Have I truly accepted who I am? I have been reading other blogs, books and articles on people like me coming out. One of the many themes that is talked about time and time again is acceptance. When children grow up, they each continually attempt to find acceptance. Acceptance of their words, acceptance of a relationship, acceptance of parents or authority figures, acceptance of their actions, acceptance of their choices.
When I was a child, I remember my first friends were my siblings. I wanted to be their friend and playmate. I wanted them to choose to play with me. I wanted my parents attention and having their attention meant that they accepted me. That experience broadened as more people were introduced into my life....extended family, neighbors and school-mates. I will give you examples from these groups:
1) We had cousins that lived down the road. Heather, Melodie and Holly lived down the road from us. They were each fast friends. We did a lot together around the farm, exploring and generally being kids. We had a wonderful time together. I always looked forward to going over to their house. Their house was more modern then ours and they lived closer to town. I felt accepted among them. Those were fond memories.
2) When I was about 5 or 6 my parents were building a house outside of town on the "farm". We lived in town during my first year, next to the gas station that my parents owned. Whenever my dad would go to the new house to "build" I would always want to go. Every time I had an opportunity to go with him, I felt included and accepted by him. I know that I created more work for him just being there (I know this because of my own experience with children) but I am gratified that he brought me along. My dad was not very expressive with words, but I actions spoke volumes.
3) The Birch's built a home down the road from us, they would be our closest neighbors for decades. They had 3 sons similar in age with me. It was great to have someone even closer than cousins and with a newer "log cabin" house. It was an adjustment to not just show up on their doorstep and expect to play. We now had to plan things and ask permission. It was a good framework with interact from. I did notice over time that our mothers did not become fast friends, there was some dissonance between the 2. That would sometimes limit that interaction. That affected the acceptance that I felt with the neighbors to a point. These boys did not become my best friends, we really did not do similar things in middle and high school. I really think that this relationships main influencer was the mother of the boys. She was never negative towards me personally, but I just felt something different....non-acceptance. The sad thing about this group is that it affected my mother profoundly too.
4) My abuser was a person that I continually tried to find acceptance from. To me he was an authority figure. Everything he said was gospel. I would do anything he would say. Sad form of acceptance. I remember vividly one experience where he told me I would die (because I had done something unacceptable to him). I cried myself to sleep for months, waiting for the end. I believed that contributed to my inability to wake up during the night and go to the bathroom. I wet the bed for years. I know that this was a psychological problem, yet I would be taken to the doctor to examine my physical self to fix. It was a shame that abuse or psychological needs were not considered at that time. I was looking for continual, consistent acceptance from this person and it was driving me insane. Hard to write about this but I feel compelled to share this as a way of separating this experience from myself which gives me the ability to look at it objectively for a brief moment.
5) School and church children were one in the same in my community. Very homogeneous and in my opinion VERY unhealthy. There were very little differences or diversity among us. I did look for acceptance among my peers because those are the people I would spend most of my time with during a given day. I sought acceptance from both male and female friends. Knowing early on the appropriateness of gender and sex roles. I could only be attracted to girls and jostled for position with the boys. I remember vividly when certain boys would move into our class, I could probably have fit in with the girls conversations much more easily about how cute he was, or who would talk to him first......but I could not do that. Instead I would find out who that new kid liked and who preempt his ability to like that girl.....thus I would get his attention. Weird, twisted and messed up.....I know.....but that is how I adapted. That is how I sought out attention and acceptance.
Now, fast forward......I am still looking for acceptance personally, professionally, and socially. I use the experiences I have had in the past as guideposts. I do feel much more confident in my identity and self. Sometimes acceptance becomes a non-issue because of my ability to not always need acceptance. I believe the strongest acceptance any person can ever have is that of them self. 2 years ago, I found myself....18 months ago I finally accepted myself......14 months ago I needed to change my life in order for my accepted self to exist......every month it is a continually battle to foster my inner self given all the societal judgments about who I am. I am me, and grateful for that person.