I really think, at one point, I really sucked at life. I never wanted that to be me. I seriously thought, when I was a little chitlin, that I was going to be something amazing. I believed it. I thought that I could do something so great that the world would never be the same. I thought I would be famous. I would be smart. I would do something phenomenal. I really think that up until I graduated high school I thought this, so don't be thinkin' it was just some little girl playing dress up. I was nearly of legal age and believed that I would be accomplished, professional, and prestigious. I would be like Britney Spears without the boobs or good looks or voice or stardom. But, I was okay with extraordinarily above average.
I really dropped the ball on that one.
I think things started going wrong somewhere in my senior year of high school. I don't really think there was one single event that triggered the radical change in me, but more a compilation of years of multiple single events. I come from a dysfunctional home. Super dysfunctional. It pains my heart to say it. I am not here to point fingers and blame my parents for my mistakes. Believe me, I have done enough of that in my lifetime. Today I take total responsibility for my choices. But, I also must truthfully acknowledge what really happened within our home. I don't think either of my parents are happy with the way things turned out, they way they behaved, and the resulting damage it has had on all of us. All of us are equally scarred by the dysfunction. And honestly, nothing more needs to be said right now.
What you need to know, is at 18, I was emotionally retarded. Unfortunately, nobody told me. I had no concept of what life was really about, how it really worked, how you're supposed to feel, react, enjoy, love... much less how a relationship of any sort worked. It was my role in our dysfunctional household to be the perfect kid. I overachieved, made mom and dad happy, and that was that. It was so stressful. It started when I was young and I always felt this expectation of perfection hovering over me like a machete ready to karate chop if I screwed up. I didn't like how it felt, but that's how it was. I repressed all feelings of pain, sadness, anger, and loss. These repressed issues don't just go away. They come out in other behaviors, actions, and forms.
When I left for college, the week after graduation, I took the terrible habits I learned my senior year with me as I moved up to Moscow with my sister. No, not the Russian one. I went to the lovely campus of the University of Idaho. That summer I taught myself to smoke Marlboro Red cigarettes (I upgraded from the Marlboro Light cigarettes I had sneaked in high school). I also took up jogging.
Okay. Are you with me? I took up smoking and jogging. See where I was? We can elevate my emotional retardedness to include intellectual, as well. Make that conventionally and common sensually retarded. So, here I am, away from my parents for the first time, dwelling on how I would never be good enough, angry that I had to be perfect, angry I couldn't just be Dana and have that be enough. Not that I even knew who Dana was. I had no idea. I didn't know what I liked. I definitely did not like myself.
Although I can never say that I was morbidly obese, I was a chubby teen. And, the crazy part, was that I didn't know about this chubbiness until I was like 17. And then it was like, "What the heck? When did this happen?" I suddenly saw fat everywhere. I started working out a lot my senior year. That carried into bulimia and anorexic tendencies, though I loved food too much to truly be anorexic. These behaviors came to Moscow with me. All summer long I just smoked, made myself puke, ate brownies, puked again, went jogging for hours.
It was extremely effective for weight loss and I was finally the small person I thought I was supposed to be. I started college that fall with the expectation that my life was rockin'! I was enrolled in advanced courses, had a super full schedule, and was living it up on campus. The first day we officially moved in, our hall monitor person took us to a Frat party. Ohmygoodness. I think I was already 'lost' prior to that point, but, from here on out, the college experience I had gets a little blurry. I drank A LOT. I indulged. Did you know they have parties there on Monday, and Tuesday, AND Wednesday? Thursday and Friday? And also, Saturday and even and odd Sundays?
When school started, I really went to school. I attended classes. I loved my English class. I made friends in chemistry. I loved it. I was doing pretty good. But, slowly, I started falling apart. I couldn't focus, concentrate, I didn't have commitment, I lost my fire to learn. I was full of angst. Looking back, I should have seen this as a symptom of a greater problem. It just wasn't me. In high school, I earned one B. Make that my entire education since like kindergarten. One B. Junior year trig. Mr Davies. I wish I could take the class again! Anyways, I'm set up at UI as a pre-med Biology major. I am talking Dr. Dana, here. This is the goal. Eye on the prize. There is this expectation that I'm going to succeed as I have historically done.
It didn't exactly work out like that. I'm puffing up my cheeks and furrowing my forehead as I type that. I so regret it. I haven't let it go, yet.
