It’s the mid-nineties and the movie, Jerry McGuire, has come out and in addition to being known for ‘show me the money’, there’s another bit about KWAN. It’s a made-up word describing everything the sports star in the movie is looking for – respect, community, dollars. Basically, KWAN is everything and more.
“What’s your KWAN?” I’m asked at dinner by Dr. Bill, a friend of the new love of my life, Greg.
I answer confidently describing my work, my graduate studies, my travels…he interrupts, “That’s not your KWAN, that’s just stuff you do.”
I stutter and stammer describing that I’m more than my work and stuff I do, I’m a friend, sister, daughter, lover.
“That’s not KWAN,” he talks over me again, “You don’t know.”
I’m really angry and want to lash out, but deep down I know he’s right. I don’t know. I have no idea what my KWAN is.
I sit there stumped and it swirls around in my head, ‘What is my KWAN and how can’t I NOT know?’
Looking back, of course I know why I don’t know. In fact, there’s absolutely no way I could know.
Looking back, I can remember the impact of my upbringing and how my mother smothered every single drop of ME out of me. There was no space for me to know anything about myself.
When I pursued things she also pursued, everything was perfect. The minute I did anything outside of her experience, it didn’t exist and therefore, I didn’t exist.
It would’ve been fine if I wanted the same things out of life that she did. But, I didn’t – at all.
I wanted to travel, succeed in my career, pursue further studies and live on my own. I wanted to dive into cultural activities, go on adventures and discover new things.
Anything outside of a white picket fence with 2.2 children within a 10-mile radius of my family home was outside of my mother’s realm and brought out the worst in her.
Memories run through my head:
- I’m 24 and travel to Australia for 8 weeks. I return and it’s as if I didn’t go. Not a single question, no looking at photo albums or telling stories.
- I get into the #1 graduate school for entrepreneurship and there’s no congratulatory moments. There’s only, “How are you ever going to meet a man if you go to school while you’re working?”
- I meet the man, Greg, the one of my dreams and we fall in love. I want to share the news that this is it. I’ve found The One. As I do I hear from her, “I’m going to commit suicide. There’s nothing for me to live for.”
Along the same subject of love and commitment, there are other remembrances:
The night of my birthday that year and my mother asks me, “Why hasn’t Greg asked you to marry him yet? He asked your father for your hand a month ago. It’s probably going to be tonight.” (It wasn’t. I had to wait a handful more days and those didn’t go well for my prospective fiancé.)
For our wedding, there are no sharing of plans with my mother, no talking excitedly about the upcoming nuptials, no pouring over images or giggling over ideas. In fact, there isn’t even a shared cup of tea.
On my wedding day (a beautiful intimate destination weekend at Castle Hill in Newport RI that Greg & I plan and fund completely), I show up in my parent’s room dressed in the gown I picked out by myself and I’m a little nervous as I hadn’t even tried the dress, veil, gloves and shoes on together until that moment. I stand there waiting for a response, my eyes shining with yearning and shyness. Her first comment lands powerfully, “Oh, you look beautiful, but your arms, they’re just so big.”
I’m shattered, obviously, but have a beautiful wedding day despite her.
But, this is the last straw.
The one that breaks the camel’s back.
I am resolute.
I’m NOT going to end up like my mother, living too small a life.
She’s so bitter, jealous and self-absorbed.
When she’s not comfortable or familiar with the choices being made, she spends her time berating, belittling and emasculating those around her.
Expending all of her energy either putting others down or propping herself up.
Wallowing in delusion and denial about who she is and how she impacts others.
I’m not going to live my life this way. Instead, I’m going to make my life bigger.
I’m going to make my life into one that I love – just for me and my own family.
I’m going to treat my future children differently. I’m going to show them that they matter. I’m going to give them the space to be themselves.
I’m going to have a loving, respectful and healthy relationship with the love of my life.
I’m going to discover my KWAN with my newly minted husband.
I’m going to find out everything I need to know to live the life I want to live.
This is a huge task, because I don’t have any idea what makes me truly happy. I can’t name the things that bring me joy.
I’ve spent my 20’s proving myself to myself and now, in my early 30’s, I’m committing to another and focusing on growing a family.
I’m going to have to figure this out for myself from the inside without changing anything on the outside.
Hmmm…this is going to be a THING.
But, I’m excited.
Actually, I can’t wait to shed all of the expectations and conditioning.
Hit reply if there’s anyone in your life who doesn’t see you? Who doesn’t let you be fully you? Who doesn’t lift you up?
Let’s have a conversation. I want to hear all the things.
P.S. Tomorrow’s tale is “Breaking the Chain for the Overlooked and Unloved”