Writing Real

Photo by Susan Fischbach Isaacs

A few days ago I completed an exercise where I wrote a list of  what’s real in my life. It wasn’t until I re-read it a few hours later that I discovered my list is written almost entirely from a positive, or at least non-judgemental, perspective. This comes as a pleasant shock to me, as I can say for sure that only a few years ago the same list would have been filled with laments about my very real negative attributes.

I have nearly stunned myself with this recognition. I want to take the list to my therapist and say, “Look! Look how far I’ve come! It’s all here in black and white!” It’s exhilarating to feel like I’ve come out on the other side of something — childhood disappointments and childish adult behavior. The beautiful thing is looking back I have compassion for my scared, lonely, wildly imperfect, younger self. For all those years I felt less-than, not because anyone ever said it in so many words, just because that’s how I internalized some of the messages I received.

Although there was a time when I was about seven years old that classmates I aspired to be friends with said to me, “You follow us around like a little puppy.” My reply on that day was, “Okay.” It was a few years later when I realized the true intention of their words had been insult not invitation. When I did figure it out I felt even worse. I must be the lowest of the low if I had been willing to let classmates look at me as a dog in order to simply spend time with them. That’s one self-loathing little girl. And for years I condemned her for her frailty. I continued to emotionally beat up on her as I perceived others had done, and I became, for many years, a woman with the emotional maturity of that little girl.

I feel compassion for both of them now, both the wounded little girl and the childish woman she grew into. They were both doing all they could to get by emotionally. They both did succeed. They survived and ultimately thrived because they used what they had to keep moving forward, and I can’t fault them for that. They got me here, after all.