Episode 53

Did you ever pinky swear when you were a little girl? That promise was binding like a mortgage. The only way out was death!

You pinky swore to hold someone accountable because you don’t have to be alive long to figure out people make promises they don’t keep—even to protect children.

So when you were mishandled and left to fend for yourself, you pinky swore you wouldn’t let that happen again. But that’s a promise to the little girl in you you’ll have to break—so you can live and love those God gives you.

Grab a journal and something warm to drink and join me for Episode 53: Let Your Guard Down.

The Motherhood Unmasked podcast with Vanessa A. Harris Episode 53 Let Your Guard Down

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Let Your Guard Down

Hi there. If you’re a mom dealing with the challenge of raising kids while battling the effects of your childhood trauma—this podcast is for you.

A friend of mine has a granddaughter who is adorable. She’s sweet, spicy and smart as a whip, with a smile that will melt any heart.

And now that she’s walking, she plays a little hard to get. She took a while to give me a hug last time we met and when I didn’t expect it; she ran up to me with the biggest smile.

Actually, she ran into me and, unfortunately, she ran smack dab into my chunky butterfly pendant. She pulled back and looked at me, stunned, reading my face to gauge her own response. Then, without a sound, she turned to resume her favorite show, patting her face to make sure it was all there.

A few moments later, she ran towards me with a big smile, then suddenly she stopped mid-stride. All traces of her smile disappeared.

She remembered the pain, associated it with hugging me, and decided to keep her distance.

And when you think about growing up in a home where the people you ran to in joyful anticipation, assaulted you with cruel words, physically tormented you, sexually abused you or flat out neglected you instead, it’s no wonder you learned to keep your distance. Pain taught you to keep your guard up.

Trust became associated with pain and you figured it’s safer to stay to yourself.

I don’t remember making that conscious decision after learning my godbrother’s behavior in response to my little girl crush on him was very wrong. But I remember deciding I needed to pay more attention and take better care of myself because if not me, then who else would?

I believed it’s up to me to not to get taken advantage of again. And while that inner vow seemed logical, it’s an inadequate solution to a complex problem a young girl shouldn’t have to navigate alone.

And if you made a similar vow as a child, the little girl in you keeps it like a pinky swear. She holds the grown up you to it as well—even subconsciously.

So since a person caused you pain, you need to protect yourself, your heart, from people. The problem is when you attempt to close yourself off from pain, you also close yourself off to possibility.

The possibility of connecting with someone in life giving relationship that builds you up instead of tears you down. And can we talk about how draining it is to stay guarded? It takes so much energy to stay on high alert, trying to decode someone’s intentions.

But I’ve learned that just like hurt comes through people, so does healing.

And don’t be surprised if it takes counseling to help fine tune your antenna to spot healthy people instead of always assuming the worst and preparing for it.

Because if you’re going to live the abundant life God has for you, you need company along the way. We’re not meant to do life alone.

And as a military spouse, I know how that can easily compound your isolation. When our boys were toddlers, I enjoyed a network of friends around my age at the church my husband and I were married in.

But once we started moving every two or three years, getting my family settled was the priority. Constantly making new friends is challenging, especially if you don’t live near the base, much less on it. So if there’s a spouse’s club on base, consider getting to know other women you at least have military life in common with.

Because it wasn’t until we retired that I realized how accustomed I’d become to being alone. Sure, I thoroughly enjoy my own company, but this introvert needs to come up for air too. I need to stay open to the possibility of relationships that bless me and balance out the memories of experiences that didn’t.

I think about a miracle concerning a man named Lazarus. Jesus raised him from the dead, but by the time Jesus showed up, Lazarus had been dead four days.

Family and friends buried him by shutting him in a cave behind a huge stone.

But when Jesus came, he had those same people move the stone away from the cave before he raised Lazarus from the dead.

Childhood traumatic events have a way of draining your soul till you move through life as a shell of who you were or could be. Then, to add insult to injury, you feel isolated by the shame and the lie that nobody cares what happened to you. And while the isolation is painful at first, you embrace the wall because it protects you from others who may hurt you.

But you’re alive behind that wall and you deserve to live.

And I know what you may be thinking. Why would you want to ask the people who used and abused you to move the stone their actions made possible?

Because even if you did ask, they wouldn’t take responsibility for what they did to you. I totally understand how you feel.

And while it would be right for them to take responsibility for what they did, they may never do so, which would still leave you at their mercy, like you were as a child.

But what if what you really need is anyone who will acknowledge the wrong, validate your pain and see there’s more to you than what happened to you?

What if those people wanting to free you from your numb existence moved the stone that keeps you stuck, clearing the path to your soul’s restoration?

Because God has better in store for you.

That’s why he gave you your own family to love and be loved by. He wants you to be alive to them and to all he’s planned for you. But it takes risk.

Will you let down your guard, to let safe people be part of your healing? I know it’s not easy because there are no guarantees. People are messy to deal with—but they’re also a blessing.

But you can only experience the blessing part when you let your guard down.

If you’d like more food for thought on this topic, check out the show notes for this episode at motherhoodunmasked.com/episode53.

I hope this episode encouraged you to be open to better, but it’s no replacement for someone trained to help you process your traumatic childhood experiences. Someone to help you identity safe people to let down your guard with.

So stop by motherhoodunmasked.com for help on your healing journey. You’ll find all kinds of resources, from articles and books by licensed therapists, to websites to search for a trauma therapist, to journals and other books I’ve published regarding the truth about God’s heart towards you.

I hope you stop by and check them out.

But before you go, I want you to know how important you are to your children even if you feel like you’re not doing this mom thing right.

Your kids have no idea how you fight your past to give them the nurturing and support you didn’t receive as a child. And they don’t know to thank you for persevering when you feel completely overwhelmed.

So I applaud you for listening to this podcast, for time you’ve spent working through your thoughts and feelings, for reaching out for help and being open to growth.

It’s not about being “the perfect mom,” but about being as healthy and present as you can.

So until next time, please remember. When it comes to being the mother of your children, you’re still the woman for the job. I’m rooting for you. Take care.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast should not be taken as medical advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your health care professional for any medical questions.

Food for Thought…

Your little girl vow to protect yourself served your survival but it doesn’t serve your revival. As long as you believe your safety lies behind the stone, you remain closed off from truly living.

The adults in your family left the little girl in you feeling unsafe, but you can be the adult who addresses it by the power of perspective. You can see in retrospect

God sets the lonely in families (like the blessing of your husband and children). And a brother is born for adversity. Maybe you didn’t have a relative to walk with you through your traumatic past. But there are people who relate to you because of your story or they’re intrigued by the real you hiding behind that stone.

They may not be great in number, but they’re great in quality and they’re out there. Will you agree with me on that? Thought I’d share with you the song, “Protector,” by Kim Walker-Smith about the protection she enjoys in spite of what her history shouts at her.

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