Don’t laugh.

I blogged about this once before, I’m sure I did. Unfortunately, me, being me, gave it some obscure title, didn’t put it in any kind of category, and now can’t remember when it was. Oh well.

You get to hear this story again. I don’t mind. It’s a good one.

About three years ago I was pegging the washing on the line when God spoke to me quite clearly. I’d been praying (complaining to Heaven?) about our financial situation, and telling God how I felt about it honestly. I can’t honestly remember if I asked for anything or not. It was a washing prayer, a conversation like you’d have with your dad sitting on the patio chair, it wasn’t anything big or super-spiritual. But God spoke to me.

Now that in itself is possibly a bit contentious to some of you. God spoke to you Megan? At the clothesline? While you were pegging washing??!! Was the shrubbery on fire over in the corner? Did the bedsheet suddenly show the face of an angel? Did the Heavens open and a dove descend (and poop on your newly-washed trousers)?

No. Now shut up and let me finish. What do you think the virgin Mary was doing when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? Sitting around waiting for a miracle? I doubt it. She was probably pegging washing as well.

Clothes line (Wikimedia commons)

So God spoke to me. Well, at least, this thought popped into my head. (Aha! See, I can hear you scoffing again! Stop it! Sometimes that’s how God speaks to me. Seriously. And I’ve been listening for enough years to figure out pretty well by now what’s God, what’s me-having-random-thoughts, and what’s something else. Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yes, but that’s another story).

The thought was this, and this is also how I knew it was God: it wasn’t anything I’d ever think by myself. It was far too out-there for me to even imagine; if it were MY mind I’d make up something much more sensible, like “you’ll be provided for always”, or “don’t worry”. No. This is the thought that entered my head:

“I’m going to pay your mortgage off in three years.”

Oh.

Now the first thing I thought of was the bible story of Abraham and Sarah, when God spoke to Abraham and said “I’m going to give you a son, even though you’re like, flippin’ ANCIENT and would be pretty much considered dead if you lived in the 21st century” (yes that is the Megan Sayer paraphrase), and how his wife cacked herself over it. And I thought: Don’t laugh.

I didn’t. I swallowed hard and said out loud, to the washing in general, “thank you.” And then I went inside and told my husband. (To his credit, he didn’t laugh either.)

Now, here’s some stuff that I believe: I believe that God is completely in love with us, his people, whether we know him or not, and whether we believe in Him or not (no, I’m not here to get into a theological argument of “if God loves us so much then why…” because I love MY children too, and that can’t fact alone doesn’t stop them from whacking each other with sticks) I believe He likes to talk to us. The day my nominally Catholic neighbour told me that she woke up one morning and thought “my ex-husband is going to call me today” and he did – I believe that was God telling her that. There are heaps of those experiences going round, for believers and non-believers alike. I believe it’s God, just like I believe that sometimes the way God speaks to us isn’t with words at all.

All that happened way back in 2010. My husband was working a part-time job and ran a small business. My youngest was two, and I was a stay-at-home mum with no income. Our mortgage payments were certainly not huge by mortgage standards, but they took up a lot of our small income, and we were about seven years in to a 30-year mortgage.

We made the last payment a week ago. I won’t bore you with technicalities, but in about six weeks we get to go into the bank and do all the paperwork we need to close it forever.

Three years.

It’s okay. You can laugh now. Those words were true.

I’m going to go peg some more washing this morning (like I do every morning), and I’m going to look up to the Heavens again and say a big and heartfelt THANK YOU. And let me encourage you, my friend. Go peg some washing yourself. Go get honest with an empty patio chair. Pretend there’s someone sitting in it that loves you with a wild abandon. And, if unbidden thoughts of goodness and hope enter your brain don’t discount them. Don’t laugh. They may well be true.

Lest We Forget

It’s ANZAC* day today. I didn’t want to get up early because I’m feeling far from great right now, but my nine year old daughter wanted to go to the Dawn Service with Grampy and Uncle Paul, so up I got, and woke her I did. And, against all better judgement, stayed up.

I can’t complain. Not today. Not when I’m sitting here in my warm dressing gown in my warm house with my warm ugg boots and my warm cup of tea. I’m not in a muddy trench. My life isn’t threatened, nor my country.

