When I was in high-school I was miserable almost every day. I experienced myself as unpopular, uncool, unattractive, unnoticed. Most of the time I lived in the merest sliver of space that seemed an uncrossable chasm: just on the margins of the in-crowd, never quite making it to the other side. It’s true: the popular, cool, attractive, and always-noticed kids were my friends. We talked. We sat at the same table together in the lunch room. I don’t remember ever sitting alone on the bus. Still, I couldn’t quite make it into that undefined, nebulous, certainly-perfect place. I was convinced there was some missing piece or quality or secret that if I could only discover would magically have my entire life unfolding before me in Seventeen-magazine-like perfection, flowers spontaneously blooming across my path, and the list of boys waiting to dance with me growing longer than all the crepe-paper from every gymnasium event stretched end-to-end.
Messed-up, I know.
As five-hundred people have descended on Portland, OR this weekend for the World Domination Summit, I find myself in that sliver-y chasm again. I know: I could have registered early enough to get one of the tickets. I didn’t. And so, I feel just a little bit left out. Just a little bit on the margins. Just a little bit insecure. Looking through the glass from the outside and wishing again for that missing piece or quality or secret that would get me into that group of cool kids.
Messed-up, I know.
other messed-up stories
High-school and world domination notwithstanding, here are a few more I’ve been known to tell myself. WARNING: these are pretty bad:
- I will fade into obscurity – book(s) never written, blog never read, Twitter account dwindling, and FB threatening to shut me down because so few people have friended me that I’m just taking up valuable virtual space.
- Financial doom is certain.
- My daughters will not be able to find therapists brilliant enough to help them through their their wackadoo childhood, their mother-disgust, their learned pathology.
- I will not be loved…enough. Long enough. Strong enough. Consistently enough. Passionately enough. And that’s understandable, because I probably don’t deserve it anyway.
- I have nothing of value to offer.
Oh, and let’s see, there are these:
- I can’t write. And no one wants to read me anyway.
- I can’t speak. And no one wants to listen to me anyway.
- What I do write and speak about is probably only interesting to me.
Believe me, I know better. Voices straight from the pit of hell. Whether from high school thirty-two years ago (!@#$%#), this weekend not in Portland, or on a day-to-day basis, no amount of awareness, sheer willpower, or even excellent therapy makes them disappear. Nor do any valiant, but misplaced efforts to ignore, repress, or dissociate from them.
My messed-up stories are redeemed through the stories of others.
Despite the examples above, which I’ll tell you, I’m loathe to admit, there is another story (well actually, lots of them) that I love to tell – and live. It’s my deal, my passion, my can’t-get-away-from-even-if-I-tried reality: I reimagine and retell stories, predominantly of women, that have been mangled, misaligned, and often just silenced. (All this while simultaneously eating apples boldly, talking to snakes and dabbling in the space between being a dominatrix and a prophet.)
Lest you think the doing of such is completely altruistic, I confess: I tell their stories because I must; because as I do, I am reimagining and retelling my own. My messed-up stories are redeemed and I am, as well.
Hagar: If you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you know that I love her story. I have (re)worked, (re)written and wept over it – in both grief and celebration. I’ve been unswervingly compelled to tell it in ways that bring her harm as well as beyond-belief magnificence to the fore. And the more time that I spend in her story, the more I am able to acknowledge my harm and my beyond-belief magnificence. In telling hers, I am (re)telling my own. My story is redeemed through hers.
The Woman at the Well: I love her story, too. I’ve (re)worked, (re)written, and wept over it – in both grief and celebration. Told for thousands of years in ways that keep her on the margins, she is actually strong, beautiful, proud, and uber-intelligent. As established in my oh-so-pathetic high-school story above, I’ve done margins. The more time that I spend in her story, I am reminded that I’m not alone and what’s more, that I too, am strong, beautiful, proud, and relatively intelligent. In telling hers, I am (re)telling my own. My story is redeemed through hers.
You and your stories are no different, messed-up or otherwise.The ones that murmur in your ear and remind you that you’re not enough…or maybe too much are waiting to be retold and reimagined. No high-school reunion or weekend in Portland can offer that. But other stories can – and do.
Whether realized or not, the stories (and people) you are most drawn to are the ones that are (re)telling your own – if you will listen. Novels, movies, music, blog posts, even Sacred Texts, and certainly recurring conversations with friends, lovers, family, and total strangers. These are the narratives that invite you to new and as-yet unimagined stories; ones you’d never dare dream, far from messed-up and instead, infused with strength, beauty, confidence, and hope. Redeemed.
It’s not that we never revert to stories of ridiculous self-loathing or other-inflicted pain. Those demons still murmur. But as we allow others’ stories to companion, speak, and guide, ours become ones we want to tell, perpetuate, and live. Redeemed, indeed.
I’m thinking this trumps both high-school popularity and world domination.