I don’t watch much television. But I have a habit of watching “This Is Us”. I watch it every Tuesday night when there’s a new episode. My controller tries to shut down any potential emotion, but for some reason, I always seem to manage to move my schedule around for an episode of This Is Us. This episode was full of emotional moments (as they are), but I was caught off guard by the last scene of this episode. I had not realized how much I could still be moved by the idea of family support. I had not realized that there was still a part within me who still considered the idea of community. A long time ago, I wrote it off. I shut the entire idea down.
Don’t get me wrong. I have two children. Together, the three of us make the best family in my opinion. There is plenty of squabbling and middle school ridiculousness (from all three of us). But it has definitely been the best family I have ever had (I know that bar is low). And there have been the occasional “family” members who have been a part of our lives (not necessarily blood-related). But the Thanksgiving/Christmas Hallmark family concept has not been a part of my thoughts for a long time. I have known better than to hang my hopes on any such possibilities. At least, I believed that to be the case.
I do everything alone. I have raised my children alone. I have dealt with every major problem with my children alone. I have taken one of my children to hospital 6 times … alone. I have dealt with financial difficulties while starting my own business … alone. I have faced crises as school … alone. I have moved 3 times … alone. I have dealt with the death of a pet five times … alone. I haven’t had that partner or family member to call and say, “What do I do now?” And that’s how it is for survivors of trauma. We make a choice. We choose between our families and our safety. And even in the worst-case complex trauma scenarios, it is hard to make that choice. We aren’t taught to go it alone. Society doesn’t recommend it. And yet, so many of us are doing just that.
And I never feel more alone than when something is going wrong. With two kids and three cats, something is going wrong often, but sometimes it feels worse than others. It would be nice to have someone around to tell me I haven’t screwed up my kids forever or that my decisions don’t suck. It would be nice to have someone eat a meal I made and not suggest that take-out would be better. It would be nice to connect with someone who had mildly similar interests (not Pokemon or Youtubers). It would be nice to have someone to share all the shitty responsibilities with (like contacting call centers or going to the DMV or vet).
So when Madison realized she was going to go through the birth of twins by herself, I could relate. When she mentioned to the doctor that she wasn’t close to her mother, I could relate. And when Randall called her to say she was family, I lost it. In some ways, I have always hoped that there might be some other family waiting to adopt me. I have always wondered if I could find a family who would let me know I wasn’t so alone. I don’t need any blood relationships. I just want to know there is someone around. There’s an emergency contact. There’s a person who I can call when things are just too difficult. And God forbid, there’s someone who can help me a little bit. I can hear my parts saying I don’t deserve that. I can hear it, but I know it isn’t true. Those are the old messages from the past. But I have been waiting a while. And the folks in the TV shows seem to find these things so much easier than me.
I have learned this journey is always asking me to step that next level into the heartbreak. No matter how many times my controller tries to tell me I have healed enough, there is another layer of the onion to peel back. There is another step towards the vulnerable humanness I have tried to avoid. The messages that “I am fine alone” come from my survival strategies. No matter how much I want them to be true, they aren’t. No matter how helpful my isolation has been in my healing journey, it is not an permanent state for me to live with. But there is a fine line to walk. Looking to others to meet my needs does not heal me. And isolating to feel safe does not heal me either. We heal in balance. We heal when we allow relationships to be vulnerable and meaningful. We heal when we sit with the painful feelings in isolation instead of running to external things. We heal when we allow others to earn trust instead of assuming they don’t deserve it. So listen to the yearning for something more. Don’t write it off. Take another small step into the heartbreak. We all deserve a bit less loneliness in our lives.