THe first ANZAC Day march, Brisbane, 1916 (Wikimedia commons)

THe first ANZAC Day march, Brisbane, 1916 (Wikimedia commons)

I went to a funeral on Monday for my mother-in-law’s uncle Tom. I didn’t know him that well, but he was a wonderful, wonderful man, and I wish I had known him better. He wasn’t yet born when this picture was taken, but he fought in World War 2. A man from his local RSL branch spoke at his funeral, and they laid poppies on his coffin.

I was at Uncle Tom’s house once, years and years ago, and he mentioned he’d fought in the war, in Papua New Guinea. Me, being me, and being probably too young at that time to really know any better, asked him “What was that like?”. He couldn’t talk about it, not then, not over a cup of tea and a biscuit some fifty odd years after the fact. I learned a lot that day, simply from that.

I learned that I may never understand.

All I can say is “thank you”.

*For my non-Aussie readers, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day, 25th April, marks the tremendous sacrifice of life at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915. I believe the last of the old Diggers have died now, but we keep the tradition, remembering those who fought in all the battles, right up to the present one. Lest we forget.

How to Clean: or Why Chucking Stuff Out Is Related to your Bank Balance

I cleaned up.

No, I mean really cleaned up. I know a lot of you do this all the time and it’s no big deal, and I’ve had this discussion with people before, but it’s strange, because this time I REALLY cleaned up.

Are you lost yet?

Sorry. I got ruthless. I got rid of stuff. I got rid of overly sentimental things I’ve been holding onto for years. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit my kids, or didn’t look great on them, or just didn’t look great. I got rid of old toys, broken toys that have waited a while to be fixed, cheap rubbishy toys that never get played with, and some great, expensive toys that never get played with either.

See? I knew it. You do this all the time, right? Well, true confessions here: I don’t. Sure, I clean up. Sure I get rid of clothes that are too small, and toys that are broken or they’ve outgrown. Just not as much as I should, apparently. Or so I’ve learned now that I’ve done it.

Have you been to my house? It’s a lovely place, but “small” is  good word for it. So is “cluttered”. “Old” is also appropriate (although “antique” is a better word for it). How about a phrase for it: “Lacking In Storage”. Yes. Yes, even with all that, it STILL took me this long to learn the value of the good old ruthless chuck-out.

So what changed? Well, me.

Actually, what changed was our financial situation. Here’s the paradox: the more money I have, the less things I feel I need to keep. Weird, huh? I thought so. It made me analyse why it was I was keeping things in the first place.

  1. I keep things because I might need them. So this is valid, right? I might. Although, generally speaking, if I haven’t needed it in the last twelve months then I may not need it at all. Poor me thinks “but it could be useful”. Me with enough money thinks “If by any chance I ever need another one then I’ll buy it”. 
  2. I keep things because of sentimental value. I think this is fine, to an extent. Although I kept stuff because it reminded me that when my kids were tiny they DID actually have some nice things. Poor me remembers all we didn’t have, and couldn’t afford to buy them. Poor me is somehow trying to doctor my memories of the past so it only includes the good bits. Me with enough is able to let go, to grieve for the times I couldn’t give my children the things I wanted them to have, and remember that THEY are no worse off because of it. THEY are fine. 
  3. I keep things because I’m blessed to have them. Well, yes. I am blessed to have some very beautiful things, and of course I’ll keep things that are precious to me or that make me happy. D’uh. But the flipside of “appreciating what you’ve got” is that you appreciate EVERYTHING. I appreciate the eleven pairs of shoes that my boys have been given, even if they never want to wear them. I appreciate the pile of colouring books my kids have accumulated over the years. I appreciate the huge amount of pyjamas they have, too. That’d cost a bunch, to have to go out and buy all them, and a lot of the time it was money we simply didn’t have. Poor me appreciates everything, and sees value in everything, and therefore keeps everything. Me with enough is free to say “Actually I don’t like it”, and to say “no thank you”. 
  4. I keep things because once upon a time I bought them. I bought them, often, because they were on sale, and I saw that as my one opportunity to own something that was almost exactly what I wanted–when what I wanted was truly out of my budget. Poor me says “I’ll work my way up to the thing I really want by getting something almost-good-enough”. Me with enough says “if it’s not what you want, don’t buy it!”

