"Perfect was never an option for me."



I grew up pretty independent. I was adopted when I was two. My biological parents both left me and my other siblings. Not exactly the perfect beginning to a story.

Mooy birth mother took me to a babysitter’s house, saying she had to work, and then she never came back. She left four kids with one diaper bag never to be heard from again. My birth dad was a drunk who didn’t know what was going on. Morals weren't the only thing lacking in what I called a childhood. We struggled to have even the basic necessities, and kept having to start over due to mismanaged money. We went hungry sometimes, eating toast or a can of green beans for dinner. Our water, electricity, and heat were turned off about every other month. We didn't have a washer or dryer, so we washed our clothes in the bathtub with dish soap. If there wasn't any gas to heat the water for a bath (especially in the winter), we would boil water on the stove. If that wasn't an option, we would walk to my grandma’s house to bathe and eat, then walk back to our beds at home to sleep away the night.

I think experiences like that are why I am so tough and rigid on the outside. As a kid, no one cared if I was afraid of the dark, and no one sang me songs at bedtime. We went to bed if we had a mattress, if not, we slept on the floor. If it hadn't been for welfare, we wouldn't have had even that. I remember hating to shop for clothes, because the only places we could go were these places where we stood in long lines. Sometimes we’d stand for a long time outside in the harsh winter, just to get to pick from the free clothes that different organizations would have set up throughout the year for underprivileged families. That meant I always dressed funny compared to the other kids. So I just embraced it. I learned early on it’s not what you wear but who you are.

There was always a lot of stress. A lot of aggression. A lot of fighting. Nobody took the time to encourage or empower me. I think that was hard for me as a kid. I had a lot of emotions, and no one taught me how to deal with them. I'm not the type to bottle them up; I never have been. So I just kept pushing myself into a deeper state of distress. Not only was I stressed about the instabilities around me, but with the regular everyday tasks as well. Simple things like a math test or a fly ball in the outfield would send me into a full-blown panic attack. Still, school was a safe haven for me. I loved being around people, and my teachers all loved me.

To be perfect in life has never been my goal, because it never seemed like an option for a kid like me. I mean, even when my adopted parents got divorced it wasn't even that big of a deal. It just seemed like a part of the already chaotic lifestyle we led. My adopted dad was pretty abusive, and one day my adopted mom said she had enough. He sent her to the hospital (you can fill in the lines), and she divorced him. We kids lived with a friend for a little while until mom got back. Soon after that, we lost the house. We ended up living with my mom’s friend, all seven of us sharing one room. Eventually we got a place to live, but mom wasn't the same. She went through a heavy depression. She would be in her room day and night, she quit talking to us except for lashing out, she quit cooking dinner and doing laundry, she didn't care if our homework or chores were done… she really just stopped being present.

That really sucked for me as a 13 year old. She was the only one I had in life who cared about me. She was it. So when she shut us out for about 4 years, I didn't know how to cope with it. I had no one to turn to or talk to. I was literally alone in the world. It was one of the hardest experiences, and it still affects me today. I remember one situation that still makes me cry to this day. I loved taking photographs as a kid, and I had all this undeveloped film that I wanted to get developed, probably about 7 rolls. I begged my mom for weeks, and she just ignored me. One day, I was sitting on the living room floor, and my mom came through the door. She stood over me and yelled, "You wasted my ******* money!" She threw all the pictures in my face. The photos were damaged, because they were left in sunlight before being developed. It CRUSHED me. I’d disappointed the only person who loved me and made her hurt more than she already had been. To this date, my mom shutting us out is one of the hardest experiences I've ever had to deal with, mainly because mom used to keep us all together. But as the years went by, that task became a more demanding one, one that she in herself didn't have enough strength to continue. Our family shifted so much, that everyone started going their own path to the point of complete evaporation. My oldest brother left to live somewhere else at 16. My next brother got his girlfriend pregnant and was shipped out to Iraq for deployment not long after that. My oldest sister resembled my mom a lot; she didn't know how to cope with everything, so she just lived in a fantasy world of books and television, keeping herself as distracted as possible. Then there was me, trying to cope with softball, art, and friends. My younger brother was in juvie for sexually molesting a little girl. My youngest sister stayed at her friend’s house and focused on school as much as she could. So by the time I turned 16, our family of eight was now down to the four girls.

I think that out of all the things I lacked in life, the thing I needed most was love. I felt alone most of the time. I didn't know how to handle that depth of loneliness as a kid, and even to this day I struggle with it. I honestly felt like I had nobody. Not only did my parents not understand me, but I'm not sure if my parents themselves even exist anymore. My mom never did find her way back to her old self. She passed later that year during my junior year in high school. My adopted dad is living out his life in a run-down trailer park, drinking away everything he ever did to my mom. I call him every once in a while to check up on him and share the Gospel, and I think he's getting close. The guilt of the life he's lived holds him back tremendously. He tells me he has terrible nightmares playing in his head about what he did to mom. To this day, he still can't sleep in peace.

