All of their creamy white faces were colored in with brown crayon. Their backs were arched, their toes were pointed and they wore pink tutus. My mother bought the framed painting, took the canvas out of the frame, colored in the ballerinas skin with various shades of brown and hung the finished product up over my bed. Maybe she explained her reasoning to me at the time but if she did, I don’t remember. I do recall staring up at the painting and thinking how weird it was that she did that. I was used to her doing strange things so I reached a point where I stopped looking for logic in her actions.
I took ballet for years but never advanced to pointe because my feet were too flat. I imagine that my mom wanted to inspire me to keep dancing anyway. She wanted me to see girls who looked like me doing what I aspired to do.
Quite possibly, she looked for a painting of brown ballerinas and could only find this one so she made it work. As a grown woman raising my own brown daughters, I can see now that this wasn’t one of her episodes of erratic behavior. I’ve had to get creative at times to show my girls diverse images of womanhood, so I get it.
But back then I dismissed it and I edited it out of my important memories.
I dismissed a lot of important lessons from my mother because I couldn’t differentiate between the schizophrenia and her hard-earned motherly wisdom. She was unpredictable and confusing so at some point, I stopped trusting her guidance. I believed she was broken and if I listened to her, I would end up broken too. Years later, I find myself scanning my memory, searching for meaning in everything she said and did. Especially the stuff I thought was weird and illogical back then. The things I dismissed and edited out because they made me uncomfortable.
Time has shown me that all kinds of lessons are hidden in the shadows and we carry around more wisdom in our memories than we are even aware of.
The same way I doubted my mother’s ability to guide me, I became a woman who doubted her own intuition. Years of wrong turns, bad habits and consequences filled me with distrust and I ignored my patterns because it was too uncomfortable to face them. For many of us, our biggest coping mechanism is to hide from ourselves and when we do this, we end up hiding from the world as well.
This is an excerpt from my Words That Heal online writing course were we use writing to find creative possibility in the unedited, imperfect lives we live. This lesson is about writing a different story.
I wonder what it was like for her to feel her mental capacities declining while she was still young, only in her forties, being a mother and wife, working a job and trying to maintain a life. I didn't think about it from her side back then, I only thought about how it felt to be losing her.
Writing a different story helps you reimagine the experiences you’ve had. It creates a bigger vantage point and helps you see beyond the patterns of your own mind. Your thoughts are like grooves in your consciousness and it can be difficult to create new grooves if you are not willing to be creative.
We need to consider that the stories in our minds -- especially our victim stories -- have different versions that lead to different lessons and conclusions.
Words That Heal is a 4-week online course I created to guide you through the discovery process of writing for truth, meaning and transformation. You will learn specific techniques you can rely on again and again to write your truth, change your story and transform your life. The next session starts June 5. Get full details on the course and get registered here.