You know what's hard?
Doing things you were never taught to do.
There is so much that school leaves out, expecting parents to teach most "life" things. Unfortunately, for kids like me though, some parents don't.
A little backstory for you:
I was raised by a single mother with 3 other kids who did foster care and was an entrepreneur herself. She was (rest her loving soul) an amazing mother full of love for her children and all of the children she brought into our home. She absolutely did the best she could with what she was taught. But see, my family, we are one of those families whose best is just really sub par from most. I was born into a family tree that has more missing or destroyed branches than most. Our family tree is scorched, for sure, as if having been through many forest fires but somehow blooming again. I was born into a family of trauma, chaos, and disconnect. Now, my mother did the best she could to protect me and my siblings from this and to "break the cycle," but again, her best was utilizing what she knew which was dysfunction. Look, I am not bagging on my family and damn sure not my mother. Without her, I would certainly be lost. She obviously did something right because I'm quite a bit more than some may expect. My mother didn't take the time to teach me a lot of tangible things though, she believed in the parenting model of, "figure it out." For that, I am eternally grateful because I assure you this, I will ALWAYS survive. I will always figure it out and there is not a damn thing on this planet that I can't figure out when I need to...because of my mom's style. She believed in pushing us, challenging us, not allowing us to feel sorry for ourselves. My strength and "get shit done" work ethic comes from her, no doubt. I learned other things from my raising too, like: how to be broke constantly; how to allow people to be rude to me; how to be taken advantage of; how to be abused; how to fight; how to struggle; how to smile and show the world one thing while behind closed doors being something completely opposite; how to help other people while simultaneously never focusing your energy on truly helping yourself; how to love others unconditionally with never paying any mind to loving yourself. My siblings learned this too and we learned it all very well. My sister's greatest take away was how to be a victim - how to never take power over her own life; my other sister: how to be co-dependent, how to never feel whole without someone else; me, how to put myself last - how to not take value or have assertion for my needs/wants; my brother: how to give to others to avoid thy self - how to take care of everyone else and yet never ask to be taken care of. These all come down to self worth. We were all taught to be selfless and I imagine that my mother's desire there was to make us caring, kind, giving people - and that we are...to a fault. These are the tools we have to work with as adults and now she is gone (passed from cancer almost 4 years ago) and she can't help us re-frame these lessons as she meant them to be. I know you never are, but we were certainly not ready to not have a mom.
What I wasn't taught: how to manage money, how to make a bed, how to decorate things/places, how to dress; how to relax/rest/be at peace; how to cook; See, my mother was very busy with all of the other kids in the house and she was a person of freedom ( I love, love, love this about her, but it was also a detriment). She let us choose how we made our bed; she didn't care as long as it was made. She let us choose how we put our clothes away, as long as they were off the floor, she didn't care. She let us choose a lot of things and as happy and grateful as I am for that, I feel like there was piece missing. I think that children should always have a choice - in all things, as they do, but guidance should be there. I might have said to my child, "this is how I suggest you do it and here's why, ultimately it is your room and up to you, but let me show you and teach you this way and if you find a better way later, cool." I also lost my mom when I was only 26. She was sick for 2/3 years before that. So really, I lost her at 23. My por baby brother only being 19(ish) when she got sick. I was just at the age of a human that would want to learn how to cook, how to decorate, how to date, how to "adult." Instead, I learned how to change a catheter and dress her wounds. I learned how to give sponge baths and administer medications. I learned how to operate on very little sleep and cry quietly. I learned how to smile and carry on like everything was okay anyway; except for the times I just couldn't. I am not complaining at all, just stating facts in hopes that you might better understand this next part.
Look, there are a lot of "common sense" things that I just don't know and I guess I am asking that people be patient, be aware, and don't judge me for that. Whatever you may see or think about me or anyone else; some of the most successful people in the world even may never have been taught to, say, ride a bike or decorate a Christmas tree. That happens. Please do not walk in the world assuming that ALL people know how to behave or how to do certain things just because you were taught and feel like everyone should be. Maybe we should have been, but a lot of us just weren't. So help us, teach us; don't degrade or belittle us. Teach us, be understanding, be patient. I guarantee that people like me will learn the fastest and be the most grateful for your guidance; they will also be the most hurt by your assumption, disappointment, teasing, or impatience.
I was never taught to be calm, peaceful, or still. We were also always a very busy house. As children, we got up, got ourselves ready, fed ourselves, got ourselves to school. We got home from school, cleaned our rooms/did our chores and homework, helped with the foster kids, went to bed - did it again. The only time we were still really was when we were in time-out, so when we were in trouble. So, I literally do not know how to be still or at least, it makes me uncomfortable - it feels like I'm in trouble or have done something wrong. I have worked so, so hard to be able to do meditation and yoga, to be able to sit and do one thing for 20 minutes or to focus on my own body and that alone for 20 minutes; and to associate those as GOOD things. Many things come very, very easy to me. Stillness is reaaaaally hard but feels the best. I don't watch TV or a lot of movies, I can't even finish books quickly, because it is so hard to sit still long enough.
This is awesome for my employers! But I work for myself now and don't have to work that often and it is driving me NUTS. I thrive when I am busy; I excel when I am tasked; I do my best when I have many responsibilities.