So my ability to keep a clean house is all in my head. And it started with my bank. Sure, all of these thought changes could have happened without an increase in finance. Some people (most people?) grow up knowing these things already. I didn’t. A lot I learned from my mother, who possibly learned it from her mother, and she, my grandma, was a young woman during the Great Depression. 

I don’t need to let 1930s-thinking affect the way I live my life today. The world has changed. And now I have changed. Heck, I might go chuck something out, just to celebrate. 

Care to join me?

My husband emailed me an awesome article he found on the subject too, after my Great Revelation and subsequent Great Purge. If you relate to what I’m saying here, this is well worth a read. http://www.yellowpages.com/news/living/the-surprise-secrets-to-decluttering-your-home-and-your-life/ 

Love and judgement: a reflection

…and then there was Boston. And the raging argument over abortion legislation in Tasmania. And deaths of loved ones, and people on Facebook with broken hearts and broken spirits because of all of these. Even the air around me grieved yesterday.

We’re a bigoted bunch, it seems, and too often a calloused bunch as well. I can’t say I’m the exception, although I desperately wish I could. I’ve held onto my own self-righteousness like a cloak that keeps me warm in the past, and I’ve allowed ugly stereotypes and cartoonish thinking to uphold my prejudices against people. And…not only that…I thought I was justified. Ouch.

I’m sorry for it now.

The thing I’ve learned though, is that the same judgements we apply to other people we also unwittingly apply to ourselves. Then suddenly there’s a little part of us, an insecurity hidden deep inside, that cowers and says “I’m not good enough”, and our brazen, bigoted outside grows bigger in order to hide it.

When we stop judging others then we are free to love ourselves.

When we stop assuming that we are right and that we know the cardboard hearts of others then we can start seeing them for the flesh-and-blood and hurting creatures they really are.

I can’t judge. I’ve stood before as a self-appointed judge of others, and I’m deeply ashamed of it now. I’ve not loved people as I need to. I’ve let my own self-righteousness get in the way of loving other people, and for that I’m sorry.

I have no great authority today to say “go ye out today and change the world!”, but I can start with me. And, more so, I can start with MY world. Today I will love my children, and endeavour to respond with understanding and not judgement.

Maybe that way I’ll start a habit in me. Maybe that way I’ll start a habit in them.

Let’s choose to love. It’s all we’ve got.

The Bad Day

I had a bad day the other day. Some are like that. Some days are coffee and some days are cream. Some days are the dregs at the bottom of the coffee pot. Some days, though, are the left-over scrapings at the bottom of the compost bucket. This was one of them.

Now I’m not going to go into a long story telling you all about what happened and why I was so upset, not the least because it’s boring to anyone not living in my head, and it’s also not what I want to write about. What I want to write about it What I Did.

What do YOU do on those Bad Days?

Chocolate cake (source: Wikimedia commons)Well, yes. I thought of that too. Unfortunately I have an intolerance to chocolate (I KNOW! No joke. Small amounts are fine, but regular small amounts give me serious PMT symptoms, which is not pleasant, and–to tell you the truth–possibly contributed to the reason I was feeling so bad the other day in the first place).

So I did the next best thing: I went for a walk in the sunshine and listened to my favourite music. This time it didn’t help. Actually, it made me cry.

Facebook didn’t help, although it gave me another idea. Retail therapy. Six nice bowls, a Dr Pepper, and the dream of fluffy towels later I still didn’t feel any better. Granted though, I had six nice new bowls. And a Dr Pepper (although I didn’t sleep well that night. Has anybody invented caffeine-free Dr Pepper yet? Can I have some please?).

Dr Pepper. Nectar of the artificial gods.

Dr Pepper. Nectar of the artificial gods.

Now you’re probably thinking “D’uh girl. Tackle the source of the problem if it’s that upsetting. Stop trying to bandaid it with fizzy drinks/soda/pop/disgusting sugar-laden cough-syrup-tasting-weirdness (whatever you prefer to call it)”, and normally I would. I’m good at that. Unfortunately I was well aware that the problem this day was basically me.

So the next thing on the list was to start tackling some of the stuff that was getting me down. I cleaned my daughter’s bedroom, and got rid of an insane amount of stuff (she hasn’t commented. Possibly hasn’t noticed), and hung out with a friend for a while during the Great Purge. Both of these helped me feel a little better, but the results were small (in me, not in my daughter’s bedroom) and I needed more than that. I needed serious help.

