“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~ Brene Brown.
When I finally went back to school to get my undergraduate degree, I was around fifty years old. I had graduated from nursing school in the UK fresh out of high school, and had been working as a registered nurse in various capacities, so I felt that obtaining a degree was an embellishment, but not a necessity. What could they teach me, I thought, that I didn’t already know? I suspect that is the attitude of many. In one of the most useful classes I have ever taken (the nurse as a scholar) I tackled online classes, writing papers in APA style (it is what it is) and much more. One article we looked at suggested that professionals who go back to school after having worked in the field go through Erikson’s stages of development. They start out struggling with ‘trust versus mistrust’. ‘What can this instructor teach me, look how young she is!’ ‘I’m not asking any questions, what if the rest of the class look down on me for not knowing something?’ If you learn to trust the process, you soon find yourself flying through the stages and discovering that there is a whole lot still to learn!
Most of us hate to show vulnerability, to admit we need help, we are taught that we must take care of ourselves, be independent, fight through adversity. And yet we love to help others, to give a hand, to be generous. The author quoted above, describes that kind of giving as being ego driven, as the giver can feel superior to the one who needs. How much more difficult is it to be the one asking, the one needing a hand? The other day I heard an interview with a woman who has written a book about what she calls the myth of independence, that anyone can make it on their own if they just try. The reality is we all need help some of the time, sometimes on a personal basis, sometimes from the social support system. But we are made to feel ashamed for needing it.
Last weekend I attended the funeral of a young man who had struggled with substance abuse his whole life. If you know anything about addiction, you know how hard it is on the family as they try to help someone with that disease. I have always found funerals to be very educational, often learning things I didn’t know about the person. In this case, the lessons came from his support system, his ‘twelve steppers’. The young man had celebrated eighteen months of sobriety, quite an accomplishment as those who have gone through it will attest. And his companions in his journey were there to speak of him in loving terms, reminding us of his generosity, his ‘swag’, his love and appreciation for his family.
There is a beautiful power in unconditional acceptance, and that is one thing that is evident, if ever you attend a twelve-step meeting. No one there can judge you, for they have been there, done worse than that. Those of us who don’t fight addiction can be quite judgmental of those with it: they just need will power; if only they loved their families enough; why don’t they admit they need help? It is never that easy. The power of the twelve-step process is the acceptance that they cannot do it alone. Those who have tried and failed often did not reach out to their sponsors, their peers, feeling they could make it on their own.
It is unfortunate that it takes personal experience for most of us to feel empathy with those whose life experience is different from our own. I am currently living in a state where the governor feels it necessary to eradicate from our educational system any information, any truth about the history of this country and its struggle with racism and oppression. If we don’t tell the stories to all who will listen, a generation of kids will grow up accepting a white-washed version of history, and miss the opportunity to move beyond the past. People of color will have to fight to get their stories told, to be believed, will have to relitigate the battles already won (though the enemy is not vanquished).
Last night I read a little about the history of Wales (my ancestor’s stories). The term ‘Welsh’ came from an ancient Anglo-Saxon term ‘waelisc’ meaning ‘not one of us’. This practice of ‘othering’ people to control them is not new. Tribalism, racism, sexism, bias have all been around for a long time. It is up to us to continue to fight to show that we are all one and the same. We all love, dance, eat, have kids, and want a better future for them. Our differences are what make life interesting. I want to hear and share your story, to make sure each of us is heard.
This Friday morning I applaud all vulnerable people who are not afraid to admit weakness and be willing to accept help. I give thanks for the unconditional acceptance that a group of injured people can show each other, and thus obtain healing. I ask for strength for the educators to teach the children well, to continue to tell the stories that will instill empathy and understanding in the next generation. And I urge everyone to be vocal in the struggle to eliminate disparities and discrimination.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!