The announcement was hidden on the back page of the church bulletin. But I saw it. “Free mental health counselling.” It was for 9 am the following Saturday. I filed it away in the back of my mind. But that Saturday morning, I woke up, made breakfast for my children and drove to my church. I arrived late and searched the entire church compound looking for the counselling class.
I was ready to go home when I saw the priest. “Father, I’m looking for the therapist.”
“Oh okay. Where are the rest of you?”
“No, Father. It’s just me.”
I was the only one in the entire church who turned up for the free counselling. And it was the best thing that could happen to me.
It was a journey that I’d been on for a few months. People have often called me hyper self-aware. It was usually a compliment. I am extremely deliberate in my actions because I have thought them over and over and over again. Some people call it intelligence. I don’t know what it is, this sixth sense that I honed in childhood. All I know is that it was the only way I could survive growing up in my family. Mistakes weren’t tolerated, stupidity wasn’t tolerated. My family’s emotions were fields of landmines and I had to be careful where I stepped.
I read a book this year that gave me the right lenses through which to view my past. It was important to read that book. I turned 30 this year and I think I just figured out “ancestral curses” work. It’s pretty simple, actually. Not the hocus pocus juju stuff. It’s simply children repeating harmful patterns of behavior their parents have passed on to them because they, in their turn, inherited those patterns from the grandparents. And we’ve all inherited traits, for better or for worse. My question to myself was: what traits do I want to pass on to my sons? Which traits would I like to see dead? How do I kill those traits?
It was hard to do. Because it meant taking a hard look at my past, at my parents and deciding that, they weren’t perfect. It meant identifying their precise flaws, in full detail. It’s an uncomfortable thing to do, to dissect one’s parents like so. But I had to do it because I saw traits in myself that I didn’t like. And I recognized them from my parents. And I wanted to know that I could prevent myself from passing them on to my children. And if, at 30, I couldn’t make those decisions, then when?
It’s easy to articulate these thoughts here but I couldn’t explain them to anyone at the time. But I could, to my therapist. And gosh, it was the most beautiful thing, saying my story in broken sentences and disjointed snippets and she naming the problems, the issues, the symptoms. It was a relief to know I wasn’t crazy, that my feelings were valid, that there was a name for what plagued me.
There was a lot of anger. A lot of fear. A lot of grief too. The good thing was that a lot of the solutions she proposed were familiar. She asked me to write again. Not the blog posts that I’ve managed to subsist on for years now but to write my stories, my diaries, my letters. My writing was to be my redemption.
I said earlier, that it was a journey I’d been on for months already. I’d deleted my social media accounts because I wanted the pleasure of experiencing and savoring my life alone. I don’t know how to explain it but my pleasures are amplified when I know that I can’t share them and so no one will ever see them. I also wanted to give my children the gift of anonymity I had as a child. Yes, they’re digital age children (and I share some of my experiences parenting them on blazersandbaby.com) but maybe I can preserve their childhood for them alone to share when they’re ready. Am I crazy to think that way?
Deleting my social media came with a sense of freedom and a certain I-really-don’t-care quality to my actions and thoughts. I really don’t care about being embarrassed. I really don’t care about failure. (Which is the only reason you’re reading this post because I think it’s pretty crappy.) I really don’t care about anything that doesn’t involve my family’s wellbeing. This is who I am at my core, and it was a pleasure to meet her. But she can be pretty selfish, right? So I expanded my list of things I care about. My friends. Causes that matter to me.
My therapist gave me an assignment at my last appointment.It was an assignment on how to deal with fear. She said, “Imagine that you have only one year left to live. How would you want to live? Who would you want to interact with? Who would you be fine with cutting loose?” Dear Reader, that question has crystalized many things for me. For one, I realized that I am called to love everyone as a child of God, but that love doesn’t mean gushing over them. Many times, it means simply wishing them well but avoiding them because they trigger all the wrong emotions in you. I don’t want to spend my last year on earth with my emotions in turmoil. I deserve better. Second (and more important), I realized that there are people I do want to gush over and they deserve all the gushing. So I’m doing a lot more of that.
In 2019, I hope to be kinder to others and to myself. I hope to be more vulnerable with the people who love me. I hope to be more forgiving of the ones who’ve hurt me.