Looking back and thinking forward

Month: November, 2011

Sense of self – part II

Quote of the day:

Memories are moments that refuse to be ordinary. [Uncle Mary … My old friend, dancing and tennis partner way back when …]

Yesterday afernoon I spent an hour or so going through old photographs. As is always the case when I venture back in time, I become quite nostalgic, and find myself longing for those good old days. This time, though, I observed that when I was young I was really quite pleasant to look at! And yet, as I pored over the pictures one by one, I realized that during those moments that each photograph was being taken, I was feeling anything but pleasant to look at. Indeed, at those times, I was feeling more like I was too fat, clumsy, my clothes were weird or inappropriate, or, even, that I was plain old ugly.

I sat with my legs crossed on the carpet in my study, glued to those old photographs – mesmerized – as I thought back to how I perceived my appearance. I remembered how some members of my family used to call me a femme fatale, and I gasped. For the way I viewed myself back then was that I was lucky if anyone liked me or found me attractive at all. In fact, I was searching for love with a pathetic type of desperation, doing, thinking and feeling – being - anything people would have me be, just so they would like me. I certainly did not view myself as "attractive," or "a catch." I noticed, too, that I was even dressed in clothes that the people I was involved with at different times in my life, preferred me to wear! 

I was stunned. Of course, none of this is really new to me. I have known these things forever. These feelings are at the very core of my being. I developed them to survive as a child. I understand all of this. And yet, yesterday afternoon, surrounded by the photographs of 60 years passed, I saw my Self in a clearer light.

After looking at the photographs, I was feeling a little bewildered and disoriented. I donned a new dress I bought recently to attend a Thanksgiving dinner with a group of old friends – people who had taken me into their home and hearts when I first arrived in America 23 years ago. I felt awkward. It was not the type of dress I usually buy for myself, and it was a little shorter than I am usually comfortable with. "in fact," I thought, "I hardly ever buy dresses for myself." As I gazed at my reflection in the mirror, I understood that I am constantly trying to dispel the femme fatale myth – the shame I feel about my feminity or sexuality within myself. This dress accentuated my curves, had a soft silky texture. I felt like a woman in it. Not exceptionally good looking – but somewhat attractive for a woman my age – 62. Still struggling with feeling awkward and confused, I arrived at the dinner.

Before long, the friends' love and warmth enveloped me, and soon I even felt comfortable enough to sing out loud when it was time for the share-our-talents section of the evening. First, they begged me to sing a song they had remembered me singing over twenty years ago in their living room in Buffalo. I sang a little shakily at first trying to remember the words, but at the end they burst into thunderous applause, and I looked around at their glowing, smiling faces in amazement. Emotionally overwhelmed, I had difficulty singing the next song because tears were rising into my throat.

It is a different time for me as I seek my own sense of who I am – not as scary or challenging as it used to be when I was young. I am older now, a little wiser, and so much stronger emotionally. And in this Thanksgiving season this year, I feel most grateful for the years I still have left, for me to unlearn old messages, and dispel worn-out myths and perceptions of my Self.


Quotes for my day:

  • No judgement zone right here: we're all safe
  • We need to bear witness in a public space
  • Our inner thoughts have social consequence
  • Different is not deficient [Overheard at recent presentations]

These words have stayed with me for days, reinforcing my own beliefs and knowledge about writing, speaking, teaching, diversity acceptance, and so forth. Indeed, they have given me comfort for the work I do each day. 

Today I am grateful for those who shed light when the way seems dark.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Exercising my writes, & Abundantly


Walking in the crisp, fall afternoon, looking up at the rust colored leaves against a clear, blue sky, I could not help but feel gratitude for that beautiful day. My feet seemed to fly across the pavement and through piles of leaves raked to the side of the road. I carried two letters to post as soon as I came across a mailbox on my way. Suddenly a postal van drew up slowly next to me and the mailman reached out his window. "Ma'am," he said, "Can I take those for you?" he pointed down to the letters dangling in my hand by the side of my body. I beamed at him. "Oh!" I exclaimed, surprised at his noticing me, while driving by on his busy afternoon, postal rounds."Thank you so much," I said, smiling widely as I handed him the letters. He smiled back, and drove off into the distance, his little, white van personally harboring my mail. I started to jog a little down the road, Annie Lennox singing, "Hallelujah," through my earphones at exactly the right moment. 

I returned home breathing deeply, sweating from the exercise as the sun stretched across the sky, and a chill returned to the coming-of-evening air. I had thought that I was not going to do a Thanksgiving, gratitude, count-down this year.

But after yesterday afternoon, I think I have already started it!

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Coffee and tea

Having a Self

Quote of the day:

To have a Self is hell …

… for me.

I can't believe I said that out loud. [Me, in therapy yesterday]

I especially love it when reflection leads to revelation. Because that often leads to the unfolding of even more awareness.

This morning, for example, I am remembering how, many years ago, when I had first arrived in Buffalo a-now-old friend told me that I was like every body's shadow. It was an insightful observation, although at the time I did not understand it. 

Now I do. 

Having a Self, is more than just "independent thinking," although that is a major part of it. For it includes validating my feelings, or, more importantly, even being able to acknowledge I have the feeling in the first place – that I have a right to think and feel the way I do.

Indeed, I am amazed at how difficult it is – being freed of the prison of having no Self

… for I might have to take a stand for me from now on …

Reflection time season begins …

Quote of the day:

‎"Can you imagine the desperation of a child who chooses to believe that it was all his fault just so he doesn't have to consider the idea that his mother did it? Or that his parents did it? Because, Terry, I'll tell you something, I don't know anything about you, but I think it's completely barbaric to shake hands with and seek help from the person who caused your injury. That will make you sick." Darrell Hammond

I just cannot get over the interview I heard yesterday on NPR on my drive home from work last night.

It has struck a chord that bears deeper reflection …

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Gratitude reflections