I must interrupt your scheduled tour of the Momastery with breaking news.
This past Saturday my 15 year high school reunion was held, in the form of a family picnic. The day began ominously.
I stepped outside on Saturday morning and noted that it was pouring down ice cold rain. I expressed my dismay but was actually pleased, because this seemed a valid excuse to stay home from the reunion. Usually, the moment after I accept any invitation, I start searching for excuses to cancel. This cancelling compulsion is a little character defect that I plan to discuss with my therapist as soon as I locate the time and money to hire one. For now, let’s just say that my desire to bail reached epic proportions the morning of the reunion.
But since I’ve received no expert opinion about how to fight my flight instinct….I did what I always do the day of events I’m planning to ditch. I started dropping not-so-subtle hints to Craig during breakfast.
This weather is ridiculous, I said. I really don’t think we should take Amma outside in it.
Why don’t you go by yourself to the picnic and I’ll keep the kids?
Oh, that won’t work.
I’m not sure why not. But I’ll think of the reason in a minute.
I think you should go, Glennon.
I know, I said.
But I was scared.
I don’t remember much of who I was in high school. Much of that time is a vague and uncomfortable memory. But I do know that I treated myself very poorly. And I also know that people who treat themselves poorly rarely treat others well. So I don’t allow myself to think about that time often, because I don’t want to remember how many I people I hurt in my quest to stop myself from hurting.
In high school I was so consumed with what other people thought of me that I had no time to actually notice other people. I was so terrified that I wouldn’t have the right friends that I never really tried to be a friend to anyone who was available. I was so paralyzed by the feeling that I was on the outside looking in, that I never peeked to my left or right, to see if there might be someone else looking in too, someone who might like to chat. Instead of opening myself up to others on the periphery of high school life, I turned my back on them, because acknowledging them would be an admission that I wasn’t inside enough. Acknowledging anyone else would have meant that I needed someone to talk to. I was so singularly focused on becoming and remaining popular that I had no concern with being liked.
All of this anxiety proved itself too much for me, so I held my breath all day at school until I could get home and exhale with several boxes of cereal and my arms wrapped around a toilet. And after that I’d feel disgusted and sick enough not to feel anything else. And that was better. It also kept me busy, so I didn’t have to do anything hard or scary like truly make friends. I was voted “best leader” in high school, and I was the one with the microphone at the pep rallies….but somehow I didn’t manage to make and keep a single friend. I had a few chances with good people, but then I went away to college and started drinking, too. And the self induced food and booze drama ensured that whatever bridges I built were burned or simply left unattended to decay and crumble.
In high school I think I was so desperate to belong to a group that it was impossible for me to relate to anyone individually. I think that’s why Craig and the kids have been so healing for me. Because they, finally, are my group. I belong to them and they belong to me. And I can say with confidence that I’m one of the top three most popular girls in my house. I might even venture to say that I’m a trendsetter in these parts.
But yesterday I had to leave my group and go back to high school. And I was literally shaking in the shower with the anticipation of facing this monster who was my past self, and of facing people who once upon a time knew her and maybe, I thought, didn’t care for her much.
And apparently I would have to go in the freezing rain. So there would be no cute outfit or sassy hair behind which to hide. And no booze. And no husband. I didn’t even have a stick of gum to assist me in appearing busy and aloof. I was unprepared. I got into the shower and started taking a lot of deep breaths.
When I climbed out of the shower and reached for my makeup I realized it was gone. I turned my bathroom and bedroom upside down in a frantic search and then ran downstairs to interrogate Tish. She stared at me blankly. I scoured the entire house. Make-up – GONE.
I went back to my bathroom, stared into the mirror and asked God if He was sure that all of this was really necessary. I said that I understood completely why He needed to take my cereal binges, my rum and cokes, my chardonnay, and my cigarettes. But I suggested politely that maybe taking my concealer and eye shadow, too, was a tad melodramatic. Even for Him. I waited and continued to stare into the mirror, hoping for a cosmic apology and a dramatic reappearance of my toiletry bag. I heard nothing except for the sound of a mammoth, angry zit screaming at me from my chin. It dawned on me slowly and heavily that God was planning to send me into battle with no weapons or armor at all. I glanced back down at the bathroom counter, half- expecting to find a slingshot.
I decided to just keep breathing and put one foot in front of the other. I found Tish’s makeup bag (long story), and did my best to cover my zits and eyelids with her glittery Wet and Wild mess. I ended up looking, well, a lot like I did in high school. And then I threw on a big sweater and jeans, grabbed the only social buffers available, Chase and Tish, and set out to meet Goliath.
When I pulled into the park where the picnic was being held I opened up my parking pass and saw that it said “Class of ’94 – Go to Shelter A.” And I started to cry right there in the car. Because shelter was such a comforting word.
This did wonders for my 99 cent mascara which, I now realized too late, was purple.
So Chase, Tish, and I pulled up to the shelter. And the rain kept falling, but we made it under the roof of the shelter together and walked straight to the heater to warm our hands. And then people started hugging us and we started hugging people back.
And now, you guys should probably know, I’m crying again while writing this and I can’t stop the tears.
Because I was there. In a way that I was never really there in high school. And I hugged people and noticed them and met their husbands and shook their wives’ hands and held their babies. I listened to their stories and asked questions and actually cared about their answers. I watched Tony cook burgers for us in the rain and met his beautiful wife, Joy. I laughed with Jennifer, who is as warm and cozy as a fireplace, and tried hard just to enjoy her instead of wishing I’d gotten to spend high school laughing with her, too. I met Jen’s baby boys and learned about her brother’s wife and her parents’ trips to Idaho in their RV. I met Brian’s wife Kate, and got to hold their daughter Emily’s baby soft hand. I watched people hold Tish’s hand and pat Chase’s head. I got to meet Smita’s kind and sophisticated husband and tickle her little boy’s feet. I talked, really talked, to Aylene, who might be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, for reasons other than her stunning appearance. She let me hold her baby boy, Landon, for a long time, and I rubbed his cheek while she told me about her life. And I got to notice, out loud, that Dave’s little boy Joe looks exactly like him, except with his wife’s pretty brown eyes. And then I saw Susie, who I always respected too much to talk to in high school. And when I nervously approached her to tell her how beautiful her children were, I learned that I remembered her quiet dignity exactly right.
And it all felt like joy. Like what I wanted so badly to feel in high school. That I was a part of something. I felt part of a we.
Here we are.
In high school I tried so hard to make things look pretty on the outside, but the inside was stormy and cold and dark. Yesterday was the opposite.
It was a true reunion, for me. It was my new, whole, and present self meeting my old, afraid self, holding her hand and saying, to her – it’s okay. It’s okay, now. Because we finally get it. And the lesson was worth learning the hard, long way. Because we understand now that it was never about what those people thought of us. It was just about those people.
Thank you. Thank you Jen, Jennifer, Tara, Christy, Anne Marie, Eric, and everyone else who made yesterday happen.
Thank you for helping me reunite.