I attended a training program this afternoon on leadership. It’s a great topic, one I’m very interested in, particularly since I’m preparing to teach a class on the topic to the young leaders in the company where I work. The speaker was very good. Had lots of activities to keep you focused and involved, activities that weren’t too embarrassing. They were also very on-topic, helping to drive home the points he was making. It was good material, inspirational, informative and…hurtful. Yes, hurtful. Leave it to me to get wounded while enjoying a speaker talking about leadership. Here’s the deal. It was going well. I was getting into it, not feeling too stupid or self-conscious. And then he asked us to think about the people who had helped us move forward in our careers. He wanted us to write down their names and contemplate what they had done to help us grow and advance. About their “influence” in our life. But this was one exercise I couldn’t participate in, no matter how badly I wanted to because I had never had anyone who took me under their wing and helped me succeed. No self-pity (not much, anyway)…it’s just simple reality. I have longed for it. I’ve even prayed for people like this to appear in my life. I’ve looked for these relationships. But they haven’t happened, in spite of my hope, desire and attempt to find those who would give me a helping hand. I suppose I wanted them to rescue me. I certainly wanted them to hold me, to wipe away my tears and to tell me things would get better. I desired to be cared for and protected. To be removed from the horrible, toxic situation I was living in, and to be given a chance to live a more normal, less hurtful and less burdensome life. But it never happened. I lived with my parents, suffering, being destroyed piece by piece, until I was 17. I fled after I graduated from high school. Never looked back.
When I was a kid, still living at home and suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse (how my parents showed their love and care), I used to wish there was someone somewhere that I could talk to. Someone who would care. Who would reach out and tell me I was worth something, that I didn’t deserve what was happening to me, that I had value even though I could never live up to their high expectations. I longed to be sheltered and cared for. To be protected and guided and wanted. To be looked after. But it never happened. I had to get through it alone. And I did…barely.
After I escaped my parents, my big dream was to find surrogate parents. A loving couple who would take me in emotionally, nurture me and help me to heal. This desire to have a surrogate parent began to grow when I hit my mid-twenties. I had heard or read enough stories by then to understand having someone in your life who was older and wiser, who cared about you and had your best interests at heart, could make a gigantic difference in your ability to navigate successfully through the many challenges life presented. I had encountered the living God at age 23, and though I had many difficulties trusting and believing He cared, I started praying for people to come into my life who could be my advocate, protector, guide,mentor and surrogate parent.
My prayers were never answered. Or, I guess you could say they were answered and the answer was, “No.”
I don’t have one of those personalities that draws people to me. I am quiet, a bit intense, fairly shy initially and closed, even when people “get to know me.” I have a good sense of humor, but I’m not bubbly and warm and fun. I’m serious, reserved, thoughtful, troubled. I have some serious issues: an eating disorder, severe on-going major depression, hopelessness, post traumatic stress disorder, distorted thinking, anxiety disorder. I don’t handle stress or life challenges well. I get discouraged and frustrated easily. I feel like the world is against me. I perceive things without being told and I have deep canyons within me. Deep enough to make people uncomfortable. Life looks dark to me rather than seeming sunny. I see the flowers, but the flowers don’t compensate for the thorns and weeds and rain and storms; not in my thinking. I’ve speculated that my personality and deficits are perhaps why no one has ever become interested in me personally. Why people have been unwilling to invest in my life, give me a hand up, help me in any way. Instead, I always find myself on the outside, pushed away, managed out the door, far from the inner circle of cool, capable, successful people. And on a personal level, I continually find myself alone.
So, no surrogate parents. No loving husband either…a story that you are, undoubtedly, familiar with if you have read many of my previous blogs.
As I grew older and the chance of ever being parented by an older couple became less and less likely, I started thinking about finding a mentor. Someone who was relatively successful who could help me to see where I was failing and what I might do to improve. My prayer changed. During this stage, I asked for a healthy, successful peer(s) to take an interest in me.
And once again, the answer was, “No.”
I know some really successful people. I know a few millionaires. I have “friends” who have it all. The marriages, the kids, the houses, the cars, the vacations, the toys. Many own their own business. Several are leadership consultants. I know a successful author. There are MANY people around me who have come through my life who truly have it made. I have tried to cultivate a closer relationship with some of these people in the hopes of being mentored. And I have watched these wonderful, delightful, successful, joyous people bring other people into their sphere to coach and encourage. Time and time again, I have seen it happen…and I’ve seen the amazing results. But I have never been chosen. I remain alone with my heart in my hand and my hopes shattered.
Now, I have reached an age where no one would even consider mentoring me. Or parenting me. I should be mentoring others. I should be parenting the younger generations. But I have little to offer.
It’s very difficult to give what you have never received. Or to pattern for another what has never been demonstrated in your own life.
I have tried to make my own path as best I could, doing the right things as each choice or opportunity was presented in my life. I have tried to overcome. I have been swimming in an ocean filled with concepts and rules I frankly often do not understand. I’ve never been good at playing the games. I despise the politics of getting ahead. I’ve hoped my integrity, loyalty, intelligence, dedication, hard work, responsibility and concern would win me enough points to allow me to have a little piece of security on this very unsafe planet. But my actions and dedication have not been rewarded. Instead, I’ve been weighed and found sadly wanting over and over and over and over and over again.
I’ve known others who have had the critical intervention in their life that they needed at very vulnerable points. They have FLOURISHED. They have overcome. They have found meaning and fulfillment. And love. That intervention tipped the scales in their favor. And I am jealous. Envious. Because I wanted this desperately. I prayed for it. Sought it. Begged for it. Tried to develop those relationships when there was a potential. Instead, people have wanted more from me than I had to offer and they have demanded I be someone other than the person I am. My ex husbands, my parents, my friends, my bosses, my co-workers…all have determined I wasn’t worth their time or care. Not worth helping. Not worth nurturing.
I don’t think I’m bitter. But I am hurt. Very hurt. Being chewed up and spit out is a painful process.
The question that haunts me is simply, “Why?” Why could I never be loved, never be desired, never be appreciated, never be viewed as being valuable, never be thought of as someone worthy of knowing and caring for? Why has my whole life been filled with rejection? Why have I never been wanted? I have seen the rejection in my personal life and in my professional life. Time and time again. And I remain baffled. Because, imperfect and messed up as I know I am, I have seen others…many others…who were as bad or worse off find love,fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction. I have watched them move forward. Leaving me behind.
I dreamed of someone to love me, but that was asking too much. So I asked for someone to watch over me. The answer has always been and still is, “No.”
Always, it seems, I ask for too much.