I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii recently in celebration of my 10 year wedding Anniversary. I was excited to rest and relax, but even more excited to have no real plans for about two weeks. As my husband and I drove to our hotel from the airport, I admired the view. The landscape was different, but beautiful. I saw the water, and then I saw the volcano rock. All around, there was rock. I wondered about wildlife and vegetation in this area of the drive. Then, I started noticing a grass-like growth seemingly right from the rocks. I admired the steadfastness of the growth and the fact that while nothing else was growing out of that rock, this grass was. I remarked to my husband how amazing that was, then I began to ponder on the significance of what was going on. It made me do some thinking about life. Sometimes our situations seem dark and do not, seemingly, have a foundation from which we can grow. In the midst of our trials, we despair. We fret. We struggle to see the end of the process; But we forget that every process produces growth within us. Just like the grass growing out of the rocks, out of a hard and impossible place, we too grow and evolve. We SURVIVE. The situations may not be ideal, and we may not like how we come to our growth moments, but it happens. So, we have to be as resilient as that grass growing out of the rock. Keep growing. Refuse to bend. Decide not to let go. But grow through it. Thrive. Be. Do. Just because you can.
I was minding my business when a colleague approached me asking for a favor. I used to automatically respond, “Sure, what do you need?” Not anymore. I have gotten myself into some sticky situations by automatically agreeing. 🙂 So, as I waited for her to tell me what she wanted, she held up a tangled necklace and asked if I could fix it. Now, staring at the mess in front of me, I wondered how in the world she thought I could fix it, but she had faith in me that I could. So, I watched myself (kind of an out-of body experience) reach out my hand to accept this jumbled mess. I told her I would get to it in a bit, but as I stared at the mess before me on my desk, I could not resist at least trying to get it right. The going was intense. Every time I thought I had fixed the mess, another tangle seemed to appear out of nowhere. At some point, I felt myself getting frustrated and almost deciding that it was not worth trying, but I kept going. When I heard myself in my head giving myself a pep talk, “Slow down. You’re going to get it. Just one loop at a time.” the chore became more of a puzzle. I love puzzles, so that worked for me. Finally, I got to the last knot, and I began to hurry because the suspense was almost over, but then it seems the necklace got more tangled. So, I remembered my advice to myself and I slowed down. After what seemed like forever, I finished untangling the mess, and came out with a beautiful necklace. Now, I am patting myself on the back for a job well done.
As I untangled the necklace, I thought about how life happens, and sometimes the decisions we make or the decisions others make regarding us leave us in a bind. We get tangled up and frustrated, and many times it may seem that we will never be able to straighten out the knots and twists that life has brought to us. But, just like the necklace took time and patience to untangle, so do our lives. The great thing about life is that things can always get back to “normal”, but it is the twists and turns that make it a bit more interesting. Even when our lives get jumbled up, there is always an opportunity for us to get ourselves together. Just as I had to help my colleague, sometimes, we have to help others untangle their lives. Even if it is left to us to fix the “mess” of our lives, we have to remember that some messes can’t be fixed immediately, but they take time, patience, and some setbacks. The blessing is that when we work to fix it, we appreciate the finished work.
Maybe your life has seemed like that necklace. A mess. Tangled up. Confused. Maybe it seems impossible to fix. But, I challenge you to take it one “knot” at a time. Keep working at it. Don’t give up when things seem to get more difficult. Just keep in mind the image of what you want your life to be, and work towards that goal. After all, we are all “a mess”, but we don’t have to stay that way.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m just not good enough”, and you believed it deep down on the inside of you? Have you found yourself comparing yourself to someone else’s greatness, and finding your own self severely lacking? When was the last time you looked at yourself and said, “I am good just how I am?” Are you still thinking? That long, huh? Yeah, I understand.
