I'm the fourth of 6 kids, with 5 years on either side of me, so I'm definitely the middle child--in terms of chronology and personality stereotypes--and I LOVE my brothers and sisters. The longer that I'm out of the house (5 years and counting...) the more I continue to forget the petty fights we used to have. Yet, the guilt of my overreactions, hateful comments when I was angry, or my attempts at physically maiming any of them, still remains.
Specifically with the two younger than me, I distinctly remember--daily, and for many years--asking God to forgive me for being mean to them...the vivid memories of those prayers begin when I was 8. I don't remember a lot of the things I "did", but I remember feeling like I couldn't keep up with my own desire to be a good sister. Every night I would feel bad and want to do better, and yet, the next day I would always feel the same as I had the day before.
A few years ago, I served a mission for my church in Curitiba, Brazil, and during that time away, I kept a journal. In it I wrote about my experiences with the people I was growing to love and serve, so far away from my home. At the same time, however, I wrote about my family--I wrote about how much I missed them and longed to be with them, and how seeing so many broken families in the world was helping me appreciate the love in and value of my own. Even though I was very distant from my siblings, the longer I was away from them the more my heart ached to be with them. In this journal I began my healing; it helped me overcome feelings of hurt and personal inadequacy caused by our struggles so many years before.
My experience during the photo shoot was vulnerable because at first I felt like I didn’t really “deserve” to be there. My life has had few visible problems, unlike so many. But while going through the Hozho experience, I realized it wasn’t about that—that any part of my story would be valuable to discuss and to open up about. I was able to gain some kind of peace as I was able verbalize and articulate things that had previously just been swimming around in my heart and mind.
There is no miraculous end to the story of my guilt. Sometimes the shame comes back when I think about it, but mostly I'm overwhelmed by compassion and forgiveness for my 8-year-old self, love for my little brother and sister, and feelings of love and gratitude towards God, who I know saw the intentions of my pure heart throughout this entire journey. The passage of time has helped to heal me, as I have learned to be realistic in my expectations of myself and ask for forgiveness when I wrong others. My now almost grown-up "little" brother and sister are real people with personalities and strengths, and I have put my energy into current and living relationships with each of them.