My grandmother told me,
“Never hide your green hair –
They can see it anyway.”
– Angeles Arrien
There are stories I have told myself for years: That I am not good enough – That I am not worth listening to – That I don’t get it (and everyone else does) – That I am a fraud – I am weird looking – My ankles are too fat and my legs are unshapely – I am not at all glamorous and I hate wearing heels, so I must be a freak – My hair is too fine and not curly enough – I am fat – I am ashamed of my body – of my actions – of my failure to save another because I wasn’t brave enough to speak.
And, for [too] many years the question I most often asked myself was “What is wrong with me?”.
And, for [too] many years I answered it with many things; none of them an answer filled with love, only with more pain.
You are not alone,
wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief
into the chamber of your shame.
You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy.
I have never met a heavy heart
that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside.
Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes
for some people to just walk outside.
– Andrea Gibson, (from The Nutritionist)
There were days when the stories I told myself were so damaging that the thought of getting out of bed was too much, let alone getting dressed or taking a walk outside.
Somewhere between my wild, untamed girlhood and now, I lost a very important conversation with myself:
One in which I understood that it’s not the things that happen to me that matter, it’s all the stories I have told myself afterwards – I have punished myself through various means for failing to live up to some perfection that I can’t name or understand.
I’m certain that some of you will agree with me when I say…
… it’s easy to write about how the stories we tell ourselves are important, so to be careful what they are,
… and it’s easy to speak the words,
… but to truly believe them on a cellular level… that is where the magic happens.
I have been too close to the stories to see that they are ONLY stories.
Deepak Chopra, in one of his books, says when we look at our bodies now, they are a physical manifestation of the things we have told ourselves in the past. And, if we want to know what our bodies will look like in the future, we need to examine the stories we tell ourselves now.
I realise, as I read through what I have written above, that trying to hide from the world by over-eating and drinking and ending up in an overweight body was a hilarious plan. How on earth getting bigger equates to hiding is something I now find funny. At the time I made that decision it must have been the best plan I could come up with.
In this realisation, and writing these words, I burst into laughter, then the tears start; I am glad I find my realisation so funny now, and I’m sad to have wasted so much time trying to hide that way.
And I can feel a deep wound begin to heal.
The words of Byron Katie present themselves in my mind frequently. She gently asks
Who would you be without your story?
Who would I be without the story that I’m not good enough,
that I don’t belong here,
that I’m not worth listening to so I might as well keep quiet?
Who would I be if I emerged, every day, from my phone booth wearing my red cape and showing my green hair?
It seems that, despite all of the various punishments and shame, some part of me has the wisdom to look underneath all the bullshit stories I tell myself – the ones made from the pain of past experiences. Somehow some part of me knows that I am not broken…
There is nothing to ‘fix’, nothing to do.
I just have to BE.
That my BEing is enough
and it is beautiful.
Who would you be without your story?