Where do the messages come from, that we are not worthy? Not accepted? Not loved?
Last week while going through photos of my childhood, I came across two class pictures: one from first grade, the other from second. The change was startling. In the first I am grinning in a green turtleneck, my eyes bright behind round metal glasses. In the second I look as if I’d been arrested for a crime–eyes hard, mouth a grim line.
Not because I’d missed a cue from the photographer. Because in one year, I’d picked up too many cues from others. That my home-sewn hippy dresses and kitchen scissor’s haircut and too-big mouth were not right, not good enough. That I was not good enough. Not worthy of love.
And I did have a big mouth. So big a friend’s mom pulled me aside in a restaurant parking lot to tell me to keep it closed when we went inside. So big that when a chorus teacher instructed my class to open our mouths as wide as we could, I opened mine only half way. So big I told friends my feelings–my honest feelings–not realizing this would cost me friends. And I said foolish things too, lacking the social discernment others seemed to so easily grasp.
By fifth grade when my school picture arrived in the crinkly envelope, I pulled out a pen and scratched out my face. Unworthy. Unaccepted. Unloved.
Three decades later, it surprises me to see there was nothing wrong with me. No dragon’s teeth. No horns. No wickedly sprouting tail. I was a cute kid. Looking at a picture of myself at four, wearing a dress sewn by my grandmother and blowing out the candles on my mother’s lovingly home-baked cake, I was surprised at just how cute. How happy. How clearly loved.
But that was before climbing on the yellow bus that took me away from the farm and deposited me in a world that slams its fist into little girl’s mouths that open too wide and talk too loud.
These feelings came rushing back thirty-six years later as I picked a photo to celebrate my birthday, the turning of a new decade.
The last one has been hard, so hard. Wanting to thank the women who’d helped me through it, I asked Dana to take our children bowling so I could throw a small dinner party.
“Bring a dish,” I wrote in the invitation. “Dress: Seventies glamour.”
Before my friends arrived–in Maine mud boots and kung-foo clothes and a sequined black beret–I slipped into a dress before mixing punch and waiting at the door.
Not everyone could make it, but I’m so grateful for those who did (and those who wanted to). Once again, I wore a dress sewn by my grandmother–a floor length pink and green floral sheath–and ate cake. Once again, I felt loved. And that big mouth? For three hours, I threw it open and laughed.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11.
Meadow! I love what you wrote, and your picture reminded me so much of Alayna in her young girl with glasses stage (she wears contacts now!)
Thanks, Caitlyn! Girls in glasses rock! Your daughters are lovely.
Children can be so cruel… If they only realized the effect it had on the other children for the rest of their lives… so sad. I think you are a beautiful person inside and out and so full of love it spills out all over :)
I’m sure I was cruel too… but I agree, so much of our insecurities are formed in childhood and the actions and reactions of others. I think some kids just “get it” earlier–the social norms and expectations, such as voice volume. I didn’t for a long time, and by then… what was I to do?
Wonderful to hear from you Ann!
I am so sorry you ever felt that way…you are extraordinary in so many ways…your beauty, your kindness, the love that shines from you as you look at your family and your strong faith. I thank God for throwing you in my path….thank you for having me celebrate with you, I think it should be more often not just each decade!
Me too! About ever feeling that way and the need to celebrate more often! I think one reason I love working with kids so much is how left out I felt as one. What a difference teachers (and friends) like you make.
That was a great photo (I remember that cake! It was after I took a cake decorating class. You make the hair by squeezing frosting through a garlic press.)I never thought you had a big mouth, and I knew (decided to believe) that your talkativeness was a gift from God. And it was! (Some of us still don’t know how to talk in company. I’m glad that you do.)
Thanks, Mom. I do remember you saying this! And somewhere along the line I’m sure I began to believe it! Much better to form our identity about what God says about us than our peers! And I’m glad I kept talking… and learned how to direct it. Well, at least most the time!
I remember the most wonderful wonderful girl in glasses being my very best friend! To me you were beautiful and you are so now…I was looking at pictures of you the other day and I was thinking..you are true beauty-inside and out. I think talking alot just to hear yourself vs. talking alot but in wisdom and instruction and purity are to different “talking alots” and you, my friend gift so many young women…with so much wisdom with your words. Love you-
So, super sweet, Tracy! (I had to look whether to add an ‘e’!). I’m afraid I’m still learning about when to talk and when not to!!! If you have any pointers, my dear friend, I’ll take them from you. Lots of love to you and your family!!!