Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Sister and the 7th Grade

I spent this morning largely involved in doing nothing of any real significance. Avoiding, as usual, the things I knew I needed to do. I tend to drag my feet and procrastinate when there is a task to be done that I know I don't really want to do. In this case, it is writing more of my story. Even though I had all that self-talk last night, it doesn't make the reality of doing it something I want to do. So I put it off.

However, about an hour ago I decided to stop ignoring the small little voice in the back of my head that was nagging at me to stop playing games and get to work already. I sat down, and began to pray. In the midst of praying, I got both a memory and a revelation. I'll share both with you.

Mrs. Wagonblast was my 7th grade history teacher. I adored her. I felt like she understood me, understood my pain. She allowed me to talk to her and only sometimes offered me advice. As close as I felt to her, though, I didn't stay in touch once I got into 8th grade. She died of cancer, and I never even knew she was sick. As I think about this I know it's a pattern with me. Once I leave, I tend to cut all ties. I don't write, I don't call, and I don't make an effort to stay in touch. I mean to do those things, but don't. I love these people, care about them, think about them, but stop letting them know. I think I do this to protect myself from how much leaving hurts. It's as if I'm trying to bury the past, pretend it didn't happen, so I don't have to feel the pain of missing those friends. But this robs my friends of my love, robs me of the chance to see that the distance doesn't have to bring an end to things. Our relationship may change, but it doesn't have to be the end. Worse yet, my walling myself off from them sends them the wrong message - it's as if they don't matter even though nothing could be further from the truth. This is definitely something I need to reflect more on and work to change.

Remembering Mrs. Wagonblast led me to remember a particularly painful incident that happened when I was in 7th grade. I developed a crush on a boy named Wrangler that was in my history class. He was one of the popular kids, and I didn't have the courage to approach him but I guess my feelings for him must have shown in my face because one day before class started five or six of his friends surrounded me during class and began taunting me. I was absolutely humiliated, and I hated them all for doing that to me. I couldn't understand why they picked on me as I had never done anything to any of them. The pain of this was so intense it took everything I had not to cry. I merely glared at them and acted as if I didn't care.

Looking back and thinking on it, though, I wonder if they did it because they thought I saw myself as better than them. I got teased often for using "college words". My vocabulary was extensive because I read everything that came into view whether it was cereal boxes, magazines, or encyclopedia's. I preferred fiction, but I read everything. Furthermore, my mother spoke this way to us at home. It was simply how I talked, as natural to me as a Texas drawl might be to someone else.

I held myself apart from everyone else in the way that I dressed and the way I behaved. I wore skirts and heels when everyone else was wearing jeans and tshirts. I did not wear makeup, I found it too much of a nuisance. I did not have any girlfriends, all my friends were boys. I was comfortable interacting with teachers and adults as if I were one of them because in my own eyes I was. I was focused on the future.

Futhermore, I used pride as a shield to keep myself from showing my emotional vulnerability. I hid behind it so that no one would see all the pain, treated it like a bandage that was keeping me from falling apart. I pretended I didn't need anyone else because I was so afraid of being vulnerable. In my house, vulnerability was a weakness and all weaknesses were used as weapons to dig into you. I wonder how much of the teasing they did was because they saw the way I held myself apart from them and misinterpreted it as rejection? Maybe they, like I had with my older sister, didn't know how to get positive attention from me and so they pursued the negative attention they knew they could get.

Of course, at that age it would never have occurred to me that anyone would care to have my attention. I didn't see any good in myself and so their actions only drove me deeper inside my shell, building even higher walls to protect me from the pain. I saw their attacks as further proof of my worthlessness and that I was unlovable. I did not see myself the way others did. I did not see a pretty, intelligent, cheerful, and self-confident young woman who seemed to have it all together. I saw a girl who was all alone, who couldn't trust anyone, who didn't fit in anywhere, and who wasn't pretty enough to attract boys or smart enough to be the best at anything.

As I wrote these things, I got a sudden insight into my older sister. The more that I acted up to try and get her attention, the deeper into her shell I drove her. She already saw herself as worthless and unlovable, and my disrespectful behavior only served to prove to her that she was right. It never occurred to her that I admired her, adored her, and was hurting because she didn't seem to want me in her world. She didn't see herself the way I saw her. She didn't see herself as talented and self-confident and everything I wanted to become.

Now that I have this revelation, I think I know how to begin to bridge the gap between us. I think that I must begin to paint her a picture so she will see herself the way that I do - beautiful, intelligent, talented, and worthy of love. I must help her to understand the reason why I did what I did so she can see that it was not because she wasn't lovable but because I needed her love. And maybe, just maybe, someday the turtle will come out of its shell and my sister and I can have the relationship that I always wanted to have with her.

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