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The best advice

We don’t give children enough credit. We don’t listen to them enough. We discount their intelligences and views on life purely based on the fact that they haven’t lived as long as us, therefore, could not know more than us. I beg to differ.

The best advice I have ever been given was always by children. They did not intend for it to be advice. I don’t even think they knew that it was so insightful but it was. So simple, and yet so profound. Advice that philosophers spent years of their lives to come up with, you have have a conversation with a 5 year old and they will have probably already come to that conclusion. May it be about friendship, love, life, family, money. You name it I have probably heard fantastic advice about it from a child.

I remember one time I was having circle time with some kids and we were talking about conflict within the family, but in more simple terms. I brought up an example of something my sister did that really bothered me and I gave an example of how I dealt with it which wasn’t the right way. A little boy in my group said out loud

Maybe you were doing something she didn’t like so that was her way of telling you

Mind blown. This little boy had figured it out. This is a concept that is taught throughout all religions and in schools. The golden rule

Treat others how you want to be treated

I was not treating my sister how I wanted to be treated so she dished it right back to me. I was the safe person to do that to because we did love each other and always would. I needed to solve the problem because the problem lay within myself. So, simple yet so profound coming out of a child’s mouth. A rule that I was taught so many years ago and yet I had forgotten over the years.

Children are so amazing. Everything about them is truly fantastic. So, next time you have the privilege of being around a kid or you have children of your own, listen to them. Really listen to them. The things they know might shock you. You might start to wonder if you knew a lot more than you do know when you were a kid. I wonder that sometimes.

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Never Silent Again

I was told by someone in my life to stop writing about certain people in my life.

I am offended. I am angry. How dare she try to silent me. The audacity this woman has to tell me to not speak out about my life and my experience. How dare she try to silent me again! After trying to shut me up when I came out to the world and did one of the most brave things I have ever done; tell the world my father was my abuser. Because why? I will never know why because she never has a straight answer. It is never the same answer. Her reasoning is her own for sticking up for that man and no concern of mine because I freed myself.

I will not hide who I am. I will not cower from my past and let it take a hold of me. I will not be fearful of writing and expressing myself ever again. When I write I pour my soul into it. When I express my feelings about people in my life I am doing it to get perspective, to grow and to learn. I write to bring awareness. I write in hopes that one day I change someone’s life. I pray that one day someone reads my words and it gives them the courage to do something for themselves. In hopes that it empowers them to give back to themselves and remember they are worth more.

I lived in silence for so many years of my life. I will never be caged up like that again. I won’t be shackled and gagged because someone doesn’t like what I say. I will die before I betray that side of me. That is how strong my convictions are about it.

So, be upset. Be angry at me. Be something. Disown me if you feel the need but I will not betray myself. I will not be untrue to myself. I will not let someone have that kind of power over me. I write for myself. I write because it is my therapy, it makes me a better person. I write because it frees me and I will never be silent again.

 

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.

-Brene Brown

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The Girl Who Was Once Me.

Yesterday, I was shown a video from when I was a toddler. It is the only video I have ever seen of myself. It was an Easter video. I was in a little white dress with white socks and black shoes. My Uncle was behind the camera and my dad was helping me get the eggs.

It almost brought me to tears for so many reasons. I saw that hurt little girl that I once was. The sick, sad, always crying little girl that was on the brink of losing hope. For being so young it looked like I was so old inside and it was radiating outwards. I had bags under my eyes, my hair was limp lacking that normal childhood shine. I was barely talking. Mostly noises. I was a drug baby. You can tell. You can see it in my demeanor. The way I hold myself, you can see it in my eyes, my lack of self confidence, everything about me.

We were poor and my dad and I were living with family and friends at the time. He tried his best. In that video it really looked like he loved me and cared about me. He wanted to protect me and do the best for me. Why couldn’t he stay that dad? What happened? Where did it all go wrong? It broke my heart to see him care so much and love me so much. That is all I have wanted all my life was to be loved and cared about. That is all I have ever wanted, and yet it seems to be a request too big to fill.

But there was hope in me too. That small shred of hope for me was smoldering inside of me just needed to be tended to. I was excited about new things. I picked up new concepts quickly. Despite all the anxiety, struggle and negativity that surrounded my life I still found joy in the little things. I loved my uncle and my dad dearly. You could see it in me. You could see the unconditional love pouring out of every pore of mine. I shared and wanted to make others happy. That makes me feel good.

