“To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” ~Sven Goren Eriksson
Recently, I met with a jeweler of whom I am quite fond. My husband decided that he wanted to have a mother’s ring designed for me, symbolizing the love I have for my three children. It was a beautiful gesture. I had met this woman before. When I did, I immediately felt a connection.
She is physically beautiful and an extraordinary artist, but I was also able to see the depth within her gorgeous eyes. I knew she was the designer meant to make my ring.
Some time had passed from the time we originally visited the store. When we returned to begin designing the ring, I could sense a deep sadness within her. Something seismic had shifted.
She revealed to me that she had lost her son. Her only child had died in his sleep, suddenly, at the age of sixteen. I immediately took her in my arms, cradling her, holding her, carrying a piece of her pain just for those moments in time.
She went on to explain her deep sadness, her loss, and her profound, inescapable pain, a pain she explained that she had no need to escape, as she didn’t want to lose any piece of him.
She wanted to continue to feel all of him, the joy and the pain he evoked in her as long as she was left breathing on this Earth.
We talked for a long time, and I never broke eye contact as I held her hands across the countertop.
She told me that most people couldn’t handle the gravity of what had happened or out of ignorance would say insensitive things to her, trying their best to be of help. I sat and listened and understood that this woman would never be the same, nor would she want to be.
She was forever changed.
I also knew that part of her grief for the loss of her son would be built into the artistry of my mother’s ring, and I felt honored to have a piece of that power, the power of the magnitude of both her love and pain in a ring that was designed to symbolize the love I felt for my own children. It would be deeply meaningful to me.
I am someone who experienced an abusive past. I was abused emotionally and sexually. I was neglected. I spent a great deal of time before having children in therapy, working on ensuring that I would not repeat the patterns of my family of origin but rather make my own healthy, conscious choices regarding how I would raise my own beautiful offspring.
And now that I do have children of my own, I am able to see just how different their lives will be than mine. The struggles I have experienced, they will never have to face. Having them in my life shines a light on my own childhood experiences because it is one thing to experience abuse as a child. It is quite another to reflect upon it as a parent.
It becomes unfathomable, unbelievable that any adult, any parent would subject their child to that form of torment. So from time to time I ask myself these questions:
“How might I have been different if she had said…?”
“How might I have been different if he had done…?”
“How might I have been different if this hadn’t happened?”
“How might I have been different?”
And interestingly, I am left with the same conclusion. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I know this is hard to believe or understand, but if given the opportunity I wouldn’t change a thing. No matter how much I struggle, I wouldn’t give up one ounce of the pain I have experienced, because without each and every experience I have had, I might not be exactly the person I am today.
Many people describe themselves as “happy.” Although I have experienced moments of great happiness, given some serious consideration, I don’t know that I would describe myself as a happy person. I am a pensive person, an intellectual person.
A thoughtful person, I consider things carefully and am deeply empathetic. I am able to hold other’s pain when most people cannot because I understand what it is to feel deep pain, and I am not scared or fearful of that emotion.
These are gifts I have incurred because of the experiences I have had.
Without my experiences, I would be a different person with different gifts. I don’t know that I would like or value that person as much. I don’t know that I would have the same profound gifts that I have to offer.
So when people hear my story and ask how I have survived, I simply reply that I survived because that is what people do. They survive. They survive in pain and they evolve into the person they were intended to be, their most authentic selves.
I value my most authentic self. The person I was intended to be. I am grateful to have evolved into myself, and I wouldn’t desire it to be any other way.
I am someone who can comfort a veritable stranger and hold her as she shares unendingly deep and vast pain where most people would be frightened of such an interaction. I am able to listen without offering a platitude or telling her that “it will get better” because I am able to comprehend that it won’t and that it’s okay.
The pain will simply be part of who she has now become and will grow with her as she continues her journey of continually becoming the person she was meant to be.
For all of these abilities, I am grateful. The abuse I suffered as a child resulted in my developing the profound gift of empathy.
What are your gifts? Have you taken the time to become aware of what they are? Perhaps you too have developed gifts as a result of hardships you have suffered. Maybe you are not even aware that these qualities are gifts.
Or they don’t feel like gifts because they make you different from the norm or make you stand out from the crowd. It can be painful to stand alone.
There have been times in my life when my empathy was misconstrued as oversensitivity, being overly emotional or weak. This was painful. It made me feel lonely, and I had moments of self-doubt.
I urge you to embrace each strength with which you have been graced, as your strengths are your offerings, and your offerings are where your true beauty lies. They are your opportunity to give to the world and the people around you in your own unique way.
This is why when I question how things might have been different if I hadn’t been abused, it’s tempting to wonder momentarily, “What if?”
But I am always left with the same conclusion, which is that I wouldn’t change a thing. I do not wish to be anyone other than who I am, as clearly “to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.”
I urge you to consider that same conclusion for yourself. Be proud of your beautiful being, be authentic, be brave, and give freely.
Photo by ibkod