Viola Davis Finding Me – 48 Quotes from the Book

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time, highly recommended. I watched her interview on Netflix with Oprah which made me buy the book.

I also enjoyed ‘How to get away with Murder’ on Netflix 

48 Quotes from the book, I could have chosen so many more. 

  1. Years later a conversation I had on the set of suicide squad with Will Smith was an aha moment. Will asked me, ‘Viola, who are you?’ ‘what does that mean? I know who I am’, I replied with indignant confidence, he asked again ‘no, but who are you?’ ‘what does that mean?’ I asked again, ‘look, I’m always going to be that 15 year old boy whose girlfriend broke up with him, that’s always going to be me, so who are you?’. Who am I? I was quiet and once again that indestructible memory hit me then I just blurted it out ‘I’m the little girl who would run away after school everyday in 3 grade because these boys hated me because I was not pretty because I was black’. Will stared at me as if seeing me for the first time and just nodded. 
  1. This is the memory that defined me more than the bed wetting, poverty, hunger, sexual abuse and domestic violence. It is a powerful memory because it was the first time my spirit and heart were broken. I defined myself by the fear and rage of those boys, I felt ugly unwanted even by God. I wanted so badly to fit into this world but instead, I was being spit out like vomit. Who I was offended them. The memory burrowed itself inside me and metastasized, it didn’t help I was running back to a home where there was no protection, a home that seemed to cement all the horrific things those boys said about me.
  1. The journey of a hero I learned from writer Joseph Campbell, that a hero is someone born into a world where they don’t fit in, they are then summoned on a call to an adventure that they are reluctant to take. What is the adventure? A revolutionary transformation of self the final goal is to find the elixir, the magic potion – that is the answer to unlocking her. Then she comes home to this ordinary life transformed and shares her story of survival with others.
  1. Man I’d rather go 10 rounds with Mike Tyson than face some inner truths that have lain dormant, hell at least with Mike I can throw the fight but this inner battle this inner fight I couldn’t throw.
  1. On August 11th 1965 in ST Matthews South Carolina I was born. The 5th child of 6 children in my maternal grandmother and grandfather’s house on the Singleton plantation and yes it was and still is a plantation.
  1. Their daughter Mamama the oldest of 18 children left school after the 8th grade because she got pregnant but also because she was beaten alot in school, I mean beaten to where it broke skin and she bled. My grandmother and my aunt had to go to the school and confront the teacher who was black but light skinned and suffering from the all too common interacial disease of colourism, she was punishing my mom because she was dark skinned, came from the country the backwoods and had nappy hair.
  1. Unfortunately ma’mama was blamed for Deloris’s death and subsequently beaten by both her father and mother, she says she still has problems to this day with the arm that was beaten. Ma’mama tells this story on a loop finally after so many years I told her, you know that was not your fault, it was not your fault, i’m giving you permission to forgive yourself your parents were wrong for beating you, it was an accident you should not have even been in that position. 
  1. I think of the woman who survived horrific sexual abuse only to marry my dad who was an abuser yet after many years became a true partner.
  2. Because madaddy is gone now I will never know what demons caused him to run away from his home at 15 as much as I love my father I know those demons haunted him his entire life, they embedded themselves deep within him and boiled into rage and alcoholism.
  3. We would get to Patricia’s apartment and she answered the door naked. Which absolutely traumatized me. Shut me right down. She in no way attempted to cover neither her naked ass nor her ill intentions with my father. Rather she ran into my fathers arms kissing him and giggling ‘oh Dan is this your baby?’ I wanted to say heifer i’m ma’mama’s baby not yours, I hated her.
  1. I had 2 parents who were running away from bad memories both had undiscovered dreams & hopes, neither had tools to approach the world to find peace or joy. Ma’mama worked sporadically in factories and was a gambler, my father was an alcoholic and would disappear for months at a time when we were really young.
  1. We were PO that’s a level lower than poor. I’ve heard some of my friends say we were poor too but I just didn’t know it until I got older, we were poor and we knew it. There was absolutely no disputing it, it was reflected in the apartments we lived in, where we shopped for clothes and furniture at the ST Vincent de Paul. The food stamps that were never enough to fully feed us and the welfare checks. we were po, we almost never had a phone often we had no hot water or gas, we had to use a hot plate which increased the electric bill, the plumbing was shoddy so the toilets never flushed actually I don’t ever remember toilets working in our apartments, I became very skilled at filling up a bucket and pouring it into the toilet to flush it and with our gas constantly being cut off because of non-payment, we would either go unwashed or would just wipe ourselves down with cold water.
  1. We had to go to the laundromat to wash clothes but having no money 5 kids and freezing cold weather meant that most of the time laundry would go unwashed for weeks, that compounded with the bedwetting made for a home with a horrific smell.
  2. But something I didn’t have the words for yet could feel shifted inside me, what do I want to be? The first seed had been planted. 
  3. That period of my life was filled with shame, the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have stage fright or humiliation, that was the shame of 128. Shame completely eviscerates you, destroys any sense of pride you have in yourself. 
  4. Looking at the remains of our apartment I thought, not even the firefighters had respect for the place we called home, I knew it was shit but it was my shit, it was my home.
  5. But in my mind no one cares about the conditions in which the unwanted live, you’re invisible a blame factor that allows the more advantaged to be let off the hook from your misery.
