You know those parts of your past that you just wish you could edit out? Everyone has them. Nobody's perfect. And we all screw up and hurt people and get hurt and wish we could cut all of those parts right out of the pages of our past. I sure wish we could.
But since we can't, there is another option.
My friend, Meg, asked a question in her email this week that got me thinking: Where were you six years ago today? Hmmmm...that required some math...turns out my daughters would have been 16 and 12. The image that immediately followed was of us all, in the kitchen, about to rush out the door.
Hurry. Thay's what comes to mind. I worked all the time then and felt like I barely saw my kids. My husband and I had full-time jobs, and I was building a photography business on the side. Our girls both played travel soccer and school soccer, so they were busy, too. I hated that memory. It felt nothing like the ideal home life I wanted for our children. But in her email Meg said if she could, she would gladly relieve her past 6 years, which surprised me. She's walked through a lot of pain. But she made me think: You know how the first time you read a story or watch a movie, how much tension there is? How you worry for the characters and cry at their losses? But when you rewatch it, you have perspective, because you know how it turns out.
And I realized something: We get to do that with our lives.
I've done that once in a way. This will sound so very silly, but it impacted me for years. I mean decades. When I was a 12, a super-nerdy, almost-no-friends-12, I was invited to a skate party. No doubt because the whole class was invited to the skate party. Now, you should know two things about this. I couldn't skate, at least not well. I always felt like a deer on ice, which definitely didn't help my street cred. And the other thing? The birthday girl was a popular kid I really didn't know. When she was opening my gift in front of you know, a billion other kids, she said something -I don't remember what- and I playfully gave her a look. As a joke. But apparently I didn't pull it off very well, because she said, "I WAS JUST JOKING. You don't have to be such a SMURF about it!"
This haunted me for decades. That girl called me a SMURF. In. Front. Of. Everybody. I wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but it sounded really bad. It felt really bad, too.
I was hurt and embarrassed and kept that wound open for - Well. I won't tell you how long. I just folded it in with the image of myself as a 12-year-old nerd, and though I grew into a different person, the core of me still felt like it did in that moment. I can feel it now, as I write.
That pain stuck with me until one day, the mother of daughters that I became decided to speak to that little girl, with love and empathy and without judgment. "Nance, [I call myself Nance, because the people who love me most call me Nance], that little girl who hurt you? She was twelve, too. She was a 12-year-old girl, at the center of attention, on her birthday, amidst a giant pile of presents. She was feeling her oats, totally full of herself, as children do at their own birthday parties, all hyped up on cake and Coca Cola. She misunderstood you. You didn't know each other, so she didn't get your sense of humor, and she misinterpreted your joke. She felt insulted in front of her friends, and that 12-year-old middle school girl just snapped back. She probably had siblings, and that's how that works. And since you were raised as an only child, you just didn't get that dynamic."
Even typing this now, I feel better. Remembering that birthday party brought me back to that unworthy feeling, but talking myself through it, with perspective, is so healing. I realize now that if she and I met today, as adults, we'd probably be friends. And she probably wouldn't call me a smurf.
Even though I'd learned to talk to the child I was in that situation, Meg's question made me realize we can replay all of our life that way. It's like watching your favorite movie, when you know how it turns out. You know how it comes together in the end; how the pain is somehow used for good.
Now, I can look back 6 years at my new teenage driver, and my 12-year-old, and their frazzled parents and realize: It's okay. My girls didn't feel neglected. They have fond memories of those days in that little house and that busy neighborhood and time with healthy, doting grandparents. They were happy, then.
And, I can watch that story now and know that the girls I felt such mom guilt over? Those girls are happy, now, too. They are confident and secure women, who know they are valued and valuable. And those girls make a point to come home for a family dinner every Sunday night, now with a fiancé, where we laugh together and ruin our diets and know we're all loved.
So my advice to you? It's going to be all right. Review your story with the perspective you have now. Good times, bad times, mundane times...Talk to your younger self and let her know the ways she'll be okay. Let her know that it's okay when there's a misunderstanding - It happens. Tell her how all the ways things turn out well. Let her know the ways she's going to win and grow. Tell her that she's worthy. That she's not a smurf. That the other people are valuable too, and everybody gets it wrong sometimes. Let her know she's doing just fine. And tell her how well she's going to do in the end. Give her the hug she needs in that moment and let her know she's loved. It's amazing how healing that is and how whole your present day self will feel, knowing how all things work together for good.
Much love to you friend, who this time...happens to be me.
P.S. If you'd like some extra encouragement, sign up for my friend, Meg's weekly email, entitled, "Win Wednesday," at www.megdelagrange.com