This morning I saw an old picture of you.
You were smiling.
I remember you smiling like that. I remember how often you smiled like that. Those smiles were real. They were so real.
I looked at your eyes in the picture. I remember that look in those eyes. Those eyes carried a smile that was even bigger than your smile was. Those eyes smiled so happy and excited and curiously. Those eyes smiled so certain and believing and determined. Those eyes smiled like they should, because they were supposed to.
I remember that.
I remember what you were seeing back then. I remember all of it. Even the bad stuff. And you still smiled.
Then I started smiling. Because I started to remember some things that you had said back then…
Your favorite car was a mustang. You used to carry around a little matchbox model of one with you. You used to tell grandma that you were going to buy you one day and you were going to take her for a ride, wherever she wanted to go. You promised to drive her around the world in your mustang.
And you used to promise your grandmother and your mother that you’d buy them both houses. You used to ask them how many rooms they wanted and what color they liked because you were going to make the houses exactly like they liked them. And they could have all of the nicest. most expensive, furniture and jewelry and cars and boats.
I remember you wanted the family to be together. I remember your hopes for family.
I remember your feelings being hurt a little, here and there, as life began to enter your smile. Life that was full of circumstances and issues begin to creep into your world. Life that was dealing with those around you but affecting you all the same.
I remember you holding your mothers hand once while she held you, while she cried about things that were going on. I remember you promising yourself that one day you’d be big enough to fight life for her.
And then grandma got sick. Cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, all of the other health issues that she suffered through. I remember you wanting her to get better.
I remember your confusion about religion. Because grandma and them were Jehovah’s Witnesses but momma was baptist. And none of the men you knew were either. I remember how you questioned God about those things. Because their beliefs in God kept them from being able to do certain things as a family. I remember your questions.
And then you got molested.
You kept it to yourself.
And you started to have sex. You were only 10.
You kept it to yourself.
Momma made a few decisions that you didn’t understand.
And you started witnessing some of the things that momma was going through..
Momma told you to be quiet.
You kept smiling.
I wish that the extent of what you went through ended somewhere back then. I really wish that all you had to deal with was that stuff. And that stuff was horrible. I saw you robbed of your sexual innocence. I saw the inception and development of habits and traditions that would eventually poison the pure intentions and hopes of your heart. I saw you begin to lose faith and confidence in people. I saw you begin to discover the ugly and cruel of life. I saw you begin to accept that there was a such thing as impossible.
You had a secret and you were told to keep it.
You were told to keep what went on in the house, in the house.
You watched as people went about life as if certain things weren’t happening.
That is where the problem started. That is where your habit of hiding and keeping stuff to yourself began. That’s when people started telling you that you were “strong”. What they were really saying is that you knew how to keep a secret. Momma used to always tell you how “strong” you were and how proud that made her. It was her way of telling you that she could trust you to keep her business “out the street”. That made you feel responsible.
And you didn’t want to let her down. That’s why you kept the other stuff secret too. That’s why you never even told her that you had been abused. That’s why you hadn’t told her that you were having sex. You didn’t want to let her down. You didn’t want to disappoint her.
You should have said something.
Because you had every right to. You did not have to go through stuff like that. And the truth is that some more stuff is going to happen and you’ll feel like it was your silence that allowed it.
Your mom gets murdered.
You won’t know how to deal with it.
She was the only one that understood.
You’re going to find out all kinds of things after their deaths.
You won’t think that you can go on.
But you did and you began to believe that it was just how life worked.
That silence and secrecy only got worse. You got better at it. And you learned to smile in spite of it. Your smile seemed so able to assure everyone that you were okay. And you thought that you were okay.
Dear young Me,
Today I found a picture of you. It made me smile. Then I felt a little sadness. Then I decided that I had some words for you…
• How you see you is more important than who else does. –
I remember how insecure you were about your teeth. They always called you “Bucky”. I remember how bad that made you feel. Especially since there was nothing that you could do about them. Teeth were natural. Teeth were part of what “God” had given you. I remember you hated smiling because of your teeth, but you couldn’t help it. Smiling came just as natural.
