I had a dream several weeks ago; woke up, noted it and poured myself a cup of coffee. I thought on it but not too long, more for the fact that I actually dreamt and actually remembered that I dreamt since dreaming in my head while I sleep is a rarity. That same dream popped itself back into my slumber last night. I was again standing in a room. My heart tells me I was trying to go deeper, perhaps I was in church, I don’t know. Whatever it was that I was doing, I was focused and intentional when someone came over to me and said, “You are pretty.” I know they were being kind and sincere and then they said it again, “You are pretty.”
You know how certain words should evoke certain emotions or thoughts that are good? I think their words were supposed to do that but they didn’t. They fell flat and empty and I became indigent. I didn’t want to be pretty. I want to be anything but.
And that’s my dream. It really doesn’t leave much else to talk about, does it?
Or does it?
Growing up, I was likened to Brooke Shields long before I even knew who she was. I was likened by my dear Grandmother who rallied my family into her cheer corner as she told me I had Broke’s thick eyebrows even though I had no idea what that meant; I assumed it was good since she fussed over them so. She’d walk over to me and croon my short, tousled brown-hair in her hands which prompted me to look up into her tiny, gray eyes and happily oblige. I liked my Grandmothers attention so I’d sit and smile and be…pretty.
In our home, I was the pretty one and the one who caused my parents great grief and my sister was the smart one and the one who followed the rules. When you are growing up, you learn to read between the lines and find that home is a place where you find your place and your experiences begin to shape your perspective. It is also where your version of truth either hits the nail on the head with accuracy OR your assumptions leave you just that…an ass. Looking back now, it wasn’t that my sister wasn’t pretty because she very much was or that I wasn’t smart (though I didn’t apply my smartness to school), we were not one or the other but BOTH, I just didn’t know that yet. We each had our “thing” that we took and buried deep in our unconsciousness which shaped us and encouraged us to keep up and I strived to live up to my label.
Because pretty was my “thing.”
But here’s the kicker, it wasn’t even really “MY” thing. It was some teen actress’s who lived in another state with some other life than the one that I lived in. You want to talk about eyebrows? Fine. Talk about MINE, don’t liken me to someone else. I had been held up to a measuring stick named Brooke Shields and continuously fell short. My poor Grandmother knew not what she was doing. To her, it was a compliment. To me, it was a curse. I appeared incapable of acheiving good grades and was obviously too stubborn to walk the narrow path and I did not look like Brooke Shields; I was me. Tall for my age with an odd name who sported short, tousled brown hair. Sooner or later I forgot all about the actress whom I’d never meet and began gauging myself against my classmates. I traded one for another year after year, comparing what they had to what I didn’t. But I could always come back and at least be with my Grandmother as she whispered, “You are pretty.”
So pretty is what I did.
Eating disorder by 19. Trapped in it for 13 more. Closet full of clothes. A room full of stuff. I transitioned year after year like a chameleon.
Pretty seemed so shallow. It only touched the surface layers of my skin. Pretty was trying to continuously fill my dinner table with insincere flatteries but the only thing it end up feeding were my insecurities; leaving me hungry for more and continually dissatisfied. I knew I was more than yet my refusal to go deeper or my knowledge HOW to left me swimming in a ton of tiny, muddled puddles. I stopped myself short, knowing there was MORE to me but never allowing myself go to those MORE places. Its taken a bit of time and here at 43, I am continually learning to press in and discover. Regret serves no purpose.
So instead of going backwards, I’ll go forward. I cannot go back and speak to that short, tousled, brown-hair girl with apparent amazing eye brows. That child in me has long grown and tired from those sort of flatteries. I long now to know the depths that are not only available to me but IN me. I’m far more than just a pretty face and I now know it so don’t sell me short focusing on what you outwardly see.
Forward I go. My eyes shift from little girls to big, grown ones. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends…you are more than any box you have been placed in. Whatever label you have been wearing, take it off. It is only a small fraction of WHO you are.
You are not just the smart one. Or the one who just can’t seem to get it right.
You are not just the good one. Or the bad ass. The one who screws it all up.
You are not just the pastors daughter or the good wife or the with-it mom.
You are more than these things and then some. You are not just one or the other. You are individually unique. I encourage you to look past what you See and Hear; go deeper within yourself to see the original you. The YOU that was dreamt of long before you were thoughtfully created. Your best day cannot define you and your worst no longer has a hold on you.
Sooner or later you will discover that you are in nobody’s box but your own.