Samantha’s Tick Marks

A few years ago, I was seeing a therapist named Samantha, trying to sort out my feelings around my marriage and myself for wanting to wreck my family. It was a decision that was many, many years in the making and I just hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it. Instead, I’d stayed, profoundly unhappy, and continuing to beat myself to a pulp for wanting and needing to leave. I’d been working with Samantha for quite a while and one day she showed me something that really opened my eyes. Every time I’d said I was sorry to her for basically who I was, she’d made a check mark. She’d been doing this for awhile and hadn’t told me. During this particular appointment, I’d said I was sorry to her, literally apologized to her because at the time I didn’t like the beach. She’d had enough and finally said to me as she held up her notepad, “Diane, do you see these tick marks?” I slowly nodded yes as I could see she was exasperated, in a healthy, therapist kind of way. She said, “I’ve taken down these tick marks every single time you have apologized for being YOU.” It was an entire page full of little marks. I looked at it like you might look at a big red F on your term paper. Wow. My entire life, because of circumstances that I believed were out of my control, I’d been shoving myself into a box, wrapping a nice big bow around it, putting it in the back corner of some dark closet where no one would ever find me, and saving myself for some other time. Instead, I’d been playing someone else entirely, telling myself Diane wasn’t good enough, pushing myself away. I’d been lying to myself about who I was, what I wanted and needed for so long, telling myself my wants and needs weren’t valid and I wasn’t good enough just as I was, as God created me to be.

Samantha announced that a theme song was needed stat. This was an emergency situation. I settled on “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keyes. “She’s got both feet on the ground and she’s burning it down. This girl is on fire. She’s walking on fire.” Years later I’m revisiting that song or perhaps I should say visiting it for the first time. While I’m definitely not on fire yet, I feel like I’m on my way to being on fire, being the best version of ME and not some foreign imposter that I don’t care to know. I’m beginning to embrace myself as I truly am, my flawed heart and soul. I’m learning about what I like and don’t like and I’m not apologizing for it anymore. I’m setting boundaries in my life where they need to be set and I’m absolutely NOT apologizing for them or for taking care of myself. It is not easy, but so necessary. I’m learning to get both feet on the ground. And I’m not sure about the burning it down part. That will come later.

Also, it turns out I love the beach now that I’m out of the company I had been keeping for so long. Actually, I absolutely adore the beach again, just like I had as a child. It hadn’t been the beach at all, it had been the circumstances and the company.

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