“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”
– Maya Angelou, poet
“… being a self-motivated, self-directed person with a real future!”
Macy worked at “the double arches”, McDonald’s Restaurants for a living, literally slinging their famous French fries. She had been doing it for two years and liked the people she worked with and those she served at the counter, too.
Macy was nineteen, slight, short, and with dark curly hair that framed her pretty face and big brown eyes. She had one of those strong, Roman noses that suggested a determination for life that was not swayed easily.
She said her health plan would only cover a few sessions so she wanted results fast otherwise she would continue to “fall behind.”
When I asked her, “fall behind what?” she said,
“Fall behind being a self-motivated, self-directed person with a real future!” she said emphatically.
“It sounds like you have a dream to fulfill, Macy. Is that true?” I asked.
“It’s more like, I know what I don’t want than what I do want…”she replied a hesitancy in her high pitched, youthful voice as it trailed off.
“What don’t you want, Macy?”
“And, I learned I wanted to be wanted!”
“Ken, I don’t want not to be wanted!”
“So,…you want to be wanted…to be appreciated? Is that what you’re referring to?”
“I was in foster care for years starting at age three and stayed for five years. And then later again for a couple of years, when I was in my early teens. Both times my parents climbed into a bottle and I ended up in a foster home.”
“And,….?” I said.
“And, I learned I wasn’t very important to them…I learned I wasn’t wanted! And, I learned I wanted to be wanted!”
Then she added as an afterthought with bitterness in her tone.
“At least, I’m wanted at my job at McDonalds.”
“What’s ‘wanted’ mean to you, Macy?”
“You know…loved…always supported, listened to, provided for…hugged now and then!” she replied.
“… when you do get them back, you let it happen again.”
“Since you are here talking to me today and you have a regular job, it sounds like there are parts of your life that are OK. Is that true, Macy?”
“Let me be clear here, Ken. I wasn’t abused or anything like that when I was in foster care. I was treated pretty well overall. And I’m still close to one of the couples that fostered me. But, when my parents would rather drink than take care of me, it left me wondering how important I am to them…do you see what I mean?”
“Yes, I think I do, Macy. It sounds like you have been perceiving your parents did not love you when they gave you over to the community’s care …put you in a foster home…is that what you mean?”
“Yes, that’s it exactly! I’d never do that to any kid I had. I mean, how could you love your kid and still get so drunk you can’t even take care of them. And then, when you do get them back, you let it happen again. How is that being loving parents?” she said, anger rising in her voice and blushing her young face.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”
– Khalil Gibran, poet
“Madeline still says I was one of the toughest kids she ever fostered.”
“Is there someone in your life right now that you love, Macy?”
“Actually…yes, Madeline! She was one of my early foster parents who I have kept in contact with over the years. I lived with her family for three years from age 3 to 8. We still talk regularly. I guess she is like a real Mom to me in a way.” she said, a soft, smile blooming on her face.
“Macy, do you think Madeline loves you?”
Smiling again, she said,
“Actually, not that long ago…last year I think it was, she told me I was like a third daughter to her. She has two daughters of her own, but, both much older than me.”
Then she added,
“So, to answer your question, Ken, I think she did, and still does, love me!”
“When you lived with Madeline did she always support you, listen to you, provided for you and hug you?”
Macy laughed out loud this time. Then replied,
“Madeline still says I was one of the toughest kids she ever fostered. I was so upset about being in her home and wanting my own parents and misbehaving…she said I was a little terror!”
“You’re saying real love is support and challenge, not just support?”
“That suggests to me, since you are here today, a successful person, that Madeline not only supported you but also challenged you to learn what you needed for the future you have created for yourself. Is that true, Macy?”
“Madeline had to be very strict with me at times. I remember, not just the times she held me while I cried for my Mom, but also, the times she put me in my room until I decided to behave.”
“Are you noticing you are broadening your definition of Madeline’s love from…not just supporting you, but also, challenging you? Macy,…that’s real love! Perceiving love as only support without challenge is a fantasy…an infatuation with having good without bad.”
“You’re saying real love is support and challenge, not just support?” she asked, the idea sinking into her awareness like your feet do on damp beach sand.
“The only difference is in what form the pleasure and the pain take.”
“Yes Macy! It’s nature’s way to motivate us to learn and anchor that learning for our future reference.”
“But, if I get it right, shouldn’t the good outweigh the bad as I get smarter in the future?” she said, taking the idea and playing with it.
“Nature doesn’t allow that to happen. Nature is a dualistic, two-sided system of support and challenge, 50/50, at all times for everyone. What changes is the forms of support and challenge.”
