Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Pride Gets In the Way....

When you've lived long enough and get enough perspective on things you begin to understand when something is a problem. With that said, Pride as I knew it as a young person got in the way.

Pride meant, I didn't ask for help. Pride meant, I didn't tell people when I was hurting or something was wrong. Pride meant, I didn't tell people about family problems. Pride meant, you behaved as though everything was fine. Pride meant, you never let anyone know you hurt and my God, don't let them see you cry. Pride meant, you knew hunger, emotional disconnection, and spiritual deprivation on your own.

I can honestly say when I was younger everything was fine. It was in my tweens that my life began to unravel. What I knew as safe and expected to be there shifted and changed daily. It was the demise of my parents relationship and ultimately, their divorce my life changed fundamentally.

Prior to 5, I spent a lot of time with my maternal Grandmother. I knew her smell, the smell of stale cigs, flour, sweet perfume. I remember her touch, kind, gentle, reassuring, and loving. I knew her.

I learned all these notions of Pride from the people I was surrounded by. My immediate family, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If you don't know the experience of growing up closely with a family around you all the time, I wish that for you. We lived together, literally. We lived close to one another. We moved about in our world with the safety of our family around us.

Needless to say, after my parents divorced I knew the depths of poverty. I learned how to cook on a wood stove. I knew how to heat water and fill a bathtub to bath daily before school. I learned to do laundry in the tub. I learned what I could cook so hunger pains would go away. I learned to live without electricity. I learned to walk everywhere we went.  I knew never to do it on the main road but walk through the countryside. I learned to do all of this without anyone knowing what was going on. I knew never to tell anyone because of the shame it would bring upon 'the family'.

In poverty, you didn't have the luxury of entertaining or tending to your emotional needs. I knew, when I could capture moments with friends to feel safe. I knew, never tell too much. I knew, keep silent throughout it all. I knew, never to tell the ugly truth about what was going on in my life. It was all steeped in shame, mine and my families.

Throughout this time, after my parents divorced, I was the one who tended to the younger ones. Growing up in a family of 8 - 4 biological siblings and 4 adopted first cousins. The biological siblings were left with my mother and the remaining 4 were ferreted out to aunts and uncles so my father could begin his new family.

It's been years since I've looked at this but today it presents itself. I'm not sure why but it is something that needs to be written and told. I don't have any of the emotional baggage that surrounds it anymore. I can appreciate it now for the life lesson it was.

I digress, throughout this time my job was to take care of my younger siblings. My older brother never did have the maternal/paternal nature of doing this job so it fell to me. I was the one who picked up caring for my younger sisters and adopted siblings when they came home between being shuffled from one place to another.

I worked at a Gas station and at school and all my money went to care for basic needs. I would buy groceries and household goods. I would give money to my siblings so they could venture off and be their young selves. This was my choice. I knew then I was different and couldn't relate to many of the people who lived on the reservation. I just stayed home, read, and dreamed of one day leaving.

Where was my mother throughout this time. She was finding her way home, figuratively and literally. What I can say about this time from my perspective was she was healing from her own stuff she experienced from my grandmother, her family, her experiences, and her life. She was a young teen mom who by the time she was 30 was left with 4 children. She did what she needed to do to survive throughout this time. Ultimately, she needed time of her own.

Needless to say, I write all this to say is that Pride can get in the way. How so?

What I know is a closed mouth doesn't get fed, there are people who want to help, even caretakers need caretaking, and kindness shouldn't be viewed as being bad. When you spend a lot of your time and energy caring for people then allow others to care for you, especially when you need it. It is only respectful to do this. Giving and loving goes around and around. You give and you take. No one keeps score. At least, those who are healthy emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

I remember for myself as an adult, I recently lost my job and I had a baby and I didn't know what to do. I turned over everything in my house to find change. I begged my ex-partner for money because he had plenty of it. I threw myself at his feet so my son could have diapers, food, and shelter. It was in that moment, I snapped.

I stood up. Realized to myself that this grown motherfucker was taking advantage of me. I realized how vulnerable I was. I knew to my core that I was capable of taking care of these things. I knew how to survive. I lived past worst. I survived then and could do it again.

I didn't spend a lot of time sorting through pride and its manifestations in my life then. What I knew was to get food. I sucked it up, I took my overeducated self to apply for welfare. I was 29. I carried the lesson into this time was this, keeping my secrets and not letting anyone know what was going on. I didn't reach out to friends for help. It would be a lesson I was to learn later.

Once I got myself and Sonny situated. I did more sucking it up and began to learn to ask for what I needed. It was then I learned to personally maneuver social services. Everything I had done for my clients, I had first hand knowledge of. I knew people and asked lots of questions.

I'm grateful that I was still in therapy during this time. I was able to sort out what was happening emotionally. I had someone I could talk to for an hour a week. I had my own safety net. I could explore what was going on without making myself feel vulnerable everywhere and all the time.

No one tells you how to live your life. Yes, they give you advice but when you get to the nitty gritty of living your own life then it is a lot of trial and error. You figure things out for yourself. You try things on. You keep what works. You discard what doesn't. Throughout this all, you live your life in accordance to how your parents did it whether it worked good or not.  They are your role models.  

What I know about Pride is this, it is a double edged sword. It's great to have self worth and self esteem. It's wonderful to stand tall in the world and carry yourself with Pride. Pride is horrible when you silence yourself when you are hurting. Pride is horrible when you need help and are suffering, needlessly. Pride can lead to your own demise and you learn how to cope with things both with good and bad things.  That's what I know...XOXO, Nick

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