A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was back in my hometown in Upper Michigan and a car pulled up to me as I was walking. I noticed that the passenger in this car was my high school arch nemesis. Suddenly, something came over me and I began acting like a maniac. I started screaming at her to get out of the car. I was out of my mind and full of rage. I tried reaching her through the driver’s side window and then went around to her side. The car sped off as I yelled obscenities and called her every awful name I could think of. I looked around and saw some of my friends looking at me with disgust. Some people were shaking their heads in disappointment. I was mortified but I wasn’t about to let anyone know that. It was less of an embarrassment to complete my transformation into an ugly monster, than to admit that I was just a jealous idiot.
I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. The thought of being so hateful towards someone tears me up. How could I act that way? What made it so much worse is that this actually DID happen when I was 18. My boyfriend was unfaithful and it messed me up something fierce! When Cat Stevens and Sheryl Crow sing “The first cut is the deepest”, they ain’t lyin! First heartbreaks are brutal. I went a little crazy. I carried that baggage with me throughout so many future relationships. And honestly, I think I still feel those wounds at times. I still fall apart with insecurity once in a while and I still have my “mental moments”. Granted, I’ve moved on from verbal assaults and pretending I’m tough. But how, after all these years, can I still feel so terrified of that heartbreak? Reflecting on this got me thinking about all the times someone has called me psycho and all the times I have thought that about someone else. I want everyone to understand why I am the way I am, yet I’m quick to make an assumption of someone else, without knowing anything about them or what they have gone through. We just never know.
What I learned about that night, way back when, is that I never, EVER want to be that person again. To this day, I’m ashamed of the times I’ve hurt someone else. I lashed out at this girl (the arch nemesis) without knowing one thing about what she was going through. I just assumed she was a boyfriend stealer. (Side note: the blame was grossly misplaced. She had nothing to lose. My boyfriend did. How many times have we gotten this wrong???) ANYWAYS, I don’t think I ever apologized to her. I’m sure to this day, she doesn’t think very highly of me. If only I had known what she was going through at home. How she wanted to feel special. Maybe she was just so terribly lonely, that for five minutes, she just wanted to feel good about something, anything. Lord knows I’ve been there.
Sometimes, we suck. We forget that other people go through hard times too. We look past the hurt we may be causing someone because we’re preoccupied with how many Facebook “likes” we can get. We’ve been bullied, we’ve become the bully and then someone you love is bullied and you just can’t figure out how anyone could ever act like that. I’m pretty sure the rage a parent feels when their kid is bullied is on its own level. But we don’t hear all the stories. We are so quick to attack. I’m totally guilty. I have been a real A-hole. Sometimes I get stuck thinking about my painful past and I can’t seem to see anything else. I forget that it’s not all about me. I forget that everyone carries their own heavy baggage. I forget that every person has their own story and reasons.
On the flip side, I have grown. Life is a never-ending cycle of events that transform us. Every single one of us. I love the analogy of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. I love to think that when things are rough or I’m having a hard time, I’m in a cocoon phase. Whatever is happening is going to end up transforming me into something beautiful. Through the disappointments and disasters, I’m going to be forced to change. In the cocoon where we struggle, we’re becoming more resilient. Unfortunately, we don’t get to go straight from the ugly to the beautiful. We can’t just skip over all the yuck. We endure it. We teach ourselves what we will and will not accept and the type of person we want to be. Maybe you’ll discover that grace, humility and vulnerability will take you much further than insecurity and jealousy. And that you never feel guilty using kindness, and you simply can’t handle feeling guilty any more for how you treat someone. So, kindness it is!! You need to grow. (Sometimes, in rare cases, it takes decades. But that’s because some people need to make the same mistakes repeatedly, for research purposes or something).
I marvel at how many times I have been changed. How circumstances have impacted me, changed me and taught me valuable life lessons. Now I just need to remember that this applies to everyone. The memories, the pain, the events, the transformations. We just never know. Maybe what we think is broken is really in repair. How often I discover who I don’t want to be, rather than who I do want to be. Mistakes aren’t all that bad. They are a tool. Soon enough we will have enough of the tools we need to break out of that cocoon and emerge beautifully new.
“He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11