I think "big" depression slipped in within the first month I was at college. I could hardly sleep. What's that word? It's on the tip of my tongue. Insomnia! I had that. So, even when I wasn't out all night drinking, I was still up all night. This played a huge factor in my overall health during the day. I started skipping class. I think I also started gaining weight back. I was trying to self-medicate with alcohol, cigarettes, eating. Obviously, I was mentally unwell, but at the time I didn't realize what was happening. I just thought I sucked. I could feel myself falling into this abyss and as much as I wanted to get out, I also just wanted to sink. I didn't know how to fix everything that I had messed up. I missed being the star of the show and at the same time I just wanted to be someplace nobody knew me. I was drowning in guilt and self-pity. I was unable to heal any of the wounds in my heart. I did not see the light.
How could I go from this perfect high school student, homecoming queen, student body president, near straight stinkin' A student, and end up unable to get out of bed to get to class? Before me all I could see was a failure. How I screwed up. I was so embarrassed. I was so humiliated. I honestly don't even know how many classes I actually passed. Yikes. I was totally capable of doing it. But I had so much emotional garbage on my soul, I couldn't even think straight. I wish I could pull back to those moments and tell myself how much healing I needed before I could go forward. There was too much that had never been dealt with. When I got to college, the stress and the realization that there was something deeply wrong with me, coupled with the ignorance of not knowing how to address it, really left me hurting.
I left Moscow. I quit. I went home. I am still so disappointed with my choices.
All these years later, my head still hangs low. I have measured myself on the same expectation ruler I had when I graduated high school. I have absolutely torn myself down emotionally and mentally. I am worthless. I am a failure. I am no good. I am ugly. I am fat. I am a bad wife. I am a bad mother. I am a mean person. You're a loser, baby! I am not the successful girl everyone thought I was. I am a fraud. I am not smart. I am not outstanding or exceptional. I am just Dana. And, as I have preached to myself over and over again, 'just Dana' is not enough.
To this day, I struggle with accepting myself as I am. I devalue myself whenever possible. It absolutely blows me away that there is someone out there who will take me as I am. Someone who sees me and sees his perfect creation. My eyes well up with tears as I type now. *Deep Breath*
Through Christ, I have hope.
A shiny sliver of hope beckoning my soul.
Recall the first scripture I learned, Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be brave and of good courage. Do not be afraid; nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go." Does that not totally apply to my life? This God has seen me screw up like no other. And here he is telling stupid, worthless, ugly, not good enough me, "DO NOT GIVE UP!"
I have carried this baggage for years. As much as it has been my enemy, it has been my armor, my excuse. I have been loaded down under this heaping pile of crap for thirty years. Picture real, live crap. It makes for a great visual. Now, picture me under it. That's what I've been living like. Keeping this crap strapped to my back so I can't move forward, because I know, I've already decided that if I do, I could possibly fail and I don't want to take the heartache anymore. You can definitely believe that it has surely kept people away from me as well. Would you want to hug someone with a bunch of crap strapped to them?
The biggest realization I went through when I began this transition to Christianity, was that God was with me. He was there to work for me and to carry my worries. He was going to take care of me. I would always have whatever I needed and He has my best interests in mind. To have the weight of all that crap off my shoulders, I felt like I could float through the sky. I felt hope. God has given me hope. Hope that I can still make something of myself with Him on my side. With Him at the wheel. With Him giving me the strength to lift myself up, brush the pain, the sadness, the hurt, the disappointment, and the fear off, and keep on keepin' on. The thought that maybe 'just Dana' is enough for this world brings me so much joy. I am the way I am because He wants me to be this way and it is a GOOD thing. He has a plan just for me. I am humbled. I feel loved. I feel awesome!
For the first time in years, I have confidence. At first, I didn't really want to acknowledge this. I've always devalued myself. I have finally realized that He has given me gifts and talents and He wants me to use them for Him! If I accept Him, I accept that I am of Him, by Him, and for Him and that includes acknowledging myself as He does in a joyful, purposeful way. I tell you what, I can't do that for myself. I can't. I can, however, if it's FOR HIM! I have confidence in myself as I haven't felt in years. Years!
For instance, these days, and probably always, running felt like punishment to me. I hated it. Sometimes I could enjoy it - all the endorphins oozing out - but mostly it was work. And I guess I'm weak in that area. I didn't think I could run. I didn't think I could do it, I was too out of shape, too old, too slow, bad knees, blah, blah, blah... Lately I have noticed a lot of friends who run and I have wanted to try it, but have been so intimidated by it and probably mostly lazy. The other day, I ran a mile. A whole mile! I did it! With God!
The knowledge that our Creator, our Savior, our Counselor, our Guide, our God, THE One, the big D.A.W.G! That guy! Him! He is with me in spirit! And with God, all things are possible. And that includes running a mile. The mile is not the miracle. Anyone can probably run a mile if they had to. The miracle is that my faith in God to be with me, gave me the confidence that I could really do it! The faith 'can move a mustard seed thing!' Something I would not have done at all for the rest of my life, probably.
