Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Is Your Personal Truth?

Me in 1973
           People ask me how I think of things to write about?  Mostly,  they just seem come to me.  I’m not trying to write about extraordinary events, I want to write about the ordinary, about the everyday. I try to find things others can relate to.  I want to challenge myself to live better, take better care of myself, keep myself out of the depression I have struggled with a lot in my life… and I want to challenge you to be your best self too.  Today, I want to ask you what is your personal truth?
            I watched the opening episode of Finding Sarah, about Sarah Ferguson on Oprah’s new network.  Sarah had a long talk with Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil can take things a little too far at times probably, but I think he has been blessed with one of the greatest gifts of my generation. He knows how to lay it on the line and tell it like he sees it, and leave it there.  Even when I don’t agree with him, I still think he has a great gift and respect him tremendously.  
            He told Sarah, “Everyone has a public persona ( we put on makeup, comb our hair, dress up and put our best foot forward), but on the other hand, we also have personal truth. Our personal truth is what we, "really believe about ourselves when nobody is looking or listening, except us". In the deepest part of us, this personal truth is what we truly believe about ourselves. He followed that with, “we generate in our life what we think we deserve, and if we have a damaged personal truth (which personally, I think we all have some damage somewhere), we generate results that match that”.
          I saved that segment of that show, because I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve probably ever heard. Phil stated, “When we grow up people write on the slate of who we are. Parents, teachers, other children, aunts, uncles for example, define who we think we are.  We have no choice about that, but what’s really tragic, is when they put the pen down, and we pick it up and keep writing and, we write the same thing as they had been writing.  It’s not what really happens in our lives… it’s about what we say to ourselves about what happened in our lives. This is so true for me.

These 2 pics were taken by my Mom

My bracelet in hand...Carnival Queen


            I will give you a personal example of people writing on my slate and me, not only believing it but carrying it around for many, many years.  When I was in high school, I was crowned Carnival Queen when I was a junior in high school. This was our school’s version of Homecoming Queen.  Every girls dream right? I was one of four girls nominated by our classmates to be on the court for carnival queen.  Three of us were junior girls, and the only Sr. girl in her class, and my best friend in Palermo school was the other girl. We always had a huge school carnival, Tickets were sold and a table with decorated coffee cans with everyones name who was on the court to cast your vote for you favorite candidate.  on them.
        I think everyone expected Charli to win. Charli was the sexy girl in our school and popular as well.  Me in comparison, was more the Rosie O' Donnell type (minus the anger ha). I was chubby, but not nearly as chubby as I already believed I was, humorous and friendly .  I tried to be nice to everyone and stuck up for the kids others kicked out. I have never liked mean people even back then.
        When it was announced that I had won and I was crowned queen,  I was so happy, somewhat out of body estatic even...for maybe 60 minutes. As a coronation gift we received an inscribed ID bracelet with Carnival Queen 1971 on the back of it, I was supposed to bring it back to have my name put on it on Monday when I came to school. I remember after winning, I left the school with my boyfriend.  Sitting in my boyfriend’s car in front of the school, I shared with him how happy I was to be deemed popular, because self-esteem was always an issue for me.  Although I always felt like I had friends and people liked me, you always wonder what your real place is.
         By the time I got home from the carnival, my Mom had gotten home from her sister’s house, who had teenagers my age, had been at the carnival, went to the same school,  and I was about to find out how fast being on the top floor of in an elevator can quickly crash to the bottom! Mom's sisters teenagers had come home while Mom was at thier house,  and reported that people were saying, Charli (the Sr. girl) should have won, and that my boyfriend at the time must have “stuffed the ticket box” and that was the only reason I won!

         I was devastated, and devastated isn’t even a big enough word!  I went to bed feeling horrible. The next morning, I opened my eyes to the cold October wind blowing outside. Inside I was as cold as it was outside. I looked at the black bracelet box on my nightstand. I reached out and pulled it under the covers with me where it was warm. Opening it, I starred at it for what felt like an hour before I even touched it. It wasn't pretty like it was last night, it wasn't cherished like it was last night.  I tried it on my wrist one last time. I decided it was all a cruel joke this bracelet thing and unclasp it.  Swiftly I threw back the covers, thundered down the stairs, took it out to the burn barrel in my pajamas and flung it in.

            I cried all weekend off and on, but couldn't even bring myself to tell anyone how I felt but Mom. I had to pretend to be happy I won. I wanted to hide on Monday when school started. Humiliated, I just knew nobody wanted me to win. 

