LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the category “Psychology”

Broken Girl Behind the Airbrushed Smile

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“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

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I buried this calendar in a storage box long ago, too ashamed to share the truth behind its airbrushed illusion. But, more and more, I’m reminded how swiftly attacks on one’s character can escalate to levels that elicit rash, unthinkable decisions. If revealing my public humiliation and personal meltdown could help even one person — I’d be a petty coward not to do so…

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In the spring of 1987, I was honored to represent my sorority competing in Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual calendar contest to raise money for United Way. What should have been a highlight of my college days would soon turn my little world upside-down.

The contest was at the end of my junior year, and this photograph was taken shortly thereafter. The photographer creatively captured various settings and wardrobe swaps. Perusing the proofs, we agreed the best shot was one of me leaning against a white picket fence, long dress billowing in the breeze. But the ultimate selection was not ours to make.

I returned senior year to this surprise cover. Not my choice — but I was proud to be part of such a great cause. I attended all the PR events, signing calendars and whatever else I could do to support the PIKE’s wonderful philanthropy.

And then it happened: I became the poster child for the date rape problem we were having at the university. Our campus newspaper featured my “suggestive pose” above a female journalist’s scathing article. This quickly morphed into a free-for-all forum, prompting a seemingly inexhaustible rant from those who disliked the Greek System. Their harsh criticisms grew more derogatory with each passing week.

Making matters worse, I’d been elected pledge trainer that year, which meant promoting academics, philanthropy, and — yes — code of conduct to our newest sorority members. As my good reputation was being ambushed, I stood week after week in front of girls who must have wondered who the hell I was to lecture them on morals. Walking around campus, I’d hear snickers and see people point and whisper. Suffice to say, I became quite crafty at fabricating excuses to hide in my room.

Stress ravaged my exterior to match the ugliness brewing within. My hair fell out, and my face erupted. People I’d never met had decided I was a promiscuous tramp perpetrating a deplorable issue — and in my silent suffering I relinquished the keys to my soul. I felt irrevocably tarnished, sinking into a pit so vast the surface was no longer visible. I deferred final exams, returning to my parent’s house prematurely for Christmas break.

But how did the girl who appeared to “have-it-all” explain my torment to anyone?? I was surely a trite fool with zero excuse for being depressed. Shame engulfed me. This girl was down for the count but mortified to ask for help, fearful of disappointing those who believed I had my act together. Stubborn pride made escape seem the only viable option.

Fortunately, a force more powerful than my ego swooped in that dark day — something I still struggle to  adequately verbalize  — and saved me from my utter hopelessness…

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In hindsight, I have nothing but gratitude for those who drop-kicked me out of my superficial existence. Because of them, I boldly reject careless judgments, unfair generalizations, negativity, and hearsay. Because of them, my life has been enriched by countless genuine, upbeat, supportive, humble, loving souls I may have otherwise failed to fully appreciate. Because of them, I can spot pain behind the cheeriest smile. And I will forever defend the downtrodden and voiceless, breaking my arm if that’s what it takes to hoist another upward.

So, for those convinced you’ve fallen so low you’ll never claw your way out, I say this: Get help now!!! Talk to someone — anyone! There’s absolutely no shame in admitting your load is too darn heavy, and so many of us are right here, eager to help. But don’t you dare allow a misguided few to define you. You’re far too powerful and wise to be caged in their pathetic traps.

The good and decent people in this world love you!

💞I love you!!!💞

And the story of your irreplaceable soul has untold chapters remaining…

 

“Place your hand over your heart

Can you feel it?

That is called purpose

You’re alive for a reason

So don’t ever give up”

~ Unknown

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Perspective is — Everything

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Docking in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, I peered out at the torrential downpour. Gusty wind blew rain in every direction. A lone guitarist huddled in a wooden crate, crooning “Sloop John B”  to welcome us. The zip-line operator canceled our tour, and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed with a hot toddy and the book I’d brought.

My husband wouldn’t hear of it, having already revised our plans to hike along the river. And so, I retrieved every piece of waterproof gear I’d thought to pack and trudged toward the ship’s gangplank. As we neared, commotion ensued. We watched an elderly gentleman being hoisted onto a stretcher and whisked away via ambulance.

I ventured into Mother Nature’s wrath, swirling air immediately snapping my umbrella inside-out. I slipped on waterlogged tree roots, my new shoes squished, and I worried that the camera in our drenched backpack was being destroyed. But, oh how vibrant the autumn foliage adorning the forest trail appeared dripping wet, and how serendipitous that a cluster of trees should materialize just as the heavens unleashed buckets, and how satisfying to hear an abundant river gush…

Five miles later, my umbrella had been reduced to metal carnage, mud clung to my backside, and water dripped from my eyelashes — but I couldn’t stop smiling. Accustomed to my prissiness, my husband thanked me for maintaining such a chipper attitude. I just shook my head and said, “I bet that gentleman would give a million bucks to be hiking in the rain right now.”

Elevating Tomorrow by Eclipsing Yesterday

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The only person you need to be better than is the one you were yesterday.”

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Gracefully intent

You tango

Enviable posture

Unflinching

On life’s populous dance floor

Melody and motion seamlessly unite

Snappy maneuvers building momentum

Heightening experience

Crescendo nearing

Until…

Scheming arms stealthily encircle

Partnering you with self-defeat

Incessant comparisons truncating potential

A plethora of privileged souls sashay along the promenade

Born inanely gifted

Bearing silver-spooned advantage

Society’s favorites

Slated for success

Gobbling all the prizes

Why bother?