I met Christ at 16 on a Vacation Bible School bus. A little girl named Dakila told me how she got saved, and the Holy Spirit spoke to me for the first time and said, "it's your turn." I didn't know how the whole salvation thing worked, so I ended up going home and praying a prayer, which I later found out is called the prayer of salvation. It was an indescribable experience. I gave my life to Christ and finally felt peace in my heart for once. From that day forward, I was never alone. All of those things that I called problems in my childhood are now precious pieces of gold. God has used all of those things in one way or another. One of the biggest things is my compassion for the poor and forgotten. Especially kids. It kills me to see kids go through what I went through. It used to keep me up at night, thinking about my bus kids and how they were hungry or uncared for. To this day, I have kept in contact with them, and they always run and tackle me when they see me. They hold a precious place in my heart! I would honestly do anything to see them succeed, even though I know the odds are stacked against them. To me, bettering myself as a Christian really meant helping them. I wanted to be the best I could be to give them hope. They don't have to be ashamed of where they come from, because God will one day set them on a firm rock and give them a new song to sing! It's why I try to be transparent in all areas of life as well.

Transparent is one of the most inspiring things you be. That's why I am not ashamed of who I was, and to this day I'm not, with the exception of one area of my life. I was sexually abused as a young girl. To this day, don’t know how to cope with it. I've only told two people in my entire life; one was my roommate in college, the other was my boyfriend at the time. We broke up not long after I told him. It wasn’t because of that, he just couldn’t deal with the amount of baggage I had, and I understand that. That's fair. I was a lot to handle and was still figuring myself out. He and I were best friends before we started dating, so to go to that next level of dating was a hard concept to grasp for me. I was too scared to even say yes, but he convinced me that he'd be there for the long haul. I trusted him when inside I knew I shouldn't have. But everyone was telling me to do it and that I was just afraid to be loved. So I said yes. I had never had someone pay attention to me or love me in an intentional way like that. It was confusing, scary, painful, chaotic. I didn't know what to do. I had all the wrong walls up. I didn't know how to be loved, and he didn't have the patience for me to learn. It really killed me when we broke up. I was 21, and at this point I had hardly any family left. He’d promised to always take care of me, unlike anyone in my childhood. Not long after that talk, he broke it off. I realize now how much of a burden that is for someone (even if he did have good intentions of fulfilling his promise), and that that burden should have been on Christ and not him. He said a lot of stuff that he never lived up to, but that's not even the part that hurt me. It never bothered me that he didn't want to date anymore. It was that he said he loved me but then moved on so quickly. . I struggled trying to see the difference between young mistakes and evil intentions. Even now at 23, I'm still a bit jaded that love is real. I see now that he didn't know what love was. He's in a relationship now, and I haven't talked to him since the day we cut it off, but I wish him the best.

To this day, I don't have much family, and I am single. I remember talking to my counselor one day. I told him my story, and when I was done, he said, “Don't you feel lonely? You don't really have anyone.” I just cried with the reality of my own loneliness. I think whether you have a story like mine, or one where you feel misunderstood, loneliness can be such an awful thing. It's crippling. I think the thought of ending up alone haunts the minds of every single person. And probably even some married people.

Today, I think being perfect was never an option for me. I started out with nothing, so there was no way to even reach that idea of perfection. As I grew older, I realized that my idea of perfection was probably the person reading this. I wanted to be you. I always felt behind, because I was poor. Because I don't have parents or a family. Because I'm not really that smart. I'm not in an amazing relationship with someone. I didn't know how to dress or what being "polite" was. I wondered how I could be a good mom or a good wife when I don't have parents or a family. Sometimes I wonder how anyone could love me when I have all these rough edges. It’s crazy to think about how warped that thinking is, but the cognitive part of the brain can be powerful. But slowly, I’m learning to love myself. It's actually not as bad or as cheesy as it sounds. I'm enjoying the process of being patient. I'll be real though, sometimes, if given the attention and power, loneliness can be crippling. I think the thought of ending up alone haunts the minds of every single person. Probably even some married people. One thing I do know is that because of everything that made me feel like I couldn't be perfect is the very reason why I am. I have eyes to see the lonely and the forgotten. I have a special lens given by God for the invisible people of the world. If my imperfections have taught me anything, it's to be humble when you feel like a big shot, to always remember those who are still in the situation where you were, and to always love the unloved. Without those imperfections I wouldn't be me.

© 2020 by Nancy E Wood