20 November, 2014
I am forty-five years old today. I am a gray-headed, spectacle-wearing, grocery-getter driving wife of one, mother or bonus mom to five, pediatrician, Haiti-loving middle aged woman. When, exactly, did this happen? I could swear just last week I was dancing at the Music Farm on Meeting Street, or studying on Tradd Street, or nursing a brand-new baby girl on Whispering Oaks. I don’t remember growing up. I mean, I do, but that point of no return where “girl” became “woman” I seem to have missed.
Time marches forward relentlessly. Life lessons usually bring with them gifts of wisdom. Seldom are the gifts hard-wired into our systems quickly enough for us to actually experience the joy inherent in them. When I was in my early twenties, a dear family friend snapped a photo of me in a bathing suit sitting poolside at a Hilton Head Island resort. I was completely mortified – thank God this was long before social media became a “thing.” Anyway, my friend said, “Oh, you’ll thank me for this someday.” I have seen this photo somewhere in the past couple of years, and I was grateful when I looked at it; also sad. I lost so much time in this life listening to and believing the LIE.
The LIE is this: “You are not good enough now. You have never been good enough before. You will never be good enough in the future. You are not beautiful, smart, or sophisticated now, nor will you ever be. You are unworthy of ever being loved. UNWORTHY. ever.
That is a hell-of-a LIE for anyone to even consider, much less form an entire identity. Sadly, like so many others, I did just that. Now, don’t misunderstand, my life was not an endless stream of tears and depression. I had a lot of fun over the years. It’s just that my basic outlook on life was based in this paradigm of unworthiness. It mattered not how high my grades, how healthy my diet, how consistent my exercise or study time- it was not enough. I was not enough, ever. Any praise extended my way simply fell on deaf ears or was deflected with the LIE’s expertly wielded shield.
There is much more to say on this subject, but the LIE is not the matter at hand today. No. Today is my forty-fifth birthday. This morning an old friend wished me a “fantastic” day, and I was struck by that word, “fantastic.” The few times in my life I have been called fantastic I have immediately raised my trusty shield and refused or rebuffed the compliment. “Fantastic” could never paint an accurate portrait of broken, bent, scarred, disgusting me.
As time has marched on and my journey has meandered through a few (or more) years and life experiences, children, therapy, etc., the thought or idea of “fantastic” has become a bit less frightening. “Fantastic” is an entirely appropriate description of my husband and children. It is also an entirely appropriate description of the beautiful, crazy, blessed life I get to live from day to day.
Earlier this year on a Haiti trip, I found a new dear friend in a young doctor from Sweden. His name is Andre. In addition to being our furthest and longest traveling Harvest Field Ministries volunteer, Andre was also one of the most enthusiastic first-timers ever. All week long, he would, at various points, exclaim, “Fan-tas-tikkkk!”(you’ve got to put the really hard K sound on the end). I wish I had a recording of his voice saying the word in his beautiful, crisp Swedish lilt. To hear him say it, well. . .it really is fantastic is what it is.
Today, on this day of my birth, I have had the pleasure of a few hours of reflection and quiet. I readily admit I am still terrifically uncomfortable when accepting a compliment of almost any sort. That trusty shield is a tough thing to put away. I am growing and learning though, and stretching a bit as I go. It turns out “fantastic” is more than a superlative descriptor. “Fantastic” is, if one allows, an occasional and wondrous state of being. It is a place of having deep appreciation for one’s blessings and the sure knowledge of joy and hope which come from an acceptance of self, a yielding, finally, to Truth.
That old paradigm of mine? It’s shifting . . .