I didn’t realize the power of forgiveness until I learned to take responsibility for mistakes I’ve made.  I didn’t make them because of any one else.  Sure, other people may have influenced my decisions, but at the end of the day this is my life.  I was the one who decided to sink or swim.  Succeed or fail.  For many years, because of the things that I have gone through within my family, I didn’t know how to cope with all the emotions that I was feeling.  I was so young, and I didn’t understand that what I felt was normal.  I always asked myself why when my dad left did he not come to visit me?  Why did I lose my brother for 12 years to jail and serious drug problems?  Why was my stepfather not capable of loving me as if he were my father?  Why did my mother let my brother leave home?  Why is this my family?  Why couldn’t I have a ‘normal’ family?  All of these questions rolling around in my head – it was pretty overwhelming.

I admit that I lost track of who I was when my brother left – because the people who I loved the most, who understood me the most, weren’t there anymore.  I hated living at home.  My stepfather didn’t understand me and didn’t know how to manage my personality.  For so long he thought I was a vindictive person.  He didn’t understand that when a little girl comes and puts on the puppy dog face, you know she wants something.  All girls do that with their fathers – but I forgot that he wasn’t my father…and, well, it didn’t work.  It just made my relationship with him feel very unnatural. This was hard.  I am a pretty warm and affectionate person.  I was always ‘daddy’s little girl’ when I was younger, but my biological daddy couldn’t handle the responsibility that came along with being a father.  And my stepfather, while he is a great person, did not have the same DNA as me.  He and I are complete opposites when it comes to emotions and feelings.  I never understood that when I was younger.  I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me.

When I ran away from home, I was lost.  I didn’t think that I would ever pull myself out of the hole I was in.  But I did.  I grew up. Slowly.  I realized that I am the one who controls my life and I have to take responsibility for what it is that I want.  I don’t have to feel sorry for myself and for what I’m not.  Or for what my family is not. The personalities in my family are rough.  We all have type ‘A’ personalities.  When we fight, we fight hard.  My mom goes for the jugular and says some things that would make you jump off a building.  My brother can throw it back at my mom.  But I just cry, because I can’t believe that the things I am hearing are coming out of my mother’s mouth.   My brother and I don’t really fight, he just listens to me.  My stepfather cannot talk to you for two months and be fine with that or disown you.  Me, I detach.  I disappear and tell myself that I don’t have a family.  And I put up that wall.

So, what I have come to understand is that no one is perfect.  There is no such thing as a perfect family.  There is no rulebook for a parent or, in my case, for a step parent, that teaches them how to love and how to be a great role model.  I love my family.  I never used to, but I do now.  I love the good days and the bad.  They’re all stubborn, for sure. But I love them.

My stepfather and I are working out our own issues and trying to have a better relationship.  He has been trying a lot harder to understand who I am as a person.  And he is learning to accept that I am not the perfect daughter.  I didn’t follow his path for me (college, marriage, great job, etc.).  And although that path is great and rewarding, and I know how lucky I

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