It took a long, long time to get to this, and I can’t believe it took me this long, but by the end of the day I did the thing I should have done in the morning, and saved myself a few tears and a bunch of heartache: I told a friend.

I don’t know why the right thing to do is often the last thing we think of. I do know that I’ve been well out of practice in letting people in on how I’m feeling, for reasons such as “they’ve got problems of their own, they don’t need mine”, and “it’s not really anything serious, it’s just me having a bad day”, and “there’s nothing anybody can do about it, so why bother sharing it?”.

All of this is, in fact, rubbish.

Yes, my friends all have problems of their own. But they love me. And not only did I not “burden them” (as it’s so easy to think of it as), sharing it lightened my load considerably. Even if it was just dumb stuff in my head. Dumb stuff in heads can cause heads to explode sometimes. That’s why God invented mouths: our release valves.

I feel better now. Much, MUCH better. And I have six new bowls and a clean daughter’s-bedroom as well.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with opening up to people, even trusted friends? What do you do when you’re having a day straight from the compost heap?

Tell someone who cares: some thoughts for my younger self

I don’t know if this is just a me-thing, but I doubt it. Maybe an Australian-thing, maybe a girl-thing. Quite possibly an Australian-girl thing. Please let me know if you have any idea, because these days I’m old enough and wise enough to know that the thought is really quite silly, and it needs to be stopped. I’m not sure why the thinking is so prevalent to begin with.

Here’s the thing, the phrase that got bandied around my mind for so many years, and, if I think about it, the minds of a few of my friends, too: Don’t Ask For Help. People Have Enough Troubles Of Their Own Already.

Have you ever thought that, or been told that? It seems quite silly now, especially as we’re also taught (hopefully) at a young age that love makes the world go round, and we need to be kind to other people. But we also seem to be taught (at least I was) not to pry into other people’s business. Don’t ask personal questions. Don’t go round uninvited. Don’t outstay your welcome. Don’t call, it may not be appropriate. Don’t put your hand up, they may not want you.

The trouble is this: that kind of thinking doesn’t build community. It doesn’t build relationships. It builds islands.

The trouble is also this: we aren’t taught how to get off our islands. Instead we are taught how to kindly remove people who have sailed their little fishing-boats to ours.

Island

Island.

I don’t like it. And, to be honest after all these years, I think it’s wrong. Wherever this idea came from, whoever first started teaching this to their children, they missed the boat.

When I was younger there was a lot of talk about setting clear personal boundaries, and I’m still all for that. I’m an introvert at heart too, and go a bit crazy if I don’t get enough time by myself. And I’ve had friends (obviously not ones who learned this particular lesson early in life, as I did) who would come over for hours longer than I wanted to see them for, and download their problems to me on some kind of constant and never-ending high-rotation loop and completely ignore my subtle (and not-so-subtle) attempts to get them to stop.

Maybe it’s because of those friends that I decided, too, that I didn’t want to burden other people. We were all young. None of us, in hindsight, knew much about anything.

Here’s an interesting thing though: I still have those friends. I still love them dearly. I am proud of them, and proud of the fact that, after some twenty years, they’ve held their heads high through those struggles. I’m well beyond pleased that I was there for them when they needed to download-on-high-rotation. Even though at the time they annoyed me, we are still friends. It’s possibly because their little fishing boat spent so much time at my island that I got involved, got to caring, got to want to know what will happen next, how they’ll sort it out. Like a TV soap maybe. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I couldn’t fix their problems, but I could listen and nod and make them cups of tea, and open my door when they turned up the next day as well, and the next. And I could keep my mouth shut when they annoyed me, and forgive them, and stay friends.

So, if I could go back in time, here’s what I’d say to my younger self:

  • Island living is for birds, not people.
  • Talk. Tell people stuff. Ask questions. Listen.
  • People will care if you let them. If they don’t, that’s their fault. Try someone else.
  • Your needs are as important as the next person’s. Make sure you get yourself heard.
  • Take people’s advice, especially if they’re older and wiser people. That’s called Mentoring. It’s worth sucking up a bit of pride to receive.
  • If people won’t give you advice, ask for it. Then take it. The wisdom and mistakes of other people are how you learn the best way to live.
  • You might have been born on an island, but you don’t need to stay there.

