Nodding Terms With The People We Used To Be

August 31, 2016

Yesterday I stumbled upon a Joan Didion quote that I connected with instantly.

“...I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” 

First of all - Joan Didion...what a literary babe, am I right? Talk about a writer that is real and raw and punches you in the face with truth. I love it. I read this quote and, honestly, cringed a little, because it naturally made me think about all of the versions of myself that I've GLADLY left behind. Some of those versions ain't so pretty. I've handled some less-than-ideal situations in some less-than-ideal ways. A great example would be when I was a senior in high school and did not make All Star status at cheer camp, and instead of simply hugging my friends that did, I hugged them and SOBBED because I was so heartbroken that I didn't make it. I still look back at that and think, "suck it up, you're the worst" to that version of my self (I also think..."my poor mother for having to deal with me"). 

Other less-than-ideal situations: not getting the job, not getting the grade, not getting the guy, letting the wrong guy walk all over me for years, etc. I look back at many of these times in my life and shake my head at the girl I used to be in how I would cope. Sometimes, things just got really ugly. I would spend much of my time hungover. Not necessarily from alcohol (although sometimes there would be a lot of wine and/or whiskey shots because you can take the girl out of Alabama...), but sometimes just emotionally hungover from beating myself up about something I had done or said. Not the healthiest of behaviors.

Since my move to Houston, I've discovered Brene' Brown, social worker, author, professor, speaker, and person-I-just-want-to-be. I'd heard of her before but had never read any of her books or listened to her speak. (If you haven't heard of her before, do yourself a favor and check her out.) She has an incredible way with words. And not just pretty, poetic words, but words that none of us want to talk about. She calls herself a shame researcher, and she addresses vulnerability, guilt, grief, and so much more. One of the many things that she has said that has stuck to me like the humidity in Houston sticks to your upper lip, had to do with shame and guilt. She said guilt is when you do something less-than-ideal and you say to yourself, "that was really stupid, I should not have done that." Shame is when you do something less-than-ideal and you say to yourself, "I am so stupid, I should not have done that."

I now realize, in my early 20's, I was living in a world of shame. 

So, naturally when I look at back at those times where I was so lost and grasping on to lies and shame, I cringe. However, this Joan Didion quote resonated with me because as unattractive as we found ourselves back then when we were grappling with that less-than-ideal thing, and as much as we'd like to leave all of that behind, it is important to be able to look our old selves in the eye just so we can see how far we have come. To see how we have changed. To understand how we are different than we were back then. And that even if something similar is happening to you now, and you may not be able to control the outcome, you can control how you handle it. In that way, you get to control how it ends. But you have to remember how the story ended the first time in order to handle it differently.

You are NOT your past. You are NOT your insecurities. You are NOT the unattractive versions of yourself. You, my friend, are a child of God and THAT is where your identity lies. Don't be afraid to look at those versions of yourself, give them a nod, thank them for what you've learned, and continue walking in a new direction. 

"When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending." - Brene' Brown