On a December morning as I daydreamt in line at my favorite supermarket, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the interruption of a man giving the cashier a hard time.
In a barbaric manner, he pointed at his coupons and exclaimed some inappropriate phrases to her. Between us, was a woman around my age with fewer things in her cart than I. I could feel her tense up with me as we watched this charade. The cashier maintained her professionalism with a red face and tired eyes. The man yelled and yelled some more, now he was berating her at this point. I started to position my stance and as my brain fired up with what I was going to say to this man, my breath was caught short in the air by an unfamiliar voice.The woman in front of me spoke up to the man.
She told him firmly to leave the cashier alone, after all it is the Holiday season. He shouted back to her and she calmly yet loudly, told him he should be ashamed of his actions and take care of his misery before coming to the store next time. The few people in our area clapped as he left muttering to himself. I felt proud that we all came together, even if it was just in spirit to defend someone.
Later that night, I wondered if that man was still thinking about what had happened. Was he thinking that he was in the wrong? That maybe he should be kinder or use different approaches? Or was he thinking how wrong we all were for not seeing his side? Perhaps it was deeper than I thought, maybe he was trying to distract us from something he was feeling … Would he change? I don’t know. I’d like to say I don’t care… but I do. I care because at a point in my life, I acted a little like him.
In my earlier life, I have felt as venomous as this coupon guy insinuated. I have felt the feelings of angst , of frustration and worst of all the fear of being misunderstood. I do not excuse his or any of my past actions, but I can see where one may confuse rudeness for strength. I thought if I roared loud enough even unsure of myself, those surrounding me couldn’t possibly know I was sad inside right? Maybe I would seem like a tough chick, a hard bitch, someone with a strong character that laughed at pain.
When I was younger I had something odious start to affect my appearance. I allowed it to assume control of who I thought I was. During conversations I felt the uninvited emotions of pity, disgust or even mockery. I noticed people avoided me, looked the other way and at that time I felt it was only because I was some sort of “freak”. Never did I think it was my fault, no way.
The brave ones? well if I’d feel their eyes drop to look at my face and hear the distance in their voice. I’d end the meet abruptly, usually rudely and they were dead to me.
I thought , what will I gain from talking to them? Nothing but more self hatred was my answer. No thank you, I already had plenty of that. How dare they stare at my insecurity right in front of me. Do they not see past it? Can’t they see I am a good hearted woman?, they could have made the most loyal and loving friend today but they blew it. Their fault not mine, moving on. Pretty harsh right? I know. It was my defense, to keep them away from me so they couldn’t hurt me again by dropping their eyes. Who knows how many people I have hurt in my defense that meant absolutely no harm.
Hating myself for my appearance made no sense to anyone of course. They didn’t realize that when I looked in the mirror every day to cover up, I would cry knowing that it would wear off in a few hours and reveal the beast yet again. When I went out of my way to avoid home, store and car mirrors. When I avoided pictures. When I avoided meeting new people in daylight, or bright lighting. When I couldn’t remember what my lips looked like because I was too afraid to gaze in the mirror too long at my heinousness. I did not even own lipstick.
Now, those that would hold my eyes with their eyes, proved to me they were worthy of a conversation. It was almost as if I was challenging someone to a duel with every encounter. The ones that did not fail me, were so special to my heart. They earned a key that unlocked my personality and when with them, my roar was silenced.
Spending so many years this bitter seemed to eat away at my soul. I wanted to feel the same safety I felt with my key holders …with strangers. I knew I had to change.
Of course Hindsight is 20/20 and it would be different if I could do it all over again. I would be sure to remind myself that the same woman is inside regardless of what she looks like. This isn’t something any quotes , memes or reassurance from loved ones helped me realize. It only came from the Lord. HE showed me there are far too many things to enjoy, and I was depriving myself of all of it. Conversations with strangers in line at a department store, Car shows in the sunlight, Painting in bright office lights with a dear friend. Once I stopped focusing on what was inside me and not outside me, I felt …peace.
People started approaching me, engaging me and trusting me again. It was as if everyone could feel my change in energy. Maybe it wasn’t anyone avoiding me because of my appearance, they probably avoided me because of the energy I expelled. Almost threatening them to stay away from me just with my look.
I will never forget the first woman my age at a nail salon making small talk. I remember feeling euphoric almost, a feeling of happiness came over me without duel. Seeing that she felt I was approachable, meant the world to me. I am proud to say that I am roar free and being me. I may even own too much lipstick, perhaps talk a little too much now! I find conversations anywhere, traffic lights and book stores.
If you want to be tough…ask yourself what is tougher? Venting out the frustration on an innocent bystander now or dealing with it by being kind to yourself later?
I know it’s difficult to be kind to yourself, but I promise it’s the toughest you, you will ever be.