...and I'm working on becoming "okay" with that.
You see, I've spent the better part of the last (almost) 40 years feeling like the black sheep.
I really hate that term. I do. Because frankly, I don't see anything wrong with being the black sheep, except that they're often referred to as the one who stands out--and not in a positive way. The one who doesn't fit in. The one who sticks out like a sore thumb. The one who won't--often can't--conform, even though life would be 1000x better if they did.
Alas...they, like me, simply don't fit.
In my family I was the youngest, and the only girl. The kid sister to two brothers who grew up to be best friends in adulthood. The annoying pest my brothers were burdened with the annoying task of watching, and sometimes torturing, though both of my brothers have very selective memories of said torture. As in I remember, they claim not to. But that's just the way with big brothers, right? They come, they tease, they leave. Such as life.
In my extended family, I was always the cousin who was just a little too loud, a little too silly, and a little to passionate for everyone else. I was admittedly annoying, and despite having grown into a pretty decent adult, if I do say so myself, I'm still a colossal geek who laughs just a little too loud, talks just a little to fast, and just doesn't quite fit with everyone else. Once my husband lovingly called me a square peg, in reference to my family, but I disagreed. I'm not even that bad. I'm not a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I'm an oval peg trying to fit into a round hole. Not bad...but not quite right, either.
In school I was never a good student. I was distracted and my thoughts were always in a million places other than the subject at hand. Nothing captivated my attention except books and movies and art and music. I truly couldn't make the left side of my brain work properly...but exercise the right side, and I would excel. Unfortunately we lived in a small town that didn't focus on right brained skills. It was academics and sports, neither of which were for me. They tested me for learning disabilities, but all of the tests came back inconclusive, and so I slipped further into cracks, graduating from high school by the skin of my teeth. Teachers openly called me stupid, and frankly, I agreed with them.
In adulthood, I've struggled with relationships (both romantic and non romantic) that were dysfunctional. Sometimes I found myself in pairings with controlling, manipulative people that led to destruction and chaos--neither of which I respond well to. Sometimes I found myself at odds with people for simply being me--because "me" is weird, and opinionated, and self conscious, and prone to saying the wrong thing, and broody, and loud, and, well, if we're being honest, a lot to take. I don't have a relationship with my own father, because I couldn't effectively establish boundaries, and wound up offending him and pushing him and his whole side of the family away irreparably. Growing up in a very tumultuous home made me naturally wound tight, very uptight and practically allergic to chaos and disorganization in a way that comes off as controlling or demanding, and it made me difficult for some people to be around. It made me unpleasant and weird...instead of a cute little dictator like Monica on Friends. I was never Monica. I wish I'd been a Monica, people would've liked me more.
When I feel things, I feel them. I don't feel emotions the same way that many people do. I feel them right down into my bone marrow, whether it be anger, or sadness, or conviction, or guilt, or disappointment, or joy. It's usually written right on my face, whatever emotion I've landed on, and it is darn near impossible for me to hide, no matter what I do to try. And while this detail about "me" can be a glorious blessing--as I am usually the first person to admit when I have said or done something wrong, because, like I said, guilt is usually written all over my face--this is a personality trait that makes other people uncomfortable. Being around someone who feels so tangibly can be sort of suffocating, especially when I'm around people who tend to live their lives void of any emotion.
I'm living in an expat situation right now, where I am expected, no, required, to self motivated go out and do things. I need to be able to walk up to a circle of strangers to introduce myself, and finagle my way into the social group. I have to show people that I am a likable, enjoyable person who deserves friends, and has something to contribute to the group. Whether or not I believe that BS is another story, but it is what I am expected to do, therefore I do it. I have to be an example to my children. I have to show them that it's okay to move somewhere where they have no friends, where they have to forge new friendships out of nowhere, and that it's okay to be the odd person out.
They don't know that on the inside I am usually peeing my pants. I've spent (almost) 40 years peeing said pants, because I've felt like that dang black sheep for that long.
Sometimes I feel like I am an anomaly. Like there must be only one person as nuts and flawed as me, and that's why I'm that oval peg trying to fit into a circle hole with no success. I get really down on myself because I can't find middle ground with a relative, no matter how much I try to explain my side, or how much I try to offer the backstory and history contributing to my opinions or stances. I tend to beat myself up because I see loved ones doing things together without me, and it makes me go all "emo-mom" for a while, wondering if any of them would even want me there if I could be? Instead of feeling like everyone in the world hates me, and I'm a colossal victim, I've always been the type to assume that the flaws lie with me. My dad doesn't like me because I'm a loser daughter. My brothers aren't friends with me, because I'm the lame younger sister. My friends have fun without me, because I am a burden to hang out with, and well, a lot to take.
These are all emotions and feelings that if I knew my children were feeling, I would walk through fire to prove them wrong. If people aren't hanging out with them, it's not their fault. It's the fault of the other people. It's their loss, and their problem! My children are perfect--literally perfection--in my eyes, and anyone who doesn't see that is blind and needs to be throat punched. However, sometimes it feels impossible to feel the same way about myself. I'm always the first person to list my flaws one by one, and critique myself for a job not well done. It's a bad habit I have, seeing the worst in myself when sometimes there might be a little bit of good to take notice of, too.
Recently I've had an epiphany. Or maybe not an epiphany, per say, but a realization, I suppose. I've realized (finally) that I need to let it go. Let it gooooo....let it gooooooooo! (I hope you all heard that in Idina Menzel's voice, because I did. But maybe I did that because I have children, and unless you're raising your children under a rock, you know all the words to all the Frozen songs by heart, whether you want to or not. But, I digress....) I finally realized that I need to let all of this judgment go. All the judgment other people feel towards me. All of the judgment I feel towards myself. All of the judgment I THINK people feel, but they really don't. All of the judgment I think they may SOMEDAY feel, but they likely won't. All of it. I need to let it go, and learn to love myself once and for all.
How many times have you heard all of the Confucius' of the Facebook, Twitter, and meme world say that you can't find true happiness if you're constantly unhappy with yourself. I'm not stupid. I know that. Cripes, I constantly say it to my own children, why am I not applying it to my own life? Egads, if I can't take my own advice, then how can I expect my kids to take it??
And so.....now I work on myself. A lot. When I am feeling that ugly, but all-to-familiar fog of self loathing roll in, I remind myself that I have a lot to be grateful for. I sit and fold my laundry, quietly listing the things in my life that I should be expressing gratitude for. It's hard to focus on your flaws when you're listing off all of your blessings. And when I find myself feeling jealous or combative, I remind myself that I have people who love me--flaws and all. I remind myself that I have a husband and children who think I hung the moon, and a mother who likes me despite my bizarre hangups and stubbornness. I remind myself that I have friends who are living thousands of miles away, but still think of me fondly every day, and I have a church family that welcomes me back each summer, and they don't care about how different or peculiar I am. And above all, I remind myself, repeatedly, that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me, flaws and imperfections and all. He doesn't require anything of me, except my willingness to always try to be better today than I was yesterday.
I'm so grateful to know these things with surety. When my mind is filled with anger and resentment and a crippling lack of confidence, I know without a doubt that I am loved by a higher power that is infinitely more powerful than anything or anybody else out there. And I know that I was created to be this way--flawed, dorky, loud, opinionated, self conscious, and awkward--for a reason, long before I ever came to this earth.
Why? Oh, crap, I don't know if I'll ever know. But I do know that I'm learning to be okay with having so many flaws. It probably won't happen by tomorrow. Or by next month. Or even by next year. But I'll get there. And I cannot wait for the peace that will come with such self acceptance.