I remember something that you were even more embarrassed about than your teeth. Not having a belly button. You hated having to take your shirt off. In school. At the beach. At the pool. As you got older, around girls. The hernia surgery as an infant had taken away your belly button. I remember how unnatural and incomplete you had felt. That insecurity coupled with the secrets and other issues had begun to diminish the esteem you had in yourself. You started to feel bad about things that weren’t even your doing, things that definitely weren’t your fault.
Well, guess what, you had nothing to worry about! That crooked smile is going to get you just as many girls as a mouthful of aligned pearly whites ever could. I promise you that. And that belly button, you won’t even remember it. You’ll get older and it’ll be a footnote. You won’t hide it. You won’t care what people think about it. And actually, people are going to think its cool. I know, right!
There were a lot of other things that you used to struggle with about yourself. You’ll learn to love and appreciate them as well. Funny thing is, people liked them even though you didn’t.
And the stuff that people made fun of you about wasn’t about you. The belly button, your height, your teeth, your nappy hair, your shoes, your clothes… All of that was their way of struggling with their own identity. Trying to make you feel bad about who you are distracts people from facing themselves.
But it’s only important if you make it important! You have to live with you and there are a great number of people and places that are willing to accommodate once you make that decision. The most important thing is that you learn to acknowledge and accept who and what you are in a comfortable way. You can change things, but know that no exterior change will erase an interior thought or feeling that remains there. What you believe about you is what the most important people in your life will believe about you!
(I had a lot to say to you about that because I know that to be where it started. Here are some other notes.)
• You are alive. That is amazing. Embrace it. –
Life is really a gift. No matter how it’s wrapped. Everyone has some issues. Everyone has some problems. Everyone has some drama. But you’re here. You’ve got a chance to fight for a chance. Make the best of that chance. There is so much to try and attempt for you. There are so many possibilities. Of course there will be pain. There is going to be a lot of pain and loss. Geez, you are going to lose some people. Some of your hardest days are ahead. And it will be tragic. Loss is always a tragedy. But in loss you will discover strength and character.
Loss is also going to illustrate that fragility of life. You will be exposed to the vulnerability and risk of being human. You will bear witness to weakness and sadness and grief, beyond what you could ever imagine. And it is going to hurt. Unfortunately, you are going to internalize and hide your feelings about it. But eventually you make it through. And you’ll be a better person for it.
And you’ll still be alive. That is definitely amazing. Loss will teach you that so many don’t get that chance. Embrace yours.
• Dream. Remember your dreams. Never forget them. –
Remember when you thought that you could be a super hero? Remember when you wanted to fly? Remember when you wanted to save the planet from destruction? Remember your dreams about saving the world? Plans were born of those dreams. Don’t ever give them up.
Remember that you want good. Remember that you want love and peace. Remember that you want happiness. Remember that you want to believe people. Remember that you believe people.
Your dreams are possible! There is resistance. There is confusion. There is not a lot of support from the people closest to you. You think that it’s because they don’t like you. You think it’s because they don’t want to see you “make it”. It’s not any of that. You’re different and they don’t know what you need. They are familiar and accustomed to a certain way. Eventually they’ll learn that they were trying to impose their own beliefs and limitations on you but in the meantime, you’ve got to keep dreaming. You’ve got to remember what’s in your heart. You’ve got to follow the inner voice and pull that draws you to opportunities and places that do recognize who you are and what you want. Don’t be afraid to leave. Go! It’s okay, you can come back. You will return, many times. And even though people appear to be fighting you at every turn, about every choice and decision that you’re making, it’s not what it looks like. You’re encouraging them. You’re inspiring them. You’re doing exactly what they expected you to do.
• Be prepared to make adjustments. Make adjustments. –
“The way it is” is different from “the way it was” and might be a hell of a difference from “the way it will be”.
Don’t get too attached or comfortable with anything. Life is too fragile. Life is too susceptible to elements outside of your control. Things happen. Good things and bad things. Things that interrupt the flow and monotony. Things that alter the situation beyond what you may be able to comprehend at the time. So be ready. Be flexible. Learn some new things. Learn new words, new places, new people. Learn outside of your comfort and convenience zones. Be ready to move with the wind and opportunity of change. Allow yourself to accept change and different. Allow yourself to change and do different!
