Growing up in my small town world I learned to exist safely within the lines of black and white. My perfect little world had very little conflict. Every question had an answer.
There was always a right answer and a wrong one. There were good people and bad people. It was black and white, but never grey.
Grey was scary. Grey was doubtful. Grey was iffy. Grey was lukewarm. Grey was too complicated. Hence, due to these reasons and more, Grey simply, was never an option.
I was very good at only coloring inside the lines.
This mindset may not have been always taught to me verbatim or even vocalized, but for a young, impressionable girl who desperately wanted to fit in, to be seen, to be heard, and to be valued–it was what I learned to believe was needed and normal in order to gain all those things.
Coming out of that world and finding that living life as an adult on my own has not been as readily black and white like I once believed it to be has created a multitude of emotions and experiences for me. Emotions and experiences that I often find very difficult to truly articulate the full meaning and feeling of, even to those who know me and love me closely.
I have been struggling to know what my next subject area should be here on the blog for the past month since I got resettled into my new location.
I started this blog because I found the courage to share my voice. But I must confess, I am still very much a beginner at sharing the real voice. When you spend years only sharing the voice and thoughts and opinions you think people want to hear, versus the one you actually have buried deep inside — the transition becomes really murky as you search to let the truth come to the surface.
While this process is something I am still growing in daily, I believe there are a few lessons and truths I have learned along the way that are worth sharing–if nothing else because of how they have helped me become the version of myself that I am today.
A, Kallie, that is much stronger, more honest, a whole lot braver, much more real, and compassionate towards others and to myself in more ways than I ever was able to be in the past.
Some of you have mentioned to me that you have enjoyed hearing about how I have gone about changing from the homeschooled church girl who knew a whole-lot-more about the Bible and about what she was supposed to believe in than life outside my childhood world to the woman I am today — the doubter, truth-seeker, avid learner, incessant question-asker, working-on-my-fears-and-insecurities, fighting-to-hold-on-to-my-faith-with-integrity person that I am.
So, tonight, I want to start a series talking about some lessons I have learned on the way out.
I want to start that out by sharing a lie I quickly believed after I was first on my own. A lie that I have since recognized for its damage, but one that I am still learning how to uproot from my life.
When I first moved out on my own, as a young adult, I quickly learned that I had been thrown into a world where I no longer fit. So my worst fears began sneaking their way to the surface — I began to feel alone.
I wore clothes and shopped at stores that my peers’ mothers and grandmothers shopped at.
I never got jokes.
I had to ask a friend to tell me every curse word they could think of and what they meant so I would know why people would randomly apologize to me for saying words I didn’t know.
I started keeping a list of every movie I saw in theaters and a running list in my head of every movie people brought up that I hadn’t seen that I needed to watch. If I had a dollar for every person who has been dumbfounded over me not seeing this movie, that tv show, or knowing this element of pop culture, or that song, etc. over the past 8 years, I would be a lot richer than I am now.
Since I didn’t know what was cool and what was not or what a girl my age should like, all I knew to do was copy — so copy I did. Everywhere I could.
It was the only way I knew how to learn and the only way I knew how to survive feeling surrounded and yet scared to death of being exposed for my ignorance and feeling alone all the time.
Slowly but surely, I began to believe this lie that very few would ever truly understand what I was going through, and so I was alone. Life itself seemed to confirm this as events beyond my control only seemed to naturally determine that when I felt most alone and needed those few in my life who did see the real me, that they would inevitably be out of reach.
Events and experiences began to pile up. For every person and time that I met that I thought got me and would hear me — life would bring that many more who wouldn’t or something would happen to change the ones who did. As I began changing myself and learning more — chameleon mode was all I knew to be to many people in my life– because being the real me and taking the chance of yet one more person or experience leaving me feeling unheard, misunderstood, and alone was too risky.
But hiding it all and carrying it all got to be really heavy. So about three years into this journey, I got tired enough of the charade and somehow felt safe enough to dare trying to be really honest with someone. I just let it go. I told my story one night in a red truck to a boy and story after story kept tumbling out till we realized it was 2:00 AM in the morning. I was convinced after that night he would never want to talk to me again. No longer would I be that random chick friend from swing dance club — but, instead I would be that crazy christian homeschool girl who dumped her crazy life story and family’s life stories on him for hours into the night.
But, I wasn’t.
When he called me and wanted to hang out again, I don’t know why but I decided to let even more hang out. Why not invite him for a family dinner? I’d dust off some old cooking skills, make the family favorite fried chicken with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy and in the meantime my crazy-large family with all nine children would send him running back to the hills. If that didn’t than inviting him for sunday family dinner, where conversations circled on all things Christian, church friends often joined us, and Charismatically-inclined spontaneous prayer sessions were known to occur would definitely send this professing agnostic-catholic raised boy running.
But, then it didn’t.
Slowly I learned that it didn’t matter what amount of vulnerability, honesty, or any level of me I threw at him — he never even blinked, but instead just walked a little closer and opened his heart a little wider.
Marriage to this man has not changed this about him.
A marital therapist recently wrote,
We marry people because we like who they are. People change. Plan on it. Don’t marry someone because of who they are, or who you want them to become. Marry them because of who they are determined to become. And then spend a lifetime joining them in their becoming, as they join you in yours. ~Dr. Kelly M. Flanagan
Marriage to this man has been a journey of me becoming, and no matter how difficult that becoming process has gotten he continues to learn and love me through it. It is something I am also learning how to do from him and with him. We are far from perfect at it, but even in the messiest of times or scariest moments of my changing or speaking my scary, buried truths out loud I have found a man who listens. It is in those moments that I know I am loved and I am not alone.
Along the way I have found that there will always be days and moments where the voices seem louder and the aloneness feels so much greater than any other truth out there.
That even with a man who loves me and works hard to understand me that there will be days where he can’t be there or won’t get it. But this doesn’t mean that the overwhelming emotion and fear are the greater truth worth listening to. It may feel that way, it may be that way for the moment, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
The greatest power in fear and loneliness is in how they both demand and accomplish silence.
Once spoken and once you are heard you don’t feel as scared or as lonely.
So I have learned to recognize how these two emotions often work hand-in-hand. My feelings of being alone and my fear of telling someone I feel that way and them not hearing or understanding thus confirming the reality I am feeling and fearing becomes a deadly cycle of thoughts and emotions.
Frankly the only way I have learned to get out of it is to speak and to find the right people to be listeners in my life. Even if it does mean speaking to someone and having your worst fears confirmed because for that day you happened to pick the wrong listener. TRUST me I have done it countless times. But for the times that I have tried or tried multiple times and found that one real listener, each time I have learned something new about myself and about the people in my life who really matter.
And each time I choose to trust a wrong listener, I learn more about what kind of people truly matter in my life, who I want to surround myself with, and more about the person I am choosing to become.
The people in your life who matter, are the people who want you to be your most authentic self, and who will want to be that version of themselves around you.
These people give you the courage to speak, the respect and love you need to thrive, the honest challenge you need to grow, and a healthy dose of enough humanity to remind you that we all are a work in progress.
These people are the ones in my corner, and I would not be the person I am today without them.
So what is your greatest fear? What are the voices telling you? And Who are the listeners and people that matter in your life?
Grab on to them, be listeners for them, and join me in learning to speak those untold stories.