I took some time last night to think a little more about what’s interesting about me. I realized that I’ve been trying so hard to be Little Miss Sunshine that I’ve only been sharing part of who I am.
The truth is that I battle mental health demons every single day. Some days it’s relatively easy. The demons are pretty quiet, and I go about my business and feel accomplished and happy and loved and those days are better than great! Sometimes I’ll even have many days in a row that are really good days. But on the bad days, I feel utterly alone in the world. I feel like no one wants to hear me complain about being sad, so I just keep it to myself. I feel ugly, unlovable, unwanted, and ashamed of who I am. I feel like my voice is sandpaper against the ears of anyone who has to listen to me. Those days are scary. My breath is hard to swallow, I want to peel my skin off and be free of this stupid body, I just want to be normal. And unfortunately I haven’t found a good way to cope with the demons yet. But I did quit smoking last August, so at least I have one less unhealthy way of coping. I’ll give myself any points I can get. And I’ll keep learning and trying until I figure it out. But I will not let the demons win. I will not give up.
I also refuse to give up on my childlike wonder at the world around me. I want to see and touch and feel and create new things every day. I know that there are people who think I’m immature and weird. I know that I can irritate people and get on their nerves with my overly enthusiastic excitement about some plan, or idea or event. I don’t mean to stress people out. I’m am just horribly afraid that if I settle down, learn to quiet myself so as not to disturb others then it won’t be long until I’m old, bored, crabby, mean, and frustrated. I know people who live that way. It doesn’t appeal to me. So as long as I’m able to feel the exuberance of life, I can not let it go.
I’ve had two best friends in my life. I was lucky enough to marry one. The other I met in eighth grade. She was standing alone while everyone was participating in field day or some other outside event. I got brave and went and introduced myself. The rest is history. For the last twenty-seven years, we’ve told each other secrets and giggled about unbelievably stupid inside jokes, we’ve lost touch and found each other, we’ve watched each others’ children become men, we’ve fought like sisters and made up like sisters, too. I feel especially blessed to know and love her. She is full of laughter and wisdom, even on her bad days. She makes the world a better place just because she’s in it. This may seem like it’s an interesting fact about my best friend, rather than about me, but the truth is, without knowing her, I wouldn’t be who I am. Her love and support helped to shape me into me!
And finally (finally!), last but not least…my heart gets me in more damned trouble…from bringing home stray animals, to putting myself in the line of fire to protect a loved one, to making rash decisions, giving people too many chances to hurt me and a million other things, my heart has proven time and again that it just has no brain.
My most recent heart-brained idea was a new game called Sneaky Cards. It’s a deck of 52 cards with various tasks to undertake. Things like buying someone a coffee, using your non-dominant hand for a day, taking a selfie with a stranger, trying a new food. All ideas meant to grow and stretch you as a human. Once you complete a task, you give the card to someone else and they are supposed to join in and complete the task and pass the card along and so on and so forth. The cards have tracking numbers, so if you’re lucky enough to pass your card to someone with the same crazy idea of fun as you, then you can see how far it goes. Kind of like a game of tag mixed with a scavenger hunt, mixed with a little truth or dare. A lot of the ideas are the kinds of things I have done anyway, like buying someone’s coffee or letting someone go ahead of me in line at the grocery. But there are also things that I haven’t tried, and it looked like fun, a good way to help bring some hope and love and laughter into the world. And I figured it would give me something interesting to write about, so I bought the cards and started my adventure. The first couple were relatively easy. Hiding a card in a place where it would easily be found, giving a card to someone who made you smile. Now, I had to finish grocery shopping today. (Did I mention that I am a professional procrastinator. Yeah? Well, this serves as further proof.) I took my deck with me, determined to get rid of at least two cards. Finding someone to give our place to in line to was easy enough. Explaining to this lady that I am playing a card game, was not quite as easy. But she kindly smiled at me as though I were nuts (which I am) and took the card and I checked that one off the list.
The second card I wanted to get rid of was “Buy the first item on this list for a stranger, then add an item of $5 or less value and pass the card and item on to the next victim, er, player.” The first item on the list was a candy bar. I bought a Hershy Bar, KING SIZE! (Because that’s what I would want!) Then I added “a pack of gum” to the list. I was set up for success! Now to find my stranger. This is harder than it seems at first glance. I was afraid to give it to an older person because they may be on a restricted diet and I didn’t want to cause health issues. I thought of giving it to a child, but it seems those only come in twos or threes, and I didn’t want to start a family feud. I didn’t want to give it to anyone coming into the store because I was concerned they might be stopped by an associate and asked for a receipt. I waited until I got to the parking lot and looked for the perfect unsuspecting soul. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a woman carrying a bouquet of flowers! Perfect! If she didn’t eat chocolate then she could give the candy bar to the person she was taking flowers to and make the gift that much sweeter. I walked up, and tried to hand her the card and candy bar. She shook her head no. Now I know, I look like a Jehovah’s Witness at this point, but I tried to explain, quickly, that it is a game, there’s no church involved, no sales pitch, no strings attached. So I have to tell you that when she rolled up her window and began to back out of the parking space, it hurt my feelings. She looked disgusted by my offer. So with tears in my eyes feeling embarrassed, head down, I walked to the car and we headed home. Dean was livid. My heart was hurt, I was confused and sad. Ouch!
Here’s the kicker though. I’ve been listening to talks and books by Brene Brown about vulnerability. She is excellent at explaining how we can only live wholeheartedly if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with one another. Which is part of the reason I bought the cards in the first place. I knew going into it that there was a real possibility of being rejected. I put my heart out there anyway. And yes, it was broken. I am so sad that the world has become so cynical that a free gift is cause for alarm. But I have decided that I am going to be me in spite of the world’s cynicism. I am going to have fun giving away a free candy bar no matter how many times I am rejected. I am going to be proud that I am spreading light in the world. I will remain soft, and will not allow the world to make me bitter. And in my humble opinion, that is the most important interesting fact that you need to know about me.
This exercise has been fun. I’m looking forward to the next one! I hope light falls on your face and on your path as you journey through the coming week. If you have a chance to give someone “frontsies” in line this week, or spread your own kind of light, I hope you’ll take it. Let’s start a kindness wave! I’ll go first. You are amazing, and you are loved, and you are appreciated. Bask in that!