April 27, 2012

The most important thing

I remember a story my mom told me once about when she was invited to be in a fashion show at her school.  She was twelve years old at the time and they asked her to wear something that her Grandmother had made for her by hand.  Her mom couldn't afford brand new clothes from the store, so most everything she wore was made from scratch.

I remember her telling me how thrilling it was to be invited.  To be a part of something that the "cool" girls were a doing.  They even saved her for last in the show. Sadly, it was all a horrible prank.  She was asked to be in the show to model how to not dress.  She was mocked and ridiculed and utterly humiliated.

That was one of only a handful of stories my mother shared with me about her childhood.  That story made me want to cry when she told me then.  Even today, writing it out and imaging my mom as that twelve year old girl, excited about a fashion show and then being made fun of publicly, makes me want to lash out and scream at whoever thought this idea up in the first place.

Because of this scene and many others where she grew up hearing about appearance and size and clothing and make-up, my mom was hard on me about how I looked.  It was a constant point of conflict.  More so, it was a constant place of hurt.

I spent all of my childhood and teen years trying to look good enough.  To lose the ten or twenty pounds or whatever amount it was that she thought I needed to lose.  Tuck my shirt in the way she wanted.  Wear the shade of lip gloss she chose for me.

How I looked on the outside felt like it was the most important thing in the world to her.  I was taught that my appearance was where I was most valued.

Sadly, many of the messages she gave me were echoed by other people in my family, by friends and even people at church.  Where I have found myself lately in how I am pursuing health and wellness has been difficult.  Because really, I don't know how to take my focus off what I look like and put it on what I am doing and the progress I am making regardless of what does or doesn't show up on the outside yet.

The other morning, I received a text message from a sweet friend.  She thanked me for sharing some of the deeper and messier parts of my story with her.  Because just that day, she decided she was ready to break the silence in her own . She just wanted me to know that.
I felt blown away that my story, and the parts that was referring to, gave her courage to speak.  It is my hope that she will live with even more freedom than she had just days ago.  I got to play a part in her own story and it felt beautiful and humbling all at the same time.

But something dawned on me though.  Somehow, my story in all of it's mess and disgusting, dark places that I often wish weren't a part of who I am, had impact just because I was willing to share it.  My freedom invited her to break the silence so she too could experience what I have as God's light has been shed on my past.

I realized that the most important thing I will ever do is not lose the 100+ pounds that I have to lose.  The most important goal I will ever reach, my greatest achievement, my biggest successes - none of that is about my weight loss, or health or having some stellar body I see in my dreams.

The most important thing I will ever do and can ever do is share, write, speak, and live fully from my heart.  That is where the gospel of Christ is most heard.  That is where deepest relationships form and grow.  That is where I love well and can be loved well by others too.  My heart is what others need.  My heart is what matters most.

I often wish my mom were here so we could go back and talk about these things.  I wish I could visit that horrible fashion-show scene with her now that I'm a grown woman and could have words for her there.  I wish we could talk about why appearance was so important and where she wounded me in that.  I wish we could cry together and talk and work through the hard things that made our mother-daughter relationship so tense and strained.

Yet, it's her story too - how she both did and didn't live it out for me - that had impact on my heart.  Because of her, and even all of the places she hurt me, helped to shape the woman I am today.

This woman who is learning to live beyond believing that my appearance is where I have value.  The woman who shares her heart and invites others to do that.  My mom had something, everything to do with that.

And for that, I am incredibly, whole-heartedly grateful.

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