The truth is this: the 8 days at Hoffman left me with a lot of fucking work to do.
I didn’t come away miraculously cured of my shame, self-loathing, insecurity, depression, vindictiveness, or head-chatter. I came away with full-body experiences I couldn’t forget if I tried. I came away equipped to loosen the strangling grip of awareness that is, apparently, a gift.
I came away with a picture of what my patterns have cost me and a compelling desire to change. I came away with friendship and community. I came away with self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-compassion, which set me up to give from a place that no longer vibrates with need. Or, at least, vibrates less.
I also came away with personal-chef entitlement syndrome. GAWD I HATE FEEDING MYSELF.
The biggest aha for me was the expectations I place on others. The expectations come because, as Joan Borysenko wrote, I am “covertly ruled by the wounded, emotionally immature child within, who searches for the unconditional love it needed but did not receive from its family of origin.” I wrote a list of all the things that piss me off about Steve and labelled them as either in conflict with what my parents modelled or the same as my parents.
Traits unlike my parents in Steve are because I sought out someone different, and then found myself incensed he’s not like them. Steve’s similar traits are emotionally familiar, and thus triggery. CRAZYSAUCE. And amazing to know.
I made a list of my expectations of Steve. I was foaming at the mouth, madly scribbling out his deficiencies. I dotted my i’s and put down my pen with smug satisfaction. The teacher looked at my completed list and asked, “Is this a list of your unmet needs of childhood?” I looked at my paper. Huh, so it is, yes. She asked again, “Is it fair to expect Steve to make up for your childhood?”
Well shitfuckers. NO.
I’m going to work on meeting my own needs. What a huge fucking relief that is. Steve is not my mom and Steve is not my dad. Steve is my Steve. If realizing that doesn’t help me show up in this relationship differently, we’re super fucked (worst. superhero. ever).
I’m gonna show up differently.
Part of the process is digging deep into the ways parents didn’t meet needs, and feeling the resulting anger. Enraged would describe my two-day shit show. We were moved through the rage, with writing and a series of visualizations, to forgiveness, compassion and a respectful understanding for our parents’ hurts and struggles.
So… I forgave my mom. I forgave my dad. I forgave my step-dad. I cut ties with my self-righteous contempt. I’m still proud of myself for setting up a boundary with my mom and step-dad, but I can maintain that boundary out of love instead of continued resentment. That’s a win, friends!
No one can offer a child (or anyone for that matter) unconditional love all the time. Even if it were possible, kids will still experience hurt because they have—surprise—their very own lens. Shining light on this stupidly simple truth squished the self-loathing I burrow into when I knowingly or unknowingly mess up with Emma. My best and a lot of begging for forgiveness is what I have for my baby girl. And it’s enough. It is. Her and I are going to be okay. We are okay.
Another brick to the face was discovering most of who I’ve become is out of rebellion, which leaves me not knowing who the fuck I actually am. I’ve invested large amounts of energy into hating horses and makeup and nicknacks as a scoff in my mom’s direction. Turns out, I don’t hate any of them (except maybe nicknacks).
I’m going to start dating myself; I’ll be Julia Roberts in “Runaway Bride” sitting with platefuls of eggs cooked all the ways.
Some of the ways I rebelled against my mother were actually helpful[…] But as long as those interests were associated with the rage I felt toward my mother, they could not flower from my soul. I needed to work through the anger I felt for my mother and to move into a place of forgiveness, where I felt free from her control.
All week at Hoffman, all 20 of us wore our parents’ names on our name tags. On our last evening at the celebration, we each shared about our week. We started the sharing by peeling off our parents’ names, one at a time, from our tags and claiming, “I am not Brian.” I tossed that label in a basket. “And I am not Marian.” I tossed that label, too. “I am Shannon.” It was powerful to watch each one of us shed our parents and free ourselves up to be our true self. I’m excited to see what flowers from my soul and to discover a Shannon free from her 37 year old clingy, needy, rebellious, resentful hurt.
I picture myself as a cup of love, he told me. I don’t feel pushed away or rejected anymore. I can love somebody and not care about being loved back. The feeling of love is its own reward.
I am a work in progress. I am a cup of love. I have always been a cup of love. I am Shannon.
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Also linking up with Yeah Write’s Open grid this week.