Thursday, August 11, 2005

too much

I lived under his critical appraisal for years, unforgiven for the sins of my youth. The sixteen-year old caught in the clutches of adolescent angst and acclamation—with a spirit perhaps too sensitive and more-than-mildly melodramatic—is the girl he sees to this day. To him, I remain a junior in high school, nearly twenty years later. Change is not a reality of his gospel. Thankfully, he is not my savior.

Yet I tried for years to please him. I bit my tongue. I restrained myself. I held it in. I tuned it out. I gutted it up. I toned it down. I nearly exploded. I endured his rude comments. I tolerated his arrogant, holier-than-thou critiques. I ignored his rejection and exclusion. I smiled through clenched teeth and I played nice when I didn’t want to play nice. I tried to be the better man. I tried to talk to him about it. He told me he “loved” me, but he didn’t really like me. I tried to forgive him.

He thought I was too much. Too loud, too moody. Too enthusiastic, too flighty. Too sensitive, too dramatic. Too emotional, too excitable. Too assertive, too honest. I believed him.

I spent eight years of my adult life serving along side him in my former congregation. Eight years of increasing tension, hurt, and resentment. Eight years of trying to appease him, trying to work it out, trying to figure out what was wrong with ME. Eight years of trying to be less.

I did not succeed.

I left five years ago, to my great relief, and neither of us has ever looked back. Twenty years of friendship and my best efforts at being something I’m not could not keep alive that which was killing me. I wish I could say I was sorry. But truthfully, I wish I’d left much sooner.

Because I am not too much. I am, in all my imperfect and quirky effusiveness, just as God created me to be. Perhaps that is why the Captivating quote struck a chord for me—I was so very tired of living in the land of disapproving glances and sideways comments. I have refused to wear shame any longer—it is much too heavy for my current climate. But the coat still hangs in my closet…

I must get rid of it all together, and soon. Because, you see, I have a daughter. She, like me, is “too much.” I fear for her. Too loud. Too excited. Too energetic. Too passionate. Too sensitive. Too enthusiastic. She starts first grade two weeks from today. I want to wrap her little spirit in bubble wrap. A double layer. I fear for her. Did I say that already? I cannot underscore it enough. I fear for her.

I fear she will meet boys like this boy, girls like this boy, teachers like this boy. I fear her “too much” will be lost or stolen or hidden or buried—gone for good like the missing puzzle pieces or the box to her crayons or a third of Barbie’s shoes. “Where did the other half of my spirit go, Momma?” “I don’t know—did you look under your bed? Try the floor of your closet…”

Not succeeding at not being myself was the greatest failure I’ve ever achieved. But it was a failure not easily attained. I pray that I can teach my daughter to fail with greater ease—to shrug her shoulders at life and retort, “You know what, I LIKE me. So what if you don’t.” And to really mean it.

There are many things I hope to hand down to my daughter. Shame and insecurity will not be among them.


Cynthia said...

umm, this is a great piece. You are on a roll! I'll sit back and meditate on it. Because you should write your own book.

Seth said...

Lorie! It's Seth!

Nice to see you in the blogsphere... and such nice prose.

I look forward to more.