I drive to the store. Not for snacks, but for donuts and coffee.
I think of my mom. Likely not an actual lover of football, although she claimed to love the Vikings. But more like just wants to be a part of life, of whatever is going on.
Today she may or may not have the super bowl on. And if it is, she won’t watch.
My mom has dementia. She sits alone—except on the days some of us in the family get to visit her.
I reminisce about past super bowls. It was all a party to her. I cry for the woman she was. The woman I lost.
I get my coffee. My donuts. I find when I get home, I don’t want them as much as I did before the tears fell.
Walking through the front door of my home, I understand I feel, something I have noticed lately. I feel. Tears fall, and not from a place of pity for myself or cyclical suffering, but from somewhere real.
Driving home from the store, I understand I can feel something other than what has come from a 33-year relationship (perhaps, we will get into that another time).
The year 2021— it said to me: I will be bittersweet.
Who protects the children? Who shelters the sacredness of childhood?
This duty falls upon the parents/caregivers.
And yet, as the quote above states: It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins. I would say it is also in schools and religious institutions.
I come out strongly suggesting this because this wreckage is what I care passionately about. My passion was reignited last week as my daughter shared an experience she had. It triggered experiences and emotions still unprocessed from my childhood.
A family member had compared their daughter to mine, and not in a positive light. This has happened before when another family member did not want their daughter to be around mine because they believed she was a bad influence. I recall the time, as a young teenager, I was forbidden to step foot in my friend’s house because her parents believed I was a bad influence because I dated black boys. I remember how this hurt me, and it wasn’t the first time. It was a reoccurring theme that somehow something in me threatened the adults and they didn’t want me rubbing off on their kids. Absurd!
I can say that now, but at the time I felt like a defect. I felt ashamed. I felt judged. And, I felt angry. The anger I felt was about the injustice I was experiencing. These parents who judged me did not know me. They never asked me questions. They did not spend time with me. I was instantly forbidden fruit based on a few choices and behaviors.
My daughter is being judged in the same way. The family members who chose this behavior do not know her. I’ve yet to see any of them sit down with her and ask her questions about who she is or how she is. Or have they sat down with me and asked about what is was like to raise her or how I raised her. And somehow, as parents, they believe they won’t deal with the behaviors they think they know about my daughter and if they do, they rather it be due to the negative influence of my daughter. How ignorant!
What is forgotten, what is not done is to look wider and deeper at the reasons behind so called negative behaviors and influences. Why might someone act out with “negatively”? Why might a child/teenager self-harm? Use drugs? Do we think they are just a defect or do we just blame the bad influences? Or do we consider they are acting out unprocessed traumas that occur within our own homes? Our own toxic environments? Acting out the wreckage of their childhood? Not usually. Instead of adults putting this together, adults project their fears, ignorance and their own unprocessed traumas and emotions at the children and make them the problem. How unjust!
For example, say a young girl lives in a home where a parent abuses alcohol. I know this home. My mom was an alcoholic. It sucks. It damages a child. It creates patterns that can destroy a life. The child might point out to their parent that they drink too much. Instead of the parent listening, the parent feels disrespected. They believe the child has lost their rightful place in the family hierarchy- to be seen and not heard; to respect their elders. All non-sense!
Why should a child not be able to claim their childhood? Why should a child respect a parent who is not protecting their childhood? Why should they not proclaim: I matter. My childhood matters. Why should a child not plead to their parents to protect the sacredness of their childhood? More sad, why should a child have to?
Kahlil Gibran on children said:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
We cause the wreckage when we see them as our possessions and believe they are less than. We do them a great disservice when we do not see them as souls, as a spirit within a body that have their own path to follow. When I was judged, yes, I felt hurt, but I also knew there was nothing wrong with me. I sensed both my humanity and my spirituality. I understand we are dual- both material and spiritual. We are made up of our childhood environments and our larger society that create our psychological experience and we are spiritual- of spirit- composed of high vibrations of energy that are constantly evolving.
I have no doubt the vast majority of us who are parents are going to fuck up our kids. I thought I was a good mom because I didn’t abuse alcohol like my mother did, and provided a mostly stable environment, but I brought them other traumas. This is bound to happen because we have unconscious realms of darkness within us that hold old conditioning and beliefs. But, there is hope. We can protect childhood!
Here is what we can do: We can 1) commit to our own inner, self-reflective work and practices. We can and must commit to our own healing. And 2) repair the harms we have caused with our children. To do this, we must be open and respect their experience enough to openly listen to them. We must give them safe space to air out their grievances. Recently, my kids sat down with my husband and me and told us what it was like to grow up with our marriage. It was brutal to hear. But it was and is my duty to listen, to repair and commit to healing.
It is time to end fearful, ignorant parenting based on a hierarchical mindset and unconscious psychological patterns. Instead it is time to begin conscious, mindful parenting, which is a combination of reparenting ourselves with honesty and compassion and our children the same.
The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…
To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.
I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante
I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.
I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.
This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.
To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.
No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.
The dominant culture, which is mostly reactivity from unprocessed trauma, tells us that we aren’t supposed to let people hurt us. But the truth is people do hurt us.