I know how to break into houses. I know how to hop fences and I know what pepper spray to the eyes and razor wire in the arm feels like. The pepper spray thing is actually a funny story - I sprayed myself as a child on accident lol, I'll tell you the whole thing another time. Anyway, I know manipulation and avoidance. I know what a court room feels like, I learned that at age 8. I know abuse and what we now consider neglect. Then, it was just...our life. I know what it's like to fear prison (not for myself) but fear all the same. I know how to lie and hide, to protect my family at all costs - no matter what. I'm very familiar with what it's like to see black eyes on the women I love (I do not hit people - just so you know). I know, so well, that terrible decisions and choices can come from the very best of intentions. Now listen, my mom did not teach me any of this and she would be pissed but probably not surprised to know these are among my life lessons, but I learned them from experiences. Also, please note: I don't do any of these things...I just know how. I can also do great things like change a tire or your car oil; teach people and talk to people; listen to people; work power tools; I am really good at conflict resolution and analysis; I can over-think a situation to death! I can figure things out, I'm good at puzzles and such.
I know hard. I know survival.
I am learning and have been teaching myself calm, presence, peace, comfort, joy. I am reminding myself of laughter and love and holidays; family; tradition; connection. I am teaching myself not just to just exist but to excel. I know I was born with a bulletproof, heart of gold and a brilliant mind, worth fighting for; but sometimes I feel like I just don't know what to do with it. I am so accustomed to scraping, to fighting, to working insanely hard, to the survivor life that it is so hard for me sometimes, to escape that.
I know I'm not the only one that feels this way. I know I'm not the only "child of trauma" who has turned their life around and who works tirelessly inside and out to change their life and the lives of their (future) family. I know I am not the only person that frets regularly about whether or not I'm being a good human or at least a better human than the ones I've experienced...how would I know? I know I am not the only person that stresses about how I would ever be a good parent, how I would teach my children things that I don't know; how would I give them a life better than mine when I don't know what that looks or feels like? I am not the only one that battles negative thoughts/talk of themselves, shame. I know I am not the only one that must subdue the feelings of anger/rage, disappointment, and distrust. I am not the only person walking around the world right now trying to take that negative energy, make it good, and put it back out into the world like an energetic and experiential "Brita" filter for others. (That is kind of cool actually. Do you think I can add "Energetic Brita Filter - transforming bullshit into love and light for the world" to my resume?) I am not the only one that carries the fear of what I could become if I'm not careful and intentional.
"I do not fear the darkness because it is foreign. I fear it, because it feels like home."
And I know I am not alone in that.
(Side-note: that was really fucking good - some Marvel villan turned hero needs to use that line sometime....and Marvel needs to pay me for it LOL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Mother Fuckers.)
I know that these are my experiences are not who I am. I know who I am and that puts me WAY ahead of many with similar childhoods, I am so grateful for that. My character, my root, my core is never in question and that is completely thanks to my mom as well.
This point reminds me of a conversation I had once with someone extremely close to me. This person had known me and distantly but been around me for half of my life. Although we've always felt very close and connected, we were talking about how we don't actually know much about each other's lives. True. But I said this (or something to the effect of), " I don't think you have to know about people's experiences to know who they are. I think you can know someone's heart without knowing their life." The two are different things and I absolutely believe that.
So, I guess, (now that I have purged - thank you for joining me for that therapy session), what I want to say is that having these thoughts, these pasts, these feelings is not the problem...giving into them is. Or, equally, expecting them not to occur ever again is. Having been someone who seriously contemplated and almost attempted suicide at 12, I know that those thoughts can come back, they do. I try to explain it in a way that, there's a little "gremlin" in your brain that comes out of the shadows every now and then, when you don't expect it, just to see if you're still strong. And we, we have to bitch slap that mofo and throw it back into hiding. We have to battle this, sometimes every day. The more we practice this though, the stronger we get, and the stronger we get - the closer we are to the "gremlin" giving up. We just have to be more persistent; we have to be more resilient; we have to be more stubborn than those thoughts/feelings. Now come on! Some of you are as stubborn as they come, so don't give that up in this situation.
You know what I was taught...
How to write.
What I taught myself...
How to write to heal myself.
Maybe you want to try it sometime?
or maybe rock climb or workout or have coffee with friends or walk the beach or draw/color or meditate, or yoga it up.
I don't know if you've noticed this yet, but I don't write this for you. I write this for me and if it can help you also, fucking SCORE!
No one taught me this and maybe no one has taught you this, so allow me:
The mechanism may be different but the process, the same:
Step 1: Know that you are not your past; your experiences are not who you are.
Step 2: Acknowledge that we feel bad and we just feel shitty sometimes (even we have the most awesome lives). And that's okay. It is perfectly okay and encouraged to be vulnerable, to feel "weak." Surround yourself with people that know and support this.
Step 3: Purge it (empty your emotional soda bottle). IN A HEALTHY WAY (Sneaky little shits, Happy Hour/substances is not okay here). Write, draw, sing, talk to a friend, talk to a therapist, talk to nature, be in nature, breathe, be with family (if you like your family).
Step 4: Remind yourself how strong and brilliant and resilient you are. If you are pissed off at all of the BS you've been through, think of all the gifts it gave you.
Step 5: When these thoughts/feelings come up again, know that they probably will, acknowledge that you're prepared and they are no match for you. Go back to Step 1 and start again. Persist.
And if you are the someone who was taught things and had good guidance growing up, please remember that experience is not the same for everyone. Not everyone knows what you know. Please be patient. Please be kind. Please do not judge or ostracize. If you try, you may just find that those of us who weren't taught much, are the
most open to learning and growing and change; we usually learn quick and are super loyal too, just saying, and that can all be a real asset in life.
Just something to keep in mind as we move through the world: we are ALL only a combination of our experiences. We are ALL subject to the human condition. Please move through the world with patience...and kindness, to all folks.