tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons
1. To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2. To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat:abandoned the ship.
3. To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.
4. To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5. To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.
Abandonment is a central issue in my life. I don’t want it to be, I didn’t ask for it to be, but there it is nonetheless.
Many important people in my life have abandoned me over the years. Some of them fall squarely into definition #1 of abandon: “To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert.” A prime example would be my biological father. Also, my second husband falls into that category.
Others really fit more into definition #3: “To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.”
When I say people have abandoned me, it doesn’t need to mean they are at fault, or that they had any sort of duty to stay. The vast majority of my failed relationships – family, friend, or romantic – were abandoned in a very benign way. Nobody was abdicating any sort of responsibility by walking away.
Regardless, to the one abandoned, #1 and #3 feel largely the same. As a result, I don’t abandon (#5) myself to a relationship very often. I don’t trust that someone won’t leave. I don’t trust that Father will take care of me if he does leave. I live with walls built, and very seldom let anyone inside the walls.
I make a good show of pretending to let people in. I’ve conducted entire relationships from within those walls. I seemingly tell secrets. I have intimate relations. I serve and care and remember. But in reality, I have not abandoned myself to the person or the relationship. I very carefully maintain emotional distance, so that when I am abandoned, it will not hurt badly. Because in my 40 years of experience, abandonment is an inescapable fact of life.
This learned behavior, this coping mechanism, does not serve me well. For example, I irrationally feel abandoned when my children visit their father out-of-state for several weeks at a time. My children have not even remotely abandoned me! While they are not physically present, they still love me, we communicate frequently, and they are most definitely coming back to eat my food and mess up my house again in the very near future! It is not logical to feel abandoned when they are not physically home in their beds. There is no reason to let it color my moods and actions. And yet, I do, and it does.
Recently, I was in a very close relationship where I did not expect to be abandoned (#3). I have no explanation for why this one was different. I always expect relationships to end eventually, because in my world, they always do. Forever is a myth, or something that happens to other people. I have no explanation for why I felt that this one was different, that I would not be abandoned. There was no stated commitment. It was not a marriage, where people actually verbally commit to forever, nor was it anything like one. I did not make a conscious decision to believe the relationship would not end. This all happened on an entirely visceral level.
Resultantly, I was completely surprised when it, in fact, did end. Shocked. Floored. Did not see that coming.
So much so that at first I did not even believe it was ending. I had no category for that; therefore, it must not be happening.
It’s one thing to be smacked in the face when you expect it and are braced for it. A sucker punch is something completely different. I was completely and totally unprepared for the blow.
I’m not sure I have ever been more angry with myself. The tapes playing in my head are that I should have protected myself from the pain. I should not have gotten so close. What in the world was I thinking? Why did I allow someone to get close enough to hurt me?
This is worse than my sinful self-reliance of the past. This is berating myself for not having sinful self-reliance!
When I think about moving forward, about learning to relate healthily to others through the grace and mercy of Father, I can’t wrap my head around what that will look like. I’ve lived both extremes, failure to trust and utter, complete trust, and neither of them has worked for me.
I think the takeaway is that I don’t get to control it. Father drives this bus, and I’m to hold on, go where he takes me, and follow his lead. I don’t know who will stay and who will go, who I can trust and who I cannot, or what my life will look like tomorrow or in ten years. I can’t count on people to stay, and yet I can’t withhold myself from them in an effort to self-protect. Both avenues are sinful.
The key, I think, is to take my eyes off the people entirely, and focus them on Father. Simple, but definitely not easy.