True Self

I had finally gotten all of them under control. Whenever I walked into a classroom, I was overtaken at the door by a mob of preschoolers who knew I only visited them once a week. It was one of three jobs I was working, and a company hired me to go to various daycare centers and lead a music class. I had beaten out those with much higher qualifications academically, and the job market was scarce, so I knew this opportunity had come my way for a reason.

I unzipped my suitcase and let the kids pick out their instruments. I rarely followed the curriculum but always was interested to see what they wanted to do.

In every room I visited, I saw the weariness in the teachers’ eyes. Most of them would collapse in a corner while I had the children’s full attention.

I always sat on the floor, and if they had their way, all of them would have been as close to me as possible. I had to fight my way in, and my shirt and jeans always showed proof of many runny noses using me as a Kleenex. They all would wrap themselves around my waist, ankles, and arms, anything they could grab onto. The minute I got home, my clothes went in the wash on high-power sanitize mode.

“What should we start with?” I asked.

They started to raise their hands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her crawling toward me. Before I knew what was happening, she curled up in my lap like a cat.

“Miss Chris, I don’t feel good.”

I could tell she was running a fever from the heat that was coming off of her. She settled herself in like this was a normal thing to do. I was supposed to teach a class where no one ever sat still, and now I was somewhat trapped.

She fell asleep.

I looked to the teacher for information.

“Her mom couldn’t take off work today. She has a double ear infection with bronchitis, and she is on an antibiotic, but I don’t think it’s helping.”

“There wasn’t anyone else who could help?” I asked.

“No, and as long as they are on a medication, they can come here.”

I put one hand on her back. I guess I was going to have to get creative as all eyes were on me. I would have had all the kids pray for her in a church, but if I had done that in this setting, I would have been escorted out the door to my car.

“I think I have been coming to see you guys so much that I bet if I sit here and tell you what to do, you will be able to, right? Like, big kids?”

I have found that if you tell people they are capable of more, they at least try, and this age group always seems eager to be more grown-up.

“Yes,” they all said at once.

“What do we use to hear music?” I asked.

“Our ears,” they all said.

“Okay, so if I tell you what to do, can you use your ears to do that even if you don’t see me doing it too?”

The little girl was in the deepest sleep, not moving an inch.

“Yes,” they all said again.

They did everything I asked of them, and even when I turned on music for them to follow along, she never woke up.

They crashed cymbals, marched around the room, and went through various hand motions I had taught them to do with certain songs. For an hour, I stayed stationary like a piece of furniture so this child could rest, and it was as if she was in a soundproof room.

When it was time for me to leave, she flipped over and looked up at me.

“I feel better,” she said.

“You do?”

“I was tired, Miss Chris.”

“I think you were.”

The color in her face looked brighter and her eyes less sick. She got up, walked over to where her group of friends was, and jumped in to play with them.

“That’s the best I have seen her look all day,” the teacher said.

Sometimes, we just need a nap.

Mine came in the form of a guided meditation this past June. I had read an article on psychological healing that suggested success in recovering from deeply embedded wounds. Because of my strong ability to visualize anything, it didn’t take long to go inward to this place that often lays dormant.

It felt similar to having a dream, but I could easily come back if I had to.

I was taken to a wooded area where I was instructed to sit on a rock. I saw a short form appear as if hiding behind a tree, peering out at me as I looked. It was all black, almost cartoon-looking. I could see a head, legs, arms, and hands, but no details. Similar to a pedestrian sign type drawing. I got the understanding that it was a representation of a human form.

As I watched, this figure came and sat across from me. I realized that this was a part of me that had been there all along, buried under by a lot of dirt that had been piled on her.

I was to have a conversation with this aspect of myself and let her know that she was not in danger despite all the pain she had previously been subjected to. That even though life had not gone the smoothest, I would no longer contribute to her suffering.

Often what happens when a person is subjected to the cruelty of others, two outcomes can occur. Either you reject it or accept it. Usually, those who are seen as weak are targeted and vulnerable. They believe the spoken remarks, and even when the aggressor is long gone, the words continue to play in the mind like a broken record.

Soon, you hate yourself, and you don’t even really remember why. This negative mindset attracts more “proof” as these types of people manifest themselves from time to time to serve as a reminder that it’s a fact, which helps to solidify the idea more. You swim continually in a pool of misinformation, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, it’s hard to believe it. You have been programmed to have a critical low-level self-loathing view no matter how often you are presented with the truth.

It’s similar to the brainwashing that recruits undergo when cult members work to break them down mentally to implant conformity.

