This was my inspiration for my Ignite presentation at the EVO Conference in Utah last week; my actual presentation was a bit more lighthearted, but I thought I’d share this anyway.
I was born wearing the wrong skin. I don’t remember a time where I felt like I owned the legs I was standing on. This feeling — this restless ache — eased with one thing: drinking. I started drinking when I was 13, and alcohol made it all okay. But I wasn’t a happy drunk; I was the kind of asshole that said, “Hold my purse while I kiss your boyfriend.”
I drank and did drugs until it nearly killed me. Then, finally at age 27, I got sober.
In recovery, we work hard to become “right-sized” to believe that not only are we no better than anyone else, we are also no worse. It turned out that putting down the drink wasn’t enough; I was still an asshole, just one without alcohol to make me feel better.
I had to use the tools of recovery to become a nice person. I worked hard on this. I learned, over time, to listen to those around me, to actually HEAR them. To be a friend instead of “starring” in their lives. To be a daughter, a wife. To learn to live inside the skin I was born with.
I also learned to open up and listen to my heart. To trust my instincts.
As humans, we are gifted with instincts. Don’t touch that, it’s hot! Don’t go in the dark cave, there might be a bear that will eat you! It’s how humanity has survived. As a drunk, I ignored my instincts. Don’t go home with that guy, he’s kinda creepy! Don’t steal that cash, you work here! I learned to shut them out.
Instincts are part of a still, small voice that lives inside all of us. I don’t know the source of the voice, and frankly, I really don’t care. But I learned if I take the time to be still, to open up my heart, I could HEAR that voice, and I could let it guide me. In time, this became habit.
Then: life happened. I wanted a family, and I couldn’t get pregnant. I went to doctors, I took medications, I underwent procedures. It was painful. My heart began to ache so much I shut it down.
Then I got pregnant with my sons Nicholas and Zachary. Tremulous, tentative joy! But at six months pregnant I found myself half-dead in the hospital, my sons gone, my uterus empty.
My heart slammed closed.
I had to keep living, of course. I moved forward. I got pregnant again, and eventually gave birth to my amazing, beautiful, and fierce daughter. I loved her madly, but my heart was still tender and raw. I still didn’t trust. I had no faith in the goodness of the world, even though I had this beautiful baby girl in my arms.
So I never went back to the practice of being still, of opening, and of listening. My life became a flurry of diapers, work, and grind.
I not only stopped listening for that small voice; I pretended it didn’t exist.
And guess what? Yep. I went right back to being an asshole.
I was in this closed-down space when I came to the EVO Conference last summer. I was emotionally stretched thin, travel-weary, and out of my depth at a conference where many of the bloggers were much younger and part of a blogging community I was outside of.
Instead of embracing those bloggers, I got bitter. Snarky. Nasty. I ran my mouth, said things I shouldn’t have said. And guess what? I got caught. I was confronted. There it was, right in front of me: I was once again the asshole starring in other people’s lives.
But like a favorite song being played in the distance, that small voice spoke up. My heart opened up again. I was able to feel humbled instead of humiliated. I could clearly see with a sharp eye how much I’d given up when I’d let my trust and faith drift away. I could see the cost, and that I wasn’t the only one paying.
I was able to apologize, to open my heart up again, to rekindle my faith.
This doesn’t mean that I’m always kind. Not even close. Bitterness is part of my bone marrow, and I still look down at my skin and wonder who it belongs to and why it fits so poorly. And worst of all, I am still very good at being an asshole.
But I’m working on it. I remember now that I’m just me, the fat woman in her forties who loves words and her family. And at this conference, I’m just another writer, ready to learn what you have to teach me.
I am here, open-hearted, and looking forward to listening.