Article

The Clay Family Room

Posted 2011-11-19

Let Go of Other’s Opinions

My first job out of college was at a program for single mothers and my responsibilities included creating life skills classes. I had no idea what that meant, but my boss gave me a curriculum about finding your “inner child” that I was supposed to teach. The first taped lecture put everyone to sleep (including me!), so I decided to add a tactile activity for the next class. After listening to the pre-requisite lecture I gave each woman a piece of cardboard, clay, and glitter (the only art supplies I could find) and asked them to create a scene from their childhood. (I wasn’t sure about this inner child idea so I thought I’d go for a more concrete activity.) They had complete freedom; it could be a positive or negative memory, and they could sculpt it anyway they pleased. After a set amount of time each woman would share about their creation.

The first woman began describing a picture-perfect moment: her parents and siblings sitting around the Thanksgiving table each sharing how grateful they were for the past year. As I sat listening my heart sank. I knew this woman’s history and it was impossible for this to have taken place. “Oh great,” I thought, “I’ll be the laughing stock of the next staff meeting: the newbie who wasted all the art supplies and most of a class!” I turned to the next woman’s scene: a big overstuffed pink chair with a yellow glittery lamp on a green table, opposite a blue TV. She shared how she would sit on her uncle’s lap every weekend, watching their favorite TV show. Just as I was about to change the focus of the activity (maybe I could still save my reputation?) she began describing in explicit detail how her uncle would molest her for hours every Saturday morning. Soon other women began sharing their own stories of incest and molestation and we spent the afternoon processing and healing their childhood wounds.

I was so focused on my co-worker’s opinions of me I almost missed this powerful experience. This week take some time to see what you’ve been missing in your own life.

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