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Back When I was Pretty ...

I came across a piece of paper in my room -- a fragment of a full sheet. It had a name on it. The name is not necessarily insignificant but also not one that is necessary for my thriving. My mind jumped to the possible consequence of someone else finding fragmented sheets of paper throughout my environment and making judgments (not in a bad way) about who I am or having a strange perspective/perception of who I am/was. That thought provoked some memory processing about my personal history and the measure of authenticity I embody out loud. I confess that my notion of authenticity and subsequent (or consequent) sense of identity has been self-examined often these days as I endeavor to move forward in the work I've "accepted" from God -- to accompany, support, encourage and model self-awareness, critical self-introspection (not a redundancy), and curiosity about self-identity in our Belonging to God and each other. It is way more difficult for me to consider my Belongingness to community. It is with that notion that I struggle mightily.

[I have not had the energy to update this blog for (SURPRISE because dang time does fly) two years! That was never my intention. But I'm hoping to be back at it now because I'm wanting to chronicle my musings and ramblings about this hard work of authenticity building and maintenance. I've been researching the theology, psychology and spirituality of self-awareness, identity and resilience particularly in the work one does to dismantle systemic/structural racism. I'm convinced that the work has to start in self-awareness around one's sense of self which includes power/privilege, comfort/discomfort, fear, shame, love, God and purpose/belonging (among others - yeah this long list makes awareness a HUGE undertaking which requires at the very least, self-care).]

I have challenges with perfectionism. I've read lately that the root of that urge is shame or the fear of not being loved because of imperfection. I've decided to sit with that some more. I've always had difficulties with body image. I cannot remember ever having a positive experience of that with the exception of being pregnant. During this contemplation, other brain cells came alive sharing their imprint with me. Interesting and revelatory thoughts emerged. I'm sharing them here as I process them and their impact on my quest for perfection. I am encountering them as "visual" data entries or placeholders. They have time stamps but I'm looking at them as part of a collective for a here-and-now analysis.

I have recollections of stories of my 18 - 24 month self being very cute and blowing kisses to men.

At 6 years old, a "snapshot memory" pops into my thoughts of being on my front stoop and being poked in the crotch with a yardstick by a neighbor boy as he was being egged on by his friends. My 4 year old sister ran them away.

I see a mental video of my 8 year old self who was simultaneously admonished by my Aunt for openly dancing on her front porch (because any man who saw me might do me harm) while at the same time being reassured that when I turned 10 she would take me shopping for a girdle to hold in my fat parts.

A few years later in grade school, I was followed home by one of the cute boys on the school bus. He cornered me in a driveway of a house down the hill (threatening to beat me for reasons unbeknownst to me) only to be scared off by a man from up the street who was driving by.

I had been told over the years that boys were socially immature and that they did stupid things like that because "they like you and you're pretty." That behavior seemed to follow them through high school and college - more instances of bullying because I was pretty and then the added confusion of the attitudes of girl friends who didn't appreciate the attention I was getting. No one was supporting me. And I internalized the behaviors as something I had no control over or worse yet, that I was inadequate in my own self-defense. This is part of the short list and I can see how shame and fear were partners adjoining themselves to the engrams of what would become a foundational template for my adulthood.

My intimate community was too small. My neighborhood community was too isolating and not hospitable. There was no organized community my family was a part of, no extended family anywhere in the state. There was no open dialogue at home only checklists for obedience and good manners. In retrospect, I can see how what accompanied and informed me growing up were the incessant social images and ideologies that advertisers and social media are known for - commercials and billboards and white-washed designs of ultimate beauty and the perfect family. It seems so clear to me now why my body and brain don't talk to one another. The pain of imperfection has been too great.

So now that I'm no longer pretty; (LOL - I'm not belittling myself so no head shaking is necessary.) now that I'm beautiful - (you know, the butterfly after the worm kind of beautiful even with relative respect for the beauty in the worminess) now that I have put in several years of work on my own self-awareness, empathy, compassion and good listening - now I can begin to reintroduce my brain to my body. I can be curious about what I've experienced and what I remember. I can re-author my story in positive ways pulling into the limelight my strength and worthiness and sense of honor in sharing my truth hoping to help liberate others.

I'm not done processing - just exhaling for now....


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