Sunday was Father’s Day. It was an intense day in an intense week in an intense month in a freaking intense year.
Very early in the morning, during the hours when I was supposed to be subconsciously processing the intensity of the day before, I had a thought: what would I do if I was in solitary confinement for a year? Would I go insane immediately? If not, what kind of games would I play with my mind in order to protect my sanity? I imagined myself getting tortured with being woken up every 90 minutes for what felt like an eternity. Each time, I went through the roll call of my family members names so I wouldn’t forget them. Then I went through a roll call of friends, places I’ve lived, people I’ve worked with, places I have visited. This went on for a very long time. Eventually I started paying attention to very tiny details – like the baseboard and types of flooring in rooms, wallpaper and paint color, bookshelves and closets from childhood, etc.
This blog is about reparenting ourselves. Taking a fresh look at the blame and shame habits and spinning them into threads of soul mending.
Since the beginning of June I have been mulling over the topic of parenting; what are the regrets I have about failing my children? what are the open or scabbed over wounds still lingering due to my parents’ failings? Even what ways is my puppy teaching me about what she needs from me? And while each of these questions can provoke beneficial ideas and actions, none of them felt like the right question, the one I needed to be asking at this moment.
Days after George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin and his three complicit by-standing police officers I watched a video by Trevor Noah. It was one of many messages by black people who were ready to explain to the world things that should be obvious to everyone, like what looting is and who has suffered most from the global looting from white culture capitalism. In this video a phrase caught my attention. He said “we need to reparent ourselves…”
No one has had the perfect childhood. Some people have had a real shit childhood with parents who had real shit childhoods and this pattern might go back many generations. Other people have had real privileged childhoods—never a day without a roof over their heads, never a day without food in their bellies, and most days spent confident that life will continue as it is, without the sense of fear and sadness and anger so real, so constant, that hope has all but died in them.
One day about 8-9 years ago, after having had a number of years on the “path” of healing things, traumas, that prevented me from having a healthy amount of confidence, I was invited to give myself a new name for the weekend retreat I was on. This was quite the outdoor retreat, navigating our way in the dark woods alone and having a lot of time and space with our thoughts in order to question them and repattern them in a more optimistic way. As we sat around a fire with the leader drumming and reading and probably singing, the name Hope came to me. I totally felt unworthy for such a big name, but it was screaming in my head. When it was my turn to say the name I was taking I barely whispered it and people didn’t really call me Hope all weekend, but I said it out loud, I committed to it with many other witnesses. It was one of those moments of transition you remember, one that turns you around.
We’re in such a moment right now. A quantum moment where we can all repattern ourselves, reparent ourselves as needed. We can reeducate ourselves, learn the real history of the ignorant conquerors and the heart broken survivors. We can attend to the maleficent, cowardly way in which documents and expressions of truth have been burned, buried and beaten out of the brave; the pure-hearted ones. And we can breathe this all in, cry it all out, let it break us down, and then, only then, can we all rise up, determined to stay alert, awake and both honest and kind—to ourselves and each other, all of us.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a 20,000+ word essay, at the moment called Beyond Karen: The Pursuit of Inner Fortune. It’s the only response I can think of to the awareness I now have of the Karen meme. The process has been great and I think I have something worth publishing coming together, but the best part of it is the reparenting I’m doing. I’m digging into my psyche, undoing ideas about so many things including publishing. Do I need to “sell” anything or “attract” readers? No I don’t. If I truly want to offer something creative, I want to offer it as part of the gift economy, not the old economy.
Whatever the thing or things that pain each of us or causes grief is the thing or things that may need reparenting. As we fill in the gaps of what our parents—or our family, community, etc.—didn’t or couldn’t give us, we grow ourselves which means that we have the choice of being the person we’re meant to be whether the education and experience comes from the people or places we want it to or not. For me, I have felt invisible, spoken over, and ….. am working on it.
The theory coming to my mind about this reparenting idea is this: if we all consciously name and feed our hungry ghosts and fill the voids we feel about what lack we experienced, instead of subconsciously chasing things like notoriety or whatever we think importance looks like, we will grow love in ourselves and demand it from others. It, unfortunately, may be hardest for the people that need it most, so if we can all get sensitized to this shift in ourselves, then, perhaps, no one will be left behind.
There’s new research out that indicates that trauma experienced never leaves the body or mind. I was extremely surprised by the level of detail that I was able to remember in places I haven’t thought of in decades. Imagine if we gave ourselves and each other the time and space necessary to say what we need to say in order to not be in pain emotionally, so that no new traumas needed to be inflicted on the body and mind!
Looking for problems on purpose can reveal solutions you didn’t know you needed.
Ultimately reparenting ourselves is about deeply massaging our emotional scar tissue, breaking down as much of it as we can bear, in order to direct fresh energy, healing blood to those starved tissues; welcoming warm love to flood those stagnant spaces in our body mind with whatever self talk and intentional or authentic games we can prove effective. We must feed our spirits before we feed our bodies, nourish ourselves emotionally as though our lives depend on it. Because for those of us who hold deep and stressful traumas, it does.
In my most immediate efforts to reparent myself I have rewritten my survivor story. It is way more than I am willing to put in a blog, but it was absolutely a process of deeply massaging decades old scar tissue left from police brutality I experienced. And the story was only made possible by the direct actions I am currently taking.
Here is a thoughtful article you may find helpful if you are also actively questioning, reparenting, your experience and beliefs about public safety in America. The author offers 26 suggestions that “can be used when facing a mirror, in a small group discussion, or at a family dinner.”
Last week I lead a meditation and chose a song to share, please call me by my true names. It guides us in the way of compassion by welcoming a full spectrum of diversity into our consciousness—not just a composite of all potential professions like nurse, tomato picker, arborist, but all potential characters: best friend, rapist, hero, and all potential traits: ugly, graceful, cheater.
In the way that if you walked a lifetime in my shoes you would be like me, we build the skill of compassion when we see the essence and potential of everyone and everything in ourselves. So in order to not judge others who are in any way different than us—different opinions, likes, styles, interests, truths, sexual perspectives—we have to see the potential of every variation and hue in ourselves. Not as appropriation but as an expression, as sovereignty and choice. From there we are better able to be each other‘s brothers and sisters.
If you can, you’ve done a mighty good job being parented and parenting yourself.