Do you guys ever have things come up in your life that you kind of shelve because you have no idea what to do with it? You can’t figure out where it comes from? Or how to resolve it? So you mentally place it on a shelf in your mind and hope that maybe one day it will come back around. By the time it comes back around you hope will have a resolution or even an understanding? I have had this thing that has happened since we have moved to Georgia, and I simply shelved it for the last 2 years. I have processed it with friends, talked about it with Charles, been irritated by it, and stumped by it. I had moments I thought I was through it but then no. I ceased trying to understand and let it be what it is.
I have been socially awkward in a way unrecognizable to me since we moved to Georgia. Finding a groove here with people including strangers has been difficult for me. It is the weirdest thing. I haven’t known strangers ever in my life. I have always been the person who made friends with people at grocery stores. My mom and Charles many a time had to pull me out of line so that the cashier and I would stop talking. I just love people. I love hearing their stories. I love seeing them smile. I love bringing joy and laughter. I love people. It’s not that I haven’t ever been awkward. Generally, as a baseline, someone who struggles with insecurity, I am awkward. Over the years I learned how to lean into that and make it work for me.
Here though, I just haven’t been able to settle into my skin. This awkward is new. I’ve had a ton of explanations that I have used over the last two years to try to explain it. Things like; It’s a whole new city, a whole new way of life. We’re still healing from Katie Grace, still healing from years ago. We haven’t found a church where we’re settled so we haven’t grown a community. We haven’t been emotionally available. God’s really called us home so we can be still and connect as a family of three. The list goes on, yet as true as some of that is, none of it ever explained why I felt uncomfortable in my skin with people. Or why going out alone promoted such awkwardness and was only for short periods because it would emotionally exhaust me.
That’s not me. Over my life, I did all kinds of things alone. By the time I graduated college, I had mastered the art of alone time. Coffee dates alone reading and people watching. Clothes shopping on my own. Even braved a movie on my own. On my own wasn’t an issue. It was gratifying. Needless to say, I have been left bewildered about this social awkwardness here in Georgia. I shelved it. I just stopped thinking about it, embraced it, did my best and hoped that one day it would come back around full circle. Hopefully, that circle leaving me with a solution or at least an understanding, as to what the hell.
Last Thursday, because it would be that day. Thursday’s and I are kind of a kindred. (You can read about that here…..Thursday) It was kind of a self-care day. It was a day I was running around town doing things that took care of me. I had scheduled a brow appointment and splurged with a pedicure appointment also. As I walk into my appointment, my brow artist is running behind so I have about 20 minutes to kill. I stroll around the store just looking. The more I browse and wait, the more uncomfortable I become. Questions like….should I be standing there waiting? Do I just keep walking around? Uuummm….what is the right thing to do here? Do I keep looking over to see they are done? Is that awkward? All this started to popcorn in my brain, leaving me even more uncomfortable in my skin. She finally finishes her customer and calls me over. I sit down and we get through our time together. She is gracious and funny as ever, I am still as awkward as ever. Stuttering over my words, saying things that don’t make sense, laughing too loud at my own jokes. We finish up, I pay, I head to the door, and under my breath, I say, “What is wrong with me. Lord, why am I so dang awkward? I just want to go home.” I wasn’t expecting a response, it was just a rhetorical question. Yet there was a response….
“This is remnants of the Smith’s.”
I let my movement come to a standstill as I got in the car, giving that sentence the time it needed. The moments, the conversations, and the experiences that the Lord was bringing back flooded my mind. It wasn’t that I had forgotten them, I had just not ever looked at them through the lens of a victim.
The Smith’s systematically convinced me I was incompetent and couldn’t be trusted by them or myself. It didn’t start that way, when I first moved in with them I was completely capable. I would run errands on my own, I had a job, run to the grocery store on my own, freely speak to whomever I wanted and whenever I wanted. The change was quiet, happening without me even realizing what was being eroded. I would retell a story about a conversation and suddenly I was told that what I said wasn’t accurate and could cause the family to be viewed in a bad light. Shame would fold over me because that was my fault. The bad light was because of my words. Or I would be gone on errands for hours and it became labeled as independence. I was told that I was rejecting the closeness to family, hiding from intimacy with them. Shame would fold over me because that was wrong. As the confidence in my ability to relate to the outside world was being chipped away, I was given space inside the walls of the family where I was capable. I was capable to cook dinners, help with homeschooling, babysit the kids whenever, help with family business finances, clean the house, do laundry etc. I was trusted to hear the voice of the Lord, to spend hours in prayer for them but that became all I was good at. At being theirs. I silenced my own thoughts because they folded me in shame. I shut down being open to people outside of them because it was wrong, and wrong folded me in shame. I became a shell of a person.
This awkwardness, this uncomfortability I have lived with these last few years, is that. The belief that I am not capable or trustworthy. That I have nothing good to say. That I won’t represent anybody including myself well. That shame will fold over me. So say nothing. Be nothing. Have no opinion. Have no thought. Have no life experience. Have nothing that requires you to show up, to be present, because when you do that, you mess it up. You get it wrong. You say the wrong things. You do the wrong things. Although today I know that that isn’t true, what I saw that Thursday is that I am still walking that belief out. I am still acting as if I am that girl. I was so busy taking responsibility for my part that I never saw that girl or how she was still folded in shame…afraid.
I see her now and I want to give her a voice. I want to create space for us to grieve together. Then I want to move forward. I want to introduce her to the real me. The one who doesn’t know a stranger, who gushes over every dog who walks by her, who sits at coffee shops for hours comfortable in her skin because it fits, and the one who isn’t afraid of saying anything. I can’t change that I allowed myself to become a shell but I can reach into that shell, grab a hold of that girl in there, introduce myself and meld together, not necessarily erasing the experience simply erasing the fear.