There was a post going around on FaceBook that invited women to state their truths about how they are learning to love themselves so I used the post as a starter for my truths. Here’s what some reflections revealed:
I’m (still learning to be) in LOVE with the BRAVE WOMAN in this picture (a teenager dressed for senior prom), sort of like a late-term birthing.
In life I’ve betrayed her because I’ve not loved her at full capacity. From childhood I watched her, once terribly shy (until she had children), develop a public face, a smiling face, while holding her body passive, unthreatening, to the white world in order to pacify, mollify, coddle her white peers.
I’ve fed her lies and too many times told her she wasn’t good enough. I’ve allowed her to be broken by her own insecurities, or the aggressions of others. I’ve allowed her to run through brick walls of the legal system and into battle for others within a system that won’t give her equal treatment. I couldn’t stop individuals from abandoning her, yet I’ve seen her still get up to be a light to the world and love others despite all. I’ve watched her fight for her life or to benefit of her children (or children she’s taken in) while my inner-self was paralyzed by fear as she faced fears alone.
I can remember her being trapped in a room in a boarding house as an elementary school-aged kid by a man who rented out a room off the kitchen and not knowing how to get out, and the relief she felt when her older brother found and rescued her in time to prevent a more traumatic outcome. And I can remember her brother’s intensity, mean, palpable, towards that man and her having only a vague idea of why he (only two years older) was so upset. She later described her brother as one of her earth angels, and I was proud of her for that.
There are so few things I remember being proud of her for as a kid and young person, but one was her intuition. I’ve recoiled at unwanted touches from powerful men, but felt I had to show a “societal” smiling face in order to allow the men to remain intact. I can remember her meeting prominent men in social situations who, when introduced to her (as a young adult), shook her hand in that secretive handshake men used to have when they would bend their middle finger in a handshake to “tickle” the palm of a woman to signal that they wanted her. Those feigned handshakes would always shock her, always shock her responses and make her snatch her hand away—all the while smiling and hoping they made a mistake, or she imagined it because they were worldly, well-known, prominent, and she was just… her, meek, mild, with a learned social smile, and quite unaware of her beauty and intelligence.
I can still feel her sorrow when, in her early twenties, she turned down a scholarship at Marquette University because it required three trips to a psychiatrist for his approval, because after the first visit he began to schedule the appointments after normal work hours and when no one was in the building, so she felt unsafe and knew no one would take her word over his—a white man—an old white man—and old professional white man—an old professional white man with an established career—if he decided to cross the lines of decency, all the while knowing he was holding onto the power he held in whether or not she passed his muster, but her strong intuition got the better of her and, out of fear for her safety, she stopped going into what she unconsciously felt was entrapment. I can still feel her sorry when she lost her scholarship because she trusted her intuition, but when questioned by the scholarship committee representative (who called her several times) could not tell them, nor her mother, why.
I remember her first day teaching when she questioned whether or not she could be good at it because she felt she knew so little; felt the sweat drip beneath her arms and stain her dress—she NEVER sweated. And even when she got good at it, she felt humbled by it all, always thinking others knew more, were better teachers, even when introducing a different style of teaching (more conducive to the twentieth century).
From deep inside her psyche I’ve watched her show a brave face when she tried to protest the mistreatment of other (white) women only to have them turn against her when they were questioned to her truthfulness of THEIR situation.
I’ve quieted my inner voice from shouting that some child was harmed because I had no proof other than what I intuited through intuition so immediate, so violent that it took my breath away, all while watching a man grin in my face knowing I could do nothing; I’ve cried the tears of the helpless and prayed unanswered prayers. I felt her steel her body as youngsters shared their experiences of violence, rape, and the aggression of adults as she comforted them with her only tools—words of warmth, hope, encouraging trust.
For most of their growing years, I’ve watched her parent her children—all the while questioning every decision being the best for that particular child in that particular situation. I was proud of her when she learned to apologize to her children when she felt she overreacted, just as I was proud of her when she learned to discipline with time-outs and take-aways instead of whippings like her mother taught her.
I ask my younger self to forgive me for not going to war for her like one would do for others. I’ve accepted less-than the best behaviors from others around me for the sake of keeping peace. I’ve settled for peace when goodness was a better option. I’ve hidden my light to make the light of others shine brighter. I’ve withheld my truth to prevent others from correcting me with their experience or observations of that same event.
There are many things I’ve grown to love about her as she’s aged like when she approaches random women (usually while shopping) and tells them that their hairdo, or dress, or shoes, are beautiful, knowing that that compliment may be the only one they get to reassure them of their value. I love the way she remembers to tell her children and friends that she loves them when leaving their presence or ending a conversation, when that affirmation was never modeled to her by her mother.
My younger self still sits in the background of her truth as she becomes an elder (a very reluctant one at that) and I love the way she tries still, even in retirement, tries to connect people with resources they need and will take the time to find out how to help them.
Yet, still, in some ways I fear her. I fear that one day she will cease withholding her thoughts, words, reactions to events around her and unleash all those thoughts, words and reactions she wanted to let go of decades ago. That she will reveal her inner thoughts that still pain her; secrets valuable only to herself. This, unfortunately, is because I know that she still fears being disliked for saying what she really thinks and feels, which is sad because she knows she has fewer years ahead than behind her. Perhaps she is still struggling to be fully human (as her Dakota friend describes).
What I now know is truth is that she is a queen, and this queen is a self-taught warrior. She’s not perfect but the Master has deemed her worthy! Gracefully broken but beautifully standing. Still healing and finding her way.
She is love. She GIVES love. She is life. She GIVES life. She is transformation. She pushes for the transformation of others into their better selves. She is grace. She is BRAVE! She stores her stock before there is any rain. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her for a lifetime?
#IamShe #LoveThyself #SlowlyEmerging