Friday, February 21, 2014

To All the Lost Girls

I've been avoiding this post for a while, but it keeps welling up inside me, so I finally had to do something about it. It's a story of hope, but in order to get to it, I have to tell some of my personal ick, and while I may only have five readers, that's five more people than had heard this story as of yesterday, which makes me a bit itchy, if I'm honest. So, to prove that I'm not scared of you guys (lies!), welcome to my personal 12-Steps.

My name is Leida, and I'm a Lost Girl. You won't find the definition of Lost Girl in the Urban Dictionary or in Encyclopedia Britannica (unless Beyonce puts it in a song, in which case, it'll be common vernacular real quick). There's probably some proper DSMV category definition for people who fit the bill, but those of us who share the name don't need any of that. We know who we are, psychological reference book or no.

We're the ones who along the journey learned that the way to fill the holes that hurt us so badly was to compromise our boundaries. We've had at least one internal monologue that sounds like this: "I'm willing to compromise my boundaries in order to ...[]" fill in the blank. To be loved, to feel good, to avoid pain, to be seen or heard...and I'm sure you could each add to the list. We decided that we'd rather let a person or circumstance walk all over what we know to be best for us, in order not to feel badly anymore, even just for a moment. Then we chase the pain-free moments, stringing them together in a chain of bad decisions that chip away at our dignity, our personhood and our divine creation.

Lest you be reading this feeling like I'm killing you softly, describing your personal pain, please know you're not alone. Not by a long shot. My personal monologue has been for a long time that I'm willing to be treated any way, by any man, in order not to be abandoned. I'm the Lost Girl who always, always stays too long at the party. Let me explain.

My Lost Girl persona goes back a long way. I carry the last name of a man who didn't show up to the hospital on the day I was born, or for anything else in my life. Our interactions have been few, brief and perfunctory. He wouldn't recognize me if he ran into me on a street corner (this happened). On a conscious level, his abandonment didn't affect me--I had a wonderful stepfather who raised me--but even still, it left a mark--I developed a fear that I wasn't worth showing up for and that there was nothing I could do about it. From there, I learned by watching a string of men pass through my mother's life and the lives of her closest female friends, that men don't stay, no matter what you say or do. I also learned from the women's behavior that there were no lengths that a woman shouldn't be willing to go to get a man to stay--no matter how insignificant or ineffectual said man was, or how little he did to improve the landscape of their lives.

To my credit, it took a long time for this to become part of my personal story--I fought it. I remember the impotent anger I felt as a child, as I watched my mother accept the poor treatment of others--mostly men--in her life. I watched her return over and over to relationships and scenarios that diminished her, all because she believed having a man in her life, any man, made her somebody, and I hated it. Seeing this, I made a childish choice to avoid love, to avoid needing anyone, to avoid pain. Unfortunately, all that did was make me really unpracticed at relationships when the inevitable time came when my adult needs overrode my immature resolve. I dipped into the love/dating water a few times and failed. In my confusion, I fell into patterns I didn't even know I'd developed to cope. I unleashed my latent Lost Girl. Each time I didn't succeed at a relationship, I became more discouraged, taking each hit as a new abandonment. Since the guys weren't around to blame (not that they deserved to be--it's okay to decide not to love someone or commit to them), I turned my blame in on myself. My problem was obviously that I was too rigid, too closed off to what it really took to be loved by someone else. So, I gave a little, compromising the boundaries I'd set up to protect myself more each time (even the healthy ones), until the voice that chanted softly, do anything to avoid being abandoned, wasn't so quiet anymore. Instead of white noise, it became the soundtrack of my life. I was the best friend, filling in the spaces that a girlfriend wasn't currently filling in the object of my affection’s life with pseudo dates, covert make-outs, pillow talks, etc, until she did show up, leaving me relegated to the background, where, let’s face it, I’d always been anyway. Then I was a serial re-dater, returning to relationships that I hoped would get better, if we just gave it One. More. Try. What’s the definition of insanity? Yeah…

I lost count of the times I let myself be used, betrayed and lied to, all the while hoping that if I just held on a little longer, the Other Person would realize what a treasure I was and choose to do right by me. It never once occurred to me to do right by myself. Until one day, it did.

I woke up one day at rock bottom to see that I’d given up all my power. I’d been eating myself up with rage and feelings of betrayal against the forces that were conspiring to make me hate myself—forces I’d personally fostered. Anyone who's ever hurt me has only ever done it once without my permission. I’m the one who attacked her boundaries in order to control what I felt was out of my control. I let the shaming little voice in my head convince me that my bad decisions defined me and each time I believed that, the little voice won. I understand now that this is SO not true.

The distinction matters to me. As a Christian, I know that Jesus didn't wait until I quit my sinful ways to die for me, so that makes me pretty special, even when I continually mess up. The unconditionally loving mother in me knows that even when my son is the orneriest of the ornery, I still believe, hope and expect the best from him. I celebrate with him every time he succeeds and I grieve with him each of his failures, because he's worth showing up for, no matter how messy he is. I know that I still have principles, no matter how much I violate them, and that gives me hope to try again another day.

I am no longer willing to stay too long at the party, not when I’m not having a good time. It’s beneath me; beneath who I was created to be. And that shaming little voice in my head, trying to write my story? It's just plain annoying.

I guess that makes me a Recovering Lost Girl. See ya at the next meeting.

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