We Are Not The Sum Of Our Past

By Michelle Dane. Michelle lives in Colorado Springs, USA, where she helps the homeless. Please read her article and leave thoughts and comments below.

There were two things my father always told me, “When you were born did anyone ever tell you that life was going to be fair?” And, “I only married your mother to give you a name.” My mother’s two favorite confessions to me were, “You ruined my life being born,” and, “I only kept you for the child support.” I was an accident. You should have seen their surprise that, during my teen years, I was not who that had wanted me to be. Frankly, I was a teenage runaway who went off the rails.

I eventually settled in a very controlling relationship. He became a narcissist and I ended up with Stockholm syndrome. I tried to become more. I tried to grow. Each step fought with his losing control over me and me being punished for it.

I went on to help raise 14 children. But who was I? I was someone’s mother. I was someone’s wife. But I still didn’t not know who I was. Then, my husband died, and my children left home. I was nothing. Could I be more?

Michel Foucault wrote, “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”.

Did it matter who I was? Did it matter that my physical limitations made it impossible for me to keep a job? Could I shed the past of being someone who was worthless, someone who society, including my parents, thought of as trash?

I began volunteering. I made new friends in the homeless and poor community. I found they were kinder and truer friends than all the people who claimed to be my friends when I was married. I began to donate my time on Sundays to feeding the homeless at church.

Both of my parents were completely against it. This was not who they had wanted me to become. My mother wanted to know why I was wasting my time when I could be making good money. My father wanted all of my new friends to die, so that they were no longer a drain on taxpayers. I was still a disappointment.

I would take the time to sit and listen to stories the homeless and poor would tell. I learned of all the resources in the area and shared with them what I had learned. They began to call me Mama Bear.

I also pulled out my Tarot cards and began reading on the street, for free. I discovered I had a gift and a talent for using the cards to help people. I used my intuition and the truth to give people inspiration for their future. I was making a difference in these peoples’ lives.  I was for the first time in my life becoming someone. Someone I could be proud of. I was no longer the sum of my past. I was no longer the trash that no one would let me forget. I was using my past to empathize and help others. Who I had been, who I was, didn’t matter. It was who I was going to become.

I came across many Hispanic people that I could not help. I had no way of communicating with them. I tried learning Spanish but kept hitting walls. It was frustrating. They needed help and I didn’t know how to help them. I didn’t understand their culture. One elderly Hispanic lady wanted me to make her daughter pregnant. Even if I could do that, there is no way I morally would. But why would she think I could?

I decided to take a year and move to Mexico. Everyone told me it was a crazy idea. I was tired of listening to what others thought I should do. I wanted to make more of myself.

It has been 3 months.  I have immersed myself in the Mexican culture. I have learned a lot more Spanish, although I am nowhere near as fluent as I would like to be. I now understand why the lady thought I could make her daughter pregnant. Tarot readers in Latin American countries are thought of as spirits who can make their future happen, not just tell them about their future.

I still don’t know who I am exactly. I am an ever-changing person striving to do better, to make more of myself. I know however, who and what I am not. I am not trash. I am not worthless. I am not “good for nothing.”

I have made a huge change in a lot of peoples’ lives. While there is no real money in it, there is more to my worth than how much money I have in the bank.

22 comments on “We Are Not The Sum Of Our Past

  1. Skipper Fuller on

    Keep being who you are and doing what you are doing as long as it is what you want to do! You are helping people and making a difference! That matters much more than people who do nothing but criticize others and tell them that they are wrong! You are not wrong, and you are not nothing! Keep being you!

  2. Enrique Fernandez on

    I really loved what you wrote, easy to follow and intresting, God sometimes makes us go thru tough times in life, so you can experience life in a different way, because he is preparing you for a mission, that is to help like you do to others. You are a great person and I’m proud to be your friend.

  3. David K. M. Klaus on

    You have made imperfect life decisions through the length of time I’ve known you, Michelle (as if I had room to talk in this department), but you have never, *ever* been trash.

    I confess I have never understood your parents’ attitudes toward you — you’re their *daughter* and they are responsible for the beginning of your existence, not you, and I didn’t realize from this distance that your relationship with B. was so controlled and dysfunctional that you had Stockholm Syndrome.

    You have by far earned the right to stand up for yourself with pride and not be ashamed to exist. I believe you have given more than you have taken, and I know with certainty that there are people alive today who would have been dead long before now if not for you.

    This was brave writing, to admit to such vulnerability, but you have been brave your entire life in dealing with the hand you were dealt. That you are now becoming the dealer of your own cards for yourself is a sign of maturity and wisdom painfully gained.

    The world is better for your existence in it.

  4. Teresa Harris on

    You are an inspiration for me…I am 58 I still feel like a duck out of water lots of times…I feel like I am never good enough…You are helping others and accomplishing a tremendous lot…I would be very proud of you as my daughter…You are very worthy dear!! God bless you for all you do.

  5. Mary Amber Jorgensen on

    You are not alone in disappointing your parents. That you have moved beyond what they, and then your husband, wanted, shows your strength. You should always do what you feel is right, not what someone tells you is right. Nobody knows what is right for you except you. You have a tremendous amount of courage, and you can and are an inspiration to others.

  6. Barry Gold on

    This was a very well-written piece. I wasn’t sure at the start whether it was fiction or autobiographical, but the comments seem to indicate autobiographical.

    You had a horrible childhood and marriage. I’m glad that you’ve been able to go beyond it.

    • Michelle Weisblat-Dane on

      Thank you for your support. I appreciate it greatly. I will never be 100% but I am working beyond it with the help of people like you.

  7. Ed Glaser on

    I, feel overwhelmed… By, “what you have written”… So… Let me “just say”: “Life! Is about change!” (And… “That which doesn’t kill us! Makes us stronger!”)

    Good luck…

  8. Rachel Heslin on

    This is lovely. I think what I love best about it is that the story isn’t over. So many essays seem to follow a protocol of, “Life was terrible, but now everything is great.” The way you present it feels far more real. Life is messy. Life is a process. You may not know who you are, but you have reclaimed your narrative and your journey, and that is a very powerful way to live. <3

    • Michelle Weisblat-Dane on

      Thank you. One of the things I used to stumble across in my writing is just that. My life hasn’t ended. The story doesn’t have an end. Then I found out it’s ok. A story doesn’t have to have an end.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletter!