I had a nice, long chat with my Ya-Ya in Kansas yesterday. I needed it. Seems she always has the right words, especially when I’m sifting through the “ugly junk” in my mental closet. I don’t hoard in my home, but can often forget the volume of junk I’ve collected in my mental closet. Over the years, I’ve tucked away boxes and boxes of hurts and secrets and shame and doubt and sorrow. Sometimes, I pretend if I bury them deeply enough and allow the dust to collect, they don’t exist. And, sometimes, I truly forget they do–for a while. But, like the boxes in the back of my bedroom closet, even when I’m not looking at them, sitting in the corner, gathering dust, they take up space. Space that would be better used by filling it with me. Genuine, authentic me.
Most of the boxes contain lies, stories that aren’t true, never were, but were expressed with such certainty, I was sure they were true. I packed them with care, as though they should be kept forever. Like my high school yearbooks, they’re packed away, gathering dust, taking up space, carrying the past into the present.
There’s the afternoon I sat with my 7th grade math teacher for individual tutoring. After 30 minutes of continued failed understanding, he told me I was too stupid to understand and that I was wasting his time. I’m not stupid, but I’ve had a hard time convincing myself otherwise despite the success I’ve had in my life. I’ve carried that struggling 7th grader with me ever since that afternoon.
Or there’s the time I was teased on the playground for being “chubby.” The little girl who was teased packed away the hurt and has carried it with her since. As an adult, I remember looking around in disbelief when a doctor referred to me as “thin.” It didn’t matter that I was; I didn’t see it. It was the chubby 5th grade girl who sat in his office that day, not the 38-year-old woman I had become.
Or the boys who presumed I was promiscuous because I developed early. I wasn’t. But, it didn’t stop the advances or the accusations and I often felt my bra size was the only measure of my worth.
I could go on, but I’m not here to unpack boxes–today. However, whether or not I think I am ready, I’ve already begun unpacking more. The stories above came out of my “easy boxes”; the ones that hold the lies and scars from long ago, but are easy to dismiss with my “logical mind.” In the last few weeks, there has been a rumbling within the depths of me originating in the boxes in my mind. I didn’t go in search of them. I was content to let them sit, unopened. Especially at this joy-filled time of the year. Without peeking inside, I already know what’s in most of them. At least the big stuff, I do; the stuff I packed away in the dark because it hurt too much, scarred too deep, felt too real. The stuff I foolishly thought I wouldn’t have to touch again if I just kept it boxed up. The stuff that pits my stomach and pushes the taste of bile into my mouth. It fuels insecurities and doubts and fears. The stuff that leaves me hiding in the dark and dims the light I was meant to share.
We all have stuff. And, we all have a light within us. A purpose. An authentic self. The little girl or boy inside that was sent here with a gift that only he/she can bring. It is the person we bury when we “check ourselves”, as my Ya-Ya says; those times we look to the right and to the left and deny who we really are just so we can fit in. When we believe the stories that someone else tells us about ourselves or we are hurt by an abuse of our trust, we bury a bit more of ourselves. Often times, it’s the lies we tell ourselves that do the most damage. And sometimes, we have no idea how we lost touch with our authentic self, we simply did.
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I really began thinking about who I am, who I was, who I really wanted to be. And, I thought about the boxes I carried. I had lived much of my life with the definitions and burdens others had assigned me. When I held my daughter for the first time, I knew that if was going to teach her to love her authentic self, I had better start learning to do the same. There are times it has been excruciatingly painful and times it has brought me abundant joy. Like a sculptor carving a piece of marble, I haven’t rushed the process. Discovering the masterpiece within a piece of marble requires patience; discovering the beauty within oneself deserves no less. I’ve already opened and discarded many boxes. With each one, I let in more light and can see further into the corners of myself. More than once, I have found a hurt I didn’t know I still carried, and, often I’ve discovered strength I never knew I had.
There have been painful memories and I have faced more than one demon. I don’t doubt there will be more, but I’m prepared. Meditation, prayer, my journal, this blog, and honest talks with my Ya-Ya’s are all tools I use to dig deep. Yesterday, it was a Ya-Ya that walked with me through the dark and back into the light. Across the miles, she held my hand, and my heart, as I opened one of my ugliest boxes. I’ve been into it before, many times, and closed it up just as many. Yesterday, I looked deeper inside. There was pain I didn’t know was still in there, and I took another step closer to healing and finally discarding the lies contained within. It is a story I know I will share here. She helped me see that I will, when I’m ready. This is a box I’ll “handle with care,” but handle it and share it, I will.
It’s been quite a journey to excavate me, and the journey continues. It must to move forward in life. It’s often messy. At times, it feels scary, even overwhelming, and I’m tempted to quit. But, that won’t get me to where I want to be. To become a better wife, mother, friend, and woman, I must first uncover who I was in the beginning and embrace my authentic self. As a child, and even as an adult, my father always called me “Little Mary Sunshine.” I finally understand why, and I like who she is.
Are there boxes you are ready to unpack?
©2011 Mary Lanzavecchia/TransitioningMom