The start of my journey…
My path to connection starts in a childhood characterised by disconnection, not belonging, and not feeling accepted. But, it was only in 2018 when it felt like my whole life was ripped out from under me that I realised how disconnected my life had become and that I finally began the painstaking journey of finding my way back to myself. I had been on auto-pilot and reacting to the world around me instead of creating my life from a place of intention grounded in a deep sense of connection to myself.
In this series of blog posts, I will be sharing brief insights on particular events of my life that led me on a detour to disconnection and how I found my path back to connection.
I am the youngest of four children and always felt different to my siblings. I think my parents didn’t understand that I was more creative and sensitive to emotions than my siblings, and that I needed something different from them. Since I was born in the early 1980s, child-rearing has become a lot more conscious, and it’s become commonly accepted that each child’s individuality should be recognised and often even celebrated. When I was growing up, parents often adopted more of a cookie-cutter approach. As fourth in line, my parents probably felt that they had perfected the fine art of raising children and that they didn’t need to do too much hands-on parenting, when the truth is that each child is an individual and needs a unique approach.
Or, perhaps it is because my mother once confessed to me over a cappuccino in a mall coffee shop that she intentionally rejected me so that I would grow up to be more independent. At the time, she was trying to come to terms with her own life decisions, and realising that she sacrificed a lot of her freedom while she was married to my father. Now, she completely denies having ever said anything like that, but has apologised to me for being a “lousy mother”. She’s in her 70s and her mental capacity is deteriorating, and so I receive these apologies with compassion and a sense of loss for the mother I never had. I no longer blame her, as I try to hold understanding that she did the best that she could under the circumstances.
When they mercifully divorced, my mother was left trying to raise four children on a music teacher’s salary with no time to process or heal her own wounds. By all accounts, my father was a difficult man, and my mother has suffered from mental health problems as a result of the unprocessed trauma she experienced during their tumultuous marriage. He was a minister of the church, and an alcoholic with health issues that left him bitter and angry at his God and at us. He felt abandoned, and so abandoned us instead. I remember one occasion in my early twenties, where he had asked all the children to come and visit him as he claimed the medication he needed to prevent his kindeys from failing was no longer going to be available in the country. I hadn’t spoken to him in several years by that point, and against my better judgement went to see if we could repair our relationship. Unfortunately, he had been lying and used the opportunity to yell and shout and blame all of us for everything that ever went wrong in his life. I quietly left the room in tears and never really spoke to him again.
Back then, children were supposed to be seen and not heard, and sometimes even being seen was not allowed. When I was a toddler, my family often went on long overnight hikes, like the Fish river canyon, and I would be left behind with elderly family friends. I’ve been told that I was an active child and used to literally climb their walls and furniture, but instead of allowing me to play outdoors, they stuck my body with pins to make me stop. I certainly stopped and became disconnected and afraid of expressing my natural curiosity to explore the world.
I share each of these experiences because they stand out as clear seminal junctures where I went down a path of disconnection — shutting down those parts of me that didn’t feel safe and welcome in the world I was raised in. Fortunately, these stories are not the sum total of my childhood. Yes, I know neglect, I know abandonment, and I know rejection, but I certainly had many rich and happy moments too.
My path to connection
It was only much later in my life that I was able to recognise how these and other experiences helped to shape how I experienced and engaged with life. I lost my connection to myself and felt adrift and untethered in the world. I went through much of my life looking to others to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, subconsciously thinking it would gain me a real sense of connection. But connection is an inside job, and I have since realised that one of the first steps on the path to connection is cultivating self-awareness and self-acceptance. So, I invite you to reflect on the following questions
- Are there particular events in your childhood that you can recognise as having contributed to a sense of disconnection?
- How would you describe your life now?
- How does that description make you feel? Does it evoke a sense of connection and acceptance, or disconnection and loss?
- Do you feel that a greater sense of connection will improve the quality of your life? If so, what would that life of connection look and feel like?
Remember, once you know where you are, it becomes much easier to decide what you want your future life to look and feel like. I will leave you to reflect on this quote from Lewis Carroll: