Friday, April 13, 2012

The Courage to be Imperfect

In America, there are forty-two million survivors of sexual abuse.  More than 28 million adults are also "children of alcoholics."   The research indicates that biological children of alcohol dependent parents even when adopted continue to have an increased risk of developing alcoholism.  Yet, so many believe that they are the only ones. 

I used to believe that I had "popped out" on the side of normalcy because I've been able to avoid the "big" addictions; alchohol, drugs, sex, food, overworking.  Let me assure you, it  is only by the grace of God

Overworking would seem like the addiction of choice from the list above.  But the truth is I was blessed with the gift of a photographic memory.  That made academic achievements come easy.   It also earned me the recognition and approval that I so desperately needed.  I also believed that I could be, do and have anything I ever wanted.  My mom used to call it "stubborness." She now calls it "determination."  

I don't quite fit the bill of a perfectionist because I have never been overly critical of myself.  I guess I had enough people around to do that for me.  I earned "The Messy Desk Award" in the fifth grade and I continue to keep piles of books and paper on my desk.  I organize it often, but somehow the mess inches back.   I don't make excuses anymore when a friend is over and happens to venture into my home office.  It is what it is.  I have awesome friends who are concerned with more important things than my desk or the dirty dishes left in my kitchen sink.  I  might still wipe down the bathroom, but I don't have to tidy up for them anymore.  I love you guys.

Still, for the greater part of my life, I have thrived on creating the illusion that all was perfect in my world; that I was immune to hurtful words and actions.  That I could not only survive, but also thrive in the midst of difficult experiences.  I could do no wrong and I could do this all on my own.  Hmmm.  Sounds familiar?

In my senior year of high school, my teachers would often say to me "you always have a smile on your face."  "How do you get excellent grades, be involved and still manage to work part-time?"  I loved playing the part of a "super hero."

My childhood diaries reveal that I was "addicted" to falling in love rather than being in love.  Being known as "the smart, quiet one" created a bit of intrigue, I guess.  But it also earned me the label of being "stuck up."  "You think you're better than everyone, don't ya?" one guy accused.  I rolled my eyes, turned  and walked away. Just another of my stellar performances worthy of an academy award.  I cried myself to sleep that night.

Playing hard to get was not because I was overly virtuous, but because I was afraid to let anyone near.  There were too many secrets.  Too much to hide.  

I used to struggle to carry the heavy burdens of pain and shame all on my own.  I thought that I was supposed to.  Most people notice the physical scars and challenges, but never the scars that remain invisible to the often critical human eye. 

We need that sense of connection.  It's a part of our nature as human beings.  And, still we often lose important aspects of who we truly are in order to get to that place of belonging and acceptance. 

If I have to be thin, modest and use all my resources to conceal my blemishes and keep up with the Joneses, I guess I'll never fit in.  But, I still deserve to be here in this world. 

Even after sharing personal aspects of my life in a book for the world to read, I have at times still wanted to hide.  Talk about hitting the send button.  No turning back now.  Yikes. 

I have released much pain and shame, but I must admit that at times I feel quite vulnerable.  So why do I do this? 

My life has been filled with grace and that compels me to help others in their journey of healing.  Life is truly magical when you believe it to be so.  My dream is for us all to evolve to a place of living life connected to the heart of who we really are and teach our children to do the same.  Pollyannaish? Utopia? Another fairytale?

Not only do I still love fairytales, but I also believe in miracles and in ever after.  That is just who I am.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Love and Blessings to you,

Kathleen O'Malley

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