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|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life.
— Marina Keegan
This is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down. No, wait, that's not me. That's the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Still, that's an applicable assessment with a good beat, minus the whole "living in a mansion in Bel-Air" part. Okay, and the prince part. Sadly, despite my unrequited teenage love for Prince William, I am not royalty. Although when I was catching up on today's news, the main headline was that Kate Middleton wore the same outfit twice. I've basically been wearing the same yoga pants and nursing tank since Saturday. I always knew I was princess material.
The first thing I did when writing this book was ask my editor if it was possible to include several photographs of myself. Not because I'm aspiring to a Kardashian level of selfies but because just about every picture of me that was taken in my youth displays a level of awkwardness that must be seen to be believed. I was an incredibly awkward adolescent. And I don't mean awkward as in a Zooey Deschanel-esque "adorkable" sort of way. No. I mean a fairly gawky, "spent a lot of middle school trying to avoid being shoved in a locker" awkward.
Unfortunately, though, it must be really expensive to print photographs in books or something. Obviously the solution to this problem is to tell all your friends to buy this book, and then maybe it will be a best seller, and then we can sneak some pictures of "1988 Me" dressed as Cartoon Rockstar JEM into the next one. It will be worth it.
I spent most of my life wishing I were someone else. Someone prettier, braver, funnier. Someone who was lovable. Because stowed away in the depths of my heart was the belief that I was not. I've always felt unfinished, as though I'm perpetually in the process of becoming.
There is a lovely, oft-quoted sentiment by Marianne Williamson adorning many a Pinterest board that reads, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."
That whole part about inadequacy? That is definitely my deepest fear, right after tornadoes and just before driving over large bodies of water. I'm not at all afraid of that powerful light she's talking about. Actually, I would really love to possess that light. I'd be all "hide it under a bushel? No, I'm gonna let it shine!"
No, my fear is the former — that I am inadequate. It's always been that one.
I thought growing up would provide me immunity against insecurity, but a few years ago I attended a conference and was chatting with some women afterwards when one of them put a finger to her chin and said, "I just can't figure out what it is about you." I felt flattered, like maybe I'd finally achieved a sort of alluring, mysterious charm. This was my moment. I was finally That Girl, and in a good way. Or at least that's what I thought until she continued with, "It's just like, you're so much better in writing."
Excuse me while I go put some salve on that burn.
If I hadn't already been insecure, that would have done it. At the start of the conference the organizer got up on stage and encouraged everyone to sit at a different table for each meal. "No saving seats for friends," she said. "It'll give us all a chance to mix and mingle and make new relationships." I was incredibly relieved because I'd gone to this writing conference knowing exactly no one, and so my very professional plan was already to be a table crasher. I was still incredibly nervous about sitting with strangers at every meal, but at least now I would look less like a weirdo and more like a girl who knew how to meticulously follow directions. Who doesn't want that in a new friend? It basically screams friend material.
At the next meal I put on my game face, which consisted of an extra layer of mascara and a permanent smile. I was going to look so friendly. People would totally want to be my friend. I walked up to a half empty table and gathered up all my courage to say an enthusiastic hello. "Sorry. These seats are saved," they responded curtly before turning back to their conversation. I stood rooted to the spot in a flustered state of embarrassment, partially because I was having junior high lunchroom flashbacks and partially because they were breaking the rules. I have a real affinity for rule following and fail to comprehend when people flagrantly break them. I stammered something awkward and went off in search of a more welcoming table that didn't invoke memories of standing alone with my lunch tray in a crowded middle school cafeteria.
What I wanted to do was rush back to the safety and seclusion of my hotel room. Seriously, every fiber in my body was shouting at me to make a mad dash out of there like that one scene from Forrest Gump when tiny Jenny is hollering at tiny Forrest to "Run, Forrest, run!" But then I saw they were serving triple chocolate cake for dessert and decided to take my chances. Because life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.
(Plus, I paid a ton of money for that conference ticket. The least I could do was enjoy my cake.)
Eventually the woman explained that what she meant by "you're so much better in writing" was that I seemed more confident and self-assured in print, and she hadn't expected to find me so unsure of myself in person. To which I was like, "Of course I'm more confident in writing. In writing I get a backspace key." I can rewrite a sentence over and over again until the words fall together with just the right cadence. Everything in text can be positioned and refined until it is polished. Unlike the other day when I felt really proud of myself for braving a trip to the grocery store with a new baby. I had on real clothes, I'd brushed my hair, and I finally felt like I had it all together. That is, until a sweet lady stopped to inform me that apparently when I put on my baby-wearing wrap, I had tied the back of my dress up in it, exposing my undergarments. And that is the story of how my first trip to the grocery store with two kids involved me flashing everyone on the way in. I am so good at motherhood. Also, I did not mean to take being naked and unashamed literally.