I had a discussion with someone not long ago, and he reminded me that in the whirlwind of all that I do, I had lost the capacity to consider myself. I helped everyone else. I got pleasure from seeing others happy. But when he asked me what makes me happy, it took a while to think about it. Caught up in everyone else, I realized that part of my drive to make everyone happy was so that they didn’t look at me and see that I was struggling. I didn’t want anyone to see that I didn’t think I was good enough to live up to the big dreams God put in me, so I pushed everyone else’s vision, supported everyone else, encouraged everyone else…and somewhere along the way, I forgot about me. It is easy to do. Sometimes, we get so great at hiding our need from others that they begin to think we don’t need anything from them, and they become content allowing you to push their vision while yours gets dropped off on the side of the road. It’s not totally their fault. But as I spoke with this person, I began to remember the dreams I had put on the top shelf, not totally out of reach, but far enough away so that I wasn’t bothered by the sight of unrealized dreams.
I understood again that if the dreams were given to me, then I am good enough to function in them. It is timeout for losing the essence of me trying to be everything else for everyone else. Not to say that we shouldn’t support others and help push others, but not at the detriment of losing ourselves in the process. So maybe you have allowed yourself to believe that you’re not good enough, pretty enough, old enough, young enough, popular enough…destroy the lie. You ARE good enough. Now own it.
I am socially awkward. I am that one who CAN talk to everyone in the room, but probably won’t. The wallflower that is vibrant and vivacious, but would rather stay to myself. That one who loves everyone, but still gravitates to seeking my own company. I used to wonder why God gave me the personality He did. Why did he make me quiet and observant as opposed to outgoing and the life of the party? Why couldn’t he make me to be the one with a whole lot of friends and associates, rather than the one with very few friends and even fewer associates? I have watched those who seem to be well-liked by everyone, and I wondered about their secret. Then I tried to mimic who they were, but it made me feel fake and out of pocket. Eventually, I came to realize that the me the way God created me to be would have to do.
If you think about it, all of us having the same personalities would make for a very bland world. No differences. Same way of doing things. There is a place in society for all of us. For the quintessential wallflower, the gregarious life of the party, the easygoing in-the-moment participant…all of us. Now, I know that our lives sometimes shape who we are. Looking back at my childhood, my experiences shaped me to be unnaturally suspicious of anyone I encounter. Trusting someone is not always first on my list. Then as I grew older, my own mistakes led me into hiding. I used to think, “What if they knew all the things I have done. The wrong I have done to others…THAT mistake? Would they still think I had value?” But that is a mindset that has to be broken. Our lives lead to us portraying ourselves in certain ways, then we project that on others and stop being true to ourselves. I decided I would live my truth.
So now, when I say I am a wallflower, it is not out of fear of what people think about me. It is because I have learned to speak when I have something to say. But, I am the one in the gathering who will most likely be off to myself. Not antisocial. Not standoffish. Just comfortable in who I am. It took years to get here, but it has been worth the journey. Spend time getting to know yourself, and being comfortable with who you are. Your experiences shaped you, but they don’t define the rest of your story.
A question as old as time itself…and an answer that can be heartbreaking…this question often reverberates through our minds. It makes sense because we are only human, but sometimes acknowledging the fragility of our humanity does not offer us solace when the answer to this question leaves us wanting. What happens when you ask yourself this question, then you look around at the “evidence” in your life, but you can’t find anything that seems to lean towards the answer being a resounding “yes”? Do you just stop trying? Do you give in to the depression that waits just an inch outside of your proverbial bubble? Do you even dare to keep believing that you will see everything your heart could ever hope for? Do you?
For some reason, I have been in this place of wondering if who I am and what I do matters? With all that I give, and in each of my businesses, I have still wondered if I am talking to and encouraging myself. Seeming lack of response, and watching what seemed like everyone else supporting others, left me in a low place. I stopped writing. I stopped encouraging. I stopped hoping. I hid myself in plain view, but I was not me. The funny thing was…no one seemed to notice. That left me even deeper in the hole of depression until those old thoughts of just disappearing and never coming back began to resurface. Yeah, those negative and dismal thoughts that are only supposed to apply to anyone else but a motivator…those thoughts. I was in a rough place.
