Today I am again reminded of a story that took place many years ago. So many are the years that even my children wouldn’t recall this time. The truth is that I am nearly certain no one actually remembers this particular story and for this reason you will have to simply trust me. Can you do that?
At the time I had only two small children and what appeared to be, by modern standards, an oversized beach ball in my abdominal region. Many months pregnant with our second boy and third child, I was tired and cranky and the size of some of the smaller countries and larger than Rhode Island.
Moving was a challenge and because I had two small children I was doing a lot of it regardless of the wear. I was tired. So very, very tired.
A friend of ours had borrowed a computer screen and when he called to ask if he could return it, I told him to come on over. We will call him “Chester”, because I don’t want to identify him and because it is a name too infrequently used in my opinion.
When Chester came to the door I was in my best hausfrau dress, no make up and about five loads of laundry sitting in our family room awaiting their turn to be folded.
As he stood in the doorway I felt the enormity of the growing beach ball in my stomach that would eventually turn into a human being. I felt every bit as dowdy as you imagine I was, and I felt ten different kinds of self-conscious.
And so I was stunned to a cherry colored red when I opened the door and Chester proclaimed, “I can smell your dirty laundry.”
I was horrified. I was near tears. I wanted to shout at him, punch him in the face, hide under the laundry and never, ever show my face outside my home again. In that mortifying moment, what I nearly said was, “It’s not dirty! I just haven’t folded it yet!”
There must have been one, small and lonely sane brain cell remaining to me and instead I followed its command and asked, “Excuse me?”
Chester stated, much clearer this time, “Where do you want me to put this?”
I succeeded in directing him to the basement office and herded him out of my house as fast as I possibly could.
Because I felt so humiliated, I remember that feeling of embarrassment and shame quite vividly to this day. But so much more important than what I felt was what I learned.
Chester was not a bad fellow. I don’t believe he ever would have purposefully shamed me or brought up my lax housekeeping habits. I don’t believe that now and I did not believe it then.
The only reason I heard what I did that day was because I was looking for evidence of judgment. I felt shame and I sought evidence to prove me shameful. The world is not what we perceive it to be, but what we are.
We so often receive not those things that are given us, but what we imagine we deserve. Even the brightest of compliments can be changed into something harsh and painful when we try hard enough.
Reality isn’t the b*tch we say she is.
I am deeply grateful for the one, lonely brain cell that came to my defense that day. I hope she has duplicated herself since then and has a few friends now to keep her company. I hope she is in charge of all the positive messages, or at least the neutral ones and I am better able to recognize the world as the paradise it might someday be.
Like, share, comment, tweet and pull those shoulders back and own the room.