The majority of the time people are not very aware in the moment of how a simple choice or a small specific event will permanently impact them. Sure, there are movies, books, and even songs about this exact concept: how selecting an individual outfit, driving down a particular road, or choosing dinner from a certain restaurant over another can lead you down an entirely different life path you may have otherwise never traveled. There are conversations had about these incredible coincidences among friends from time to time, but very few take ownership of their actions or consciously make their daily decisions with this in mind. That in itself is part of the marvel; not intending to stumble upon a distinct path that accidentally becomes such a significant part of your whole journey. Even the tiniest of decisions can reroute your life.
Conversely, I feel I have spent a great deal too many hours considering this exact idea, delaying decisions that needed made, agonizing over all the possible outcomes. Even from a very young age, this made me more cautious. I had my fair share of accidents as a child. I absolutely took risks, but never recklessly. I calculated everything. There is an old reliable set of scales in my mind that I load up with likely and possible outcomes verses the immediate and eventual benefit before I ever come to any resolution.
As a child, this was misinterpreted. I was ungraciously dubbed the spoiler to any sort of fun my siblings might have. Lying, stealing, cheating, playing games our parents forbade, and doing things with other unfavorable consequences generally didn’t sit well with me. This never came from a place of appealing to my parents, doing the “right” thing, or being too scared; I genuinely just did not want to partake in things where the benefits were not worth the consequences. I can see now how this part of me contributed to my entire family misunderstanding who I am.
Krystal, Joe, & Kyle were the best of friends when we were all kids. They constantly got into mischief whenever the parents weren’t around; sometimes I participated and other times, I refused. This broke the “if one goes down, we all go down” childhood code and all three of them resented me for that. The Result? They ganged up on me. If by any means the parents found out something they had done, they would blame me. I distinctly remember hearing over & over again throughout my adolescence, “Three against one. They’ll never believe you.” And they never did. This became the basis of every feeling I had about living with my dad. For many years, he and Debra believed me to be a consistent fabricator. Eventually when I was blamed for things, I stopped trying to argue the truth. At some point, I weighed the benefits of arguing verses the consequences of being wrongfully accused of lying and I let them believe I was a liar. Somewhere along the way, I began to believe it about myself.
I can see how this impacted my relationship with my mother as well.
In fourth Grade I actually did tell a lie to my mom for the first time I remember. I really wanted to go to the roller rink where my school was hosting a party. I didn’t bother asking; I knew the answer would be no. The secular music played in those places was unfit for me to hear. What Mom didn’t know is that I was listening to it daily via a walk-man I borrowed from a girl down the road. Her name was Lauren and her family was from Honolulu. Everyone in school made fun of me for living in a trailer, not having clothes that fit properly, and having to borrow supplies from the teacher because I didn’t have my own. Lauren didn’t make fun of me. She didn’t talk to me much either but she sat next to me, mostly silently, at lunch and occasionally gave me a new mixed tape she’d recorded from the radio so I could listen to music other than Christian. It wasn’t directly a lie, so I felt okay about it. To go to the roller rink, though, I’d have to fib. She helped me come up with the story to tell my mom to miss church that Friday night. We told Mom she & I and were working on a geography project together that was due Monday, which was true except we had already finished it. We said we needed more time to complete it and asked if I could go to her house to do so. It was miracle Mom said yes; I was never allowed to go to other people’s houses unless they went to our church and even then it was rare. We told Lauren’s Dad that Mom was cool with me going. We pulled it off without a hitch. The only almost incident we had was that I didn’t realize there was a $5 entry fee and had no money. Lauren’s dad was agitated as he reached back into his wallet. “Why would your mom send you without money?” I didn’t even respond. I just shuddered with embarrassment, thanked him, and walked inside where the devil music was blaring. After her dad picked us up, I had him drop me off at the church so I could catch up with Mom. I nervously walked into the café where she was busy pouring coffee to fellow members of the congregation. She looked up and smiled at me and I knew she didn’t know. She never uncovered that deceit.
In sixth grade, my cousin and I secretly practiced and performed a dance with our school that we knew our parents wouldn’t allow. The music was not Godly and the dance moves could be considered vulgar. They never found out.
In seventh grade, I made the best friend I’d ever had outside the family, Tosha. We had most of our classes together and rode the same bus. We talked about our crushes, exchanged dreams and dirty fantasies, and she shared her CDs with me, discreetly putting Shania Twain or Green Day into my DC Talk CD case to ward off suspicion. I would even sing the words of Christian songs sometimes while actually listening to something entirely forbidden. I was sinfully sexually interested in other people, I cursed loudly when not at home, I read verboten books, I even let a boy sign my field day shirt right on my left breast. Even if Mom & Bill had found out, I believed allowing myself to feel things was okay. I believed my friendship with Tosha was far too valuable to pass up. It was all worth the risk. Mom never suspected a thing.
In eighth grade, the middle school choir was invited to try out for the chorus of the high school’s spring musical. It was Footloose, one of the most rebellious musicals, teaching lessons like questioning authority and reading the whole Bible and not just bits of it. Each year, they let all the middle-schoolers try out but only took three. Again, I knew the answer would be no if I asked, so I didn’t. Hilliard Davidson High School had one of the best choirs and drama clubs in the state. Once more, the benefit outweighed any potential repercussions. I tried out and I made the cut. I concocted a brilliant plan in order to make rehearsals. I told my parents I was joining a club called FCA, Future Christians of America, which did actually exist and I did actually join. I attended just a handful of meetings for that club but spent all my other days after school in secrecy, rehearsing for the blasphemous musical. They never knew while it was going on. I did, however, tell them after the final performance. I didn’t care what the punishment was. It was magical to be part of such a production.
So, looking back, my Mom had no warning signs before I up and took off to my dad at fourteen. This is why she and everyone else in the family was so stunned. Even though inside of me for years there had been a war, my personal feelings and morals against everything I was being told, she didn’t see it. She saw a young girl who loved taking care of her baby siblings, who got straight As in her advanced classes, who helped make dinner and keep the house clean, who didn’t sneak out to go to high school football games like her older sister. To Mom, I was the well-behaved good girl.
I was so private. I distrusted everyone. I held even my closest family back with a 10-foot-pole, even those I fiercely wished to know me, or at least to want to know me.
I still blame her for not seeing me, for not perceiving my internal struggle, for not ever even asking what was going on in my head or if I agreed with the life we were living. In retrospect, perhaps that is unfair. I kept my desires and hostility tightly bound to my heart and soul. I was unhealthily aware of the consequences of being honest about disagreeing with our family’s core values. Perhaps we would’ve fought more often if I had been more open. Perhaps I would’ve spent more time on the ridiculous time out stool or noncommittally saying “Sorry Jesus” just in order to get up. Perhaps I’d be forced to repetitively repent and undergo demonic exorcisms. Perhaps they’d take me out of school altogether and homseschool me. I knew these were all likely circumstances in the aftermath of sincerely confessing my rebellion. Perhaps though, if I had just faced those punishments, I’d feel more expressed, more acknowledged. Perhaps I wouldn’t still be carrying with me the agony of a child whose Mom never knew her and now, never will.
Though I evaluated the potential risks of every one of my indiscretions, I did not take into account the harm my secrecy and privacy would have on the most important relationships in my life. I was completely unaware that 15 years later I’d be feeling the residual affects of that seclusion.
The little girl who calculated everything, hid her innermost thoughts and forgot to factor in the resulting pain she’d feel from never being wholly understood.