For the past few days, her mind has been lost, in the confusion and aftermath of something she didn’t quite understand. All she had done was try and face her inner critic, change the scathing words rebounding in her head to something more positive, something uplifting, something better than what she had been hearing of late.
On top of that, her birthday would soon be here. Lately each year she was alive was now not so much as a surprise as it was a mystery. What was her purpose for being here? Was it simply to raise a child she never thought she would have, or was it to learn as much as she could that would create growth of spirit? The first, was easy. The second would explain so much.
She looked at the man, asleep in her bed. He was another surprise or rather a mystery. His arrival in her life came when she had finally stopped wanting a man. Six months ago, she had made the decision to stop trying to force life into the mold she had created for herself. It was hard, so very hard, to let go of all the expectations, all the things that had been drilled into her.
You have to work for what you want. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t work for it. Had been the constant theme in her home growing up.
And yet, she had worked hard, really hard, and in the end, she had been tossed out on her rump. Thrown out into the street like a piece of trash. Well, a well wrapped piece of trash that is. But that wrapper only lasted for so long and she knew it. Desperation set in immediately.
It didn’t matter how hard she worked now. It didn’t matter how much she put herself out there. No one wanted her. No one cared that her experience would bring a lot of value.
Finally, after six months, she had enough. All signs pointed to forgetting what she ever knew about life, and start over. Instead of forcing life to conform, she chose to let life guide her. It didn’t take away her fears but it did give her some peace.
For six months, and in reality for far longer than that, she had felt like she was constantly in a fight, constantly in a battle, constantly waiting for the proverbial hammer to smash its way through her life, destroying everything in its path. The battle she fought was to try and prevent it from happening or to deny it would eventually happen. When it did, she was unprepared. It was devastating. It shook the very foundations of her mental stability.
That stability didn’t return until she finally let go of everything she thought she knew about life and living. She knew she was on tenuous ground. Tenuous in comparison to what she had been taught one needed to feel stability, be considered successful, and being able to take care of one’s family.
She had to go back to learning what life really was. It wasn’t a job. It wasn’t even a family. It wasn’t about doing what society demands as ‘normal’ in order to be a functioning part of society.
Life is what we have inside of us. As a child, she has always known something very special. Somehow she knew, if she spoke aloud about what she knew, people would call her crazy. Luckily, she had grown up in an environment which did not encourage any such discussion. This protected her from criticism and judgements from those she loved.
Sitting in church she knew what they taught was only fractionally true, the rest was created by man to manipulate humanity. To keep humanity away from the truth she instinctively understood. They either didn’t want them to understand, for fear they would lose their power over them, or they didn’t feel humanity could handle it. It didn’t matter which. She didn’t come to understand this until she was much, much older. She just accepted the knowledge and kept it to herself.
Since letting go of everything she had been taught about life and living, things began to change. She was no longer accepting of the harsh words her inner critic had to say. When her inner critic wasn’t successful in one area, she would move on to another area. Lately, that area had to do with her physical appearance. Refusing to let her inner critic convince her that she was unlovable, both physically and mentally, she instead chose to love herself.
It was difficult at first. Deciding to take one day at a time had been the best decision she had ever made. Then taking one small step at a time. Bombarding herself with a dozen things all at once had been her downfall in the past. It was how she sabotaged herself. It was her way of proving to herself that all the negative internal talk was true.
Then one day, she looked at herself in the mirror and realized she had indeed changed. She was no longer the frumpy, dumpy woman who looked like she had come from the wrong side of the tracks. She had slowly altered her wardrobe. One day she walked into a store and found a blouse that made her feel good, so she bought it. Each week she chose one thing to do that would make her feel good. One week it was a piece of clothing. Another week, it was an accessory for her hair. Another week, it was maybe a book or another piece of clothing.
Daily, she had begun to take walks. Instead of thinking about walking as an exercise to change her physical body or convince it into losing weight, it was to just feel the air flow through her hair, or the rain upon her skin, or the earth under her feet, or see the beauty in nature around her. She started to notice, she felt more grounded, more in tune with her environment.
On occasion, her inner critic would get terribly loud. That is what happened a few days ago when she happened upon a man she had once known years ago. They had known each other when she was young, vibrant, full of life, but oh so confused about everything. They had a brief love affair but she had run off when her feelings reached a certain depth which frightened her. It was years before she understood this about herself.
They sat and talked. He had been curious about her life and what had happened. She decided to be completely honest with him about what she had finally understood about herself and why she reacted as she had. She had often wondered why he hadn’t pursued her. As they spoke, he revealed he had been just as confused.
For the following days, they spent hours together just talking. Neither of them held back on anything about their past. Neither of them judged the other. Each meeting left her feeling lighter. She hadn’t realized how much she had needed to talk to someone about everything without feeling as though she needed to justify any of it.
