Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Being Beige and True Kodak moments

I had lunch this weekend with one of my dearest friends and she was excited to show me some paint colors she was looking at for some redecorating in her house.  She commented to me that she was tired of always having to be beige.

That phrase stuck in my head for days.  Where do we learn to be beige?  Who teaches us that it is not okay to splash colors all around us?

I once read a book called Conversations with a Fat Girl by Liza Palmer.  I don’t remember a lot about the plot, though I do remember enjoying it.  What I remember most is that the main character framed a picture of herself at a younger age when she felt completely at ease with herself. She looked at it whenever she was feeling out of sorts and needed to find that inner strength she was hiding.

At the time, I remember thinking, what a great idea! So I pulled the boxes out from under the bed and went through hundreds of pictures looking for the most recent one that showed me at a time when I felt completely at ease.

I flipped past recent ones of me and my husband at family gatherings, ones of me and my friends at parties in college, ones of me and my friends on class trips and high school dances, me in grade school.  I started to feel a little itchy and shaky as I dove back through my history captured in 3×5 Kodak moments.

There were so many where we all looked like we were having such a great time.  But if I really looked deeply into my eyes in the photo, something was a little off.  I remembered how despite all the smiles and laughter, I didn’t feel like I belonged there.  I was more concerned that people seeing the picture thought I was enjoying myself than I was with trying to figure out why I wasn’t enjoying myself.

Looking back at this now I realize that I was seeing the first signs of the depression and anxiety that would plague me from my early twenties through to the present day.  I didn’t know this then. I couldn’t have named what I was feeling.  I was just trying to hang on and look like I had it all together.

When do we learn this?  At what age do we start to worry about what our friends think more than expressing what we think? At what point in our growing up do we start to believe that we have to have all the answers, we have to be perfect, and we have to always have it all together?

I had to go back to some really old pictures to find one where I really knew that I was completely content with who I was and what I was doing, that I saw nothing wrong with myself and was willing to express myself. I wasn’t concerned that someone would think I was silly or stupid. It was eye-opening, and a little disturbing to know I had to look that far back.

How far back do you need to look?  More importantly, what do we have to do to unlearn this need to have it all together? How do we teach ourselves not to care so much what others think of us and what we do?

I say, laugh hysterically at a restaurant without worrying about the other diners! Sing off-key! Do a little two-step in the rain if it makes you feel good!  Above all, express yourself in anyway that you need to – even if it means painting your living room that sherbet orange you have always loved!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about making your own art.  Your life is your art.  Make it your own!

11 Comments

  1. Yvette Carol

    Very brave post Cheryl! When I saw the movie Up for the first time, I was the only adult in the theatre who was there sans children. I roared with laughter the whole way through and everybody stared at me. But I decided not to care and it was very freeing!

    • That was one movie I was happy to watch at home because i bawled like a baby when his wife died! 😦 Now Little Mermaid I saw with one of my friends in our mid 20s (I think) and we laughed and sang right out loud — louder than the little kids in the audience. 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting this, Cheryl! I read it on my phone yesterday while at work, and it helped brighten my day a little! It’s true…in way too many occasions we are expected to be “beige,” and wearing too much color is considered tacky or bold. In truth, it’s not bold, it’s just like you said…it’s expressive. If we were all able to express ourselves more efficiently, maybe the world would be a more open place.

    This weekend is my bachelorette party…and I’m taking your advice! I’m going let loose, express myself, and pretend I’m in high school again! Plus, the party’s in Atlantic City, NJ–not a exactly a place to worry about what people think.

    Thanks for inspiration.

    • Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!
      When I really stopped to think about it, I find myself being beige in small ways that add up to big. Simple things like wearing bright blue nailpolish on my toes only because they are less visible than my fingers, not saying much of anything in a group because I doubt I have anything interesting to add… All of it adds up and squelches my true self. So make a lot of noise and let your true self run free this weekend – and every day after!

  3. “I say, laugh hysterically at a restaurant without worrying about the other diners! Sing off-key! Do a little two-step in the rain if it makes you feel good! Above all, express yourself in anyway that you need to – even if it means painting your living room that sherbet orange you have always loved!” Having suffered from an anxiety disorder and depression since childhood, I concur and find — probably because of this — I’ve become quite being what some people may dub as foolish (in the name of being myself). Your photo is absolutely adorable!! (I’ve got a drawing my husband rendered from a photo of me when I was four. I try to give that girl her voice and also guide her.) Thank you for reminding me today.

    • Thanks Terri!
      I find that I have to remind that little voice to speak up every day. 🙂

  4. You’ve touched on something vital. Sadly, something many people either don’t believe or realize. We are who we are and no amount of trying to change will actually change us into what we want. But it will hurt us. The happiest people are happy because they already know there will always be people who will hurt them, put them down, use them as an example of what not to do, etc. And these people decide that it doesn’t matter. They find themselves, truly find who they are and what they’re comfortable with, what makes them happy. And they decide that what makes them happy is enough for them. They don’t need what others tell them happy should be, what it should consist of. It’s bloody hard and everyone is depressed at times, I know I struggle with it. But that’s just it – NO ONE is perfect. We’ve all got issues. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. 😀
    Great post!

    • Thanks Daphne! So nice to hear when someone really connects with something I wrote. 🙂

      • Thank you for being so truthful. Or I wouldn’t have been able to. Its always nice when people are real. 😀

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  1. Behind the Brightest Smiles | Catching Fireflies
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