In her memoir I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, Tracy McMillan tells the story of her life while eerily telling important aspects of my own story too. Except it’s not really so eerie…because, like I’ve mentioned before, so many of us who grow up in dysfunctional situations can find all kinds of similarities in our stories from childhood.
So Tracy’s father was a drug-dealer and a pimp and her mother was a prostitute with “bipolar-y/alcoholic problems.” Because her father was her primary caregiver but he spent a great deal of his life in prison, Tracy spent a great deal of her young life in foster care and with an emotionally unhinged and easily triggered adoptive mother. The power of parents’ choices, huh?
As you read, the novel jumps back and forth between Tracy’s childhood in the 1960s and 1970s and her life as an adult woman. You get to see the realities of Tracy’s relationships with her father and mother, all of her original programming and wounding, and how those broken bonds had such a deep and weighty impact on her adult romantic relationships with men. Although there were moments where I felt the book’s time jumps were a bit hard to follow or strangely written, in the end it was very interesting to see Tracy’s many life experiences, which spanned decades, intertwined all together. It was like we truly got to read along as Tracy remembered aspects of her past and connected them to her present adult life. Plus, Tracy’s writing style is so witty and real that it feels almost like she’s a good girlfriend relaying these stories to you while you sit together on the couch. You feeling equally shocked and amazed by what the brave, strong woman next to you is sharing.
I found this book and Tracy’s story to be really fascinating and not because of all of the “shocking” aspects of her parents and her backstory – her dad was a pimp? Gasp! Her mother an alcoholic? How terrible! She visited a parent in prison as a little girl? Shocking! What I found to be so amazing is that it’s not necessarily amazing at all. There are so many people here in the world – and maybe you’re one of them – with situations and stories that are just like Tracy’s experience in one way or another. Yes, maybe the fact that she jumped so far from being an abandoned, potty-mouthed foster child in the state of Minnesota to being a successful TV writer living in California is impressive but, then again, there are many stories of Adult Children of Alcoholics trying to maneuver through a life that you would have never imagined for them by looking at their families of origin.
My favorite aspect of this book was how hearing Tracy’s story brought up and validated a lot of my own experiences. It made me remember the all-encompassing surge of loss and pain when a visit with your incarcerated parent is ending and you want to hold it all back inside of you so the place doesn’t overflow with your grief. It stunned me when I read about Tracy’s theory “that every drug has its own explanation based on what the drug does” where she said that heroin is for people in pain and nicotine is for people with rage and cocaine is for the fearful.
And I knew exactly what Tracy was saying as she described becoming a mother and the flood of anxiety that quickly followed; how she was afraid to leave her baby because she thought he might think she was abandoning him but how really it was just her trauma of being abandoned coming to the surface to be healed. Oh, those words hit me hard in the gut because that is exactly what I did when my first daughter was born.
If you are at all interested in reading about the way our childhood programming and experiences affect our adult romantic relationships, then this book could be for you. If you are struggling in a romantic relationship and want to possibly gain some insight without having to read yet another self-help book, then this book could be for you. And if you just want to hear an interesting story from a down-to-earth and clever woman’s personal perspective, then go ahead and pick up this book. But, if you do, please let me know what you think! We can be book club buddies. 📚
Tracy McMillan, thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope with the rest of the world.
And on a very random note:
Tracy talked about getting KFC on visiting day at the prison when she was a little girl. Is she serious?! All I remember is vending machines and the smushed Taco Bell that my aunts would smuggle in to my mom. What a bummer for little me. I really loved those mashed potatoes…
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