Sometimes the thing that you feel you want to do is a direct result of what you’ve been exposed to or what has been expressed to you. Be willing and open to new things. Adjust. Adjust with the time. Adjust with the seasons. Adjust with your age. Adjust with your maturity. Adjust with your growth.
• Trust is important. Trust yourself first. –
You cannot be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t do that to yourself. Trust establishes connection. Trust establishes relationship. Trust establishes bond.
You need these things for your health and well-being.
You need to trust yourself in order to recognize trust in others. There are things and feelings that you will understand only after you have attained a particular level of trust within yourself. You have to trust your mind and your heart. You have to trust your feelings. You have to trust your “gut”. You have to trust your instinct.
Your word is one of the first things that you will need to trust. You have to trust your own words. Your own word. You have to establish standards and boundaries, limitations and limits, for yourself, by your own self-application of trust. You have to know what you can and cannot take, allow, do, be. You have to secure yourself in the foundation of that trust in order for you to be able to recognize or realize trust in others. If you trust you, once you trust you, you will be able to perceive when a person has trust in their own selves. By that factor, you will be able to allow yourself to trust your heart, and feelings to the unknowns of life. Because you need to.
You’ll be let down quite a few times. But even that is necessary. It builds you up. It creates better and stronger boundaries. It teaches you lessons that must be learned before you enter into agreements and partnerships, eventually relationships.
It all starts with trusting yourself.
• People are going to let you down. It’s life. –
It’s a part of life, kid. And you’ll never get used to it.
I wish that I could walk you through life if for nothing else but to protect you from this behemoth of reality. People are going to be your undoing. They might just as well be how you arise, but they are going to be a part of your fall.
People are going to disappoint you and let you down. People are going to take advantage of you. People are going to misuse and abuse you. People are going to incorporate you into their mess. People are going to manipulate you. People are going to attempt to encourage, influence , and persuade you to do, be, become, think, feel, and act to their desires, wants, and expectations. It’s going to be subtle, it’s going to be subversive, it’s going to be surreal! But it’s going to happen.
The truth is that people aren’t just going to let you down, you’re going to let them down as well. You’re not without the ability to be just as human. And the fact is that letting people down is a very human thing. Sometimes you’ll do it inadvertently. But there will be times that you do it as a defense mechanism. You’ll have moments where you do it in retaliation and for retribution. You’ll do it as a reflex, responding to your own hurt and harm.
And because it’s life, it will be a part of this cycle that you’ll never be able to control, only manage. I pray that you manage it well.
• Find a way to trust people, anyway. –
I hope that one of the lessons you learn is that people don’t always deserve to be forgiven for what they’ve done but they always deserve to be given the chance to be understood as being human. Stuff happens. People will “turn” on you for the darnedest of reasons. Pushed to an “edge”, there is no telling what someone is capable of. You included! So be willing to trust people. Limit your exposure by limiting people’s access to you but don’t cut off humanity for the sake of being bitter.
You need people. You’ll need people. You’ll always need somebody.
• Love yourself. That’s enough love to carry you.
I cannot stress this point enough. I wish someone would have told you that early on. I wish that someone would have been willing to give you the self-confidence and self-assurance that would have reinforced the belief and understanding in you to discover what love really is. I wish that you hadn’t been warped and confused by some of the things that you were exposed to. I wish that you hadn’t experienced sex so early and then went on to confuse sex with love or sex with communication, or sex with trust.
You are in for a long road to recovery. It is going to take years for you to break the emotional and psychological stronghold that those unfortunate events will hold to you. It will cause all kinds of issues and it will reek havoc on how you identify emotion and feeling.
But self-love, is a difference maker. The road to loving yourself is a long and arduous one. But once you get there, things will be so much better. I promise.
• Don’t let anyone hurt you with their mess. No one. Ever. –
Be careful with what you allow yourself to feel responsible for. Be careful who you surrender the power to influence you to. Watch out for those serial manipulators and people who play on your heart and emotion. You have a big heart and you’re naive. You’re gullible. You are prone to believing and trusting people, face value. That has let you down often. That will let you down often.
