As a young child I often heard my parents say “You don’t understand how lucky you are.” The comments weren’t always directed at me, sometimes toward my brothers, sometimes my sister, sometimes a random foster child that was staying with us. There was also, “We took you when no one else would”, and another perennial favorite, “If it weren’t for us, you’d have nothing.”



In my brain it looks like this.

A who’s who of  the things I’ve wanted, but felt woefully unworthy.

I don’t know all the psychological ins and outs, but I know it has been as long as I have. Some might argue that I wasn’t born that way, but having given birth to three distinctly different children, I know we arrive with some characteristics intact.


And so, as a child, I listened. I memorized. I pondered. My little mind scrambled to give meaning to every word they said. After all, my survival depended on their continued good will. If there was anything my seven-year old brain knew for certain, it was that without them, I had nothing.

I understood. I was unworthy.

I was sure I could fix that. I could do everything right. I could make myself worthy of their sacrifice. I could make them so happy they’d never think twice about their choice. There was just one problem. Okay, there were a whole host of problems, none of which a seven-year old could fix, let alone fathom. I just didn’t know that yet. Hell, I wouldn’t know it for forty years.

In retrospect, I can be thankful for the lessons I’ve learned. I’m thankful for the million ways they’ve changed me for the better. The ways I continue to change. If it weren’t for this feeling of unworthiness, I never would have hidden in my own mind as a child. My imagination wouldn’t have been my closest friend, and my characters would have never grown to accompany me.

I can honestly say, if it weren’t for my lack of worthiness, I wouldn’t be in North Dakota, and happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found my home. I’ve found my people. Those kindred spirits that take your hand, and suddenly you’re treading water as a lifetime of loneliness drains away. The sun comes out, and for the first time in your life you realize you aren’t alone. At first, it’s terrifying. I mean, these people are just like you. Ewwwww? But then, you see yourself in them, and you start to feel more comfortable allowing others to see you. You have a tribe. Homecoming. Acceptance. Love. Worthiness.

I’ve thought a lot about how much I’ve moved, about the trips to visit family that never felt like going home. I’ve felt guilty that my children don’t spend days with their cousins and sleep over every weekend with their grandparents. Then I realized that there’s a chance I gave them something even more valuable. I’ve given them the opportunity to grow up without comparison; no aunts or uncles, cousins or grandparents leveraging their expectations on defenseless kids; no family requirements of cooperation or attendance. I’ve gifted them with a head-start in finding their own tribes, not assumed they will always want to be in mine. Through the years of school, they’ve become adept at finding those who love and accept them. A fortunate by-product of having only your parents to hang out with?

Tonight I’ll snuggle under my quilt of a gazillion stitches and feel only thankfulness. Appreciation that mom spent so many of her last hours sewing a quilt for me. Content that I’ve found joy in a gift that, at one time, puzzled me. The blanket is a hug from her. She wasn’t perfect, but she wanted to be. She wanted things from me that I couldn’t give her. Despite our differences, and after half a lifetime of misunderstandings, I’ve realized what she was saying to me in her own language.

You were worth it.





0 thoughts on “Unworthy”

      1. I think because we believe the things we’re told. Those words are powerful and can shape our self-narrative, so turning them off can be a struggle by itself.

        Did you see that James is having a $20 sale??? I have to stop myself from buying any more covers LOL

        1. Yes, it certainly shaped how I speak to my kids. I don’t want them to look around and feel like there isn’t a place for them.

          I’ll go check it out! I need a sequel cover 😉

          1. That’s me, too, with mine. The part about living close to cousins hit me because we were definitely compared to them a lot.

            I just bought a prequel cover from James LOL I need to hurry up and write one before Loving Riley releases.

  1. Anyone would have loved to have such a sweet little girl. I’m outraged that your parents said this to you. (or that adoptive parents ever say this to any child). They were lucky to have YOU. I’m glad that message came through the quilt. (and I agree with you about some characteristics being inborn).

    1. I try to look at it from their perspective, from time to time. It’s true that you would get seven completely different reports from my seven siblings, some much kinder, others, far worse.
      For me, I believe, it was a personality thing. I couldn’t make them happy, fix their problems, be what they wanted, I was a complete failure. It’s taken years to slowly bleed it out of my system.
      Mom was the oldest of 13, with her mother still giving birth to healthy children in her late forties and early fifties while my mom suffered through miscarriage after miscarriage all through her twenties and into her thirties. My dad was the youngest of four, 12 years younger than his closest sibling and just a spoiled kid. He needed (still does) lots of admiration and petting. Both of their parents were disappointed with the children situation and even more so when they started adopting. They were very concerned about race and even told mom and dad that I might be a little indian baby and they should get their $2000 back.
      Was it right to put it on their kids? No.
      Did they have the social, interpersonal skills to do better? No.
      Growing up in a small and remote farming community of less than 100 families, just didn’t serve them.

      It did give me volumes to write about….. 😉

      1. Well, this is what I would have said (indeed, what I said to my brother this week): it is not a child’s responsibility to make her parents happy. This may be a pleasant side effect of parenting or it may not, but there’s an adult in the equation who’s responsible. I know what you mean, though, about lacking the material to do better. And they had so many children. I’m puzzled as to why social workers allow that kind of thing (they still do, apparently).

