• Cindy Mundahl

Othering Ourselves

I love a good memoir. I enjoy the insights into other people’s lives, how they interpret their experiences and how they’ve grown throughout their time on this earth. I’m grateful to the people that put their pain, humiliation and failures onto the page for everyone to see. I most enjoy learning how they turn their pain into joy and contentment. The human struggle is so captivating to me, especially as I age and attempt to embrace my own past. I most appreciate the little nuggets of truth that fall out of people’s stories and land in my heart where they often mingle with my own uncomfortable experiences, softening them in the process.

We often talk about how our culture ‘others’ people or singles them out for being different or nonconforming. Othering acts to alienate people who act or appear to be different than those in the mainstream in what I can only imagine is an attempt to make them conform because their differences make conformists uncomfortable. It’s difficult for people to live on the margins of society. We know this because of the many brave individuals who have shared their stories of what it’s like to live on the margins. Countless people have described feelings of alienation, oppression, discrimination and worse as a result of simply trying to live their lives as their truest selves. Instead of embracing people for their individual expressions which add so much texture and joy to the world, we force them to the edges of society and out of our sight so we don’t have to face our own discomfort and pain.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about what happens when we other ourselves. What if we are the ones that feel discomfort about our own truths and as a result, push ourselves to the margins of our own being? As I’ve been doing inner work around my past, I’ve come to realize that there are instances that I other myself. There are parts of my past that I’m uncomfortable with at a deep level and the longer they remain unaddressed and unresolved, I find that I drift further away from myself and toward disconnection. At the root of this othering is shame, I believe, shame that is so deep that it has become internalized to the extent that I believe it to be immutable.

As the saying goes, I am sometimes my own worst enemy. If I believe the othering of members of society to be wrong and unjust, why do I perpetrate the same act onto myself? I believe it’s because I believe that other people couldn’t possibly identify with certain parts of my story, or accept them if they knew them. This brings me back to memoirs and sharing our stories. There have been times over the past few months where I’ve been grappling with these tangled parts of my past that give me angst only to have someone else's truth land on my heart and tug me closer to myself because I realize that my experience isn’t entirely unique. I feel less other and it’s because someone dared to share their truth and often because of this gift, I'm able to find a path to reconnecting with myself.

I’m grateful to the person who shared their story without ever knowing where it might land or the impact it may have. Perhaps they shared their truth in an effort to be free of its hold over them, or maybe they did intend to whisper it out into the universe hoping it would find someone who needs it in the moment. Regardless, it’s a gift. Having been the recipient of these intimate gifts, I know their power and I hope in revealing some of my own truths that they too will find the soul that needs them in the moment. I believe this is the core of human connection, sharing our stories so that we know at a fundamental level that we are all connected. We can rise above the painful parts of our past by shedding light on them and when we are ready, by gently lofting them into the world and hoping they land where they are most needed. With the guidance of the Universe, they may offer someone connection even though we may never know who will pick them up and hold them close to their heart.

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