There’s a Mother Teresa quote that I can’t find at the moment, but it goes something like this: Everyone you meet is Jesus in disguise.
Which makes me think that I really need to wax my chin if people regularly think that about me. And as a follow-up: Jesus makes a pretty easy Halloween costume.
It also makes me think that I have one essential problem in my life, the thing that everything keeps boiling down to, where my career and my parenting and my marriage and even my housecleaning comes to a point: I don’t believe people love me, or rather, I don’t let people love me.
Gregg and I had some big, big arguments in December, and it came down to this little thing: I didn’t believe he loved me. Ouch, right? And yes, there were reasons I thought that, part of it being that he was really stressed and I was really stressed and we just didn’t have as much time for each other as we used to. He didn’t kiss me goodbye or hug me as much, and I took this to mean that he had fallen out of love with me. That was my first logical conclusion, because of course my dial is pre-set to Unlovable Person.
The easiest thing for me to believe was that Gregg no longer loved me, because it was always kind of hard to believe that I was loved by him, or anyone, in the first place. I could give you a few sob stories and past histories as to why I thought this, but they don’t really matter. What matters is that I realized last week that it wasn’t him that needed to change his behavior, it was me. It was me who was always assuming that at any moment, the ground was going to open up and swallow me. It was me who was always disparaging about my career, worrying about things that would go wrong, cutting down my looks and my talents, focusing on the negative. It’s why I cringe whenever I see a photo of myself. It’s why I used to close up comments. It’s why I constantly belittle myself.
Last week Sachi and I got the flu, and I said as much on twitter. Something intelligible like, “Fluuuuu.” You know what happened? My little corner of the Internet sent me virtual hugs and thoughts to get better, but also? People who live near me offered to help. At first I swatted it away. I don’t like to be a burden. I don’t like to feel beholden to someone else. But then my little guy wanted grape juice and I couldn’t imagine going to the store to get it and infecting everyone in there. He wouldn’t eat or drink anything else. It had been days and he still had a raging fever and was sleeping all day and night, and so when Sarah asked if I needed anything, I gave in. I felt selfish and unworthy and asked for grape juice and noodle soup, and she went out of her way to come to my house and drop it on my door step. Alison walked my other son home from school without me even asking. My husband came home from work early and refused to let me do anything but sleep.
It made me think a little bit. It made me feel awkward. Then I talked with my friend Anu about why I always think I will fail instead of succeed, and I read some things and the week went on and I went to church and I read that quote by Mother Teresa, and I realized that my stance on things, on life, is that things will not go my way, that I am not worthy, ever.
And that it’s not true.
It’s not because I’m somehow special or important in this life, but because everyone is, and that the only way good things ever happen is for people to believe that they’re deserving of good things, that they’re deserving of people’s kindnesses and attention and love and successes.
Because people LIKE to be kind to other people. People WANT to give. People WANT to love, but sometimes I make it difficult, because I don’t want to be a burden, when really, the only burdens most people are carrying around are the excesses of kindness they don’t know where to put, or how to put to use. What if…what if I let people be good to me? What if everyone did?
I keep feeling like a fraud with my writing and my parenting and my marriage, and every good thing that happens I chalk up to random luck. It was luck that you came here to read. It’s luck that I might have a book contract soon. It’s luck that my kids are sweet and kind and thoughtful, and my husband is the handsomest, nicest, funniest person I know (besides me, I mean) (obviously).
And sure, to some degree it IS luck, but it’s also because I work hard and I’m good at what I do and…dare I say it? Because I deserve it. Because every person who keeps working for good things deserves it.
I don’t really care if any of you are Christian, or believe in Jesus. I’m not a fan of evangelization. It’s slimy, in my opinion. The actual approach of most people is low-down, dirty and underhanded, but I get the sentiment. I get that other people think they’re saying, “I want you to know that you’re loved.” But sometimes, or rather, a lot of the time, people go about that way by shaming others, which is the opposite of what they’re trying to accomplish.
So maybe instead of trying to convince you that you should believe what I believe, I should just show you that even I am worthy of good things, of love, and so are you. And it’s not because I passed some test of beliefs or faith, or because I belong to the “right” religion, or because I tithe or volunteer or don’t do any of those things. It just is.
It turns out the standard setting on me, on everyone, is Lovable, and maybe if everyone believed they were worthy of it, we’d have a better world. Maybe that’s all anyone is ever trying to accomplish with human rights campaigns, with politics and laws and religion and proselytizing and writing and speaking and singing and art, both with the failures and the successes. Maybe that’s all Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa or Gandhi or Jesus or Abraham or those Paleo diet people or anyone else was ever trying to tell us. Not “follow me,” not “do as I say,” not “follow these rules. to lose twenty pounds.” Just this: ”You are loved. Because. You deserve everything good. Because.”
And then I think about how much harder I would work if I knew the good thing was coming to me. I stopped writing for so many years because I listened to all those people who said it was a hard field to break into, always assuming that I couldn’t do it if they said I couldn’t. I listened to my own self when I said I wasn’t good. I listened to the rejections instead of the successes. I ignored every kind word and laser-focused on the mean ones, like all the thousands of blog comments I get, and the, what, twenty negative ones. Why am I always listening to the small, niggling voice that says I am worthless and unlovable instead of the overwhelming voices screaming out the opposite? Why are YOU?
So, here, now, I am declaring this: I am going to be a success in my life, because I am going to let love in. I am. It might take some work, but I’m going to do it. I think it will make all the difference.