My Journey of Redemption
When I look at my life today, I feel so much joy. I am surrounded by people who love and value me. No, not everyone values me. But the people who matter to me value me. But it wasn't always this way.
For so many years I spent my life searching for acceptance and belonging. As a teenager growing up with a father who struggled with alcohol addiction, my shame of ran deep.
I remember friends asking, "Can we hang out at your house?" My face would flush red. A lump would stick in my throat. "No," I would whisper, "we can't." I didn't want anyone to know my shame. I would cry into my pillow at night over my love-hate situation. I loved my father. I hated this situation. Confusion swirled inside of my head. I felt sorry for my father. I felt even sorrier for myself.
My adult life brought me freedom. But I was still locked on that question of acceptance and belonging. I built a carefully crafted shield of protection. NO ONE would ever know my shame. The problem was that my shame was keeping me stuck in unhealthy relationships and patterns of behavior. And I didn't know how to escape.
In 2010, my life brought me to my knees in the form of illness. I lost my health and the road to recovery was long and tough. I remember sitting at the edge of my bed one day and saying, "Why? Why me?" And the answer came back "Why not you?" The tears rolled down my face as I realized that my life had been sidetracked by chasing after something that I had not given to myself.
My shame had alienated me from other people. But more importantly, my shame had driven me to craft a mask of "I'm OK" when the opposite was true. I was a mess. And my body was letting me know about it.
My road to redemption came in two parts. I decided that I needed to help my body heal. So I started a healthy eating plan and ramped up the walking program that I had started before my illness. In January 2011, I decided that I wanted to run a half-marathon. I had never been a runner. Or an athlete. But I knew that I had to do this for me.
I started my training plan in earnest. Then, on April 3rd I suffered the most brutal of losses. My mother died.
I was suddenly facing the reality of my own loneliness and mortality. Nothing in life can prepare you for such a great loss. You are never "ready."
I remember standing at my parents' grave site (they are buried together) and thinking, "Wow. I am an orphan. No Mom. No Dad."
These two things, the loss of my health and the loss of my Mom, were the triggers for me to examine my life. I had a lot of decisions to make. I have always been a person that "made life happen." My childhood taught me to control things. But losing my health and losing my Mom taught me the fallacy of my control. The truth was that I was controlling everything except the the things that really mattered.
Running was my therapy. This was not just a physical journey. It was a mental, emotional, and spiritual journey. On my runs, I cried; I prayed; and most of all I did a lot of thinking.
I rewinded the tape of my life and began noticing patterns. I noticed some things about myself that I had not noticed. Like the negative self-chatter in my head. You simply cannot push the limits of your physical body telling yourself the wrong things. I had to re-write some scripts to get through those tough runs. "I can do this." "I am strong." "Keep running." "I am a runner." "Rebecca, let's get going." "Don't stop. Keep going." "You can do this."
Rewriting this script for my running life helped me to see how I was self-sabotaging other areas of my life with negative self-talk.
Mary Kay Ash is credited with this quote: "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right."
I can't tell you exactly the day and hour that it happened, but one day I decided to call it. I was no longer going to put up with that negative voice inside of my head.
I am who God says that I am. Period.
So, I fired my boss (no, I did not quit my job), and I decided to get clear on what I wanted and needed.
I wish that I could tell you that the road suddenly became smooth. The truth is it did NOT. As difficult as it is to change YOURSELF, getting the people around you to ACCEPT you as a CHANGED person is MORE difficult.
I heard this wisdom once: People will define you by where they met you. Boy, did I find this out the hard way.
But I decided that nothing in life worth having comes easy. So I kept going. I came up with this phrase:
"If you don't like what you see over here, cross the street.
Maybe you will find something over there that you like."
What I was really trying to say is this: Accept me for who I am and if you don't like it, keep it moving.
I decided that I would live an AUTHENTIC life. No masks. No filters.
But the addiction to control and masking is STRONG. I am still on this journey. And some days I want to go back to my INVISIBLE life of "fitting in."
Then I remember how much that cost me. And I make another decision: nothing is worth ME giving up ME.
I know that my story is NOT everybody's story. But it is SOMEBODY's story.
And to all of those SOMEBODIES out there, I want to tell you this:
Your redemption will cost you.
The journey will be hard.
But the freedom is worth it.
And you are worth it.
And if you ever for one minute think that you are alone, stop and remember that I am cheering for you.
You are awesome and the world needs Your Unique. Love it. Live it.