When I was a child, I loved watching musical films (I still do!), and in all honesty I can remember a fair few stories about orphans, and children with evil step parents – one parent has gone and been replaced by someone less than appealing. The two that stick out the most in my mind are Rags to Riches, and Annie, although there were so many others like Oliver, Cinderella and even up to more recently – Finding Nemo and Lion King. Perhaps it is a little bit inappropriate for me to say, but I sometimes think that these films make losing a parent seem… glamorous! (I mean – people were singing and dancing, and the children often got adopted by or married to millionaires, or at the very least made great achievements) This may be a totally unfair statement, since it is almost impossible for a film to portray the feeling of loss a person feels when they lose a parent (through death or otherwise), and perhaps I was just feeling a bit bitter about the whole thing. I wasn’t technically an orphan until I was inmy twenties, and I am reliably informed that no millionaire wants to adopt a 25 year old dentist (although I maintain to this day that I would make an excellent child!!)
These past couple of years, I have been thinking a lot about being an adult. A longstanding friend asked me the day after my birthday if turning 40 felt anything like turning 30 and I had to say no. I remember my boss at the time asking me when I turned 30 if I thought it might be time to grow up, and my answer was a resounding NO. However, now 10 years later, I am not so sure. I definitely feel as if I should definitely be a grown up by now. Perhaps if I had said yes 10 years ago, she might have given me the adulthood manual or at the very least take a sneak peek.
Alas, I have reached 40 and most of the time I feel clueless! I wish I knew more about life, about love and relationships, about cars and indoor plumbing, changing washers – the type of things that adults seemed to intrinsically know when I was a child. I would trade some of the useless knowledge I carry around in my head (you know – cake recipes, capital cities, Rick Astley song lyrics) for a little more knowledge about adulting. But one of the things I have also thought about a lot, was – what type of person would I be if I had grown up with my mother. I am so proud of the person that I have become, as well as my sisters, and so in that regard, I am impressed with the job that my father did. I can barely keep up with my 3 year old nephew and there is 1 of him. I admire single parents daily for their ability to bring their family up and raise good people. But sometimes, I feel as if I have massive gaps concerning life, and about being a grown woman, and wonder if I would be more comfortable and confident navigating the world if things had been different.
We will never know the answer to that question, and so perhaps it isn’t even worth asking. But I can't help but be curious, and there is no doubt that our parents have a significant impact on us, and on the persons we become. We all have different relationships with our parents, and everyone experiences losing a parent or parents differently. In my opinion however, there is no feel good bandaid when your parents pass away, even after years have passed. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a vacant space in my life that can never be filled. There was no closure. I still have questions. Life has gone on, and I can laugh and perhaps I may even come across flippant about it, but make no mistake. I do not think there is ever an easy time to lose a parent, even when we are adults and think we have it all together. I have a friend who recently began to volunteer for a charity which helps the children of alcoholic parents, and she described it as having to mourn for the loss of a parent (or parents), even though they are still alive. I know other persons who have this experience for a variety of reasons other than alcohol abuse, and I think that the mourning is the same. I could say that growing up how I did made me more independent, that I stepped out more, that I achieved more, and maybe I did, but I can also say that sometimes I just wanted to be parented and I still feel that way sometimes, even now.
However, for the purposes of this post, I am going to focus more on what I have learned as a result of being orphaned as an adult, and the things that I take comfort in, or the things that stand out to me.
1. There is no adulting manual – or if there is, it is well hidden! It took me a long time to realise that we are all finding our way through this life, and some people are even making it up as they go along. You can take this any way you like. For me – it always seemed like bad news – anyone who read my recent posts must know how much I LOVE to follow a recipe – so having to go through life feeling my way never appealed to me. However, there is an up side to being able to chart my own path, because it gives me freedom to do things my way (most of all – I can eat cake for breakfast!)
2. I am not alone – While I feel as if I have soooooooo many questions about adulting, and looking around it seems as if others have it altogether, I discovered some time ago that there are many persons out there who have the same questions as me! It has made me more bold about asking my questions, and less bothered about not knowing the answers. It is actually a bit comforting having some people to investigate life with – those who are brave enough to admit that they don’t know so that we can seek out the answers together.
3. We have a part of our parents inside of us – whether we like it or not, our parents have deeply and intrinsically influenced our lives. As an adult I discovered that I was free to keep the good influences and values that they gave me, and learn from their mistakes, because they too were simply navigating the world without a manual. To those who felt as though their parents were strong role models who are gone too soon, know that you have a deep inner wisdom that was formed partially by having them in your lives, and call on it when you need to. To those who saw lack in some of the things their parents did – do your hardest to learn from their mistakes, and let them have a positive legacy.
4. I need to have compassion – apparently, there are some questions that it is completely unacceptable to ask as an adult, because people believe that you should already know the answers! I sometimes feel as if I missed that window of opportunity when I was a teenager to ask questions about life, and now that I am an adult, I am treated with scorn if I try to ask these things. And while this may not be 100% true, I know for a fact that the fear of looking stupid keeps myself (and I am sure a few other persons) ignorant on certain matters. It has taught me to be compassionate with others when they don’t know something that I know. I have a tendency to judge others by my own standards (I think a lot of us do) but I need to remember that different people have different experiences, and everyone will therefore not have the same knowledge. Instead of ridiculing those who do not know what I may consider common sense, I need to have compassion for them, just as I would want others to have it for me when I ask the seemingly obvious question.
It hasn’t been easy. Some days I still feel like a motherless child. On occasion, I still look around for a grown up to ask advice from or moral support. And I have found that as I have gotten older, this desire has actually become stronger rather than weaker. I don't think we are ever too old to need or to miss our parents. I cannot say much more than that for now. I have tried to be as practical as possible in writing this post. If you want a more philosophical discussion about with me about parents, their legacy, and if I would have been any different if circumstances had been different, then it is best that you send me an email, or invite me over for a cup of tea – milk, no sugar.
I send you big love from a small island.
Ps more flowers from the beautiful Rococco Gardens