My life has been on pause since I returned home from my mother’s funeral. I’m depressed about her death and my estrangement from my siblings, (I’ve disconnected from both my brother and sister). Family is essential but if they consistently judge you for being who you naturally are or they criticize your beliefs/opinions/right to be, they are toxic and aren’t healthy to be around.
I first learned about Attachment Theory during an introductory Psychology class in college and recently found this informative video clip that summarizes it well. It’s the idea that during the first years of life the process of trust/bonding develops and when a child has an insecure connection it affects their self-esteem, perception and personality. It essentially sets the life path of the person.
I was separated from my family when I was one until I was almost four years old, (raised by my grandmother who I hadn’t previously lived with) and it traumatized me. When I was eventually reunited with my parents and siblings they were all strangers to me. I said to my grandmother, “We’ve visited my family, so now let’s return home.” I didn’t understand that the visit would be permanent.
Children aren’t usually given information, things just happen to them, they have to figure the situation out and adjust without the benefit of information or maturity. When my grandmother left me to return to South Korea, that was the metaphorical nail to my coffin, I can still remember the feeling of complete loneliness. When she left I lost my ability to speak Korean, that’s how devastated I was to lose her. I didn’t want to speak the language that she had taught me anymore; but not speaking Korean, made me the anomaly in my family, the only one who couldn’t speak it. I slept on the floor with the colorful blanket that I’d shared with my grandmother since I was a baby and I cried every night to return back home to her, she had become my replacement family.
Why did she leave? What did I do wrong to make her leave? That’s what I believed, that I caused my family and grandmother to abandon me, not once but twice. Children can seem resilient but inside their hearts are silently wounded, the scar of abandonment has affected my entire life. It’s something that my siblings can’t understand, “Get over it through belief in Jesus” is their philosophy, that and tons of denial.
So now I’ve come full circle again I’m separated from my family of origin, but this time it’s my decision to leave. I won’t live under the burden of being judged/labeled/scapegoated anymore (for not being Christian and therefore causing my mother’s cancer), that absurd attack by my brother was the dramatic ignition to my escape.
I’ve lived for almost 3 decades under the burden of shame that my family put on me but I’ve finally taken that label off. I loved my siblings, admired them as being heroic for defending our abused mom during our childhood but it’s time for me to live my life free of the black sheep role. I never deserved the abuse and won’t feel guilty for setting myself free. If they want a relationship with me, they need to respect who I am, and not treat me like a charity project.
I’m an independent woman, a mother, writer and artist; I don’t need anyone’s permission to live my authentic life. I’ve made peace with my father while ago, I’ve always loved him despite the abuse, the truth about what happened isn’t meant to punish him. I write because I need to get the toxin out of my heart. I am a writer, truth is essential to me.
(Haiku for my halmoni):
Grandma where are you?
Are you playing peek-a-boo?
Why can’t I see you?