The conference wasn't my first time feeling excluded. There was the summer between elementary school and junior high, for example, when everything changed and I went from social to invisible. There was the day in eighth grade when none of my friends showed up to my party and then dumped me from our friend group, loudly and publicly in front of the lockers. There was the weekend of prom our senior year, when everyone paired off into couples and I was dressless and dateless. It was a succession of ordinary moments that created a cache of shame in me.
* * *
I spent much of my life on a quest to learn how to like myself. It was basically my holy grail. The most anyone ever offered me was a "fearfully and wonderfully made" or a "you are already enough." But those well-meaning words just fell into the chasm of my own self-deprecation. I didn't feel that way about myself so I didn't believe those things to be true. It was kind of like when your dad says you're beautiful and you think, "Yeah, you have to say that because you're my father. It's pretty much a basic requirement in your job description."
For me, the question was "How do I get from here to there?" From insecurity to confidence. From fear to freedom. From unbelief to belief. I didn't just want to know it. I didn't just want to see the Bible verses printed on gold-rimmed paper but never feel them sparking to life within me. I wanted to be able to embrace it, believe it, and live it. I wanted a hallowed spirit of confidence to be my anthem. The problem was, after spending so many years feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, I didn't really know who I was. I had sort of pieced together a false personality based on attributes that people seemed to admire in my friends or what I thought was expected of me. I was just like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, except for that whole part where a bunch of hot guys wanted to marry me.
In an effort to leave my own island of insecurity, I began to collect other people's stories. I mean, I knew I had more issues than Vogue all on my own, but I wanted to know how we as women could encourage one another in an area in which we all share the same struggle. Over and over the women in my life expressed the desire to overcome their insecurity in favor of transparent and abiding love. I thought maybe we should all come together to conquer our secret fears.
And that's what brought me here. I'm pretty sure that's what brought you here too.
Almost everyone I spoke to while writing this book had an origin point for her insecurity. From a pointed comment about housework to a judgmental look from someone in the grocery store to an airbrushed advertisement in a magazine, the messages hurled at women were filled with insinuations about what we should be, rather than championing who we were created to be. I found that the catalyst for insecurity is almost always an interaction that leaves us feeling inadequate.
For me it started with an unfortunate school photo and a rainbow-striped sleeping bag.
I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me.
— Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
The first time I felt the sharp sting of rejection was when a longtime friend didn't invite me to her annual birthday sleepover. Every year since we were knee-high to a grasshopper had found us rolling out our sleeping bags on her living room floor. There were certain things I could count on in the spring: the metallic clanging of bats ringing in baseball season, the bright purple iris blossoms marching across our back fence, and choosing new pajamas to debut at the birthday sleepover.
I had felt the tension a little bit as she moved faster than me toward growing up. She was so much better at grasping the subtle changes that eluded me, but I never guessed this year would be the one in which I was conspicuously absent from her guest list. I found out on the bus ride home, when another girl chattered excitedly about the upcoming party, and I chimed in, assuming things hadn't changed. But they had. I sat in the awkward embarrassment of her dismissal long after they disembarked at their stop.
I felt humiliated, but mostly I felt unwanted.
So I did what any preteen girl would do. I stayed up late talking to my boyfriend about it. And by "boyfriend," I mean the picture of Jonathan Taylor Thomas that I tore out of Teen Beat magazine and taped above my bed. Admittedly it was a rather one-sided relationship, but I really felt as though his eyes conveyed a wisdom beyond his years. Sure, he didn't have any good advice for me, but he never failed to offer an encouraging smile. Also, I was eleven. My expectations for relationships weren't all that high. When my mother asked me when the party was going to be held, I lied and pretended there wasn't going to be a celebration that year. I was too ashamed to admit my own invitation wouldn't be arriving.
Twenty-odd years later I saw some photos on Facebook of my girlfriends enjoying a night out dancing, and I instantly felt excluded. Why didn't they invite me? I wondered, as old hurts rose to the surface and unbidden tears pricked my eyes. I went through all of the possible reasons in my head: I talk too much; I forgot to return that one girl's Tupperware for, like, a whole month; they don't actually like me and have just been pretending for all these years. I mulled over the pictures sullenly as I scrolled through my newsfeed in bed, where I'd been staying for the past two months on strict bed rest. Sure, the fact that I was on doctor-ordered bed rest and physically unable to leave my house is probably the most practical reason for why I wasn't invited to that particular outing, but try telling that to a hormonal pregnant girl with a history of feeling left out. My husband gave it a valiant effort but ended up just handing me a carton of rocky road ice cream and a spoon. (Admittedly, that did make me feel much better.)
Then I reread Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? because of solidarity. I was all, "That's a good question, Mindy. Is everyone hanging out without me? Because Facebook seems to think so."
