I love kids.
LOVE LOVE LOVE.
Someone once asked me “What’s your impossible dream?” In other words, outside of reality and the confines of human existence, what would you want to do? What would you BE?
Before I had kids, I answered this question only one way.
Batman’s bravery plus Superman’s …everything, plus Wonder Woman’s combat and weapon training (and amazing boobs and tin foil bracelets, super duh), plus Optimus Prime bad-assery, plus Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport, plus Jean Grey’s telekinesis, Flash’s speed, Aquaman’s under-water-ness (because I’m a mermaid in my dreams) and the ability to turn will into reality like Green Lantern.
omg that would be so amazing.
(I am totally geeking out right now. WHY DO I NOT HAVE ALL THOSE THINGS.)
Except then I had kids, and my answer changed.
Well, wait. Back up.
I had kids, and then I found peace with my OWN inner child, and THEN my answer changed.
Now, if I could pick any impossible accomplishment for my life, I would not choose superpowers. I would not choose to own a unicorn, I would not want a fin like Daryl Hannah in Splash, I would not ask for a magical door to Narnia in the back of my closet.
If I could do one, impossible thing, I would mother all the children that needed a mother’s love.
I would mother the lost. The broken. The abandoned, the injured. The sick and ailing. The neglected. The angry and defiant. The kids who have moms that do a bad job. (Yes, I said that out loud, there are moms that shouldn’t be moms.) The kids who are misunderstood, cast aside, forgotten, cast out. Even the kids who are doing okay but just need a hug, I’d mother those too.
All of them.
Some might say that, when compared to ALL THE SUPERPOWER abilities, this seems like a sissy dream.
*I* say, when compared to all the superpowers, this superpower is a real one.
For a very long time, I hated myself for the sexual abuse I suffered. I hated the seven year old version of me, the Little Erin inside my head. She was weak. She was stupid. She was SO NAIVE, and because of her I suffered at the hands of another.
…none of that perspective is accurate, of course, but it sure felt that way.
For years I maintained that perspective. For years I hated myself. I hated my weakness. I don’t believe the sexual abuse itself broke me, it was how I perceived myself after. Looking back on it now, I think I had a mini psychotic break, which was later resolved through a moderate dissociative identity. In my head I took all the horror and tragedy and depravity and self-loathing and self-hate of my abuse, bundled it all together, pinned it on that one, little, childhood version of myself, then made “Little Erin” someone else. She wasn’t ME anymore, not the adult version of me that exists now, she was someone else.
She was “weak Erin.” Stupid Erin. SOMEONE ELSE, ERIN.
I hope this makes sense to you. It makes sense in my head, but when I type it out I seem a little nuts.
…I probably am a little nuts. I’m okay with that.
Anyways. I grew up hating Little Erin. She pissed me off. She was everything I didn’t want to be, and I spent most of my adult life either 1) denying she existed, or 2) attempting to crush her. I wanted her to hurt. I wanted her to suffer. IT WAS HER FAULT FOR NOT BEING STRONGER, and I wanted her to pay.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that “hurting Little Erin means I’m hurting myself.” I get that now. I SEE that, now. Then, though, I didn’t. I did not see the connection between my younger self and my then-current behavior. I did not see the trail of rage from childhood to present. I didn’t see how hating that one part of me meant I hated ALL of me, because Little Erin and I are the same person. I am her. She is me. We are separated by time and wisdom, years and life, but we are the same.
The bulimia? That was to punish her. The anorexia? That was to starve her out. Self-harm. Drug use. Alcohol addiction. Sexual depravity. Sexual aggression. If it was bad, I did it, and I did it TO HER.
I did it to ME.
About two years ago, right around the time my daughter turned seven years old, I was sitting alone in my room. I had just binged my face off, and I was wallowing in the sea of self-hate that always flooded in after. I was angry. I was resentful. I was thinking “You are such a fucking loser, why can’t you stop, why do you do this to yourself.”
I had been working with a mentor and coach (and therapist, because even though that’s not what he says he is, that’s what he did). I had just spoken with him the week before about my mother, and some deep-seated resentment and frustration I have with her. I was sitting in my self-loathing, thinking about being angry, thinking about my mom, thinking about the younger version of me, thinking about my daughter and how I HOPED TO GOD I would be the mom to her that she needed, and “what kind of mother do I WANT to be, what kind would I want for myself,” and **POP**.
In my head, in that moment, I saw the tiny version of me. She was separate from my adult-self. She was standing alone in the corner of my mind, crying and ashamed, abused and abandoned, feeling horrible and broken, scared and alone. She resembled my daughter (in real life my daughter is my mini-me, only prettier).
For the first time, I saw that version of myself not from a perspective of hate and rage and frustration and resentment, but with the eyes of a mother, and I broke wide open.
It was not my fault.
Seven years old is SO YOUNG.
I would not blame my beloved daughter for anything so horrible, how can I blame my Little Self?
I broke open, and I wept.
In my mind, I called that little girl over to me, I pulled her on my lap, and I told her “You didn’t get what you needed before, but I swear to you I will be the mother you never had. I WILL KEEP YOU SAFE. From here on out, I will keep you safe.”
And just like that, it was over.
No more hate.
With one fell swoop I cleared all self-hate from my life. I identified the source of my rage. I detached myself from the tragedy that fell on my head. I was a victim no longer. I was a child, for pete’s sake, and it wasn’t my job to carry the burden of responsibility dropped on my head.
I pulled myself onto my lap, and I offered protection. I offered defense. I wrapped my motherly arms around my childhood self and said “NO MORE.” No more hurt. No more fear. No more doing this all alone, because I am with you.
This is my lap. It has superpowers.
I use my lap to hold kids. I hold MY kids, of course, but I would (and do) happily hold any child that sought refuge. In my impossible dream, every child that has ever needed to know what “SAFE” really feels like has a seat warm and waiting for them, arms ready to wrap them in shelter, and a heart aching to give them what they so badly need.
…oh, and cookies. I always have cookies. :)
I do still have some problems with my lap. When I look down at myself as I get dressed or dry off from the shower, I see this.
There are so many parts of us that we don’t care for. We see ourselves in the mirror and notice the bad stuff. We see a photo of ourselves and latch on to the thick part of our arm, our chin, our face. We see what we hate, and we hold what we see against our worth.
“You are worthless, because this (squeeze hated body part) makes you worth LESS.”
I think you’re wrong.
What I hope you realize, and what I want The Body Image Project to show you, is that no matter what you look like, there are parts of you that hold great power. YOU hold great power, not because of WHAT you are, but WHO you are. You have within you RIGHT NOW the power to change everything that matters, if you just decide to make it happen.
Those super heroes I mentioned, the ones with the amazing abilities? They are great. They are entertaining. They rescue people. They spread hope and bring joy. They SAVE.
Using your own superpowers, you can do all of those things too.
You can, as I aspire to do, save every child you meet. You can provide shelter and safety, love and warmth, care and compassion. You can save everyone you meet, and make them better when they walk away than they were when they showed up.
And, with enough patience, perspective, and strength, you can even save yourself.
Someone once told me, “You are the main character in your own life story. You can be a hero or a villain, which will you choose?”
I don’t know about you, but I was my own archenemy for a very, very, very long time.
Saving myself was way more fulfilling.
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Find yourself, own your truth, and change your whole world. Forge Depth, and never stop digging.
Push on, my friend.
Always push on.