      I wrote and rewrote that incident on my slate of who I was for many, many years. In my mind, I was the fat carnival queen, with the crazy boyfriend, who didn’t deserve to be crowned in the first place.

Our Superintendent, Jr Class Press and me Sr Class President

Paper Editor ( I always loved to write)

             One day not more than ten years ago,  I found my old year books. I started looking through them. Gee, I thought, I was in the books a lot for not being in sports!  Hmmm, here I was a class officer as a junior, here I am the high school paper editor, with a whole team under me…. and finally, the PRESISDENT, yes the president of our class my senior year! There I was sitting at the administration table with the junior class president ready to give our speeches on our banquet night.  Could it be that I wasn’t as unpopular as I'd thought all these years? I had almost totally pulled away from Palermo kids after that experience and hung out with kids from neighboring towns, convinced they didn't like me and not trusting my feelings about who did and who didn't.

        Looking at these annuals now, I kept reasoning with myself, and treating myself like I would anyone else. I ask myself,  how if I was so unpopular, did I get nominated to the court in the first place? So what if my boyfriend had bought tickets, even a lot of tickets, and put them in the can and I won because of it? Couldn’t that happen any year, and probably had (alot of girls who'd won before me had boyfriends at the carnival, did i really think they didn't vote for their girlfriend)? Isn’t that the purpose of selling tickets..... to put in the cans? Besides, I was one of those spoiled kids who could always talk my Mom into having the car in high school! I had the car a lot and went to all the area small towns to hang out with different friends.  By that I mean I was in Stanley, Kenmare, Plaza , little surrounding towns and knew alot of area kids.  I didn’t just stay around Palermo like Charli, whose parents were stricter and made her stay home more. I knew a lot of people who knew me. Charli never held this carnival queen thing against me, and our friendship stayed the same.   

            I’m not kidding when I say it took me a good thirty years to find peace with that whole experience. I'm not saying I dwelled on it for thirty years...but it came to my mind here and there. Why my Mom ever chose to tell me that, I don’t know. Maybe she wanted me to hear it from her rather than in school. Why I chose to believe I was THAT unpopular I don't know, because I always had friends and always had a boyfriend.  It shows my damaged personal truth and low self-esteem.  

        We had bullying in schools back then to, and I know somehow there were no pictures of me as Carnival Queen in the 1972 school annual. In 1973 there was a full page spread with everyone on the court and the winners from that year as every other year, but I was covered up passing on the crown by someone else...coincidence? I think not, like I said we had jealous bullies then too and that exclusion added to my ideas about myself. 
            I know it sounds trivial compared to more major traumas, but I'm sharing it because it shows that its not so much what happens to us but what we say to ourselves about what happens to us. This explains people’s ability to overcome horrific things or crumble over small things doesn’t it?

         Even if people did say the box was stuffed, (and i still think they did say it). I also think some people on the annual staff purposely left out pictures of me in the annuals as well. But that's their problem not mine. None of them on the annual staff those two years ever made king or queen themselves, so if thats what they had to do to tear someone down, so be it. I wish I could say it didn't tear me down or what they did to hurt me didn't work,  but it did. All I can do now is hope to help the next person see where bully problems come from. The bullies themselves have the problems. 
Giving the crown away the next year
Mom took these again of passing the crown.
                In the scope of life, this is trivial, but I think this is common, that we have heard or been told something  about ourselves that we totally believed and take in hook, line and sinker! We swallow the whole thing!  It isn’t necessarily true or even if part of it is true, it’s been blown out of proportion and magnified.

        I looked at all of us graduates today in my year book, looking for some pictures for this blog. None of us in that year or any other, is any better than anyone else. We were all ordinary kids, that lived ordinary lives, did some extraordinary things, and some everyday things. Experienced some high highs, and survived some low lows. None of us are special and then again, all of us are special.
             To change what we are telling ourselves we have to become aware of what we are thinking in the first place, and then ask yourself if this is real or imagined? I don’t think I ever really examined anything I heard about myself - I just believed it. Now, I hear it, examine it, and give myself the same treatment I would give someone else, and try to put myself on the same page with other people in my life.
              I think most of us could use a little work on our personal  truth, but at the same time I don’t want to live my life analyzing every thought or action, because I have fun to have, things to experience and places to enjoy. Join me, lets just check out our pasts in the rear view looks much better with some distance and a whole lot of dust from where your going now!  

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