I know that I have always been a loving and caring person, even from the time I was a little girl and I did not understand the concept. I think it manifested myself because there was so much hurt surrounding me that I felt the need to make it go away. Maybe, I was just born this way. I will never know the answer but I am glad that I have held on to that attribute my entire life.

I am especially happy that my uncle showed me this video. I got to see for myself what I was like as a kid. My family always told me stories but it is hard to grasp it until you see it. I am even more grateful that my uncle is going to make me DVD’s of these videos so I can have them. It will take some time to watch these and come to peace with them but it will be another step towards being at peace with myself. It will also give me something to show my children, if I choose to have them.

 

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Crack Pot Therapist, The Anti-Parent and The Teen

So for the past week I have been in a very high spirited and serious debate with myself (like I usually do). I have been fighting with myself about the prospect of getting another sales/life consuming full time job and then making a very persuasive presentation to my brother’s parents to have him move in with me for the remaining years of his high school years. Yes, I am very aware of the responsibility that would mean. I understand the financial responsibility it would take (I did the math and made a budget). I get all of that. Don’t think I make up these fantasies and ideals in my head and I don’t actually map out the reality of a choice like that.

The question you might be rolling around in your head is how or why did I come up with one of my infamous crazy ideas. Well, my friends, that is where our story begins. Since my move from the bay area, I do go back down to babysit for one wonderful family that I absolutely adore. When I am there I try my hardest to see everyone. This last trip included a visit to my brother and my dad. Naturally, my appearance was last minute and unannounced.

Upon my arrival and the usual hellos, I checked on my brother because a little birdy told me that he wasn’t feeling well and went back downstairs to hear the normal apocalyptic like outlook on life and the future of my brother. Back to the conversation of school. Oi vey! How many times do I have to tell this man how to be a parent?

Well here it was, he was failing a bunch of his classes. He had to attend summer school and do two online classes as well to catch up in school. If he doesn’t turn it around the school is going to send him to a different school called Redwood.

Pause.

Let me tell you about Redwood. Once upon a time, yes Redwood was a school for failing teens, drug addicted teens, kids in gangs, and teen moms. They sent the “delinquents” there. I have known a few people who have gone there and excelled in their alternative teaching. Now these people are living good lives. 20 years ago I would cringe at the thought of my brother going there. Since then the school has turned itself around and now is an accredited high school and accepts students of all learning backgrounds.But my sperm donor refuses to look at it any other way other than a school for “bad kids”.

I gave him the same schpeel that I just gave you. Naturally, I knew that he wasn’t going to see it any other way. So, I told him use it to his advantage. Set up an appointment for my brother to tour there. Scare the reality into him. He doesn’t want to leave his current school then force him to face reality. But no, man won’t even do that.

Then he got into how they are going to therapy together. Poor Little Man (so everyone knows and can get the humor behind that comment my little brother is significantly taller than me). He was telling me how the psychologist is some crack pot that doesn’t know what he is talking about. Oh yea. This guy doesn’t know what he is talking about…but you do. Your family doesn’t speak to you, your children don’t talk to you, you believe your own delusions, your own son doesn’t listen to you or respect you as parent figure…but this man doesn’t know what he is talking about. Hmmm…right, moving on. This therapist told my dad to let my brother fail. You need to let kids fail so they know how to pick themselves up. They need responsibility. They need a sense of control of their life. So, let the kid fuck up and be sent to another school and I bet you he will turn it around. But no–this therapist doesn’t know what he is talking about.

I also mention the other school located in the district that might be better suited to my brother’s learning needs. Like the Charter High School. WHAT A CONCEPT?!?!?! Someone taking initiative! Holy Shit! I have stumbled on to something life changing. My other suggestion was following through with consequences. I remember a time a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, if I didn’t have all my homework done, cooked, cleaned, have the kids’ homework done and ready for bed I was grounded. I didn’t brush the dog because she needed a groomer I was grounded. For fuck’s sake I paid for my own phone with my babysitting money and that shit still got taken away. I paid for it!

But the man wanted a pat on the back because he turned his son’s phone off for a few weeks, took the ipod away during finals and the xbox for a little bit. Mind you no improvement on grades, no improvement on behavior, kids still doesn’t do chores but he now has everything back and still gets money whenever he asks for it. Parent of the Year.

While I try not to yell at our dad and simultaneously tear out my eyeballs and rip off my ears with my bare hands, I can’t help but feel awful for this kid. My poor boy. It really isn’t his fault his parents don’t know how to be parents. It isn’t his fault, but that isn’t really an excuse. They didn’t really parent me either and I turned out “fine”.

