Muddy Places

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” ~ Proverbs 31:25

(Dear reader, a combination of computer issues, the Thanksgiving holiday, a deadline driven project at work, and a personal creative project caused me to fall behind on posting and, more importantly, reading your wonderful posts. Please bear with me while I catch up.)

When you’re pregnant at 16, people don’t forget. To your high school peers, you’ll always be the girl who had a baby. When you’re older, colleagues appear stunned when they learn your firstborn’s age. Well-meaning, and sometimes judgmental, comments like, “Were you 10 years old when you had him?” roll off tongues. Eventually, you stop telling his age.

With family members, the story is more complex. No matter how old you are, how respectable you’ve become through education, career, marriage or any number of factors that render us so in the eyes of society, they don’t forget. A tense undercurrent is always present, as if somehow your success and respectability are an accident, and that at any moment the fragile façade can unravel. You almost start to believe it. You wonder, do I really have my life together or is it a fluke? Is there something wild and untamed and naughty in me that will surface again and undo all my work?

I have an aunt who loves to remind me of what a brat she thinks I was when I was a girl, even though that was over 30 years ago. It’s the same aunt who, when I announced at age 29 that I was pregnant, remarked how different it would be for me this time, better, more enjoyable, because I was older and stable now. I never forgot her words. They seemed intended to negate, and demean, my entire experience as a first-time mother.

People don’t forget our pasts. Some can’t seem to move beyond them. There is danger in this if we allow their view of us to become part of our story. In this muddy place lies shame, fear, feelings of inadequacy, a sense of not being good enough or belonging. It’s the voice that whispers in our head that what we want doesn’t matter, that our creative spirit doesn’t deserve to shine, that we are destined to fail. It’s what holds too many of us back from embracing the present and welcoming the future.

Whatever is lurking in your past that other people won’t forget or can’t move beyond, please let it go. Their opinions and memories are not your story. Each day that you can live without internalizing their judgment is a new opportunity to grow in strength and dignity, and to shine your God-given light into the world. Your future is part yours to write, part destiny. Let no one take that away from you or make you afraid.

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34 thoughts on “Muddy Places

  1. As hard as it sometimes is to ignore the opinions of others, whether family or strangers, what really matters is how we feel about ourselves and how we live our lives today. The past is gone and from what I know about you Kim you’ve created a meaningful life. Let your aunt think what she likes.

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  2. Gosh it all rings true, Kim. What a great post. I’ve worked and worked on just forgiving myself for my past mistakes-it’s too hard to worry about what others think anymore. The most important thing is that God forgives us. What else matters? ( I have not been getting all the awesome blogs read either! I think my i pad is shot.)

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    • Thank you, Svet. Sometimes I want to be wild and naughty, but I’ve trained myself so well to behave to compensate for my past that I’m afraid. I am still working on what I wrote here. As with most of my posts 😊 thanks for your comment!

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  3. Wow, Kim, this was such a powerful post! All of us have things that we are ashamed of or that others seem to think we should be ashamed of, and it’s so easy to let our past and other people’s opinions of us hold us back. But you are so right that their version of our story is NOT our story; only we get to write that. We all have those inner voices telling us that any success we enjoy is just a fluke and that it will all fade away shortly since we don’t deserve any of it. Learning to ignore that voice is so hard and yet so necessary if we want to be fully alive. Thanks for sharing this!
    PS: Personally, I don’t think having a baby at sixteen is something to be ashamed of at all. You made it work, which took incredible strength! If others are too blind to see that, then that says something about them, not you.

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    • Thank you so much, Ann. I appreciate your kind and accepting attitude. It’s hard to forget the judgment I experienced back then, especially from some of my closest family members. I know I internalized it and made it my own. I also know it’s time to let it go. Almost all my posts are about stuff I’m working on. I think I should take Mick and Svet’s advice and give myself permission to be a little wild and naughty 🙂

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      • Sometimes, wild and naughty is a good thing! And the thing to remember is that, no matter how much judgement you felt in those days, you are a good person and you are a good mom. And besides that, what really matters????

