It Starts With You

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It Starts With You

by Shanika Graham,
Self-Advancement Self-Awareness Self-Esteem

I once read the bold words that plastered across the white bright computer screen that said:

You owe yourself the love that you so freely give to others.

I immediately thought, "this is such truth, but a hard kind of truth to follow when you've been where I've been". I've always heard that "in time" we heal. But does that really stand valid in all cases or does time simply put the pain on pause until you get enough grit to face it again or even worse, something reminds you fully the things you fight so hard to forget? I suppose that you can't really heal what you aren't willing to admit and reveal. Time, in and of itself, won't heal anything without your active role in the healing process, right?

Well, I've recently learned this to be in fact true. I'm learning that tucking away your past hurts, disappointments, and anger doesn't erase it. They just end up in a little deeply engulfed space where they are able to peek out (like Houdini, the magician) during special moments that are conveniently aligned with your current outward circumstance's pull. That's been true for me anyway.

I realized this simple fact, the moment that I found myself overcome by slight grief from an episode of Iyanla Vanzant's "Fix My Life" last night. This specific episode struck so close to home that my tucked away, "I need to put this behind me" emotions/thoughts came so surfaced that they wouldn't allow me to simply watch everything without going through the motions. It was an episode about a Mother who had 6 daughters (ranging from 25 to 35 years of age), who all have not had a relationship with each other in many years, due to individual riffs with each other and being raised separately as a result of their mother giving them away to relatives or the adoption system. Unfortunately, the mother had her oldest child while in High School and she chose to give her away and the following children thereafter (without hesitation) because she simply didn't want the responsibility that came with having a child. This she boldly admitted on the episode just so you know. In addition, she dealt with drugs, molestation, among other things along her journey before and after motherhood, which further caused her to disconnect from her daughters.

All in all, the daughters each shared their feeling of being abandoned, neglected, unloved, and angry. But there was one daughter in particular that stood out the most to me. She was 29 years old (the 3rd oldest I believe) and she had 7 kids herself (which is just 1 more than her own mother had). She was the only one who cried for the majority of the episode (out of hurt of course) to the point that even Iyanla noticed. The funny thing is that this daughter was the only one who still had some sort of a relationship with her mother out of all the other 5 sisters. Interesting right? Well, what really struck me was when she finally came face to face with her mother and apologized for all the previous disrespect that she displayed toward her mother growing up (out of anger) and stated that "she loved her mother and just needed her mother to love her". How profound.

But what struck me the most was towards the end of the episode (continuing into next week's episode) where this same 29-year-old daughter later revealed that she recently read the adoption papers that were filed when she was a baby, which stated that her mother went to have an abortion when she was pregnant with her, but the doctors told her to keep the baby. Yet, instead, she still found a way to get rid of her by placing her for adoption shortly after she was born. Having a similar story myself, it felt like a real outer body experience for me. It was a level of pain that I could mirror from this daughter to myself that I spent so much time masking so that I could see myself strong.

I say this to say, that sometimes we will have to face hard truths. And sometimes those hard truths won't always come with entirely clear answers to gain automatic closure. I'm learning this. And Brokeness can sometimes only be fixed by acknowledging it ourselves and deciding that it's time to begin putting the pieces together piece by piece, without the expectation that the ones who broke you in the first place will ever say "I'm sorry" or make any effort to help fix it all.

Sometimes you have to accept the apology you never got.

And while it's hard, especially when those that hurt you have been the ones that should've shielded you and nurtured you, you have to do it for YOU. I'm learning to pick up the itty-bitty pieces that I've ignored for so many years while trying to remain OK. But I'm learning that authentic strength is reflected in those darkest, most shameful places that we often refuse to sit in and embrace for the moment. Mine are the evidence that shows themselves to be true in my moments of loneliness, neglect, unworthiness, invisibility, and need for approval that often leaves me feeling disappointed and many times betrayed by those I've given that power to.

They stem from being a Mother who's learning to love like a Mother without it ever being modeled to her fully by her own Mother. They stem from never having a consistent male figure during childhood and the ones that have ever been present always took advantage in some way, which built a wall of distrust. They stem from never being allowed to have a voice about how I was feeling as a child all the way to adulthood out of fear that it would be inconvenient or upsetting to the other person listening. They stem from hearing hurtful and derogatory words day in and day out from a Man that God chose to be my Father, but who I never could identify with in that way to this very day, despite my consistent efforts of turning the other cheek. They stem from broken relationships with siblings, all of which have seen my situation (a home with both parents) as better when I often wished that I could simply trade places. They stem from learning just how unreliable people can be after they say "I Love You", yet it becomes so easy to walk away at their first selfish window of opportunity when [greater] presents itself.

They stem from young eyes witnessing drugs, struggle, cheating, and unfaithfulness in every way possible, without any regard or guilt to change. They stem from being left alone to care for yourself coupled with being responsible for your youngest sibling instead of being a child myself. They stem from sitting helplessly while trying to build an internal shield of protection during moments of attack, while the woman who you were created to reflect, just sits there as a silent witness, indifferently feeling content. They stem from being left behind in every situation possible, sometimes in the hands of people that often placed me in uncompromising situations as a child (resulting in the robbery of my innocence, to say the least). They stem from manipulation that was so good that I found myself tied to the false belief that the presence and giving of things were the correct way that love was shown. They stem from broken promises, lies, betrayals, jealousy, envy, misunderstandings, no real concern, and wrongful judgments toward me without question or remorse.

But most importantly, they stem from ME and my inability to see that I owe myself the love that I so freely give to others. Now, I understand that the reflection of my past (and all the things and people in it) cannot take me where I want to go. Rather, they will keep me stuck in this bitterness, disappointment, anger, and feeling of having no real value. So, just know that my positive outlook on most things, gained wisdom, and light doesn't mean that there isn't darkness present too. I just fight within myself (daily) to be enough light for someone else to feel some sort of shine within themselves through me. Like you, I'm learning to live without.

I'm living without the approval from others, recognition of the good I display genuinely, love that is so freely given to others but not myself, an apology that holds them accountable, affirmation from others that I am in fact beautiful (inside + out), relationships that make me better and not worse, a model of how to have good success and the desire for others to be just as successful along the way, good intentions for my life, and the truth that I'm human and can make mistakes too. But that's OK. I'm learning to lean on God's understanding of me which says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Trust me, You'll be OK too. It all just starts with you.