Perhaps you grew up seeing your mother… or your aunt, your grandmother, your neighbor-women… experiencing that brand of emotional pain that comes from being wounded by the words, the actions, the hands of those who were supposed to love them the most? And now, years later, do they still wear the look of a woman who got beat up last night for no good reason? Do they still walk a few steps behind? Do you still see them crying invisible tears?
If you were raised through the humiliation of your mother’s pain, you probably watched her learn not to cry when hurt, learn to stiffen herself against blows … maybe physical … maybe emotional. You probably watched her learn very well how to live in an oppressed space. And, although you probably vowed never to walk out a life in such a hurt space, here you are …
You see, when we journey with our mothers (or others) through their pain, the things of pain are what we learn best. We learn the face of humiliation.We learn the taste of oppression. We learn the acrid scent of self-defeat. When we learn pain better than we learn joy or peace or any of the other good things, pain is what we allow to define us.
At times it may feel almost noble to reassure ourselves that we have been wronged. But it’s time for us to know that the difficult times we’ve gone through do not give us worth or take worth away from us. Emotional pain is a personal possession. And as owner of the pain, we can choose to give it up … to give it over to some other perspective that will do us better. To create new feelings of lovingkindness out of our pain. Our sad experiences are of the greatest value when we allow them to strengthen us and make us sensitive to the needs and the feelings of others … now that is something! Isn’t that something?
From RAISING UP QUEENS: LOVING OUR DAUGHTERS LOUD AND STRONG, INNISFREE PRESS, 2000, COPYRIGHT ESTHER DAVIS-THOMPSON