03 September, 2007

A Question of the Heart

Recently I had the nicest out-of-the-blue email from a school chum I have known since the first day of first grade. We were mostly close friends all through school, only drifting apart due to differing focuses (she on school, me on singing and boys and working). She is one of those people who is brilliant, so smart she just sort of 'hums'. She is a good person, with a gentle spirit. She is one of those intelligent people who doesn't need to make other people feel stupid. A quality I am sure she has honed as an adult. She is a natural teacher; so many things come easily for her, but instead of being frustrated by others' lack of knowledge, she has the patience and ability to teach others and help them see what she can see. Obviously, a girl and woman I have always admired.

Well, as it turned out, she thought I was okay too. A mutual-admiration society of sorts. She said she thought I was nice all through school, when other girls turned caddy she says I didn't, and she had these very strong memories of me being a kind person, and even defending her when other girls were speaking harshly behind her back (while she was pretending to be asleep at a slumber party).

It was truly a remarkable email for me to receive, because I do not do a very good job of remembering anything good I ever do. When asked recently if I hold a grudge I replied no.. My husband said, "Well, but you do remember every single thing anyone ever says". and I think that is true. But I don't hold a grudge, instead I just remember every mean or unkind, or misplaced word which has ever been spoken to me; every criticism, harshness or otherwise. Sadly, most of the time I also dissect the statement so carefully that it goes beyond a phrase and becomes a diatribe or dissertation in my head. It's not a 'grudge'.. I just remember being 'smudged'.

What was so interesting to me is that the here was this person who spent time near me for 12+ years thinking I was a certain type of person, and I was there too, all that time, thinking I was someone else. I was trying so hard to be the kind of person she describes, but never felt like I was. How does that happen? In this case it is much better to use her perceptions to define my young self. I like the idea that I was kind, and gracious and good hearted etc.

I think, as my Momster says "We become the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves". So what stories am I feeding myself now? What poet's lines? When one of my dearest friends tells me one night in January 2004 after many, many, many drinks, "You have a mean heart"-- is that the perception I had been wearing? do I still wear it? I spend every day trying to be anything but that girl.

I try to tell myself that I am a woman who is starting to have a grip on who she is. I want to think that I am a devoted wife, a good mother, and an aspiring writer. I'd like to think that I am witty and that I am a critical thinker who still has compassion and common sense. I tell myself that I love to go camping, I regularly compost and that this body I live in isn't so bad after all.

These are the stories I am telling myself these days.
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