Tell The Truth: Shame

My experience at Catholic University of America was full of pain. I was hurting. I’ve talked extensively about all of the things I felt was done to me there but I did not talk about the things I was ashamed of. One of the things I felt shame over was that in Philosophy and theology class, I would often challenge the professors and their teachings. I was very outspoken about what I felt was wrong because what I believed college to be was a place to genuinely and authentically learn. And that is what I was trying to do.

I feel ashamed because in many ways I don’t think those classes was a place for me to learn authentically. They were also seemingly low energy. I felt ashamed because I was a naturally enthusiastic and passionate person and they were…dead…to me. They couldn’t function without coffee, they couldn’t open up unless drunk. I think I felt ashamed to be so open and happy and positive and passionate about my studies when the rest of the people I met were not. Or did not seem to be. The world there was too small for me. Speaking from the heart here. I really hated my time there.

I understand now that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I actually really cared about the content of the course and challenged the information and the teachers because I truly wanted to learn more. I was genuinely intrigued. And even though others might have an opinion about me that is not favorable, I don’t have to feel that it is indeed true for me. It’s about them. It’s about their expectations of me, which I don’t have to fulfill. It’s about what they think about themselves and the expectations they try to place on others and the world around them.

I don’t have to be afraid of the truth of myself. I don’t have to worry so much about every demeaning eye roll because someone wanted to convey a message. The truth of who I really am is stronger than that. For one: I did not die at Catholic University. 2. My ex boyfriend’s friends and family did not kill me. 3. I survived a horrible first clinical experience and got myself out.

Honestly, if it’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I always always always speak the truth. And that’s what I think saves me every time.

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Processing the Unprocessed: College Sucked

I didn’t do anything wrong. I know I need to let myself off the hook. It can be so hard to trust your heart again when it didn’t seem to give any indication that I was going to get hurt by the choices I made. I gave as much as I could.

The events that surround that time reinforced the idea that I was not good enough. And everything that came after that time was me hiding because I didn’t want the world to see and reaffirm that I wasn’t good enough too.

America is a racist entity. It is also a sexist entity. And if you vow to be different, if you say to yourself that you are not going to tow the line, that you will, with an open heart, do a new thing, there often will be backlash. Sometimes even the people who look like you, in your times of need, will be unwilling to offer you comfort and instead say, “I told you so” and imply that you were or are wrong when you really are in fact blameless. And it hurts.

Right now, I feel like Job in the bible. When you trust your heart and you keep God in your thoughts and attempt to be the light and you still get hurt or wind up with others seemingly rejoicing in your misfortune, or avoiding you when in pain, it can hurt. Sometimes you want compassion and comfort. Sometimes you want others to acknowledge that you are, in fact, blameless. Vindication would have been nice. But sometimes vindication takes a long, long, time.

Maybe one day I’ll write a book. And in it I’ll talk about the black people in my life who judged me (because they want to acknowledge the truth) and everybody else who didn’t want to acknowledge my feelings were valid. My feelings are still valid. My heart is broken, but I want to be healed.

I’ve been sitting with my pain. In college, I was in a theology class where the professor talked about how the Catholic church is the one true church and how the Catholic church has never changed. I challenged this belief. I wanted people to wake up. Maybe this was not the setting to do it. But I was passionate about this topic and appalled by the indoctrination of it all. My classmates completely disagreed and argued that that Catholic church has never ever changed. How could they not see it? What broke my heart most of all was that they honestly believed I was wrong, despite all the evidence, despite everything the professor had said in class about how the church changed their views and have become more inclusive, etc, they still felt I was wrong. All I could think was, “was nobody listening in class? Am I crazy?” But they were damn sure I was wrong and really set out to prove it and did not want to talk to me much afterwards. Oh well.

I remember nursing school. Sitting in the back of the class all alone. Not really understanding whiteness and why it is they were so clique-ish and unconcerned about inclusivity. I remember the first month approaching a white female in my class and trying to engage her in conversation. She power walked away from me like i didnt exist. She clearly did not want to talk to me. I remember wanting to join a dance club to salsa dancing and hearing, “we don’t have salsa dancing here but we do have urban dancing, your people seem to like that.”

I was angry at that comment because who is this white person that decided what a group of people, an entire population like? And I use to make jokes about painful events like this. But it hurt me so much that I wasn’t able to laugh or make a humorous piece on the crazy that is upper middle class white America and the people who cater to them.

I think I will write a piece on just that on day.

Free Write: A Version of My Younger Self

There’s so many things I wish I could’ve said to my younger self. There are other ways to get closure. Don’t get back with that guy, his insecurities will only serve to stress you out. The people you thought were your friends are actually not a real match for you. Don’t be afraid to end a relationship that’s toxic to you. Trust yourself implicitly. The list goes on. But I would never say it because I would cease to exist and I don’t lament my existence.

