Invite the light.

The motif of connection is strong in my life.  Mostly it appears in the form of lack there-of and sometimes in the form of abandonment or betrayal.  But suffice it to say, it is a common place experience in my life to miss connection.

We’ll start with my father.  After my parents’ divorce, about which I was too young to know anything, he disappeared from our lives.  Granted, he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and was very young.  But he abandoned my equally as young mother with two small children under the age of four.  He never really resurfaced again, at least not for me.  His was the first seed of abandonment to be planted in my fertile mind.  {Insert “daddy issues” here.}

Later, after my mom, brother, and I had moved across the country, thousands of miles away from family and anything familiar, my brother started to rebel and have difficulty adjusting to our new life.  My mother sought help but ultimately, due to her own mental health issues, she could not handle or control the situation.

I vividly remember a fight between the two of them when I was in 3rd grade.  They were screaming at each other.  Insults, swear words, anger, and then objects were thrown.  I was terrified.  I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t feel safe.  School and media had taught me well.  I picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1.  I don’t remember if I spoke to them.  I don’t remember explaining the situation to anyone.  But I do remember when the police showed up shortly after.  They questioned my mother, who calmly assured them it was a misunderstanding.  They questioned my brother and me.  I followed his lead and said it was a mistake.  We were not in danger.  Yes, I had called, but I was fine now.

It wasn’t until some time later, as my brother and I were being asked to testify to Child Protective Services as to the fitness of our mother as a caretaker, that the magnitude of my phone call started to register.  My brother pulled me aside before we went in and told me to lie.  He said to tell them our mom was home more than she was and that we always had food and that we were safe and happy.  How did he know to lie?  And if he hated her so much, why didn’t he want us to tell the truth so we could get into a better situation?  But, I looked up to him and trusted him, so I lied.

I often wonder how different life would have been if we hadn’t lied that day.  But that is a story for another time.

The abandonment came a few years later when he chose to live with our alcoholic, drug-addict father rather than stay in the craziness that was living with our mother. He had always protected me – against both our mother's and our father’s inadequacies – and now he was leaving me to fend for myself.  He was doing what he had to do to save himself, but he left me behind like a lamb to the slaughter.  The day he left, he planted another seed of abandonment only this time it was fertilized with betrayal. 

Of course, the cycle of abandonment continued through most of my dating relationships.  I think that is pretty typical of girls with daddy issues: Choose unavailable men who will treat you badly and/or leave you because it reinforces the lack of male love in your childhood.  But, by the end of college, the failed connection motif started to appear in my friendships as well.

During one of my mother’s downward turns, I was on a pretty self-destructive streak.  At a party at my best friend, Mary’s*, I said something about her while black-out drunk.  To this day I can’t remember what I said.  She never clearly told me what it was.  But it was so hurtful, that after maintaining friendship for a few more years, she finally wrote me a letter with explanations of how she needed to protect herself and do what was best for her.  She cut me out of her life. I reached out but she never responded to me and I’ve never heard from her again.  Her seed of abandonment was planted deep, because this time, unlike my father and my brother, I knew I had contributed to her leaving.

The motif of abandonment is complex and layered.  I’m sure there were some friendships and relationships that ended because they had simply run their course.  And there are definitely some that were perpetuated by my own self-destructive behaviors.  But my most recent connection loss was by a friend who dropped out of my life in a dramatic way that shocked everyone.

“It’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs.” ~Holden Caulfield

I met Victoria* when she interviewed to be my roommate.  She came to look at the room and ended up staying for hours over brunch, shared stories, experiences, and laughter.  To say we were fast friends is probably an understatement.  When she moved in we became even closer.  We bonded over karaoke, Gone with the Wind, and shared complaints about dating.  As we grew to know each other better, we shared more intimately about our struggles.  We had been through a lot of the same types of trials and we saw the world in a similar way.   Because of our complicated relationships with our mothers, we lamented the difficulty we both felt in creating meaningful and lasting connections. We talked openly about what close friends we were and how we were perfect opposites and complements to each other.  We talked openly and definitively about continuing to be roommates after our lease was up in our current place.  We stayed up late nights talking.  We shared texts, snapchats, Instagram tags, and Facebook posts.  I loved her.  I trusted her.

