So I'm at McAlisters yesterday, eating my regular spud ole with veggie chili and drinking my Diet Dr. Pepper. I was by myself so I had my Blackberry on the table and my Sony Reader out reading One Day by David Nicholls. (Could this paragraph have more product placement?)
Here's a description of the book "Dexter, the louche public school boy, and Emma, the brainy Yorkshire lass, meet the day they graduate from university in 1988 and run circles around one another for the next 20 years."
I was just sitting there enjoying my lunch and reading and then this paragraph from the book hit me. It's part of a letter Dex was writing to Emma:
Em, we've know each other five or six years now, and I think I know what your problem is. I think you're scared of being happy, Emma. I think you think that the natural way of things is for your life to be grim and grey and dour and to hate your job, hate where you live, not to have success or money or God forbid a boyfriend (and a quick discersion here- that whole self-deprecating thing about being unattractive is getting pretty boring I can tell you). In fact I'll go further and say that I think you actually get a kick out of being disappointed and under-achieving, because it's easier, isn't it? Failure and unhappiness is easier because you make a joke out of it ... and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of Confidence. Either that or a scented candle.
If reading the above excerpt didn't mean anything to you, you have my permission to stop reading this blog post and continue on with your day.
My reaction to reading the above was getting the wind knocked out of me. I had to put my Reader down and just sit with it for a minute. Then waves of memories and emotions hit me hard.
How Dexter described Emma is how I think. Or how I used to think I guess would be more accurate. It's true - I think it can be easier to be miserable. There's no risk, no disappointment, no chance to feel any worse than you already feel.
I used to be so scared of happiness because I didn't want to have it and then have it taken away from me.
The rest of the day I kept thinking about this letter Dexter wrote to Emma. It made me remember an important turning point in my life (don't you love those - they sound so dramatic). It was April/May 1994. I was finishing up my English class in my first year of college. We had to do some sort of paper on a poet. ~Man, I hate poetry. I'm sorry, but I don't get it. I spend too much time looking up the words in the dictionary to appreciate how beautiful the writing is.~ So, I was not looking forward to this assignment. Somehow I ended up reading "Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters"
And I'm telling you, it did totally change me. Keep in mind, I read this over 15 years ago, but what I remember from the book (even if I'm right or not) was how selfish this woman was. She was so conceited and self-centered. She had a husband and children and she didn't care about them. She was manipulative. She would write these letters to her friend who was a priest and she would flirt with him. She saw it as a challenge. She knew he couldn't be with her, but she pushed and pushed until he fell in love with her.
When I read her letters, I identified with some of her characteristics and I didn't like what I saw. When you think of someone that's conceited you probably think of someone that thinks they're better than everyone else, but I had a different kind of conceit. I was one of those people that thought everyone was looking at me and judging me - good or bad. That can really mess with your head and how you think.
I was manipulative - not in a mean way, but in a way that would get me what I want. If someone called me out on something I did wrong, I could spin it around and make it their fault. I could have them in tears apologizing to me.
So from that point on I've worked on those traits. I still have them and I have to be careful to not let them have a negative impact on myself and my relationships.
I've since tried to go back and read that book that had such an impact on my life and I can never get past the first few chapters. It must have been an in the moment thing.
Another big thing that happened in my life at the same time was I was kind of seeing a guy at school who didn't treat me very well and I was completely fine with that. Luckily, it ended before it could even get started.
I remember vividly packing up my dorm room and picking up this photo of (my now husband) Jim and saying to myself "why can't I find a guy like Jim?" Later that I night I put my hooks into Jim at a party and I never let go. I was a good person and deserved happiness. I deserved to be treated well. I did deserve a guy like Jim.
Ok, I'm not sure if it was this exact photo - but he looks hot in this one so I'm using it. (I stole this shirt from him when we were dating and I still wear it at home.)
I'm all over the place today with this blog. Let me see if I can bring it all back together ...
These "bad" traits I've mentioned - scared of being happy, self-deprecation, getting a kick out of being disappointed and under-achieving, failure and unhappiness being easier, selfishness, conceit, manipulation. Do you see where they can be connected to being overweight and unhealthy? When you're overweight you sometimes believe it's easier to be fat. You're already fat and getting by in life. You know what you're getting. There's no risk of trying and failing. Failure and unhappiness is easier because you make a joke out of it. It's always someone else's fault.
But if you can get that wake-up call. If you can have that one spark of hope. If you can read that one special book or meet that one special person or whatever it takes for you to turn you world around, your way of thinking around. You can realize you deserve to be happy. You deserve to treat yourself well and be treated well by others.
But the thing that stuck with me the most from Dexter's letter was not how he told her he thought she liked being unhappy. It was the one gift he wanted to give Emma for the rest of her life. The scented candle.
Just kidding. Confidence. It would be the gift of Confidence. How many of you out there can say that you have confidence? Confidence ... such a powerful thing. Seriously. Think how much confidence it's takes to decide to make a change to better yourself. You're taking everything you know about yourself and turning it upside down and you're screaming at the top of you lungs "I can do this!"
Whether it's to be a better person, or to treat others better, or to go after that cute guy you've had a crush on, or to decide to eat the right foods, or to put down the remote and put on your sneakers, or to run a 5k. It all takes CONFIDENCE. If you don't have it, you won't succeed.
So what do you want? What do you want right now? Whatever it is, grab on to it, gain the confidence you need and go out and do it!
Have a great weekend everyone. Make it the best one possible.