This post by dooce struck such a huge chord with me that I had to think about it for a while before I could post about it, but I feel compelled to post.
I am not good enough.
I have to give a little background about this. I am the oldest of two daughters, daughters of a manic-depressive alcoholic and what I now recognize to be a depressed mother. My mother died when I was 15, suddenly, from a heart attack. For most of my life, my parents were too caught up in themselves to really give me what I needed from them - they really just didn't know how. I always did well in school, but I am inherently lazy and school just came easy to me. My sister, on the other hand, was slow, and needed extra help. Trying to help her, my parents utilized the special education resources available in our affluent DC suburb. But according to my parents, help consisted of sending her to the resource room, when really she needed more specialized attention in the classroom. Since my mother died, and my father's memory is clouded by his emotions, I don't really know the real story, but I do know that
1. My parents were unable to extract my sister from "the system" once she was in it, even when they decided she didn't need it or that it wasn't helping her.
2. The school was closed when I finished fourth grade, the main administrators fired, and a big investigation hushed up regarding government fraud pertaining to Federal special education funding.
3. My mother became my sister's constant companion and chief teacher when my sister wasn't in school.
Because school was easy for me, when I brought home a report card with 3As and 2Bs, the best I could do with the least amount of work, instead of "Hey, that's great" I got "How come it isn't straight A's?" or else I was completely ignored. Then, my mom died, and the one who was less wrapped up in my sister or herself was gone. My father gave me "You don't know how hard I have it, my wife died, oh woe is me" and never, ever dealt with my sister or me or our grief. We just lost our mother; to him, that wasn't that big a deal. He crawled into the bottle and didn't come out for many years. It was as if we had lost both parents.
We weren't good enough to motivate him to want to live once my mother died. For the record, it is now 21 years later, he never remarried, barely dated, and still doesn't recognize that our grief was just as big as his was.
When I was a child, my father saw something in me that he decided was arrogance - something I don't think I've ever seen in a child younger than 2, but he saw that in me. He decided that wasn't how I should be, and he set out to "drive it out of me." I was never praised for my achievements; instead, they were barely recognized, or I was treated as if it was expected of me.
When mom died, I was the one who had to pick up the slack. I did the housework. I kept up with school. I had a social life. I had extracurriculars at school, active in marching band, jazz band, and choir. I called people on the phone to tell them my mom died. I did all the thank you notes after the funeral. I was 15.
I took up with the first guy who showed an interest in me. We were engaged at 16 years old. I tried to spend as little time at home as possible - my dad worked, but he drank every second he wasn't working. I spend time at the boyfriend's house. Absorbed myself in his family. Eventually broke up with him over something stupid, ended up sleeping with his best friend, dating him for a year, and him breaking up with me because he was sleeping with someone else, and wanted her. I wasn't good enough.
I took up with the first guy to show an interest in me in college. I went to junior college on scholarship, because the years had finally taken their toll and my dad was laid off when I was a senior in HS. I earned straight A's. I spent all my time studying or with the boyfriend. I graduated with honors in 2 years, and transferred to a four-year-school. For the first time in my life, I felt good enough.
My dad went through rehab when I was a junior in college. I handled all of his finances for the 60 days he was in residential, and kept up with my school work. I lived with a roommate in our own one-bedroom apartment to save money. The boyfriend started sleeping with much of the music department at the college - we went to the same school. It had been assumed that we would get married, not just by me but by everyone else we knew, so the breakup was bad, very bad - I threw furniture out the window bad - and I fell into depression, what I now recognize as a nervous breakdown. I wasn't good enough.
My roommate kept me alive - she made me eat. I found a therapist on campus - he helped me work things out. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, triggered by the boyfriend but tracking back to my home life growing up. I worked out of it with their help.
Dad met a woman at rehab, and when I was home on break, I talked to her on the phone one day. She told me how my dad talked about me all the time and how proud of me he was. I started to cry, and I told her that he never told me that.
I spent some time just working on myself. I dated around, not being exclusive (there were issues here but this is already a long story, so another day), and was asked out by a guy that looked just like Tom Cruise (a big deal then though now I think he's nuts). At a school where girls outnumbered guys 5 to one, he could have had his pick of half the campus. He picked me. I was good enough.
Life happens and goes on, and in the intervening years I graduated with honors, met, dated, and married my husband, and had 3 beautiful children, two of them daughters. I still struggle every day with not being good enough. Good enough housekeeper (I have clutter issues), good enough cook (I like to do it but am usually too tired), good enough wife, good enough mom, good enough me. I never, ever felt that unconditional love that is so evident in dooce's posts - I still don't. I make sure I tell my kids every day, especially on those days that they drive me nuts, that no matter what - NO matter what - I love them. Not because they are beautiful, even though they are; not because they are smart, even though they are; in spite of the fact that they are becoming slobs, like me, and they can be mouthy and crazy and they hit each other sometimes, because that really doesn't matter. Because they are them.
And they are good enough.
So how come I can't be?