I was chatting with a friend recently who knew that I was hurt by a reply I received to something that I had shared, and concerned for my heart she said “Steph, have you ever considered maybe not sharing so much? Guarding your heart a little bit?” and I tried to think for a minute before I responded (I know, I know… uncharacteristic) and shrugged my shoulders and said “no, not really.”
I am a bit of a lightning rod human. Generally folks either love me or hate me, and for the longest time I felt bothered by that. I internalized a lot of it and spent great chunks of time trying to figure out how I could make myself less… me. I would love to share a moment where my love of self stepped in and there was a musical number (sorry, we watched the greatest showman, finally, yesterday so all of my life now has musical numbers) and I suddenly understood that I am just fine, as I am. Alas, I am the world’s slowest learner and so often I learn these important lessons from my children, not from my inner voice.
My inner voice tells me a lot of the things that were told to it when it was forming: You are stupid. No one likes you. You mess up everything you touch. You are a crybaby. You are the most annoying person ever to live. When I began my parenting journey, I was still a kid myself, and my inner voice was so loud. I had given it so much extra nourishment, and it echoed over me in everything I did. I was convinced that I had done this precious child the greatest disservice by being the one to carry her. I knew nothing else about parenting, had no plan, no idea how to get this tiny perfect human to adulthood except that I was not going to allow my inner voice to become hers.
Miraculously, as her inner voice grew, it spoke to me. It began to say things like: you are worthy, sweet girl. You are beautiful. You have a story to tell and it’s safe to share it. All of the things that had haunted me for so long would occasionally spill into my parenting, especially when she would be having a hard time socially. I would say “Maybe you’d want to try just a tiny bit? To fit in?” and she would always say “if I am not liked for me, momma, I don’t want to be liked for being someone I am not… *I* like me, that is what matters.”
And so, slowly, my kiddos showed me something I needed to see: loving oneself first so that others could love you better.
I don’t know exactly when I fell in love with her, but I did. Her being me, but a me that I had not known before in my 30 years of life. I had never known the her that examined relationships and ended the ones that hurt her because she knew she was worthy of more. I had never known the her that didn’t let what others thought affect what she thought. I had never known the her that believed the man she so loved when he said “you are so beautiful.” I had never known a her that knew she was capable and smart and successful and pretty and giving and kind.
I have a story. It’s an important one, and it shapes my every single day. My life has passed much like the Wizard of Oz, hazy memories in black and white, many that hurt so much that my brain has removed them, and then a crash into Technicolor and a journey to find that I always had what I needed, I just didn’t have the understanding to use it.
When you have lived a life of secrets and shame, to be able to over-share is cathartic. Love is so loud here, most often literally but always figuratively. It spills over and I marvel at it every moment of the day. I say to my husband multiple times almost daily “Can you believe this? Babe. We MADE THIS. This is ours.” I am so in love with our life, and I am so in love with who it’s made me. I just can’t, and won’t, minimize who I am to make someone else comfortable, and what a shame it is that we (society) ask that of women.
I love me, guys. I’ve learned that most of the folks that love them, too, have become my tribe. People who love themselves love it when others love themselves, too. I’ve learned that the ones that aren’t there yet hate me because it’s easier to worry about what I am doing in my home and brand it all “fake” or “too much sharing” than it is to face that hurt. I was her, and sometimes I still slip right back into it, so worried that if someone else is living the dream that somehow means that mine is less. I always remind myself that there is enough to go around, because you are the only one in charge of your dream. I just have the strength to fight for mine… because fighting and clawing my way out of darkness has been my entire life. I have a lot of practice reaching the light, and I know no matter what pushes me back down, I will always make it out. Failure really doesn’t scare me, and I have no problem telling you about my slam dunks and my epic fails. If you want to pick it apart, don’t just pick apart my wins. It’s only part of the story, and that is why I share the highs and lows, I pay my dues, often repeatedly because I am a slow learner. I deserve this. You do, too.
Last night I was searching for shadow box items for the littlest two kids and came across this picture. I was 14 years younger, had expensive hair and botox in my face. My first reaction (aside from damnnn those kids are cute!) was “wow, my skin is so smooth and my hair is not grey” and then I really looked. In many ways, I look older because how I felt about myself is all over my face. My smile doesn’t reach my eyes. They are dead. I thanked her for getting us here. It was hard. But I love who we became.