There’s something incredibly powerful in reclaiming parts of our story.
Our whole life, we weave in our brain an ever-changing story of who we are and what the world is. Documenting our journey, through journalling, recording ourselves, or at the very least sharing it regularly with others, we train our ability to get perspective and to self-reflect, so we can change our trajectory in a way that is more fulfilling and beneficial for ourselves and others, so we can heal, individually or collectively.
If we can find in our story elements that convey to our brain and spirit the message that a lot of painful things we lived had a purpose, the pain they involved doesn’t disappear (there’s no way of doing this to my knowledge), but we can feel more whole. We can accept and love ourselves better.
This week was important to me. I participated to a summit for joyful social justice. Social justice has been a big focus of mine for the past 3 years, quite an intense ride to take. Emotionally diving into social activism always takes a toll on us, because it touches to our bond with our whole human community.
For me, it gives me a lot of answers, a lot more questions and a ton of new leads for my work as a clinical psychologist, and my place in the world.
I am mixed raced and grew up in a multicultural environment. I am a quarter Vietnamese, a quarter German and half French.
I used to participate to the Têt festival as a little girl, celebrating the Vietnamese new year, such a joyful event.
I can cook some Vietnamese staples like phó or spring rolls the way my grand father used to.
My art is filled with East Asian inspiration because I loved so much observing Vietnamese paintings in my grand parents house as a little girl.
I had a special bond with him, and despite his lack of verbosity and French vocabulary, he shared with me the origin of some strong tenants of my current way of practicing spirituality.
But for many reasons, I was never really immersed in his culture.
Because of this I never identified as a “legitimate" person of colour, a sentiment a lot of mixed raced people share, a feeling of belonging nowhere.
Having blue-green eyes and being so white-passing really didn’t help, despite some (few) people like my current partner being able to spot my origins right away.
I never identified as White either, despite being surrounded by white people my whole life, I always sensed it made me different too. Neither here nor there.
This inbetweeness is characteristic of many things in my life.
I was born and grew up in a part of France that were German for many years during the World Wars, it’s different from the rest of France and different from Germany.
I experienced different phases and kinds of privilege and marginalization in my life.
I struggled to find a place in my family, in my schools, in my jobs.
My friends were always a weird diversed bunch, because I wasn’t really identifying with any of them but their core values.
Our family struggled to have a place in the village we grew up in and in the rest of our family, because of how differently we were living.
And then I went to University, and studied psychoanalytical theories in a faculty that was a part of a very scientific aggregation of universities. We were the non-scientists among the scientists. I somehow found some immediate relief and relishing in this, it ws speaking to two big sides of me. But psychodynamic theory didn’t address at all for me many important things about humans, was too abstract and about the ideas rather than the humans.
So I left that school for another, which was teaching two different programs, one psychodynamic-centered, and the other around a more scientific approach of psychology, but both programs were overlapping : they had room for me.
They were even more eclectic in their teachings of methods to accompany people, I felt like a fish in its favorite waters. They presented me a way of doing my work that was not a rigid box, but more of a playground. How delicious! I spent one of my favourite years ever there.
Quickly after I graduated, I left for London and entered a new type of in betweenness : being an expat. I love that place, despite its innate struggles.
Suddenly, I don’t have to justify anymore why I don’t fit what people expect of me in most ways : even if that’s only a very small part of the truth, they’re usually satisfied knowing “I’m not from here” and learning that I had this “weird life". They expect us to be different. What a relief!
Coming back to this week, hearing those wonderful speakers, all being people of colour, from different nations and backgrounds, very attached to making the world a better place in their own way, while celebrating their ancestral wisdom, I suddenly realized I felt at home with those strangers, more than I felt with most people my whole life.
Those healers and helpers were my people. This, having those conversations, that way, feeling those wonderful mixed feelings, was my norm. I never felt allowed to consider myself like a person of colour, until this week. It’s so wonderful to feel newly grounded in a part of my identity that way.
With that feeling came the inner permission to step into another layer of my inner truth and power, as only true belonging can provide, and a bucket full of renewed hope.
For the past few months, I was in a fog. I spoke about it many times. I’m also grieving : my work, that has been so incredibly fulfilling for so long, doesn’t bring me joy the way it used to, and it breaks my heart. It brings me to change it in incredibly gratifying ways, but still, the pain is breath-taking sometimes.
Recently, I realized that I slowly developed a new relationship with the inbetweenness, the homelessness of my whole life. Like I was talking about in 35/100, I am feeling more and more called by conversations around the seemingly unspeakable.
After decades of avoiding conflicts, I’m very slowly relishing in productive conflicts, in creating conversations between different worlds who want nothing to do with each other, who are stuck in the illusion of a binary that doesn’t exist.
I wanted to understand them all, the “bad” and the “good”, and by exploring the extremes, trying to find a place, I found an unexpected and loving home : the middleground.
It’s a scary place to agree with everyone and no-one. Especially in a world which runs on diviseness right now. It demands so much energy and courage to speak up when you know that, no matter what, you are going to create friction. Especially when you were raised to maintain harmony, and socialized to please.
And yet, it now feels like my whole life prepared me for that phase in my life. That the in betweenness doesn’t have to be a burden anymore, or a lack of anything, but can become a superpower. I reclaimed another part of my story, and I can’t wait to see what this will unfold for me.
For me, that is a very special teaching that keeps on giving.
If you see a part of you or your life that is painful, that maybe you really don’t love, my dear hummingbird, don’t look away. Don’t run away from it. It’s here to stay, and it’s teaching you something powerful about your story. There is a way it is serving you.
Find people in your community who can help you make sense of it. Friends, colleagues, strangers. Therapists, healers, mentors. We are surrounded by teachers of all kinds. I promise you that there a piece of meaning here somewhere for you, waiting for you to surrender. Keep digging.