For The First Time, Truth.
For the first time, on July 4, 2013, as I sat chatting with a stranger in the park while our children played, I told the truth.
We had some conversation, and after telling me a bit of his story, he shared how important the love of his father, mother and grandmother had been in his life.
The old me would have nodded and smiled, as if affirming all that he was saying. Meanwhile, on the inside I would be quietly heartbroken: why wasn’t my family like that?
That day a new me emerged, and she simply said, “My family wasn’t like that. That fierce love simply wasn’t there. In fact, my father thought of his third wife and her family more than his own blood.”
Saying it made me want to cry, yet it felt so good too. For the first time, I did not feel the need to pretend or hide. The person I was talking to did not run away. In fact, he understood.
Before that day, mine had been a sin of omission. By nodding and smiling, I purposefully allowed the other person to assume that I was like him, that I too had that experience of love, that I too had a loving family in my corner.
At least that was what I was doing inside my head. To the other person, I was probably simply a good listener.
Being a good listener is not a bad thing, but where was I in the equation? I was completely missing. I remained a cipher — a smiling, lying mask standing in for the fantasy of what I thought I was supposed to be.
I did not allow anyone to get to know me, to know that my story was not like theirs. Showing up in that way — or more accurately, absenting myself in that way — might have been okay for them, but it certainly was not good for me.
No one wants to be a downer in social situations, but I needed to find a way to represent myself more authentically. My pretense served a purpose for a long time — before I was willing or able to face my own truth — but no longer. I had to let it go.
On that day, I finally understood that my being unaccepted by my father was not because I was unacceptable, but rather because my father was non-accepting of me. It was his action, not mine; it was his responsibility. I couldn’t do anything about it — and believe me, I tried — but no one should have to work that hard to be loved.
If you’re working that hard, it’s not love that’s on offer.
I share this not for pity, for I have gone far beyond the events of that day, but to reach out to anyone else who is suffering, and for anyone who feels that an abusive comment or act is a reflection of them: it is not.
Abuse does not make you unworthy; it simply means the other person is abusive, end of story. It is their story, not yours. I held on to someone else’s story for a long time, and then one day, I let it go.
Up until then, I had felt so responsible for the ugliness of my story, ashamed, as if it was a reflection on me rather than on anyone else. I felt that my story would always be a handicap in whatever I tried to do.
No more. On that July 4th, by stating my truth, I took a step towards freedom.
My healing process has been mysteriously intertwined with learning to knit. Since I began knitting, I’d been going to a local yarn store whose prices were irresistible and their selection off the hook. So, naturally, I’d been stockpiling yarns.
One morning, I woke up and realized that my stockpile was becoming oppressive. Instead of beckoning me to knitting adventures, suddenly the yarns spoke of unfinished projects, obligations, and clutter.
I had to do something, yet I couldn’t simply give the yarns away; I really loved the stuff! I determined to plow through as much of it as possible, as fast as possible, and give myself a fresh start.
One project I embarked upon was a baby blanket made out of a drawer full of scraps of acrylic worsted weight yarn. I had leftover dusty rose from the skein from my very first knitting sampler. I had several shades of blue left over from my first big project, a patchwork afghan I made for my son, and a bit of red leftover from his scarf.
I inherited some butter yellow that had been unraveled from a friend’s abandoned project; it was crimped and pulled from its previous incarnation, but nothing that a gentle wash wouldn’t fix. Lastly, there was a ball of periwinkle blue from a lovely friend.
All these odd and ends would go into the blanket.
I made the patches in different colors, and circled each patch with a contrasting color. Every seam was a different color, and short stretches of different colors encircled the whole. It is a happy, sunny blanket for a friend’s new baby. It came out great, and it won a place of honor as the baby’s beloved blankie.
I got to thinking that I am a bit like that blanket. Sometimes the material we have in hand is not the most beautiful or refined. It might not be what we would have chosen had we had the choice. But we can work with what we are given.
The pieces that make up the whole are a bit messy, some frayed at the edges, or badly used. But I am the missing ingredient who pulls them all together. I have the caring hand, the artist’s hand, to transform the pieces from a pile of rags and tatters into an object of beauty, a thing of value, something to be cherished.
I no longer nod and agree and keep silent. I speak my truth, and, in doing so, out of the rags and tatters, come stories of value, teachings of beauty, messages to be cherished.
We are all miracles. There is magnificence waiting to be discovered in the scrap heaps of our experience if we only accept the materials that life has put to hand.
Go, knit. Go, speak. Put your hand to life, to shape, to design, to redefine. Speak your truth. Tell your story.
If bestselling author and life coach Reba Linker had a bumper sticker, it would read: Every challenge is a doorway! Reba walks the path of self-love to a happier, more fulfilled way of life. She helps her clients shift away from the obstacle, and learn to see the big, bright, bold opening to a more abundant and joyous life. Reba’s books include the bestselling journal, Imagine Self-Love, The Little Book of Manifesting Big, and Follow the Yarn. Find her free gift (Chapter 1 of Imagine Self-Love) at RebaLinker.com. She is the host of a new online TV show, Paint Yourself Into the Picture on VCNTV.com. You are invited to join the self-love revolution and meet others on the path at Reba’s Facebook group, Leaders in Self-Love.