Innocence as a child is such a gift because the more we learn about the world, the more it chips away at us until we feel like we are what’s left of the person we used to be.
I remember the first time I really felt personally attacked: a girl on my bus used all of her books to fill up the seats so I wouldn’t have anywhere to sit. And when I got off the bus that day, she yelled at me out the window: “BITCH!”
Now, to be fair, she was a good friend of someone I had hurt. So I’m not saying I didn’t have it coming. But what I had done wasn’t as deliberate and personal as my new everyday reality. And that girl made me see myself so differently, as she spent years pointing out my every flaw.
I’m not throwing a pity party for myself and I don’t blame her for anything, because I’ve hurt people without good reason, too.
The point is- eventually I started to agree with her. And I tried harder and harder to be someone she couldn’t find flaws in. I started wearing makeup, I sucked in my stomach, I stressed over what I was wearing, I tried to be clever when I spoke, I tried different hairstyles and at 12 years old, I was constantly checking a mirror to make sure nothing was out of place.
Of course, I couldn’t please her. And my response to her criticism changed the way I thought about myself. As anyone who has been to high school knows, there were a lot of people after her to keep influencing me.
For the past several years, I haven’t needed a “bully” because I’ve done the job myself.
Fast forward to now.
Yesterday I was at a first birthday party for a little girl born just after my son. Her mom and I have grown to be great friends so even though my husband was away and could not attend with us, I was really excited to celebrate this milestone!
I’m not really social. So I spent much of the first hour there watching my son play with a baby gate and stumble around. There were lots of people and I talked with a few but I’m not really one to put myself out there.
(Normally, I’d feel isolated in this circumstance and cling to my phone or start to sweat or get really nervous, feeling like other people were looking at me and wondering why I was alone and so awkward. Normally, I’d use the fact that I was at that party alone to question my worth, to hate myself for being so introverted, to decide that I don’t have friends, to convince myself that I’m incapable of functioning, and turn the entire thing into a miserable experience.)
BUT, I’m practicing the joy of being in the moment, in the here and now, and not allowing thoughts to be my identity.
(I’ve been listening to a lot of talks by Eckhart Tolle that are really changing my life. If you’re interested, I’d love to send you some links.)
So instead of reacting as I normally would to the situation, I enjoyed a chance to watch my son goof around and play and I said a mental “Thank You” to God for a boy that loves to figure stuff out.
When I got in the car to leave, I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized that my nose had been embarrassingly red from the cold I had a few days ago! I was mortified. “THAT IS WHAT I LOOKED LIKE FOR THE LAST THREE HOURS!?” I thought. Rudolph the Red Nose Ashley. (At least it was a winter themed party?)
(And Normally, I’d use this situation to remind myself that I’m gross. I’m not pretty and people probably thought there was something wrong with me. Yadayadayada-it would go on all day. And the next time I went out, I’d be worried about my appearance.)
But I reminded myself that the moment I was so worried about(those few hours at the party) had passed. It was over. There was no going back in time to fix my makeup and redo the day. And even if there was, it wasn’t that important. Because really, who cares what I look like?
And I know this all sounds really goofy, but these thoughts are subconscious and I think a lot of us do this to ourselves. We look back on a moment and think “stupid, stupid, stupid-Why didn’t I do that differently!?”
BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER
It’s over. It’s done. Let it go.
Instead of spending the rest of my day playing that party over and over in my mind and hating myself for my social awkwardness and critically judging myself for the things I said in an effort to be social, and wondering if anyone realized how terrible my nose looked——-I let it go.
I said a silent prayer to thank God for that little girl, and for a chance to get out of the house and see friends. And I enjoyed the drive home.
It doesn’t matter what’s in the past, or what anyone else thinks. Because worrying about those two things gets us nowhere, except into a pattern of self hatred.
It may sound extreme, but later I even thought to thank Him for the good skin that I do have. There are a lot of women out there with chronic acne, or burn scars, or major issues that I have never had to consider. How fortunate am I that my biggest potential concern is temporary embarrassment from overuse of tissues!?!?
The biggest thing is-thinking like this is allowing me so much freedom. I find myself able to enjoy so much more because instead of over-thinking, I am grounded in the present. I am HERE and nowhere else. It’s almost like making lemonade out of lemons but instead, I’m just thankful for these hands that work well enough to hold lemons.
Part of me wants to worry that ya’ll are going to think I’ve lost my darn mind-but, the rest of me realizes that’s the point. I have sort of lost my mind-at least the toxic part that has always fueled hate in my life. For the first time since I was 12 years old, I’m free.