As my plans began to form for a lengthy trip around the world, they impacted her as my roommate.  So I kept her informed.  I broke down the numbers so that she could make the best financial decision for herself.  I involved her in almost every decision as I moved forward with my plans because I wanted to make sure she was comfortable and that she was on board.  She assured me every step of the way that she was with me 100%.  She even offered suggestions and solutions to difficulties that arose.  She seemed excited.  There was no reason for me to suspect otherwise.

I went away on a retreat just before we were slated to move into our new place together.  I wasn’t going to return until the day before the movers were coming.  Victoria took over some loose ends I hadn’t been able to finish prior to my departure.  She was so responsible and reliable.  The night before I left, we stayed up in my bed chatting about our new life and everything seemed normal.  When I left the next morning, I texted her on my way out.  I gave her my emergency contact info and thanked her for being flexible so that I could attend my retreat.  I told her I loved her.

When I returned 12 days later, I texted her on my way back.  She didn’t respond, but I had no reason to question it at the time.  When I walked into the house, I spoke briefly with another friend who had been staying with us for the summer and asked where Victoria was.  She blanched. 

“You haven’t talked to Victoria?!”

“No.  What’s wrong? Is everything ok?”

“You need to talk to Victoria.”

“Oh my gosh.  Is she ok?  What happened?”

“You need to talk to Victoria.”

I called her and left a message.  I texted her.  I read through every single email I had received during my absence and found nothing out of the ordinary.  So I went back to my friend and asked again what was wrong.  I was terrified that something had happened to Victoria, to her brother, to her family.  I imagined her stressed, sad, upset and felt awful that I wasn’t there to comfort her.  Then…

“Victoria moved out.”

Wait, what?!  Victoria was gone?  Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.  The words hung in the air and I felt my blood turn to tar as the magnitude of her absence sank in.

Gone.  As in, she moved out without notice or warning the day before she knew I was coming home.
Gone.  As in, she left items she didn’t want to deal with behind and took items that weren’t hers – including a shared gift from a mutual friend.
Gone.  As in, I now needed to finish packing the house because she left everything she said she would do undone.
Gone.  As in, I now needed to recalibrate my entire future because I had believed her when she said she was my friend and that I could count on her.
Gone.  As in, I had trusted her word and this was no simple misunderstanding or change of plans that could be explained away.

This was no accident. Victoria was gone.  As in a “fuck-you” slap to my face.

The garden of my mind was full from a lifetime of loss, and the seeds she planted finally overcrowded the rows.  Another person had abandoned me.  Another person had betrayed me.

So I did what I had to do.  Rather than blame her or hate her, I recognized how desperate she must have been to exit my life in such a way.  I felt sorry for her that she found herself in such a state that betraying a close friend felt like her only option.  Rather than spin my wheels trying to come up with an explanation or to seek closure, I opened my heart to accept that it had happened and now I had some choices to make.

You see, in our life's journey we always have a choice.  We are perpetually in a state of light or darkness.  We can choose to go from from darkness into more darkness, or from darkness toward the light.  We can choose to leave the light for the darkness, or to go from light toward more light.

Through my crazy life thus far, I have learned that no matter where you find yourself – stuck, alone, tired, frustrated, sad, peaceful, loving, joyful – you always have a choice of where you will place your feet next.  Decide to take the step that brings you toward the light. 

Strive to always make the choices that bring light into your life. 

Then illuminate the path forward for others.


*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.




✏️ Writer • 🎤 Speaker • 🙋🏻 Teacher • RESILIENT OPTIMIST • Sharing words of love and compassion.