I love the way the Universe works. Pay attention and you’re sure to get a message or confirmation of something that’s been making itself known to you. That happened to me yesterday. I wrote this post some days ago. I’d been mulling it around for a while and finally got around to writing it. But once I wrote it, I just left it sitting in the drafts. I didn’t want to share it. I was resisting it for some reason. But I saw a post from my mentor, Namaste Moore, as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and it spoke exactly to what this post is about. So I took that as a loving nudge from The Universe to get out of my own way, and so here I am sharing it. Ok, on with the show.
I’ve been telling you since the beginning of the year how the past year has been all about me unpacking my past. I’m still in the process of unpacking. I’ve got a lot of stuff to purge. 30 plus years of issues. And because they’re so layered, once I purge one thing, I find another beneath it. As I’ve been unpacking a lot of my issues that I’ve tagged onto my dad, I recognized that I need to accept my sensitivity. I’ve always been an extremely sensitive person. It was problematic for me because my father taught me that it was a problem. I wasn’t supposed to be sensitive. Sensitivity was weakness. Sensitivity meant I was a punk. And I needed to be tough because my father wasn’t raising any punks and the world wasn’t going to be kind to a punk. According to my father, the world was cold and unrelenting, full of people wanting to hurt me and if I didn’t get myself together it was going to chew me up and spit me out. So I needed to be strong, independent, and able to take care of myself and others. Also according to my father, I wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things carrying my sensitivity around. So I had to get to getting with the business of toughening up.
My sensitivity displayed itself in ways that seemed to get under my father’s skin. One of my worst offenses was that I cried. A lot. Actually I still do. I cried if I was happy. I cried if I was sad. Or mad. I even cried if I saw another in pain. But that was unacceptable for my father. Crying was for punks and I needed to stop crying all of the time. I remember one such episode when I was 9 years old. A boy on my school bus punched me in the eye. While my dad did defend me once he found out, he was also quite upset with me for not fighting the way he thought I should have. He became incredibly upset when he asked me, What did you do after he punched you? only to hear me say in response, I cried. I thought it was a ridiculous question. It hurt. Crying when hurt is a normal response, correct? What was I supposed to do? My father thought it a ridiculous response. Who in the hell cries when they get hurt? Hell naw that ain’t normal! I was supposed to kick the boy’s ass! That’s what I was supposed to do. So he told me that I needed to kick his ass the next day, otherwise he would kick mine. Now to some, this probably seems like a reasonable order from a parent. It certainly was based on my dad’s own upbringing. He was old school. Old school wasn’t about being a punk. Punks jumped up to get beat down, so you best not be a punk. That meant you didn’t let anybody hurt you. If you got hurt, it was your fault. I didn’t know at the time, but for my father that applied to my emotional self as well as my physical self. As far as he was concerned, he was doing it for my own good. He would even lament about how hard it was to raise a daughter because he couldn’t be as hard on me as he wanted to be–certainly not as hard as he could be with a boy. He hated how soft he had to be with me. I, on the other hand, was perplexed as to how he could possibly think he was soft at all.
The thing about the way my father raised me was that it didn’t work for me. As he lamented, I wasn’t a boy. I was, indeed a girl. That meant that I was soft. But softness didn’t mean weakness. It was just my make up. I was (and still am) sensitive. I was compassionate. I didn’t physically fight. But I also wasn’t a pushover. Actually, his harshness caused me to shrink more than my sensitivity ever did. And the effects of his harshness lasted well into my adulthood. I struggled with my sensitivity. I hated myself for feeling all of my feelings–especially hurt. I hated myself for crying. I actually still hate to cry in front of people. I felt like I was going against everything my father stood for whenever I would and even though I would never admit it to him, I desperately wanted his approval–and even to be just like him. I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be all he wanted because I was his only child. I hated myself whenever I didn’t do what I thought he would do–even if I didn’t agree with him! What I now know is that I was (and still am) a lot like my father–sensitivity and all. When he was chastising me about my sensitivity, he was actually chastising himself. He didn’t like that he was sensitive (and believe me, he was). He saw it as weakness so he developed a bark so loud that no fool ever dare test him. While I, on the other hand, didn’t feel the need to bark. I was content being me. I felt like whomever didn’t like it would leave me alone and those who did would fall in line with me. But because he didn’t know better, he taught me that I was wrong to feel that way. And because I didn’t know better, I learned to believe him. So I packed that gem and have been carrying it around with me ever since. Until today.
What I know today is that my sensitivity (and my father’s for that matter) is not a weakness. It’s actually a strength. And the audacity to be as sensitive as I am without attempting to cover it–to allow myself to be vulnerable–is an even greater strength. I’m embracing my sensitivity and softness. I’m embracing being vulnerable. I also know that my father did the best he could with what he had so I don’t need to be angry with him for teaching me as he did. I know that I also did the best I could, so I don’t need to be angry with myself for carrying the burden as long as I have. I’m learning to be gentle with myself. And while he didn’t necessarily directly do it, my father taught me that. And for that I’m grateful. So as Forrest Gump said, that’s good, one less thing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I might have been awfully uncomfortable last year when having to face the contents of my baggage, but these days post unpacking have been quite enlightening. I believe Erykah Badu said it best when she instructed in her song, Bag Lady to pack light. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m packing light. And I gotta say, I like it. A lot.