I have no idea what I am writing about tonight, or what I am trying to say. Just going to go with pouring out my heart and see what happens; this seems to work well for me in writing.
I’ve been looking for this quote forever. I knew it was Aristotle and I knew I had written it in a journal years ago. I couldn’t find the exact quote, even on Google, lol! I also couldn’t find the journal…until tonight.
I have a friend going through the dying process with his Mom. It was only 2.5 years ago that I lost my Daddy and so many memories have come flooding back. Anyway…he was sharing tons of family pictures which in turn, inspired me to start looking through old photos. I was able to just get through a couple of albums before I felt like I was headed toward emotional overload….because each picture bring a special sentiment with it.
In the mix of the albums I dug out, I found a few old journals. The first page I opened to was the long lost quote. Validation. I didn’t make it up!
“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” -Aristotle (written in my journal, June 18, 2010)
I loved this quote years ago, it still fits. I feel it is my constant yearning in life to gain victory over myself..my ugly talk, my self-defeating behavior, the lies I believe about myself, the rules I create, the illusion of control, letting go…all in effort to live truly as who I am made to be. Not in anyone’s shadow, not in the history that is mine; rather by standing tall as who I am…inside out. It’s a journey for sure.
I also found a little piece of my history that I thought was gone forever. My Grandma used to write me letters when she was angry at me. (often). My sweet Momma once destroyed (we thought) all of those letters in order to save me from further hurt. I understood and at the same time was so sad that she did, I didn’t know why.
This post could be a little here, there and everywhere and that also fits. No matter how planned our lives are, there is always a bit of scattering. Personally, I find that beautiful. If I didn’t allow myself to be open to that which is not in my plan, I’d be missing so many opportunities. If you are not a lover of the unplanned, just stay with me anyway…it’s real.
In that little pile of journals, I found three of her letters to me. I don’t know how they survived, but tonight, I am deeply grateful that they did. In these letters, I saw a summary that confirmed that all I had remembered was as it occurred. She loved me so deeply, and she struggled with mental illness, and her behavior was often emotionally abusive.
Reading those letters I was reminded that her love was strangely possessive, as one might be with a jilted romantic partner. (Never did sexual abuse, nor physical occur in my history). It was an incredibly unhealthy enmeshment that began when I was a young child and that I still have to pull away from at times, although she passed away in 1995.
The craziest thing ever…I have written about the relationship I had after my divorce that was extremely unhealthy. I don’t know the diagnosis, but I do know that his words to me in our final communications were nearly identical to the words in the letters from my Grandma. As Pema Chodron says, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know”. Let’s hope I’m receiving the lesson.
I can hear Grandma’s voice in my head as she scolded me via the letters. “Why are you doing this to me?”, “Why don’t you love me anymore?” “You better ask God for His forgiveness, He’s going to punish you.”, “Who do you think you are little girl (at 21)”, “When did you get so smart?”
With each little thing I read, I still have internal dialogue and have to talk to the little girl/adolescent/young woman inside of me. I do this to remind myself that she was sick and not in control of herself much of the time; that although she loved me it did not make her behavior okay, and that my God is loving beyond what I can fathom and He is not out to get me. When I do this, I approach my history, and my present, from a place of healing, compassion, grace and forgiveness. I know that I am and was immensely loved.
I also recognize how those words sunk into my spirit and they rear their ugly heads still. “When did I get so smart?” Great question! I have just in the last few years begun to enjoy the fact that I am intelligent, and that conversing with intelligent others and not playing dumb is the true me. No more shrinking. (I fight this one often). Shrinking down to make someone else feel better serves no one well.
“Who do I think I am little girl?” I’m figuring that one out still but I’m becoming joyfully aware that I’m not a little girl. I’m a bad ass grown woman with bad ass grown woman desires and thoughts. I’m also a woman who is filled with peace in reflecting on these letters. They mean I was not crazy. Everything happened as I remember.
“Why don’t you love me anymore?” I am still so afraid for anyone to not feel loved by me, whether they deserve that gift or not….see? Still healing.
There is also no blame for anyone else. Growing up with someone who has a mental illness, or substance abuse issue creates countless self-doubts, guilt and shame for all! It does not just affect the afflicted person, it’s a whole family illness. Behaviors that served me well as a young person trying to survive are no longer useful, as a matter of fact, they are damaging.
Here’s the takeaway…I am thankful that I am in a position of healing for myself and others. I am thankful for my history because I believe my compassion is greater for it. I am able to do beautiful things because of this.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to know God as my persecutor and punisher (which He never was) and as my Savior and Rescuer (which he very much is).
I am appreciative of a family I can share memories with; both easy and hard ones. I am pleased that I am living out of my comfort zone in a multitude of ways and I am intrinsically aware that though I have come so far, I have so far yet to go.
I also found something on my phone today. It was a video I had recorded of myself back in 2016, as my ex-husband was preparing to move out and my Daddy was dying. I looked like the walking dead. No glimmer in my eyes, no peace in my heart, puffy faced and teary eyed. I remember… I was a weary warrior and ready for a rest. But, I couldn’t rest, I had way too many responsibilities. Just keep swimming, right?
It pained me to watch the video. I was in someone else’s skin. I was talking to myself as a child in the video (maybe a counselor had given me that assignment). I told ‘me’ that I was going to be okay, that this was all a journey to learn to love myself. That could not have been more accurate. I was literally trembling as I spoke.
I love myself today more than I ever have in my adult life. I still hate myself sometimes. I am so flawed. I always will be. My journey is to love myself because I am. Just because I am. Only because I am.
I anticipate that even if I never fully ‘arrive’, I will stay on course. I think it’s supercool how all of our life experiences prepare and link us to what is now. I find that deeply comforting.
This is my understanding of the journey of trusting the process.