Episode 35: Tell A New Story
Happy Sunday Brunch, my people. Let's raise our mimosas or mugs and clink a cheers to a bit of connection between work, notices and ads in your inbox. Written with a London accent in my head. Reading with an accent is entirely your (next best) decision.
I'm a writer. My brain loves to tell stories.
In telling a story, there are usually three parts:
Part one, the first 25%, "should" contain the character(s), the crucible and the conflict. The crucible is the thing that happens that gets the main character to do something they normally would not do, and the conflict is shown by an inciting incident.
Part two, which is about 50% of the space of the story, has all of the complications. If the story has a shape, this is the roller coaster.
Part three, the last 25%, has the crisis and the conclusion for all involved.
It's all very dramatic.
I love good stories. There's just something so satisfying about them.
As we go about our lives, we assess and reassess what has happened in it. We have stories about people in our childhood, events while we were in school and at work and within our families.
We retell our story every year of where we were on September 11, 2001. Just bringing up that date, I bet your version of that story popped into the front of your mind, ready to be told again.
We build traditions around holidays based on the stories we have about past holidays, usually from the mother's perspective of what she likes, and values, and (let's be honest) is willing to plan and implement--or what she saw on the Hallmark Channel or Pinterest.
I know my story.
I've written it all out, in chapters, many times. I've had versions that made me want to cry and scream and throw the journal or computer across the room. I've had many versions that flowed from gratitude and love, or sorrow and hate.
In 2018, I published what I thought would be the final version of my dramatic youthful climax. This version of the main story happens over a year's time, in 1992, and is told in the present tense. The second section of that book is the fall out, everything that has resulted from that story of that year. All of it is 100% true.
But it is a version.
I've had a story about my own self-esteem, my worthiness or lack of it, that I have been telling myself since I was a very young child.
My feelings about me have been a result of how others have felt about me. Nearly every time, I have chosen to adopt their opinions instead of forming or listening to my own.
I learned as a baby that if I cry or scream, no one will come, so even today, I do not often reach out for help or love from others.
But I want it so much.
I have an increased desire for attention and love from others, as a result of low parent contact from birth to age three. I have constantly searched for it.
That's a story.
Though the book has been written, I am again rewriting this story.
Not re-publishing. I am just viewing it from a different mindset.
I recently found again a photo of me taken around the age of two--an adorable little girl.
She's not looking at the camera lens. She is looking at someone standing nearby, with all the hope in her eyes, and a smile for that person. Maybe she is looking at the photographer standing next to the camera, holding a toy and talking with a high-pitched or silly voice. Maybe it's her mother? Or a friend? Or a relative?
Maybe the photo was taken for the custody case between my mother and her ex-husband, which resulted in my sister, my care-giver, leaving us when I was four and she was seven.
Whatever that circumstance, my eyes look hopeful and happy in that photo.
Which means: I was hopeful and happy as a small child.
Even if just for one hour.
I was hopeful and happy as a small child.
Despite neglect, what else is true?
I was a twin. My brother David died a month after we were born.
I had shelter.
My sister brought me bottles. I had enough food.
Five months after David died, six months after having twins, around Christmas or New Year's, my mother was pregnant again. My brother Jeff was born sixteen months after my birth day.
Our father, Jeff's and mine, was married to someone else. For whatever reason, he could not be our Dad.
I was left in the back bedroom in a crib until I was three years old. There was a small window and a plywood door that was kept shut. I crawled around at three and a half, and walked at age four.
I started kindergarten when I was six. My mother told my teacher that I was slow.
But I was smarter than my brother. Or, I memorized better than he did. We were in the same grade and I loved believing that I was smarter than him, and getting praise from adults for what I could remember and figure out.
My mother did not show love the way I needed her to.
And that's okay.
How I feel about what happened has nothing to do with what happened.
Today's Deep Breath: (Here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.)
Let's do an exercise.
Think of something traumatic in your life. Or at least something that you still feel was hard. Maybe you lost a child. Or you felt betrayed by someone you trusted. Or maybe you were traumatized so much that you cannot say the words out loud.
What are the benefits of that experience? How has your life been improved by that experience?
Here's mine. Because of my early childhood:
I am very compassionate and empathetic.
I actually don't mind being alone. I write and paint and macrame and love to play solitaire with a real deck of cards.
I used to be absolutely driven to be an active, present mom to my kids, with birthday and holiday events and traditions.
I want my kids to KNOW that I love them and accept them.
I AM THERE.
I love color, variation and creative uses of everyday objects.
I get very excited when I change the furniture in a room.
My birth mother's best was enough. It was not ideal; it was not perfect. It was enough. Because I am more than okay and I forgive her.
Because I have been hurt by men and boys, I can now help my daughter who has also been hurt.
Sometimes I'm not emotionally available, and that's okay.
Sometimes my desire for love and comfort from others has led me to choose to give up what I wanted for what they wanted, and that's okay.
I am learning to be honest with myself about what I want and what is true in my own heart.
I wish the same for you.
If an event or some memory popped into your mind, trust yourself and do this exercise. You are safe. You'll be okay.
Until next time,
P.S. A bit of housekeeping: I have moved all of these letters to a blog page on my website. Several of you have missed some of the weeks. If you so desire, you can read old letters at tamilowe.com