Monday, December 12, 2016

BE PRETTY


A while back I shared my recipe for forgiveness.  
My recipe is simple and has been very effective for me.  

Often when I'm describing my recipe, people get stuck on what...exactly... has to die.  
How do you even know what has to die for you to forgive?  
Aren't we supposed to want life and living things?  

My answer to that is complicated.
My answer is ......sometimes.  

All things that are truly alive have a time span that should end.  
Keep something past its lifetime and you have a zombie.  
Just to be clear....we're talking metaphorically here.  
I'm not recommending actual murder.  
That would just lead to more problems.  
I'm recommending getting rid of the ideas 
that are mentally holding you in the spot 
where you are so that you can grow past them.


One of the hardest things I think to envision is the death of the things we hold dear.  
How can you ever let go of the perspectives, identities or just crutches that you have used your whole life?  

How do you even recognize the stuff that you need to let go of?
Most of that stuff has just been lying around so long you don't even see it anymore.

Here's an example of how I stumble across these ideas 
(and also how camouflaged they are within thought patterns or norms).
************************
A few weeks ago, my husband was walking our daughter to school.  
On his way home, he saw a mom sending her daughter off.  
What a cute, touching scene.  
Until he heard the mom's send off:  
Be pretty!

He said he stopped and thought...what the f*ck?  
Who tells their daughter that her job is to be pretty?


My answer:  The whole damn world.
Welcome to the rage party my friend.  
Most of us here are women.
We got told this was the best place to be and we can't figure out how to get out.
Probably because we keep getting told to be pretty.
When that is literally the least important thing about any of us.

If you are a daughter, this will likely resonate with you.
If you are a son, you probably have other adjectives that make you twitch.
Daughters tho...I hear you. 
 This Pretty Monster is our demon.  

A small, unscientific poll suggests these options for daughters: 

1. Pretty is something that you work really hard to always be 
2. Pretty is something that you can never achieve (and so you feel like a failure)
3. Pretty is an expectation you have decided to ignore


I've never met a woman who didn't understand on some level that pretty was expected of her.  
I've met a very few badass women who are effective at #3 as a response.
Very very few.





Above is a picture of me in a beauty pageant.
My mother was so happy that I was participating.
Amazed that they even let me in the door with all my nerd tendencies.
I just wanted to try and earn scholarship money for college.
And probably have her be proud of something that I was doing.
I was top of my class, a soloist musician, awarded and praised and successful in school.
I do not remember her ever attending any school event except when I was a representative for homecoming.
But she was sooooo into this pageant thing.
And the cheer leading thing.
And the boys-did they like me?  Was I too smart for them?  
All of the the pretty things.
That was all she wanted for me...and from me.

I am unlikely to forget that lesson...Be pretty.
In my personal experience, being physically attractive (to men) was ingrained in me as the primary way to be loved and successful.
I received this message from my mother.  
She made it clear there was no higher goal.  
There was only one thing worse than being ugly. 
(In case you're wondering, the worse thing was being ugly AND overweight).

My rebellion formed around those seeds of expectation.

In my twenties, I decided to disconnect from this body as much as possible.
To be chubby and un-made up.
To wear baggy clothes and in general...not give a shit about what this body looked like.
If you liked me in spite of all of that....then maybe you were worth knowing.
If I needed to be pretty for you to value me, then I needed to know that up front.
So that I could then use that attractiveness against both of us.
It was a tool in the toolbox that I broke out when needed.
But it was more a weapon than a gift.


Then I had a daughter.



Who is sunshine on a mountaintop.
Fierce like a lion.
Chaotic and hilarious and gentle.

Who revels in her body.
And her mind.
And her spirit.


All three.





And I realized that this divorce from my body was not really hurting the people who tried to sum me up into my body.

This divorce from my body was actually hurting me.


I had to forgive them (all of them) for boiling me down to my physical attractiveness.
For my value as an object of desire.
For requiring me to be pretty before I could be anything else.


I had to accept that I too got value from being pretty.
I had to forgive myself for valuing it.
Before anything else.
I had to recognize that I traded on my own attractiveness
 and used it to control myself and others.


So what had to die?
One of the things that I had to let die was the idea that I was a
 beloved, protected, nurtured 
daughter.  
One who was enough for just being part of my family and 
showing up with the gifts that God gave me.

The truth is more complicated and less safe.
I avoided seeing it for a long long time.


I was not protected or beloved.
I was abused and hurt.
I was abandoned in times of need.
I was bullied into believing it was more important for me to play small than to live in my truth.
I was taught to make sure everyone else had their comfortable view of the world before I was allowed to make myself comfortable.
I know how to make everyone around me feel special, important and comfortable-even (and especially if) they were violent, destructive or a predator-because that was my role in this world.  


That is not beloved.
That is not protected.
That is an idea that had to die.
So that I could see the reality and feel the feelings that are attached to those expectations.

It's pretty scary realizing that you have been telling yourself one thing...
for years...
and the opposite is actually more true.

So...I killed off that idea. 
Mostly.  
Sometimes it comes back up when I am tired, sad, or lonely. 
Lurching around like a half-formed zombie with the voice of my abusers ranting around in my head.

But I've killed it off once.
I know I can kill it again.
With enough rest and prayer and centering.
And fun.
Don't forget the fun.



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