Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sharon Harding. It’s part of my monthly series Stories of Transformation.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I was always a good girl. I was the angel, the good child in the family, the one who was never any trouble. My report cards were full of words like co-operative, helpful, pleasant, and quiet.
Yes I was a good girl.
I believed that I was responsible for the happiness of everyone around me, so I did whatever it took to keep things running smoothly. I was the ultimate people pleaser and could become whatever others needed me to be.
- I would like the music others liked.
- Watch the shows others watched.
- Believe what others told me to believe.
And above all things I was a GOOD GIRL.
But deep down inside there was another girl.
- A rabble-rouser
- With a really wicked sense of humour
But this free spirit was held captive by fear. I was terrified of upsetting other people, and afraid of showing the real me, so I held her down in chains. The trouble is that when you live a lie the truth eventually finds a way to come out. When you live in fear it makes you sick. Eventually that trapped person deep down inside becomes very angry and bursts out of captivity. And that is what happened to me.
- First I got seriously ill.
- Then my marriage suffered a crisis and broke apart at the seams.
I tried really hard to hold on to that marriage, because good girls don’t leave their husbands. NOT EVER, even if their marriages are horribly unhealthy and destructive. Eventually my life collapsed and in sheer desperation I made the decision to leave. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was also the best decision I ever made.
My family picked me up. They assured me of their love, got me into counseling, and listened to me talk for hours.
The Healing Begins
Slowly I began to heal. I discovered that I had given so much that I had lost myself in the process. There is a picture book called “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It is a story about a tree that gave and gave and gave to others. First his apples, then his branches, and finally his trunk until nothing was left except the stump.
I was the tree. There was nothing left of me except a stump! I had no idea who I was. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of music I liked. I wrote:
Who was I once?
Before the hopes and dreams were shattered.
Who was I before I tried so hard to become someone else?
The person he wanted me to be
The person they wanted me to be
The person who wasn’t me.
But I was not alone. My Higher Power is in the business of bringing forth new life from dead stumps, so one step at a time I walked the road of transformation. And my Higher Power was with me all the way. Friends rallied round and I was supported and upheld.
Not Such a Good Girl Makes an Appearance
Slowly the free spirit deep down inside was released and I began to experience transformation and healing. I learned about self-care, something I still find hard. I learned that I was not responsible for the happiness of others (imagine that) and rediscovered my creativity.
One of the first things I did was to create a new e-mail account using notsgg – NOT SUCH A GOOD GIRL.
People began to notice the difference. I heard things like
- “You look so different.”
- “Goodness I didn’t recognize you.”
- “You look so much younger.” (My personal favourite!)
Apparently I even walked differently and didn’t look so burdened down.
The Road of Self Discovery
It wasn’t always easy. I had to embrace new ways of thinking and living. I had to discover who I really was. Those kinds of changes come slowly and painfully at times. I had to give up some close friends who condemned the new me and tried to pull me back into old ways of behaving.
It has now been four years and I am still on the path of transformation. There are times when I’m stressed or tired that I revert back to old ways of being. There are times when I realize that I still have a long ways to go. I’ve learned to be gentle and compassionate with myself and I know that full healing will come when the time is right.
Meanwhile I walk forward. I met a wonderful man whose love and acceptance has brought healing and joy into my life. When I see how far I have come I am astonished. My life is totally different.
During this process of transformation I found songs to accompany me on the journey. The song “This is Home” by Switchfoot expresses so many of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had along the way.
Almost one year after I started out on this journey of transformation I decided it was time for a small act of daring. A picture of a blue dragonfly was tattooed onto my shoulder. Dragonflies have become a special symbol of rebirth and transformation for me. In the course of their lives dragonflies experience a radical transformation, change into something quite beautiful, and then fly free. Just like me!
Sharon Harding is a librarian, writer, and blogger who writes about putting aside distractions and creating strong family relationships at Rediscovered Families. She lives a simple and very happy life with her partner in northern Canada.
Image Credit: Join the Dots