Love is an emotional minefield, where it is but a question of time before one is injured. – Joe Fazio
My daughter is eleven. And like most eleven year old’s, she is trying to figure out how to manage social interactions, how to wear what little make up she is allowed to, and how to perfect her overhand volleyball serve.
She is also curious about my childhood, she is always asking me what things were like for me when I was her age. I’m never sure if she wants to compare my elven year old self to her eleven year old self or if she just wants to know what happened to me. It was different for me when I was eleven. Instead of makeup and social interactions, my focus was on protecting myself from my father and his friends. I try to find stories I can share with her that she can relate to. Stories that make it sound like my childhood was somewhat normal, like hers.
I decided a long time ago that at some point in their lives, I would tell my children what happened to me. I want them to know not only what happened to me, but that I learned how to pick up the pieces and find the lesson in my challenges.
I learned how to release the pain and let the love in.
My plan was when they started asking to only share age appropriate information. I knew I would tell them only as much as they wanted to (or could handle) hearing. As with most of my plans on how to be a perfect parent, they went out the window when reality set in. The reality is, an innocent question about my childhood has became a minefield. I have to find ways to express that my childhood was different from hers. I have to balance protecting her innocence with sharing my labels (rape, sexual abuse, alcoholic parents, breast cancer) while sharing my life with her. I also have to reconcile the fears and resentment that reappear every time I feel my daughter’s safety might be threatened. I have to assess my judgement, is this a real threat or is this a trigger, bringing up something from my past? How do I wrap all this up and present it to my daughter without damaging her?
My daughter is smart and she remembers everything. Like the time I told her about when I really wanted a snoopy stuffed animal for Christmas and didn’t get one. Now, whenever she has the opportunity, she proudly presents snoopy-themed gifts to me. I don’t think she’s trying to fix the fact that I didn’t get the snoopy doll, I think she just wants me to know she loves me and she hears me. How can I burden her with the ugliness of my past? It’s not fair for me to dump my “labels” on her.
I’ve shared my story publicly, the first time right here on PositivelyPositive. I’m proud of the work I’ve done to transform my life and I want to share it with other people who have been through their own life challenges.
I even created a workshop to support people in letting go of what they need to in order to create a life they love. Because I’ve been so public with my story, I live in fear that some day she will find out on her own, without me being there to soften the labels, help her to understand. Some day I will have to have this conversation.
Oh look, it’s Someday.
Recently, I was asked to write an article for Mantra Yoga + Health magazine. I wasn’t asked to write just any article. I was asked to share my story of how I healed from my “labels.” I was ecstatic to share not just the ugliness or the sadness of the story, but the lessons I’ve learned and how I’ve transformed my belief system along the way. This was my chance to make it not about the labels, but about healing. And that’s what I wanted to share with my daughter; the healing. I thought this is it, this is my chance to really connect not only with my daughter but with people who might also be struggling with releasing their past. I wanted to help them. I wrote the article and sent it in.
I told my family that I was going to be published in a magazine. We couldn’t wait for the magazine to hit the stands. My daughter was excited and asked when I would be on Oprah and Ellen. I told her it might take a bit more than an article before Oprah or Ellen calls me. (But I like the way that kid thinks.)
When the magazine finally arrived in the mail, I was so excited. My kids and I were standing in the kitchen and I opened to the article with the intention of surprising them with it. Unfortunately I got the surprise. I was stunned to find a banner across the top of the page with all my labels in big bright letters. What was I thinking? I can’t show this to my kids. I panicked, all the old fears resurfaced; What if they don’t believe me? What if they stop talking to me? What will they think of me? For God’s sake, people can walk in to Whole Foods and buy this magazine!
At first glance, having my labels in big letters across the page seemingly made it impossible for me to share the article with my daughter. I didn’t want this to be another minefield of sharing bits and pieces of the story. I vacillated between freaking out about the labels and being grateful for the voice this magazine provided me.
So, I did what any mother would do (I think). I hid the article from my daughter. Which would have been a brilliant plan if I hadn’t already told her I was going to be in the magazine. One day she saw me reading the magazine (another brilliant move on my part), and asked if it was the magazine I was in. I lied and said “no.” I spent the next few days beating myself up not only for lying to my daughter, but for not having the courage to figure out how to have the conversation.
It was someday. I had to work this out. I called a friend who is an adolescent therapist. She was kind enough to help me process how I would talk to my daughter and what I would say. She also pointed out to me that there are things my daughter might not want to know, and that’s okay. She went on to explain that this conversation is not just about me sharing my story with her.
It’s about allowing my daughter to share in my life at a level that is comfortable for her.
A few days later, my daughter and I were talking, the moment seemed right so I went for it. I confessed that I lied to her. I told her the article was published and I’m uncomfortable sharing certain aspects of it with her. She asked me a few questions, which I answered honestly and as completely as I felt appropriate.
In the end, the article wasn’t what I needed to share with her. What I needed was an opening, just a small opening to initiate a conversation.
We don’t have to have the whole conversation at once, we just need to open a dialogue. @lockeym
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Once the dialog is open, space is created; space for questions, space for sharing, space for loving. We find healing in that space.
Share your story of letting go of your secrets in the comment section, I read and respond to every comment.
Lockey Maisonneuve is the founder of the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is a combination of yoga, discussion, journaling and meditation. Upcoming workshops in Ca., NJ. Click here for workshop registration. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio. Print: Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, and Yoga Mantra + Health Magazine. For more information about Lockey and to sign up for her weekly Tao of Bacon, go to www.lockeymaisonneuve.com.
Image courtesy of NVJ.