Fear tells me to hold these memories deep in the cavern of my mind. My weirdness, quirks, and imperfections feel safe hidden from stinging curiosity and judging eyes.
But change is stirring. With each word released, with every story shared, my heart and soul are stretched in new ways. Feelings fly free and shame is undone in a mysterious dance that I’m learning to respect – and even enjoy.
These tales are true, and they are mine. Yet they are also strangely yours. In the sharing, our lives intertwine, and we see one another more purely. Perhaps for the very first time.
We are messy, you and me. But we are also miracles.
I am 11 years old, lounging on a couch in rays of sun. A Harlequin romance book is propped open as my tween eyes soak in words like oil on thirsty skin. The drama, the love, the exotic settings take me far into worlds momentarily more real than my own.
As my eyes flit back and forth, words and story tumble in, and my hand lifts to the coarse, black lashes on my eyelids. As if by magnetic pull, without thought or intent, I separate them and pull with practiced ease.
A release of pressure comes along with the lash now held between my thumb and forefinger. Satisfaction flows when I admire the perfectly round, white ball at the root no longer attached to my skin.
Eyes back on the book, my hand returns to my eyelashes again and again. Until one day I realize there are no more lashes to strum. Nothing more to pull. I look in the mirror and stare aghast at red, swollen eyes. The lashes are gone. I have pulled them out. Every single one.
I don’t remember how quickly my mother notices, but she does, and I manage to convince her that I’m not sick. The lashes didn’t fall out on their own. “I pulled them, Mom.”
I read the skepticism and disbelief in her eyes. “Let me show you.” I say. I reach up and pull out a lash of her own. “See?”
Call it a nervous habit. Call it an early symptom of anxiety. Call it trichotillomania. I never called it anything. I bluffed my way through the conversation, promised I could stop, and never spoke of it again.
Conceal. Don’t feel. Don’t let them know.
I want to run to that little girl laying on the couch. I want to tell her that the upcoming move far south will be a good one. I want to tell her that she’ll have her first kiss, her first love, and be brave enough to audition for cheer in front of the entire Junior High. She’ll be voted to the squad.
I want to beg her to enjoy every moment in that small, southern town because she’ll have to move again. This time in the middle of 8th grade.
And I’d tell her that move is not going to be easy. The high school years are hard. Really hard. I might warn her that she’ll make some terrible decisions, but she’ll be okay because the hard things will eventually teach her great truths.
I want to tell that little girl that she is her own harshest critic. That she is loved. That she does not have to achieve or prove her worth to anyone. Gosh, I long to tell her there is so much beauty coexisting alongside her brokenness, but she just can’t see it, at least not yet. She sees only through a small frame like an artist using his hands to capture a particular point of view. But I’d also tell her that there is so much outside that small frame, and every bit of the whole picture is there by design. Then I’d tell her she never has to to figure it all out or hide her messiness. She was made to live free. And her Maker, the Great Designer of that full view, is with her and preparing her to appreciate the miracles she can not yet see.
I would take her hands, look into her raw, red eyes, and say…“I love you, Laura.”