Mortal Wounds

At a recent movie viewing in Texas, where an intimate cluster of women gathered, I looked across the room to see the reaction of a close friend, a woman in her sixties, who teared up at something one of the cast members said on screen. It was about life, and letting go of old pain. This is a message I talk about frequently, think about too much, and write about in every book.

I knew her story, of course, how her mother had abandoned her when she was just a child, leaving her to be raised by someone else. I was raised with my mother, but abandonment is a story I’m familiar with, and unfortunately one that many people are familiar with.

Abandonment is a subject in nearly every one of my books, no, scratch that, it’s in all of them – not because I plan it that way, but because it just finds it’s way in, like a virus. 

Did you deserve more than your parents gave you? Even worse, do your children deserve more than you’re currently giving them?

I ask these same questions of myself at times.

I don’t think it’s bad to ask, to heighten our self-awareness.

This is a deep blog entry, and I’ll apologize in advance. Tomorrow I promise to try to write something frivolous. But it’s on my mind. Because mortal wounds are different from the wounds we all face in childhood, and the battle of life. Mortal wounds are rooted in rejection and abandonment.

“It’s complex” someone I once knew said, about his lack of contact with his son.

I don’t know him now, but I wanted to say then that nothing is more complex than what his son will face his entire life, after not knowing a father who still lives, breathes, and enjoys life in another part of the world.

Yes, ahem. It is complex.

You have no idea.

A child who seems perfectly normal, into athletics and friends and school activities, may be secretly churning, thinking, dying inside. I’ve been one, and I’ve talked to enough of them as adults now, to know. Ask anyone who has stood on the edge of the cliff of life, within inches of ending their life why – and rejection and abandonment by a parent almost always comes up.

Yesterday I sat with my writers workshop with my dear friends who live on the street or in a shelter. Normal humans, just like you and me. Come spend a day with them and talk, really talk, and you’ll see how the virus of depression affects their living situation, how being homeless is never just about economics. 

Life is about so much more than a house.

In London recently I met my Italian publisher, and as we sat and discussed my latest book and one of the themes in it, which is that true strength, comes from brokenness – (because, I believe it makes you a warrior! If you survive.) Emanuele said;”There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

It’s a quote by Leanord Cohen, and I love it.

I love people with cracks. Love those with mortal wounds, who can actually make it in this life, despite their weaknesses.

Throughout life, I’ve learned that the complex things, steps, and decisions, are the most rewarding. Love is so simple. Ownership is simple. We are the ones who justify our own fears, by ignoring the truth and making things more complex. What’s the worst that can happen?

The day of the movie premier gathering, in Texas, I pondered how my friend could tear up after being reminded of her mother, after so many years. Of course those of us who have been mortally wounded in this way understand that no matter how joyful life is, that one feeling of rejection never goes away – because when you’re young, your parent is your God. 

Surprisingly, it’s the images of life and love and the perfect two parent family that triggers many of the unwanted feelings of loss about the missing parent.

In the movie we were watching, there was a brief clip about legacy, kids, and parents. If you are missing a loved one, you know what I mean. It’s the insurance commercials with the perfect family frolicking on the lawn that sets you off. Or perhaps it was the college graduation, or the parents weekend. 

Of course, it works the other way around, too.

For a homeless man I stood beside on Sunday, that mortal wound never went away. “I’ve been on the street 5 years,” he said, ‘and I think it’s because I cannot get over one thing. It’s the image of my daddy leaving me on the side of the road in the snow, without a jacket, when I was seven.”

I shared with him my own story, about my father leaving when I was seven, and we both knew that the moment was destined. We talked for awhile and he told me about his own daughters.  He was in that parking lot, standing with 300 other homeless people (and me) instead of being at home, wherever home was – with them. 

Legacy is a funny thing.

Getting caught up in the spider web of the past is hard, sometimes. But letting go of old pain, or repairing old wounds you’ve caused yourself, could be the single most important thing you do. 

Do you have a mortal wound? That’s one that runs so deep, that you react to the feelings hidden behind it. You may be extremely successful, prosperous and healthy, but there’s a small crack in the armor, and only a few notice.

I’m always astonished by those people with leave it to Beaver upbringings, who don’t have any wounds at all. I love them, because despite my family history, I work hard to raise my kids in that way instead of the way of the past.

If you’re one of the abandoned, don’t look back, If you’re one of the abandoners, it’s never too late to change the course of your destiny, life and future. Just change.  It really is that simple.

New York Times Best Selling Author