What do YOU think? Have I missed anything I need to tell my younger self? Have you struggled with island living as I have? Do you have any great tips or advice for people learning to get–and stay–connected? 

The ugly truth

Bridgette Bardot

Bridgette Bardot

I have a friend who looks like the young Bridgette Bardot. No joke. In fact there’ll be people reading this blog who know me in my real life (in which I am fairly boring and don’t actually say that much, but that’s another story) who’ll look at this photo and say “Wow, is that…” although I won’t say her name here, because that would just be awkward. And it’s not. It’s Bridgette Bardot (with plenty of clothes on). But, you who are reading this and know who I’m talking about, you’re getting it too, right? It’s weird being friends with someone who looks so much like a supermodel. I’ve learned to deal with it better over the years as I’ve grown more comfortably into my own skin, and got to know her better as well. I know her well on the inside, and I see right through the outside these days, but early on, when I first met her, I found her beauty confronting.

Have you ever experienced that? Is it just me? I’m pretty sure it’s probably a girl thing, so I do apologise to all the blokes out there reading this who are thinking “what?” but never mind. Ask your wife, or your girlfriend. Or your sister. See what they say. Or go hang out with Pierce Brosnan for a few days and see how it makes you feel. Beauty can be challenging.

Sometimes I feel the same way about being in someone’s beautiful house.

Sure, I just nicked this from Google, but…wow. Sometimes I’ve stood in people’s houses that are this beautiful, and instead of simply appreciating the beauty, I feel out-of-place. Not good enough. Unwelcomed by it’s sheer beauty. (Okay, this is definitely a girl thing, isn’t it? If you’re a guy and you’ve ever felt this way, please let me know!)

Here’s the truth though: I have as much right to a beautiful house as the next person.

Here’s another truth: my Bridgette Bardot supermodel friend doesn’t see herself as beautiful at all.

And another truth: another of my precious friends tells me she sometimes picks up jeans from the rack that are much too large for her, because that’s sometimes the size she sees herself as. And, conversely, I,who used to be skinnier, sometimes pick up jeans that would have fitted me ten years ago.

I look at myself in the mirror every single day. So does my Bridgette Bardot friend. Every single day, yet we still don’t get it.

The ugly truth is this: we lose the ability somehow, somewhere, to see ourselves as God sees us: as fearfully and wonderfully made; as precious and honoured; as beautiful simply because we are made in His image. Yet This. Is. What. We. Are. We are robbed from the truth by beauty magazines, by television, the internet, by the lies we listen to in our own minds. It’s time, for me at least, to acknowledge and grow beyond it.

It’s a new week. Do me a favor, take a minute today to acknowledge yourself as beautiful. Yes you. I’ll do it too. Now come back and tell me how you go. 

The stranger at the airport

Want to hear a story?

Over the weekend I rearranged my bedroom. I moved my big old wardrobe from one side of the room to the other, and in order to do that I needed to take everything out. Everything. There’s not many times I do that. Do you have drawers where you put special, random stuff underneath your jeans and jumpers? I think all of my drawers have certain amounts of special weirdness in them, and mostly I know what it is and where it is, but this day I uncovered something I’d been wondering about, something that had been missing for a few years. This is it. Let me tell you its story.

My amethyst crystal

My amethyst crystal

It was September 1993. I’d just turned twenty, and was leaving Tasmania to fly to Perth, Western Australia, to see my dad for the first time in about five years. I had an hour-long flight from Hobart to Melbourne, then a two hour delay before I could board my flight to Perth. I didn’t mind so much. I loved airports, and Melbourne’s is a big one. I took the opportunity to wander through all the shops, and to check out the International departures lounge, dreaming that one day I too would fly out from there to somewhere exotic*

I bought some lunch at one of the cafes there, looked through the book shops and the way-out-of-my-league jewellery shop. I perused handbags and scarves and tiny, fire-coloured opals set in rings and watches. I had a lot of fun looking through the tourist shop, trying to imagine what overseas travellers thought about Australia, and wondered where in the world these “Kangaroo Crossing” signs and outback calendars would grace the backs of toilet doors, and whether people in other countries really did believe koalas were everywhere** and kangaroos hopped down the main street***. I bought a couple of postcards, just to fill in the time, and sat down on a padded bench outside the tourist shop and started writing them, pulling out the massive study bible I carried in my backpack to rest them on.

