There is a “revolution of revelation” going on inside of me and I am getting to know my Self better because of it.
These past months of working as part of the Healthy Sense of Self team has given me many opportunities to explore deeply, why I am the me I am, the thoughts I think, the values I have and the actions I take. It has been a period of taking a deep and meaningful inventory of me, my Self and I. Working closely with Antoinetta Vogels is a blessing and I personally look forward to the publishing of her book on the Method of what it takes to become or restore one’s Healthy Sense of Self.
Where does our sense of self and how we may choose to live come from? I find my beginnings in the stories of my own experience. Little things trigger vivid memories that play back like movies in my mind–and insights as to what choices I made in the pivotal moments seem to get a spotlight on them. As a mother myself, I so want to raise my daughter to be herself, and not some version of me. I am not critical of my parenting style, but I remain both a doer and a watcher of what I do–with the intention of staying true to my desire to let her become her own Self. I am particularly aware of the role communication and sharing plays in her development, knowing that I could be overbearing and controlling in the heat of a moment. That is the last thing I want to do or be and there is a reason for it buried in my own childhood.
As a child, growing up in a divorced family of myself, my sister and my mother there were many things I remember “hating.”
I hated that my mom and dad had divorced. I hated that my mom wouldn’t let us see Dad as much as we wanted and outside of visitation as determined in the divorce proceedings. I hated that she used us as pawns to get from him what she wanted above and beyond what she was owed. I hated that she seemed to be putting herself first and using us to get what she could from him and other family members.
When I was not hating my mother’s rules and expectations of us, I was being especially critical of her. I also found her to be a curious conundrum who I admired for her childlike vitality and belief that all things would work out–if we just kept talking. She wanted us to be a happy family even though she had a hard time staying happy herself.
The Weekly Family Meeting: Dreaded and Missed
One of her strategies for combating the latch key kid syndrome that was a reality in our world was to have “weekly family meetings” that my sister and I resisted—but resistance was futile. My mother worked as a nurse from 7am to 3:30pm so not only was she not there in the morning when we left for school, she was not home when we arrived home. We were kept busy by the list of chores and expectations that homework was done and dinner was prepped before she arrived home at 4:30pm.
Come Friday afternoon, our weekends were kicked off with a “family meeting.” We were expected to share the high and low points of our week that we could reconnect. We gathered in the family room and drew straws as to who would go first to “share.” My shares always began with, “Why do we have to do this! I don’t want to share. You already know what happened for all the time we talk at dinner!”
She being the mom always got her way. My little sister was a kiss-ass, or so I thought. She never crossed my mother, only wanted to please her and whether her low points were true or not, I don’t know. I just know she tried so hard to be a good daughter and spin a tale of how good and bad her week was to make mom feel like she was doing a good job at listening.
I was tough critic of my mother. I see that. I realized that at 16 years old. By then though my mother was no longer living and I couldn’t say I was sorry for being so hard to get along with. Back in the days I lived with her and my sister, what I didn’t see or acknowledge was what she was intending. She was trying to create a space where it was okay for us to be open and vulnerable and get support from each other. We were assured we could say anything without being made to feel bad or small. The point was to be there for each other just because that is what families do when there is unconditional love and acceptance. She tried to create that environment as best she could.
What I resented was what I perceived to be her attempts to control me to make herself feel better. What I learned in time was that those meetings did allow for open dialogue that could have been healing and nurturing more than they were. Most meetings started out tense but most meetings also ended in laughter, dinner, and ice cream and family movie time.
Would I turn back the clock and do what I did differently if I had the chance?
Maybe. Or maybe, I’ll apply the best of the parenting technique she tried to master with my own daughter. If I am successful at giving my daughter an environment to develop an independent and healthy sense of her Self, I will be pleased—for her.
We don’t do structured Friday afternoon family meetings, but when I think about it we do have mighty candid conversations whenever they need to occur. May I be granted the wisdom to know when to push a little and when to leave well enough alone—for the sake of her development.
I know in my heart my mother had the best of intentions and did the best with what she understood herself. What my mom started for better or worse, continues for the better–provided my Sense of Self stays aware, present-based and healthy.