So, I have this “FRENEMY” in my life.
When I was growing up, I moved around a lot, was constantly the “new girl,” sometimes in the middle of the year, shifting in and out of public and private school systems. Some of my most shameful memories lie dormant to those early school years, one in particular where I would sneak into the bathroom with my lunch, sit and eat and sob on the toilet, begging the clock to move faster, rather than face the mean pack of private school girl wolves.
My first day of walking up to them, putting my tray down quietly, my little fingers trembling, one girl I remember her name to this day, made a nod, and they all got up and left me there, alone.
I can’t decide which is worse about this story. On one part, I see that this story has been all of our stories, especially as women, the separate and hateful energy that has been used to destroy each other and ourselves since time began. On another part, I see that in this moment, I heard a destructive voice that called out to my spirit.
It said, “You are unwanted.”
“You are unlovable.”
“You are not accepted here or anywhere.”
“You are not enough.”
Those are powerful statements for a little girl to hear, and in that moment, I made a choice to believe them. Maybe I could have said to the voices, “No. You are all lies. Those girls are missing on something great, something worthy and beautiful.” But, the fact remains, I didn’t.
I see now as an adult woman that voices come like this all the time, for us all, and I watch my girls confront them, I see myself in them, trying to decide if they should align with the lies, or believe what is real.
My mother decided to move me to a different school, a small Christian school, and for reasons I am sure were never intentional to cause pain, put me and my brother back a grade, placing me in the exact class my younger brother had been in, half way through the school year. That was so shameful to me, to be amongst classmates who had made friends with him, who asked where he was and who was I, answers that brought up all the horror I did not want to examine. The voices got deeper and deeper, settling in to my soul, defining my self hatred to an even greater degree. It is a very interesting thing to be where I am today and look at it from a different perspective, as a witness, rather than a victim.
As all children do, when placed in situations where they have no idea how to cope or where to turn, they develop coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma. What I did was develop a mask, a face I sold with absolute brutal force to myself, so that I would never feel that pain again. My mask became my alter ego, the face of popularity and acceptance, and from that moment on, I believed that my worth was in direct proportion to how many people adored and loved me, no matter what the cost.
My mask became my force, and it got me what I wanted. I became popular, with endless supplies of friends, phone calls, invites, and I did anything and everything to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be. I became bulimic in middle school, believing being skinny would gain the attention of men. I dated the right guys, pursued all the people that would validate my belief that I was “somebody” no matter what self destructive behavior it cost. I had to be the loudest, the most charming, the most lovable, and the mask became more and more strong, validated by my relief I felt that in not being an outcast, I was finally lovable, worthy, accepted. It is a tricky thing to wear a mask for so long, my humor and love for people a real part of me, and I became swept away by my own false image of myself.
As I have grown throughout the years, in facing the pain I used so many things to escape with, drugs, sex, working out, painful relationships to name a few, I have touched on this issue, but not to the depth of where I am today.
It is a beautiful thing to be in pain, because it is the arrow if we follow in faith, will lead us back to our authentic self. I thought pain was here to kill me. I found out this year that pain is here to free me.
So, at 32, a grown woman with two children of her own, I went to work and as I always have, made friends instantly and powerfully, covering all the self hatred that I did not even know still was dormant, waiting, watching to be seen.
I was instantly aware of one girl who did not seem pulled into my charm, and no matter what I did to assure her, humor her, love her, embrace her, she did not respond. The fact is for whatever reason, she did not like me.
For me, that was impossible. I fought myself every day, my internal self at war with what I was doing to excuse and win her over, aware that this was not healthy, that it should be something I should let go of easily, but I couldn’t. She said things like, “I have no idea why everyone here loves you so much.”
It was the arrow, and the work of my own healing knew to watch it, to follow it.
One night, Fathers Day to be exact, she said I was evil, screamed at me, and I ended up in the cooler of the restaurant, shaking, sobbing, broken. The cracks of my mask began to open, the little girl left alone sat in a cooler, in an adult body, terrified, empty, full of self loathing and pain. It was an immediate trigger, and I saw myself light a cigarette, something I had not done in ten years. I saw myself do everything to escape, my claws coming out of the water, trying to paddle up, knowing I was drowning, but I just did not know why.
I thought it was about my father, confrontation, so I did that, my manager and entire restaurant involved in my own private war, and I felt the shame and judgment of my inner self crack my mask open more and more, revealing to me the very thing I had convinced myself I would never again feel.
“I am not wanted.”
“I am not lovable.”
“I am not accepted.”
“I am not enough.”
The arrows of these voices that formed the same mask resurfaced, but just that much more powerful, but I chose to address them differently this time. I said to them, “You are a pack of lies. I chose to believe the voices that say I am a beautiful and loving woman, full of compassion and joy, a gift to the world. I am enough.”
Something magical happened in allowing my mask to fall, to realize that I needed all these people to love me not because I was wonderful, but because I was a little girl who had been wounded. I began to see how self serving and inauthentic I had become, believing that I had been a friend for all the reasons my mask wanted me to be, not because the friendships were true. I began to ask for guidance as to who that girl was, the real one, and in asking, it was amazing to watch my relationships change instantly, the ones that were not real did not appear, the ones that mattered poured love to me, and back, showing me I was becoming who I really am, not the illusion I sold to the world.
I realized I didn’t really care anymore about the girl at work, the one who I could not make love me. What shattered me didn’t even cross my mind and the other day she said to me, out of the blue, “You’ve changed.”
“No I haven’t.” I said it without a defense or a cover. I just didn’t see she was showing me.
“Yes, you have.” She stared at me, aware, alert.
“I am meaner to you than I ever have,” I said, giving her examples of the ways I did not try to help her or praise her, withholding myself, believing I had been protective and defensive.
“No, you don’t treat me the same way.” This made me laugh at the irony.
She followed me around that night, my nemesis, and I stayed late with her, seeing for the first time, the person that had hurt me was responsible for the best thing that ever happened to me. She had been the arrow to my mask, the arrow to puncture my heart. She had been the arrow to find my way home. I couldn’t believe the power of the energy of what became of me shifting inside myself the voices, the mask still there, but I am working on it, healing through forgiving that little powerless girl, the one who sobbed every day, and I try to hold her, send her love, and remind her she is safe now. As for the girl at work, she ended up, for the first time hugging me, and we laughed, making the agreement to be “Frenemies.” I see now she was sent from the light, a shadow of what was inside of me, begging to be free, to be healed. I think “Frenemy” is the name I should have given myself, a long time ago, a 32 year battle of acceptance, worth, and joy waiting to be found. Here is to you Frenemy, a perfect song, for a perfect woman.
So, I have this “FRENEMY” in my life.