  6. You know where you’re poor you live in an alternate reality.
  7. That’s what winning was, an instant protection and smoke screen to hide the fact I was simply scared all the time. I felt like an outsider all the time.
  8. A happy family is but an earlier heaven. 
  9. These happy moments would soon be followed by trauma, the rage of my dad’s alcoholic binges, violence, poverty, hunger and isolation in my child’s mind, I was the problem.
  1. We continued to figure it out on our own in the absence of parents. Our parents were just trying to keep us alive the only way they knew how, they controlled what they could and injected ritual joy, hope in little ways, for example we were gifted new clothes at least once a year on Easter. Despite pissed beds, almost never having clean clothes, rats jumping on our bed at night, broke furniture, food insecurity, shoddy plumbing, no phone we all got a brand new outfit.
  1. Trauma, shit, piss and mortar mixed with memories that have been filtered, edited for survival and entangled with generational secrets. Somewhere buried underneath all that waste lives me, fighting to breathe. The me wanting so badly to feel alive but this is the journey. The only weapon I have to blast through it all is forgiveness, It’s giving up all hope of a different past.
  2. Deloris, Anita, Dianne and I were sexually abused, I told her as I uttered my brother’s name in the same breath. He chased in the apartment, he was aggressive, we were scared, we were so young, Mom there was penetration with Anita and Dianne, me and Deloris were touched.
  3.  Success pales in comparison to healing.
  1. There are not enough pages to mention the fights, the constantly being awakened in the middle of the night or coming home after school to my dad’s rages and praying he wouldn’t lose so much control that he would kill my mom. Sometimes her head or arm would be split open she would have a swollen face, split lip. I was always afraid when he picked anything up like a piece of wood because he would hit her as hard as he could and keep beating, sometimes all night. There were so many times that we would see droplets of blood leading to our apartment and we just knew what was happening. It was chaos, violence, anger and poverty mixed with shame.
  1. Anita was always the brawn in the family, the survivor the fighter but even some of the mightiest of warriors have wounds that leave them debilitated.
  2.  It’s funny that with the complaints about hygiene no one ever asked us about our home environment, no one asked us if we were okay or if anything was wrong.
  3.  I pushed a teacher once, I wanted attention really bad I didn’t know the butterflies that were ever present in the pit of my gut were actually massive anxiety, I felt I just didn’t fit in.
  4. My dreams were bigger than the fear.
  5.  Once again, I hadn’t made the connection that my behavior matched the chaos at home. I was a powder keg of secrets I kept them in because it allowed me to get through my day, I couldn’t let what I was feeling out.
  6. That was when much of the depression fell away, the cure was courage, the courage to dare risking failure I decided I was going to be a theater major and I was going to be an actor. 
  7. But being real and being transparent are 2 totally different things, being real is wearing 15 dollar shoes and being proud to wear them, being transparent is saying I’m always anxious I never feel like I fit in, I need help, I wasn’t transparent.
  8. It gave me temporary self-love from the outside but it would soon wear off because self-love from the outside by definition really isn’t self-love.
  9. New York kick started the part of me that was always friggin scared, it catapulted me out of my comfort zone.
  10. It was our rebellion we were told it would ruin our instrument well our soul was our instrument too.
  11. Our profession at any given time has a 95% unemployment rate only 1% of actors make 50 thousand a year or more and only 0.04% of actors are famous and we won’t get into defining famous.
  12. She then turns around and reveals her mastectomy scars a big X made of tape covered her breasts. There was a collective silence a brutal quiet in the room. They were forced to contend with the woman who was in that body and not just the body itself. 
  13.  Jealousy is the cruelest of emotions the part that makes it cruel is its lack of ownership. 
  14. They tell you successful therapy is when you have the big discovery that your parents did the best they could with what they were given.
  1. She was very real to me because my sister Danielle had fallen into addiction I saw the human being, I saw the woman who had been beaten down by life and the pain become so great the only choice becomes numbing. My sister Danielle was the most loving woman, mother, sister in the world but the one person she couldn’t bring herself to love, was her. 
  2. One more tragedy to overcome and once again life continues it keeps moving, it moves through deaths, tragedies it doesn’t wait for you to recover or heal before hitting again. 
  3.  It’s a mentality rooted in both racism and misogyny that you have no value as a woman if you do not turn them on, if you are not desirable to them. It’s ingrained thinking dictated by oppression.
  4. Once again the woman I tried so hard not to be was the muse sitting on my shoulder.
  1. Her probable dissociative disorder could stem from that because it is prevalent in most sex abuse survivors. Every character you play forces you to explore your brokenness. Growing up I experienced frightening levels of different forms of sexual abuse. It was a basic understanding that your lot in life was to fight off sexual predators including babysitters and neighbors even before you knew the term. It was the side effect of poverty of parents too busy with brutal survival to protect us 100%. ‘Ugly black Nigger’ allowed these predators to see me as not human, not a child. I was a sexual fetish, a shameful stain that they couldn’t admit to themselves or the world, I used that for Annalise.
  1. All I got is me and that is enough.
  2. He took me on his terms Edwina, I said as if discovering it for the first time.
  1.  My elixir i’m no longer ashamed of ME. I own everything that has ever happened to me, the parts that were a source of shame are actually my warrior fuel.

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