Finally, I couldn’t take that place anymore, and I cried out to God hoping that at least He could see me. He could. He never left. I just stopped believing. So, piece by piece, I began to rebuild my broken heart and shattered dreams. No, no one came to my rescue, and yes it still feels at times that no one cares, but who I am and what I do is about more than just me. If I don’t write, who will miss being encouraged because I didn’t do it? If I don’t speak, who would miss hearing the very words that could save their lives? If I don’t mentor and coach, what young person will grow up believing that they don’t matter? If I am not me, someone else is affected. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, that one truth remains.
Your life matters, and maybe you get tired of giving and not seeming to receive, but keep believing that one day things will look so different. One day you will look back at these times and thank God you didn’t quit when it was easier to just walk away. There is something so magnetic and necessary about you, so don’t allow life to lie to you. Your circumstances are not bigger than you. The hurt can’t conquer you. You MATTER.
Sometimes you just hurt. Not that surface kind of hurt, but that deep-down, soul-wrenching, unexplainable hurt. That hurt that seems to invade every facet of your life until you find yourself drifting through each day, pasting on the appropriate smile, and saying just the right things. But that pain deep inside is there as a constant reminder that things really are not as they seem. I have been there. “Where is there?” you may ask. There is where you silently cry as your significant other sleeps beside you. You soak the pillow with your tears, feeling lonely even in your togetherness. As you cry, your body shakes as you try to control the sobs from breaking free and disturbing their sleep. I mean, they wouldn’t understand anyways, right? There is trying to describe to someone you love how you feel, attempting to rid yourself of this vast feeling of going nowhere and mattering to no one, and them responding, “Well, you have a good life, right?” as if that makes what you are saying and how you are feeling null and void. Yeah, they missed it. Or, maybe you search through your mind polling the many phone numbers in your phone, but not one catches your attention as someone you can call and have them talk you out of this lonely place.
I mean, when you look at the surface, life is great, right? You have everything you need and some things you want. You have a loving partner, maybe family and friends, even some children sprinkled in there. You are the one everyone depends on to encourage them and be there for them, but sometimes you want to shout “WHAT ABOUT ME?” On the surface, you have it going on, but no one knows you’re struggling with being a hamster running around the proverbial wheel of life, seeming to get nowhere, but running because that is what you were told to do. The days spent building up others’ dreams while you see yours collecting dust on the shelves are tough days, but you grin and bear it. You have no choice, right? Working a 9-5 you hate because your family has to eat, right? Pushing others to be great when you want to give up. Yeah, I know what “there” is. But even with all of this that no one ever sees, you manage to make life look amazing.
That is because even with all of that, it really is. Even with the soul-searing pain, at least you can still feel. Even with the loneliness, at least you still function. Even when it seems no one on earth understands or cares, there is still One who knows just what He is doing every step of the way. Maybe you are in the place I described. It is a ROUGH place, it is, but it is not the end. You may feel like giving up. Been there. Suicide has crossed my mind several times. That is not the answer. That is only hurting others because you hurt. Next up, getting in a car and just driving…disappearing like you see in the movies. Yeah, that would not work. Eventually someone would find you or you would just get tired of running from yourself. Well, maybe if I turn my back on God who doesn’t seem to care anyway, and I just do whatever I want, that will change things. Nope. Same issues just masked by “good times” which are really camoflauging empty moments.
Sometimes just acknowledging the feelings is the first step. Acknowledging that you are broken and hurting, feeling unnecessary and overlooked, seemingly unproductive and thinking you can be easily replaced, yeah, that is the first step. Unfortunately, this may be a journey you take alone. It may be the roughest journey you ever embark on, but in the end, if you can acknowledge it, you can beat it. So, yeah, maybe there will be a few nights, weeks, months, of tear-soaked pillows…Maybe your phone will become useless as you can’t figure out anyone to call, but in the end you win. Let the silent tears flush out the bitterness and the hurt. Allow yourself to be in the moment, and know that as long as there is a tomorrow, there is another chance for things to get better from here. It has to get better. It just does.
