Photo by Debra Lopez
When people ask me why I write and what I teach, I say I teach folks how to write from their Soul's Song because learning to write this way saved my life and alerted me to my birthrite: joy. Memoir writing is simply writing about your life from the deepest places within yourself. People write memoir to save their lives. It can take the form of a novel, play, screenplay, standup, journalling, creative writing. The form is irrelevant, the clarity of writing from a place of what your soul knows is what's important and at the heart of every amazing story we can't forget. We write about what we know. We write our soul's song to remember why we're here, to reflect on what we got wrong and to do more of what feels good and fulfilling. We write our stories to learn how much of what we thought to be true is somebody else's damage and not our own clear seeing. Been thinking about this a lot lately as I watch so many women confuse their life's purpose with spending a life trying to prove they are worthy.
Who people are when they become older is who they were all along and it has little or nothing to do with you. It's interesting to watch adult children still trying to earn the love of indifferent or hostile elderly parents out of what seems like obligation and honorable duty, but is actually just that small child still asking to be loved.
As I think about the possibility of growing old alone, I start to plan how to make that happen as easily as possible without burdening anyone. Because caring for someone should never be a burden. If it is, it's because that person never engendered within the caretaker a feeling of genuine joy and unconditional love. I find that older parents or mates that treat their child or spouse with hostility are people who have spent their lives setting up a certain dynamic with the ones they love. They rely on that dynamic to ensure they are treated the way they want to be treated for the rest of their lives. Whether it's withholding love to maintain control over someone who desperately yearns for their love or indifference towards a mate or child whose love they found to be too requiring of their attention. Either scenario leaves one person in power and the other always trying to measure up.
I see it in children of alcoholics, addicts, narcissist, depressed parents repeat these cycles in their choice of mate and eventually with their own children. As I try to lead my life in the way that makes me most happy, centered and sane, I realize only I am responsible for the treatment I receive and when it no longer matches how I want to feel, it;s up to me to change that. What my beautiful friend Abby Paige calls a sort of "audacious self-respect" leaves the owness for your self care in your hands. So, you can spend a life time trying to get the love you need from folks incapable (for whatever irrelevant reason) to give it or you can spend a lifetime creating a life in which you feel whole and cherished and accept nothing less. The difference is you come to expect or require the goodness you want. That's the only power you have: the power to leave and find something more inline with who you're becoming. Sticking around trying to earn something from someone is a power dynamic that is at the heart of control, power, domination and a kind of self-centered need to owe no one or anything any level of accountability unless there is a transaction involved.
I feel like humans have created a culture of transactional relationships in the family life that extends to tribes and nations, civilizations, religious and ethinic groups. We've created sexism, colonialism, racism, religious fanaticism in an effort to take from something from someone that we have not earned and thereby control them by demonizing them when they don't give you what you want.
This all occurred to me recently when I was thinking about all the displaced and murdered children of Native Americans and oddly enough another story I was reading about Druids. Because of course, before the rise of Christianity as an institution under Constantinople (because Jesus never required us to form a church, that was man's doing) there were all kinds of gods many of whom were women. The freedom to choose which one struck you, was up to the person. It's hard to control people and bend them to your will, if they don't share the same ultimate source of right or God. So, to ensure male dominance, it became necessary to get everyone believing in one man: Jesus. This was necessary for nation states to become nation states. It's true of ALL religions. Man has figured out, many human beings deep need to feel there is an almighty, all knowing creator organizing the fates of their lives. So mankind created governments, countries, institutions that feed on that need as a way to control all the various tribes and keep them from killing each other ad nauseum.
It's is at the heart of most civilizations and we're still killing each other over this need to control one another. But the first place this need shows up in is in the family unit and then it spreads out from there. Solitude and charting one's own course with the understanding that you entered this world alone and that's how you will leave it, gives you the space and time to ponder how to create a life all your own. One not dependent on needing to control or be controlled by someone else.
I look around at the structure of relationships I encounter from religious groups to married couples and children and parents and see us all creating these same paradigms. Everyone is engaged in relationships where one person is in power and the other is not. At my core, I do not believe relationships need to function this way, but until people spend as much time trying to become whole and healed, we will continually settle for relationships that mimic the broken parts of a families and societies. Be controlled or be destroyed is not the only choice, but it seems to be the choice we've all made and the world the way it looks right now is the result.
I've come to expect and require more of us. So I wait for what I know is possible. Living beyond your wounds is terrifying, difficult and possible but it requires the courage to prioritize healing, solidtude and trust that the way you landed here is good enough and has always been good enuf. There is no love or stamp of approval that has to be earned, you are a miracle unto yourself. Now go find your joy.... That's the human challenge....go within, heal and become whole. Dare to travel that journey alone and without the need for approval.
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April Yvette Thompson