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“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~ Mary Oliver
My earliest childhood memories were of a violent nature.
I was the product of a dysfunctional relationship, witness to the cruelty of domestic abuse, and often, an unwilling and frightened participant in it. My formative years are a collection of horror stories; abuse suffocated my innocence and robbed me of it. It taught me to stay hidden and most significantly, silent.
For years, I had struggled with the unfortunate cards I was dealt; one parent having caused his own death and another who refused to save herself. It has taken me over two decades to come to a genuine understanding of what my childhood meant for me, to find the courage to open my heart again.
Trauma, if you let it, offers many gifts. It can teach invaluable lessons in living an authentic and purposeful life.
These are some of them:
1. The Freedom of Forgiveness
I was consumed by anger toward my parents, the people who were charged with my nurturing. All I felt was betrayal and abandonment. I wasted my energy on blame and resentment, and everything that went wrong in my life was immediately attributed to them. That mindset was cancerous, and it did nothing but hinder my spiritual growth.
My anger was keeping me bound to my past; I was using it as an excuse to not live the life that I wanted, giving in to my own fear, and there came a time when I just didn’t belong there anymore. One of the most powerful lessons to have come from my circumstance was the freedom forgiveness gave me. I could let go by simply loving my parents and cultivating gratitude within my heart.
I no longer expended my energy on the negative, but on my healing.
2. Discovering my Calling
Tormented nights were always followed by a deathly silence. After chaos had ensued there was a stillness, and in that stillness, I found solace in books and words. I devoured stories of inspiration, hope, and joy, and I started writing on my own. I found magic in the art of writing and it saved me through those soul-dark nights. I found connection through writers who had a way of making me feel less alone in what was happening around me and to me.
I knew then that I wanted to connect with others in this way. To write something that someone else would read and resonate with—and within that, hope and faith would be spread. I had found my voice even though my early coping mechanisms of trauma had taught me to remain quiet. I found that it was a beautiful act of bravery to speak out, and I have been in awe of the responses my writing has received.
3. Becoming my Own Hero
I still feel pangs of not being able to save my parents despite how desperately I tried. This is how I learned that I am responsible for myself. I am responsible for my choices as well as my consequences. As important as it had been for me to be a devoted daughter, I put myself into detrimental positions.
I learnt that if someone doesn’t have the desire to make real and positive changes, it won’t matter how much effort I put in. You can only ever be your own hero.
4. Changing the Family Narrative
The day my daughter was born was when the weight of trauma hit me with a heavy clarity. As I looked into two, tiny blue eyes, I promised myself that innocence would have a place in her childhood. I became the mother I had needed growing up. I understood more intricately how important it was to show my daughter that life is not something to be endured, but to be enjoyed—to be lived. To make mistakes and learn from them, to play, to be carefree, to be happy.
What I consider to be one of my greatest accomplishments is that my daughter has always come first and that she hasn’t spent a moment in fear, other than of the dark. In doing this, forgiveness was also easier for my own mother; had she not been the mother she had been, I would not be the mother that I am.
5. The Art of Self-love
This gift is one I am still navigating. My self-esteem had been shattered and I spent a long time looking for the love I needed for myself within others. It has been a long progression, and each time I am asked to put myself first, I still hesitate—the old ways still infiltrate and sometimes dictate.
I am only beginning to treat myself the way I would treat the ones dear to me. I am learning to be gentle with myself and to keep reminding myself that I am a worthy energy in this universe.
And so are you.