Perhaps the one thing I would tell my younger self is that sense of purpose she feels in her soul, cultivate it and don’t let anyone or anything detract her from nurturing that fire within. Cultivate your purpose. Figure out what it is you like to do and do it well. Do it to the best of your ability because how you do what you do, no one else can do. There is only one you.

If reincarnation is real, I’d like to come back with the sole purpose of focusing on writing and cultivating my spiritual gifts. Falling in love with the Divine creation in the mirror is a lifelong task that I am happily engaged in on a daily basis. True love. A transformative love. I would pass this information on to my younger self. I have asked myself, “how would I say it so that I can get my message across to her?” Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Creation of the Divine,

Know that you are worthy and loved. Know that you are a beautiful reflection of the Divine because He made you in His image. God loves You, for You. There is nothing you need to prove or do that could add or detract from His love. You are not required to act like anyone in order to experience His loving grace and mercy. You are not required to be with anyone in order to experience His love and support. You do not need anyone’s permission to live your best and greatest life. Forgiveness is an energy that liberates the perpetrator and the forgiver. Forgive others, forgive yourself. In your forgiveness, you are not required to take anyone back, keep them around, feign niceness, or try to make a relationship work that you know is broken. Open your heart to new possibilities. Trust yourself. Love yourself for God loves you. Allow yourself to explore and discover who you truly are without guilt or remorse. 

Sincerely,

Your older self

Tell The Truth: I’m Doing Trial And Error

Life has accelerated very quickly for me since turning 26. For one, I’ve learned the value of boundaries and the importance of enforcing those boundaries. Then, as time went on, I found it more and more obvious to me that I care less and less what others think. This has been increasing at alarming rates for myself. I’m not a shrinking violet anymore. At least not nearly as much of a shrinking violet as I use to be.

However…

Today, while on a mini vacation, I decided to call a small deli and bakery to order some food for myself. I looked at the menu online, dialed the number, and when someone on the other end answered, I proceeded to place my order. Now on the website, the menu clearly stated that they had a Blacked Salmon available for order as an Entree. But when I proceeded to order the person on the other end became very upset and stated that they don’t do Entrees and that I was probably looking at the wrong thing because she did not know where I was getting my order selection from (it was from their website). She later said that maybe I was looking at their dinner menu (their website does not have a lunch or dinner menu option available for selection). I asked her to hold on while I went to check on the website and confirm what I saw as I was taken aback by her obvious annoyance at my asking about the Entree options. She then asked me to call back. I said okay and she hung up. I was angry. I was very angry. And uncomfortable. But I didn’t show it. I proceeded to ask myself why is it that I’m not okay with expressing my anger. I had one thought come to mind: that maybe after years of being shown and having it be implied through other’s behaviors and lack of supportiveness that as a Black woman I was not allowed to be angry, I learned to suppress my anger. 

And this is true. For years, I noticed how others often reacted fearfully to my anger or came to other’s aid when I was angry. I noticed how I was always the “bad” one for feeling anything other than happy and pleased and grateful or, if offended, silent and forgiving, for the stupid shit that other people did or said to me. I watched how people came to other’s aid when they were hurt, wounded or offended or how supportive other people were when the one who was offended stood up for themselves. The message from childhood was clear: I was not allowed to show offense or take offense.

But at some point I decided to say Fuck ’em. Yep. Fuck them, okay? Because I’m entitled to my feelings as much as anyone else.

Here’s what I realized is going on: I get taken aback when others express anger towards me or in my direction. I get overwhelmed by it and it makes me uncomfortable. I never learned how to deal with angry people except to avoid them. But I can’t always avoid them. People always try to offer tools when other people are angry on how to deal with them. Stay calm, stay safe, stay out of the way, listen, know when to disengage. But sometimes their anger makes me angry too! Sometimes I think people get angry because they know that others have been taught not to engage angry people and they want others to submit to their will. Some people think that by speaking louder or yelling then they will be heard or it will force others to agree or…I don’t know. I’m not looking to empathize with the feeling of anger. I’m looking for how to deal with it.

I’m going to use trial and error. I’m just not comfortable having people talk to me in a disrespectful manner.

The Solution

It’s been a real struggle for me learning how to take responsibility for my own actions while not taking on responsibility for the behavior of adults because they are family. Not understanding the importance of allowing people to take ownership for their stuff the way I take ownership of my own stressed me out. I’ve wanted to feel appreciated and respected by my family and I haven’t felt that way. I often feel unheard, bullied, belittled, disrespected, and like my boundaries don’t matter. It made me feel angry and I just didn’t know how to deal with it. There are systems already in place that have no room for me as the adult I am now.

The solution is learning to be more self-sufficient. Having my own place and managing my own affairs. I need to figure out how to do this. Having that ownership without looking to them for validation will help me better create boundaries. I’ve come to understand that this is an important part of me not seeking their approval and validation because they can not give me what I need. And what I need is a respectful, loving, and supportive system that values honesty, transparency, and a willingness to “speak to the mountain” (respectfully) if an issue arises. I need to be in a place that nourishes my soul.

