photo:conundrum by alice
When you look back on your life, what do you see?
Are you understanding how you got to be who you are?
Years ago, I discovered that everyone has a bit of mystery that unfolds when they explore the deeper parts of their life story. I know, because I spent many years listening with a keen ear. That was my job.
And I learned there are some experiences in our lives that are like torn photographs. Our experience only makes sense when we attach the missing pieces, when we put our face and our feelings and all our choices where they belong. And then we can see the whole picture and look back and say, “Oh, I’m so glad that happened, because then it led to this….”
I think this is how it works with our glaring mistakes, the ones that left pie all over our face or burdened us with a load of guilt that’s still hard to shake.
Let me give you an example: when I was twenty-two years old I was engaged to be married.
And it never happened. Now there’s a lot of complicated, teary, anguished parts attached to this episode in my life, but I’ll keep it simple and say this. In the end, I had picked a guy that everyone loved. Especially my family. And although things looked picture perfect from the outside, there was one big problem. I wasn’t in love.
And the whole thing was my fault because at the time, I didn’t know myself. Not really. Up to that point, I had spent too many years focused on pleasing others (mostly my mother) and trying to make other people proud of me, and it kept me from fully knowing Me. So in the end, my engagement was one more “I should,” on my list.
Only I couldn’t do it. Eventually the queasy feeling in my gut became a pounding message in my ears that I couldn’t ignore. And I called it off. Which actually was quite astonishing considering the lilac colored bridesmaid dresses. And my seven bridesmaids. And the deposit on the ballroom and of course, my own lacy, beaded wedding dress that I had so meticulously selected.
There are too many awful moments to choose which was the worst. But looking at his face and telling his family had to be an emotional nightmare for a natural born people pleaser.
Yet it was a decision that changed the entire trajectory of my life.
If I didn’t stop. If I didn’t halt the gigantic momentum that was pushing me toward marriage to the wrong person--a kind, sweet man who did nothing wrong--then these other pieces of my life would never have happened.
I would never have had a chance to rebel and discover who I was meant to be.
I would never have thrown caution to the wind at age twenty-six, and followed the “bad boy” down to Los Angeles. And we would never be celebrating almost twenty-four years of marriage in a few weeks.
I would never have spent seven idyllic years in Los Angeles with my love.
I would never have landed my dream job on the Eating Disorder Treatment Unit at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, and discovered a world of secrets and emotional pain and a fulfilling profession that lasted for eighteen years.
I would never have been transformed by the hundreds and hundreds of real stories that I listened to in that tiny office at the end of the blue carpeted hospital unit.
Nor would I have looked into the eyes of all those courageous women who put aside their shame to tell me their struggles.
I would never have learned so many lessons from a world that was filled with woman who were smiling and looking beautiful on the outside, when inside they felt emptiness and sadness.
I wouldn’t have seen firsthand, what happens when truthful feelings are hidden and buried behind the words, “I feel fat.”
I would never have learned how to let go of my “perfect childhood” in order to see the pain and the beauty that was much more honest.
And I would never have learned that choosing imperfection and truthfulness is the only way to discover what’s really there, beneath the pretty little image in the mirror.
I think that sometimes we have to look back… to be grateful for how far we’ve come.
What do you think?
I wish I could know your story.