Two days after I started this blog challenge, one of my readers took time off their busy schedules to tell me what they really felt about my blog, and it went like this:
Maureen: I love the boldness in your writing. I love how you are not afraid to get it all out. I wish I was all that. But I fear being judged. How do you handle it?
Me: First things first, I am not writing so that people could read. No, I am writing so that I rid my mind of the thoughts that threaten to burst my head. I am writing to free myself.
Maureen: Thank you. I think your writing was God sent to help a million others through the challenging journey of breaking free and being yourself.
Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that was what I was doing, but once she said it, it dawned on me that it might be just what I am good at. And in case you are wondering, yes, I get judged. A lot. Mostly from strangers who are first meeting me through this blog, and sadly enough, by a few self-proclaimed righteous people who ‘sin in the dark’.
So, today’s blog post is entirely about that; journey to self-discovery. No, not mine. Someone else’s.
Book I Loved: Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant
When I first started reading this book, I had a hard time connecting the dots between Rhonda and Iyanla. In one chapter, the story was about this little girl named Rhonda and the pain she bears while growing up in the hands of a cruel grandmother, then to a loving step mother before ending up at a homeless shelter. Then the next chapter would jump into the story of a grown-up Iyanla and her struggle with fame, religion, career and getting over her past.
Did she change names? Is the book about two different people?
No. The book is about a child who grows up in an abusive home, with an elder brother who labelled her as fat and automatically disliked her, an alcoholic father who did nothing but move from one woman’s house to another, leaving his two children under the care of a grandmother who was more of a monster than a human being. Otherwise, how do you explain the grandmother scrubbing Rhonda’s back with sand until she bled out, just because she did something wrong? How do you explain denying her food because she resembled her mother in ways the grandmother didn’t find beautiful; like having an extra layer of fat around her belly and her skin being a little bit too dark?
As young as eight years old, Rhonda already felt dirty, ugly and unwanted. She had trouble even loving herself, which explains why she had trouble getting along with other people. In school, she already was damned to the ‘dumb’ corner, and she couldn’t do much to get herself out of there.
All this misery doubles up when she gets raped, by her supposed ‘uncle’, right in the house where she lived after her step mother abandoned them. And sadly enough, when she narrated the ordeal to her aunt, all she did was to tell her to wash herself up and never mention the ordeal to anyone else. Really? At twelve years old? How does one live with such trauma? And pain? Do you even look at yourself in the mirror? Do you see a soul?
The neglect and lack of affection sees Rhonda make one of the gravest mistakes in her early life, all in an attempt to find love; or to belong; or to find someone who listens to her. So yes, she gets pregnant at fourteen, then at sixteen, then at eighteen, by different guys who either turn their backs on her, or even worse, turn out to be wife batterers and she has to endure nights full of blows against her chest and abdomen, one time she woke up in the hospital.
But I love the book mostly because it teaches a thing or two about growing up. About breaking free from your childhood. About the effects a scarred childhood has on any other human being. About the various manners in which children are raised. About learning to forgive yourself and forgiving those who put you through hell. It teaches about the painful journey that is healing. And yes, healing is such a mind draining process. Requires a whole lot of energy to go through it.
As Rhonda grows up, now referenced in the book as Iyanla, she struggles to get over her past. On days when she thinks she is making remarkable progress; the Rhonda comes back to her and all she does is cry till she passes out.
I love the book because it teaches us how hard it is to forgive when those who scarred you are well-known to you. When that person who raped you is related to you, and you might run into him every now and then during family gatherings. It is even harder to forgive yourself when the mistakes you did come chasing after your very own kids.
But most importantly, it teaches us that the past already happened and the least we can do about it is bury it.
There is a point in the book where Iyanla literally dug a hole in her backyard and buried all ‘Rhonda’ stuff into it. I had to stop and wonder whether that even brings you any closer to healing. But you wouldn’t know unless you tried.
So, I have learnt that in the quest of finding oneself, there are a lot of bumps that will slow you down. That it is okay to struggle with your career, and opt out when it draws all the strength out of you. That it is okay to have a difficulty identifying with religion. Take it slow. Good things take some time. And yes, taking care of your children lies squarely on your shoulders, but that does not mean you are responsible for the mistakes and choices they make when they are all grown up.
Feel free to speak out what aches your heart. If there is no one to listen, speak to yourself.
PS: I have this book in soft copy. Feel free to ask me for it.
A Book I Didn’t Like: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I don’t think there is much to say about a book I didn’t like. But as the famous saying goes; If you don’t like a book, write yours.
I am off to write mine.
See you tomorrow!