The other day 2 of my friends were complimenting each other in a sweet but slightly uncomfortable way. Being the person who likes to make jokes in uncomfortable situations, I said, "Hey, what about me? Am I chopped liver?" They stopped, looked at me, and one of them said, "You . . . . .are just real." The other said, "That's exactly right! you are completely real. You are very down to earth." There was so much emphasis put on the word real, and such heart in what was said, that I took that as a huge compliment. I've not been very real for much of my life. I've been what I thought I was supposed to be:
As a kid, I was the girl who pretended not to be severely depressed and contemplating suicide. Doing so would mean my parents were failures and the church would be sorely disappointed in them.
In church, I was the good Christian girl who followed the rules. When things were said that I didn't agree with, I silently disagreed and hoped no one asked my opinion (and God help me, I disagree with much of mainstream religion). I always felt like I was hiding my true feelings.
While in college, I tried to be a good christian girl and not be a party freak. Granted, I had no money to party on and no friends to party with. But I was struggling with my own desires to be social, and my christian teachings that my environment should consist of other christians only.
When I was out of college and living in Dallas, I tried to be a party girl. I really tried. But I was not comfortable with myself at all. I thought I was ugly and fat. And I didn't know how to be in a social setting. I was completely overwhelmed by it all.
I married a man with about as many friends as I had. That means we had little to no social life. We were never our truest, authentic selves to each other. I always held back my thoughts, desires, opinions, hopes, etc. I was afraid he would disapprove of them. And he didn't let me in on his, so I was afraid to announce mine.
After my divorce, I couldn't hold my head high anymore. I was ashamed of failing in marriage. And all of these emotions poured out of me. All of these expectations and let downs poured out in a sea of tears. I couldn't fake having it together anymore. I had to be the Kristi that God made, because being the Kristi that my church and family had made was failing me horribly.
After taking a codependency class, and subsequently teaching it, I found that I am not so freakish or unusual. And it was OK to be real. It is OK to be the odd person that God made me. It was OK, and even a bit humorous, to be myself and to laugh at myself. The more I understood me, the more I became me, the happier I was.
So, at the tender age of almost 37, when my friends told me I was "real" it was touching. It's been a long road getting here.