Thursday, May 22, 2014
When I saw the picture, I had one distinct memory jump into my brain with utter clarity: It was dark outside. I was overwhelmingly excited, because I knew my mom was taking me to the Early Bird sale at the mall. I had saved up $20 (a lot of money for a middle-school kid in the early 1980s) from babysitting and my paper route. I was going to spend that money on Jordache jeans, which the sale add said there would be a limited number of items for my $20. My mom said she would pay the 5% sales tax. It must have been winter, because it was dark outside at 7 am, but I don't remember being cold. I remember climbing into our truck and going off to the mall. None of the cool kids were there that early. It wasn't cool to have to buy things on clearance sales, back then, and I was a little embarrassed to look around at who was there. There were mostly young adults and frumpy moms, some with their hair still in scarves and rollers. In a panic, I realized there was only one pair of Jordache in my size...black cords. I remember standing in that store, with tears in my eyes, knowing they weren't the 'right' pair of Jordache; but, also knowing that they were the closest I was likely to get. I bought them and wore them forever.
And, with that memory, rushed back all those feelings of despondency that marked most of my life -- being unworthy, unlikable, not good enough, too fat, unattractive. My dad was a construction worker. And, truth be told, he struggled with alcoholism, gambling, and more than one other vice. He didn't come home, sometimes. Our power was off, sometimes. My mom was depressed and angry. I realize, now, how powerless they must have both felt....my dad feeling powerless over addictions that he didn't know how to manage, feelings he had to medicate; and, my mom feeling powerless over her situation and my dad and, to some degree, us kids. Its awful how those messages we get about our worth stick with us for decades, despite a wide variety of approaches to manage them. In my own life, I tried to fit in. I didn't. I never felt like other people. I didn't act like them. I was never really a part of any group, because eventually I would do or say or think the wrong thing and would have to flee from the impending rejection. I quickly learned to numb those unpleasant feelings with a wide variety of methods, none of which were good for my body or my soul.
And, if I close my eyes, today, I can still hear all those little whispered lies that were told to me and the ones I told myself -- you're too fat/ugly/stupid/unattractive; no one likes you; no one will ever like you; you're a slut/whore/loser; you're trash/useless/poor; you'll never succeed/learn/do anything worthwhile. The monologue is endless and cruel.
Over the past 4 years, some important things have happened. I got sober. That doesn't mean that I don't still struggle with other addictions (food is my giant one), I do. But, I'm clean and I know how to deal with those things. I began evaluating who and what I truly am -- not what I've pretended to be, not who I thought I should be, not the thing that was expected of me. I've made changes. I've embraced some things. I started painting, again, something I hadn't done since high school. I began seeking people like me, and building honest, meaningful relationships with them. I began structured training in my spiritual path. Probably, most importantly, I started being who I am, to the best of my knowledge. And, I work hard to be okay with that woman. My values and beliefs guide me, rather than external forces.
The whispers haven't gone away. They run a constant stream of malice in the back of my head. I can choose to jump in that stream and be washed away. Or, I can choose to walk in another direction. Today, my choice is obvious.