I’m not great at knowing what to say in letters and postcards, and there wasn’t much news so far. I read a bit of the bible while I waited for inspiration to hit me, and sat quietly and watched the people walk by. There were a lot of Asian people, which I wasn’t used to seeing, and old round men wearing the brightly coloured jumpers I’d seen in the shops just near me. People in smart suits, and people who looked haggard and travel-weary even by the early afternoon. A dude in a Raiders jacket with his hair curly at the back. He reminded me of Tony, because Tony was growing his hair long at that stage, and, because it was orange and curly, gave him the appearance of having a basketball for a head. To deal with this (this was 1993, a time when afros were very much not cool) he wore a Raiders cap constantly. To this day I have no idea who the Raiders are, where they are from or even what sport they play, but I’m as familiar with their logo as if they were my own hometown team.

I wrote some more, and read some more, and people-watched some more too. I tried hard not to be nervous, and so I prayed. I hadn’t seen my dad in years. We’d never been close, and the years before he left had been so fraught with tension and violence that I was glad to see him go. I didn’t know what to expect from him, or from this trip to Perth, where I knew nobody but him. I was confident enough to know I could look after myself in a strange city if everything went sour, and excited to visit a part of the country I’d never seen, but nervous enough to cling to that bible and search through it for promises of hope, for reminders that God was with me, that I wasn’t doing this on my own.

That’s what I was doing when it happened. I was reading the psalms, although I forget which one, when a hand appeared on my bible. A man’s hand, not in a vision or anything spiritual like that, just entering my field of vision while I was reading. And on my bible the hand left that beautiful amethyst crystal. I looked up. It was the dude in the Raider’s jacket. I held his gaze for a few seconds before he turned and walked away with his friend. I picked up the crystal. It was still warm from his hand, and as I held it I felt a shy peace creeping over me. This was my promise. Things would be all right.

And they were.

I still have that crystal. I’ve searched Melbourne airport a few times since that day, and have never found a shop that sells things like that. I don’t know why he was holding it, where he got it, why he decided to put it on my lap like that that day, or who he is. I love the idea that one day all mysteries will be revealed though. One day, maybe in Heaven, I’ll meet the man in the Raiders jacket, and I’ll smile, and I’ll say, finally, “thank you”.

How about you? Have you ever had an unexpected encounter with a stranger? Did it change you?

And another thing, this is the internet. You just never know who reads these things. Do you know a guy with curly brown hair, maybe in his 20s, who wore a Raiders jacket and was passing through Melbourne airport in September 1993? If you do, tell him I said hi, and thank you!

*And lo and behold, nineteen years later, I did! To Los Angeles, which was uncannily like Melbourne, and to the wildly foreign and terribly exotic city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Madonna, Eminem, and Susie Finkbeiner are all from Michigan. It’s cool.

**They are not. In fact, koalas don’t live in Tasmania at all, so although many people on the mainland have seen them in the wild, I have not.

***They don’t. Not really. Well, not in the major cities, anyway. Weeeeellll…not unless you count Glenorchy as a major city (which nobody does, and this fella is a wallaby, not a kangaroo anyhow). Because summer was so dry, and because the bushfires were so severe, a lot of animals made their way to the suburbs for food.

Wallaby

Yes, this guy DID hop round the city…or at least, the suburbs.

The first story we hear

When I was a little girl I had short hair. Really short hair, cut like a boy; the kind you can’t put up in any kind of pigtails. Quite a lot of the time I was dressed like a boy as well, in oh-so-practical brown corduroy trousers, tan-striped jumpers and sturdy work boots or lace-up shoes. Granted, when I was very small I had to wear surgical boots and elastic twisters on a harness thing to straighten my turned-in feet, and the orthapaedic surgeon who supervised my development was the one who said I couldn’t wear party shoes like the other little girls, and the GP who treated my eczema was the one who said I couldn’t wear nylon stockings, and when it’s cold out and you’ve got big ugly boots to wear then trousers are the most practical thing to keep warm in; but it was the hair that clinched it for me. Only boys have short hair like that. I can still remember the shame I felt overhearing the words “look Mummy, that boy’s wearing a dress!”, and being told by older children, whether in spite or in earnest, “This is the girls’. The boys’ toilets are over there”.

