Just A Four Letter Word
As there are many words that I love, that I have written about that move me and imbibe a certain feeling or attitude within me, there are other words that do the exact opposite. One of them and perhaps the greatest of offensive words is the word, “Just”. I have used this seemingly benign word countless times throughout my life until I found it hard to form the sounds that made up this word. I wasn’t sure why it bothered me so much, such a simple word but its connotation reached way further than it’s seemingly simplistic nature. Confused? I was too, let me explain.
What I am speaking about is the way, without realizing, we excuse who we are. We minimize our importance; we excuse our existence, with a four-letter word, “just”.
Before I was aware of my own demise, or perceived demise in life, I had a bad habit of excusing my presence. Moving out of the way for those who had much more important work to do in life, that had a purpose here on earth, that contributed. I wasn’t aware of this behavior, of course, just didn’t want to be a bother.
The introduction or the awareness began years ago with my name, Berta. Of course, if I had grown up in a Spanish-speaking country this would not have been an issue since Berta is a very common name but here it was not so common. So, when someone would ask my name I would say Berta, and they would always say, oh is that short for Roberta? And I would say, no it's “just” Berta. I was “just” Berta for years. It’s surprising “they” didn’t begin calling me “Just”. I would always then explain that it was a Spanish name and sounded much prettier if said with a rolled “r”, as I would promptly demonstrate to the oohs and aahs of how much nicer and acceptable the name sounded.
At times I would just allow them to think that my name was Roberta, it just seemed easier that way. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing, and how little “they” actually cared what my name was and how it was pronounced in any other country, yet for some reason I continued to call myself “Just”. Then, years later when I was married, I recall the “Just” word creeping up on me in yet another form, the first still existed but I didn’t realize it could reproduce so easily, especially since I dislike the use of it in any way connected to my name, although I still used it often enough I had gotten accustomed to the ritual of my initial introductions. Until….. I was newly married and my husband was an advertising executive, this is a world that at times can get a little cut-throat, and unbeknownst to me the social ladder climbing was all too new and slightly interesting since of course I had nothing to do with it. So, one day I found myself at a “business party”, wish they called it what it really was, would have stayed home, at least in those days I would have. But, naive “Just,” me thought it would be fun to dress up and go out and rub some elbows, who knew?
Well, early on at the party I could see that something was amiss. My husband at that time, quickly scurried away from me to do what everyone there had come to do, find the important people and hang with them. I didn’t realize what the game was and naively walked up to a few people and introduced myself, after my initial introduction of “Just Berta’s” past, it appeared there was another level. So, what do you do Just Berta? Oh, well, I do a few different things and began to rattle off a few of my most impressive achievements up till that point in life, only to look back into eyes that were scanning the room for someone more impressive. “So you’re not in the business?” “Oh, no… I’m just Domingo’s wife, there it was, my new name. There they went, off to find a “better” person to spend their time speaking to. Eventually, I just stopped going to these parties.
Years had passed and children came, we made the decision that I would stay home and raise them and I felt proud to do so, until…. I received my new name. Who knew how many names one can accumulate in the span of a life? As was inevitable, I was yet to receive the worst name of all, or better yet, I was yet to give myself the worst name of all because I do understand that no one else was labeling me except for myself. I clearly was having a hard time understanding who I was and owning that person regardless of what anyone else thought or did.
I understand now that a lot of my own self-abuse and loathing was because I didn’t allow myself to be proud of my accomplishments. Society doesn’t always support some of the decisions I made in life and women didn’t support these decisions either but worse of all, I think that I did not support my own decisions, I must have felt like a “just” since I continued to call myself that. But, the “Just” name that most of you will affiliate yourselves the most with is the next one. When you have made that decision to be….” Just a stay-at-home Mom”. How many times did I call myself by this name? Every time someone would ask, “So, what do you do?” “Oh, I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
Just!!!!! I knew when I said it the first time that it didn’t go over well, people judged you for this decision, a decision that I believe and strongly support any woman or man who chooses to raise their own children because they feel strongly within them that it is the right thing for you to do. I support anyone’s choices, but in this circumstance, it is a name that can make even the most grounded amongst us all, dive into a bag of potato chips! Why? We know we are more than a name because we sit around justifying the decision that we made to stay at home and raise our kids and take care of our home. The thing that we don’t realize is that this does not diminish who we are and it also does not define who we are either, it is just what we have chosen to do at this moment.
So, when I started working with countless women who would all walk through my door with the same name I realized that it was a big deal, what we called ourselves is a big deal, why isn’t it good enough? Why do I still hear of women and men by the way, who are stay-at-home parents go through a mental list of all the “important” things they have done that day just in case someone asked and usually someone did, “So Honey, what did you do today?” And away we go, spewing all the “important” things and errands you did to justify your importance, to allow you to remain here amongst all the other productive humans in the world and you can stand there knowing you have participated so that someone says, “Good for you Honey, how do you manage to fit it all in and take care of yourself too?” But that is just it, you don’t take care of yourself, not really, because no one with a “just” for a first name ever does anything, do they?
So, my advice to you is to drop the “Just!” You can do it, here I will give it a try, my name is Berta. Is that short for Roberta? No, it isn’t, nothing else, no explanations, no family name history, “My name is Berta, I was a stay-at-home Mom, and it is my privilege and a blessing to have been able to raise my children. I am divorced, and I now counsel other women and men in weight loss, spirituality, yoga, and the healing art of reiki. I am many things but the one thing that I am and never will be again is a “Just”. How about you?