This last Sunday at church, our pastor talked about identity and how our early life imprints affect us and shape us into the people we become. As he was talking about this my mind wandered to what I recall as my earliest life memory and I became a little sad.
My earliest memory is when I was 3 years old. A little neighbor girl (that was a few years older) and I were playing outside when she suggested we walk to a local park to play. I thought the idea was a good one and off we went. Being 3 the idea of telling anyone did not cross my mind or at least I do not remember thinking about asking. We had fun playing on the swings and slide and after a while my friend said she was going home but I didn’t want to go so she left me there alone.
I was having a lovely time playing until my Mom arrived angry. That’s when she also began “spanking me” holding my one arm lifting me off the ground and hitting me with her free hand. Hitting hard and walking and carrying me by my arm for what I would guess would have been about a mile. Now I know as a Mom how scared she must have been when no one could find me, but I also know that at the time I did not understand what I had done. I just remember being afraid. I still remember getting back to my Grandparent’s house where we lived at the time and my granddaddy trying to step in to stop Mom from hurting me and my Mom getting angry with him too.
I still remember all of the details because they wrapped around me. They laid into my brain and became part of my identity. I was BAD. I have spent much of my life trying to reconcile the physical abuse I received as a child. I remember so many moments of abuse that I am certain that it fed my brains belief that I was not good enough. It formed a false identity that I struggle with today and every day.
It is hard to reframe who you are when your only identity of self was being less than. After years and years and years of therapy and raising three wonderful girls with my best friend /husband I have learned how true love transforms who we are. I have learned that we all do the best we can with what we have and I also have learned that sometimes the best you can do can be even better if you are willing to make the effort.
I know that in her way my Mom did love me and at the same time I never felt that love. The memory of that identity that wrapped around me and laid into my brain is still a small piece of who I am, but the bigger part of me is the person I became on my own. I did this by working hard to be all the good things I saw in those friends and loved ones I admired. I work hard every day to have an identity that is the real me and not the bad me I thought I was so long ago. The memory’s and sadness can linger there and every so often rear their ugly heads, but that imprint is small and will always be a reminder of why I want my identity to be the best self I can be for myself and everyone I love.