I loved my family, and didn’t want to make a fuss, so I sat meekly in a padded chair once every six weeks and had my hair cut boy-short again, smiling tightly at my reflection in the mirror as the hairdresser showed me the back and asked my mother, “is that enough off today?”Inside though I dreamed of hair I could flick or tie or brush with one hundred strokes every morning and night, and I’d sigh, and nod, and wait for the hairdresser to brush the back of my neck so we could go home.

I knew, and I accepted, right from a very early age, that I was different, and that was my lot in life. I knew I wasn’t allowed to be a girlie girl; that pink would never be my color (“it shows all the dirt. So impractical!”), that I’d never dance (how can you go to ballet classes when you can’t wear stockings or put your hair in a bun?), and that whole swathes of beauty and wonder and femininity would never be mine, except as an outside observer.

I had a secret though. Sometimes I’d find old hairbands on the street, and I’d take them home. Once I even found an actual elastic bobble, the kind all the girls wore in their pigtails. It wasn’t that pretty, the plastic beads were just plain see-through plastic with no color, but it was a bobble nonetheless, and it was mine, my very own, and nobody could take it away from me.

I dreamed a dream that one day I’d grow my hair long. No matter what anyone said about me. No matter what I knew about myself. I knew that I’d never have hair like the other girls, but I could still give it my best shot.

This is me in the middle, aged five, with my cousin Janet whom I loved, not the least because she had such beautiful long hair.

This is me in the middle, aged five, with my cousin Janet whom I loved, not the least because she had such beautiful long hair.

I did it eventually. It took me a few years and a couple of false starts, but I started the year in grade ten with hair that, although still not long as such, was all the one length. Like a girl. The following year I got my ears pierced, and beyond that I knew that the sky was the limit, and that I could wear any kind of hair or clothes that I wanted, and nobody had the right to tell me otherwise. And so I did. I don’t have a scanner, so I can’t show you any of the outrageous outfits I wore when I was in my teens and early twenties, although some of you were there, and might probably remember. They were fun times, when the only limits on what I’d wear were budget and warmth. And even then some.

It’s a funny old life though, you know.

I read a blog post the other day. I’d swear black and blue it was by Mary de Muth, although I can’t find it anywhere on her site – it was perhaps a guest post on someone else’s. And perhaps it was someone else entirely, and if it was then I humbly apologise to the author and please let me know so I can link it here. Anyway. The blog was about how the first story we hear about someone or something is the one we accept as truth.  If the first thing you hear about someone is that they’re a liar then it’s hard to accept someone else’s story that they’re honest and true. If the first story you hear about a church is that the people are stand-offish and cliquely, then that’s what you’ll believe, even if you meet someone who tells you about a different experience. Until you can experience something for yourself, it’s the FIRST story that you hear that you believe. Everything else is filtered through that first story. I’m sorry, the author said it better originally. But it struck me as true. If your early childhood experience leads you to feel degraded and worthless, then no matter what anyone says about you after that, you’ll struggle to believe them, because it goes against that first story you heard about yourself.

I was in the bathroom the other day when it occurred to me that there are limits I’ve put on myself as an adult because inside I’m still the girl with the short hair.

I’m the woman who doesn’t go to hairdressers. They’re for people with beautiful hair.

I’m the woman who’d never buy expensive make-up. That’s for “girlie girls” and beautiful people.

I’m the woman who doesn’t wear what everyone else is wearing, because I am different. Not because I want to be, but because that’s MY first story.

I’m the woman who’s okay putting up with old and broken and dirty and mismatched, because pretty stuff is for pretty girls in party dresses, not for girls in brown corduroy trousers with short hair.

We’re in a strange place in life at the moment, and a lot is changing, not the least, me. I am changing. I bought new curtains for my daughter’s bedroom (I won’t tell you what was there before) and they looked so beautiful I nearly cried. My daughter loves them, plain though they may be, and she said “It’s like sleeping in a hotel room!” and that did make me cry, because I suddenly realised that MY first story is now influencing hers. I don’t just have a right to know the truth about myself and walk in that, I have a responsibility to others to do it too.

And so I will, and I am. This Easter holiday, when we’re celebrating the fact that Jesus died and rose again, I’m going to make darn sure that I leave my past behind, and let the real truth be the story that influences my future.