HeartNote, March 5, 2020: Faith and the First Grade Picture

Marlene came to see me for years and years.I heard from her recently. She was one of my favorite clients. She had rediscovered something within her and wanted to tell me about it. And she wanted to go through her history just to bring me up to speed. “I found myself again, and I wanted to tell you about it. But this is a big deal. I didn’t think it would ever happen, and it caught me so off-guard that I just had to tell you about it.”

She reminded me she first made an appointment because she separated from her husband and “divorcing the son of a bitch” a few years later. Her kids were grown. “We stayed together because I got pregnant. We fought like hell. I was young, just past 21 when the test came back positive. I grew to love him. But I was fragile. He could drop me like a rock with a raised eyebrow, unkind word, and I wasn’t able to come back from those comments very well. Instead of hurt, I chose anger.”

“Most people, I guess, have their emotional feel planted enough that they realize the other person’s perspective and let stuff like that roll off their backs. Trouble was, I didn’t know who I was. When I was criticized, it hurt. I had no “self” to stand up for. I just did what he wanted and then, after about three days, I’d explode.”

“But I had no identity. I was a Mom, and I tried hard to love those kids. I worked, sometimes two jobs, and left the kids with him to take care of them while I was working. He did jobs here and there, but ended up staying home. We saved on daycare that way. He was a brilliant man, but as I became more angry, he became withdrawn.”

“Fast forward to today. I got remarried, made amends with my ex as best I could, and our kids together speak to me on a semi-regular basis. When I moved in with my new husband, I found something I thought I’d lost that spoke to me in volumes.”“It was my first grade picture. I was smiling this wide, beautiful smile. I thought about seminars I attended from a man named John Bradshaw. Brilliant guy. Used to talk about the “inner child.” I think he used it as a reference for the kind of person we could be. He said that, “Children are natural Zen masters; their world is brand new in each and every moment.” “I love that.”

“When I saw that picture, I found out who I was again. That place is there, it’s in me, I know it. That little kid’s spirit is alive inside. And every time I look at that picture, I see my face. I see that little kid that is waiting to see the world through new eyes again. I see that .‘”“It renewed my Faith in the good within me. I feel it now, and I believe I can access Her anytime. This child, this Faith within, is embodied in the spirt of that picture, that part of me that still lives within. Now, every day, I wake up telling myself that “something amazing is going to happen” because that is exactly what that kid in the picture would feel. I start to look at things that are closer to the ground, yet I look up at the sky, the tops of buildings, the branches of trees. I see the things from the perspective of my first grade self, remembering that I would shoot out of the door the second my eyes would open on a Saturday morning, and wouldn’t come home until I could squeeze the last few moments of sunlight from the dusk.”

“And for those moments, I’m the that person. That kid’s picture brings me back to the place of great happiness. “

“I was looking for that place of faith, of inner peace all my life. You’re supposed do that “inside job” that guides you to that place? Well, I guess I needed an image. I just needed to see myself at a peaceful, happy, and faith-filled place.”

Marlene began to cry. Quietly, she raised her head and said, “That picture, that little girl…that brought me back to myself, to believe and have faith again.”

“I feel so good now. I just thought you needed to know.”


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