Growing up, I often told my grandmother that I wished she were my mom. She would laugh in her soft way and tell me that I was silly for saying that, though looking back I wonder if she had been pleased to hear that from me. My wish made sense to me as a child: my mother was emotionally abusive and yelled at me all the time, whereas my grandmother practiced nurturance and compassion in every moment, so of course I would want my grandmother to have more years to live and to raise me over my biological mother. I question now whether my younger self felt life’s unfairness while making that statement. Why did the universe give me such a horrible mother when it could have given me my grandmother as my mother instead?
I felt a somewhat similar sense of unfairness this past Mother’s Day weekend, about a week and a half ago. The Thursday and Friday prior to that weekend I ended my clinical internship and my therapy relationships with clients I had seen for almost two years. In reflecting on how my grandmother’s nurturance influenced my giftedness as a therapist, I felt a sense of loss and sadness and anger for all the people who have also experienced child abuse without having someone in their lives like my grandmother. To this day, I wonder about the Thomas I could have become without my grandmother’s influence. Would I have turned out less caring and confident in my femininity, more fueled by ambition to achieve and more adherent to toxic masculinity? Though I consider my mother’s presence in my life unjust, I also find it unjust that I got the opportunity to bask in my grandmother’s kindness while many others do not have a similar source of healthy attachment growing up.
The Thursday and Friday I ended with my most recent clinical caseload, most if not all of my clients thanked me for my active listening, nonjudgmental understanding, and ability to provide tangible coping strategies and new perspectives without enforcing a strict or rigid path to healing. Upon departing with this most recent caseload, I felt so appreciative of these folks’ willingness to share their deepest struggles and joys with me, both their trauma and experiences of oppression and their healing and resistance. Though I have struggled in the past to honor my strengths as a clinician, I feel more comfortable doing so by acknowledging how much my grandmother set the stage for me to practice unconditional positive regard and nurturance. When these folks thanked me for what I brought to our therapeutic relationships, in my head I felt that they thanked her, too.
I talked about this theme of helping others with my therapist the other day. I had made some offhanded comments about how I write on this blog, and she pointed out how I tend to minimize the extent to which this blog may have a positive impact on other people, despite the several kind messages I have received from a diverse range of folks throughout this blog’s history. Though it feels odd to give myself a pat on the back for
over-disclosing about my life on the internet as well as how I have unfortunately not found a top/vers man of color with his life together to rail, I mean have a healthy relationship with me writing this pretty informal blog, I also feel that I can dedicate this blog at least in part to my grandmother’s memory. I hope that my writing has encouraged folks to practice self-compassion as well as to critique dominant oppressive structures such as amatonormativity and white supremacy.
I talk from time to time with one of my best friends about how we have lost the mother figures in our lives at a pretty young age. Though I miss my grandmother, I do not often experience sadness about her death because I still feel her with me in all the caring activities I do. It is unfair and unjust that not all kids have access to a healthy and supportive relationship growing up, and I am doing my best to counteract that through my clinical work, mentoring, teaching, friendships, writing, and more. A couple of academics have said that if I am serious about an academic career, I should give up my clinical work because it would reduce my focus on research publications, teaching, and grants. However, I’m respectfully disregarding that feedback because clinical work is congruent with my values and my grandmother’s legacy. By focusing on my value of providing compassion, I can tune out all the other distractions – men, awards, thinness or lack thereof – and prioritize what I have always wanted, to make a difference in people’s lives just like my grandmother and other supports have done for me.
How have you coped with what unfairness in life, or grief? General reactions to this post? Until next time!