Then I remember all the times he brings up that he does so much better when I am around. He tells me things like he feels better when I am around. He wants to do better when I am around (this melts and breaks my heart all at the same time, but don’t tel the kid this or he might try to use it to his advantage). His friends make comments that I am more like a parent. People notice that he listens to me and respects me than his own parents. A sad truth but no one said the truth was nice. This leads my mind to wondering how I could turn his life around in probably a period as short as a semester. Here is how:

First off, he would have chores like a normal kid does. Homework comes first…then everything else. Homework gets checked every night. Teachers will sign off on a log that he turned in his homework and participated in class (the participation is not something I am worried about). He has to spend at least an hour outside doing something. I don’t care what it is but if the weather is nice he should be outside. He gets 1 hour of xbox time or tv time. If he wants to fuck up, privileges get taken away and EARNED back. If that doesn’t work we get more chores. If he doesn’t see the importance of school I know many people that would be more than happy to take him on a weekend and show him what a GED or not having a diploma gets you.

But I honestly don’t think if he were in my hands that it would ever get that far. He is a good kid but, he is slipping through the cracks because his parents are letting him. No one will take responsibility for him. That kills me. It breaks my heart and I spent a good 10 minutes fighting off tears. The poor boy is only 16! 16! He doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment from people who are supposed to love him.

I have been dwelling on this thought for some time now. I know what people are going to say. They are going to remind me it is not my responsibility. Then whose responsibility is it when his parents won’t step up to the plate? Do we let him just slip through the cracks and pray he crawls out ok? Who intervenes and gives this kid a fighting chance?

I have crunched the math and financially I would have to be making what I did in the Bay Area and possibly give up going back to school for the time being to see him through this. I could do online school but I just don’t see myself being successful at that. I need to physically get up get dressed and go somewhere. I learn best with human interaction. I ask too many questions as well.

I know I wouldn’t be in on this on my own. I would require his parents to pitch in and help. After getting the usual lecture, reminder that I am crazy for doing this and it isn’t my responsibility to take care of him I would have the support of my family up here as well. I would never be alone in doing this. I would first have to find a full time better paying job or maybe two. Then I would have to look into schooling online because I am not giving up that dream and I think it would be a great example to be setting for my brother.

I want to help him so badly but I don’t think I am in position to do so right now. That bothers me. The fact I can’t rescue him really bothers me. But I can make a commitment to myself to save as much as I can this year, work my ass off and maybe I can make this happen. Maybe, it can be something like he can stay with me next summer and then something else might evolve out of it. I will do something about it. I’m not going to let that kid slip through the cracks.

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What to do?

I hate being able to see past things. I hate being able to read children so easily. There is a very special young girl in my life that when I was at my last job became very close and attached to me. She always made a point to come and see me while I was working. She loved hanging out with me and cracking jokes. We played and hung out together I helped her with her swimming.

When I wasn’t at work she would get mad at me and interrogate me why I wasn’t at work. She would tell me things like she wishes I was her mom. Many very sweet things and I could tell that she care a lot about me but it didn’t add up. Lots of kids care about me and have love for me, but this was different. This is different. This is mirroring what I was like as a kid.

This girl texts me a lot. Usually when she has something funny to say or when something is on her mind. Rarely do I text her first. But tonight out of the blue her dad takes her phone and texts me saying:

Chanel, this is _________’s father. Your communication and relationship with my daughter appears inappropriate. I hope you will understand this and maintain a formal relationship that is appropriate for a person your age and an 11 year old.

Ok. I don’t know what I have ever said that is inappropriate to __________ but I can understand a parents’ concern. So I politely tell him:

OK. Not a problem. To be more specific could you please tell me what you would like me to change so I know and can do so?

 

He avoids the question, he tells me I should know. So I go back a reread texts. I have been supportive when she has had a bad day. When she isn’t getting along with someone I listen and give her advice. I sent her inspirational texts like have a great day! You are an awesome person, show the world it today. I have had funny banter with her back and forth making jokes. If she text me late at night I tell her she needs her rest and should be asleep.

So far I see nothing inappropriate about these texts but I am not going to fight a parent about their rules. It is not my job, I am not family, I am just a person that their kids got really close to and want me to go to their games, plays, meets and hang out with. So I tell him I don’t want to disrupt their family and their rules so I will discontinue contact but I really do wish he would tell me what is bothering him because I work with many children of all ages and it is very helpful to have feedback.

