One Person’s Trash is another Person’s Treasure

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I’ll never forget my first winter in Chicago and the time I tried to give a homeless person my coat. My boss stopped me and made me get on the train. I did not understand why he stopped me and I cried the whole way back to the office.  He was protecting me. My kind heart over-rode common sense. 

I moved to Tulsa seven years later and worked in the Bank of Oklahoma building on the 27th floor. They had an ice rink back in the 90’s and I’d go down there for coffee and breakfast. Every morning I’d see the same man with ragged clothes and I’d buy him breakfast. At lunch I’d sit by myself in the square and share my lunch and cigarettes with a few of the homeless men that hung around. My boss found out about it and made me stop. He said it wasn’t safe for a nice girl like me to be alone with these men. He thought I was putting myself in danger.

I shared that story recently with the wrong person and their response surprised me.

“Your boss was wrong. I mean you smoked. Obviously you weren’t a nice girl.”

They were so proud of their comment that they laughed. This wasn’t a heckler, I wasn’t even on stage when he said this. We were sitting at a kitchen table sharing dinner with friends. A heckler I can handle, this — I just smiled and changed the subject before getting really quiet and letting other people control the conversation. It’s an old survival skill from childhood, if you let them know they got to you they come back for more. I’ve learned how to hide crumbling.

Just because I can hide it doesn’t mean I don’t crumble sometimes.

Knowing what this man said is a lie doesn’t change the impact of his words. The committee in my brain is now in high gear, passing those words around like a cheap bottle of wine. “You’ll never fit in.”, “You can’t trust people.”, “He’s right you know. You are trash.”, “I’m never coming back here again.”

Every fiber of my being now wants to show this man how “not nice” I’m capable of being. Oh you think smoking is bad, wait until I tell you about the time I did thus and such! The committee is also offering up questions on his mother’s marital status when he was born as well as her emotional temperament. In 24 hours I ruminate every possible come back. They are wonderful come backs by the way, I’m always brilliant after the fact. The problem is those comebacks do nothing for my heart and just keep the hurt feelings going while Mr Idiot has no idea that I’m even wounded.

At this point, I’m the one wounding myself by repeatedly hitting the replay button on the DVD in my brain.

I want to stop the spiral. I try to read. I pray. I stare at my phone to call a friend, but it’s too heavy and then an amazing thing happens, I receive a Christmas card from a friend. Inside the card is a puzzle piece with these words:

“YOU GLOW and you do more than light up a room — you light up the hearts of all who are in it.”

Her card is postmarked several days earlier, and arrives just in time to soothe my heart and my brain.  She doesn’t even know about the incident yet.  I now have a choice, I can hit the replay button on the remarks that hurt me OR I can choose to believe my friend and her words of encouragement. So what if one man thinks I’m trash. He’s an idiot.  I have a wealth of friends who think otherwise and their voices are loud enough to put the committee to rest.

It is said that silence equals approval. I neither agreed with nor approved of his comment and yet I remained silent.  I don’t have to be quiet just to prove I’m nice. There is nothing to be gained by staying silent when someone lies about my value to my face. There are a number of acceptable responses that I could have used. My therapist says when someone throws a prickly pear at us (an insult), we don’t have to catch it nor do we need to throw it back. We can simply say things like “ouch” or calmly speak truth, “that’s not true about me.” Simple phrases like that stop most people in their tracks and give them the chance to clean it up.

I’ll try and remember that next time. In the mean time, I’m taking my puzzle piece from my friend and posting on my bathroom mirror. I glow, not only do I light up a room, I light up the hearts of all who are in it. — And so do you.

Question: How do you respond to thoughtless (or maybe not so thoughtless) comments? I’d love to hear from you.

Fears Erased Daily

No clue where this is but I want one. Molly posted it on Facebook today. Wouldn't it be cool if we could write our fears on a chalkboard and then erase them? Can you imagine how empowering that would be?

I’m looking through a different mirror today, one that isn’t my own necessarily. I discovered that someone I care about is afraid of me. Shocked and more than slightly concerned, I wonder how I missed that.

They have me on a pedestal that I don’t belong on and when I expressed displeasure over a specific action I watched them go through an internal meltdown that I cannot control. Man that was painful to watch. You can see the brain turning and the lies manifest in a physical crumbling of the body and a tearing up of the eyes and you can’t stop it.

They are convinced because I expressed disappointment in an action that we can no longer be friends.

Every fiber of my being wants to wrap my arms around that wound that lies to their soul and love them.  I’d do it except that it’s not my place really. I’m not invited.

Fear is an awesome captor and a devil of liar. Fear whispers – “See they don’t love you, they think you are a horrible person and failure as a friend. You don’t deserve that. Send them away, I’ll keep you company, I won’t share your secrets. I won’t wound you like she did.” Think of Golum from Lord of the Rings, do you remember his evil alter ego? If I could paint you a word picture to describe what fear looks like angry, it would be that.

I know, because I’ve been there.

Fear lies. Whenever we are afraid of someone and they offer the slightest criticism, fear tells us they are wounding our soul and questioning our value to breathe air. And so we breathe deep, we stand tall and we make fits – and like three-year old children we attack the person who dares question us and we find safety under a mask of emotional violence. And then, just like that, we run away and hide our wounded selves.

Fear is selfish. It demands attention and hates to be ignored. It doesn’t want what’s best for you it  needs attention to flourish. Left ignored it dies.

Fear is afraid of light. Why? Because light heals the broken and musty places of our inner being. If I take away her fear or in any way try to diminish it,  uninvited, I rob her of growth.

I try to remember those mentors in my life who walk with me and love me through fear and think about what they do that I might do the same. Only I got nothin. Then, after seeing three posts on fear just this very morning my answer came. Those I invited in did embrace that wounded part of me.  I have to be willing to be vulnerable. I have to be willing to say out loud the lies fear whispers to my brain. And for those times when fear held me captive, those I did not invite in, let me go with love and peace.

I’m not invited. I do not cause her fear, I cannot control it, nor can I cure it.

And so, I love her and I wish her well. And I know, that like me – she will find her way in this crazy thing we call life.