Paula J. Currie-Raymond
All of my youth I felt less than; however, I was never sure why that was. I spent a lot of time asking myself the question – never in a conscious way, but rather in the subconscious. I lived all of my youth in a neighborhood where most families were of a Franco-American background. I never felt this to be a negative because I did not see nor did I feel nor did I understand the ramifications of belonging to this culture. I was, perhaps, too naive. I always attributed my lack of companions, position w/in my group of classmates and uncomfortableness to be due to my very existence.
There were always two “me(s)” (so to speak). The one with energy, gumption, grit, determination, enthusiasm, curiosity and fun . . . and the other me – the one with self loathing, insecure, uncertain, frightened, complacent and submissive.
The first me challenged people, places and things. She saw life to its fullest potential and thrived on the possibilities. The second me conformed to all the expectations of my community, family and neighbors as well as the community at large. Here is where I allowed validation of “my place” in my small world. The second me won out more times than I can remember; subsequently, leaving me where I am today . . . still questioning, advocating for other women so their lives do not mirror mine. I work at helping them to catch the proverbial – subliminal messages that keep them at bay and from achieving what they knew they could do in kindergarten but have had drummed into their psyche, over the years, that they cannot until they too are beaten down.
Interestingly enough – and most unfortunate really, I received my negative messages directly from my inner most circle of existence – my immediate family, i.e., my mother. She made sure knew my place – my limitations – my duties – and that (for sure) I was “no better than anyone else.” She reminded me whenever I exercised my natural-innate curiosity as a child to question – learn – and grow. Today, I do not fault her for this as I understand (but do not accept) what it is she believed she had to do according to the Catholic upbringing she experienced and the humbleness with which she lived her life as well as the “cross” she had to bear living and raising a family with an alcoholic husband/father/man/bread winner/provider/lover.
It was, of course, the duty of a woman being of a Franco-American culture, good Catholic girl, wife and mother and my mother hung unto this notion with a vice-like grip and imposed this logic on her daughters – all three of us. We brought this legacy of the “ideal housewife” with us outwardly while our spirits cried for freedom.
There is so much more to write but for now this is my small contribution. The readings here has turned the kettle of sewer in my life once again. It is a good thing. It forces me to look at it and hopefully deal with it for myself.