Monday, January 27, 2014

Where Have You Been all My Life?

What is it about a challenge that invigorates me? I am and always have been that girl who, when presented with a “Bet you can’t,” stares down the speaker and replies simply, “Just you watch me.” The thrill of proving myself is victory beyond any that can be imagined. The product of the challenge is irrelevant. It is the accomplishment of that challenge that I get off on.

I have met many a dare or battle in my life. I have gone up in hot air balloons, moved in with a boyfriend, positioned myself as a sales leader, and completed a college degree despite overwhelming odds. Challenges have helped me to win things---watches, luggage, bowls, promotions and, nearly once, a car. Challenges have helped me to move a team forward, to learn things, to serve as leader, counselor, teacher. Challenges have brought me face to face with many I may never have met. In my head I know that, if I am to do this, I am to do it all the way. There is no “can’t.” There is no “it’ll do.” There is only “do” and “do it well.”

Until now, this need to prove, to move forward against opposition, to be everything everyone believes I cannot has been the motivation I have needed to get to where I have in my life. I have accomplished much in my fifty years. Among other things, I have broken a cycle, a cycle of hunger and home insecurity. That is no small feat. I have worked my way up the educational ladder. I have worked hard. I have struggled to give myself everything in my adult life that I did not have as a child. I have a home now, a home that is warm and full of comfort. It is mine, and I never have to leave until I decide that I would like. No landlord will tell me to get out. No bank will tell me to leave. I have a pantry and a fridge. They are both full of beautiful food. I can eat it all whenever I want. I can eat it all, and there will still be more. I am never hungry. I have cars that run and vacations to places other than Grandmother’s house. I wake each morning without a care in my head about how I will support my children in their own young lives. This competitive spirit has served me well. It has given me all that I missed in my earlier years.

It has given me everything, that is, except for love.

I cannot say that I was not loved. That is not the case at all. I knew in my head that my parents loved me. I knew. In my head. The words were never there. There were no hugs or kisses or arm around the shoulder. We were to be tough, to get over it, to buck up and deal. We were to be big girls, to not cry, to not want or need. Negative emotion, in our home, was acceptable. Anger. That was the norm. Anything else was weak or weird. I never had a doubt that my mother had my back. I never had a doubt that my father was proud of me. But neither of these is what I mean here when I speak of love.

When I say that I never had love, I mean that I never had that feeling that I was acceptable just as I am, that no matter what I achieved or didn’t I was still okay just because I existed. I never had that sense of being free to be exactly who I was when I came into this world. I always had to please, to be a good girl, to acquiesce.

Even now, despite everything I have given myself, everything I was missing earlier in my life, I have not found a way to give myself love. Still, I feel the need to prove. I feel the need to please. I feel the need be a good girl, to acquiesce. I am working on this. I am working on speaking out, on being who I am. I am working on surrounding myself with those who accept me and appreciate me just as I stand before them. For many, their concern is conditional. They love me IF. They love me IF I am as they wish me to be. They love me IF I do as they would like. I am searching now. I am searching for that love, that love that is pure and unconditional and warm and nurturing, that love that embraces me in a welcoming hug, that love that grabs my heart, looks me in the eye and says, “Hello, there, beautiful. WHERE have you BEEN? I have waited. I have waited so very long.”

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