In the ongoing pursuit of a better life and spiritual growth, I sat down to watch Oprah’s Life Class today. I have been recording them on my DVR since things have been too hectic to watch them as they air. The one I chose featured Toni Morrison and James Cameron. They were discussing validation and how it is especially important for a child’s self-esteem. It broadens and strengthens your relationships. Oprah said that in all her years of interviewing, the one thing common to all beings is the need to be seen.
Funny, because I just wrote a similar line saying the very same thing for my novel. “Everywhere I go, I draw looks but only you have ever really seen me..” Damn thing woke me up out of my sleep. Right.
I watched the first few minutes and nodded my head in agreement. They flashed back to 2000 and Toni Morrison said that she makes a conscious effort to always greet and acknowledge her children with a loving face. She had an aha moment when she realized that she tended to greet them and look them over to see if they were mussed or messy. At some point in time, she realized that was not what they needed. She came to understand that she had unconsciously presented them with the “face” of criticism erroneously believing that they knew the deep love she felt for them in her heart. Wrong.
It was then that the leaking began.
I’m used getting teary when watching Oprah as she always manages to touch me but the more I watched the more uncomfortable I became until I was full out crying.
I did not want to think about why it affected me so but I am too old not to know that it is precisely those things that we don’t want to think about that require our most intense focus.
They were reminding me of my childhood and wounds that I always like to think are healed but every so often, no matter how old I get, I realize that they lie dormant woven into the fabric of my existence. No matter how I try to shirk them off or outrun them, they always manage to rear their head at unexpected moments.
The rush of thoughts running through my brain sounded like this:
“Do parents really do that? Validate their children by greeting them with a loving demeanor and focus?”
“Wouldn’t that be nice though? Imagine what that would have meant to you.”
“How often have you been guilty of barely acknowledging your SO’s presence because you’re working on something? Pretty often. He understands… Does he?”
“That critical face…you do that too.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You know you do and you know where you learned it from…”
My mother had me at 19. My father took no responsibility for me and went off into the service to do his thing. My mother was devastated and quite honestly, ill equipped. From her, I inherited my complexion, my eyes, my hands and feet, my quick wit, temper, silliness and sharp intelligence. At her knee, I learned what it is to be mostly angry at life because most of the people who love you will disappoint you and just how unfair the world is. I learned to be strong because it is necessary, to despise my emotionalism because it was a sign of weakness in her eyes and to criticize.
As I peeled back the layers of this onion, I heard at least two men from past say that I have a tendency to nag. Imagine that? lol I dismissed that at the time because most men say that about women and it is mostly a cop out for their failures or a refusal to examine themselves. Yet, at this moment I finally understood what they meant and it went deeper than what they said.
Like Toni Morrison, I am prone to hone in on whatever is wrong or needs fixing. I am completely comfortable breaking it down for you if you don’t understand as most Sisters are. I turn this harsh critical light on myself as well. I am absolutely comfortable expressing my love in the written word but like my mother, emotional displays from loved ones often make me uncomfortable and I find it incredibly hard to lean on people because I am terrified that they will disappoint me and so, the voice of the harridan comes easily because it is my first line of defense. I will have to work on stopping that voice or at least minimizing it and make a more concerted effort to be loving.
It disturbs me that it took me all this time to recognize and understand this chain of behavior and motivation. It disturbs me even more because I understand that need for validation very well since I was often ridiculed or ignored. Self-awareness…..How could I not sift through the threads of what people said about my behavior to get at the true meaning? I can only say that I wasn’t ready.
Damn it, I was minding my own business and along comes another flaw.
I am angry for the little girl who will always live inside me. I am still trying to teach her how to run and overlook the scars on her knees… Another day, another lesson.