Over the next few days/weeks, I will be posting blog posts from my old blog. A part of me wants to remember the girl before the illness, before the diagnosis. This particular piece is from June 16, 2015.
I am sitting on a hard mattress in a cottage in sunny California. It’s the last day of camp. I have spent the night before in mediation, still reeling from the matter. My bible lies next to me and a young girl sits on my other side. She waits with eager anticipation for the wisdom she is sure I must possess. Her entire worth is wrapped in her makeup, clothes and weight. I know what she thinks. What everyone thinks.
As a young woman with a disability and a friendly disposition, I must carry the secret to confidence and self-worth within my heart.
But I am eighteen, barely out of high school. I carry battle wounds nobody sees and keep everyone at arm’s length. The evening before replays in my head. The way his eyes shone when he told me he loved me. A room full of people looks on as he chokes out the words. I see the hope and desire. Everyone is quiet. I can tell he has been holding onto those three words for a long time.
Everything in me wants to wrap him in my arms and tell him how wonderful he is. How much I think about him. But I know what I feel about him is not love. It is infatuation. I admire his eyes and laugh. His smile warms my nights and he is a ray of sunshine on a dark day. I have not let him into my heart though. Even at eighteen, I know love is not a feeling. It is an action. A choice. Love doesn’t always brighten your day. Sometimes, love is hard. I have made myself a promise that I will not tell a man those three words until I am willing to walk those words. I can hardly breathe when I tell him “thank you”. I feel he deserves more but to give him more would be a lie. I do not know it, but in two years’ time, I will finally fall in love with a man who in six years’ time, will never love me back.
But I don’t know this at eighteen. All I know is to ask God for the wisdom this young girl is aching for. And He gives me answers too great for my young soul. I tell her confidence is a choice, independent of emotion. I tell her that our self-worth comes from being chosen by a Father that didn’t need us but wanted us. I tell her that I feel like an orange in a barrel of apples. I am a woman, but with a disability, which means that to compare myself to other women bears no good fruit. And she is no different. Comparison bears nothing but trouble because we are all different than one another, some of us more than others. I tell her my confidence comes from Christ and His affections for me, even when I have weathered the shame of having two strokes.
She seems refreshed and encouraged. I take a deep breath because I know the wisdom I have given was beyond me. Which means that one day, it will be tested.
It is a cool night in March. We are both tired. I have tried my best to look nice. Somehow, I don’t think he’d care. The way he looks at me when he thinks I’m not looking. He makes me feel beautiful in ways no man has before. Beautiful when I am covered in sweat and grime after a long day of serving.
I am nervous as I stand in front of him. My friend’s words echo in my mind. She does not believe he will want a woman like me. She is careful with how she chooses her words. I know what she means. I am an orange in a barrel of apples. And he only wants apples.
I choose to be confident in spite of my feelings.
Look at her and look at you. What did you expect?
Her words pierce through the now fragile wall I have built around my heart. It is November 2013 and I am sitting in an unpacked living room, waiting for reality to set in. This is not the first time that I have been compared to the women in his life and it will not be the last. Because according to the world around us, he is incapable of loving an orange. And I will never be an apple.
I end the conversation with her. I am tired of my worth being tied to my identity as an orange. Over the next year, I will end more relationships. Because they compare me as an orange and she as an apple. And apples can only love other apples.
Someone suggests I date another orange. I want to scream out that I am not an orange but a daughter of the most high God. I don’t. I respond by saying that I will consider it.
I stop looking in the mirror. I stuff my face with burgers and French Fries. I ache with the desire to be an apple. To be thin like her. To have hair like hers. To hold the hand of the man she gets to be with. I want to be her externally but keep my heart. I realize I want my heart. All the bruises and wounds. I want the strength and tenacity. I want the bravery and depth. I want every tear and laugh. I want the joy that my heart experiences beyond its years.
But Sunday comes and I forget. Because all I want is to be an apple.
Comparison erodes my heart, because for a season, I forget. As a daughter of the most high God, she carries the same infinite worth.
I remember the wisdom I gave that young girl all those years and the application begins. You cannot compare apples with oranges because it bears no good fruit.
I am sitting in the library, enjoying the free WiFi and cool air. My hair hangs in tight ringlets and like most days, there is no makeup on my face. I wear sweats and a loose-fitting tank top over a sports bra. I have just gotten off a shift at the gym and I look about as relaxed as I feel.
I have asked God to keep all men from pursuing me, except the one I should marry. And it has been a quiet year. I wonder if I will have to look nice in order for him to notice me. Should I be wearing a dress? Throw on some lipstick? Look more like an apple and less like an orange?
I smile to myself. Something tells me the man I am waiting for will want an orange by the time our paths cross.