There is a side to me that has never really been revealed, even to myself and as I feel her begin to emerge I feel the strength that comes along with acknowledging all the different aspects that lie within me. It feels like an egg shell cracking and I am on the inside witnessing the tiny spec of light that is being let in by the breaking of this hard outer coating. It is a shell that I have used as protection, security, self-preservation and as a boundary between myself and others. I have always had trouble being myself fully out of fear of rejection or love being taken away and some experiences in my life made that fear a reality and so the shell got thicker. So to now be witnessing my own birthing of a new aspect is amazing because it means that I have done enough work to feel safe to emerge from a place of hiding. It may look familiar to some people right now, even I have seen glimpses of the things that seem to represent this aspect but what is different and what no one sees or feels but me is the inner dialogue, the beliefs, the words I tell myself in my mind and the true confidence that I am beginning to feel. Many people would tell me that they saw me as free-spirited, creative, outgoing and someone who did what they wanted in life but that was from the outside. On the inside I was constantly telling myself I was a bad person, I was fat, ugly, stupid, lazy, no good, not worthy and not capable to doing what I really wanted. Even with these words and thoughts going through my mind, beating myself up, I managed to let parts of myself shine. I don’t believe that my spirit can ever be crushed completely and I am proving to myself everyday just how strong my spirit is, it is why I am still alive today.
I know that brothers are supposed to pick on their little sisters and I know it is a normal part of growing up, kids can be mean, myself included but now as an adult looking back on the way I was treated and seeing the impact it had on my entire life, I get really sad and angry. To have the nickname “ugly” from your loved ones is not appropriate even as a joke because the mind does not differentiate between real and not real, a joke or not a joke. To be called fat or told that you look pregnant in that sweater that you thought you looked pretty great in, is really painful and does have in impact on self-esteem. When you run over to someone you love and say “Its my Birthday!”, only to be met by him throwing a nickel on the ground and saying “Oh yeah” as he walks away with his friends, this is not just emotionally damaging but spirit breaking. To be walking home in the freezing cold and see my brother drive by in a vehicle and give me the finger feels heartless and told me that I am worthless. To ask for a ride home only to be dragged from the truck by your brothers friends so they can get in and have my loved one stand and laugh is also demeaning. Obviously, I can go on and on and I won’t but the point is these are the things that happened on a regular basis, the name calling, the ridicule, the belittling and more that had an impact on me at a very deep level. What can look like child’s play can still be very damaging, wether it is your brother or a stranger, actually I feel like it may be more damaging when it is a loved one because it really rocks the sense of family and security within.
One time my sister in law said to me “I don’t know how you have any self-confidence at all…” in reference to the way my brother treated me, to which I smiled and said “I guess I just know he’s kidding and it makes me more tough knowing that if some else says something mean to me I can handle it.” This of course was not true. That was all I knew, it was my normal to be treated that way and when I look back now at her saying that to me it makes me very sad that this pattern of behavior went to such an extreme. In saying this, there was of course a sense of protection and love at times with my brothers but for me there was no balance at all and the negative much out weighed the positive. It is very difficult for me now as an adult to let these things go, especially when they are not given any validity. Many a therapist would and have disagreed with the idea that these things can just resolve themselves.
So how does this relate to now…..As I stood in front of a blank canvas the other day at Inema Art Center preparing to paint, I felt energy sitting on my chest like an elephant. I noticed my fists were clenched and my jaw tight – What was this? Fear, but why? Isn’t this what I want to do? Isn’t this who I am? Why am I so fucking scared? I am so sick of begin trapped by this fear and it is at times enough to make me scream. The good thing is that I am here standing in front of the canvas facing it, walking into it and not running away. The thing is though, it is not really fear because I don’t believe we are designed to fear ourselves, it is all the times I have been laughed at, joked about, belittled, told I couldn’t do something and ridiculed for doing something that was truly an expression of myself that then evoked a feeling of fear and created a pattern in my mind that told me not to express who I was because it was connected with rejection.
(This painting is called: Breaking Through 41. It is a representation of my Nervous Breakdown that happened in 2010.)
At first I tried to express my new self through making dramatic changes physically, like shaving my head, which was a very necessary step in creating real changes but now I feel that my life is becoming a representation of the new found courage to be myself. I am freeing myself from the limitations that I created in my mind as a way to keep me safe and feeling secure by doing the work to figure out why I felt unsafe and insecure and then letting it go. The gift of this work is the freedom within myself and only I can give this to me. I do it because I love myself and I know that I can create a better life, no one else can do that for me. If we don’t believe in ourselves, I mean really believe way down deep inside that we are capable of doing whatever we want in life than there is nothing that anyone can do or give us to make it happen. We are responsible for our own lives. The trick for me was not only learning to believe this fact but also realizing that it was a pointless struggle trying to get others to see that they are not responsible for my life. It is my life, my choices, my mistakes, my desires, my likes and dislikes and they are not meant to match up with what others feel are right for me. That is why we each have our own life, our own mind, our own set of beliefs and desires and I believe we each have our own Karma to work out in this lifetime.
In saying that, everything that makes up my life is then perfect as it all provides the tools needed to do the work I am meant to do in this life. I chose my parents, my brothers, my extended family, and anyone who came into my life was there for a reason – to teach me something. After years of not being aware of this or unconsciously living, it finally made sense when I began to study Yoga. If I see everything as a tool, a sign and a potential for learning it changes my outlook completely. It takes away the self-pity and replaces it with momentum for learning and growth. I no longer felt helpless in my life and instead realized I was, in some ways, the master of my own ship. I am the Captain and I had created everything that caused me pain as well as Joy and so there was no one to blame.
(This was my second painting and it is called: Cosmic Power! It is a representation of where I am right now in my life.)
Here I am living my life in Rwanda with a knowing that I was directed here and because I have chosen to listen for and to the signs that guide me, I feel calm and centered even in the midst of unsteadiness. The healing that is taking place is at a slow and constant pace, which makes it easier to manage and digest. I have this image of what is possible with my life in my mind and I know that things don’t always turn out as we imagine them but it is more about how it feels when I imagine this life and how I am in it. I am powerful, I am strong and I am confident inside, I do and say what I want to do. I have a voice and I express myself truthfully, creatively and unabashedly. This is the part of me that I have kept hidden out of fear of growing up and letting my parents down for not being their “little girl” anymore, which is a big factor in a lot of my repressed emotions, feelings, talents and desires as well as just me growing up healthy and well adjusted. I am not a little girl, that is obvious but I have always had an intense desire to make others happy, even before myself, so when I pick up on something like sadness, pain or anger I want to try to fix it, even if it meant holding myself back. What I didn’t realize was that it is not my job to provide emotional maturity for people and I cannot do it for them. I can only do it for myself.
Maturity is something that I am just now beginning to feel authentically in my life. By living my life as a “little girl” to please others I kept myself in a very immature state in all aspects of my life. It kept me dependent on people for financial support as well as emotional. I never really believed in my mind I was capable of being independent but man did my spirit struggle to show every one that I was! Now here I am living alone in Rwanda, making a life that includes dance, art, helping others, independence, community and so much more. I am learning to believe, on a cellular level, that I can do what ever I want in my life and the only person or thing that can really stop me is ME! I choose to move forward, further into this wonderful space I am creating within myself and am happy to share it with the world!