Tag Archives: self-sacrifice

Middle school boys with too many girls to dance with inside dark cafeterias were not meant to feel like Less Than Enough.

With a hair flip and a sideways smile, he captures all the girls in the seventh grade.

His younger brother rattles off the list of middle-schoolers swooning over the college boy in a twelve-year-old’s body. Hollister hoodie sleeves pushed up to his elbows. Ray-Ban sunglasses shield his eyes inside the living room.

“Five out of six girls respond to the look,” the younger one says. He darts his head dramatically to the side, chin to shoulder, his sixty-pound four-feet-tall body not having quite the same effect.

He says he won’t date any of them. The southern mothers wouldn’t want that. Would rather their daughters wait a few years to find themselves standing in the foyer, some sweet talker’s hand around their waists as the father looks onward from the living room couch.

Weeks later, in the comfort of my own living room, four states away, I learn that he has forgotten the art of loving himself. The boy with too many girls to ask to dance. The boy with the football arm and hot-sauce-lined lips. The middle of the Oreo, the creamy gooey goodness we are first to reach for, has forgotten his place between the Tall and Lanky and the Small and Slim.

He has turned husky into a curse. Swapped strong for weak. Twisted thick into a something he does not want to be.

Instead, he’s taken to skipping out on sandwiches. Pining for afternoon walks around the entire metropolitan area. Fifteen miles of feet padding across foreign sidewalks. Fifteen miles to shed the ounces of him that glue together the Small and Slim boy to the Tall and Lanky.

I do not have an answer for this boy, hovering between sucking in his insides and scarfing down every last morsel of meat on the baby back ribs.

I only know that middle school boys with too many girls to dance with inside dark cafeterias were not meant to feel like Less Than Enough. They were not meant to take solitary laps around the neighborhood until all the damage of yesterday and the day before fall off them in beads of sweat around their necklines.

They were meant to play basketball beneath hanging nets. To finger piano keys in auditoriums. To scribble football predictions on portable white boards.

They were meant to be nothing but themselves, to love with strong hearts, to glue together the wild and crazy older and younger ones.

They were meant for so much more than wishing themselves away.

Come on, grab your paper bag of granulated sugar and your metal spoon and let’s stand in my kitchen so you can force feed me the keys to happiness, tell me I’m doing it all wrong.

I am the girl who smiles at you from across the hallway, head bent toward the floor, cheeks pink from the cold air outside and the red flush running through my veins. I am the girl who knows sorry better than “so what?”, who knows not what she apologizes for, who does not take a second step into the deep abyss of trouble without a battery-operated flashlight and a group of equally-terrified best friends.

I am the girl who once believed a smile would be enough. But it is not.

__

Tea drinkers might tell you they’re addicted to caffeine. They probably won’t say it’s the warmth from inside that spreads to their toes on an unseasonable October afternoon. They probably won’t tell you it’s the sound of a clinking spoon against a handspun ceramic mug. They probably won’t tell you it’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Because a spoonful of sugar is not so sweet.

For weeks, I’ve felt like someone is shoving a spoonful of sugar into my mouth and making me swallow it. Like he or she is grabbing hold of me, duct-tapping my butt to the swivel chair in front of my desk, and demanding I read accounts of girls who struggled with something and overcame it, who said “no thank you” when it came to what they wanted because to say yes would be a sin.

And I spent one, two, seventeen years going to church every Sunday. I ran away for the same reason I’m feeling sick to my stomach now: I felt overwhelmed, almost nauseated, by the intensity of it all. By the idea that I had to be perfect always always always. Stand on the tips of my toes and reach upward and hope I might be better tomorrow because today I am still imperfect.

Today, I am still imperfect. Tomorrow, too, I’ll rise from my bed and begin the two-week trek to the end of this semester. I’ll screw up, get mad, spend money when I shouldn’t. I’ll eat dessert and lounge on the couch all afternoon and let the people in my life do the same without feeling like it all comes back to God.

Let it come back to Him. Let it. Let me here you tell me something about why I’ve felt like I’ve been through the ringer these last four years. Come on, grab your paper bag of granulated sugar and your metal spoon and let’s stand in my kitchen so you can force feed me the keys to happiness, tell me I’m doing it all wrong, that I’m being punished for not stretching myself thin.

Victoria wrote a post two weeks ago that I just got around to reading, and I could not stop scanning the page in awe. She has guts. She laid it out for anyone willing to listen. And I just wanted to thank her.

For what?

Reminding me that there is no perfect Christian. That I’m allowed to sleep at night. To live with myself. To drink my tea sweetened. To cross the line that so many have told me, again and again, I should be ashamed for crossing. I am not. I cannot be.

I’ll do what is right by me and I’ll vow to never shove a scoop of religion down someone’s throat. Because the only way to steer me from it is to push a plateful in front of me and make me eat every last morsel Matilda style. 

[Photo credit]

Love Letter to the Lonely College Girl

Perhaps I’d be better off pulling up a chair at a crammed Starbucks on a Monday afternoon, seeking out the perfect girl to share her story. But instead, I’ll let her find me.

girl sipping starbucks mug reading beauty magazine

via weheartit.com

I’m going to start by ripping apart those renew subscription cards that come inside every beauty and housekeeping magazine.

