Looking back, it seems almost funny, but at the time, I was furious, embarrassed, and petrified all at the same time. It was a strange mix of emotions.
I probably shouldn’t have agreed to go. Why would I want to tag along for a women’s church group potluck anyway? I hadn’t been to one before, why start now? I think my friend convinced me it would be good to have lots of support at a time like this, but it didn’t exactly work out that way.
We were sitting in the back yard of an influential lady’s house, eating salad and sandwiches. I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all, but that wasn’t unusual for me. I was a bit of a social misfit, and often felt awkward around people I didn’t know very well. There were ladies of all descriptions milling around the yard, perched on railings and sitting on plastic chairs, eating, laughing, and getting reacquainted after the summer hiatus. It was the first event of the fall, and clearly it was the place to be.
Isn’t hindsight 20/20? I know my main mistake. I sat too close to the busybodies. I was minding my own business — actually, I was probably trying to be invisible, a feat I haven’t yet perfected — when the gossip ringleader, timing it so I had just swallowed a bite, said to me in a sweet tone “so how was your summer, Teresa?” She was well-connected enough to know full well it hadn’t been a bundle of fun. Everyone and everything stopped (I think several women held their breaths), as they waited for my reply.
I didn’t even have the merciful delay that needing to finish chewing and swallowing gives. I was between bites! I panicked, and hastily replied through clenched teeth, “fine, thank you, how was yours.” The birds resumed singing and the ladies exhaled and exchanged knowing looks.
I had just been through the most tumultuous time in my life. After being married for two years, all of which was abusive in one way or another, I had finally found the courage and the window of opportunity to leave. I had been incommunicado for about three weeks, trying to sort through the overwhelming emotions and get my head on straight again. I had only been back in my normal routine for a week or so, and was barely able to talk about it without crying. I sure wasn’t going to feed the rumour mill!
The months and years that followed were incredibly hard yet incredible periods of growth for me. I moved into a place of my own and learned how to piece my life back together. I started spontaneously composing music. My view of Spirit expanded beyond the church norm. I learned so much about life, people, relationships, friendship, expectations, and especially, myself. I decided to write this book as a way to share what I’ve learned and help others overcome their past.
We all have skeletons in the closet.
They are things we are ashamed to admit we did, things we feel were great mistakes, or simply embarrassing things we’d rather not remember, and certainly not want others to find out about. Or hurtful things that were done to us that we’d like to pretend never happened, or traumatic scenarios that unfolded beyond our control. Some skeletons were made yesterday, others decades ago. These and many other things can linger from the past into the present, affecting our daily lives and holding us back from all we’re meant to be.
If you had to describe what you think life is in one word, what would it be? Is it a race, a game, a joke, or a test…? Think about this for a few minutes ― even close this book to answer that question for yourself before reading on. If you have a hard time boiling it down into one or two words, don’t worry about it.
What you believe about life affects how you face life and your skeletons, and how you interact with people from your past. If you think life’s a race, you’re bound to be very driven and perhaps even cut-throat competitive. You’re probably hard on yourself and not very forgiving. If you think life’s just something you have to get through to get to heaven, you might have a great deal of anxiety and have a hard time enjoying the present. You’re missing out on the heaven that is here, found in every moment we are deeply aware. Whatever you believe about life ― the stories you tell yourself in general ― affect how you deal with your skeletons. How do you think your personal worldview affects your ability to accept and learn to love your skeletons?
I used to think that life’s an adventure, but now I believe that it’s a journey… a journey of learning. We learn some things on our own, and others we learn in relationships. Sometimes those relationships are easy, sometimes hard. Some things we learn are primarily physical, such as how to take care of our bodies, and others are mental, emotional, or spiritual. The three interplay in complex ways. We learn how to love and care for other people, and we learn how to love ourselves (most of us are still working on that one). Sometimes, sharing our lessons with each other helps us avoid mistakes, but usually we have many lessons to learn ― mistakes to make! ― for ourselves.
Basement-Dwellers and Pedestal-Sitters
When thinking of mistakes in the past, it’s good to keep a little perspective. While you may have what you consider an horrendous number of skeletons in your life, you are probably not a mass-murderer or serial killer, so please remember that you are not the worst person out there, and you’re not alone. Come out of the dark metaphorical basement where you’ve been berating yourself and enjoy the sunshine of the day! On the other hand, you may think that compared to other people you know, you’ve led a pretty good life and don’t have many things to hide. Don’t fool yourself ― you are no angel! Climb down off that high pedestal you’ve been living on! Come back to Earth with the rest of humanity. It’s a tricky thing to live on the surface, not above or below it ― to know where you fit in with other people, your past life, and even spiritual things. On the whole, realize that whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, you’re human, and you’re no better or worse than anyone else. You’re not hopeless.
It’s also a tricky thing to live in the present. Many of us spend far too much time thinking about and therefore living in the past. How can you go forward when you’re always looking over your shoulder? I heard of a man who was attacked from behind and he suffered so much anxiety from it, he would flinch and look over his shoulder every few seconds. You may be like that man, mentally looking over your shoulder, expecting something bad to happen and feeling great fear and anxiety because of it. Even if your fear is not paralyzing, chances are you’re distracted by it, and you aren’t spending all your time living in the present. Whenever your mind wanders into the past or future, gently bring yourself back to the present. We’ll explore this more later.
This book takes a grounded approach ― no pedestals and no basements ― to facing, dealing with, and overcoming skeletons from the past. I want to help you learn to live in the present and have more hope. Great relief and joy are on the horizon ― an amazing reward after any pain that we must go through first, together.
Tell yourself this: I’m excited to start this journey of healing! I want to keep my perspective on things and live in the present more. I look forward to having more inner peace.