From the pits of despair…October 12, 2010
I’ve had so many major transformations in my life, that sometimes I look back and don’t recognize the person I once was. I can remember the first MAJOR change I made. I had just turned 15 and was going into high school. I spent the summer in an advanced math class (yes, I really like math). My school situation was kind of strange because I had spent most of my life in private school and only a year and a half before had I moved into public school.
I should preface this by saying I was a bit of an ugly duckling… I was tall, overweight and had HUGE frizzy hair and acne covering all my face and neck. I was constantly being made fun of in elementary school. After more than a decade wearing a school uniform, it was a shock to wear “regular” clothes. No longer could I hide behind the excuse that my appearance was constrained by what others made me wear. On many levels I didn’t care what I wore, since I was fat anyway, but I did have some sense of style I wanted to portray. I was a major rocker who only wore jeans, concert t-shirts and boots. JEANS and BOOTS in 90 degree Miami heat. But heat or not, I loved my rockin’ uniform and wore it proudly.
So in the summer right after I turned 15, here I was doing geeky math for 5 hours a day in a school that was not the one I was in the year before, nor the one I would be in the following year, nor one that was close enough to my house for me to know anyone at. Oh, and did I tell you that I was not the most positive of all people? Actually, I was a card carrying pessimist about EVERYTHING.
By the end of that summer, I would make the first of several incredible life changes. Thanks to a friend I made in class, I pushed myself to socialize outside of my comfort zone. The self-imposed uniform made it easier to identify possible friends, but while I was always forward, inside I was fraught with self-doubt.
Here is where I have to call out another “unique” trait about me… I get along with everyone and no one at the same time. Let me explain… you see, I have lots and lots of interests. I just love, well… almost everything. That means that I can talk to most anyone. If you have an interest, I want to hear about it. I am attracted to passion, no matter what the subject. The positive side of this is that if you drop me in the middle of a random group of people, I will probably end up talking to several of them all night long. The negative is that I am not engrossed in one thing enough to become part of its “Clique”. In short, people either love me because I can easily relate to them, or they hate me because I am not as devoted to something as they are. I have been called a poser, shunned for not being “in” enough and pushed out of things I like because I also like its opposite.
While this may seem like a wonderful trait as an adult, as a child it was a nightmare. Scratch that, it sucked as an adult too until I was able to better understand and accept it. Less than four years ago a group of people pushed me out of their circle because while they could admit that my actions screamed I LOVE THIS and acceptance, my clothes and manner of speaking didn’t match theirs so they thought I couldn’t possibly relate. It took me a long time to understand that one, and though I get the gist of it, I still scratch my head from time to time.
So back to my 15th summer: My friend Angela was Polish and blond and beautiful (I always have beautiful friends). She took me to popular places and in one such place I met my first love. Between him and Angela, I realized that I could be different than who I had been. They never asked me to change, in fact they loved me just as I was, but I recognized that I could be better and started to slowly change myself. I started taking better care of my skin and hair and noticed that behind all the baggy clothes was a big, curvy body. In my eyes, that was the year that the ugly duckling started her transformation.
High School and College each brought more transformations, of which you can read about the day I finally write my full biography. I was still not the person I wanted to be, but I was getting closer. After college I moved across the country and realized that as much as I love my roots, getting away from them was what I needed to forge my own identity. But still, the pessimism haunted me. I would sit with people and the negativity in my mind would blurt out of my mouth. In business, social events… heck, even when I was talking one-on-one with someone, I couldn’t stop myself from saying something that I would later regret. I would walk away feeling terrible because I didn’t really mean to be that harsh, I just didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say any other way. I deluded myself at the time by thinking that I was just being a realist, but a true realist sees both the negative and the positive, not just one.
By the time I met my now ex-husband, I had it about 60% under control… maybe, 50%. I was really working on this. I had lost a chunk of weight, was keeping it off, and had managed to do pretty well for myself in the corporate world. I wanted to be positive; I wanted to see the good in people and events; I wanted to be one of those people that goes around smiling and sees the wonder in all -but that isn’t me. Depression loomed around every corner. Where someone sees the sun, I see the clouds gathering. It didn’t help that my ex has the most incredible amount of self-control, something I so desperately wanted. I don’t think I could even put into words how disciplined he is with himself. It is not artificial either, it is a natural way for him to be. He actually thinks before he speaks… I was BEYOND envious.
But I kept trying. I kept working on it internally. Unfortunately, the way I was working on it was by getting angry with myself, setting unreasonable goals and generally beating myself up when I would slip. I didn’t have any tools. I thought if I could suppress it, everything would be fine. But it wasn’t fine. I was suppressing so much that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had absorbed all these traits from the people around me I wanted to be like and morphed them into a mess of negativity laced with sugar… YUCK!
And then one day the penny dropped! I fell into a deep pit of depression. And you know what I did, I let myself be depressed. Yep… I just went there. I needed to feel it, I needed to know what it was. It was here that I found the true depths of my faith. In that abyss, I learned that I am the way I am, and instead of fighting it, I gave it love. Every thing about me that I thought was “causing” me to be negative, I showered in unconditional love. I let myself LOVE FOOD, and learned that it doesn’t mean I have to be fat. I let myself be FUNNY, without cutting people down. I learned that even though I naturally see the negative cloud, I can CHOSE to focus on the silver lining. I had options… all I had to do was choose them.
I won’t tell you that my path out of that depression was all roses and happy songs, remember I’m still a pessimist at heart, but the balance between negative and positive started to tip. Where before the darkness would take over for long periods of time, now the happiness was firmly in charge. I celebrated every little victory. Sure there were setbacks, but instead of blasting myself for them, I looked at them as an opportunity for growth and flowed through them. And when the tears came, because they always come, I let them wash away my hurt.
In time, the stretches of positivity got longer and longer. Just recently I realized that it’s been a long time since a super negative comment inadvertently left my mouth. There are people that still trigger me into a negative spiral, so for now I avoid them, but I think that in time I will learn what I need to protect myself from those situations, since some of them are great people that I want to be around.
If I had to pinpoint the one thing that turned it all around, I would say it was acceptance. When I finally accepted who I was, I was able to let the negative thoughts come in so I can use my spiritual tools to transmute them into something positive. You see, negativity has its place. You don’t want to get rid of it all together, for we must accept the darkness in order to fully understand the light. They should live in harmony in thought and word. It was Ghandi that said:
Happiness is when what you say and what you do and what you think are in harmony
The despair at being someone ugly, inside and out, still comes, but the stronger my faith gets, the shorter my moments of despair are. Lately, the fears and depression are fleeting emotions that last little more than a few minutes before I can work through where they are coming from and transmute them.
If you were to ask me what is the key to my personal success, I would say it is lots of acceptance and an entire toolbox filled with spiritual tools for how to build a bridge over that pool of negativity and find the beautiful lesson on the other side of the adversity. I guess there is a reason why I resonated with Da’at so much when I first started studying Kabbalah… it is through the abyss of hidden knowledge that I came face to face with my reflection in the mirror -and now I can truly say that I LOVE what I see.