My sons are 12 and 14, and they are fully and completely their ages. This means they are constantly engaged in testing both their limits and mine. A few weeks ago, report cards came home. Things escalated quickly and I could feel my 12-year-old digging his heels into his position of what mattered/what was acceptable. And I could feel myself doing the same. And then I dropped what we call the mom bomb.
Mom bombs are powerful weapons. They abruptly end any and all exchanges of thoughts or ideas with a very definitive FULL STOP. “Son,” I said, “you know what you need to do. And if it doesn’t happen, the electronics are mine.”
Boom. Nuances dismissed. No need for further explanations. Conversation over.
Over identifying – and missing the point
The past few weeks I have been “louder” about recovery, sharing more of my story with family and friends, as well people (mostly strangers) on social media. It’s been terrifying and wonderful and disappointing and necessary. It’s also been educational. In both in-person conversations and online, I quickly discovered two things: the word “recovery” is a mom bomb; and if I want more meaningful connections, I am going to have to do better at creating them.
People hear the word “recovery” and move quickly through nuance and right into preconceived notions. The wall of disconnect comes flying up. “I do not see myself in this story,” they seem to be thinking, and they either stop listening entirely or start asking for details that are not relevant. In this unraveling, both of us over identify with certain aspects of the story and miss out on the connections we need.
So much of my struggle was internal. There was no DUI or job loss or in-patient treatment. And even if those things had occurred, it would not have changed the outcome. What happened to me was a slow awakening that – once it took hold of me – grew quickly into an urgent awareness that I have work to do. Women have work to do. And in order to get started on that work– whatever our higher calling is, the greater purpose that has us here on this Earth – we first need to stop doing the things that keep us disconnected and numb. We need to start sharing our stories, without dropping mom bombs on ourselves or others, and move towards embracing the messy and beautiful fullness of our truth.
Openness, rather than “otherness”
In her Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah, Janet Mock talks quite a bit about the power of stories and the need to share our truth in a way that drives connection, not separation. Janet is a transgender rights activist and author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. She is also a speaker at She Recovers in LA later this year.
“I grew up poor. I grew up as a black child,” Janet said. “The only resource I had was my truth – that was the only thing I could control in the world.”
Janet’s truth – everyone’s truth – is that we need people and we need people to see us fully and for who we really are. This means we must move past the “salacious parts” of our stories and see the full spectrum of our experiences.
What we need, Janet says, is to come up with a different blueprint for how we tell our stories. A blueprint that allows for openness, rather than “otherness.” We need different words, new approaches, that allow us to broaden perceptions rather than narrow them.
Janet’s story is a story of remembering love and truth. It is a story of awakening. Like Janet, I am creating a blueprint for myself and it starts with my refusal to be “othered.” I am not allowing the world to tell me what I am, because that is the very last thing the world needs. We do not need more compliance and obedience. Instead, we need more love and truth.
Loudly or softly, we are each drawing our own lines and telling our own stories. The only thing that truly matters is that we do these things with love and truth. And we can only give these things to the world if we first have them for ourselves.
Finding our love and our truth – that is our work. That is what the world needs us to do.
Erin W. is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017.