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  4. We all have those voices, some stated and some that may have been said when we were too young to really remember but wound their way into our genes. It may take years and years to cleanse these voices from our heads, especially if the voices continue into the present. That’s because it’s all about embracing about our wonderful selves, ALL of our choices past, present and future. We can’t take back any of the past ones anyway, so then they were made to make us grow and become more interesting, stronger and deeper people than the people criticizing I figure. Jealousy and insecurity makes them talk, otherwise they would love us anyway because true friends and real family members wouldn’t care and take us just as we are, warts and all. xoxo

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    • Thank you for taking time to read and for your thoughtful comment. This is so true about true friends and family taking us as we are. I recently got into a spat with one of my best friends, but we were able to move past it, talk it through like adults, and tell each other that we love one another no matter what. These people are so precious and few in our lives. I’ve really gotten to the point where I can’t tolerate any phoniness or fakeness in so-called friendship. I’d rather have two or three close friends who accept me as is, who I can be completely myself with, and vice-versa, then 10 friends I have to censure myself around or hold back parts of myself from. As for family, we can’t help that, but we can set up boundaries. It all comes down to how we feel when we’re with people. If we feel crappy, that’s a sign.

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  5. I have a kwote, “Your view of me doesn’t matter, and neither does my view of you.” People tend to either LOVE it or HATE it. They hate it because of what you’ve described here. People like your aunt who cannot let the past be the past tend to believe opinions and judgments of one another are very important. I know how hard it is to block these things out, but I’ve found that it’s a necessary part of mental health. Kudos to you for creating a life you want to live.

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  6. I, for one, love it, Katherin. It reminds me of another quote “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I’m not quite there yet in creating the “ideal” life I want to live, but I am done trying to prove myself to people. In fact, as I get older, it becomes more apparent that those people who have been the most judgmental or harsh are actually the most screwed up themselves, I just didn’t see it when I was younger because I couldn’t see past their judgment. Maybe judgment is a way for people to deflect from themselves? I’m not saying this to try to make myself feel superior; it’s just something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve gotten older. Also, I’ve noticed that the happiest, kindest people are the least judgmental, and the most accepting and loving. Thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate you.

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  7. First of all I want to thank you for writing with such honesty and openness and having your child at such a young age. The fact that you accepted this responsibility says a lot about you. The fact that you’re still reminded about it in passive agressive terms but others says a lot about them. I choose you.
    It’s interesting how people judge their own levels of right or wrong and how society feels they have the right to judge those moments of life. You hurt or kill someone by driving drunk? Well, everyone does it and Bubba’s a good old boy who never meant any harm. He was just having a good time and made a mistake.
    But have a baby at the age of 16 and that scarlet letter remains there for some for the rest of your life.
    If you let it.
    I say screw them. They aren’t worth the time or effort to explain or tolerate. Your worth is greater than theirs. Your heart more tolerant and understanding. Your life happier and more fulfilling.
    I always take everything from the source. People love to hide behind their own jealousies and insecurities. They make themselves feel better by putting other people down.
    You’re better than them and the thing is, they know it. They just can’t accept it.
    Love your life for you. Be who you want. If they don’t like it, they can move on.

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  8. Thank you, George. You’re great for my self-esteem! Seriously, though, a scarlet letter A is a great way to describe it. You’re also correct that it can only remain there if I let it. Funny, just yesterday I met some parents from my son’s school at a coffee shop for a committee meeting, and a dad was asking me how many kids I have, how old they are, etc. I gave my same vague reply, three are grown, two out of the house, and my youngest is nine. Then came the usual, you don’t look old enough to have grown children. I know he was just being friendly and curious, but I wonder why people are so interested in knowing the details of other people’s lives. I guess to make conversation? Anyway, thank you for your thoughtful reply. Have a great weekend!

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  9. Pingback: Real Stories, Real People: Muddy Places – Mirror & Soul

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