We Become What We’ve Been Taught

Over the years the philosopher in me pondered on how we become who we are and what does it tell us about where we are supposed to go with our life. When I was much younger, I studied Astrology with two close friends. We became convinced we were whatever our Astrology charts showed. Then we contemplated reincarnation. What if we had been here before in another body? What if it had brought bits and pieces forward into our current life? Ah! Now we were part of our astrological makeup and also part of our past lives’ makeup.  Having already been through the throes and bends of life the three of us at the wise age of early twenties decided to eliminate any religious leanings we’d been taught. We also were blind to the contribution that environment and DNA played. That would come later. All three of us had been married to domestic violence partners.  Two of us had been raised Roman Catholic. I had wanted to be a nun when I was younger. One of us had been a Jehovah’s Witness. Two of us had run away from home. One of us had a father who was an alcoholic and beat his wife. All three of us had been raised in a repressive and patriarchal religion that was rampant with child sexual abuse. One of us had a father who was a sexual perpetrator, raping his young daughter at the age of 13 and initiating five years of sexual and physical brutality.

Based on our search, our analyzing, scrutinizing, reading, speculating and discussing at length we finally came to a semblance of the truth. None of the above were who we were and maybe all of them were. It would take many years of introspection on the part of all three of us to determine the answers to the questions we sought. One of us became a minister, one graduated Cumma Sum Laude in her early sixties, putting the other two of us to shame, one went on to become a published author and started a movement. Two of us died of cancer, one of them documenting her journey and putting her thoughts on the Internet so her friends could watch the journey she was going through and share in the path she was taking as she slowly slipped away from us. We had been best friends for 58 years and my agony over her loss drove me to my knees. Before she left, I begged her to show me a sign that she was on the other side waiting for me. Weeks passed with no sign. Finally, one day, I felt her speaking to me. She asked me to look in a small gold box in my jewelry box that I hadn’t looked at in years. I was annoyed. What was that going to prove? I opened it up and there in tissue paper lay a gold charm that said #1FRIEND. I had put it away years earlier afraid to wear it as it was so delicate and had forgotten about it. I broke into tears.

The other, a friend of many decades, as she lay dying, promised to meet me at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ after she had dropped her body. I went to the Chapel many times always looking for my minister friend. She never showed up.

All three of us had been sexually abused in our early teens. Only one us went through a recovery program and returned to the religion of her childhood. That was me. My other two dear friends carried bitterness and shame, confusion and loss for many years. Destructive emotion turned inward causes disease. The three of us had been taught that abuse brings shame, that being raised by abusers meant we chose abusers for mates, that we had become what we were taught. But somewhere in the force of life, in the harshness and the fury we had endured we learned kindness as an antidote to hatred, understanding as a talisman to abuse, spirituality as a heart to cling to, loyalty for those we loved and so much more. We were strong; we were independent; we had an insatiability for life and a curiosity about death. In the meshing and mingling of our past and our present, our sorrows and our joys we found that underneath all of the sadness was a strength woven into our fibers, a wisdom laced into our souls and we now know we are what we’ve been taught and that everything that happened to us contributed to who we became.

My friend of 58 years who chronicled who journey about dropping her body at the agony of cancer left behind a poem as she lay dying:

Oh what a soothing place to be

This vat of unfamiliarity

Where silence is awesome

The self a delight

Where the heart is full

What a soothing place to be

This vastness that’s inside of me

It surrounds me

And engulfs me

This bliss of all eternity,

Oh what a soothing place to be,

The self has become a reality.

We will all three one day be together again, discussing philosophy and the meaning of being, knowing our sorrow and our problems contributed to the totality of who we are.

  • In honor of Peggy Knight and Debbie Marks who lost their lives because of child sexual abuse. Peggy had been sexually abused by her maternal grandfather, her mother and her mother’s sisters had all been sexually abused by that same grandfather, their father. The wife of that grandfather and all of her daughters and one granddaughter, Peggy, had all been victims of cancer. The horror of child sexual abuse travels through generations looking for more victims.

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