• Bella Dean Joyner

I'm Glad I Never Gave Up

I spoke to someone, also military affiliated, who used to live in the floor above us in this villa we still call home. We discussed cover art for one of my upcoming books, and she mentioned that I should create a blog because I had a very unique story to tell. I gave her the link to this one and she told me that she really felt like I should continue, that it might even be therapeutic for me. If she only knew.

I get told constantly that I should keep my truth to myself, that putting it out there into the world is "airing my dirty laundry", "telling everyone my private business", "putting people on the spot". I hesitate a lot before I write something, afraid of the backlash. I've lived my life in the shadows and I've worried about what other people thought. But I'm blowing out the negative right?

I'm sitting here in bed with my Chromebook, Spotify is playing and I have my earbuds in. As I'm beginning this blog, the song changes on my shuffled playlist, and out of over 2,000 songs it could have chosen on this playlist that I created, it plays a specific one. I don't believe in coincidences. I think that the entirety of our existence is tied together by one common thread. Songs, things people say, something happening, it all has meaning. Timing is everything. The particular song said "For the lonely, for the ashamed, the misunderstood and the ones to blame, what if we could start over, we could start over, we could start over. Cause there's a kind of love that God only knows. God only knows what you've been through. God only knows what they say about you. God only knows the real you. There's a kind of love that God only knows....God only knows where to find you. God only knows how to break through. God only knows the real you." (God Only Knows, for KING & COUNTRY....great song by the way) Now I am a Christian. What you choose to believe is your business, but if I'm sharing my truth, I am a Christian. And I take this to mean that God is here. His hand is guiding mine. And if it's okay with Him if I share this truth, then let it be so.

So my truth. Okay. Deep breath. I came from a broken home. Extremely broken. In the South you can fix everything with a little bit of duct tape, but not this. Beyond repair. Condemned. Throw it out. I've heard a lot of opinion, a lot of one-sided stories that I'm not sure who to believe anymore. It isn't that anyone is lying to me. It's that it happened almost 38 years ago and memories get fuzzy and the emotional responses people had to things at the time can sometimes cloud what they thought happened or how they think they acted. There are always two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The final result is the only thing that matters I suppose.

The bottom line is that I did not see my birth mom from the time I was about 2 years old until I was 27. I was discouraged from finding her, from reaching out to anyone in that part of my family. I was told that they weren't the right sort of people. My questions about my birth mom were met with anger. My desire to meet her was met with nasty comments. A huge piece of me was missing. I had attempted to fill this void with the stepmom who tried to take her place. That situation broke me in more ways than I can explain. I have never tried so hard to gain someone else's love and acceptance, years upon years, just to be constantly told that I wasn't good enough. I've spent the majority of my adult life recovering from what that woman put me through although I continued allowing her to mentally and emotionally hurt me, to affect my children. I was conditioned at that point. I was constantly guilted by those around me. "Oh she's old and has no one have to talk to her." "Forgiveness is what God would want from you." "You know how emotional you can be...maybe you are overreacting." I have no other explanation. No excuses. It was an error in my judgment that cost me dearly. My oldest daughter ended up in therapy for an extreme anxiety disorder where they told me that they believed that my stepmom sexually molested her. This revelation resulted in my own repressed memories resurfacing. I failed to protect my daughter. I failed to protect the scared little girl I still saw in the mirror sometimes. I cut my stepmom out of my life. I officially had no one.

In the midst of all of this chaos, I had tried to find my birth mom. Over the years, I had done a few Google searches here and there, searched a few social media sites. I never found anything. But that particular day, my Google search came up with one result. It was an obituary listing and my birth mom, my maternal grandmother, my uncle were all listed as surviving relatives. One piece of information made all of the difference. It listed my maternal grandmother's full name and that she lived in St. Louis, Missouri. I did a search for phone numbers and three people with that same name came up. The second one I called was my grandmother. She told me that she would have to talk to my birth mom to make sure that it was okay to give me her phone number and asked me to call her back in 5 minutes. When I did, I received the phone number and I called my mom.

My truth started here.

Despite everything that I had heard about her my entire life, I welcomed her into my life with open arms. I desperately needed love and acceptance from her, and I received it ten-fold. I won't say that she is perfect. I'm not either. I don't call her nearly as often as I should. But the differences between the measure of acceptance from her versus the rest of my "family" was astounding. She lovingly calls my husband, who has loved and supported me and his children without falter, without complaint, for 10 years, her son. She loves my children equally and pays attention to all of them, not favoring just one. When I tell her about what is going on in my life, she genuinely listens. I'm not fighting anything else for her attention. And she tells me that she is proud of me. You'll never know how easy it is to take those simple words for granted unless you haven't heard them for the majority of your life. It has been such a sweet blessing to have her in our lives.

I also was able to contact my uncle on that side of the family, his wife, and their daughter. I haven't spoken to an Uncle on my dad's side in years. He and his girls who I lovingly called cousins and helped my grandma babysit sometimes when they were younger could care less if they speak to me again. Yet here was this man who wanted me to call him Uncle, who keeps up with what is happening in my life, who finds my baby things and sends them to me so that I have a link to my past, whose wife found out what scent of wax warmer is my favorite and sent them to me here in South Korea so that I could have a little bit of home. Their daughter just had a beautiful baby boy and I'm making plans to see all of them when I return to America.

I have family.

Family is your connection to your childhood. They are the holders of your truths, your roots, your secrets. They are supposed to keep you grounded, support you, give you love without conditions, accept your idiosyncrasies, encourage you when you stumble. I didn't know that.

But I do now.

So I want to say thank Keith....Aunt my Grandma who sadly passed away before I had the chance to meet her. We have yet to spend a Christmas together, a Thanksgiving. I wasn't able to grow up with you. But you have shown me more love and kindness than quite a few people in my life who have known me since the day I was born. Thank you for accepting my successes and my humanness. Thank you for watching me trip, then get back up again stronger than ever. Thank you for making me feel wanted and loved. Thank you for making me feel included.

I'm glad I never gave up trying to find you. I hope I make you proud.

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