How I define the verb “heal”* = to transform a wound from being a source of pain and suffering into a source of creativity and wisdom.
More and more I am struck by the micro and macro:
micro :: one adult daughter struggling in her life because she has unresolved issues with her mother
macro :: whole groups of people (white people) struggling because they have unresolved issues with other whole groups
I used to use the word “awake” to describe myself after 2004. A lot happened that year. I’d gained a lot of weight. I was binge eating, drinking way too much chardonnay, and the career I thought I had as a plastics industry trade magazine journalist ended unceremoniously. I had gallbladder surgery. I had a falling out with my sister because I treated her and her soon-to-be-husband poorly (to this day I examine how my racism played a part in that and how I have been learning to take responsibility for it ever since).
In hindsight, what I see is a woman who didn’t trust herself; who was in constant need of input, approval, and reassurance; who was insecure (sometimes sanctimoniously so), frightened, and who, as a result, was also a defensive, punitive, black/white thinker.
In early 2005 I embarked on what I thought would be “one more way to lose weight” but instead turned out to be the start of a great reckoning with myself.
I’ve been reckoning every since.
Most recently (since 2014) that reckoning has looked like a deep examination of my beliefs about myself, through the lens of my relationship with my mother. I wrote Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters: A Guide For Separation, Liberation & Inspiration to help other women do the same.
This work is more than just a way for one daughter to heal herself using her relationship with her mother as a lens (although it is that, and that is certainly significant). For me it now means examining the ways in which my mother taught me (unconsciously) to benefit from my white anglo-saxon protestant cis-gendered identity in a system that typically seeks to punish those who are not that.
And for the past few years I’ve been examining my whiteness and my privilege and how, in some pretty key ways, this intersects with the work/writing I do in regards to our mothers. I am still waking up!
And so I choose to follow, and listen to, and learn from, and pay, and share the words and work of women of color.
What feels right and true is to share this with you because I can see so very clearly what Desiree Lynn Adaway says: “We can’t get free unless we’re all free.”
So do your own work. Get free.
I found this part of the NYT article, in particular, instructive (it is a quote from Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which is the nonprofit organization behind the memorial):
“If I believe that each of us is more than the worst thing he’s ever done, then I have to believe that for everybody. But the history has to be acknowledged and its destructive legacy faced. And this is particularly hard in the most punitive society on the planet. People do not want to admit wrongdoing in America because they expect only punishment. I’m not interested in talking about America’s history because I want to punish America. I want to liberate America. And I think it’s important for us to do this as an organization that has created an identity that is as disassociated from punishment as possible.”
How we choose to heal individually is how we will heal collectively.
I am not interested in talking about difficult mother/daughter relationships because I want to punish mothers (or daughters). I don’t want to punish anyone. I want to liberate mothers and daughters. I want my identity and the identity of women to be as disassociated from punishment as possible.
That said, our histories, our stories, have to be acknowledged and their destructive legacies faced. We do that while also seeing our mothers and ourselves as more than the worst things we’ve ever done. We do that while also being in integrity with ourselves, by holding ourselves compassionately accountable, and while holding healthy boundaries.
The word “Liberation” in the title of my book isn’t accidental. I committed to the liberation of all women.
Much, much love,
If you’d like to use writing to liberate yourself, check out these offers:
Desiree Lynn Adaway’s Sister Summer, a “four-week, self-paced writing intensive for the woman who was taught to edit her thoughts and emotions. For the woman who was never enough. For the woman who was punished for being too much.”
If you want to learn more from, and with, me, join me on Patreon.