This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night, the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Never were any words written that rung more true to me, words I have heard my whole life--words that were so difficult to live by.
I grew up in a world where people pleasing was the norm. In the Latin culture, to please your man is the norm, to eat beyond your means was something that was polite, and to respect your parents is a requirement no matter what.
This was especially true one memorable Thanksgiving when I was a child growing up in New York. As was our tradition, we had our own family Thanksgiving at our house. It was delicious, as always. My mother was an amazing cook. We had turkey with Puerto Rican rice and beans, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams and veggies, and all sorts of goodies with my mother’s amazing homemade apple pie at the end as the coup de grace. It was epic. We were stuffed beyond a stuffed turkey and then my mother announced it was time to go to Tia Blanca’s house.
After much moaning and groaning we were on our way. Tia Blanca, being the sweet auntie she was, had prepared another full on Thanksgiving dinner that we were supposed to eat. I was about 8 and eating another Thanksgiving dinner was not something I wanted to do, especially when I was so full. Still my mother insisted, giving us the evil eye when we balked. We all struggled to eat Tia Blanca’s delicious meal, and when we still had a hard time my Aunt began to cry, wailing,” No one likes my food!”
I quickly tried to cram food in my mouth. I could not put one more bite in my mouth. She was still crying and I felt awful. I remember us kids thinking it was so weird that a grown up was crying about someone not eating their food, even after our mother had explained to her that she had fed us earlier.
Fast forward twenty-five years to another Thanksgiving when I was struggling in my marriage. Our washing machine had broken that day and I had a ton of laundry to do. I was also cooking Thanksgiving dinner and guests were coming.
My oldest was helping me out and we were both panicking. Meanwhile, my ex was lying on the couch, watching us all run around, working. My daughter, completely irritated and frustrated at him, asked him to please help. His response was classic. He said, "No, because I’m king of the house.” We both we’re speechless, but not wanting to cause a scene I bit my tongue and tried to be a good hostess.
Later that night in my garage, as I was duking it out with him, I wondered to myself how I did I ever got myself in such a mess. Later on in therapy I began to work on my codependency and it’s origins. I was able to see how my culture, among other things, influenced me not always in the best way. As I learned boundaries, I began to learn the wisdom of those words, “To thine own self be true."
If it isn’t true to me, it won’t be true to anyone else. I learned to eat, not to please others and certainly not to explosion level, and I left that marriage ending his royal highness's reign of tyranny. After all the only reigning monarchy in my home will be me.
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