“That sounds like you’re saying ….a street person has just as much pleasure in their life as a millionaire…and just as much pain, too?”
“Now, you really getting the idea, Macy! I have worked over the years with both, the very rich and the very poor, and I can attest to the truth of what you are saying. The only difference is in what form the pleasure and the pain take.”
“Can you give me an example of that, Ken?”
“Empowerment is born from awareness of nature and determination to understand it.”
– King Ayles, writer
“Can you prove it to me, somehow?”
“Pleasure and pain are always defined by our personal value system, what we have learned is good or bad, from our past. So, for a millionaire, there can be as much pain from a conflict at home as there is pain for a street person without a home.”
“Are you suggesting a street person has as much pleasure in their life as a millionaire…but it is in a different form because that street person’s values…that street person’s life experiences, are different?”
“Yes I am, Macy! I met a millionaire many years ago who would probably have given you her entire wealth for a closer relationship with her child. And, I knew a poor and unemployed man whose close family were priceless to him. It’s always about our personal values…not society’s general values!”
“So, you’re saying I’ve had a 50/50 life too! That being a foster kid was 50/50 for me! I find that hard to believe, Ken! Can you prove it to me, somehow?”
“I can’t prove it to you. But, I can show you how to prove it to yourself! Let me offer you a sample of what’s possible for you. Tell me about your worst memory of being in foster care, Macy!”
“… you got smarter and stronger in some way as a person…because you are here today telling me…”
“That’s easy! It is one of my earliest memories of my life. I must have been about three and a half or maybe 4 years old. It was when I first met Madeline. I was taken to her house by a social worker.”
“Go to the worst moment of it. What do you remember of that?” I asked.
“I remember it was nighttime and cold out. And, I remember distinctly the outside lights on Madeline’s house…and feeling scared. I wanted my Mom! This nice lady, the social worker, carried me into Madeline’s house and passed me to Madeline and I was crying for my Mom.” she said, her eyes still welling up with tears even after so many years.
“How did you cope with that moment, Macy?”
“I was scared, I was lonely …and I was mad…all at the same time!” she said, her energy rising with the memory being refreshed.
“But, you coped with it and you survived it. This suggests you got smarter and stronger in some way as a person…because you are here today telling me about it. So, what happened at that moment that has served you since…in your life?” I asked, wondering if she would find what, I knew, had to be there.
Then, I added,
“Close you eyes and go back to that very moment and uncover what you learned, that may have been out of your awareness until now. You must have gained some useful insight that has served you well since that moment of pain.”
“…it’s all tied to me being a very independent person!”
Macy, was quiet for a few moments, closing her eyes and relaxing back into her chair. I waited. I could see her eyes moving back and forth, under her closed lids, searching.
Then, she slowly opened her eyes which now held a dreamy, far away look, saying,
“Ken, that was the moment when I realized I had to take care of myself, to protect myself in the future. I couldn’t depend on my parents, I couldn’t depend on anyone…I had to depend on me! I guess that’s when I started to be very independent…which is to this very day, the trait I value the most in myself!”
“How has valuing your independence been useful to you since that moment, Macy?”
“Ken, my independence is responsible for me coping with the rest of my life, every challenge since that moment…and everything I have achieved to date in my life…from finishing school to managing how I use alcohol to my current job at McDonalds…it’s all tied to me being a very independent person!”
“So, you have just taken a very painful memory and found its duality. Notice how it now feels different, a little less painful… because you uncovered some of the pleasure in that moment.…the empowerment you achieved at that moment!”
“Yes, I can see that, already.” she replied.
“…it even feels different now when I think about it that way…wow!”
I continued, “This natural learning process drives us to appreciate, not just our life, but the people who are part of it. Are you ready to clear out the rest of your painful memories, so you can raise your level of appreciation for yourself, others and the life you have achieved?”
“Ken, that memory not only seems different…it even feels different now when I think about it that way…wow!” she said, her face lighting up with her new awareness.
“Imagine for a moment how you will be when you have cleared the other one sided memories you’ve been carrying?”
“Let’s do it, Ken! I need to get on with my future instead of getting stuck in my past, eh?” Macy said with a soft smile of independence flashing across her demeanour.
“Eh, indeed!” I said with a smile.
“I was raised to be an independent woman, not the victim of anything.”
– Kamala Harris, lawyer
Until Next time…
Now you know, if you’re alive, you are a victor, not a victim, over you past. And, the more traumatic the experience, the more important the learning for you. If the learning is still out of your awareness, go back to that moment and uncover it. Then you can use it consciously in your future and appreciate your past. It will change everything for you!
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