all the kids at my school, and I liked everyone I met. In eighth grade, I was voted president of my school class and “prettiest girl.”
High school started out as my favorite adventure ever. I became a cheerleader, was on the gymnastics team, and there were a lot of cute boys who caught my eye and me theirs. I loved everyone and everything about high school. I arrived early and stayed late.
That is until the summer following ninth grade. When I came home from vacation with my brother and Dad in Grand Teton National Park, my mother was gone, vanished into thin air. My mother decided not to follow the rules, especially the rule about parents not leaving their children. She broke her promise to God and left our family early. I was 14, my brother 15, my father 36. We all changed so much from that point forward that I can honestly say I never saw any of them again, at least how they used to be.
The first week of school after my mother left was a blur, and that coming Friday was a homecoming football game. I’ll never forget getting up to cheer in front of hundreds of people, everyone in a great mood except for me.
I had fallen into a sort of tunnel vision, and my life became like watching a movie. I told myself this must be what happens when your heart is broken. Your vision becomes limited because you can no longer just look outside at the beauty around you. The depths of your sadness pulls you inward, and a thin veil of confusion clouds your thinking. I asked myself why the happy faces that once pulled me close and made me feel a part of something now appeared far away and not at all connected to me. I didn’t have an answer.
I was broken, and my path diverted from being a happy teenager to becoming all about healing my broken heart and seeking the truth, first about why my mother left, and later, how I could ascribe meaning to her abandonment of me to better my life, and perhaps one day, someone else’s.
For the rest of high school, my thirst for variety led me down a new path. I hung out with a partying crowd, engaged in reckless behavior, and rebelled against my parents as they each moved on with new spouses, leaving me feeling isolated, alone, and unwanted. This was my truth.
My first years in college were the same. I was struggling to find stability, and my grades showed it. My thirst for love and acceptance positioned me to find and stay in a number of unhealthy relationships, and later on, two marriages, where I accepted my partners’ demeaning words and bad behavior. Though my mother had left me, I hadn’t yet learned to let go of her and the pain she left me to reconcile. The pain I experienced with others kept the pain she caused me alive. If I felt the same pangs of rejection and unrequited love from them, my mother continued to exist. This was my truth.
Until I decided it wasn’t.
I spent years reading self-help books, trying alternative therapies and holistic practices, taking healing workshops, and learning about different religions and their practices. I became a Christian and spent years in intensive psychotherapy. I completed a 10-year yoga/meditation training and developed my own Christ-centered meditation, chanting, and prayer practice.
God, my divine parent in heaven, must have known that He could use me to serve others. He at least knew that I would become a teacher, one willing to share my journey of healing with others.
Over time, I let go of my fear of rejection and trusted there was a divine plan for my life. I let go of things that created confusion or heartache like bad friends, poor coping mechanisms, and unhealthy cultural influences and began to live in my own constructed Garden of Eden.
In letting go of what didn’t bring me happiness, my life has become peaceful and rewarding. I only choose what allows me to feel connected, loved, and valued.
Perhaps it’s true that God plans all of our steps from the beginning. He writes them down in His records, and He ordains us for a purpose. However, I have the power to let go of those things that hold me back or keep me down. And, I can use my free will to make the conscious choice to create a life of purpose and happiness, with the help of God.
My mother is in heaven now. I forgave her many years before she passed on. It meant the world to her that I was able to gratefully express to her the lessons she taught me and that even though they were painful, they were also helpful to me in my development. She told me this brought her peace, and she felt OK to leave me once again. And I finally felt OK to let her go.
Today, I know God loves me, despite the hard lessons I’ve had to learn. My relationship with God means everything to me because what I know now is that people come and people go, but my relationship with Him is eternal.
If you would like to learn more about how to improve your life through an approach of feeding the whole person, body, soul, and spirit, follow me on my blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and Medium. If you would like to work with me, schedule a session today.
Tonyah Dee has studied the Bible and wisdom traditions of the world for the last 30 years and teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily. Tonyah is a nutritionist, registered dietitian (R.D.), and earned her B.S. from Loma Linda University. She also holds certifications in Christ-centered life coaching, equine therapy, and meditation. Tonyah has been published in Scary Mommy, MSN, The Mighty, Mantra Wellness, CoveyClub, Thrive Global. Follow Tonyah on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Medium.