I am different. I have been tempted to doubt this new change since, being internal, it is hard to qualify or quantify. Luckily, I received unequivocal confirmation on my walk through downtown Toronto this past Saturday. While pondering this vague sense that I have really come into my own in the last few months, my gaze drifted upward. An enormous brick building stood before me, proud and unapologetic. Giant white lettering covered its western facade with the message, “YOU ARE CHANGED”. I looked around for confirmation that other people actually saw this lettering – just in case my imagination was working in overdrive. But, people walking the streets of Toronto seldom look up from their cell phone screens. So, I am trusting the words were there – even if no one else managed to appreciate them.
I am changed. I have discovered … ME. Not just that, but I also discovered I actually like me. Not just that, but I also discovered God actually likes me. Not just that, but I also discovered how to be me with people – whether they like me or not. And for the first time IN MY LIFE (and I mean that with the utmost sincerity despite my propensity to exaggerate) I do not feel lonely.
While many of you have already known parts of me that were true, my task in the last year has been learning how to embrace these qualities myself. For instance, we all have probably figured out by now that I have a rather… (uncomfortable pause while I search for a word with positive, or at least ambiguous, connotations) large personality. Seasoned by my profuse use of hyperbole and stewed in my colourful wardrobe, it is hard to miss me in a room. This aspect of my character has been a source of embarrassment for me the first 36 years of my life. I felt it must be a childish part of my character that needs to be surgically removed before I can fully enter into the world of the mature and respected.
But no matter how hard I tried to shove this part of me into a dusty trunk meant for containing someone’s past, it kept sneaking out and sidling up to me in unexpected moments. The company of my loud self would, briefly, induce a feeling of joyful abandon (see my post: Karaoke and hot pink Nikes). But a horrible embarrassment would immediately follow and escort my loud self back to the trunk.
Also sequestered to this trunk (and equally prone to escape without my permission) were my playful imagination, insatiable curiosity, intense physicality and desperate need for time to ponder. While these parts of me whined and moped in their dark and musty home, I took up noble qualities honed and perfected in Jane Austen’s imagination. I wanted to be perceived as virtuous – quietly cautious. Someone who listens before she speaks and thinks before she acts. Someone who works behind the scenes to humbly affect change. Someone who’s words are trustworthy because they make sense and don’t contradict the previous day’s statements. Someone who never does anything you can’t measure with standards of productivity. Someone who helps the people of the world achieve their best through her sacrificial diligence.
These are great qualities and I put forth a valiant effort to reflect them. But I couldn’t shake this strange feeling that no one really knew me even though I have never suffered a lack of great friendships. Not feeling truly known, even by my closest friends, indicated to me something was terribly wrong.
During my 12 months of therapy I carefully removed and examined these precious parts of me contained in that dusty old chest. I asked questions like, “Why is this in here?” and “Why am I embarrassed by this?” and “What does God think about this?” Over time I stopped shoving them back in the chest and these true parts of me took up permanent residence in me. But I became very crowded -awkwardly carrying the real me (let’s call her “Rebekah the Colourful”) along with the false me (“Rebekah the Pious”).
Rebekah the Colourful would cry out, “Let’s spend the entire Saturday sipping coffee and staring out the window in deep thought!” Rebekah the Pious, however, would respond, “How self indulgent! We should really invest our Saturday helping So & So move… or at least we should spend our time with someone we could encourage or cheer.”
There is nothing wrong with helping a friend move or hanging with someone who needs a little cheer. The problem is I felt ashamed of Rebekah the Colourful. The things that truly bring me joy don’t fit into the category, “Great Ways to Contribute to Society”. So, I didn’t give them priority. This didn’t work for very long. I had allowed Rebekah the Colourful out of the box and she was constantly reminding me of how the activities Ms. Pious desired were sucking the life and joy right out of me.
So, one fine day I sat down and gently took Ms. Pious by the hand. I thanked her for all the years she spent with me and the many positive experiences I have had because of her choices. And then I let her go. She was not the real me and I could no longer bare being someone else.
I am Rebekah the Colourful. I am also Rebekah the Silly and sometimes Rebekah the Thoughtful. I am Rebekah the Intense and sometimes Rebekah the Playful. I am Rebekah the Inquisitive and Rebekah the Wistful. These days I am just incredibly thankful I am actually Rebekah.
I have experienced incredibly rich joy in the last couple months and I have no doubt that will continue. Occasionally Ms. Pious sneaks up behind me and tries to shame me into taking her back. I spend a lot of time asking God to remind me that he made me who I am, in all my colour and complexity. I am happy to say that God has quickly and consistently found ways to remind me he loves me and didn’t just accidentally drop a little too much paint on the canvass of my being.