This is about how my mom and her words saved me, more than once, and finally helped me to choose to heal and recover.
I think I was about 8 or 9 years old coming home from school one day, I had been called a monkey. I remember feeling angry and sad, among other things. I think I found my mom in the kitchen. As I remember it, she was standing on a chair, doing something in one of our kitchen cabinets. I told her with a tearful voice, -Mom, they called me a monkey today.
She let a few seconds pass. Then she turned around, and looked straight into my eyes, and simply said, -But you are not! … She holds that for a few seconds, and then she returned to her business.
Hard for me to argue. But I remember feeling neglected and abandoned emotionally. Years later that was one of those events, that I, and my therapist, would add to the category, 'Emotional neglect' which –when repeated– can become a life trauma.
Today I need to say thank you, Mom!
That day you clearly told me that being a victim to what other people call me is a losing game.
-Don’t even go there, you said, loud and clear. Yes, of course, you could have taken my emotions into consideration in a more pedagogical way, but I would not change this scene for anything in the world.
You see ... It turned out that people would call me all sorts of things throughout my life, when I summarize all the epithets, Monkey is probably the least harmful.
When people, friends, professionals, and adults called me an attention seeker, a provocateur, a problem maker, egocentric, self-absorbed, a bad feminist, a racist, a bad friend, a bad woman, and a bad girlfriend .. I could eventually tell myself, - But I'm not.
Now, this is at another level than just being called a Monkey, this needs self-reflection. My intention was never the above –often quite the opposite– actually. In the silence and solitude I contemplated this empowering high-quality question:
In what way was I responsible for not achieving my true intention?
I realized that:
I am responsible for my behavior
My tone of voice
My verbal and non-verbal communication
My mindset and attitude
And figuring out my intention, before I continue, would help a lot
Without the inner statement "But I am not" I would have been stuck in the victim mentality, feeling misunderstood and self-pity, and never reaching these conclusions that have helped me achieve my intentions. I should care about this if I want to do my best to be perceived as I wish by you.
I also realized that I am NOT responsible for your racist comments, your prejudice, your projections of your own fears, and assumptions about my intention, and your level of ignorance of it all, OR your triggers. That is your shit to deal with, not mine.
I learned, I applied my learnings, changed my behavior, and got a new tangible experience, so on, and so on ...
Contemplating, and reflecting on different scenarios has given me self-awareness and awareness overall, for a lot of things. I have learned to adjust, but I have learned something even more important; your prejudice, projections, and assumptions, and ignorance are non of my business, and it does not reflect me as much as it reflects, and expose you.
Our racist comments are just a lack of so many things and a sign that we are feeling inferior, and are trying to bring someone down to our level, by humiliation
Our prejudices are a lack of knowledge and experience
Our, often subconscious, projections are a lack of self-awareness
Our assumptions about someone's intentions, which we hold to be true, are based on our level of ignorance
Epithets –with the intention of shaming and blaming someone– are ten times more harmful and provocative than any of the above. Because, it is someone who sees themselves as superior trying to keep you down in an inferior position, to maintain their own self-image of being superior
And this comes in all shapes and forms. From all parts of society. You can be intellectually and theoretically advanced, but smartness is not the same as awareness.
30 years later, when the doctor said I was sick, I was on another level. Someone I really liked, well educated, lots of experience, who wanted the best for me, tells me something that does not resonate with my heart.
I eventually looked at her and said to myself, -But I am not. And that was the beginning of my recovery.
I am sure that life will throw me tons of opportunities to again contemplate these matters. I am also guilty of all the above, every now and then. I will fu*k up, not being in control of my behavior, and the non-verbal communication and all that, standing in my own assumptions and ignorance, making a fool of myself, for sure. However ...
What you call me, will be a reflection of me, WHEN I choose to make it so.
If what you call me, does not resonate with my intention, I will simply say, -But I am not. And that will bring me back to; What am I responsible for? What can I learn from this? And I will raise my awareness, thanks to your ignorance.
Thanks, mom for so many life-long lessons that eventually saved my life. Forever grateful for the things you did and didn’t do. I love you to the moon and back for being just the mom that I needed.
Now, ask yourself: How can you harness the lessons hidden in the painful, and maybe even traumatizing, events in your life? Apply those learnings and find how intimately connected some of your painful events are with some of the greatest lessons (and therefore blessings) in your life. That intimate relationship –between pain, learning, and growth– can not be ignored.