power for free
I’ve given lots of people power over me. Of course, we automatically do this whenever we love and we can’t always choose the people we love. But even when given the choice, I’ve given my self-worth to lots of unworthy people and broken people, so often just looking to validate myself and heal from the last person who found me lacking. Sometimes I even give it to strangers in small chance encounters. I’m so quick to take blame and shame and call them my own. There’s a Catholic nun (likely from the sisters of Notre Dame in Ipswich, Ma, or something like that...) that has a permanent residence in my head and she’s always ready to tell me what I got wrong and everything in me wants to agree with her. Perhaps because life is more simple that way or perhaps because I wasn’t exactly encouraged to have my own opinions. I’m so ready to let other people tell me what my own truth is. This is something I will work tirelessly to not pass on to my kids. I'm still trying to evict the nun.
Apparently, I’ve long had the appearance of a door mat. I might as well have walked around with a sign that said, “Excuse me, would you like to wipe your feet on my face? I don’t mind. I probably deserve it!” Sometimes people can still mistake me for a pushover (kindness is easy to interpret this way) but I’m pretty good at correcting those people now (hopefully with kindness). For the most part though, growing up it didn’t occur to me that people should treat me with respect, even when I made a mistake.
In the weeks following my mother’s aneurysms, I forgot to pay just, all my bills. So I was really surprised when I got a notice from Amica saying they had canceled my car insurance policy. I was driving around, uninsured (What would my Dad have said? Nothing good. Cue shame). When I called, I got the one person at Amica that had a huge ax to grind with everyone that day. I was already crying and she immediately pounced on me, like I was every delinquent person in the world. She didn't know that I had the money and could pay the balance immediately. She just assumed I had spent the money on clothes or drugs or beanie babies and talked to me like I was irresponsible dirt, like delinquent pond scum. And I just took it. I didn’t say that I was reeling because my mother was trapped inside her own body and I might never talk to her again. I basically gave this (may I say, unprofessional) person permission to run me over. It was months before it occurred to me that I had done this and that I had allowed her to do me even more emotional harm, that she was coming at me from a place of a dozen incorrect and disparaging assumptions and that I didn't even think to correct her. It didn’t occur to me that I deserved grace, even when I had messed up. When I think about that now, it just comes up crazy sauce. Here again, dear Lord please let me teach my children to be stronger than I am. If they can only have the wisdom to know when to stick up for themselves and to resist it when they feel the desire to needlessly dominate someone else, I can label at least that, as a success.
I’ve been ghosted by two people that were long time best friends and I’ve befriended and dated my fair share of gaslighters. I’ve smartened up in recent years but this can still make marriage a little more complicated. Sometimes when trying to ‘fight my corner’ about something fairly innocuous (why I thought it was okay to start the dishwasher half empty), I can be a tad more emotional than the situation should call for. (I can draft my own dishwashing regulations, thanks!! Way to tell me how to be!!!). **Sigh**
The best way I’ve found to reclaim my own power is to reduce my 'fear of man', to put people’s opinions of me where they belong (way down the bottom of the problem totem pole). I find my way there by thinking about God, the vast number of stars in the sky, the millions of sunrises and sunsets past, the moment my kids were born, love and light. When I can reframe everything in this panoramic way, it takes up everything and suddenly there’s no room for what others think of me. That’s when freedom returns for a little while and I can hold my head up and know that I am loved, for no particular reason at all. There doesn’t have to be a reason. There’s nothing to strive for when it comes to what we’re made of or worth. Love is what we’re made of and for. That’s your truth and mine.