In a moment of grief, I confided in one of my dearest friends that I hated being an orphan. He said to me:
"Orphans are children who can't fend for themselves. You are a strong woman, not a child."
It was a beautiful sentiment, and it gave me the courage I needed to overcome what I was feeling in the moment. But his words did nothing to dispel the feeling that sustains.
It depends on your definition, I suppose. Perhaps being well beyond the age of majority prevents me from being labeled as an 'orphan.' (Then again, as 'compensation' for having no parents, the government gives me "Orphan's Benefits" from their CPPs.) At times I certainly feel guilty for having that feeling, because for essentially my entire development I had the love and nurturing of both of my parents under the same roof. That is a lot more than many people can say.
But I promise you: the feeling is there, and it is more painful than can be described. There is nothing more important in this world than having someone who will love you unconditionally and for always. That is what we seek in a significant other, and that is what many very lonely people seek in having a child. It provides a comfort that you take for granted. However much you worry that one day you'll lose your job and end up living in a ditch, you at least know (if even in the very depths of your unconscious) that someone's love for you will remain consistent. You could kill a stranger in cold blood just for a laugh, and when all of society thinks you a monster, you would have someone to visit you in prison, write you letters, and try their very best to help you get well.
I had that. And my God, did I take it for granted.
I won't be so foolish as to say the family that I still have doesn't love me, or that no one would visit me if I ended up in prison. But that feeling of safety no longer exists. The knowledge that I can always call my Mommy if I'm scared is now a lie. If a boyfriend doesn't treat me well, my Daddy has no way of avenging me by tracking him down and scaring the shit out of him. (Though, I suppose - and here's hoping! - my Dad could haunt him). The brother who always defended me, always took my side against our parents, and was always my first resource when I needed something - from him, now I get nothing but radio silence.
It feels like:
- I'm on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and my paddles suddenly floated far away.
- I was walking down a plank when it suddenly became a tightrope.
- I'm walking in an alley at night and my phone has just died.
Sure, I'm still going. Yeah, I'll probably make it to safety just fine. But it's become a hell of a lot scarier.
Having that feeling pervade every moment, waking or otherwise, of my life...it makes me feel nothing like a strong woman and everything like a scared, orphan child.