I sat in my own living room, watching as individuals that are related to me by blood act as if the home in which they stood smelled incredibly awful.
With each nasal twinge, eyebrow, and under the breath scoff, I turned inward, shrinking, hoping the event would end. I noticed how my friends were picking up on the tension. I noticed that my husband was going out of his way to make all the guests feel welcome. Even the guests that did not belong in our home but were there because of our kindness. We did not want our son to become aware of any issues in our family, so we made a mutual decision to play nice. I cannot speak for my spirit-mate, but I believe our decision to play nice was to my own detriment.
Not long after that, I began experiencing sudden and extreme episodes of vertigo, to the point of falling into (or off of) my furniture, vomiting, and feeling the room shift viciously without my permission (or my own movement). I can’t recall when the tinnitus accompanied the situation, but my left ear gets this interesting high-pitched ding-dong type of sound.
You guys know I’m an over-achiever. To boot, in the same ear I continue to feel an unexplained pressure that makes everyone sound like they are talking with their hand(s) over their mouth.
Rewind to the day of the event. After the family members and much of the guests exited, a couple of friends stayed after to help clean up. As they proceeded to, they questioned me. My friends, I was the center of an intervention in my own home.
“Eutoka, you deserve far better than that.”
“I had no idea things were that bad.”
“Why do you give so much, but receive nothing?”
“There is no way I would allow them into my home. Blood or not, I don’t care.”
There was some colorful language, some tears, I think one or two finger gestures, some Oh HELL Naws, and at the end, lots of hugs and laughter. And thanks to good neighbors, a nicely cleaned kitchen.
I have been on this journey of letting go for years. I should have already reached my destination, but-see-what-had-happened-was I am still close the starting point. I was scared to shit of letting go. For if I let go, I believed I will have nothing to fall back on. Nothing to say, this here is my origin, this is who I am.
I wanted so badly to have a connection with some members of my family, that I would push my desires and comfort to the side just to have time with them. I would listen to unkind and judgmental dialogue, and then be told I don’t know what love is. I would watch noses turn up to individuals just because they loved the same sex, made a courageous and personal decision to change his or her sex, believed in a different deity (or deities) than my family, or even if they believed in no deity at all. And when I said something, I was distanced from the family.
It wasn’t an outright protest. I simply stopped hearing from people. I was not invited to some events, to include marriage celebrations. I was not included on inside jokes, nor was I asked for input when the topic actually called for it. Family members would come and stay from out of state and I would not be notified. I even tried to meet half-way, only to be met with the type of awkwardness that left me insecure and anxious for days after. This went on for years. Of course, until my biological son prepared for high school graduation.
Out of the blue, I began receiving communication. A sibling informed that they felt left out. I informed it’s a two street, but I am down to try again. I was elated. I purchased extra professional senior pictures and included those family members on graduation updates. I wrote out a cheat sheet in an effort to ensure some semblance of comfort on an otherwise scalding Georgia heat day in May.
I created a group text and started sending pictures of my furry babies, the kids in action, and just random things to create a conversation. No one ever kept the conversation going. No one started off a discussion in that chat, except me of course. No one sent pictures of their life. No one told me what they were up to. I had, in my defense rather expertly, crafted a relationship. One not in reality. One that only a lonely sister and daughter could dream of. One of mutual warmth, sisterly and motherly love and connection, one that made me feel connected as not just a woman, but a black woman. One where I could pick up the phone after blow drying my white daughter’s hair and say, “Girl, I sure as hell wish my hair would be that easy sometimes!” and be able to laugh about it. One where they would even care to check on my white daughter and her biological siblings.
The event came, I survived, and it went.
I reached out to the specific family members to get their perspectives on how things went. I left a couple of voice mails that went unanswered. Most individuals, including myself, tend to send off a text, phone call, or even thank you card for being included in such a way. I admit, I was hoping for that as well as some feedback about the experience. My only biological child just graduated high school, and I never received any sort of support or discussion around or about it from some of the closest of my biological family members. It was not a surprise it was occurring, but it hurt like hell.
And that’s when it hit me.
Yes, even harder than the before mentioned intervention.
I was just a pawn in an experience. I provided the venue and pathway, they came, wore proud so and so t-shirts although having never seen the school my son graduated from or attempted to attend any of the other children’s accomplishments, they judged, packed party food to-go, left, and I was the one reaching out to see if they had a good time? What I was doing was saying, “Even if you treat me like a piece of shit, pretty please tell me you like me!”
I have taken the time to see their perspective. Maybe they feel they don’t have to acknowledge my other children because I did not “make” them. Maybe because my husband and I teach kindness and compassion overall and no structured religion in our home, they feel we are bad individuals lacking a moral compass. You know, the I don’t know what love is argument because I don’t believe what they believe and how they believe it. I use terms like “wise self”, “energy”, “spirit”, “universe”, and have been corrected more than once.
I also considered fear on their part. Many individuals tend to fear things they don’t understand. Instead of getting to know me as a human, it’s just easier to judge or to follow another’s opinion. One of the biggest things I’ve learned especially with the work I do now is that growth never happens without discomfort and looking at your own ugly. My own ugly and I are best pals, in a healing way, if that makes sense. Because of this, I am able to sit in a space of compassion for those family members. They may believe their actions are morally true. They may think their actions may bring me to the place they believe I should have already been in. Maybe they see no fault at all in their behaviors. I admit to speculating. I may never truly know for sure.
I still struggle with the process of letting go, but believe even a tiny step is still a step. Sometimes the step is backwards. When this happens, I still thank myself for the movement and with love redirect myself. Sometimes it is as beautiful and magical as I just described. Sometimes, it’s a flipping Charlie Foxtrot; I’m vigorously writing in a journal to get the feelings out, or crying out of frustration, or cry-yelling into a pillow, or wiping my face completely clean to only have another round of tears….to eventually hugging myself (physically), and trying again. I don’t push these feelings away, but I also know that I can move through this, that this is not my forever.
Here’s why: No matter what, I cannot control how they, or anyone else for that matter, treat me. I can only control what I am willing to accept. I must stay committed to self-compassion. I must continue to love that little awkward black girl whose first name was the top of insult lists and glasses far too big for her tiny face. I have no choice; sometimes stress causes health concerns that are too strong to ignore. I have the tools to do this, and frankly, that little girl needs to know I’ve got this.
I also had to let go of what my family wanted me to be because I failed miserably. I now know that I can proudly and OPENLY be who I am. I hug trees, in public. I love touching the bare soil and feeling a vibration. I try to greet everyone I pass. I am the annoying driver that lets way too many folks merge in line. I become ecstatic when someone else feels the energy I feel. I talk to bugs. I touch blades of grass just for the feeling. I call all living things “friend”. I can’t let go of chicken, and Thai food gives me life. When I’m pissed, I say f-bombs. I think the f-bomb is actually my favorite word, whether I am pissed or not. I have to pee all of the time and I LOVE ALL HUMANS. I really don’t care what kind of human you are. I am just grateful to experience this existence with you.
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
Well, at the ga-billionth time, I finally believe. I guess it is better late than never.