"Before you abuse, criticize, and accuse walk a mile in my shoes."- Elvis Presley
When I was five years old, I lived in Ocala, Florida. That is where I began Kindergarten and where some of my earliest memories were formed. To this day, the mention of that little city makes my skin crawl. Those early memories were often unpleasant, to put it mildly. For example, one night I was driving in a car with my mother and one of her boyfriends. He was driving, and they were arguing as usual. I wasn't old enough or bold enough to do anything but sit in silence as they screamed at each other. We came to a red light and my mom told me to get out of the car. I quickly scrambled out, relieved to be free of the situation. We walked for what seemed like miles, my mother angrily walking too fast and me, nearly running, trying to keep up. I don't know how it happened. I could be telling it all wrong, but seemingly out of nowhere the boyfriend appears again, this time also on foot and he is trying to block us from getting past him. He is forcing my mother to resume the argument, and not being one to back down from a verbal dispute, she reengages. But this time the argument escalates further and before I even register what happens, the boyfriend has picked my mother up over his head, and thrown her into a thorn bush. Screams of anger have now turned into screams of pain, and I had no idea what to do so I screamed too. I screamed as loud as I could and just kept screaming. Finally, two joggers from another block heard my cries for help and came to see what the matter was. They saw my mother bleeding from her hands and knees and quickly detained the boyfriend. In a flash, a car stopped with a couple inside who motioned for my mother and I to get in the car. We did, and that, among other things, was how I learned to hitchhike. Just kidding. I never took up hitchhiking. Instead, I took with me from that night the belief that relationships required lots of abuse and sacrificing of self worth, and that, going forward I would need to scream in order to be heard.
I grew up screaming. I screamed at my parents, my teachers, even my friends. I screamed through two marriages and four children, incessantly judging and trying to control everyone but myself. It is said that children who suffer trauma, which, let's face it, is almost all of us in some shape or form, either grow up to take on the character of the person who inflicted the trauma, or become the exact opposite. And THERE is the treasure in the trauma- we get to choose how our story ends. We get to choose whether we will spend a lifetime judging others for what they should or shouldn't have done, what we think they should or shouldn't be, what we expect them to think, say, and feel. OR- we get to choose to spend less time judging others and more time loving them, striving to become the person we so desperately needed to teach us how to love ourselves first.
"We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of others."- Author Unknown
When we are finally able to grasp the concept that being "Self-Centered" has nothing to do with being selfish and everything to do with focusing on becoming a more balanced human being- mentally, spiritually, physically, and energetically, we have no time to judge others. Nor would we want to. As we witness how much easier we accomplish our goals, foster more meaningful relationships, and wholeheartedly connect with our community, we are far too satisfied with our lives to spend even a moment doing anything but loving and helping one another. As I reflect on that terrifying night in Ocala, I realize that I carry another memory with me as well- the memory of the couple who, without judgment or questions, rescued a young mother and her child because they saw people suffering and wanted to help. They didn't waste time deciding whether or not we deserved help. They never asked any questions about how we found ourselves in that situation or chastised my mother for having her child out when I should have been tucked into bed. Regardless of how they felt about the situation, they knew that connecting as humans wanting to help was what mattered most. As part of our motivation to develop our muscles of healthy self-care habits, let us find inspiration in the deep healing and connection power we will be able to offer our families and communities, creating more tolerant and peaceful connections to all.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel