Yesterday, I heard Annie ask Cole if he wanted to play "Handsome & Gretel" with her. (That has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but I just didn't want to forget it.)
I was working in my office the other day and since my desk sits with a perfect view into Annie's room, I saw her in there coloring, and the light (Oh, the light!) was so beautiful, I could hardly stand it.
So I grabbed my camera (which I hadn't used in weeks) and started shooting.
But I couldn't capture with my camera what I was seeing with my eyes.
And that bothered me.
And so I went to that place in my mind. That place I've gone to since I was a little girl. That place where I'm really hard on myself. That place where I say really cruel things - words so cruel (and usually so untrue) that I would never even consider saying them to another person, but somehow, I don't even don't even blink an eye at saying them to myself.
"How can you call yourself a photography teacher if you can't even take a good shot yourself?"
"How can your students trust you?"
"You're a total fraud and eventually everyone is going to know it."
And so I put my camera down and retreated back to my office to work, beause that is the one thing I have taught myself that I am consistently good at.
I'm a really good worker.
So good that I hide behind it.
I think it started in Jr. High. My parents divorced and I went from getting straight A's, being the President of my class and being involved in every single sport the school had to offer, to failing just about every subject, making a plethora of bad choices and being the butt of a variety of jokes amongst kids that used to be my friends.
I was a babysitter during that time too and though I probably wasn't all that great at actually 'watching' kids, I was extremely good at cleaning the houses of the people I was babysitting for. So good that everyone wanted me to babysit for them because they knew they'd come home to a sparkling clean house.
It was just a distraction for me though because I was learning that if I kept myself occupied with work, that I could avoid thinking about the things that were bothering me at the time - and as an added bonus, everyone kept telling me how good I was at what I was doing.
And High School was even more painful, but I worked at a greeting card shop in the mall and rather than stand behind the register in between customers, where I felt suffocated by my thoughts, I'd go out into the store to incessantly dust and clean and organize the shelves and create displays. And because of my performance, my employers constantly told me that I was the hardest working teenager they had ever met.
And so work became the only place in my little world where I didn't feel like a failure.
The only place where I didn't feel like the brunt of someone's jokes.
The only place where I walked with my head up high.
And then I escaped to another town for college where no one knew me and I poured myself into getting really good grades so that everyone around me would notice what a good student I was instead of noticing that I was a single mom on welfare.
And it just went on like that.
After college, it was my goal to be the best hygienist any doctor had ever worked with.
So I did the same thing in every office - I worked desperately to keep everyone's attention on how good of an employee I was out of fear that if I let my guard down even for a second, that they might see what I feared to be the truth - that I was a joke.
And when I met my husband on that plane out of Atlanta, Georgia more than eight years ago, my greatest fear was that if I talked too much or let him in too close that he'd eventually see through my disguise as well.
One of his favorite jokes at the time centered around a guy and a girl meeting each other and on their third date, the girl would say, mid-conversation, "Suuuuuuuuuuuurprise...I'm craaaaaaaaaaaazy!"
I always laughed at the punch-line, but secretly, I was afraid that I was eventually going to become the brunt of that joke too.
And my current job has been no different.
I somehow think that if I can be the best photography teacher that any of you have ever had and that if I can consistently keep posting better and better photos on my blog, and I if I can just keep everyone off of my scent for a little while longer, that I can buy myself enough time to become this great person that I've always wanted to become.
My sister is probably reading this right now with her eyebrows furrowed in confusion, because this is just not something she understands. Because I got the 'messy' genes and she did not. (But I got the gene that makes my hair grow faster and thicker, so I guess it was a fair trade-off.)
So I know that some of you will read this and not understand it because you're just not this messy.
And I know that some of you who care about me will read this and sympathetically think, "Maybe I need to email Karen and suggest some meds???"
But I also know that some of you are going to 'get' this because its your story too, only with slightly different details.
And you are why I'm writing this.
Shortly after I took this photo of Annie, she messed up on what she was coloring and started crying because, "It wasn't perfect anymore." (I can't tell you how many times this child has walked up to the hostess of a restaurant, with tears in her eyes, asking for another coloring sheet because she had messed up on her first one and wanted another, so she could make it perfect this time.)
And Courtney struggles every day with what she thinks other people think about her.
So one day, I hope Annie and Courtney Lee will see that I wrote this for them too.
I was driving home last night and couldn't get my eyes off the sunset sky.
It was this crazy shade of pink and it left this longing in me that I can't quite explain. (And I know that pink skies are created by pollution, but that is just even more proof to me that God can take anything bad and turn it into something beautiful.)
Just this longing to be free (once and for all) from all this striving and all the energy it takes to never be ok with who I am.
To just treat myself with at least the same level of kindness that I try to treat others with.
And to know that having shortcomings mixed with strengths is not a condition that is somehow unique to me...because shortcomings mixed with strengths is the human condition.
And that as long as am exerting all of my energy on what I am not, that no one (myself included) can fully experience what I am.
I had written down this quote awhile back and had completely forgotten about it until I came across it again today. Only today, it hit me in a totally different way than it had before:
"I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be, but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see." - Douglas Pagels
Love to you all - but some extra love going out to you messy girls.