I Am Right With Me

I could not accept my own goodness and this is why I suffered. I couldn’t say anything nice about myself without following up with, “I’m not perfect.” Why? Because somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that if it came easily, it wasn’t worth it. I was suppose to work hard for everything I earned and I was not suppose to validate and give credence to myself.

Back in 2014/2015, I was working in Texas under a particularly difficult travel nursing assignment. I picked up so many extra shifts and struggled to remain on day shift despite dreading it. I had convinced myself that it was necessary to do these things in order to demonstrate that I was not lazy. One day, after a particularly stressful shift, I came to the realization that struggle was not necessary for growth. And indeed it was not. The days and weeks and years that followed involved me learning to relinquish control of the notion that somehow I had to prove to the world and to myself that I somehow deserved all the good things I received in life.

A few weeks back, I was speaking to a spiritually gifted woman and I was telling her that one of the things I continued to ask myself and have asked myself for years is, “What’s wrong with me?” I’ve searched through every nook and cranny of my life and my own soul, overturning any perceived flaw and attempted to improve it, attempted to demonstrate to myself and others that I am “good”, “okay”, “lovable”, “acceptable” or whatever positive trait can be applied to a person. I wanted their respect, their attention, their time, their love and felt that somehow I was unworthy of it because I wasn’t this, that and the other. And if for a second a demonstrated any of those things and it was noticed, I’d have to diminish it so as to appear humble, another positive trait that I assumed did not exist in my “good trait bank”.

Fast forward to age 26 and I am focused on self-love. Self-love is, in many ways, the overarching lesson I had been trying to learn in so many ways throughout the years. The need for boundaries, self-respect, telling the truth to yourself and others, honoring your truth, trusting yourself, letting go and letting God, taking risks, all these fall under the theme of self-love. They are sub lessons and sub categories to propel you to experience the richness that is me.

I am right with me. Who I am, how I live, what I say, do, think, feel and how I act are in alignment. In my soul, I know, that at age 26, I am right with me. The validation I sought, I now give to myself. I give myself permission to live my best life because I matter. On all spheres. What I say, think, feel, do, matters. I understand now that instead of taking life’s messages as a sign that something’s wrong with me, maybe my feelings, thoughts, the sluggishness of and pains I felt in my body, the blockages and sense of drain I often felt in my previous lives were indications that I need to change something about the environment I am in or that maybe I need to change the way I approach a situation or maybe I just need to leave it! The body, the mind, the spirit, the heart, all of these things communicate on a regular basis and I had not been listening to the messages that were being put out. Paulo Coelho often said that we need to pay attention to signs. I wasn’t. Actually, I was trying to once again find external validation and messages that could or would serve as signs that I am on the right track. What I first needed to do was listen to myself. There was nothing intrinsically or even extrinsically wrong with me. But because I spent so much time trying to pick myself apart and make myself move despite the signals life, god, my body, my heart, my soul, my mind were sending me, I suffered. Now I know better. So I do better.

I am right with me.

 

 

 

Speak Up and Stand Up For Yourself

I tried to go along to get along. I tried to be meek. I told myself, “The meek shall inherit the Earth”. I got run over. I got taken advantage of. It was implied I was a tool. The people who hung around me often times weren’t my real friends, they were users. They didn’t care about me, only what they could get from me. And they got a lot while I sacrificed my wishes and my dignity.

Lately, something inside of me has been clicking that maybe standing up for myself is just a life lesson I had to learn from even a young age, possibly even during a time when I had hoped my parents would do it. But my mother could not do it because she had not learned of her own worth. You can never truly give someone something you don’t have. Because my more did not want to ask for what she deserved, she wasn’t able to teach me how to do it. As a result, I had to teach myself. Otherwise, I’d suffer.

One of the things I have come to accept is that no matter what position anyone holds, no matter their age, race, creed, lifestyle, no matter what you believe they can do for you, it’s important that you speak up and stand up for yourself. Be your own advocate and be proud of who you are and what you are. You deserve it as a beautiful reflection of the Divine. Own who you are. Own what you are. Love it. Advocate on your own behalf.

That is what that painful experience in the NICU that resulted in me recently waking up in the morning with a sense of panic was about. Realizing that to expect others to advocate for me all the time is futile. The message was to teach me the importance of not going along to get along. It was to tell me that it was not necessary or even healthy to be completely passive. Express how you feel. Say what you want. Speak up. Love yourself enough to do it. Love yourself enough to know you matter. Acknowledge that you matter! Because you do.

Asserting yourself isn’t being controlling of other people. It’s self-control. It means that you’re telling people clearly and concisely what you want and taking ownership of your behavior and how you go about communicating that to others. It’s okay. It’s not abusive. It’s honest. As I’ve come to step further into my own womanhood and adulthood, this has become even more important. Once again, just tell the truth.