Do you ever wonder how love, family and fun can reside within the same space as dysfunction and chaos? Well the narrative of Brenda Sissoko is one that shows us that though your life may start in mayhem it can end with many miracles. Brenda is a empowerment and transformation coach and owner of Favored By One, LLC. Her mission is to help her clients take control of their life, go from talk to action and discover their greatest self. Brenda is a native of Toledo, Ohio and currently resides in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Let’s dive into Brenda’s narrative as she takes us on a journey from chaos and confusion to peace and acceptance.
Tell us about your childhood
I grew up the oldest of two children. I have a brother 5 years younger than me. My father was married to someone else when I was conceived and born. My mom married my brother’s dad. I lived in a working-middle class neighborhood. As far back as I can remember, I was always known as having such a “pretty face”, code for “you’re really fat”. My mother worked for children services and my step dad worked for Chrysler. I thrived in elementary school and was noticed as gifted and talented. My parents loved to entertain. We had cookouts every weekend complete with lots of people, music, card playing, drinking, cursing and fighting. I could almost always be found in my room reading or watching t.v. I’m an introvert and have always been. My family loved to travel and go to amusement parks and to local parks for cookouts, boat rides and bike rides. My childhood was fun at times. My parents loved to be surrounded by family.
What would you say was the narrative that was expressed to you based upon where you grew up, how you grew up and the messages you received?
I would say that the narrative that was expressed to me was all relationships involved alcohol, fights, cursing, and unhappiness. Also, women had to be overbearing and controlling. The biggest message that I took away was that I was somehow flawed because by age 5, my biological father no longer came to see me. And the last message that was formed was that I was pretty, but, too fat. Therefore, not good enough.
How did that narrative play out in your decisions, actions and feelings about yourself?
Even though I desired a loving, kind, and genuine relationship I always found myself leaving everyone that I got too close to. Of course, there was always a good reason to leave, but, I was going to do it before they did it to me. I was calloused. I was honest about all of my indiscretions. I wanted to get a reaction and that felt it warranted. But most times I didn’t receive what I wanted. I lived a life of dare. If someone hinted that I couldn’t do something it became my motivation to do just that. I wasn’t going to be anyone’s statistic. I had my first child two weeks after graduating high school at age 17. I married her father a month later. We stayed married for a little over 7 years. We were married in name only. We both lived separate lives. During that marriage I had my second daughter by a married man. My second daughter carries my first husband’s last name. He and his entire family loves her as if she were their blood. They know she is not his. They love me therefore they love her. She is currently 25 years old. My third and final child came along 7 years after my second daughter. I was married for the second time, but, my son is not my husband’s son. Yes, my husband knew. And yes, I told him I wasn’t sure if my son was his or my ex’s. He told me I was his wife therefore the child I was carrying was his. Case Closed. Did I mention that I married husband number two, 8 days after I met him. I met him March 8th [the day Biggie died] and we married on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. Why? Because the man that I had been seeing for 3 yrs had been cheating on me and I found out on March 8th about 11 a.m. Sunday morning. He was in the shower, his pager [yes, I said pager] was dancing across the floor continuously. So, I called the number. That evening while crying my eyes out, I met my husband. My son’s father is the cheating ex. So it is safe to say that I had definitely created quite an interesting exhausting life for myself.
What was the catalyst or main event that made you say that narrative needed to change?
Everything changed when during Christmas time, 2009, I was preparing to call my biological father, and have the ritualistic torture session that I seemed to make my year complete. Every year, since I was 17 years old, I called my biological father on his birthday and on Christmas, only to have him say the same thing to me, “How did you get this number? – “Why do you keep calling me?”. My only question to him was “do you know who I am?” and he replied, yes, now quit calling me. That last call in December 2009, I vowed to let it go. I prayed to God to help me with forgiving my father for abandoning me with no explanation. I surrendered all of my hurt, shame, self affliction, self destruction and bitterness to God. I forgave myself for holding my father hostage because he could not tell me what I so desperately needed for him to say. I forgave myself for allowing other people to use me and I forgave myself for not loving me enough. I forgave myself for being too prideful to let people, other than my many therapists, know what was happening with me. I no longer wanted to smile while in pain. This had been my coping mechanism for too long.
What is the new narrative in your life?
The new narrative in my life is that I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. I own my actions and my reactions. My father is no longer responsible for how I treat anyone in my life. I made mistakes in my relationships and in rearing my children. I praise God’s name that I still have great relationships with my exes and my children are productive citizens. I worked my behind off to take care of my children. They never knew how much I sacrificed to have them live in great neighborhoods, attend awesome schools and had every wish and whim catered to. I now realize that I did them a disservice, but, I never wanted them to suffer because of my foolishness. Now that I have grandchildren I get a do-over. Harmony is key in my life.
How does this new narrative show up in your everyday life?
Everyday I get to choose my mood. I control my emotions. I get to paint my day as I see fit. Finally, I have peace. Finally, I have calm. Finally I have joy. My life is lived on my terms and not because of how someone will react to me based on what I can or cannot do for them. I make my yes mean yes and my no mean no. Without explanation. Joy is a wonderful thing to obtain. I thank God.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to create a new narrative but didn’t know how to do it?
My advice would be to start with forgiveness. Forgive yourself and let others off the hook with forgiveness. Be honest with the role you played in your situation. Everything starts and stops with us.
Wow! Brenda’s story is powerful. All of us have a relatable narrative. At some point in our lives we all deal with dysfunction, rejection, hurt and pain. However, as Brenda shows us, we can still be great. We can learn the lesson. Master and move. When we are intentional about our actions we create a peace in our environment that is beyond understanding.
Thank you Brenda for being vulnerable and sharing a piece of your narrative with us!
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