Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

The Birth of Compassion

Filed in Stories :: March 26, 2012

In today’s Nest-Making guest post in honor of women and Women’s History Month, Teresa Deak writes the story of compassion and understanding born, like so many insights and the violets in my photo, at the venerable kitchen sink.

 

Thinking about women’s history and my own personal story, flies me through the few moments I can recall, and pauses on an evening in my mother’s kitchen. I stood with my hands in dishwater, facing the window. It was not yet dark enough to reflect the two women who spoke behind me. Their exchange was only words and voices.

As with so many of my memories, I realize that while my feelings in the moment are absolutely clear, the actual words are merely a fuzzy dream.

My mother, in her usual way, did not seem to care if I was in the room or not, if I could hear them or not. Clearly, though, I was not meant to be part of the conversation.
Known for her coldness to people, my mother was the local champion of the pro-life movement. So staunchly catholic it seemed to me she worshipped her religion, not her god. When this particular moment happened, I was a teen just beginning to realize that I was being raised to care more about judgement and appearance than anything spiritual. Even then, this didn’t feel right to me.

My mother spoke with a woman who was the mother of one of my school-mates. I was fascinated by this woman who was so beautiful and deep and caring, and yet who had come to the church in her adult years. She was so unlike the other women I knew, treating me with respect and kindness despite my young age.

Curiously, I don’t recall the name she went by at that time. She later changed her name to Sophia. Wisdom.

In this conversation, Sophia opened her heart to my mother, telling the self-appointed ruler of the anti-abortion cause that she had had an abortion.
I was shocked. Shocked that Sophia would tell my unfeeling mother that she had been through the painful process of ending an unwanted pregnancy. Shocked at her courage and mystified that she would share this with her at all. Did she think she might receive sympathy or love?

I felt like there was something I should be able to do. I don’t think I even realized at the time that I wanted to hug Sophia. To hold her in my arms and let her know she is loved. And I remember hearing the steely voice of my mother. She used all of her usual arguments against the act, defining those who choose abortion as evil. Describing hell. Telling Sophia she was not worthy of the sacraments because of this unforgivable sin. Seeing only the rigid belief she could never shed, not the person who I called friend re-living her pain before her.
The thing that I realized in that moment was all that I did not want to be. I wanted to never be so much a slave to my own causes that I would ignore the pain of a friend. I wanted to never be as cold as this mother who ruled with fear. Powerless to move, bound by the rules of my mother’s house, my tears quietly dripped into the dishwater.

Thinking now, with a heart that has burst well past the childhood boundaries imposed on it, I realize that I was experiencing something that I thought would take another 20 years to learn.

Compassion.

I thought I learned this with the passing of my Yogi dog to cancer in December 2000. The warmth and caring that wells up for someone else in pain, that feeling that seemed so foreign and new in my own loss, had begun long before.

The seed of compassion was planted with my back turned to Sophia and my hands captured by dishwater. Its essence in the moment felt only as a longing and a wish that I could warm the coldness, soften the judgement offered by this woman whose genes I am loathe to admit created me.

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Teresa Deak is a Butterfly Practictioner, coaching clients through the maze of social media marketing with Butterfly Touches, sharing the Beauty in (sm)all things through her camera and her heart, and inviting us all to swim in the river of Gratitude together.

If you’re ready for a little more awe and delight in life, check out Teresa’s gorgeous Gratitude tarot deck.

Connect with Teresa:
On Twitter
On Facebook: Picsie Chick or Social Butterfly Solutions
On Pinterest

On her blogs:
Photos You Feel
Given To Gratitude
Social Butterfly Solutions

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Looking for more Nest-Making posts? You can find them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and  here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Filed in Stories

14 Comments

  1. Square-Peg Karen

    Teresa, this is such a touching post – so vulnerable and real! Thank you for sharing this story!!

    I “see” (a little inner visualization) you and Sophia in deep embrace, and then the picture morphs into a yin/yang type-thing – with you in Sophia’s heart & she in yours.

    What a courageously open-hearted child you were (not a big surprise)!

    • Teresa

      Karen! Your comment is like a beautiful big warm hug! I didn’t feel like I was very courageous….if I were, wouldn’t I have hugged her right there and then? I love your visualization! Thank you for this beautiful, calming image. I’m honoured.

      Hugs and butterflies,
      ~Teresa~

  2. Teresa

    Thank you so much for this invitation to post with such a talented group of women, Angela! Writing outside of my comfort zone brought a startling new insight and an amazing sort of freedom. And your beautiful violets photo is the perfect accompaniment!

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~Teresa~

  3. kelly

    Your heart was filled with such beauty and compassion even then, and the fact that you have managed to hold onto these traits fills me with joy. Your spirit is a gift to this world.
    xoxo

  4. Angel

    This is so beautiful Teresa… and sadly, you’re not alone in having a mother “whose genes I am loathe to admit created me”. I feel connected to you in that way. <3

    I don't really know you personally yet, but you seem to perfectly fit the saying i've seen floating around on Pinterest (paraphrasing): 'behave in such a way that, upon hearing an unpleasant rumor about you, no one would believe it to be true'. I hear such wonderful things about you… this post, from an experience in your childhood, perfectly illustrates the validity of what I hear…

  5. Teresa

    Angel, thank you so much for this! These words are the most soothing relief for the raw vulnerability that I started in today.

    When I first wrote this piece and felt so compelled to share it, I felt fierce and free. There was no way I would keep it to myself. Yet, when I read it here this morning, in full view of everyone, I was surprised at what I felt. Unsure, raw, vulnerable. To feel all of this love, all of this acceptance, all of this beauty reflected back to me, makes my heart soar in ways I can barely describe.

    I’m so glad to know you, Angel, and look forward to deepening that connection with you!

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~Teresa~

  6. Liz

    Dear beautiful Teresa, thank you for sharing this post with us. You fill my world with beauty & send butterflies when most needed. You have learned about compassion & love & share it generously.

  7. wholly jeanne

    for the life of me, i don’t think i’ll ever understand (and okay, really, i hope i don’t) why women can’t be content to live their lives the way they want to without imposing their belief systems on others. why is that not enough? (do you hear me getting my shackles up?!) this is a beautiful post, and like kelly, i’m just tickled that you managed to hold onto that openness and compassion that is obviously an inherent part of who you are. you and your butterflies spread so much love and goodness throughout this big rock we call earth.

  8. Angela

    Teresa, Thank you for sharing this part of your story here. I keep thinking about the way you understood through overhearing, while continuing the “women’s work” that had been given to you. And I’m happy that you emerged (another butterfly image!)

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