Apathetic legs lock

Rhythm

Lost

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But the stars wait…

Yearning for the brush of your fingertips

As you reach skyward

Remembering

To foster your own dreams

Rather than covet another’s

Chance after gutsy chance

Digging deep

Summoning your song

Mastering its unique beat

Toppling your best

And still

Ascending…

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Elevating Tomorrow by Eclipsing Yesterday

Mind Over Mountain

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The mountain looms. Ignoring the “I can’ts” lobbing across my mind. Altitude accentuating the agony. Hammering heartbeat. Inferior lungs. Exhaling in a humiliating whoosh. The peak well above my comfort zone. Weighted legs. Stalling. A gulp of metallic water from my canteen. Sun and wind chaffing. A flicker of reverence launching untapped stamina — I’m traversing a portion of the intricate 25,000-mile Inca road system!

Santos, our Inca Shaman darts by. He’s hiking in sandals (!), playing a wooden flute-like instrument. I wonder what he thinks of this out-of-shape gringo gasping for air? He pauses in the distance. Incapable of speaking his native tongue, I ask for a picture in Spanish. He smiles, waving me over.

Later, he leads our group of twelve in a ceremony at the edge of a luminous glacier lake. He distributes symbolic coca leaves and we cling to their divinity as he begins chanting in hushed Quechua. Our Peruvian guide translates:

Release your negativity. Leave it here in the wide embrace of the Andes. Be free of debilitating thoughts. Let them go. They drag you under. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Disappointment, grudges, and bitterness destroy. Know in this moment, you have all you need: the sustaining sun, soothing air, purifying water, guiding stars, protective mountains, and exalting skies. The moon’s pull to keep you centered, the soil to nourish. Mother Earth always provides, ready with healing hand. Use this restorative energy. Envision family, friends, those suffering you’ve never met. Lift them up with your compassion. We have nothing more valuable to give the world — or each other.

We clutch hands, stitching our circle tighter. Snow loses its grip on a nearby cliff, triggering a small avalanche amidst our tranquility. A Condor swoops gracefully. Both men intensely engaged in their sacred ritual. Who am I to be standing in such a surreal natural sanctuary? I close moist eyes and picture the Southern Cross dancing in last night’s sky, wondering how I’ll ever translate such marvel to another. I tuck the memory into a deep pocket of my brain, hoping I’ll find a way.

Back home, I study our photographs, trying to recapture the rush of accomplishment, to harness the spirited Inca drive. I mean — who possesses such moxy as to erect cities and trails upon alarmingly precarious territory? I observe people all around me facing everyday mountains, trouncing obstacles with unparalleled grit, and I ask:

What’s the magic ingredient that propels an individual to exceed mediocrity — striving for excellence in every pursuit?
 



Postponing Life for a Braver Day…

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Ah, that exhilarating dream…

Abounding with infinite possibility

You courageously hover

Heart booming

Butterflies swarming

Unknowns blazing upon your cheeks

Yet you swallow, unflinchingly, against a cottony tongue

Reigning in skittered nerves

Harnessing the river of trepidation rushing from brain to toes

You’re empowered

TRULY ALIVE

Cascading through anxiety

Delving untethered into the wild blue yonder

Staring life squarely in the face

Invigorated by freedom so delectable

Willing the sensation to never end…

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…But the alarm clock jars

Severing your fantasy

Grating beeps lurching you back to reality

Into the greedy clutches of a well-known thief

Your mind spirals downward

Engaged in a dizzying battle with itself

Rooting you in place

Incessant “what ifs”

Serving as your rusty anchor for longer than you’d care to admit

Panic’s prisoner

Postponing Life for a Braver Day…

Relativity of a Bad Day

 

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Traffic jams, poor service, unexpected bills, rejection, an aloof neighbor, a bad hair day — whatever sends you sulking over to the woe is me corner. It’s all too easy to get caught up in our own drama, unraveling scrolls of examples to depict how the world is out to get us.

Then, something happens to detract your attention, morphing all those issues into utter trivia…

And so it was, I found myself in a crèche (orphanage for AIDS babies) in the Alexandra Township of Johannesburg, South Africa. The dwelling was no larger than two-hundred square feet. The floor lined with what looked like miniature blue yoga mats. These mats were not for fancy contortions, however, but rather beds where the children slept elbow-to-elbow. My heart pounded. I blinked. I swallowed.

We’d arrived early in the morning and the little ones were still sleeping, but when our guide introduced his “friends from America,” they rose, racing over to greet us. Throwing their arms around my knees — or wherever they could grab on — they hugged me as if I were someone special.

My day had begun with a malfunctioning alarm clock that sent my jet-lagged body scrambling, with no time for a shower, breakfast, or caffeine. Now, as I stood there with these precious little arms clinging to me, I felt uncontrollable emotion building. My so-called “problems of the day” — or any day for that matter — evaporated. I would never know true suffering. Gigantic eyes gazed curiously up at me, and I didn’t want them wondering why the silly American lady was sad. I promptly clamped teeth over my lower lip until I tasted blood and lowered myself to the floor so I could properly visit.

When the temptation arises to whine about life’s injustices, I try to recapture how I felt in that moment. Pity parties can attract a slew of fellow revelers and even be therapeutic on occasion, but in the end they are “parties” in comparison to the true hardships of the world.

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