I’ll never forget that phone call as I was unpacking my boxes into my freshman dorm room. This call came before the era of cellphones, back when the sound of a ring in a stark dormitory was unusual…loud…noticed. It was my father telling my mother, he was leaving her.
Bam! Welcome to Day 1 of college! As I proceeded to be introduced to my roommates, my heart was drowning in confusion. How was I going to do this? They know nothing about me or my family. My mother departed the next morning, earlier than expected to take care of things at home.
I had a choice, one that would have lasting effects on my psychological well-being. I could be honest and share with these new friends that, although I have been blessed with the most unbelievable of family upbringings, some mistakes had been made, and we are in a really hard place at the moment….or I could simply stop my story just before ‘mistakes had been made’.
I couldn’t swallow, more or less explain. I chose the latter, and for the next 4 years suffered privately with the pit I felt about the deterioration of my family and the denial I was living. On the outside I had a blast during those college years, and part of me believed in that reality. As I reflect back though, it is without question my darkest period.
My friend, Jenna, sent me a video today. In it Brene Brown says, Shame is the fear of disconnection.
Shame, for events outside of my control, told me I needed to live a lie to be accepted by those new friends around me and that I wasn’t worthy of acceptance with the real story of my family. My faith had taught me better than to believe this untruth, but when we are drowning, we often cling to anything around.
That period 20 years ago became a reference point as to how I was NOT going to live the rest of my life. I coasted along after college for several years until my next set of major trials. Three miscarriages. This is where it all changed…where I changed.
I made a choice that day the first baby’s heart stopped beating, to not hide, stuff, or deny what life was dealing me. There would be no secrets.I openly wept, prayed, and shared the vulnerabilities of my heart. Maybe I over-shared during this period, but it freed me. It freed me to be myself, to not apologize for or hide my story, but rather to embrace that it was mine.
I lost three babies with no fear of the stigma that can often be attached. I had no shame.
I was a courageous, grieving young woman who was learning to accept the imperfections of life.
Even through the pain, I felt alive from this taste of authenticity. My story, however flawed, became enough. My imperfect life is enough.
I often wonder what would happen if I could go back to my freshman dorm and have a Do Over. What if I had allowed my vulnerability to take me to a place of courage, not fear? What if I had told them that my family was falling apart? Those sweet roommates, who were divinely placed in my life for that season, would have embraced me not only with the same acceptance, but deeper. We would have cried together until the laughter came. But…I needed that period of internal struggle, to truly overcome my fear of being judged, and to embrace the freedom that authenticity brings.
Beauty is not in our-perfect-life-as-seen-on-Facebook, nor in our seemingly flawless marriage and well-behaved children. Our beauty is in those moments of vulnerability where our hearts can be purely seen.
Sweet friend, I think YOU are beautiful in those moments of vulnerability.
Today I’m thankful for those who open their hearts to me for real relationship.