Saturday, July 9, 2011


In an argument between mother and daughter in the movie "Freaky Friday" (which I highly recommend by the way) the daughter accuses her highly organized,  highly professional (psychologist) mother of being a "fun-sucker" - and when her mother incredulously repeats the word, her daughter says, "Yeah! you suck the fun out of everything!"

I can relate.  I can relate to both.  My parents were homebodies and my mother was what my daughter calls a "Christianazi" - religifying (rationalizing with a religious reason) her decisions not to allow me to do this or that thing.  I remember resenting that.  Yet I ended up doing the same things with my children. 

The truth is that I (and I expect she before me) did not know how to have fun, was not allowed to have fun, and was taught that amusing oneself - or even having free time - was somehow "wrong" or "sinful."  As a result I spent much of my growing-up years feeling like I was alone even though there were people all around me.

I didn't know how to make friends.  As a result, I didn't have any.  

Those who paid attention to me did so to make me the brunt of a cruel joke they could brag about to their friends later on, and they loved it when their actions made me cry - which I invariably did - and then they would point and laugh at me.  (This is a major reason why I absolutely DETEST practical jokes.)  I had a well-developed case of demophobia - fear of crowds.  If in a crowd I had to be apart - and/or close to an exit so that I could beat a hasty retreat in case the cold fingers of panic squeezed my throat and made it impossible to breathe normally.  

So when I started to recover from the hurts of the past, discover the roots of those hurts and deal with my feelings which were "stuck" inside that little girl, and then start to parent her and grow up inside, one of the things that I had to learn how to do was to lighten up and have a little fun.  

You know, it was (and is) really hard to get out of old habits and try new things.  I had to become willing to work on this; and yes, I had to pray for the willingness and to examine my reasons for not wanting to go there in the first place.  My reasons had a lot to do with my own opinion of myself.  So the first step in the process was admitting to myself that I was worth taking time for.  A lot of my reticence to participate in things was the belief that was drilled into me every day of my life until I was 20 and left my birth family (a belief I carried with me until I was well into my 40s) - that I was not good enough the way I was, that nobody would want to spend time with me, that all I was good for was this or that, and nothing else, and why would I even want to be liked - it was so vain of me!  

The antidote to those lies was truth.  That I was good enough.  That people could like me for who I was.  That I had something to contribute.  That I didn't have to change to be what someone else wanted me to be. That I didn't have to fix people's problems for them.  That I could feel what I felt and not have to apologize for having those feelings.  As I spoke truth into the heart of that little girl and she started (over time) to respond and peek out from behind the closet door... I was given opportunities to start to have fun.  I learned what was fun for me and what wasn't.  

And slowly - ever so slowly - my world started to expand.  My circle of friends started to get bigger; at one point I only had a very select few.  There are more now.  I even went to an office "offsite" summer gathering recently that happens every year - I've worked at this particular job since March 2008, so I have had four opportunities to go, and this was the first time I even showed up (before, I would stay at the office and work while the others were out having fun.)  I went; I stayed for the catered meal, participated in one activity before and during the meal - and when my skin started to crawl after the meal was done and people were milling about (the demophobia kicking in - it's a bit better than it was a couple of years ago), I left.  It was a little victory for me.

I'm far from being the life of the party.  But as I have healed inside, I find that I can connect with people better, and socialize for short periods of time without pushing the red button - the one where I am convinced that I am in danger, and I panic, feel suffocated, and have to get out.  I can see it coming and extricate myself graciously now, before becoming overwhelmed.

And I can actually enjoy some of the things I thought i would never enjoy - ever. Bantering with people.  Visiting with someone.  Mingling with folks in the foyer of the church (for short periods only at this point).  Going to a BBQ or a church picnic.  Before, these things were activities to be avoided, endured at best.  Now I can actually enjoy even the simple pleasure of running into a friend at a department store and chatting for a few minutes, making plans to spend more time together later, that kind of thing.

When I think about how things used to be, how isolated I was, how lonely I was sitting around "being right" - it boggles my mind that God has brought me this far ... that I can actually look on my facebook wall and see that I have over 100 friends, that I can walk into a store without dreading it, that I can laugh and mean it, that I can set boundaries without feeling guilty, that people brighten up when they see me coming toward them (wow, what a trip!), and that I am - more often than not - happy. 

It's a miracle. Plain and simple.

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