My joy of accomplishing something I didn't think I could do is even more rich because I am able to rejoice in Him! Give praise to Him! Give thanks to Him! As my dear friend helped me learn, it is not that He requires us to give Him praise, but you will find the happiest moments in your life are exceedingly more enriching and they will naturally accompany thanks and praise to Him. It just happens. I don't know how to explain it, almost. It's beyond words. You will feel joyful. Not happiness, which is a fleeting emotion. You will feel joy.
I have walked with Christ for two months or so now. I have been up and down and back way up and then way back down. Satan is working hard on me! One of my friends told me that she thought life was tougher as a Christian. I couldn't disagree more that first week. I thought it was cake! Sit back, relax, love God, and He takes care of the rest. Then life happened. And, I had to retract my thought about Christian life being easy. It's hard to keep your motives in check, your thoughts Godly, your mind renewed in the Word. Before I wanted to live a good life. Now, I want a Godly life. It's tougher than God makes it look!
I've found that as much as I thought being religious was just going to church on Sunday, being a Christian is a living, breathing, spiritual philosophy you practice every moment of every day. I yell at my kids less. That in itself is a testimony to Christ! My life perspective is evolving and that changes your thoughts, your actions, your outlook, and your attitude. I laugh with my kids more. I feel kinda bad sayin' this, but I actually like my kids more now. I appreciate them.
Before I started my life with God, I really didn't love my life as a mom. I saw a lot of burden in that role! I loved the magical moments, but not the everyday stuff. I saw myself as a slave to two children sometimes. As harsh as that sounds, that's what it seemed like. It felt so demeaning. I didn't feel the joy of serving them as their mother as I do now.
The values, beliefs, and concepts of the Bible and Christianity that I have learned have been applied to my life and it makes the biggest difference. Some of the patience I have doesn't feel forced or fake like it would have felt before. It feels almost natural. I can't help but be compelled to believe that there is some super natural work being done here by the Spirit of Christ within my soul. When you study the bible, go to church, meet to talk God with friends, it enhances that awareness you have toward living a Godly life. You carry that awareness in your daily life. Instead of being a brat with a crappy attitude, you choose to give it to God, stay positive, and let Him give you strength. Instead of being stressed about money, you pray that God will take care of the situation. It may not come in the form you expect, but it will come. Instead of being jealous, you have love for your competition. Instead of worrying about your woes, you long to help a friend you love. Friends that you've met through Christ, who love you, who never have judged you, or look at you any differently when they hear the deepest darkest parts of your past. Being a Christian is not just going to church on Sunday. It is a way of life.
God wants my soul. He wants my heart. Only when I give up all that old way of living, thinking, and being will I be able to give myself to Him completely and Him to me. If one part of my heart still carries my crappy baggage that means I have not let Him in to every part of my soul. My relationship with Him is limited. I have decided that I want all the God I can get.
I am ready to let go. To let go of my self-inflicted pain, guilt, and frustrated life. I am ready to be free of these footholds Satan has on me. I am ready to expose myself as I am. I want the fullest experience possible in this life and to me, there is higher purpose that lies within our Creator. Doesn't he work in amazing ways?
God reveals himself to you in new forms all the time. Yesterday, I was driving home from Boise and though it was a chilly day, the sun was so warm. My left cheek was red from exposure. I loved it. I was mesmerized how God created the sun, and something that is like at least one hundred miles away or so could make me feel warm to the touch. I know it's much more than that distance (isn't it??!?)! And then, out of nowhere, I decided that gravity was actually a pretty good idea. I think I really enjoy gravity. Keeping stuff glued to the earth. Who woulda thought?
I would have never appreciated the glory of these simple, obvious things in our daily life without appreciating the Creator behind them. I will say, however, that today as I was jogging to my van, it was windy and rainy, I felt my butt cheeks sort of flop. I decided that instead of blame myself and crappy diet, I would urge God to modify gravity to a more bodily enhancing one with fewer effects on boobies and butts. And probably testicles, too! Mental imagery is sometimes not as desirable as others, is it? =)
I think God probably has a sense of humor. I can't help but see the irony in my story. The lesson I needed to learn the most is the one I feared the most. Needing to understand my value as "Dana the non-winner." Or "Dana the mostly loser." It's okay to be those things! It took me walking through the fire of failure, and the following years of guilt and self-loathing for me to finally find God and realize He loves "Just Dana." The person that I am afraid of being the most is the one He loves... just as she is. And, here I am world! Praise God!