        1. Too many kids, not enough people, I’d hazard a guess. And you are exactly right, it isn’t a child’s job. So many people just jump into kids because they want someone who’ll love them…if only it were so simple!

  2. So sad that you ever felt unworthy! I’m hoping that the message you received wasn’t meant and that your parents made mistakes that they now regret. It appears that you haven’t made the same mistakes with your children and that’s a very good thing!

    1. I’m sure they didn’t want me feeling that, though it worked well to get what they wanted from me. As for regret, in the last six or so years of her life, mom freely spoke about her regrets and things she wished she had done differently. As of last month, dad is still hanging on to that, but I was a wonderful father, line. He won’t be swayed. Perhaps it’s just as well.
      My kids are awesome. They know it, even if I am in the middle of proving I’m their mom first and foremost.

    1. It’s a feeling that I struggle to describe. For awhile I was watching that guy on Lifetime who reunites adoptees and their families, I’d cry my way through every damn episode. But that is kinda how it felt, moving here. Wonderful and terrible.

  3. It is always difficult for me to hear about children being mistreated! No one is ever unworthy.

    Thanks for such a powerful raw post. You are, indeed, worthy and I am so glad you found North Dakota. Oh, hand sewn quilts are indeed hugs!

    1. But, I’ll hazard a guess that growing up when you did, you have a bit of experience with some mistreatment, or that’s what they call it now.
      I admit, it feels good to get that stuff out and look around for something funnier to write about.
      LOL, that might be one of the nicest things anybody has said to me about North Dakota.

      1. I, personally, was not mistreated until my teenage years. A divorcée from my church introduced me to the BDSM scene. I was 16 and she was 22.

        At the time I thoroughly enjoyed it! Raw, erotic, and definitely exciting! I venture to say her husband left due to her affinity with her closet full of toys. Thankfully, she moved out of town a few weeks later. I was still in school and couldn’t see her regularly (she only had her way with me twice and it was all physical not mental) so other than igniting my submissive psyche, I didn’t really care that she left. I mean what 16 year old guy doesn’t like ANY sexual interaction with an older woman.

        Yes, I’ve told MrsL about this which is why she was so hesitant to explore with me. So, your guess was semi correct.

        1. Wow 😳 I was thinking you were probably spanked as a kid with a wooden spoon like I was, but that wasn’t quite like it was with me!
          That was a fascinating peek, thank you for sharing.

          1. Oh, I was indeed spanked with: wooden spoons, hand made paddles of hardwood, switches I have to cut from the tree myself (and God forbid bringing back a small one) and of course the occasional belt. But I don’t think that had any long term impact (no pun intended) on me. Nor did I see it as mistreatment. I was bad/disobeyed my parent/grandparent/aunt and was punished.

            And I really don’t consider my introduction to BDSM as mistreatment…but…in retrospect maybe it was?

          2. Oh my gosh! Yes, switches we had to find and make damn sure it lasts AT LEAST three good whacks or you just made everything so much worse. Yes, occasional belt and yardstick if she was going to have to chase😯.
            How is everyone knowing about BDSM so young? I was in my forties before I’d heard a word about it!?!

          3. I don’t think any were ever broken on me, after three whacks I was sobbing and heartbroken.
            My brother was famous for having every possible implement broken on his head, even a rock.

          4. Well, my dad was geologist so there were lots around….but it wasn’t thrown at him or anything like that. He was sitting on the hearth and it just fell off the mantle and hit him in the head. It broke a big chunk off the rock, not him. lol So after all the switches, spoons, yardsticks, rulers, etc… he broke the rock.

  4. This is a wonderful piece, Carly 💖I’m so happy knowing you are in a good place. You still have things you want, only now you realize fully that you are worthy of them…as you have always been.😘 Each generations seems to have their unique way of parenting. Your parents were no doubt a product of their upbringing, the challenges they faced, and their reaction to that life. In a sense, you have done the same. The pattern is similar but the outcome is very different. You are wonderful woman and mother and I’m so happy you have peace in seeing your mother in the same light as her quilt hugs you each night. 🌌🌹

    1. It’s true, I often wonder what my kids will want to do different than what I’ve done.
      Trying to come to terms with my parents has required trying to see them as human first. A person with dreams, and fears, and desires that are completely apart from their role of parent. It’s had a monumental effect on who I am with my kids. No more perfect mom, I want them to know me as a person outside of themselves, albeit that loves them more than anyone else on the planet. I just don’t want them walking around thinking I live to wait on them hand and foot. I’m not their genie in a bottle, I’m a woman who likes a lot of things they can’t know about till college….lol

      1. No, you aren’t their genie in a bottle. I wonder though, what I can do to get three wishes?😃You can be hard on yourself sometimes, but I’d make a solid wager that you are an amazing mother! Your kids just may not know it yet.😘

  5. I know they won’t really get it till they move out for college. It’s okay, I’m enjoying walking with them as they grow and explore.
    As for wishes, the location of my genie’s lamp is a closely guarded secret. Can’t have just anyone extracting wishes, three at a time🤓. You’re a resourceful man, we’ll see what you can come up with😈

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