I grew up in a world with boys without men. All of the consistent adults were female except my maternal uncle and my maternal grandfather and men aren’t made like them anymore … are they? Although they were excellent examples of fatherhood they were not my father.
Because my father was on drugs, I received messages through venues like the media and unspoken social norms that I should somehow dislike my father. I was supposed to dislike him, actually hate him for placing me in the fatherless category. For making me a statistic. By first grade, he wasn’t helping with basic needs. He didn’t call when Mom worked sixteen hour days to ask whether I was hungry, homework was done, or whether I was lonely. I was lonely.
I was so lonely.
At age 36, I still wonder how no one noticed my loneliness. I didn’t try to hide it. Or did I? I couldn’t find the words. I wasn’t prepare to be so incredibly vulnerable. My father didn’t want me so why would anyone care about my loneliness. In adolescence I struggled to identify who I could express loneliness to when there was no one physically there to share the experience.
Even in a crowded room I was alone. I would intensely stare at people having fun and wonder why can’t I have that much fun. My mother worked and worked and on her days off she loved all over me. She bought me things and made tacos with me and watched movies with me. Still, she could not fix the loneliness of her absence during her presence.
I was born of marriage yet I grew to hate it: fear it. Is this what men do? I recall seeing males as simple objects as early as kindergarten. Boys were these things – these beings – that made children and lacked any further contribution. People were these objects that crashed into each other repeatedly until it hurt enough to separate for eternity. So I dated boys and girls that meant nothing. I built friendship on fickle trust and lackluster loyalty. I found myself surrounded by people I wanted to love but couldn’t. People I wanted to hate but couldn’t.
I dated the emotionally unavailable in an unconscious attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy. And fulfill they did. They lied and cheated and tore at my already broken heart. See. This is why I never want to get married projected across the skies of my life morning and night.
But I was successful. Good grades, great schools, volunteer work, career, and credentials. Check. Traveled the world and posed in smiling pictures. These things somehow pointed to this idea that I was doing so well. I even believed it.
Until one afternoon, I walked through the middle of my home thinking of nothing remarkable: just preparing my weekly house cleaning. I stopped in the middle of my home from where I could see every room. No lights on. No television. No radio. I felt an unfamiliar energy in my home shift through me and the whistle of quick wind passed my ears. I feverishly looked around fearing that I wasn’t alone. Concerned that someone had broken into my home while I showered or even while I slept through the night, I searched my home and every closet in it.
Realizing I was alone and convinced I was losing my mind, I walked toward the kitchen. As I passed through the middle of my home, I felt the wind again. The hairs on my body stiffened and goose bumps filled my skin and I stood still. I stared at my floor to ceiling windows as a soft breeze whirled around my body. Initially afraid, I became confused by a sudden feeling of love that took over my heart and I cried. I stood in that moment smiling and crying tears of relief.
I lifted my face toward the ceiling as my arms fell limp at my sides and knew it was God. I asked God out loud to lift this burden of loving a neglectful father that I may accept my love for the man that did not accept me. To accept myself as a person who could love my self and still love someone who didn’t seem to love me back.
In that moment I forgave myself.
I asked God to teach me to love Him more than I loved my self. To teach me to love myself.
I took off all of my clothes and began to clean. Typically I clean my home with the music blasting. But on this day, I cleaned in silence. I didn’t utter one word for the six plus hours that I cleaned. I washed the walls and the wooden blinds and spot cleaned the carpet and vacuumed the vents. I cleaned everything.
I saved the floors for last.
I swept the bathroom and kitchen floors then mopped them. As I began to unwrap the vacuum’s cord, my phone rang.
I watched it ring. I watched it ring again and again. My ex sat outside my door asking just to talk. I said no. I said it in my head then I answered the call and said it out loud.
I began reflecting on my prayer in the wind earlier that day and vacuumed the rest of my home.
Naked and silent, my heart called out to God: Lord, I am the common denominator. If I am to date, let it be someone who defies my faulty expectations of humanity. Please let it be the one person you find worthy of me. Until then, I will finally enjoy being alone.
God opened the door to the life He wanted me to live on that day. I accepted what many women don’t --that I was entertaining people that I knew would hurt me because I knew they would hurt me.
That April I met a great man. A man like my maternal uncle. A man like my maternal grandfather. The man I thought didn’t exist in my generation.
He calls me wife.