“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
For all my friends out there seeking some answers while working to figure themselves out, I’m here to share and encourage you, letting you know you can find those answers. You need a lot of patience with yourself and just hang in there.
Up until a few years ago, I rarely, if ever, admitted to not knowing something. Because I was the oldest, I knew everything. I’m not sure how I thought I had this magical source of knowledge, I just believed I knew it all. This unrealistic expectation was part of the armor I’ve worn since I was a kid. Knowing everything was my entitled right and became a quiet mantra playing over and over in my head, an energy that drew in a few other corollaries. The most glaring of which, a nearly comical thought, no matter what the subject was, I was always right.
This whole precarious thought process was based on my perceptions of what I heard or overheard growing up in a rather chaotic household. For the first eight years of my life, my mom was either pregnant or sick. My Dad was either angry about something or working. Being the oldest and the bossiest little person on the planet, I was handed the responsibility of taking care of myself and my two sisters.
For anyone, especially a kid, this was a very lonely place to be.
There was no one to ask how to do things or why this happened or that happened. I learned by trial and error. For me, the safest way to learn was to stay quiet and observe everything going on around me. I felt asking questions would cast doubt on me–that I’d look less capable. From a very young age, I knew I had to act like I knew what I was doing. As long as things worked out, all was well.
I became very good at playing the parts I needed to play. For most of my childhood, I was a little kid acting like a parent. I created my own world, made my own rules, and found ways to survive and keep my family together. Staying together as a family became a very important thing for me after my mom died. My dad had grown up during the depression. He told me stories about families that had to split up their kids, sending one kid to one relative and another kid to another relative, because money was tight. I knew, being the oldest, I had a lot of responsibility to him and to my sisters to keep us all together.
Being Queen B and ruling as I did made it very hard to step back into a kid role when my aunt came to stay with us and care for my mom and when my dad remarried. Through all the changes, I acted like a tough kid. Looking back, I realize I was just a kid who needed some care and attention.
It’s taken me a long time to work through and decipher these childhood memories. I still find myself gearing up for an argument whenever someone disagrees with me. It takes me a minute or two to step back and remind myself I do not know everything–that my way of seeing something or doing something is not always correct.
It took retirement for me to have the time needed to do the work and enable me to begin to understand some of my childhood histories. It took this time to realize what I did–whether it was being a daughter or a sister or a sonographer–was not who I was. I am a beautiful soul here on earth experiencing this one precious life experience I’ve been given. My different roles in this life have been stepping stones along the pathway of my journey. I am perfectly imperfect and that is the way I am supposed to be.
Each day, new awarenesses make their way through all the baggage and clutter I’ve carried around with me all these years. It is a gift beyond measure and I am grateful.
“But there was a special kind of gift that came with embracing the chaos, even if I cursed most of the way. I’m convinced that, when everything is wiped blank, it’s life ‘s way of forcing you to become acquainted with and aware of who you are now, who you can become. What is the fulfillment of your soul?”
― Jennifer DeLucy