If people throw stones at you..

A few days ago I was feeling pretty miserable.

There’s always something to trigger the misery, often there’s 2 or 3 things and then usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And then off I go, regressing back to my 11 year old self, forgetting every life lesson I’ve learned over the last 30 ish years and just wanting to curl up into bed and hide under the covers. With milk chocolate…

Just like that, in my head, I am transported back to starting secondary school, with a haircut like a boy, the wrong shoes, the wrong bag, the wrong name (it was meant to be something that could be shortened to sound cool, or end in ‘Y’, like Nikki, Katie, Gaby..you get the idea).

I didn’t like team sports because I couldn’t run fast and I wasn’t so coordinated when it came to playing rounders or netball. So generally I either got yelled at, made fun of or ignored.

For a large chunk of my time in school. I tried changing myself to fit in. This made no difference, it only made it worse. I was a sitting duck, an easy target, and I had no tools to stand up for myself. And I blushed whenever anyone spoke to me. Fabulous.

My very special school photo at age 11...

I remember being told, amongst other delightful things, “Don’t try to fit in with us.” To my face, in front of people I stupidly wanted to be friends with. And no-one ever wanted to pick me to be on their sports team; PE teachers had to shove me onto a team and they would all groan and say “do we HAVE to have her?” As the famous saying by Maya Angelou goes:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I have never, in over 30 years, forgotten how small, ashamed and pathetic those girls made me feel. Over the course of those years, I have come back to those moments again and again and I can feel them and re-live them as if they were yesterday. I used to imagine going to a school reunion just so I could see these people 30 years on and tell them how harmful their words & actions were; the ripples that they cast with their stones. Those people taught me that I needed to hide, that I needed to be someone else. That being me wasn’t good enough. And it took years of undoing. Boys fight with their fists; girls are so much worse. They are cruel with their words & actions.

I have since built a life for myself that I am so proud of; and I have become more ‘me’ than I have ever been. I have learned to take care of myself – body & soul, on a constant basis..

I exercise 4-5 times a week instead of bringing in sick notes (though I still don’t ever play team sports), I’ve climbed a very big, tall mountain in Africa..

I have forced myself to become comfortable with public speaking without blushing, jumped out of a plane (well, I was pushed but it still counts)..

I have walked 22km across the desert and many other things I never imagined I would do. And I truly do thank god for my beautiful family and amazing friends, not in a nauseating ‘my life is so perfect‘ way but in a ‘life is so damn short’ kind of way that makes you stop and reflect and see what you’ve created and what gifts you’ve been given.

I’m writing these things not because I need you to give me a round of applause or to get the violins out, but because I want to explain that none of these ‘brave’ things come easily or naturally to me. They were all outside of my comfort zone.

The drive behind so many of these things is often  (a) to keep showing myself that I am alive and ever so lucky to be so (b) to remind me that I am ok & I am  so much more ‘me’ than the very sad 11 year old girl who couldn’t stand up for herself (c) Because I want to show my kids how important it is to push yourself out of your zone.

How to be brave; to keep growing, to feel the fear and do it anyway. To build something with the stones thrown at you.

So, this video by my brilliant bestie got me thinking (even more) today. We had a really helpful, open and honest talk yesterday about everything that’s been getting me down this week, all my self-doubts and frustrations; how it has been affecting my ability to fully focus on other things or to see things for what they really are.

She mentioned something about life being cyclical, lived in a series of spirals, which instantly reminded me of a talk I had heard not long ago about how we don’t live our lives in the linear way that we percieve, but rather more like journeying up a spiral staircase.

Each time I come back to what seems like the same place, instead of getting frustrated and saying “really? I’m back here AGAIN? I thought we had covered this ground? I thought I had dealt with these demons”, what I’m learning to  recognise is that I may be back at the same spot again, but I am so much higher up than I was 30 years ago. I have so much wisdom and experience now.

I can learn to recognise the signs & triggers, why they are happening and catch myself  much quicker than I ever could before (though this week took some serious analysis with the help of a friend).  I don’t need to run away and hide in the the toilet cubicles with the doors locked until breaktime is over (aka bed with chocolate). I have tools to use, I have my people to call upon, and I have to remember to stop and take a look back at how far I have come.

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