Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Powerful Words: This is Not about Me

Many years ago, my mother had stuck a photocopied article up on her fridge.  Which I promptly took down, photocopied and stuck up on my fridge.

Where it still hangs.

The article has had a profound impact on me.  It's a short, two-column essay written by a woman who was sharing how she got through her darkest days.

Long story short, while married, her husband had left her and their young son for his dentist's attractive, young assistant.

After spending countless months lamenting that she did the wrong things, agonizingly evaluating it over and over again to determine what she did wrong, she received the advice: There is nothing personal going on here.  

Her husband was writing his story. He had his set of experiences in his life, created his path, made his choices.  All of his bad choices were a culmination of those experiences and framework.

Not hers.  It was his story.   His bad choices were about him.  She had her own framework, her own story, her own choices to make.

Her own story.  His needing to feel virile, sexy, powerful was not about her.

This resounded with me hugely.  Not because the Mister has left me for our dental assistant (he hasn't), but because I realized that, up to that point, I had spent an inordinate amount of my life beating myself up about choices that, simply put, were not made by me and were never mind to make.

Shortly after reading that, This is Not about Me became my personal mantra.

Living with traumatized, attachment-challenged children, I see a lot of big feelings being acted out, most often directed at me.

I get it, but it doesn't make it any easier, both at the moment of the behavior, and when, day after day, it all adds up until a huge blanket of negativity.

For the most part, I find I am hyper-sensitive, prone to over-reaction and feeling much more hurt that I should.

So many times, the phrase This is Not about Me has helped me move forward in these tough times.

I have written it on pages and pages in a journal.  I have tapped it.  Spoken it, hummed it, screamed it.
When one of my boys shows me his "big feeling" in actions designed to anger, humiliate, alienate me, I say, "This is NOT about me."

My boys have tough early chapters in their lives.  Really tough chapters.

Chapters I had no hand in penning.

I am not responsible for that trauma.  And when that trauma rises up and acts out in actions designed to anger, humiliate, or alienate me, I have to continually remind myself , "This is NOT about me."

I am a good mama.  I have 3 children I have grown and raised.  They are growing up into good people.

This is NOT about me helps me put my own reactions into perspectives.  It helps me gain empathy for my boys while detaching myself from the emotional powder keg I often find myself in.

I have been a safe, loving Mama to my Haitian Sensations.  I take responsibility for my behaviors from the moment we brought them home. That's my part of the story.

But so much of their acting out: It's not about me. 

Even if it feels like it is.

We are all writing our own stories here.  Mine is that of adding these boys in, and helping them work through their feelings and grow.

 Theirs is of making their way through a life that began in the worst of all possible ways.

This is NOT about me helps me deal with adults in my life.

So often, because of my hyper-sensitivity, I find myself over-reading situations until I realize that it is likely not about me and I am able to reign myself back in.

And in cases where I am not being hyper-sensitive and someone is indeed being an asshat, it helps me work through my feelings and move forward without being held back.

It's been a good mantra to have in these tough times.


Laura said...

Wow, Sarah. This is fantastic. I think I'll be printing it and hanging it on MY fridge! Thank you, friend!

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to note that you are responsible for some things. You are responsible for the progress they have made. Our boys have worked hard but this was possible largely because of your willingness to do the research, listen to advice from counselors, and keep an open mind toward doing what was going to provide the boys with what they need rather than doing what made you feel good as a parent. You still do this and, if I am being honest, this still serves as an example for me to emulate (or continue to try to do so).

Mr. Mister