Now that I was face to face with the innocent part of me who did absolutely nothing but show up on the earth, I was to tell her that it wasn’t her fault and not to believe what she had heard, even if it had been said by an authority figure or someone she was supposed to trust.

I started doing this practice daily. Sometimes I floated in a canoe with my young self, met with her in a field of flowers or back in our original meeting place.

After a month of this, I found myself in a room that had three folding chairs. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t need to listen to an audio at all. I could close my eyes and see what I needed to. I walked in and sat down, not sure what was going to happen. There was a whiteboard with words written on it that had long plagued me. Ugly, fat, stupid, not good enough. They were all there. The door opened, and an angelic being sat in one of the empty chairs. Then she came into the room, totally different than our first encounter. I recognized myself. No longer was covered in blackness, but I could see every feature.

I knew it was me, but I felt protective of her as I would be over one of my daughters. Where before, she kept her distance, now she sat near me just like all the kids I had met over the years.

A bright light began to circulate from the angel to her, then me and back around. I looked again at the words on the board, and they began to disappear. Soon, it was empty. All of these sessions had been a dismantling of years of self-inflicted wounds ignited by the negative and careless comments of others.

In Revelation 21:5-7, it is made clear how God wants us to be our best selves, free from the restraints we put ourselves in:

Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” He also said to me, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.”

And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty, I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.

All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”(NLT)

In Romans 8:33, things are made more clear about how important we are to God:

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love…(Message)

The uncovering process isn’t something I got up every day excited about. It made painful memories surface that I had buried, but it helped me understand the why behind some of my thinking about myself.

Am I fully healed? No. But I’m more aware of how my past has affected me, and I don’t want to carry it with me any further. And, I don’t tolerate personal attacks on my character like I used to. Instead of letting them slide by, I am assertive and confront them. Why let history repeat itself?

You have to be willing to make it an ongoing project to uproot those things that aren’t serving you and are hindering your growth.

If you do, you are going to feel like someone has come along and stripped away all the fake exterior that has served as your protection. But the result will be that you will finally be your true self.

(She looks a lot like the one I met over this past summer…)

Unnecessary Chain

When you raise children, you have no idea what is coming your way. Suddenly you see life with a new set of eyes, and if you are a good parent, you don’t want to repeat the mistakes made in your past. So I read every single parenting book possible, but I found there are just some situations that no expert can prepare you for.

My oldest daughter would say to me out of the blue,

“Mom, I think I’m going to tell a lie.”

I would say, “Then don’t.”

“Okay,” she would reply and then would look relieved just to have told me. This became a quick fix to stop underhandedness.

My youngest daughter tended to conceal or go around the truth. It wasn’t a flat-out lie, but there was a bit of sleight of hand.

It wasn’t done to harm others but to be to her advantage. What I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, and she flew under the radar, so she thought. This began at a very young age, so I tried to get a grip on it right away to avoid it getting worse.

I was at a register paying, and I glanced down to see her looking at something in a bin about her height. She was about to put it in her jacket pocket. She was only two at the time, so I crouched down and whispered that she couldn’t do that. No one around me knew, and I could tell she wasn’t fully aware that her actions weren’t right. I put it back discreetly.

Once I got her into the car and I was driving, I calmly started to explain that what she had been doing was stealing, and God didn’t want us to do that. She was silent as I spoke, taking in what I was saying.

“Some big people go to jail for taking things, so don’t do it anymore. They don’t care that it’s wrong, and then they go to prison.”

I drove a little further and heard a little gasp. I looked in my rearview mirror.

With tears streaming down her face, she screamed,

“I don’t wanna go to jail!!”

“Hey! Listen..you won’t….”

She was screaming so loud she couldn’t hear me.

“I don’t wanna go to jail! I don’t wanna go to jail!”

“You won’t…hey… listen….”

Her older sister had a hard time not laughing.

In between wails, I kept trying to reassure her she wasn’t headed for the big house.

“Do the right thing. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, and you won’t go to jail, ok?”

“Okay,” she said, finally able to hear my voice.

You would think she would have changed her ways after that, but she was still learning and pushed the envelope where she could.

Every morning, I had each of them take a chewable vitamin. One loved them, and the other was not very amicable to anything healthy. She wanted bottomless bowls of goldfish crackers with apple juice free flowing. Her older sister would pop down whatever I asked, but she would put up a fight after running it through her invisible mental filter and deeming it “yucky”.

I let her pick the color she wanted out of the bottle, and she would run off to her room to take it. One day, I heard: Tell her to show you her teeth.

