When I was in middle school I remember crying because of mean girls. They were so mean… starting at a young age. I feel for any girl who’s been left out of a club, who isn’t included in a game, who finds herself bossed around because she feels, from the depths of her soul, that silence maybe is the answer to all of this aggression. I can still remember that pain, and this helps me relate to my step kids and their very real feelings (more on that in a bit here).
So, there I was, crying. My mom was comforting me as she always did.
And let me tell you something about my mom. She ALWAYS TELLS THE TRUTH. It’s something I love and something that, at least a few times, I wished she wasn’t so good at. Like the time I put the wrong liquid in my contact case and when I put my contacts in my eyes, it felt like my eyes were being chemically burned. They turned red, I took out my contacts, and showed up to church (she worked at the church and was there already) with my sisters, in tears, wearing my glasses and when I found her I asked desperately, “Mom!! Am I going to go blind??!”
What she said was this: “Well, I really don’t know sweetie.”
I was devastated. I wanted her say this: “Of course not. No way. You’re totally fine!”
But she didn’t know what I’d used, she didn’t know what was going to happen, and she wasn’t about to lie to me just to comfort me. And luckily, the burning went away and my eyes were totally okay.
So anyway, back to the comforting moment. My heart was hurting and I was calming down after needing to get those tears out and I asked my mom, “When you grow up, do mean girls stop being mean?!”
Here was another golden opportunity for her to reassure me that life would be rainbows and butterflies and that these trials were only for those three horrible years some people refer to as middle school.
What she said was this: “No, honey. Sometimes the mean girls just get worse. But there’s some good news here. The nice people usually get nicer. AND you won’t be stuck in the hallway with them. You’ll have a lot more freedom in that way, and so, those mean girls won’t be as present in your life.”
Oh man, I was just crushed. I thought adults were supposed to have their act together. I thought they cut the shit and started being good people… brains develop ALL the way… they’ve been through their own trials… and the women… surely by now, every woman is a feminist and just wants to support all women, all the time…. right?
Welp, turns out my mom told me the very brutal truth again. (thanks mom!)
Which brings me to #6 in my 20 Things Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.
6. What can I let go of?
And I’ll start my answer to this question by telling another little story, and this time, I’m the grown up.
It’s kind of cool, because now that I have three step kids, I get to solve problems, give advice, learn from them all the time, and just have some unique issues in general that always lead to a good conversation. I love it.
So kids, their emotions are 100% real. I know this, but I think sometimes a reminder is good, too. For instance:
Somewhat recently one of the kids was very upset because another kid was reporting information about them that that the accused knew was false. This happened right at the dinner table. The accused got very loud and very upset, saying something along the lines of, “That is NOT true! He/She is LYING! I did NOT do that!” (Obviously, I don’t want to give away who was doing what ;) ) I chose to take the moment to teach a lesson. I said very calmly, “Okay then. So, you know you didn’t do it, right?” And he/she nodded. “Well, that’s all that matters.” Then I pointed at my own heart. “As long as you know the truth in here, what he/she is saying about you doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t let it upset you. Does that make sense? You’re your own unique person and you know your truth.” The lesson was well taken, but I’ve given the same schpeal a few times now.
HO, HO, HO. The joke’s on me, though. And recently I had to sit down and remind myself of the very advice I had given my step kids.
My mom was right — those mean girls are way less present in my life. Almost 99% of the time, my life is just plain awesome in that regard. I have amazing friends who support me, listen to me, laugh with me and smile with me. Things have gotten much better since middle school. Thank God. However, she was also right when she said that the mean girls would only get worse. There are some people out there with cold hearts, who can’t really look inside and like what they see… who maybe don’t know their own truth.
And I had to let go of things that I let get under my skin. I had to sit down at the table and give myself the same pep talk. “Melinda, you know your own heart. You know that your silence is stronger than negative words. You know your actions have been pure, strong, and that God is always with you. You know this. Don’t let the one single voice saying the exact opposite of everyone else ring in your head. You know your truth.”
It was a good reminder of just how real those kids’ emotions are. When they feel they are being wrongly accused, they feel the injustice and they have the instinct to right it.
As an adult, not only are people possibly even more hurtful, but ALSO!!!!!!! the instinct to defend yourself, right the wrong and shout it out to the world is still there, but we can’t do it. We have to sit on our hands and bite our tongues and take calming breaths and remember that actions can only be done — they can never be undone.
I had to let go of negativity and resentment. And then I had to call one of my best girlfriends (after calling my mom, of course) and laugh about the whole entire ridiculous situation and remember that the “hallway” is a lot bigger, and though we can’t rid our lives of evil or hurt, we can continue knowing our hearts.
At the end of the day, I have dignity, and that’s much better than a loud word.
However, the next time this happens at dinner, I might be a little less quick to preach and a little more ready to hear the hurt.
Lou (who is learning more about her heart with each and every trying moment)