When I was in Junior High POW bracelets and happy face buttons were the rage. Funny, how I can connect two things that are polar opposites. War and happiness. But maybe that is today’s metaphor for my life.Recently, my husband told me that he loves my smile and yet it looks as if I am always fighting against it, smiling that is. After trying to decide if that was a compliment or a creatively disguised dig, I decided to give him a pass and to really contemplate his words.
From as far back as I can remember, I think I have fought happiness. Just looking back at the old black and white photos I have of myself as a kid, I do tend to find more with a silly, half grin than a full on smile. And it makes me sad. Because I don’t think I ever allowed myself to fully experience joy from a very early age.
Lately, I have been on a quest to go back and get that kid and bring her home to the place that she belongs. With all of her disappointments and insecurities, I am not sure if I really want to. And yet I don’t think I have a choice nor can I ever really live in “me” until I do. Inviting this younger version of myself back into my life to really dig deep and explore some of the things I never have about myself is about as comfortable as inviting that obstinate step child who doesn’t want to be anywhere, least of all anywhere near you, to live with you!
As I look inside of myself, back, back, back, into a time in my life where there was joy and harmony, I find a kid with a grape juice stained mouth and a pile of books. I loved my grape juice and my books! I flash on sitting on the counter baking with my mom and can even still smell the glue as I remember watching my dad retile the tile in our bathroom. I remember rides in the car and the Drive in and picking berries on a summer day out in the woods in Washington. I remember feeding the ducks and moving to California and meeting my bestfriend who I have remained best friends with over the decades. And I smile.
But somewhere along the way, that kid got disappointed and things happened in her life that caused her to have a hard time trusting anyone let alone her self, she felt hurt and misunderstood over and over and over again and re-visiting the parts of her pain is not the easiest task at hand. Getting to know the younger version of yourself is about as comfortable as inviting that obstinate step child on a wonderful vacation. But we all need to go there. To interrupt our lives and explore the parts of us that never integrated into our adult self. If we don’t that kid will continually pop back into our life when we are least expecting them. They always seem to appear in the form of anger, or fear or in the deepest part of our sorrow.
I have a feeling my childish self is not going to come or go quietly. She may even go kicking and screaming but I need to trust myself that it is going to be okay. It will be okay for her too. She is safe now, inside of the adult me. I have finally begun to trust myself and to quit relying on everyone else to make it better. To stop living in the past and finally take my own steps into the future. To trust myself and learn to love me and believe in me and KNOW that what I feel about me is enough. I am the boss of me. Well, of course God is the boss of me, but you know what I mean. I have been giving that power to everyone else in my life and I am taking it back from EVERYONE and only giving it to God and me! And I am empowered and the child in me calms and begins to relax in the knowledge that somebody else is in control now.
For so long, I have doubted everything about myself. My intelligence & abilities, my wisdom and even my morals and my own character and just when I fell into the darkest place of my life, that is when I began to see the light, as if lost in a cave, dark and damp, only to find the hope of a ray of light through the cracks. That is where I am now. I have found the light. I may not totally be out of the cave yet but I see the way out and I am going to beat the myth of being stuck in my child. Instead I am going to invite her to come into the light with me and find the joy. I am strong enough and smart enough and brave enough to guide her right to the light where she belongs.
I am going to stop fighting the smile. To believe in the dream that it really is okay to genuinely be happy and take new photographs and to smile really big. And…“Say cheeeeese.” To let everyone know I am happy and that I don’t have to fight it any longer.