On Sunday, I went to a class with a lot of ladies.
Did your teeth just clench a little? Mine did. A lot of ladies can sometimes feel very, very daunting. I usually come away going, "I'm so glad I did that" but there have been a few times where I've walked away going, "NEVER AGAIN." Those few bad experiences seem to have a pretty strong effect, unfortunately.
As I listened to the teacher talk about how prone women are to comparing themselves to each other, I felt a question creep up. I didn't want to ask it for several reasons.
#1) In the past, I have worked hard to SAY THE RIGHT THINGS... not to enrich but to show how good I was. I wanted people to think I was a good person because if they thought I was, then I was. The opinions of others were my God, of sorts. I was a slave, self-made.
#2) I didn't want to hi-jack the lesson. I know what it's like to teach and have a lesson derailed by a questions.
#3) It was vulnerable.
I prayed and checked my motivations, asking God if I should ask... I felt that I should, so I did.
"A few weeks ago, I had a friend visit. Our personalities were different and our gifts are different, and for the first time in my life I felt enriched and inspired by her. Usually, I feel threatened when other women shine in their gifts, as if something is wrong with me. I'd love to hear from some more experienced sisters what helps them? What tools they employ in situations where another woman is shining and they start to feel threatened or worthless?"
Immediately, the woman sitting in front of me reached back and touched my knee, lending sweet support which I really appreciated. I think I know the answer here, but I felt I should ask. Being teachable is important to me, and I'm not very good at it.
One woman shared her experience studying different personality types, how understanding HOW and WHY people are different helps her when people who are different from her rub her wrong.
I have found a lot of help studying this as well -I don't want to work Step 4 for others, but it has been VERY helpful to study the strengths and weaknesses of different personality types. I often find myself nodding at God and going, "This all makes sense. You put all kinds of people together to life and strengthen each other... it's perfect and beautiful. We're all one, but we are all different. Amazing."
Then came the *zing*.
One woman shared her own experience and while I can't remember the exact words, I do remember the exact feeling. She said it hadn't been her experience to feel threatened or intimidated by other women shining... ever. She only ever felt inspired by other woman as they shone.
As she spoke I felt pretty, well, dumb. Broken. Not enough. Very, very dumb.
The woman sitting next to me sat up straighter, as if in a sort of panic and immediately reached for my back, holding it. Maybe she was hoping to shield me? I don't know. I do know that she felt the blow with me.
Another woman shared, through tears, how finding her own divinity -her own self-worth -was vital in her journey... that comparing herself and feeling not enough was something she struggled heavily with, but when she focused only on her own stuff, everything else fell into place.
A fourth woman shared how she employs gratitude, how grateful she is for women who help her teach her children... some women can reach her children in ways she can't, and how grateful she is for them.
A few minutes later, I had to leave the class. It hadn't ended yet, but I had something at my house that needed attention. I wasn't too sad about leaving. The brave thing would have been to STAY and FACE it all, but I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked down the empty hallway toward the parking lot.
In my truck, I reached for my phone. Who could I call? Who? I needed to vent. I stopped my hand in mid-air. Another thing I struggle with is relying on others instead of God. I pulled my hand back and started praying out loud.
"God, that hurt. Not lethal. But it hurt. Am I just thoroughly broken? Unworthy of JUST GETTING OVER IT? I even wish I was above being hurt by something so petty. Am I just not resilient? Okay, okay, okay... even now, I comparing myself. The ladies all had so much to share, and if I take what they say... studying personality types, finding inspiration, finding gratitude, practicing developing my self-worth and cultivating divinity... okay, okay... There's a sort of path in all that, right? There's something..."
I tapped my steering wheel as I turned onto my road, "If I find self-worth and root myself in my identity as a Daughter of God, then I can practice gratitude for the gifts of others. With that gratitude I can move into curiosity and begin to study others as they shine, appreciate what their gifts contribute to the whole, to the community, see them as children of God as well. Then I could see inspiration coming."
Everything fell into place.
I still felt pain, but the sting of it had eased substantially. I continued to pray, to lay my pain on God.
A few minutes later, I was eating a beautiful Sunday lunch with my family and I was PRESENT.
I wasn't obsessing or angry or seeking vindication or validation. I was okay, really okay... not pretending okay.
I still wish I was the kind of person who wasn't HIT by comments like that. What she said really had nothing to do with me at all, AT ALL. It wasn't a direct or malicious comment.
That evening, I checked my phone and saw two facebook messages and one text -all from women who had been there. None of the messages were filled with hate or gossip, only appreciation.
One simply said, "Thanks for your vulnerable question today."
I checked when it had been sent -it was sent in the middle of class. Like the woman next to me who held my back, this sweet woman "held my back" by reaching out and sending me a message as fast as she possibly could.
I smiled at her message and went to my step 4 inventory -something I'm looking over again. I added, "vulnerability" to my assets. What a crazy asset.
On one side of the coin, I can experience deep connections with amazing women -amazing! The women in my close life are deeply incredible women.
On facebook one day, I reached out because the day was sucky. Not horrible or the worst day ever, but just truly a dumb, dumb day. The responses I got were hilarious. Seriously.
My friends posted memes and jokes that just made me smile and laugh out loud! There was one or two "fixy" comments, but overall, my heart just burst. Someone commented, "you have the best friends."
I DO! I truly do! My friends are all ready to handle REAL, and they WANT REAL. They treasure it and place high value on things that matter (like cat memes, fur real).
The women who messaged me were all women I really admire. That fact alone validated my vulnerability -it attracts really gorgeous souls.
On the other side of the coin is this horribly painful feeling that maybe I'm walking around the earth wearing nothing. Except my weaknesses. People often say things without meaning to hurt, but because I have little armor on, I feel the full WHAM-O.
But guess what?
God is ready to take that WHAM-O. I can sit and lick it... and I have done that before. I probably will again sometime. But yesterday was a victory. A recovery victory.
One of the women present in the same class said, "If the work I do in my head were somehow visible... like if the work my mind does in one day was represented by a garden that people could see, I think they would be amazed."
Oh, yeah. Isn't that the truth?
Recovery is like that too. I work it, but there isn't anything visible really -I mean my house is trashed and my 3 year old daughter carts her toy phone around and whispers, "Shhhh, I'm in a meeting."
It feels defeating most days. Like, "what am I even doing?!?!"
But Sunday was a big pay off day.
I didn't camp out in victim.
I wasn't able to remember exact words I felt were aimed at me (I usually remember PERFECTLY).
I reached out to God first.
I LET GO.
I enjoyed the rest of the day.
I connected deeply to women I admire because of my vulnerability.
When my husband asked how my class had gone, I told him, but I struggled to remember exactly what had happened. I remembered what I'd learned... and that made me laugh.
"It works when I work it," I chuckled, quoting from the s-anon script.
I did get a text from the woman who made the *zing* comment, apologizing if she'd offended me. I told her no, that I was fine.
Then I erased it and said, "it did sting."
Because I added something else to my inventory that day: I lie to avoid confrontation sometimes.
Self-discovery is an adventure, ladies. It's a journey of owning up, of saying, "God, that wouldn't have hurt if I wasn't reacting from a place of pride... take this pain and forgive my pride."
Today in group, we read Step 3. I had never noticed that in Step 3, it refers to trying to handle everything myself as slavery.
How true that is! Self-inflicted slavery of the rottenest kind.
But God has offered me glorious freedom from the captivity of my own mind.
I need only choose it.
I don't always.
But Sunday, I did. And that is a victory worth appreciating.