I can look at the roots. I can remember from the time I was very young--the judgmental eyes, the harsh words, the scrutinizing that seemed a natural lens for a world of girls to see me through--a world shaped by women who allowed such criticisms to be everyday chatter. I think on the whispers of one girl to another about her, and then I'd step away from the conversation wondering what they'd say about me.
From home life, to school life, to college life...to real life... I'd step forward into the net of never fully confident, always hindered by worry and doubt that I was truly accepted, that I hadn't slipped from okay to too much when I allowed my heart to speak.
Whether it be on everyday life things, politics, church, hope, faith, love, war...
All of it, and all I thought--think--seem to be mines waiting to explode a friend's opinion of me--a person's acceptance of me.
Last night, I watched my seven year old daughter dance. She took her arms fully out from her sides, lifted them up above her head, and arched her back so far I could hardly see her chin. She danced, and smiled and ran across a room filled with little girls she hardly knows. She plunged deep in each moment, learning and dancing, giggling and jumping up and down with excitement. I sat, and smiled, and thought about how my little girl was nothing like me. Yet, she was everything I had ever wished to be at her age.
I wanted to dance. I wanted freedom to express myself so fully that the world was truly my stage and all else were just players that had nothing to do with my performance. Forget the critics. Forget the right or wrong way. Just dance, and live in it fully.
I wanted to care only about the fun, and nothing about the arched eyebrow or the mean word. She's young. And part of me wrestles with the possibility that she might one day be ensnared by the harsh reality that is the world of girls. The world of women. The undeniable gender traits--we are prone to criticize, to scrutinize, to debilitate each other, unlike most men I have ever run into.
So, here I sit.
Heaped with shame, frustration, worry, that once again, every move I make, every word spoken from my lips is being dissected and proven to show this very flawed, very unworthy person that I am. It's those old nails dug deep in my worth, tearing my confidence in shreds.
I often speak of paradigm shifts. How I had a major one when my husband fell away from Christ. My view of the world literally shattered before me in a catastrophic way. Once I caught my breath, and my will to live on, I could only manage to pick up the pieces worth salvaging, examine the pieces that were flawed, and toss them out with the wisdom of something better, something purer. My paradigm was more of a re-creation than a shift.
So, life view--check.
Now, me view--in progress.
Today, it doesn't seem like progress at all. Today, it seems like a swirling mess. But, I have all these grace-speakers in my life. And, if they knew how much they mean to me, then they would probably feel suffocated by my appreciation. My life-giving friends have lifted my chin, and made me realize that different is out there.
Grace is out there.
I should bathe in the stuff. I wish I didn't need it so much. But, it's really the only release from the trap of my old self-image.
I know something is different. I realize that I am foolish and selfish in thinking so much is focused on me--regardless of the good or bad.
And, in the knowing, I hope for change. I hope that one day I can say,
"When I turned forty-something...I stopped caring so much."
For now, I'll continue to wrestle, to accept the past, and try and break away it's hardened shell. And I'll pray. I'll pray for me, and mostly my daughter, that she walks into womanhood differently. That the wounds so easily inflicted, the looks so easily ensnaring, are nothing that penetrate her strength and her image.