Sunday, April 3, 2016

Walking with Ghosts

I had a friend come to me the other day.  He opened up about when he was a young boy and had a friend who he had a crush on.  He always regretted never asking her out because he was afraid to risk.  Risk losing her.  Risk rejection.  Risk his feelings not being returned.

It reminded me of my story.  When I was a kid.  So many memories.  Being awkward with braces and glasses.  Being called a nerd because I was smart.  Yet, hitting so many hurdles because I had trouble with reading.  I just didn't fit in.  Anywhere.  Period.  Sometimes it felt like I had no friends.  Other times I was bullied.  Don't we all go through these things?  Aren't there so many parallels to being that young boy afraid to take a chance?

So one day, I did.  I decided to take some risk.  I decided to ask the girl who sat next to me in class to go to the eighth grade dance with me.  Not only did she say, "No."  But she also told all of her friends and they all thought I had a crush on her.  To this day, I still remember how they looked at me.  I was humiliated.  Completely and utterly humiliated.

On the other hand, I really wanted to celebrate the last dance together with my classmates.  I thought to myself, "Maybe it's just her, I'll ask another girl."  So I did.  I asked the girl in my home room class.  She was also a nice girl.  I thought for sure, she might go.  However, when I asked, she said that she wasn't even going to go because her mom wouldn't let her.

Rejected! Twice!  I felt so defective that I actually thought she decided not to go just to avoid me.  I thought she was just using her mother as a polite way to let me down.

Sure.  An adult might know that these girls were probably as freaked out about dating as I was.  An adult might realize that the social norm is not to blindly ask a girl out.  Or blindly dump your hidden desires into her lap.  No, you must introduce yourself first.  You must look for clues that she might actually be into you too.  A smile, a compliment, a warm soft giggle.  Then, you ask her to coffee or go for a short walk.  You don't just randomly ask a stranger if she will spend four hours with you, most of which she will be slow dancing in your arms.

All true.  But I was just a kid and I didn't know all that.  All I knew was that I was humiliated.  I felt like the dorky reject that no girl would want to ever go to the dance with.  I was so hurt, that I vowed to never feel that powerless again.

That's when it started.  I learned how to flirt and feed off of the attention of girls.  I wrote notes in class and collected love letters.  It was as if somehow, if I collected enough hearts in my jar that I could somehow mend my own broken heart.

I ended up going to that eighth grade dance.  The very next year, I was asked by one of my sister's friends.  To this day, I still remember the day we met, sitting on my front lawn.  She was an amazing girl and she changed my world.  So many good memories.  But I was still so wounded, that when we did go to the dance together, I somehow needed to make up for being that loser the year before.  I needed to take advantage of the popularity of being a high schooler, admired by junior classmen.  So when another girl showed her interest, I left my date and danced with her.

It was not only rude, but it was actually really sad.  I no longer could trust one woman.  I couldn't put all of my eggs into one basket.  Because I knew where that might lead.  Rejection and loneliness.

So I continued on this path of flirtation.  I ended up going to five different high school proms.  As if there was score keeping involved.  While my hurt and bruised ego was fed, I never was able to fill the void left by a damaged heart.  I never could go back to the time when I was in eighth grade and repair my wound.

Have you ever heard the saying, "A symptom is just an external manifestation of a deeper root cause?"  In the end, it wasn't the affection of girls I was chasing.  It was really the love of my mother.

Every child needs to feel unconditionally loved for proper development. But that is the thing with unmet childhood needs.  If one does not receive what they are supposed to receive at the proper place and time, they can never go back and change things.  No matter what I did, nothing could ever fill the void of not feeling unconditionally loved by my own mother.

However, there are things I could do.  I could identify the loss.  I could greive the loss.  I could choose to accept the loss.  Then, I could choose, at appropriate times to be vulnerable, even when that would mean being powerless to how another person might responded.

I could look back and be thankful for what took place.  That is, I can look at the positive impact these things have had in my life.  Rick Warren states, "The greatest contribution you will make in life will stem from your greatest source of pain."

It is only because of this major loss in my life, that I tell my kids I love them all the time.  I make sure each one knows that I love them.  Even when they disrespect me, hate me and are imperfect, I love them through it.  They are allowed to feel negative feelings toward me, without affecting how I feel about them.  We all focus on being the change we wish to see in the world.

It is only because of this major loss in my life, that I have been able to comfort and sympathize with so many who have experienced a similar lack of love in their childhood.

We were never supposed to get everything from our parents anyway.  They are imperfect and we live in a broken world.  They were always supposed to reflect a greater love, like the moon reflecting the light of the sun.

To wrap up this part of my story, I leave you with this Christian quote...

"Praise be to the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

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