Walking out in this beautiful virtually autumnal day today I overheard a bit of conversation between two older women. What I heard both chilled me and infuriated me. They were talking about one of the women's granddaughters.
"She said she'd write me a poem," said the grandmother. Then she and her friend burst into mean-spirited giggles.
"A POEM?" the other shrieked.
"What am I going to do with a poem?" replied the other.
"I KNOW! I'll show it to you when she sends it."
"What a riot!"
They continued disparaging the granddaughter's offer and laughing. I was appalled. What a disgusting display. I wish I could find this girl and shake her. I wish I could tell her not to waste her precious efforts on someone like this. I wish I could tell her to write a poem for herself, for a stranger, for anyone but this shallow, foolish old woman who clearly knows nothing about love or creativity. I wanted to tell this girl that it didn't matter that her family had people so dense that they would think a poem was worthless. That it didn't matter if no one in her life understood what she surely has inside. What matters is what she feels, that she expresses it and that she knows that there are others who grew up with just as much disdain from their 'families', but found their own way any way.
It's hard to break the habits of your life. Especially when it means facing reality instead of the illusion of yourself you keep in your mind.
I understand this in myself, and I know I'm not alone here. I lived so long with the beliefs instilled in me by parents who were too selfish, drunk, sad, angry, or just plain jealous to know how much damage they were inflicting on their only child that it is a struggle to challenge those beliefs for any great length of time. I work towards erasing the negative beliefs I have about myself that I know intellectually are not true but rather are just me attempting to make them right. Make my parents right about what they said and thought of me.
To be a success, to be anything other than the pitiful loser they made me believe I was, means I have to emotionally face the facts that I already know intellectually. That they were wrong.
I am amazing. But to fully believe that on all levels means that I have to accept a responsibility to live up to my true potential. And if I do that, I prove them wrong. And if I prove them wrong, it leaves a void. It means reprogramming everything I internalized.
I know others struggle with this, though perhaps they haven't worked out the complexities. Brilliant, talented people who nearly make it... only to somehow sabotage themselves, thus proving the negative voices they hear every day in their heads are right. Those parents voices telling them they are stupid, or worthless, ugly or fat or talentless or simply bad. You live with those voices echoing ... sometimes they are so ingrained you believe it is your own voice you hear - you convince yourself it's the voice of truth and reason. But it's not.
We are all amazing in our own way. There is something important in all of us, no matter what cruelties were foisted on us, no matter how little love or caring we received. No matter how little we were loved and encouraged. No matter that no one was evolved enough to see how great we truly are. And we are the ones who must quell those horrible voices that keep us from being what we dream of being.
I saw a therapist for about a year who told me only one useful thing. She suggested that the reason I could never feel loved, particularly by my parents, was because as an infant I did not "have my mother's gaze". Developmentally to have not had that attention, that gaze, when it was needed leaves a wound, a lack that is never filled. Well. That's a bit of a hopeless thing to say to someone who has told you she wants to die. Stupid therapist.
But I do believe that I lacked my mother's gaze. And my father's. But I no longer believe what she said about healing it. Perhaps I will never be the same as someone who was nutured unconditionally, but that does not mean I am doomed to a loveless state for my lifetime. Not at all. The hardest part is (oh God am I going to sound trite here) to learn to love yourself. Because it's tough to do when you have had no guidance, and you've been taught you don't deserve love at all, even your own.
But you can do it. I have (it's why I've got a big ol' crush on myself!). I'm still working on the other parts. Things like believing I'm talented, believing I have something worthwhile to say, believing that I deserve to be happy ... and despite the mistakes I've made that I may be capable of loving someone who loves me (in a way that doesn't cause either of us heartbreak). I think that's the toughest one... but I also think it's the most important. I don't think it can happen until I believe it can... so I'm working on it. My heart was so badly broken I gave up believing it would ever heal - or that I'd even want it to. Why heal only to have it stomped on again? But I think I want it to heal now. It will always be scarred, but maybe someday it will actually work again. I believe I can make it happen. And that's a little poem to myself. I hope that evil woman's granddaughter has a poem for her heart too someday.... in the meantime this little essay is mine to her.