Recently, I received a very touching note from my brother-in-law. His words reminded me of far I've come in what has been a very long road to my recovery. Most of the people I am friends with now I have no idea what I was like before. Self conscious, low self esteem and a complete introvert, I mastered the art of hiding at a very early age. It was safe and it's how I survived. Childhood was mostly fear and sadness with just glimpses of happiness. It's all that I remember.
Over the years through countless hours of self help and therapy, I have witnessed my life change to one that is happy and loving with only the occasional glimpses of depression and sadness. I do go into that dark place sometimes, but it's less and less. Things have changed. I have changed. For the better. I've broken the cycle, I know that. I like myself now, dare I even say, love myself. Yes, I can say that... and with confidence.
The note started with "Your email and your discussion last night about elephants as it relates to David’s insight about your “mothering persuasion” compels me to share something with you that I’ve wanted to say to you for quite a while, but have never found the right “1-on-1 moment with you”"
The entire note from my brother-in-law moved me, but in particular, "...there is nothing like understanding the details of such an experience to make it real and impactful to oneself, and to begin to appreciate what you must have gone through."
And even more, this: "Aside from the painful details Frank shared with me, I must say that what most impresses me….no…astounds me really…..is how you turned out these many years later. The love and attention you show to Kelly, Jen and Frank is quite wonderful and inspiring. Cat, you are an exceptional mother, wife and more generally, just a wonderful person to whomever you cross paths with**. I really don’t know how you got from “there” to “here”, but you found a way that is beyond my understanding. I guess I’ve always felt that we are, to a large degree, a product of our past experiences and that we learn behavior patterns as children (both good and bad) that end up sticking with us as adults even when we’ve never liked those patterns as kids (I know there’s a lot of my Dad in me in ways that I have never been happy with). I believe you are one of the few people in this world that seem to have truly transcended whatever dysfunctional baggage you may have carried as a child and have used those experiences only to your benefit in becoming the strong and loving person you are today.
Anyway…I just wanted to say what a wonderful person you are. I am grateful that you have touched the lives of so many in the “Greater Garber Clan”. You have my profound respect and admiration. "
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I am wiping a tear away from cheek at this very moment. I do so every time I read this, and I read it often. It is one thing to have someone say they respect and admire you. But to have it told to you under the premise of really connecting and essentially putting themselves in your shoes, MY shoes, just really made me feel seen, which is something I actually do appreciate now. With gusto even. And the 'transcendence' is truly what it is because the dysfunctional baggage will always be there, but it no longer controls my life.
I was so moved by the words in his note that I wanted to share it with my sister. However, I lacked the capacity at the moment to see how this might impact her. It became a battle of feelings, and that I was being selfish with this elephant trip and what it means to me, by telling some of those that are close to me about it. But what she wasn't able to see, but does now, is that it is not just about the elephants. Not for me. It's about being there with my sister. Surrounded by the weight and the emotional power of these elephants. And sharing it with her. No one else but her. I cannot wait to see the expression, the mannerisms the body language when she first sees them. The uninhibited raw emotion that is going to be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. We are both going to be blubbering idiots.
Being twins is the best thing in the world. I got to grow up with my best friend. And we pretty much saved each other. I have come to a point were I am not afraid nor ashamed to tell my story. The shame is not mine. But I am not sure that my sister is, and that's okay. The story is not just mine to tell. I guess the challenge is trying to express myself without betraying her. Sometimes it's hard to separate the 'us' from the individual, particularly when we go back to our childhood. And this trip is really about all the things we lacked in our childhood. And being with the elephants.