Some of my most-formative years of life were spent in foster care (following a handful of tumultuous years with my family of origin). These early years formed my biggest fears, my greatest strengths, and so many of my habits, both good and bad ones. But I didn’t always understand how much my childhood had impacted me, because I was taught that it was more important to focus on the present, to be grateful for the pleasant things in life, and to sweep anything unpleasant under the proverbial rug.
Later this philosophy was reinforced when I became a Christian and assumed that believing in Jesus meant that I automatically let go of everything painful from my past instead of working through it. A spiritual sweeping under the rug, so to speak. So I pretended to be happy and fulfilled because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be, all the while ignoring the angst that kept me afraid and anxious, far from a genuinely happy and fulfilled life.
It took someone else’s story to show me the danger of my suppression. She came from a similar background as I (formerly fostered and currently Christian) and had suppressed her emotional baggage like I had. One day in the craziness of life and a situation I won’t go into detail here, she was accused of neglecting and abandoning her own child, an accusation that summoned to the surface all of her own feelings of childhood abandonment and neglect. And as I heard her story, it stirred up in me my own suppressed feelings of abandonment and rejection. Suddenly all my fears and anxieties, all my exhausting strivings for perfection and acceptance, it all made sense. Her story sparked an urgent internal drive to dig my own debris out from under the rug, to look at it, see it for what it was, and put it in its appropriate place.
Thus began in me a long and winding journey toward actually being ok, instead of just pretending. If you don’t know what that feels like, I invite you to take the first step: Acknowledge and accept that you feel angsty (complicated and competing emotions) about something, stop sweeping it under the rug, and get ready to examine it more deeply. In my next post, I’ll show you what I learned about my own angstyness which projected me forward in the journey toward growth, freedom, and grace—for myself and others.