“They mentioned that you aren’t very good at parking…that it makes sense you haven’t been driving a lot”, Gabe said, as we climbed out of our beat up Volkswagen. We were just getting home from the gym, only then recovering from a session of frustrated bickering. I was already on the verge of anger and felt my self-control tipping further and further to the left as I began to process this most recent stream of information. I had spent the last two months in our new neighborhood finally having the chance to really practice my parallel parking and while I was no where near perfect, I had been feeling pretty proud of my newfound ability to park in under thirty seconds, rather than having a panic attack and making Gabe park for me instead. So to find out, during a moment that I was already feeling incredibly tense, that not only was I being observed while I parked but I was being judged for it too…grrr! Why was I always so horrible at everything?!
Feeling the anger gurgle out of me as I rushed into the house (angry at Gabe for telling me this stupid piece of unhelpful gossip, while also embarrassed that I was reacting to the opinion of someone I didn’t even know) I announced that I was taking a shower, ignoring his attempts at figuring out what we should have for lunch.
I stood staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, covered in sweat, looking exhausted, and feeling defeated. I didn’t even know the person who had made the comment, albeit the fact that Gabe had finally decided to mention that the comment had come from our second week living here (not a recent comment). And yet, I still felt all the feelings: helpless, pathetic, enraged, ashamed. All the feelings that I had grown up with and yet, worked so hard to denounce, claiming them for the lies they were. So why were they creeping up on me now? Why was I feeling like such a loser?
Today Gabe and I went for a walk to grab an iced coffee. The Dunkin’ we were originally headed for is in the train terminal. I have never been in the terminal so I didn’t know what to expect. Unsurprisingly (because I seriously forget there are so many rules about bringing dogs into places) Gabe reminded me as we crossed the street, just before arriving at the terminal, that only one of us could go in because we had brought Lemon. Ugh. He thought I would feel less intimidated if I was the one to go in (the main street that we live by is pretty sketchy) while he waited outside with Lemon. But when I went in, I didn’t see Dunkin’ and I was met by a guy who walked straight up to me, his face in my face, as he (maybe) was asking for money. I don’t even know what he was doing or saying; I just knew that while he was pushing a slice of pizza into his mouth, he was also pushing straight into my personal bubble like it didn’t even exist. Thanks to a good dose of active fight or flight syndrome, I started to panic. I walked quickly past him and saw that the Dunkin’ was somewhere upstairs, but I didn’t know how to get to it and my mind was shutting down with fear, so with no iced coffee to show for my time in the terminal, I rushed out and angrily degraded myself for not being able to do it.
Of course, Gabe was kind and walked back to the house with me, without judging or scolding. For him, it wasn’t that big of a deal. For me, it felt like the ultimate example of how I yet again was controlled by my past and anxiety. When we arrived home, I admitted to him the thoughts I was feeling towards myself; thoughts I regularly have but rarely acknowledge, let alone admit.
Because I wasn’t able to get the coffees like I was supposed to, I felt like I didn’t deserve to have a coffee; like I instead deserved to be punished by not being allowed to drive to a different Dunkin’. I was subconsciously berating myself for not being able to complete a task that honestly wasn’t even that big of a deal; but for me, it somehow felt like I had failed at something much larger. I had failed to stand up to my fear.
I know what you might be thinking…wasn’t I the one who just scared those crazies off of my neighbor’s porch last week? Well, I’m not typically all that brave and honestly, that was a completely different kind of situation for me. I didn’t feel vulnerable then; I felt like a warrior defending her people. But today, I felt like a little girl amidst a sea of sharks waiting to devour me and as quick as high tide, I entered into survival mode.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am now able to recognize the lies that my first thoughts tell me are true. And not only can I recognize them, but I also know how to stand up to them, recreating the reality that once manipulated me into believing that I was helpless. Now, even with the thoughts that first arise, I stand my ground and allow myself to be given compassion, empathy, grace…because, it’s okay that I’m not always brave. It’s okay that I sometimes feel overwhelmed or scared and it’s okay that I’m not able to handle every situation. I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m changing and that’s all that I can expect from myself because perfection is my enemy.
We get to choose every day whether or not to give in to the lies and self hate. We get to choose whether we will push forward or stay wrapped in the grips of fear. I chose a long time ago that I would no longer live in a place of self hate and instead in a place that allowed Jesus to sit in the pain with me as I began the slow process of stepping into grace.
I believe that you are worth investing in. I believe that you are worth love and compassion and healing and all of the dark places that you so desperately try to hide…I believe that those places are worth knowing. You don’t have to live alone. You don’t have to hide behind the story you’ve fabricated in an effort to appear “whole”. Your scars aren’t ugly. Your brokenness isn’t too much to handle. You are my why. You are the reason I write. You are the reason why I chose to let Jesus place his hand inside of my lifeless heart all those years ago…the reason why I found his breath filling up my lungs again.
I don’t have everything figured out. I’m not so good with words sometimes and I don’t usually know how to express my emotions. I don’t have a fantastic degree in psychology or anything that really sets me apart from any other person. So truly, the only thing that I can offer is myself; my not so perfect, sometimes moody, constantly in need of grace, human self. And that’s what I am offering you…just a friend…someone who sees you…someone who might not have the answers, but always has a little time to say, “hey, this sucks so bad, but I’ll sit in it with you.”