When asked – in a circle at a recent PD day at work – “what is a change you (or someone you know) made for the better”, my response vastly contrasted others.
Some mentioned changes they made in high school when they were in danger or not graduating and that fear really set a fire under their asses. Some were inspired to be unlike their aggressively alcoholic fathers. Some had been faced with ruinous health concerns that ended up whipping them into shape – literally. Some just woke up one day and decided to turn their shit around – how miraculous.
It was my turn to speak and the entire time I was listening to these stories I was engaging in an gut tug-o-war. My stomach was flipping, why was I so nervous!? Should I share something related to the stories of my fellows or should I be honest? Ain’t nobody got time to listen to h o n e s t. But then again, what’s there to lose? They can take or leave it… right? RIGHT?! eeek.
By now thirty seconds have gone by and the person next to me reaches for the talking piece – for this specific circle it’s a fluffy wolf plushie – assuming I’m having a mental breakdown and they’re just going to move along now… But no, I come to.
“About two months ago, I cut my mother out of my life. Some people might frown upon this, scoff, even, because how and why the hell would anyone ever diss their mom? But when confronted with fiery eyes, a pounding heart, and strangling hands, I knew we were at the point of no return. There are some things that I’ve managed to do in my lifetime that are even astonishing for me. But this, THIS, might be the biggest change I’ve decided on and so far, it’s been the most liberating thing I’ve done. Now, I’ve gotta figure myself out!”
Now, I readily passed on the wolf as I held back the water welling in my eyes.
The next person spoke, but I didn’t listen. It was like tunnel vision – but for.my.ears? It wasn’t until someone else caught my attention, brought me back to reality. She spoke, “Much like Angela, I cut my father out of my life. The day he was physically abusive with my toddler nephew, I realized that he didn’t recognize limits. It’s never okay to put hands on anyone, ever, for any reason, just no, but to see him do that, even in the company of the whole family… it was just too real. From then on, I’ve been helping my immediate family to safety. I haven’t spoken to him since.” She came to me later in the day, “thank you for sharing your experience, it made me comfortable enough to share mine.”
Now, I didn’t hold back the tears. They weren’t sad. Rather, In Solidarity.
Lately, I’ve been interacting with better people and it is the most shocking, most illuminating, most warming feeling. This is what love feels like. This is what kindness is. A different language. Smiles that aren’t forced. Compliments that come from a place of sincerity. Body language that doesn’t demonstrate flight or fight. Gazed that are conscious. Attention that is deliberate. oh my word, what is this?!
Don’t get me wrong, of course I think of her sometimes. I hope she’s at least okay. Hope that the house is still intact. Hope that her partner isn’t drinking more than he already was. I wish her well, and I wash my hands.