I spent a great deal of my life feeling depressed. The words attached to my feelings were many. Some were about hopelessness and my own inability to create change. Some were about deprivation. Some of those thoughts were a sort of doom and gloom, as if there were many things wrong in my life, and always would be.
Even once my depression lifted, I would go through moments of fear if I felt I did not have enough money, If someone said something I thought was mean, or if I thought something else was wrong. Even if I was slightly accused me of something I did not do, I would go into deep recesses inside of myself to a place where I felt very bad about myself. During these times, no amount of reasoning would make the feelings go away.
When I was 8 years old, my family was visiting my cousin’s home. My cousin was 9 years old and her name was Karen. We had another cousin who was my sister’s age, about 11 or 12 years old, who was there as well. Her name was Mary.
My brother and sister and I were sitting with both of them in Karen’s bedroom talking. We were discussing how funny it was that each of the people that we were related to, we were related to differently. For example, my Grandmother was Karen’s aunt, etc.
We did not know Mary very well. Although we were clear that she was our cousin, we did not see her or her family very often. I knew who her mother was, but I was not sure who her Grandmother was. Their family felt very distant from everyone else. I also knew that Mary was adopted. Although my mother always warned us to not mention that she was adopted, she really did not need to. I was such a sensitive child, I would never have said or done anything to hurt anyone.
As the evening wore on, I could see that Mary was becoming agitated. I really did not know why, but I thought maybe she thought we were leaving her out. So I asked her who her Grandmother was. She did not answer. Then I said, “So do you have a Grandmother?” At this point, I meant maybe her Grandmother was someone in our family who died. But that was the breaking point for whatever was bothering her.
She left the room with Karen following fairly close behind her. Several minutes later, Karen came back into the room. She very angrily told me that Mary was crying and that I had really hurt her feelings. I was shocked, saddened, and scared. I don’t think I said a thing. At that moment I simply did not know what to do. Part of me felt that they were jokingly doing something mean to me, accusing me of something I felt I did not do.
We left that night with the matter unresolved. I did not tell my parents what happened. But the next day, which was a Sunday, all hell broke loose in my life as a little girl. This day was to dramatically change and shape my life and future.
At the time, my family owned a snack bar at a flea market. Every Sunday we would get up around 3am and load our vehicle (Which was an old hearse- another story to be told), drive to the flea market, and set everything up to start our day. We sold candy, snow cones, hamburgers, and corndogs. All the kinds of things you would imagine being sold at a snack bar. My brother, sister and I took and filled orders and my parents cooked.
After we set everything up that day but had not opened yet, my parents told us they wanted to talk to all of us for a moment. They looked directly at me and said that my cousin Karen’s mother called them and told them that I had been making fun of my cousin Mary because she was adopted. She actually said that her daughter Karen had told her that I said to Mary that she was adopted and continued to humiliate her about this. They looked at me accusingly, sternly, and also with a look of, “How could you do this?”
I was shaken to my core. I assured my parents that this was not the case, but the matter seemed closed. They told me that I would have to do something to rectify it. I must apologize to her and probably never be left with her again without an adult in sight. A feeling of intense dread grew in my body, mind, and heart. I cried and cried. When I stopped crying, I decided to go outside the snack bar for a while to get away.
My Grandmother always had a table set up with her antiques, so I decided to go sit with her for a while. I wanted to get away from this terrible accusation. I did not think that she might have already known about the situation. As I approached her table, she looked at me angrily and began to exclaim about my crime. With no verbal response, I immediately began to sob. Then my Grandmother grabbed me and hugged me. She said nothing else and allowed me to sit with her in silence.
The pain for me was immeasurable. When I searched inside of myself to try to determine the cause and nature of the pain, the first thing that came to me was the fact that I had been falsely accused of something I did not do. My parents were now against me and I was not sure who else would know and despise me. I felt punished and persecuted for a crime I did not commit! I was angry and hurt all at once. However, the truth was, that even when I assured myself that I did not do that and that this would blow over, the pain was still there and growing.
When my anger was gone, the pain I felt was much sadder and deeper. I felt not only Mary’s pain, but I felt the absolute desperate remorse of possibly causing it. I reasoned that even though I had not said the word ‘adopted’, perhaps she did think I was ridiculing her about her Grandmother. Perhaps she thought I knew who her Grandmother was and I was making fun of her. The possibility that I had done something to hurt her was far more devastating than being falsely accused of something. This pain was unresolvable. I could not turn back the clock. My family was keeping me away from her, so I could not really speak to her about it, but honestly, I was afraid to because I might do something else horrible.
The next four years were spent with this cloud over my head. I did not speak to anyone about it, but every day this memory haunted me as the beginning point of darkness that had now settled over my life. No matter how many times I asked God or Mary in my mind for forgiveness, I still felt the weight of having hurt another human. I feared that the rest of my life would be clouded by this grave mistake I made.
While this pain was tremendous, for someone who really wanted to be a healer, a saver of lives, it was invaluable. It created a very clear picture in me of not wanting to create more pain in this world. It gave me so many insights and lessons about myself and others.
It showed me that even the most devastating pain could be overcome and ease could return in my life. It also started to show me what humbleness might feel like; the beginning flitterings of compassion for myself and others. It began to open my heart in a way that could not have been possible before. It showed me that even if I did not overtly cause another person pain, I still had a responsibility to attempt to rectify it. It showed me that even if I did not mean to cause another pain, it does not mean their pain is not real.
I love you and care for you.
I hope that your day and days to come are only brighter and brighter!