Reading Brene Brown's Daring and it's interesting...opens my eyes up to my huge block when it comes to religion...I was a Jehovah's Witness who left...and experienced excommunication/disfellowshipping/shunning as a child. I never really made the connection with that huge event in my life. I was 14 and my mother would no longer speak to me....that went on for about 25 years...
I never really put together those pieces and the violence of that act. I just know joining anything gives me the absolute creeps. Every pore in my body revolts and I have found solitude and a singleness of being to be optimal. Until I read her chapter on shaming, I was just reading the book and thinking, yeah, I know what it is, WTF do we do about it because I didn't need you to sell me on it...I know exactly what shaming looks like because I am intimately acquainted with it.
What I didn't realize is the depth of violence associated with this shunning. Especially for a child. The irony is, I was baptized at 13 as a witness because I was a child who did what I supposed to do and if joining the religion was what I was supposed to do, well, I was going to do like nobody else...lol....but by 14, I watched a family disintegrate because the mother was disfellowshipped. She was told she could not speak to her 6 and 8 year old daughters who were my bible study students.
It was in that moment, that I knew I could not be a member of this faith. I was 14 and I knew that would mean my mother was putting my ass out. But I did it. And things happened as I predicted. I cried, had a meltdown, moved in with relatives.
But was never able to really grasp how violent that action was. Had I been an adult, it would have been horrible, but as a child, I lost my mother, everyone I ever knew and was left to figure it out. It was so hard, that I just assumed life is just that hard. I never really appreciated the violence of it until I read the chapter.
Mostly because when I explained what my mother did to me, people don't believe me or say everyone's mama is crazy. Folks don't get it...that is an act of violence and today I spent the afternoon tracing the path of that violence. Because I never had parents drop me off at college or fill out a financial aide form or even show up at college events or teach me how to balance a checkbook, I just assumed it was always that hard for everyone...
Now I realize it for what is was and I'm left trying to find tenderness in the life I've created ... a life that expects a level of emotional violence and indifference that is not normal. I think the greatest feat for me is realizing that it's not normal and calling out people who try to diminish the horror of it by explaining to me that being black is hard.
No, it's actually not that hard...not at all. I now know lots of black people and black families who show up for each other. Who don't allow religion to come in between them, their children and their values.
The biggest realization is that no, what happened to me was violent. And it's not normal. And I have so much more in my life. The ultimate journey was taking care of my mother last year through her brain tumor crisis. I did it with the Jehovah's Witnesses standing over me in the hospital shunning and weighing in on my mother's healthcare because she gave them that right even as I stood there.
I was able to separate out what my role as her child was and then back away from being asked to do too much from someone who was loving me and condemning as dead in the eyes of god all at the same time.
It was really a spectacular moment....a moment of wow, I'm not here anymore because I now know what it means to love unconditionally and this ain't it. It woke me up to a new year of vulnerability.. Of reaching out to folks whose love seemed troubled, giving it one last stand and letting it go...
Thanks Brene for showing me just because it's quiet, polite and claiming to love or admire you, it can still be violent, confusing and ultimately destructive and I get to walk away and stop trying....
I love me enough now to wait for the kind of unconditional love I deserve. I know what that looks like now...
Thank god...ache' y luz....
Thanks Ron Simons, Thanks Jessica Blank for always standing in the light with me and reminding me to keep the window open...xoxoxo
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is a Tony-winning producer/writer/actor & CEO of TheDreamUnLocked: Boutique Coaching for Actors, Writers & Dreamers