For the first time in what feels like forever, I am happy. I don’t mean I feel happy, because at this exact moment, I don’t feel it, for numerous reasons. Despite not feeling it, I am happy.
I took a bit of a trip down memory lane this past weekend.
The left image was my freshman picture (I think), the upper right was either my 7th or 8th grade self, and the lower right was my sophomore picture.
I wasn’t happy in any of those pictures. I didn’t like myself and pretty much hated my life in each of them. At first glance, all that can be seen though is a beautiful, smiling face of a young girl without a care in the world. Then, if you look into her eyes . . . Well, they’re not quite telling the same story.
Middle school and high school years can be brutal. Especially if you don’t have the support and encouragement that comes with living in a family and community that offers and supports connection, encouragement, and cohesiveness.
That girl didn’t have any of those things. She thought she was fat, ugly, and unlovable. She felt isolated and alone, irreparably damaged, and inherently, inevitably like a failure.
I look at these images now and see beauty, potential, and nothing but possibility – or I would if I didn’t know that she was me.
I want to reach out to her and tell her it’s all lies, that she is none of the things she believes herself to be. I want to comfort her, encourage her, and teach her what she doesn’t know about herself: she’s beautiful, creative, graceful, loved, and valuable.
Looking back, I know some people did make the effort to do that. A teacher, a school counselor, a youth pastor. Sadly, their voices were drowned out in the cacophony of other voices she heard daily from her peers and those voices also were lost in the vast silence and overwhelming chaos that existed in her home life.
Bullied, abandoned, and essentially left to fend for herself, she became me and has dwelt inside of me all this time.
At 17 she became a mommy. Terrified, embattled, homeless, and nomadic she didn’t know anything really about loving her child. She did her best. Within two years she was doing it on her own. She never believed she was enough: knew enough, did enough, or had enough to do right by her son. There was never enough: time, opportunity, and support. She did her best, but her best wasn’t enough.
Defiant, conflicted, filled with shame and fear, she became me and has lived inside me all this time.
After years of trying to get it right: two GEDs and a High School Diploma, a fast and successful year in community college, and frantic pursuit of love, acceptance, and approval – she crashed and burned. Depressed, overwhelmed, and isolated she saw her mother in the mirror one day. A few weeks later, an aborted suicide attempt. Six months later a rabbit died and the proclamation was made by a family member, “Now you’re never going to get anywhere!”
At the age of 24, two became three and all the doubts, fears, and mistakes of her past lived and grew until she became me.
LaLa and I were talking about how this is the first time I liked a picture of myself and saw the beauty of me before I saw the flaws.
Then I saw this snapshot.
I was seven and a half months pregnant with her and 23 years old. Things were not alright in my life. Circumstances were still tough. I had a few friends and no money. What I did have though was hope. I had someone investing in me who believed in me, saw my potential, encouraged me, and supported me to go for what I wanted to do.
I was engaged in pursuing a goal and doing something I was good at. I hadn’t let the negatives outweigh the positives and dissuade me from pursuing the things I wanted to do. For that brief moment of time I had hope.
This is exactly the position I am in today. I have barriers, obstacles and challenges:
• Keith and I have been in major conflict for the past three days.
• The severity of the lower back pain & sciatica is becoming excruciating.
• Finances are in the toilet again.
• Technological and logistical glitches abound.
In other words, nothing new or different.
However, I am doing something I love that feeds my soul (blogging/writing/creating word art), I am reaching out and receiving encouragement, motivation and support (I joined the Dream Stoker Nation on Facebook), AND I’m moving – doing what it takes to get things done, despite the pain and difficulty.
The motion of moving forward, despite and through the troubles and obstacles drives the emotion that let’s us know we can be happy, even when we aren’t feeling it.