I live for deep conversation.
I personally believe that is where the greatest connections, realizations, “light bulb moments” and the like, all flow. Unguarded, truthful communication without fear of judgment, with full transparency, and an open mind. But, how often do we find ourselves immersed in conversations of this nature? Rarely ever…unless you are one of few people that have found that small group of individuals that you can be raw and unfiltered with. I like to call that knit bunch “your circle.”
This circle is something I’ve been trying to find for the entirety of my existence, but up until a most recent conversation with a close friend, I was not aware that my actions as a human being haven’t quite reflected this search. In fact, my actions show that of the complete opposite. At first, this newfound information upset me. To think that my own doing caused my loneliness and feeling of isolation for a large portion of my life. What a great deal of wasted time! But as I dove deeper, I came to see that these actions were mere habits, learned ways of coping with life situations, ways in which I believed were the only way for survival. And that’s just what I did. Acted out of instinct to survive.
Let me set the stage for how this realization came about. The loaded question that sparked this epiphany. I was conversing with a dear friend in regards to feeling comfortable in ones own skin, more specifically talking about feeling comfortable being naked in front of others without shame or guilt. Coming from a background of being conditioned to feel shameful and “sorry” for my body, the mere thought of being in front of another, fully exposed, in raw form, without being “stage lean” absolutely leaves me ready to run the other direction. Maybe if the lights were off, then I’d sort of feel a bit more willing to do so. My friend, in great wisdom and encouragement, proceeded to tell me how society has taught us to identify too much of ourselves with our body, and not enough with our souls, men and women alike. My mind began wandering to other thoughts…
We place our worth within the number on the scale and the image reflecting in the mirror. We place our successes upon the thoughts and opinions of others and how they view our lives, our “milestones”, and us. Now replace all of the “We`s” with “I`s” and the “ours” with “my”, the “us” with ” me”. Oh, how I have placed SO much power within the hands of others…and stripped it from myself. Leaving me completely at the mercy of others…and this strong body is now defenseless…
The loaded question came quickly after…
“Who is Bernice? Without training, free of whatever personality you’ve constructed for yourself…”
Never having been asked a question of this nature, it left me almost confused as to how to answer it. As my mind started to dive into all the ways in which I could unpack this question, I immediately wanted to divert to my usual ways of describing myself..
Since I was a young girl, I have only ever identified myself in regards to what sport I was playing or task I was currently trying to achieve. I would stand up in class at the start off every school year by introducing myself as a *insert sport* (player/runner/ect), along with my favorite color, animal, and the words in which the older ladies at church would describe me. The perfect laundry list of all the things that have nothing to do with who I actually am as an emotional and experiencing being. But, my hope was that someone in the class would think “me too!” and instantly be encouraged to become friends with me. Sadly, that never really worked out the way in which I imagined it would. Instead, my quietness, clouded understanding of whom I was, and lack of confidence created the perfect storm for bullies to devour. As life continued on, moments repeated themselves in a Déjà vu like fashion; I put my own self in a box and sealed the package up. I convinced myself that what others said about me was truth. The best way I can describe labels is like the hand me down sweater you inherit from your great aunt. Every cousin in the family has worn it, it has rips and stains, input from all sorts of detergents and environments, and you are the chosen one to now wear it. The pressure is on, and you’re forced to make a decision. To wear or not to wear? The same goes for the ways in which people label you. Do you accept it, put it on as if it’s your own, and wear it with all of its falsely assumed spoils? Or, do you politely decline the opportunity, and instead learn how to knit your own?
I suppose you can guess which one I chose…fortunately though, sweaters like any other piece of clothing can be taken off. Over the course of the last two years working with my counselor, I have learned how to knit my own sweater, how to take my old one off, but lacked the confidence and assurance in myself to actually take it off and leave it alone.
This question is now my challenge. To truly come to a full understanding of who I am as Bernice, but also with understanding that its OK if it changes. That it’s OK if I change. We are dynamic people, constantly shifting, changing, and working towards the new skin in which we need to move on to the next chapter of our lives. Aside from our mind, it may be within our bodies too. Like a woman who becomes pregnant, begins to gain weight and take on a different shape in order to provide for her growing child. Our bodies also take on different shapes and require different needs based on where we are at or what we are doing. So love it and be thankful for its ability to morph.
From this rabbit hole of thoughts and realizations, I have come to a common place. A peaceful ground. My final note. I give myself full permission to take off the sweater in which others have given me to wear, and I commit to knitting my own and wearing it without fear of judgment or transparency. And I am grateful for friends that help me see how beautiful and special I am when I let go of everything that isn’t for me.