My mom hurt me today. And there’s been plenty of other days as well. As her young child I was constantly hurt. I learned to cope and self-protect through a variety of ways. As a child, it was through art, music, books and my imagination. As I grew older, other ways were through perfectionism, OCD and controlling behaviors and the big one: codependency.
Today, I stopped taking her hurt. I set a firm boundary. And then I let myself be hurt. When our mothers hurt us it’s the ultimate betrayal. If the hurt is constant and consistent, we will learn to betray ourselves. We will make choices and create an entire life and get involved in relationships from this deepest wound.
If we are brave and committed to change, we will begin to awaken to our life built from self-betrayal, and we will feel shattered. At the very least, bruised. And, this is the place where we learn self-love, self-compassion, and forgiveness of self and others. It is a deep and holy space of grief, surrender and heart opening. We will learn self-love and begin, little by little, to create a life for ourselves painted from the womb of our rebirth and our deepest reckoning with ourselves.
We will recognize that we no longer need to protect ourselves from hurt. We will come to experience our heart as strong, worthy, willing and ready to feel feelings and remain stabilized. We will learn the difference between self-betrayal and self-love. We will see setting boundaries and making conscious choices as our gateway to creating new experiences, experiences based and waged in self-love.
To continue on this self-love journey, my self-reflective practice for the month of November is this….to explore, experience and learn:
What does self-love look like in my relationships…..
Beyond relationships, what does it look like for me in my life…. How do I paint and create my experiences through self-love?
Validation: “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”
A child is sitting alone at home after school. The dad comes home from work and doesn’t say hello or ask, “How was your day?” The dad doesn’t even make eye contact with the child.
A new employee has just been hired. The boss takes her around the first day, introduces her to people and shows her to her desk. The boss then leaves her alone indefinitely.
A husband and wife lie in bed. The wife stares at the ceiling. Her husband is on his phone.
I often hear people say, mostly women— particularly younger women, that they need validation. I’ve never thought: me too. In fact, I’ve thought validation does not matter to me.
Until recently, when it occurred to me that I received so little validation as a child that how could I know to want something I didn’t know existed. This occurrence uncovered a deep wound of deprivation— deprivation of words, of energy and attention, of presence and acknowledgement from the caregivers and other taller people around me.
Instead of wanting something I could not have, it made sense to push that need deep, deep into the darkness— into a dark room and shut the door. But, the door to the dark room wasn’t sealed. Over time, the stench of that need for validation, created a belief: I am not worthy. I do not matter. It may have even gone so deep that I wondered: did I even exist?
Most things, I am finding, are on a spectrum. I believe the vast majority of us were neglected as children, of at least one fundamental need, and that experience of neglect lies on a spectrum. I was bathed, fed, read to. I have memories of my father rubbing my temples after a hard week with mom. I have fewer memories of my mother’s validation.
I also remember my grandmother Lillian. We sat on her gold sofa playing Uno. She handed me $20 bills. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. I called her my pal. I remember my Aunt Flo who lived in Chicago, where I visited at least once a year. Walking through her door was immediate love and acceptance by her pinch of my cheeks and the twinkle in her eyes. I cling to the memory of these two women. They saw me. They showed me I existed and more, could be loved.
Can I venture to say, we all carry the deep wound of neglect somewhere inside of us….?
Sadly, when the stench of unworthiness takes up space in our being, we attract all the people and experiences that show us we are not worthy. More sad, if we do not see these experiences as opportunities to heal, we create a story and our unworthiness sets in like a stone corpse. It’s concreted now: we do not matter.
I write this today because I don’t want any of us to concrete the belief: I don’t matter. If we have, there’s still time to break it apart to the point where it becomes dust and can be blown away by our own breath.
We matter. And depending on where we are on the spectrum of neglect, it can take many years of uncovering this wound, allowing it to heal, and recreating a life, not of the stench of unworthiness, but of the fragrance of mercy and the pure delight of our existence.
The self-reflective practice for this week is to do some investigative journaling and mindful reflection. Notice if you seek validation. To help, notice where you have a story about something or someone. For instance, in the example I gave above about the new employee and the boss: he may have had complete confidence in her abilities and that is why, after showing her around, he let her be. However, if she isn’t sure about herself and her own abilities, she might start looking for him to validate her. She won’t ask him to- because who does that, right- especially with a boss? Then, she might start creating stories, talking to her co-workers, and eventually might become paranoid of her position or resentful of what she perceives as neglect from her boss.
As we can see, this can get very complicated. When really, it is quite simple. But I won’t get into that for this week. First, we need to notice where we are on the spectrum of seeking validation. Where we are on that spectrum will point to where we are on the spectrum of neglect, often from childhood.
I am here to help you investigate this topic because sometimes it’s a lot to do this on our own. If you have questions about this week’s practice or have insights to share, please contact me. For deeper, more concentrated work, I am available for tele-therapy.
To learn more about me and my services, click here. To reach me for questions or to share, click here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week, I will unravel this complicated validation journey and share ways toward self-validation and ultimately, self-love.