Learning to Become Whole Again – Part 2

Learning to Become Whole Again Part 2 by Evelyn Watkins

My Root

Last week we looked at the first part of becoming whole versus healing in Part 1 of this series. If you haven’t read it yet, you can here: Learning to Become Whole Again – Part 1

This week, we’re looking at my own root and how I learned and am learning to overcome my own conditioned responses.

My Birthday

My mom was hospitalized when I was six years old. She slipped into a coma and remained in a vegetative state until 1987, when she died at age forty-seven. My Aunt Eunice and Uncle Wilbur took care of me and my brother Scott following my mom’s hospitalization. On June 10, 1973, I turned seven and my Aunt Eunice had baked my very first cake.

There was to be no fanfare, no friends over or the like, but a wonderful celebration of me. It was a first. She hummed through the house as she prepared lunch and set the bright beautiful packages on the dining room table.

This experience was indeed a contrast from the forgotten birthdays with my own natural mother.

I don’t know if it was the oppression of her mental illness, personal poverty, or simply a disdain for unnecessary functions such as parties but such childhood festivities were not an early memory.

But this day, I was remembered. In fact, my aunt went through the trouble to discover that my birthday was not the day my mom had listed in school records and the like, but in fact was eleven days earlier. My aunt was the kind of woman who had cookies and milk waiting for you when you came home from school. She oozed “momminess” and was unapologetic in her actions.

The day was set and all was well…wonderful in fact. It was just about lunchtime when my Uncle Wilbur returned home and had a guest with him. Who was it? Was it the person he was yelling at on the telephone earlier? Yes, actually it was. It was my father. He looked a little battered with help from my Uncle Wilbur. Seems he wasn’t too interested in showing up for my birthday lunch so my Uncle thought he would provide some encouragement.

He awkwardly attempted to offer well wishes and made some excuse for forgetting my birthday. “Who cares?” I thought. He never remembered my birthday. His tousled hair and bruised face only reminded me how forgettable I was. More importantly, he demonstrated that it would take a brawl to bring about a forced birthday blessing which obviously was insincere.

Still Forgotten

On June 10, 1975, I was in fourth grade at Woodland Street Elementary School. I was living with my second foster parent who was a single twenty-five-year-old woman. My foster mom was not the kind of woman who allowed neighborhood or school friends to come to her home.

In fact, I lived with her for six years and never had a friend over to visit. She did the best she knew considering she had no children. She was not one to forget purchasing a gift but was not the kind to fool with the silliness of cakes, balloons, and the like. Knowing this, you can imagine my joy during fourth grade.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Adamitis, was tall with mousy brown hair and a long nose with a bump in the middle. She wasn’t a particularly striking woman and she didn’t have a memorable personality. But she did have a wonderful array of activities she used to engage and celebrate the children in her class. My favorite: birthday celebrations.

In Mrs. Adamitis’s class, birthdays meant something.

You see, on the student’s birthday, she’d have a child request the company of the birthday child to the water fountain. When they left, we’d turn out the lights, and Mrs. Adamitis would take out a Drakes Cake cupcake with one candle, and a specially purchased story from the “Golden Book” collection. Obviously these two items may have cost little more than a dollar at the time. But the celebration was about your peers treating you special all day, singing happy birthday to you, and knowing your teacher chose a book that you personally would love.

Well, Friday, June 10, 1975, was my birthday. I watched this birthday process all year long. Student after student relish in this time of honor and celebration. Today was the last day of school. It would be all about me. I looked in the mirror a few extra minutes: checked my two pigtails, made sure I had Vaseline on my lips and knees, and wiped my dress shoes. I wanted to look as dreamy as I felt.

I couldn’t stop beaming when I got to school. I couldn’t imagine who she would use to lure me from the classroom. As the hours dragged on, my anticipation escalated. School dismissed at 3:00 and it was 1:30 and no water fountain break, no cupcake, no book. Could it be? Could she have forgotten my birthday?

I confided in my friend Elani Karkaseni. I shared my hurt and disappointment. She offered some leftover snack in her lunchbox. I said no, I wasn’t hungry. I wanted my celebration, my book, and my song. We lined up for a farewell program in the auditorium. After we found our seats, I saw Elani telling Mrs. Adamitis that she forgot my birthday. She looked over at me a bit distraught and I simply turned away. She then coasted to the music director and whispered something in her ear.

After the final announcements and pronouncement of summer vacation, the music teacher spoke gleefully into the microphone, “There’s a special girl who we need to remember with a very special song. Join me as we sing Happy Birthday to Evelyn.” And there you go, the song was sung. Yet, it did not change the fact that I indeed was forgotten.

Not a Priority

If I had not underscored this experience in my life, it would be very easy to allow myself to become someone’s afterthought. A forgotten item on someone’s checklist. I did what I always did which was pretend that I didn’t care. Lie and tell my friends that I had some over-the-top birthday party with every imaginable gift a kid could want. The truth was, I figured out that I really wasn’t important. Not a priority and not worth the trouble of a cupcake and a book.

You see, for me, it wasn’t about the value of my teacher’s gifts. Frankly I’m sure my foster mom would have given me something that valued at least the stipend the Department of Social Services gave for a child’s birthday ($15.00). It was the value of celebration. The joy of hearing my peers rejoice in me. The thunderous laughter, the “make a wish” shouts. The value of someone remembering not because they were given a stipend or felt a sense of obligation but simply because the object of their remembrance was also the object of their affection.

On His Mind

I remember the first time I read Psalms 8:4 with disbelief:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?

It penetrated my heart like a fine scalpel. That the creator of the universe was mindful of me. I, Evelyn, was on His mind. He had the world to manage, yet He still pondered me.

Sometimes when we hear the truth concerning the Creator’s affinity toward us, we expect an immediate transformation. Not so. Even now, I am quite nonchalant concerning my own birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and the like. I never projected my weak expectations onto others, however, I can be cynical concerning the relevance of such days. This response is merely an effort to cover up the truth; being forgotten hurts.

Moreover, my true growth had to come as others reached out to me. There have been many over the years who have displayed their love and generosity toward me through gifts, honorary events, or most difficult for me, written notes. As these sentiments were extended, I had great difficulty receiving them. I had become a very generous giver, which was critical for my wholeness, but still wasn’t able to receive the love and affirmation I needed because I had told myself that I didn’t care about people, what they thought of me, or if they thought of me at all. This was a source of pain for me and hence, an important experience to learn from. I would not grow from mere reflection but acknowledgment. My acknowledgment would begin as a result of writing. Thus the process begins.

How About You?

What is your process for getting over the hurts of the past? How are you managing to overcome the conditioned responses of your own life? Let me know in the comments below or send me note at my website at www.EvelynWatkins.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to learn more about breaking free from your past and becoming whole you can pre-order Evelyn Watkins book, The Calloused Soul at: Amazon • Barnes and Noble • Books-A-Million • ChristianBook.com and other fine bookstores!

Evelyn Watkins About Evelyn Watkins

Evelyn Watkins is a dynamic conference speaker, trainer, life coach and mentor, whose extensive personal development experience has separated her from her business contemporaries. Finding her first footing in the inspirational arena, Evelyn has grown and evolved into a highly sought after life coach, corporate development liaison and captivating speaker. You can find out more at www.EvelynWatkins.com