As I was discussing this incident with a friend, she asked, "But would you have even wanted to go? Don't you pretty much hate dancing?" She was right, because going dancing is definitely not my scene. Once when my daughter Scarlette was about three years old, I was dancing around the kitchen in an attempt to be a Fun and Spontaneous Mom, when she suddenly stopped and cocked her head at me curiously.
"Um, Mommy? What are you trying to do with your body?"
"I'm dancing, Scarlette!"
She shook her head seriously and replied, "No, Mommy. Dat is NOT dancing."
From then on she always referred to my dancing in a voice that suggested she was using air quotes around the word — like, when I was brushing my teeth while whirling around the room to the Backstreet Boys one day, and Scarlette asked me for a drink of water. I told her to wait just a minute. "Mommy, dis is serious," she said. "Dis is no time for your 'dancing.'"
So dancing is not something I generally make a point of doing outside of my own home. But all of my insecurity meant I still wanted to be extended an invitation to go dancing, despite the fact that my girlfriends know my aversion to it. My desire to be included, to have the reassurance of belonging, means I always want an invitation.
(The exception to this rule is Candy Crush. I'm constantly being invited to play Candy Crush by random people on Facebook. It's like the universe is making up for all those years I wasn't invited to stuff by sending me an onslaught of unwanted Candy Crush invitations.)
This trait of needing to be included tends to manifest itself as being unreasonably needy, which is definitely the opposite of what people are looking for in healthy relationships. The experience of being excluded is such a painful one that sometimes we accumulate all our past rejections and project them onto our present circumstances. The small slight that we're currently agonizing over is magnified by the power of memory. It somehow soaks up all the spillover we never quite mopped up from earlier brush-offs. It becomes every rejection all over again, rolled into one.
In my insatiable desire for connection, I constantly felt hyperaware of any lack of it. If there was a circle forming somewhere, I wanted to be inside of it, but continuously felt as if I were on the periphery. It took a long time for me to realize that not being included in every activity on my friend's social calendars is not the same thing as being left out. This was an exhausting reality for both me to maintain and for my friends to endure, always needing reassurance of their acceptance.
Rejection is hard. Because regardless of our age, we all just want to fit in. Last year my daughter came home in tears when another little girl in her class told her she couldn't play with the rest of the girls because her shirt was ugly. Apparently cute peplum sweaters that your very stylish mother scored on clearance at Target were not in with the playground set. Shirts featuring Hello Kitty had apparently been deemed the attire of choice. With huge tears rolling down her cheeks, my four-year-old looked at me and sniffed, "She ran away from me and said I couldn't play with her because she didn't like my outfit. She said my outfit is not good.
"But maybe ..." she said, "maybe if I get a better outfit, she can play with me tomorrow! Dat could be a great idea!" she said through her sniffles. We could buy a Hello Kitty shirt, she suggested. So that the other girls would like her.
I wanted to cry right alongside her.
Then we had a long talk about how she didn't need a better outfit for those girls to like her because we should not base our friendships on what people are wearing. We talked about how we should be nice to everyone. We talked about how hurtful it is to feel left out and how we should try hard not to make other people feel that way. It was a speech I was prepared not to need for a good five more years in the future. I didn't realize preschool politics would be so cutthroat.
"Do you understand what I'm saying, Scarlette?" I asked her, hopeful that the past nine-and-a-half minutes had penetrated her little heart with truth and love. She looked at me solemnly and replied, "Yes, Mommy, but I fink I need a chocowate chip gwanola bar now." So I think I definitely made an impression on her.
Being on the outside looking in is never the comfortable position. Lysa TerKeurst said, "Rejection isn't just an emotion we feel. It's a message that's sent to the core of who we are, causing us to believe lies about ourselves, others, and God. We connect an event from today to something harsh someone once said. That person's line becomes a label. The label becomes a lie. And the lie becomes a liability in how we think about ourselves and interact in every future relationship."
Excerpted from "In Bloom"
Copyright © 2018 Kayla Aimee.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Uninvited 7
Chapter 2 Rejected 13
Chapter 3 Consumed 23
Chapter 4 Squad Goals 31
Chapter 5 Making Out 41
Chapter 6 Between the Sheets 49
Chapter 7 Piece of Glass 61
Chapter 8 Abandoned 71
Chapter 9 I Love the Nineties 81
Chapter 10 Inside Out 89
Chapter 11 Thief of Joy 99
Chapter 12 Measuring Up 109
Chapter 13 For Such a Time as This 119
Chapter 14 What Are You Afraid Of? 127
Chapter 15 Metamorphosis 137
Chapter 16 Great Expectations 145
Chapter 17 Rewriting the Girl Code 151
Chapter 18 Judgment Day 161
Chapter 19 Harvest 171
Chapter 20 Flourish 177
Study Guide for Individuals and Small Groups 187