Faith,  Love,  Self-Reflection

What Was Not Done for Us…

Even when we forget, we always remember. The painful memories we stuffed deep inside and the traumas we blurred away with the awful benevolence of time live on even as we pretend we are alright only to be triggered by incidents that remind us of our childhood. I arrived at this understanding by way of tribulation that makes all the other hardships I’ve endured in my life seem like pattycake by comparison. There is no anguish in this world as heavy as the weight that arrives when we are separated from our children, such is the thorn-laced path I’m walking on at this exact moment.

Yet, amid my Jobian heartbreak, I gained clarity and calm that has eluded me most of my life. For decades, I have vacillated between purpose and regret as I extended unending efforts trying to “help” others only to be sucked dry and left in despair by the very people I fed. It happened like clockwork, I set out to “lift my community” or give wings to someone’s aspirations, and within short order, I wound up getting betrayed by people I would come to call parasites.

Few understood my anger, they never saw the offense, they only saw my counterattack. Lacking context, I started being judged by the very community that I love with all my heart. Betrayal begetting betrayal, my ire only grew the more I felt judged by others. What I did not realize is the part I played in the process, in hindsight I see now that my biggest betrayer was the person looking at me in the mirror. I gave with expectation thinking that people would accept me if only I gave them everything. But as I gave to many, I took away from myself.

Long before I was old enough to understand, it became second nature for me to lay down like a rug and invite people to walk all over me. Of course, I did not see it that way back then, I was responding to the traumas of seeing my mom deeply hurt herself. The lesson that I drew from her self-harming measures was to nullify my voice to appease her at all times, upsetting her—in my mind—could lead to a final goodbye. Gone was my innocence, I became her “savior” as I did everything I could to make her laugh if only she could have a reprieve from her unbending sadness.

The few times I did try to speak up and say what was hurting me, my father reprimanded me and told me to not make things about me but to cater to my mom’s sorrows. While he was doing everything he could to safeguard the love of his life, my father wounded me by teaching me to suppress my emotions for the sake of preserving my mom. In the process, he stopped being assertive in the household as her will become dominant. Twinned with his absence because he worked all the time to provide for us, I grew up without an understanding of what healthy relationships looked like.

Conflicts were to be avoided like cancer and fights were akin to funerals in my mind. Once these outlooks calcified in my mind, I exported the status quo in my home to the outside world. My first relationship was a replay of the interactions I had with my mom as I catered to the whims of my girlfriend who eventually became my fiancée. Every fight caused extreme anxiety as I rushed to normalize conflict as if the slightest hint of anger from my girlfriend could lead to permanent abandonment.

What started as passion morphed into inertia, she loved me deeply but eventually grew to resent my lack of boundaries. Always quick to please her, my romantic gestures became sources of agitation. The more she resisted my love, the more I tried to mollify her. Eventually, she stopped trying which only encouraged me to try harder. I gave and gave and she became more despondent, she loved me but she was not given room to express her love to me. I kept pouring 90% of my cup into the relationship only to get miffed that she was not responding in kind. Relationships are symbiotic if both parties are given the space to express love in their way. My youthful ignorance paired with my brokenness prevented me from understanding this paradigm.

Life is short when we reach self-actualization but long when we have many lessons to learn. Always seeking outward, I never realized that the community I needed to help the most was the hurting child inside. It is thus no surprise that love’s cruel lessons repeat like a broken record as the sad music of heartbreak beckoned when I least expected it as the mother of all betrayals came knocking at my door. From vows to disavowal, a love story turned into a Greek tragedy right before my eyes as the one said she was done and moved to another state with my most precious treasure in tow.

But to God’s credit, what should have broken me instead gave me the wisdom to finally see myself. What I know now is that I am the source of my greatest woes and my biggest joys. I will never be able to find love that stays if I don’t first love myself fully and I will never gain the acceptance of others if I don’t accept myself. Without realizing it, when I love people I become needy and that neediness drives away people. The pearls that God gave me I keep turning into swine by treating myself as ham instead of valuing myself as Shem.

It’s not that my acts of kindness and my gestures of love are not authentic because I truly do love giving to people. However, if I am going to be honest with myself, part of what motivates me to provide for others is because I am doing for others what I wish was done for me when I was a child. My pains inform my decisions in that way, I am always for the underdog and I always want to inspire others because I felt like no one was there to do that for me when I was young. Even my need to constantly tell my son “good job” or to protect him from the world stems from the traumas I experienced as a child.

This is the context people miss out on when they judge me from afar. No one knew, for example, that the reason I was warning everyone about an incoming tsunami was rooted in information I overheard at work as a lead Project Manager for the US Marine Corps. A major terror alert that canceled the Marine Corps Marathon in October combined with credible research led me to the determination that a risk of a catastrophic tidal wave hitting the east coast—a view that was shared by none other than the United Nations as they announced a “World Tsunami Awareness Day” on November 5th, 2021.

My need to save people borne out of the need to save my mom kicked in and I did everything I could to warn others as I took steps to protect my family. In hindsight, I realize that I let fear push me to overreact by trying to deliver everyone instead of doing my job as a journalist which is to just inform instead of compelling people to act. Yet despite my overreaction, I did not harm anyone nor did I do anything that could be considered dangerous. Sadly, my decision to exercise my rights as an American and a journalist is currently an albatross around my neck as I face legal consequences for expressing my thoughts.

It is easy to judge people without context but the harder path is to love with understanding, yet if we are to heal the world, we must listen instead of lashing out with anger. #Guzo2Healing Click To Tweet

The more I heal, the more I am able to understand the brokenness of others—especially those who are the closest to me. It is easy to project our misfortunes on others, especially to our children. They come into this world a blank slate but we forget this fact as we impose upon them the challenges we have not overcome. This is why it is essential to authentically heal, or at the very least face, our traumas lest we traumatize our children thinking we are “protecting” them when in reality we are running from the very demons we refuse to address. I’m not being pious here, I am working hard to make sure my actions as a father are free from the wounds of my youth because fighting old battles will only pass along new battle scars to future generations.

Ironically enough, instead of cratering into the hole of anxiety, I have risen to the challenge as I finally learned to speak up and defend myself in real-time. I also learned to trust God to fight my battles instead of lashing out in anger when people I love hurt me, the old me would have turned from Paul to Saul by returning rancor with rage. No more. I just pray that God gives me the ability to forgive but even that comes in time, I am going to allow myself the space to feel angry and then to absolve over time. Besides, absolution takes repentance, until that moment arrives, the guzo (journey) to healing continues.

Love doesn’t judge, it understands::

Be With Me