I was recently fortunate to receive an advance copy of Helen Landalf’s anticipated teen novel, “Flyaway.” It’s the story of fifteen year old Stevie, a girl used to her drug-addicted mother disappearing for days at a time. Her Aunt Mindy is interested in taking care of Stevie, but Stevie stubbornly refuses to see the love behind the offer and delusionally insists she can take care of herself.
So what does this have to with us? Reading Landalf’s story of Stevie, I was struck over and over again how we tend to believe what is easy. It’s easy, familiar, and comforting for Stevie to believe that her mother will always come back, and that she may even quit drugs. It’s easy for Stevie to believe what other people have told her about Alan, a boy with a bad reputation. Yet, stubbornly hanging on to these familiar beliefs – the devils she knows – nearly costs Stevie the opportunity to be truly cared for and befriended in a way that she – and all of us – deserve.
Over and over I ask myself: what lies am I telling myself, and what truths am I refusing to hear? In my senior year of college, I asked a male friend if he thought I was fat. (Mistake #1). He said no, I wasn’t, just out of shape. He was right, of course, but all I heard was the “no,” and ignored the “out of shape” part. (Mistake #2). I let myself be comfortable with the part that I wanted to hear. Had I taken action then to take responsibility for my health I can only imagine how much happier I’d have been with myself. Instead, I lived for years suppressing the other half of that statement, the “out of shape,” and it silently ate me up inside until I finally stared it in the face and did something about it.
I have a client who thought of herself as active and who considered that she ate “reasonably” well. I had doubts on both counts. I asked her to wear a pedometer, but she was resistant. Wearing a pedometer would have shown her exactly how much movement she was lacking, and she wouldn’t do it. Knowing deep down what she’d learn, she didn’t want to be shown how she was failing herself. Happy ending: I got her to take a hard look at herself, log her movement and her food choices, and take pride in the changes she is making. It’s not easy, but it feels so much better to her. She struggles, but she feels liberated from the self-lies.
Like Stevie in Landalf’s novel, there are times we have to take a hard look at ourselves and see what actions or beliefs are holding us back from being loved, and from loving and caring for ourselves. When we let go then we, too, can “Flyaway!”