My daughter went out of her way to befriend a co-worker not long ago. She was constantly expressing concern about her friend’s tendency to clam up in a passive aggressive way over small perceived “slights” and sometimes just…for no real reason at all.
After a series of episodes and attempts to talk things out with her friend, my daughter finally even sought expert advice, so concerned was she that her friend might need more help than she could offer.
Yesterday, after yet another round of cold shoulders and terse, almost brusque responses to my daughter’s greetings and attempts to find out what she’d done wrong, her new “friend” posted a little Facebook diatribe about how my daughter had taught her that some people just couldn’t be trusted. Soon after, several of the “friend’s” pals and family members responded by offering to beat down my daughter if asked.
It was right about then that the helicopter mom in me rose up. As a former assistant principal, I know that such threats are covered under the Arizona assault and harassment laws. I had my daughter do a screenshot and monitor the thread for the rest of the day. There were very few entries after the first flurry.
She’s lucky, that “friend” of hers. Mama don’t play that.
But my daughter, who inherited her Hopi father’s serene demeanor and forgiving behavior, despite being deeply wounded by this betrayal, insisted that I say and do nothing. Everyone who knows her has watched her repeatedly befriend people she felt an affinity for, only to be treated rather shabbily in the end. Some used her to get things they wanted. Others just enjoyed toying with her because she was such an easy target.
She seems to be a magnet for broken young things seeking victims that make them feel powerful. They don’t see her cry. They don’t see her trudge off to work, shoulders hunched as if anticipating the punch in the gut that’s coming.
I try to remember, as I watch this, that she is, as she constantly reminds me, 26-years-old. That she should be allowed to handle her own business. That if I don’t let her handle her own business she may never learn how.
When do you stop feeling that knot in your gut, when life does your “baby” wrong? Never, probably.
I had to meditate on this for most of the day. And I finally came upon this quote from Wayne Dyer:
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
And I also thought back to the beautiful, peaceful countenance of my daughter’s Hopi grandmother, Annabelle. She had a face like the sun deity—she was Sun Clan, in fact, as is my daughter.
I don’t remember ever seeing her angry. I don’t ever remember seeing her turn away anyone, including people who had said and done things that really should have made her angry.
If you arrived at her home you would be fed. If you needed anything, she would give it to you without question or any sign of doubt. If you were sad she would sit with you and talk about things that made you smile and feel glad that you’d come to her. If you were happy, she was happy for and with you.
The last thing she did in this life was make a quilt for my daughter, the “half Black/half Hopi” child of her youngest son. A child who, according to some in the tribe, wasn’t “really Hopi” because her mother wasn’t.
Annabelle didn’t play that.
And just thinking about her made me feel a wave of love and relief.
I remember talking to someone up there about how families seemed to accept whatever a family member did, no matter what. If a son stole from his parents to go buy a bottle…they welcomed him home, after, as if nothing had happened. If a daughter had cussed out her mom and run off with some ne’er do well, and come home tail between legs and with a new mouth to feed, too…ditto. In fact, usually it was Mom who hugged the stuffing out of her wayward daughter, grabbed that grandchild, and called the rest of the family to come and join the celebration, too.
I found this…extraordinary. And with the self-righteousness of many outsiders, I wondered aloud how their children would ever grow up or change their destructive patterns if they knew they were always going to be forgiven, no matter what they did.
Whoever it was I’d asked about this—there are several possible wise ones I could name—told me that this was done because life had already punished the person I perceived as a “wrong doer.” In fact, life would probably continue to punish them, if they did not learn from the troubles they’d already had.
It was therefore the family’s job to hold onto them as long as they could, in the hopes of strengthening and instructing them, so that perhaps that ongoing punishment would not be necessary. But if they continued to hurt themselves—they never said, “If they continue to hurt us”—then it was their loved ones’ job to grieve for them. And to continue to love them even unto death--and after death as well.
To rebuke someone for their behavior was the height of arrogance. That was a sacred task left to Spirit—and the katsinas and clowns who danced in the plazas. And even they made jokes about these behaviors—they did little comedic skits about the person causing turmoil. Everyone who saw them knew who that was. Including the person being lampooned. And the person being lampooned might be offered gifts, after. The “hug” after the spanking.
That…is how Hopis “play.”
I calmed gradually after my daughter’s public rebuke by someone she had tried to befriend. And went to make dinner as Annabelle would have. Dyer calls it karma. I don’t know if the Hopis have a name for it. They just know how to handle it.
Later, I would thank Annabelle in the Hopi way, in one of the few little Hopi phrases I was able to learn—devilishly difficult that language. But…you don’t have to speak it to get along up there. They love ya’ with everything they do. They love ya’ no matter what you do.
And my daughter will be loved by all of her relations, no matter what anyone does to her. And she will continue to love others as her relations have taught her to love everyone. Even when they don't seem to deserve it.
So, I guess that was the real lesson in this. For me, not my daughter. It was meant to say:
“Be still, mom. We got this.”
I hear you, Annabelle.
*Public domain photo by Edward S. Curtis