“I hate Pammy Stevens!”
My face was red and tears streamed down it as I got in the car and slammed the door. School had just let out for the day and mom had picked me up. I was in first grade.
“What happened?” mom asked.
“I HATE her mom! She’s so mean to me. She was calling me names again and she wouldn’t stop. And then she stole my stocking cap and ran away with it. I tried to catch her but I couldn’t. And all the kids were laughing at me. I was so MAD!”
My mom looked at me, a serious look on her face.
“Teresa, you don’t hate them. Good girls don’t hate people. You can dislike them but you can’t hate them.”
“But I DO hate her mom! No matter what I did, she wouldn’t leave me alone and she wouldn’t give me my hat back. I yelled at her and I pleaded with her. I was crying and she just laughed! And I hate Pete Johnson too! Because he helped her.”
Mom sighed. “That wasn’t very nice of her. But that is still no reason for you to hate her. From now on, Teresa, you can’t let her see that you are angry or upset because that is going to egg her on. You can’t show her how you really feel or she’s never going to leave you alone.”
So that’s what I did. From that day forward, I didn’t let Pammy or Pete know that they were bothering me.
I acted like I didn’t care and that everything was fine. I didn’t let on how hurt or angry I was. Or how much I hated her. Eventually, I even convinced myself.
I did the same thing for years when it came to our finances. When we were drowning in debt, I never let on. When I was working my ass off to make enough money to pay our bills, I acted like everything was great. When I got burned out and cut our lifestyle to next to nothing, I convinced myself I was happy.
But underneath, I was scared and angry. Angry at Dan for not making more money and helping me out. Angry at myself because I got myself into this mess. Angry that all my efforts hadn’t fixed it.
This time, it wasn’t Pammy Stevens I hated — it was ME.
Back then, I would have denied that I felt ashamed. But it was true. I was ashamed of who I was, what I had done and how I felt.
I escaped it all by working all the time or checking out with food and television. I didn’t dare stop. If I did, my frustration, fear, anger and shame overwhelm me. I wouldn’t be able to hold it in. I wouldn’t be able to keep it all together.
I hid the truth from others and I hid it from myself.
Unbeknownst to me, I was also hiding from God.
If I had these “bad” emotions inside and had made so many mistakes, some part of me was convinced God wouldn’t love me. That God would be disappointed or even ashamed of me.
Little did I know that all of this was preparing me to help the women I am here to serve. Women who, like me, are great at hiding — from themselves and others. Women who go through life acting like everything is fine, i.e., they’re in control, on top of things.
They have their act together. All the while not realizing that is what it is — an ACT.
And this is especially true when it comes to the fear, guilt and shame they have around money. To the scarcity they experience when it comes to money.
What they don’t want to have anyone to see is the cesspool of emotions they’re keeping inside. Emotions they don’t want to admit — let alone feel.
They are afraid — even believe — that who they are is not okay. That what they are feeling is not okay. That something is wrong with them. That they cannot trust themselves. That they can’t really trust others — least of all God.
Oh, they’ll deny it — just like I did. To do otherwise in a grand un-masking is too scary. It’s too painful and vulnerable. We may get hurt, laughed at, judged or humiliated. People will be disappointed and think less of us.
So they live, as I did for much of my life, disconnected from and not trusting who they really are.
They hide what they think are unacceptable emotions, patterns and results. They play the role they think they need to play. They live the way they think they need to live in order to be loved.
All the while they keep trying to fix themselves and their money problems in secrecy. Without anyone knowing. Their mantra is “I got myself into this mess so it’s up to me to get myself out.” Sometimes they even believe “It’s my fault. I deserve it.”
Like me, they grew up being TOLD that God loves them unconditionally. They may even BELIEVE it to be true.
But at a deep level, they can’t be sure. They haven’t experienced it. They can’t trust it — not really. If God is displeased or disappointed in them, then they’re really screwed. The result? They even hide from God.
I know because it’s how I lived most of my life. It wasn’t on purpose. If you had asked, I would have categorically denied it. Because, of course, we’re supposed to trust God.
All of this bubbled up for me yesterday morning when a raccoon walked across our front yard. I was sitting on our front porch, drinking my morning tea, beginning my prayer time.
This was such an unusual event that I looked up the spiritual symbolism of raccoons.
Among other things, it included warnings about hiding from the truth. About hiding who you really are. About pretending to be something you are not.
I sat there, filled with wonder and amazement. I had just been talking about this with Pat, my coach. Because I was starting to fall back into some of my “hiding” behaviors.
That’s when I remembered a “love message from God” I received while journaling earlier this year.
As I re-read it, I felt the words open my heart and soothe my soul. That’s when I realized they might have the same impact on others.
Which is why I decided to share it here. Here it is, straight from my journal…
Good morning my dear…
What’s most important for you to remember today is that you cannot shut down and be open. You cannot disconnect from what’s going on inside of you AND be connected. You cannot be connected if you are disconnected from your thoughts, ideas, dreams, feelings, opinions, beliefs, judgments, desires.
You cannot be connected to Me. To yourself. To Dan. To anyone or anything. Not REALLY connected. Not fully connected.
I know, I know. You don’t like to go there — inside of you. You’re still afraid of what you will find and what it will mean about you.
What it will mean is that you are YOU. And what you will discover in the process is how much you mean to ME.
The truth of who you are IS lovable. You do not have to distort, hide, twist yourself into knots any longer. This is a time of unknotting for you. And a time of un-NOT-ing.
The moment you feel an impulse to ignore or shut down something you must, instead, EXPRESS it. You must OPEN to it. You must OPEN to yourself. You must EXPRESS yourself in the world.
That may be by telling someone — like all that you have held back with Dan. That may be by telling ME — which is always a good idea. It may be by simply acknowledging it and saying it out loud to yourself. Or writing it down. Or coloring it. Or making a sound.
Or simply EXHALING.
It must be expressed because it has Life Energy. Yes, even your fears, doubts, anger, frustrations, hurt, pain, sadness has Life Energy.
I AM in all of those things as well.
This is what being true to yourself means. This is being true to your True Self. Because your True Self knows that what you are feeling and thinking is nothing to hide or fear. It is to be experienced, expressed, healed, loved, and learned from. It is like compost that nurtures new life.
I am with you so there is nothing to fear. Most of all YOU, my dear.
My friend, I pray my story and these words open your heart and soothe your soul. I pray they give you the permission and encouragement you need to trust who you are. To BE who you are, as you are, where you are.
To know that you are loved just the way you are. You are supported. You are important.