But you have to get up. You are going to have to get up and fight through the feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Because you will invest your time and energy into people and so what they have going on will affect you and they will make you feel as if things that have to do with them, automatically have to do with you.
You’re not responsible for everybody. Don’t let them make you feel like you are.
• Speak up. So that you are heard. –
You have every right to how you feel. You have every right to express how you feel. No one will ever know if you don’t speak up though.
From early on you brought into the culture of silence and secrecy that allowed for things that went on in the dark to ruminate and fester. That stuff became toxic thoughts and actions. It became bad habits and traditions. It separated you from open and honest relationships.
And that became what was once labeled as your “independence”. But you weren’t independent, you were insecure. And you just kept on smiling.
• Never lose that smile. –
You have no idea how much life your smile brings to a room. Don’t ever stop. I know it hurts sometimes. I know that sometimes that smile is a disguise hiding every horror and hell that you’re going through. I know that smile is masking pain and troubles. That smile is hiding grief and depression and stress that began to deteriorate your health and your psyche.
Just don’t lose it. It makes people feel better. It shows people that things are going to be okay. That smile is a medicine. It is a cure to a sickness. It heals. It’s self-medication. Keep giving the world doses of it.
• It’s your youth, there will be a time to grow up. –
I wish you would have tried a little more of the things that kids did. You were forced to grow up too fast. You hid in the presence of older people because you felt responsible. And for some reason you were allowed to. I wish you would have done some more juvenile stuff. Your teenage years weren’t spent “trying to be grown”, they were spent having to be grown. You had to mature fast. You had to be a certain responsible and accountable. You felt a certain responsible and accountable. You were really hurt and afraid. I wish that you would have gotten counseling or therapy and given a forum to discuss your issues. Maybe then someone would have heard your cries and gave you the correct direction.
I remember momma always telling you to “go be a kid” and you hated that.
Believe me, you’re going to wish you had done it afterwards.
• Much more will happen. –
What happens when the “worst thing that could happen”, does?
That’s what happens. Something else happens, a new “worst thing”.
If you could take any advice that I give you to heart, I’d encourage it to be this: YOU HAVE NO IDEA what you are about to go through. And every time it seems like the waters are calming or a storm is passing, BAM!, you will be hit by something else. Each time a thing that you never thought would be possible.
From death to heartbreak to failure to trouble. You are going to have some unbelievable things happen to you. You are going to do some unbelievable things. And time won’t heal all of it. Time won’t make every amend nor will it apologize away the stupidity or unfortunate nature of some of your mistakes. And those mistakes will compound. Believe me, you have no idea how bad it’s going to get!
• You are going to get through it. –
Guess what… You’re going to survive those things. You are going to overcome so much. You are going to win so many battles. You’re going to make it through darkness, tunnels, over mountains, all those proverbial obstacles and the real ones too.
You’re going to do some amazing things in the midst of it all. I know how much you worry about stuff. I know how much you internalize and let things get in your head. You’re golfing to make it. I promise you are.
Today I found a picture of you and a feeling came over me. It was a familiar feeling. At first I hesitated to allow myself to feel it but before I knew what I was doing, it had totally encompassed me. And I was doing something that I remembered doing when I was about your age, I smiled so hard. I smiled like I didn’t have a care in the world. I smiled like it mattered. Like nothing mattered but yet everything did. I smiled with hope and dreams and possibility.
You were the reason that I smiled and that felt good.
Oh young Me, I wish I would have known then what I know right now. I wish I could have given you the courage that I just discovered before you discovered the facts of life. Because what I know today is that those facts are able to hurt you when you have fear. But when you have courage and determination, those facts are bound to your preference. You get to choose how they affect you.
There are so many things that I’d love to say to you. So many details. So many pitfalls that I would love to help you avoid. I wish that I could fight the battles for you. I wish there was someway I could give you what I now know.
But, it’s so much and I wouldn’t want to ruin that smile. And plus, well after all of it, I’ve got my own smile back. Thanks to you somehow. So in some way, it was the way that it was going to happen.
I’ll smile for you. From now on. I’m going to smile because I have every right to. I deserve to. Especially after all that has happened to us.
I can’t believe we made it.
A much older You.
©2014 Cornelious “See” Flowers