Sometimes something sneaks up on me and takes me completely by surprise. Something that I think I’ve dealt with and overcome rears its ugly head once more and knocks me right back to being that hurt little girl all over again. It’s a stark reminder that my work is not over yet, that I cannot rest on my laurels, that I am always a work in progress and that I need to dig even deeper to get to where I want to be, somewhere I thought I’d already arrived at but quite clearly haven’t yet.
My friends all went to the beach today but didn’t invite me. Possibly with good reason. I have expressed time and time again how much I dislike summer and loathe the heat. I had said I was busy today, although that got cancelled leaving me at a loose end. Still, when I read on Facebook that they were all enjoying a beach day together I felt excluded, rejected and back in touch with my faithful friends, Unloved and Worthless.
I cried in the shower.
I rationalised the very valid reasons for not inviting me.
I spoke to Phil who understands me like no other, who understands where I come from at times like this and who then talked a lot of sense into me while soothing my soul back to a calmer state.
I cried some more.
I snapped at the kids.
And then I stopped myself in my little girl tracks and looked upon it all from the loving adult perspective. My friends hadn’t done anything wrong. My friends had gone on a spontaneous beach trip. That was all. No big deal. It didn’t mean anything sinister and it didn’t need to become the big drama that it got turned into in my mind.
Except it was a big deal to the inner child that’s still battling the demons inside her psyche. It’s a very big deal to the little girl who suffered a lifetime of rejection from parents that were supposed to give love to her but didn’t. The same little girl who watched as her sisters were showered with love, affection, gifts and time while she hid in the shadows of her bedroom unnoticed, unloved, un-chosen and rejected on a daily basis. It’s a massive deal to the 16-year-old child who got herself pregnant just so someone in this world would want her, need her and hopefully, love her.
I didn’t want to go to the beach today. I wanted to be invited, accepted and loved. My friends didn’t know this, I’ve never told them of my past and that’s why what happened today, happened. It was life’s way of reminding me that my work isn’t done, that until I open myself up, allow myself to feel totally exposed and vulnerable and share myself fully with others, I will continue to stay in that hurt, unhealed place. It’s a reminder that the most vulnerable in the world can prosper. It’s a bloody big kick up the arse to say ‘LET PEOPLE IN’.
Instead of withdrawing into the shell that I have created and lived in for the last 40 years – the only way I could protect myself and survive the pain of years of abuse and neglect – I needed to crack it open, tell them how I felt and let them see my pain. I needed to face the possibility of further rejection by opening myself up to them. Showing them my pain, letting them see my biggest fears. I needed to do something I’ve never done before in my life and I needed to tell them that they’d hurt me, whether intentionally or not. I needed to give them a chance to open up to me too.
I did exactly that and then I beat myself up for the rest of the day about it because in doing so I’d blown the myth out of the water that I am always strong, that I am invincible and that I can handle anything because that is the persona I have allowed everyone in my life to see and to believe, but the crude truth is, I felt weaker than I’ve felt in a very long time.
And then I remembered two other times in my life when I’ve opened myself up, allowed people into this secret world that I inhabit. With Tom, I softened and became weaker. With Phil, I softened and became stronger. There was no way of knowing which way it would go today. This was about putting my faith and trust in these people that I call my friends and actually let them be my friends and allow them to see the softness that is there beneath the facade of strength and allow them to either weaken me or strengthen me, knowing that by doing so, I was actually strengthening myself, even if it didn’t feel like it. This was about trusting that not every single person in the world will hurt me but that even if they do, not everyone means to. It was about hearing sorry and knowing that it came from a genuine place of love and care for me.
This is friendship from both sides. Not just me supporting everyone else because that’s what I do best but about allowing others to support me because that’s what I do worse than anything else. This was accepting love instead of giving it but mostly it was the lesson that you don’t always get what you want in life but you always get what you need.
Friends like this don’t come round very often so from now on, I’m going to value the pain and rejection that they bring to my life alongside the sheer pleasure, joy, fun, love and acceptance that I get from them at all other times. Not inviting me to the beach today was the best gift my friends could have given me – a gift that when unwrapped contained the most amazing insights that I wouldn’t have received otherwise.