“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” -Toni Morrison
I saw this quote the other day and it really resonated with me. It is also fitting for the experience I had over the weekend which I am about to share with you.
It caught me off guard when I saw his name show up in my notification feed on Facebook. I even went to his profile to confirm it was who I thought it was. Yep, we have all the same family connections, it was in fact him.
My oldest cousin on my dad’s sides, the son of his brother. A guy I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 25 years. I’d forgotten we were connected; I must have friended him at a time when I still measured my worth based on the acceptance of others.
And what did this out of the blue, after 25 years comment from him say?
It was a response to a post of mine regarding the global pandemic and my feelings about the need to be diligent in our responses and our cautions. He doesn’t seem to agree with me.
No hello, no acknowledgement of the decades of estrangement, nothing. He was just someone on my friends list who decided to jump on my post and drop his two cents.
I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Did he even know who I was? My name has changed due to marriage and it has been quite a few years … what do I even do with this?
Unsure how I felt just yet, I didn’t respond.
A Hot Button Issue?
Four days passed, I didn’t respond. I realized, I didn’t want to, or need to. I’ve gotten pretty good at not taking on the emotions of others, especially on a social media platform full of keyboard warriors. Still, this was clearly different, I knew I felt something.
Then his name showed up in my notification feed again.
Not knowing what to expect, I looked. This time I found a response of similar context as the first on a different post of the same topic, this response from him more politically charged and condescending.
Me in Real Time
I couldn’t help myself at this point, it all began to overflow. I looked to my husband desperately for guidance on how to process this as the waves of emotions began to hit.
So much buried hurt due to this side of my family still unaddressed, and here he was 25 years later, and this was the contact I received. I could feel everything I’d suppressed for decades bubbling under the surface.
Trauma responses began to cycle in my mind as I wrestled internally with what this meant about me.
Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be remembered, or perhaps he did know who I was and thought so little of me as a person that he believed he could treat me like that. The way all of that side of my family did. I needed to defend myself!!
I felt it all, thought it all – the tears flowed.
The Quick Recovery
For the next 20 or 30 minutes I ranted through my angry tears about how much hurt I have regarding this side of my family. I recounted an interaction of similar context and outcome with his father eight or so years ago. How dare they!
Then I slowly began going over all the reasons I was feeling the things I was; I stopped judging my response, and I just felt everything.
It took some focus but I was intentional as I recognized that there is a lot here to deal with, which I can begin exploring with my therapist. I acknowledged all of my responses and reactions as valid and promised myself to write about it, to handle it.
Then I unfriended him. I don’t have time or space for that. Not right now in my healing journey, and I am 100% okay with my decision. No second guessing, no anxiety that I have been “too mean”.
A year ago I wouldn’t have unfriends him, I would have responded. This encounter would have stolen days from me as I plummeted into a downward spiral of negative cognitions of self-worth.
Not this time. It took me less than an hour to regain myself and express compassion and understanding to my own process and the hurt little girl inside. All of the things I feel about this situation are not resolved. I still have a lot to address and process around this but I know I will get to it and through it.
This is how I know that I am healing.
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