Growing up, I had my mom’s full attention, acting as her sidekick. I had my own room full of toys and felt very loved.
When I was five, my mom became pregnant with my brother. The changes began before he even arrived. One day she was so uncomfortable that she could not walk me to school — one of our daily rituals — so I had to walk by myself.
I said my goodbyes and began the journey to school. I passed by familiar neighborhood apartments and homes with lush yards. Suddenly, a huge dog jumped out, barking in my face. As I looked into the dog’s eyes (which were at eye-level with me), I started to feel the fear of being bitten. I stood there at just five years old, screaming at the top of my lungs while the dog continued barking in my face.
I don’t remember who got there first, the owner of the dog or my mom. My poor mom running, pregnant, trying to get to me as fast as she could. I was in tears with relief when she swooped me up. Safe again.
When my brother was born both my parents were at the hospital for a while. I can’t remember who was taking care of me in their absence, though I was not a child easily consoled by just anyone when I was away from them. Everyone ooohed and awed commenting on how cute he was so I chimed in as a proud big sister. It didn’t take long for me to get annoyed with my mom’s shifted focus.
In school I was busy with friends, but at home, I felt the stress of discontent. My dad worked a lot and my mom cared for me and my brother so when my dad got home, his attention and energy were stretched. My parents also argued a lot. My mom was drained from keeping house, caring for us, and making sure dinner was ready when he got home. This was what was expected. My dad worked and she did the rest.
When we moved into a larger house and a really great neighborhood, I made amazing new friends and was happy to play out back or go knock on a friend’s door to play at their house. I loved walking to school because there were so many other kids doing the same so we all met up and walked together.
Once my brother was old enough to totter around he started getting into my stuff and taking up more space. Before, I could just ignore him and let my mom and everyone else ogle over him, but at this point he was invading my personal space. My annoyance turned to anger and I’d find ways to be mean to him. “You should know better, you’re much older than him” was often my parent’s retort.
I got the feeling more and more that I was on my own. That my needs were not as important as my brothers and I began to feel like a nuisance.
When we moved to our next house, around 4th grade, my priorities were less about my family and what they were doing and more about my friendships, birthday parties, and playing after school. By the time I turned 11, I definitely didn’t want anything to do with my parents or my brother and looked for every opportunity to be out.
I was really mean to my brother through these years, physically and verbally violent. It pains me to recall and I have a lot of shame about how I treated him. He wanted my attention and I was too resentful to care. This affected my relationship with my brother into our adult years. I was never so triggered to defense the way I was with him. My parents would ask me to take him places with me and look after him which made me more upset at him than ever. My friends all thought he was cute and wanted to befriend him. It all got under my skin.
When our parents divorced we went separate ways, he went with my dad and I stayed in San Jose with my mom. This was my angry teenage time: I ignored my family completely and was always working, at school, or at a party out with friends.
My rebellion became our camaraderie, so when I became a young mother I invited him to come live in Santa Cruz down in a small room below our main house. There was still dissonance between us but then again, we were both trying to figure out who to trust overall.
It wasn’t until my children grew into adults and I married a really great man my brother could relate to and admire, that my relationship with my brother deepened. Still, there was unfinished stuff from the past. So when my son came to live with him and his family when they had nowhere else to go, it touched my heart to tears.
I felt the family line of struggle and support come full circle. Regardless of the pain from the past, hurt in the present, or fears of the future, we held one another. My brother was able to relate and be there for my grown son with his wife and child in a way I could not. He understands things in ways I am still learning from a perspective I was never part of and could not do anything about.
I’m grateful for my brother, even though I was not in the beginning. I’m digging deep and healing buried wounds that I had no interest in revisiting before. I’m finding so much value in the healing. I’m recovering the parts of myself that I felt ashamed of and tried to pretend weren’t there.
I used to do my deep work for my kids so I wouldn’t pass on my traumatic behaviors. Then I did it for my coaching clients so I could hold space for them and their wounds. Now I do it for myself so I can love more completely, bringing all of me to the table to be accepted and received.
There will always be more to understand and heal from my past. I’m determined to take the cues from my present experiences and get things complete for myself, in my body, and in my spirit. I started offering retreats to include more women in this journey of healing. I feel we hold so much without realizing how often we are stifled by it.
I offer events to connect with other women who are passionate about healing and staying connected.
I hope to see you, meet you, and hear your story along the way!