Who would have thought those little brown freckles could create so much fascination?
I am being studied as a specimen. Being spoken about, not to.
My face is being touched and stroked and stared at – without inhibition.
Nowhere to hide, nowhere to go. Me, in a tiny little village, surrounded by a language not my own, by people I barely know.
I am being watched – with kindness and a very large dose of fascination and wonder.
I too (despite feeling a little overwhelmed at being the day’s entertainment) am watching with my own fascination. Not least of all as the milk for my tea is being freshly squeezed from the teat of the village goat.
I am a novelty. I am the different one…
Fast forward 15 years and who do I see?
I still have my freckles, but they no longer hold the same curious fascination.
I am now surrounded by those who look, sound and act much more like me. In truth, I have become one of the crowd.
I am not so different anymore; at least that’s what I like to tell myself.
I like to think I can just blend in. It’s easier that way. In that, I can stay hidden.
But my hiding – it is the hiding of an actor, hiding behind (or perhaps within) her ‘character’ in a play.
I enter into that world and play my part, because after all, isn’t that what the audience want to see?
No one pays to see real. “Entertain me” is the catch cry.
An actor can be put on a pedestal, held high in adulation, nobody seeing the real…the real feelings, the real experiences, the real beauty, the real flaws.
If I give you the real me, I risk boos and rotten tomatoes.
If I give you the real me, I stand naked and exposed – no longer surrounded by the lights, the costumes and the makeup.
Sometimes it hurts to be real.
The real me isn’t always acceptable, it isn’t always interesting. It isn’t always liked or encouraged. It isn’t always comfortable.
And wounds go deep…
Fast forward 10 more years and I can no longer ‘play the part’. The striving to fit in has become tiring, draining, overwhelming…and some part of me has got a little lost.
Deep down, I’m still that little girl with the freckles on my face and I say, “Enough, no more!” Then, “Who am I really and where do I belong?”
For as much as it hurts to be ‘real’, it hurts much more to realise you have become ‘unreal’.
My soul feels parched and needs reviving.
There was no intention to hide – really. There was no intention to forget what was really important, to be anything but myself, or to be anything more than ‘normal’… but somehow, in an effort to ‘fit’, I allowed parts of myself to be squeezed out.
We seek to fit in because we are wired for connection. We don’t do too well thinking we are alone.
But we need genuine connectedness.
So I seek out those with whom I can truly connect and find belonging – that I might be safe. Safe enough to explore who I really am.
What do I believe? What do I really think and feel? What resonates deep in my soul and quenches my thirst?
It is in finding commonality and connectedness that the soul can be nourished and revived. As the soul is nurtured we gain the strength to let our differences show, to speak with conviction and to embrace and celebrate the differences of others.
For it easy to say, “Be unique, don’t let others dictate how you should be”, but it takes enormous courage (sometimes more than I can muster) to be a lone voice being drowned out by those yelling in the other direction.
Yet when I am courageously me, when I am real, I know I am appreciated.
I received a message recently that read, “I really enjoyed our day at your house and you are so easy to talk to. I miss not spending a little more time with you…”
I am unique.
I am loved – because I am me.
I am me – because I am loved.
I take great strength and comfort in the following words; words spoken about the one that I believe created me.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)