Occasionally, whenever they would talk, she would begin to shake. She knew the shaking was caused by the intensity of the emotions she held back. One day, during one of those moments, he reached over to her hand that was resting upon the table between them and let his fingers just lightly rest upon her fingers.
A bit of magic occurred. The energy flowed out of her and into him. He absorbed it like a sponge. She could feel herself breathe again, and from him flowed a calm, relaxing energy, which filled her completely.
After half a dozen or so of these meetings in public, she decided to invite him to her home. He offered to buy some Chinese takeout and they could eat and talk without having to worry about taking a table for too long in a restaurant or cafe like they had been doing. Before they knew it, they had talked through the night. It was 5am. Luckily, neither one of them needed to be anywhere the next day. She wasn’t ready for him to leave yet and he wasn’t ready to go.
The simple touch of his fingers had slowly graduated to holding hands, then to sitting close on the sofa as they continued to talk through the night. By 5am, she was wrapped in his warm embrace, with her head resting on his shoulder. They were past the need to look in each other’s faces as they spoke. She found this seemed to allow them to speak more freely about their hopes, their dreams, and even their lack of having any dreams at all.
Over the past couple of years, facing so much, dreaming had become a past time she no longer had a desire to spend her time doing. Dreams had become something she no longer had. When she revealed this to him, his arms held her tighter, expressing his sadness for her more completely than any words could ever have done.
Moments of silence occurred throughout the night, sometimes she would doze off for a few minutes and when she woke, they would continue talking again. Sometimes he would doze off as well. By 5am, it was becoming apparent that both of them were in need of sleep and the sofa wasn’t sufficient.
She stood, offered her hand to him, “come”. He took her hand, followed her to her room and fully clothed they lay down together. His arms wrapping her in warmth. He slipped off to sleep within moments. She turned towards him pulling the edge of the comforter over herself and looked at him. She took in all his features, loving all their characteristics. Some would call them flaws but not her.
For the past few days, her inner critic had been bombarding her with harsh words. “He doesn’t love you, could never love you. You are ugly. You are fat. He could never want someone like you….” On and on she went.
Finally, yesterday, before he was to arrive in her home for the first time, she had enough. She sat down and used the art skills she had been learning over the past year, to face her inner critic. She wrote out her frustrations over her inner critic and the harsh words she was always saying. She put energy into it, by letting her feelings flow into the words she wrote. She told her inner critic how she was such a liar and would no longer believe her. That it didn’t matter if he loved her on not, that she loved herself and that was all she needed.
She filled the fourteen by seventeen inch canvas, telling her inner critic how she felt and how she would no longer allow her lies to interfere with her life. She also told her inner critic she understood her inner critic’s purpose was to protect her from being hurt but that she needed to understand that her harsh words hurt her more.
Once she was done filling the canvas with the words, sometimes overlapping them in order to get them all on the canvas, she reached for her art supplies. She covered the canvas in her favorite colors, making abstract marks. She didn’t focus on anything, just let her feelings flow as she randomly reached for the colors she loved so much. After two hours she had a canvas filled with beautiful marks. One thing she loved about acrylic paint was how fast it dries. She hung the canvas on her bedroom wall where she would see it each morning when she woke. She looked at it now as she drifted off to sleep, knowing she had come to an understanding with her inner critic she had never thought possible.
Hours later she emerged slowly from her sleep. His arms still wrapped around her. His breath soft upon her cheek. He held her close, so close, she had no doubt of his physical response to her, but then again, her inner critic had something to say about that. It could be just from dreams as he slept. She almost laughed out loud when almost in the same moment those thoughts crossed her mind, did a soft kiss upon her cheek dispel them.
He, who so easily read her body language, felt the humorous chuckle flow silently through her body and asked her what it meant. So, she told him, explaining what she had noticed about his physical condition and what her inner critic had to say and the timing of his soft kiss.
Suddenly, gone was the patient man, the man who took slow steps. She had turned towards him to see his reaction to her explanation. As the last words, left her mouth, his mouth covered hers, proving beyond a doubt how wrong her inner critic was.
She both felt in his kiss the power of his attraction to her but also his demand in showing her just how wrong her thoughts were. His kiss wasn’t harsh. It was sensual. He tasted her like she tasted like fine chocolate. Devouring her while at the same time, cherishing her so as not to rush through a single bite.
He moved them both, rolling her onto her back, he covered her completely with his body. He didn’t, so much as press down on her as, to let their bodies mold against each other. He was strong, and hard, soft and yielding, and somehow comforting and protective.
He kissed her face, her cheeks, her eyes, her neck, and nibbled on her earlobe. No further did he go. She could have made love to him right there and then but he pulled back. Sat up on the edge of the bed and softly caressed her cheek with his thumb.
“I’ll prove your inner critic wrong, as many times as I have to, until you are no longer tempted to believe her. For now, this is enough to start with.”
She understood. They had spent over twelve hours together and they both needed some time. This last meeting had introduced more elements to consider and they both needed time to absorb what it meant.