Life can be strange, but wonderful at the same time. We all have different experiences and so many factors contribute to making us who we are at this present moment. Some of those experiences have been amazing and life-changing, while other experiences have been desperate, but still life-changing. Many of us remember tears and laughter, ups and downs, victories and setbacks–a constant cycle of “good” versus “bad” in the constant cacophony of a our individual worlds. Looking back, I see situations that, at the time, I perceived as bad, and I mean REALLY bad, but they ultimately worked out for my good. I also see situations that I thought were good that were actually wolves hidden in sheep’s skin, and I probably should have never gotten involved. Either way, the experiences shape us and prepare us for what is to come. So, as I began to ruminate on life and the roller coaster it has been, I realized that some things that I had going on now were due to my delayed childhood.
The low self-esteem issues that I never dealt with caused me to be a hesitant and uncertain adult. I began to think I was not good enough and that no one could ever love me. I did not think that anyone would value my opinion or what I had to say. I shrunk back from attention believing that people would realize I was worthless, and begin to treat me as such. I did not believe in me. This was all because growing up in foster care, not everyone believed I would be anything. I remember the one foster parent who was talking to someone else (thinking I would not hear about it), who said I would not graduate college. Instead, I was supposed to end up pregnant and drop out of college; thus, in their eyes, becoming worthless. I remember that same foster parent telling my boyfriend at that time that he was too good for me, and me finding out just how low I was thought of by the person who was supposed to be my parent. Over the years and various homes, each time they sent me away, I felt I was not good enough. There had to be something about me that made me unworthy. No one wanted me. Or so it seemed. But then, HE wanted me. He showed me attention. He said nice things, but then he too showed me I was worthless when HE took my childhood innocence. HE cared about what he could get from me, but even he thought I was disposable. So, I grew up way too soon. I rehearsed what had been said and done. I believed it. So, when I finally came to a place of realizing that even I have a purpose, I denied it. What if what “they” said was true? What if I really am not good enough? What if I try and fail? What if no one cares? What if I really am as worthless as “they” believed I was. What if I fail God? What if no one values me? What if….? So, somewhere in there, I really believed that I was not enough for my journey, and that I was not built to succeed.
But piece by piece, God begin to put my “puzzle” back together. Here and there my confidence was built. One person at a time, my heart begin to mend, and I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I was good enough to make it to the end. Peeking around the corner, I began to see the warm glimmer of hope. Timidly I stepped out on a faith road, and inch-by-inch, I began to make my way towards a tiny light I saw on the horizon. Then one day, I looked up from my travels, and I looked back realizing just how far I had come. But, then the reminders began. “Just because you made it this far doesn’t mean you will finish,” is what my mind told me. I had a Sherman Clump moment from one of my favorite movies when the memories became too much. Instead of giving in to the noise, I shouted within myself, “Yes, I Can!” So step-by-step I began to believe. As each memory resurfaced and each reminder threatened to envelop me, I fixed my eyes on the light and repeated to myself, “I Am Enough. I Am Enough. I Am Enough!”–until I believed it.
So maybe you are traveling on your journey, and everything in life tries to tell you that you will not make it. Maybe your childhood was delayed like mine and all of your stuff from then seems to be coming up now. I am here to remind you that YOU are enough. You can make it. You will make it. Even if it is an uphill climb and a daily mantra you have to recite, YOU have to believe in you, and know that if you can keep your eye on the light in front of you, you can succeed. Life can throw some hard blows. Things can be bitter and desperate, but they can also be enlightening and amazing. Bitter with the sweet, yeah, I know. But in the end, you win. So pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Set your eyes on what is in front of you, and refuse to lose. You ARE enough.