Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Post About Love

I just finished watching the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I’ve watched it more times than I can count. And, yes, it’s essentially a teen movie, but the themes are universal and for someone like me, who didn’t have the blessing of friends from birth, I realized something while I sat there, crying during one of the pivotal moments of the movie.

I am lucky to have friends like that, now.

Lena’s story is compelling to me. This monologue of hers is a favorite:
Lena: [in her letter, after Kostas accuses her of being afraid to love him] He's right, Car. I am afraid. There's a part of me that wants to let him in but then I feel myself put this wall up and I don't understand why. Maybe that's what strikes me most about Kostas: that despite everything he's suffered he can still look at life in the most uncomplicated way. I've never known that kind of faith. It makes me so sad that people like Kostas and Bridget who have lost everything can still be open to love... while I, who have lost nothing, am not. 

It occurred to me that I used to be that way. I used to be so afraid to be open, and to be open to the possibility of love. I used to walk around, a collection a walls, and wonder why no one bothered to try and get to know me. I used to wonder why, when I was really in need, I had no one to call.

Fake Smile Me (as college senior)
I did it to myself.

Realizing that—and how far I’ve come since those days, it’s no mystery as to why I’ve settled for so much in my life, including in the realm of love. I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what I wanted in love—let alone what I could give to someone else, let alone what I was worthy and deserving of having.

I even settled with the way I loved my family. Back in 2002 when I was looking to move in with the man I would end up marrying, my mother had some not-so-nice things to say to me when I announced the move-in. It hit me that she didn’t really know me, at all. She was reacting out of her own uncertainty, frustration, and confusion. She had no idea what I’d been through when I lived in Massachusetts. She had no idea the experiences I had, the life I’d lived, or the ways I had struggled.

She didn’t know, because I didn’t tell her.

I tried to protect my family from needing to worry about me by keeping them in the dark. I tried to hold up that illusion of living a perfect life and handling everything perfectly, because as long as I did that (so I thought), they wouldn’t worry. And a part of me acted that way because I thought it was the only way to really get through life.

 If I could just hang on another day and pretend it was all perfect, then maybe someday it would be. It’s the “fake it till you make it” attitude to the extreme.

My parents are good people. Wonderful people, actually, who have been there for me, even when they were confused and frustrated. And so, of course—no matter how in-the-dark I kept them about the reality of my life… they worried about me anyway.

Keeping them in the dark about who I was didn’t serve anyone, but it especially didn’t serve me.

Last year, when I sat down with my parents to tell them about the divorce, I felt myself utterly falling apart before their eyes. And for the first time… I let it happen. I opened up to them and told them how I really felt, what I was really going through, and what I was really facing. I explained what led up to this point, and how unhappy I had been—for years.

And when my heart opened up… so did theirs.

Through the last year of my life, I have witnessed incredible grace, love, and caring from people I didn’t even know loved me. And part of that is because I surround myself with people who are loving, caring, and full of grace… but I think an even bigger part of that has to do with me and the way I have changed.

The Real Me
I’m more open than I’ve ever been. I’m more willing to admit when I’ve screwed up, and I am quick to ask for feedback, so I can do better next time around. I am willing to let my ugly pieces and shameful parts show, where before, I spent so much energy trying to hide the less-than-perfect parts of me that I was constantly exhausted. Even better, I don’t always view the less-than-perfect parts of me as ugly or even shameful. It’s all just part of who I am. I am no longer selective, because I’ve learned that you can’t be selectively numb. You really can’t filter out the feelings that hurt, because that means you’re also numbing yourself to joy and happiness, too.

And by trying to filter out what I presented to the world, I ended up showing only a faint image of my real self. That’s incredibly difficult to maintain, and a lot of the time, my less mature parts would come out sideways at the most inappropriate moments.

I have witnessed the futility of that first-hand. In trying to filter out the “bad” stuff, I ended up showing the world someone who was not really me at all. And, still, I wondered why so few people knew the real me.

Over the last year, I’ve grown in so many ways that most people in my world have said I am almost a completely different person. In the last year, I have allowed myself to feel whatever feelings I have, even if it was extremely painful. I’ve dropped 75 pounds. I’ve sought feedback and taken it to heart. I’ve grown my village so that I have more people to turn to when I’m in need. I’ve learned how to fulfill my own needs. I’ve learned that if I am vulnerable and I let people in… I am deeply loved. And perhaps most important of all: I love myself.

I am more authentic, real, and just… me… than I’ve ever been.

It feels good. Really good.


  1. Wow LindaLee - I'm just about speechless after reading your heart's thoughts. The time/energy part about maintaining a certain personna truly resonated with me. Those masks that we presented to the public kept us from fully participating in our own lives to the extent that we didn't allow anyone else to know the real'us'.

    You have changed - I've seen you blossom into this amazing woman of substance.

  2. I am absolutely thrilled for you that you have found how to live in truth and authenticity and to allow yourself to be vulnerable and seen and heard.

    So much of what you talk about here, with the numbing and the pretending and the treading so carefully with people - that is everything that fell away when I stopped drinking. And I could not be happier and more grateful.

  3. I think it's incredible how life unfolds when we are willing to let it happen.

    Thank you both for sharing...

    I wanted to say that back in school days, I never appreciated the friend I had in you, Melissa... I truly felt I wasn't worthy of real friends. I am so glad you're in my life, even if geography is a challenge!

  4. I know just what you mean, about school days. I am thankful we got to reconnect. And hey, geography won't be a problem for much longer! 3 more months. :)

  5. Its been a long while since we last spoke, but I want to let you know that from time-to-time I still think about you. Glad to see you're alive and doing well for yourself. You're still looking pretty wicked too ;)