Every once in a while you get those moments when you get hit by something small yet powerful. They change your outlook on life and give you the opportunity to hit refresh and do things better. You want to be better.
That something small for me often happens to be my youngest daughter. At 5 years old she packs a lot of wisdom.
A few days ago my family and I spent time in Santa Cruz, CA. My husband had to be there for work and we all decided, due to spring break, we would go with him. He worked and we relaxed. He enjoyed having us with him on this trip. He hates being away from us for too long.
We decided to go to dinner on our first night there. At dinner, my younger daughters were given a child’s menu. These menus (for anyone that has never seen them) have things to color, games, puzzles and mazes for the kids. They always give crayons with these menus. They are great because my girls get easily bored and when they are bored they can be quite…annoying? No…irritating? No, I want to nicer. Extremely talkative and full of question…that works.
Anyway, my daughter was coloring. I watched her for a second and saw she was kinda making a mess of the picture.
“Dee, try to color inside the lines.” I said to her.
It was nothing new for me to tell her this. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I want her to be prepared. She knows this but on occasion I remind her. This day was different. She looked at me and put on the saddest face.
“Awwww…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
My husband and my other two daughters laughed. I laughed too. I wasn’t sure if she was really sad or if she was being sarcastic with me. You never know with this kid. After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night swim. As I watched my family play I realized my mind was focused on the words my daughter said to me.
“…I wanted to color outside the lines today.”
I remember when I was a kid and how scary those words would have been for me.
We are always told not to color outside the lines. That is how I lived my life. I always did what I was told and I wanted to be seen as the good and obedient child. I never fully understood why. I guessed I just never wanted to disappoint my parents. I was the kid they didn’t have to worry about. I never skipped school or missed a day. I went to school in blizzards.
I wanted to be good because I felt so bad and dirty inside. I felt ashamed that I was dark skinned. I was scared and afraid I was being a terrible kid and going to hell for being bisexual.
I spent a good deal of my life being ashamed of myself and feeling out of place. Because of that I invented a new me. I invented a person that would be a suitable member to any group. If they wanted me to be nicer, funnier, smarter, quieter…I was that. But only for so long. All that fake emotion builds up and what I truly felt always bubbled up to the service. .
I always tried to color inside the lines. I thought it would make me happier and make people like me more. I cared what others thought about me…think about me though I do not care to admit this. I feel I have been denying who I truly am for so long that I did not truly know who I was. I had lost track of what was real and what I had invented.
After our little vacation was over we came home and settled back into our normal routine, yet those thoughts plagued me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I dreamed about it looking for some answers. Then I realized. The problem was that I was thinking too much and worrying too much. I was spending my life surviving and not living.
A few days later I went to see my therapist. We gave the usual greeting and she began as always does,
“How are you doing?”
I sighed and rubbed my hands over my eyes.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
I looked up at her.
“I’m ready to color outside the lines.”