I am currently reading the book Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. I came across some amazing words of wisdom in this book that I would like to share with you.
The book shares an African tale about Abu Kassem’s slippers. Abu Kassem is a merchant who holds onto his battered slippers even though they are in much need of repair. Each attempt to get rid of the slippers results in something bad happening to him. You can read the tale for yourself here.
In the book Cutting for Stone, a character named Ghosh has the following to say about this tale:
I never knew my father, and so I thought he was irrelevant to me. My sister felt his absence so strongly that it made her sour, and so no matter what she has, or will ever have, it won’t be enough…What I finally understood… is that neither my sister nor I realized that my father’s absence is our slippers. In order to start to get rid of your slippers, you have to admit they are yours, and if you do, then they will get rid of themselves…
I hope one day you see this clearly…The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny. ~ Cutting for Stone, p. 351
I was struck by the truth in those words, and I immediately thought about survivors of child abuse when I read them. I spent so much of my life hiding from my truths. I did not want to “own my slippers” because they were too painful. However, no matter what I did to try to rid myself of my slippers, they always returned.
Ironically, it is through “owning my slippers” that they will finally leave. I have to own the abuse, the eating disorder, the hellish childhood, etc. in order to free myself of them. I cannot pretend like these have not been a part of my life because they have. All of my “slippers” have shaped who I am today. If I try to get rid of the slippers, they will continue to return to me and shape who I am. However, if I “own” them and deal with them, then I will no longer feel the need to get rid of them.
I don’t have to have had a happy childhood to be okay today. I don’t have to change the past, which is good because I have no power to do so, anyhow. I don’t have to deny that my past happened or that I currently face challenges in my life. Instead, I need to “own” all of these facets of my life, deal with them, and recognize that my slippers do not define who I am.
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