Not because buying another pair of gardening shears is a particularly awful thing to do or because the first step to a dangerous dirt path to disaster is a weekend of healthy calisthenics, pumpkin-patch-picking style.

Really, those are tiny. Insignificant. Minor little voices sitting inside our already-clogged noggins that say to do more, be more, try more.

All the while, they want us to take less.

Less self-love. Less ice cream. Less free time. Less clutter. Less, less, less.

The world has told us that we are to fill ourselves up by pushing everything out—all the mess, the bad, the memories we don’t have room for anymore.

We make way for new ones in college, right?

New friends to love us in the here and now. New classes to fill our already-tight schedules. New jobs so we can pay the Dominoes delivery driver when he rat-a-tats on our door because we are so new, so filled, we have no time to cook Grandma’s favorite stew.

But we forget how much comfort we’ve sacrificed in doing that. We forget the coping mechanisms we discovered in high school—the healthy ones like ranting to a best friend at our locker before class or spending Friday night lapping the football stadium perimeter with a hot chocolate while boys in mud-stained spandex fumble the ball for the third time.

Those seem far away, pitiful even, and we choose instead to hold it all in.

Hold those searing problems, those almost-tears, those aching hearts and the first signs of a panic attack welling up in our chests when we think too much about the Big, Bad Future.

For some reason, there’s a comfort in holding these all in, as if they might evaporate inevitably through our pores, rinsing off in the dank shower stalls where we’re unafraid to expose our true selves.

I am thinking that won’t happen.

It’s great in theory. Don’t get yourselves wrong. It seems almost plausible for those of us who are so far wrapped up in no longer admitting we have problems and choosing instead to coat our skin with misery.

That, my dears, is like coating your skin in maple syrup.

It’s sweet and smells amazing and tastes delicious, but man, that’s going to rip off some hair and maybe chunks of skin to leave your body looking like a sunburned mess.

It’s not worth it.

I know you might want to believe it. So do I, some days, but it’s not.

Please do me a small favor instead. Pull up a chair next to mine. Bring your favorite Starbucks drink.

You can tell me all about why you love Caramel Frappuccinos and Iced Peppermint Mochas and I can tell you about being comfortable in your own skin.

Enough so that your legs don’t jitter beneath that round fake-wood table because you’ve taken twenty minutes to just Be.

Enough for you. Enough for me. Enough.

And maybe those Starbucks dates will become routine until you’ve taught me about every beverage on that menu.

Twenty one is just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world.

Someone was looking out for me when they threw the hypochondriac four rooms down from the girl for whom “personal pharmacy” was a serious understatement.

the hangover hospital

via weheartit.com

It’s no wonder I want to take the Red Cross emblem from outside the Emergicare Center next to Hardee’s and tack it above her bedroom door.

I wish I could say there’s some other image I picture when I think of her, something sweet and welcoming like a smile or a handshake, but no.

No, it’s the hospital, the rescues, the always-here-when-you-need-me-and-even-if-you-think-you-don’t moments that stick with me for four years and threaten to pull me back to reality if ever my feet lift too far off the ground.

She found us on Facebook. And no, I did not change my name to Girl With An Endless Sea of Problems. She walked right into that door, my friend.

Walked right into our open oak bedroom door, too. Inserted herself into our lives, demanding those four years of us in just four seconds.

I have never, well not since kindergarten, met someone with such boldness when it comes to making friends. Few of us are daring enough to plunge into icy water and break back through the surface, refreshed and almost comfortable already, even though we know it’s going to be OK.

Brooke did that. And I needed that sort of reckless confidence lying around. I needed someone to waltz into my life, promising to stick by me when the going got rough.

And oh, how rough it got. How many times she had to talk me down from cliffs when I was sure I was dying. Sure death was lurking just around the next corner, ready to grab me with its greedy little hands and pull a bed sheet over my head.

The only time I’ve ended up in the ER since my freshman year, she was fortunate enough to escape the phone call that came when I woke up disoriented and wondering how, when someone takes you in an ambulance, you get back home.

Do you walk? Do you crawl? Do you sit down on the cold concrete outside the waiting room drop-out pull-through overhang of that empty, brand-spanking-new parking lot and pray someone channels your inner being to find you?

No. You call your roommate and when she asks where you are, when she asks where the hospital is, you tell her the truth: All you remember is seeing a Sheetz somewhere out the back window of a moving vehicle. And then nothing. Nothing except that absolute terror when you come to and realize someone is wheeling you in on a gurney. Like you really are on the brink of dying.

I am so glad I never put her through that, so thankful because I know she will travel – has traveled – leaps and bounds to help me when I’ve fallen.

I know all about those people, the ones for whom a phone call or a text message is not enough. Oh no, she has to trudge across campus in the middle of a hot afternoon when she has no time, really, to stop what she’s doing. She has to find the girl in the middle of a breakdown, any breakdown, and calm her down.

She is the youngest, if we’re going by birth dates. Turned the big 21 yesterday.

But something tells me that 21 is just another number, just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world. And she’s conquered it already, moved on to something more urgent.