Sunday, June 13, 2010

Turning Flashbacks into Fertilizer

We spent an enjoyable afternoon in Charlotte yesterday, watching the play, “Wicked!”

Take a few minutes and enjoy a song from the play:

While my husband came away from the play comparing the story to the “institutional church” and the relationship of good/evil….it made me think of something entirely different. As the young lady Elphaba was shunned for being green she sang a song called “I’m Not That Girl.” Her lament gave me a couple of flashbacks…..

The first one took place at my elementary school. I was about 7 years old, I guess, when the concept of “pretty trumps ugly” reared its’ head. Linda Lou (not her real name) was in my class at school. She had honey-gold hair, big blue eyes, took dance lessons – and one day she decided that I was not as pretty as she was. And she announced to the class that no one should be my friend because I wasn’t pretty. Most of the other little girls spent recess that day making fun of me and calling me names. I remember crying into my pillow that night. The next day, they let me back into the group; apparently they’d all forgotten about it ….but I never have.

Fast forward a few years….

I’m about 13 or 14, and just beginning to have puppy-love crushes on guys. The popular hang-out for us kids was the swimming pool, and my mom took my sister and me just about every afternoon. That summer, I remember Jackie (not his real name either) coming to the pool too.He attended an out-of-town school because he was deaf; our lifeguard learned a little bit of American Sign Language that summer so she could converse with him. I thought he was just about the cutest guy I’d ever laid eyes on…and secretly began to learn the ABC’s in hopes of being able to sign “Hello” or something, just to try to befriend him. At any rate, a group of us were splashing and playing, and he signed something to the lifeguard and nodded toward me. I smiled, and asked her what he’d said. She said he told her he thought I was ugly and he wished I’d get out of the pool so he wouldn’t have to see me.

To this day, there are triggers that jolt my mind back to that moment. I can tell you the exact spot in the pool where I stood (4’deep, just to the right of the lifeguard stand), the colors in my swimsuit (yellow and white), the feel of the water splashing on me (stinging almost like a slap), the song playing on the juke-box (‘Cecelia’ by Simon and Garfunkel), and the emotion I felt (a white-hot flood of embarrassment that I felt in my gut). I abandoned the idea of learning American Sign Language, and never once attempted to communicate with Jackie. In fact, I remember steering very clear of him from then on.

So at the play, as I listened while Elphaba sang about wishing she could be loved and accepted, yet realizing she’s “not that girl” – I could feel it. And the little 7-year-old me crawled up in my lap. And the skinny 13-year-old me came and sat cross-legged on the floor next to me. And we all three listened to the green lady singing to us. And we could feel the pain of not fitting in, of wishing we looked different, of wanting to be celebrated for who we are…

Then I smiled and nodded at the other two imaginary images of me, just to let them know that everything truly turns out ok, eventually. I appreciate the lessons that the earlier versions of me have shared, and I’ve grown from their experiences in positive ways. Eventually, they'll see, that we can "defy gravity" and rise above hurts of the past! The younger Anitas smiled back at me, and evaporated back into my memory.

Not to give the end of the play away….but throughout life things happen that are both good and not so good. Our lives intersect and inter-connect , sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes it stings. And yet we learn and grow from BOTH types of interaction. How we manage an unpleasant interaction – what we do with it -- is the key. We can either wallow in negative, hurtful rejection, or we can let it be “fertilizer” that helps us grow. Negative, hurtful rejection can give us a peculiar insight into the lives of others – developing our compassion.

It also serves as a reminder of what Christ went through FOR US. The suffering we humans go through can’t hold a candle to what He endured.

These days, the first words I hear every morning from my husband are “Good morning, Beautiful! I love you!” The lady who gazes back at me from the mirror is okay with me; she’s not perfect but she tries her best.

And my life continues to be an amazing collection of experiences, interactions, and events that offer opportunities to grow into the woman that seeks to fulfill her purposes for existing! And hey, who knows...I might just try defying gravity!!

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