Some of us have experienced hardships in life that no matter the mindset, seem to beat us down. It might be a family crisis, a death to soon, or maybe a love that was never received from the people you needed it from most. Experiencing any of these things as a child is all the more woeful, as it becomes more difficult as an adult to separate the acute feelings from the chronic. Often, if we were deeply hurt as a child it is easy to hurt those around us throughout our life, it is in this way that we safeguard ourselves from being hurt, or left. It is even more easy to dissociate ourselves from healthy relationships because throughout our childhood and adolescence, we never learned what a nurturing relationship was.
However, there comes a time in every person’s life when a cross road will present itself. I am not talking about the “sweating the small stuff” cross roads, instead the road I am referring to is the one with the sign that says “dead end”. It is at this vector that we decide to go left into despair, or right into repair.
There seems to be no answer as to why some can simply pick up the pieces and move forward, while others stay stuck, unable to sort through the worst that life has handed them.
Some time back, I posted a blog where I shared a life event that changed my life forever. When I was young, I took an entire bottle of aspirin and I very nearly did kill myself. I woke up in an ICU with my parents standing over me, and the first thing I saw was my dad standing over me, tears running down his face. The most stoic man in the world stood crying at my side. In that moment, I realized what I had done. My act, though desperate at the time, was selfish to say the least. Our life then was chaotic, dysfunctional and often times, I simply hated it. It’s not to say that I didn’t love my family, I did and I do. I just hated what we were. I hated the desperation and the void that I simultaneously felt when experiencing life back then.
It is both whimsical and heavy, the ideas and scars we carry forward from our youth. It is even more crucial to understand that as much as we try to separate our childhood from our adulthood, we cannot. Growing up and into adulthood, I remember my mother having the same nightmare over and over. She would scream out in terror, always the same scream and begging the same cry, “help me”, over and over again. It was a haunting wail. I am not sure what demons haunted her from her childhood, she too had a very dysfunctional start in life but they caused her to become a mother that I prefer to think she would’ve never chosen in another life.
Those formative years mold us and shape us into who we become but they do not entirely describe us. The larger question becomes, can we escape a past that at times threatens to engulf us whole? I would like to believe that we can.
I look to our family, and more specifically my siblings as an example. Our family dysfunction was evident but what wasn’t evident was that as we grew up, we forged a bond that will last until we all take our final breath. In a sense, we battled a war and won, and now we are veterans of a deeper understanding of what it means to “survive”. Let me explain, I do understand that there are greater hardships in life, and so many others have known greater tragedy and pain. I am not sitting here strumming my violin looking for sympathy. Instead, my point is that we all reached that crossroads in our own lives, and in that moment, we needed to decide to go left into despair or right into repair.
We chose repair.
Every year I get together with my high school “homies”. I love these women. Truly, there are no group of women that know me better than these “sisters from other misters”. More than once they have lamented that all of us (my siblings) had every excuse to become so much less than we are today, but we chose more. Back then, most people would’ve expected us to not attain degrees, to not become successful in life or more importantly, to not be able to raise our own children without burdening them with many of the same trials we experienced as children.
We chose repair.
Believe me when I say that no part of my life has been perfect. My mistakes, yes those ones that you look back at through the years and both regret and then inevitably have to accept, look like Santa’s Christmas list…….LONG!
I am imperfect as the day is long. I know that all my siblings can admit to this. But we have done a few things right. For all the avenues that could have led us down varied roads, we chose the road that ultimately led to (chronic) repair. But still, repair.
Recently, a life event has unfolded for someone that I care deeply about. This lovely young woman, I will call her Aphrodite, has also had her share of life experiences that make it easy to get stuck in a past that at times may threaten to engulf her. Also, our current social and political events threaten to dampen her spirit further. Why might that be?
She is black.
I remember when she would visit she would lament about the disproportion between our races, nothing against us but just that it existed. Though I kept my thoughts to myself, I wasn’t sure I agreed because after all, we loved her and included her into our family wholeheartedly. How could we being white though loving this black women be racist? Ahh, but there-in lies the key. Our blind eye, especially living in the Midwest, was our implication in being, at the least, passively racist.
It is time to accept that as a society, this is an issue. It is a concerning issue that needs repair. As a society, we need to accept our failings and then peacefully choose repair. I will admit I am unsure what this looks like but there has to be a way? How can we live in a world where we turn a blind eye, participate or dissociate from issues like racism, poverty, child-abuse and continued disproportion among the masses.
All I know is what I can do, which is to accept my own failings as a human and then improve from there. I was born white, in that lies its own privilege. The term is “white privilege”, it is, in reality, a real thing.
What if I had been born brown or black? What would that feel like? It’s a shame I have to wonder? It’s a shame that our packaging dictates our treatment.
Aphrodite is at a crossroads.
She is choosing repair.
At times that can seem overwhelming but I would encourage it is more than possible, it is attainable.
We can learn from each other.