It was a hot summer day in Northern Indiana and my husband and I were at a local ice cream place with the grandkids. Having our dessert outside, I heard a voice yelling from a passing car, “F#*! YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR NICE FAMILY DINNERS!” At first we were concerned about the kids hearing that language, but we soon realized that they were much too involved in their ice cream treats and were not paying attention to anything else. I then looked at my husband and laughed out loud! I’m not sure why that struck me funny but I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe it was the irony of the fact that it wasn’t a “nice family dinner”. It was an ice cream joint for crying out loud! And as I recall, it was a last ditch effort to stop the kids from the constant bickering we had endured for most of the day. Anyway, as my laughter died down, I began to replay the event in my head and as I listened to that mental recording, I heard the anger and sadness in that young mans voice. I somehow missed that before. Suddenly, it didn’t seem funny anymore. I realized how lucky I was. I was with the love of my life having ice cream with my three beautiful grandchildren after spending an entire day playing and spending money on school clothes and pizza and fun! As we drove toward home with full bellies and smiling faces, all safely buckled down in our near new SUV, I could not stop that mental recording of that angry voice. It played over and over in my head until the voice sounded like my own.
It had not been that long ago that it was me that was so angry. I can vividly remember thinking, “Well, it must be nice!” with a visible snarl on my face every time I would see a family enjoying each other. My family was a bit different. I was different. At least that’s what I thought. I felt like the whole world had a “norm” and I was forever on the outside of that. I kept my mouth shut and fumed every time someone got praise for something I knew I could do better. Then, I would curse and hate myself for not having the courage to step up when I had the opportunity to. I lived with a huge chip on my shoulder and when I couldn’t blame a circumstance, I blamed myself for being so stupid, lazy, chicken, awkward, wimpy, ugly, fat……and any other negative adjective you want to throw in there. Every now and then I would muster the courage to speak my mind or take a run at raising my hand in class but I was always so self conscious, the bravery wouldn’t last long. Especially if someone disagreed with me or even just looked at me too long! They may have been admiring me but in my mind, they were saying to themselves, “Who does she think she is? That’s so dumb!”…. And so, I would keep my armor on and sword drawn. I maintained a “badass” persona. It made me feel strong and resilient (though I wasn’t). It’s like I was pissed off for most of my life so yeah….. in another place and time, that could have been me yelling, “F%@! YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR NICE FAMILY DINNERS!”
Back then and still today I have been on a relentless search for answers. I want to know how the hell people overcome their feelings of inadequacy and become successful at their careers, relationships, parenting etc…. because I feel like a complete failure at all of it! I read books, watch tv shows, listen to podcasts and have studied many different religions but it always seems like the information is coming from someone who has “already made it” in life. It feel like that leaves a huge gap between them and me. They tell their story from the safety of their new found “higher ground”. I’m not trying to be negative about this way of sharing because it does help. I just needed a blow by blow from the trenches. I wanted to feel like I’m moving up the walls of the void WITH someone. I wanted to hear how they overcame anxiety the very day it happened, or maybe they can’t overcome it and what they doing about it in real time. Maybe that person is me. You see….there is a big part of me that mostly feels comfortable in the shadows, just out of view…. just under the radar. But on the other hand, I’ve got big ideas about life and how we can help each other. I think there are a lot of people like me….shadow dwellers with an eye for the light.
I’m not going to wait for a sunny day to share my journey. I’m going to share now, from the shadows, from the trenches, from the void. I can’t give you advice or guidance for your journey but I can offer camaraderie. You’re not alone you beautiful shadow dweller you! Lets do this!