No response.

It doesn’t sit right with me. __________ would hang on me and be upset when she had to leave me to go to practice or go home. She would follow me around all over the place. Tell me all the time she wishes I was her mom. You can tell something heavy is weighing on her. I can see the sadness in her eyes. I can she her acting out is an out cry for someone to rescue her. Her being violent and trying to physically dominate people bigger than her is a way for her to gain control. I see myself in her when I was that age and it makes me want to cry.

I told the parents I wouldn’t talk to her any more and I am not going to violate that promise. It secretly kills me that with time she might have felt that I would be a safe person to open up to even more. It kills me that she might be me. It kills me that because I have no actual evidence besides my gut feeling and knowing what it is like to be that little girl that if I go to the police nothing will be done. They won’t take me seriously.

I pray that I am wrong. IF there is a god out there I will be wrong. Oh please let me be wrong. Please don’t let this bright wonderful child be stripped away from her childhood and innocence. It isn’t fair to her. It isn’t fair to any child. God, let me be wrong.

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Handle the Truth?

What do survivors of abuse tell their children why they don’t see grandma or grandpa? If I have children what do I tell them? I don’t want my father apart of their life. I don’t want expose my children to potentially be abused by him.

Would I tell them he was dead? What if he tracked me down and just showed up? What would I tell them then? Would I tell them what happened but in less detail? Would I give them the opportunity to make the choice on their own based on the facts? What is the right thing to do?

I just don’t see how he wouldn’t find out because I have siblings. My sisters never talk to him but I still have a brother that lives with him and I can see him staying in touch with him for the rest of his life. I would feel guilty asking my brother to lie.

My dad is just a sick man. I believe he is mentally ill. I honestly don’t think he believes he did anything or he knows what he did and doesn’t believe that it is wrong. It would really mean the world to me if one day he realizes what he did to me and he apologized. Just apologize. God that would feel like such a relief.

Obviously this is something that I will address many years from now but it crosses my mind.

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The Ugly Truth

I did it. I faced my ugly truth in therapy last week and god it hurt. I don’t love myself. I give everyone else around me love but I don’t believe that I deserve my own love. I blame myself for so many things and even though my logical side tells me it wasn’t my fault I still feel that it was. When I look in the mirror I hear the words from the past. I hear the years of teasing in school, my dad’s constant criticism, my ex-boyfriend’s family constantly poking at me, putting me under a microscope and comparing me to his past girlfriends, my ex telling me my ass isn’t big enough, I have droopy eyes, I look like a man, I’m fat, I’m ugly, the words constantly go on and on. Although, I give myself some credit it isn’t like this every day. I have seen the beauty inside of me and I see when it pokes out.

My therapist brought up a point, I give to everyone else but I don’t give back to myself. I don’t know how to. From my first memories, which was with my first beautiful little sister, I was giving. My mom might have given birth to my sister but in my head that was my baby. I wanted to be mommy so bad. I loved playing house and being her mommy. I was heartbroken when I was told I couldn’t see her again.

I have thousands of memories of taking care of and loving everyone else but I don’t have a single memory of loving myself. I don’t know how to. How do you give back to yourself? How do you love yourself? It is something I never learned. It is something no one ever taught me. How do I learn this now, almost 25 years later? How do I learn to accept my love love nonetheless someone else’s love?

How do I let go of the past? How do I stop blaming myself for my Granny’s death, my mom’s addiction, my siblings being hurt? How do learn that I can’t accept responsibility for things that I have no affect over? Why do I feel the compulsive need help everyone else and solve their problems before my own.

Out of all the questions that is probably the easiest to answer. I find everyone else’s problems easy. Facing my own is terrifying. Although I have made great progress on my own I have to dig deeper into the stuff I don’t want to. I have to fix all the deep down pain and hurt I have from the moment I was born. That means almost reliving the most hurtful memories I have on a weekly basis. How do I know when I have fixed it? How do I know I am the improved Chanel?

I wonder what it will feel like when I have made peace with myself? What will it feel like not to feel guilty telling people my needs, telling them no? What will it feel like to love myself? Will I stop feeling tired all the time? Will I stop feeling like everyday is a fight? Will I feel better? Will I finally see the beautiful amazing young woman everyone keeps telling me about?

As terrified as I am to go on this journey I want to get there. I want to feel better. I want to trust, love and accept love from myself and everyone else. I want to be proud of myself.