When I look back over the past 50 years of my life, I am surprised.
I have a memory of sitting down on a stool in front of the television, and watching the Oscar Awards for the very first time. I think I was 6 years old, and I was captivated. It was like a kind of magic to me, where a world of beauty existed, full of smiling faces, and what I thought to be love and abundance. I felt a longing rise up in me...I wanted that to be my world. As I sat watching the show, I made a decision that one day I would know that world, and perhaps stand on that stage, and know the love of the world. From then on I began playing dress up. In my mind I wore beautiful, flowy dresses, and wore my hair in an upsweep, decorated with lovely bows. In my mind, everyone loved me, and thought I was beautiful.
I entered the world of pretend.
I carried that dream for many years to come, not aware of what motivated it. I only knew I wanted to be someone different. My mother tells me she'd catch me sometimes, looking in the mirror at the image of myself, saying to it, "I hate you!" Experts in child psychology say whatever is happening within a child will be manifested in play, and their relationship with self will be displayed in their treatment of dolls, or in their drawings. I changed the appearance of every doll I ever had. I cut their hair, marked their faces, and rarely treated them lovingly. There was always something I wanted to change, never happy with the way they were. My drawings reflected the emotions I had for my image in the mirror, dark, twisted, the characters malformed. Then I'd tear them up and throw them away.
Of course, now I understand the little girl that I was, and I know why she so desperately wanted away from herself, and the harsh reality she lived in. Now, I understand what situations like sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment, etcetera, etcetera, do to the insides of a little person. Not yet equipped to handle all that, much less be able to even articulate what's going on, I found the only creative way I knew to survive. I entered a dream world where everything is lovely, bright and shiny, clean and perfect. The unfortunate thing was I had people around me who inadvertantly fed that pretend self...seeming to like it better than the real thing. And so, I carried that self to adulthood, which, now I understand is how ego, or the false self is born.
Yet... throughout my attempt to make my world, and myself, different than what it was, I'd have sudden flashes of awareness drop in, where I'd find myself mired in the earth as if I'd been suddenly dropped there from somewhere up above. Here I was, a princess in my own mind, being dropped into a village with the "common folk," and worse yet, behaving like them! I suspect those were the times I'd find myself standing in front of the mirror afterward, spewing hatred toward my image.
How could I be so earthy? How could I like climbing trees, going barefoot, chasing cows, playing in barns, running through orchards stealing apples, and sliding down fire escapes, not caring if my backside got black with soot? How could I like laying on my tummy, planting my nose in the grass, curious as to what lived underneath the surface? Or flopping over onto my back, staring up at the sky for hours on end, lost in it's ever changing beauty, and not giving a damn that I had grass stains from the endeavor. How could I have this adventurous spirit, that didn't shy away from a challenge, even if it was deemed only fit for boys? How could I like freeing my hair from it's perfect little "do," allowing the wind to blow through it, setting my unruly curls free, frizz be damned, not caring how it looked? How could I love getting wet, standing in the rain, arms outstretched, calling down the lightning, daring it to strike me?
How could I be so sensuous? Loving the touch, the scents, sounds, sights, and taste of this earthly existence?
So back up into my lonely little castle in the clouds I'd go, pretending to be something more...dignified, I guess. Until one day I lost sight of that earthly creature, who became a stranger to me, the persona I'd created taking on a life of its own. I couldn't understand why my world was so small, so filled with fear. Why couldn't I feel my life anymore? Why did I feel so disassociated, and isolated, with no sense of connection with anyone or anything? Why did that "other" part of me seem so much like an enemy I needed to keep down? Why did I feel like I was just one big ball of pain, and was weeping out of every pore of my body? What the hell happened to me? This wasn't the way it was supposed to be! Instead of bright and shiny, perfect and clean, I found I only saw more filth and ugliness and drudgery I needed to get away from, hating my existence, and hating the world, but most of all, hating my very human-ness. Every part of my being yearned to jump right out of my skin. I despaired.
And in answer to my despair came a Presence. I don't fail to see the irony here, because at the same time I was living a life of pretense, I also began earnestly searching for the Truth. I began to realize the world I was wanting, the world I saw on television long ago, was also a bunch of people playing dress up, living a life of pretend. That truth came crashing into me one night after I finished singing for a crowd, and stepped off the stage only to hear several people say to me, while smiling I might add, "You would be such a fabulous singer if you only lost 20 pounds!" Sure! Because the sound of my lovely voice has everything to do with the way that I look! Was there no real escape from this human existence of ugliness? At the time, God was a huge no go for me, because I perceived Him to be too judgmental and punishing for my liking, so I went searching in other areas, avoiding God like the plague.
But there He was, all Big Presence Like, no mistaking Him whatsoever, and the funny thing is, I recognized Him. Like something in me already knew Him. How could that be? I didn't know, and didn't think about it too much at first, because I was initially floored at His Presence showing up to me personally, little anti-christ that I perceived myself to be. But more than that, the thing I rebelled against, the thing I resisted more than the knowledge that He was indeed real, was His Love. Everything in me recoiled from It, way more than His actual existence. Because it wasn't some general oooaahhh kind of love...no, it was directed specifically at my person. God...the Big Kahuna in the sky, loved me. And worse, I felt the first stirrings of my own heart in answer, desiring to love Him back. Which is when I put the brakes on and pretty much took the stance, "Hold on, You! I don't have to love You!" Weird...I know.
It took awhile for me to trust Him, to take the blame off Him for the ills in the world, and in my life. It took awhile to adjust to His consistent Presence, and His Love for me. But once I did trust Him and His Love, there was really no going back. I let His Spirit move me, teach me through experiences, recognizing His hand in them, not so much re-shaping me but taking me back to my original shape. It only felt like I was being re-shaped because the princess, the mask I'd donned over the years, the false self that had taken on a life of its own, was being peeled off layer by layer.
It felt like I was being taken down, but I know now I was being humbled, false pride stripped away, to be replaced with something more glorious than I could possibly comprehend. The past few years I've lived in relative poverty, living, what I thought, at the mercy of others. For the life of me I could not get a job, or keep it if I did happen to get one, and its almost like I stood by watching as so many material things I held dear were lost to me. I also watched people who I thought were my friends slip away, people who I thought loved me. They didn't love me, they loved some representation of me. They loved the princess...the person I wasn't. The person I made, not the person God made.
When I was finally stripped down to the core, no defenses left, heart broken wide open with a love beyond words, exposed, what I found was...little ole human me, imperfect, who loves getting wet, getting lost in a song, touching the earth, lifting my face to the sunrise, dancing...and a love for humanity. Being one with the common folk. Then I was led back home, by the love of a Father, Who reconnected me with the child that I was, His child. I live close to where I was born...in an environment that evokes the now welcome memories of the love that always existed within me for the earth, and this very human existence.
The child has come home, her love standing forth, healed, embraced within me. The princess is gone, and in her place stands a woman. Nothing special. I'm just a woman. And oh so grateful, and surprised at my gratitude, to be just that.