She ran past me, and I said,

“Open your mouth. I want to see something.”

Her choice of the day was purple, and if she had just eaten it, her teeth would show the evidence. She immediately complied, so she had no idea the trap that was being set.

They were white as snow.

“What did you do with your vitamin?” I asked.

“I ate it.”

“No. You didn’t.”

She closed her mouth, realizing I was on to her.

I walked into her room and found the dog frantically trying to dig behind her dresser.

“What is happening?”

I pulled the heavy piece of furniture away from the wall. A year’s worth of vitamins spilled out from where she had been stashing them.

I used both her first and middle names to summon her while I fought off the dog from gulping them down and overdosing.

She appeared in the doorway, between her sparkling teeth and the dog leading me, she knew her number was up.

“You haven’t taken any of these? Ever?”

She shook her head no.

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want her to think it was okay.

She confessed that she had slipped the tiny supplement into a small opening daily. It was like the actions of a person in a locked ward bypassing their medication. I didn’t even know what to do with that. She had come up with something I had never read in any of my parental training manuals. Ever.

“You have to tell me the truth and don’t hide things.”

I think I gave up on the vitamins after that.

She promised to be good as gold, but there were a few more minor things that she tried to get away with.

Years later, she told me while trying not to laugh, she crawled under my bed and watched a show that I told her I wanted to preview first to see if it was age-appropriate. I had no idea she was happily watching along with me while I was trying to protect her innocence. At the end of it, she crawled out, unknown to me, without a twinge of guilt.

Somewhere along the way, she became honest as the day is long, developed a healthy conscience, and became her authentic self.

It has been my experience that a person can only hide in the shadows for so long until a moment comes when they are brought into the spotlight of truth. There are various shades of dishonesty, from the mild, like hers, to the more extreme, where its become a lifestyle of functioning in an alternative reality.

For some, it comes in the form of people pleasing. We don’t want to let others down, and conflict isn’t our favorite subject. So, we push our true feelings aside, make excuses and carry on with a smile. It appears to be a noble undertaking because we go out of our way to make everybody happy and don’t want to disappoint, all the while we are withering away on the inside. We keep skirting past those uncomfortable moments of setting boundaries and saying no because we need to keep the peace.

No one becomes a doormat without allowing it.

The other day, I opened up a cupboard and pulled out a bag of organic potatoes. They had been enjoying their time in the dark, sprouting major eyes and decomposing second by second. Because they were pushed to the back, no one realized they were there.

I moved them to the counter from where they had been on the floor. A brown, oily puddle began to form and seeped its way under the microwave. The worst part was the smell that started to infiltrate the kitchen.

I grabbed the nearest roll of paper towels and the bottle of kitchen cleaner in an attempt to stop the problem.

My daughter, who heard my muffled screams because I was holding my breath, materialized with her can of pumpkin spray, which I still have some trauma from last year’s spray down episode. She tried to combat one overwhelming scent with another with her shirt pulled up to her eyebrows.

No matter how fast I was trying to clean it up, the rancid smell was winning. The only solution was to triple bag the rotting produce and put it outside. Hours later, there were still hints of it in the air. Mixed with pumpkin air freshener.

Like those hidden potatoes, when you stuff down your true feelings, they will eventually leak out in some way. Either the body will manifest symptoms, or your emotional well-being will suffer. God doesn’t want you to live like that.

In Matthew 5:37, it says: Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. (NCV)

And in Romans 13:8 it states: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another..(NASB)

Don’t hold yourself hostage by surrendering your power to keep others feeling content.

Fear is the culprit, promising in a twisted way to keep you safe from upset, but every time you shut off what you want to say, your spirit fades a little more, and it gets easier to do so. Then when you do speak up, it’s such a foreign and rare occurrence that you aren’t taken seriously, so you go back into your corner and convince yourself that this is how it’s supposed to be. It seems normal, but it isn’t.

This way of conducting oneself is usually years in the making, probably going back to childhood, so to get out of it will be somewhat of a struggle, but every time the decision is made to correct it, you gain more of yourself back. You learn how to live in a balanced way where you aren’t a pushover or an aggressive bully.

This is where your prayer life has to be taken seriously as you seek answers that will help undo old habits. As usual, if you involve God, then it can be done, and it says so in 2 Corinthians 3:17:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NLT)

In addition to doing an inward search, I have found that just like all the parenting advice I used to read, there are plenty of resources to look to for healing this part of your life so you can be genuine, live unafraid, and finally break the unnecessary chain.