I’m a believer that incredible power is found when we tell people’s real stories. They have the power to connect to the heart in a way that nothing else can. There’s also power in remembering. I did a little bit of both today.
Here’s the story of my Four Year Surrender.
Throat tightening, eyes burning, breath rapid, she closes her computer and snatches headphones from the desk. She ducks her head as she passes a group of girls on the stair well. No one will see her cry. Weakness is unnaceptable and failure is inexcusable. Her blue asics pound the ground as she charges toward the south end of campus.
Not good enough to make the list posted on the cinder block wall. Not worthy enough for a second interview. Invisible to the boy she likes. She’s petrified of disappointing the people she loves and conceals that fear behind a beautifully crafted mask. She fools everyone, even herself.
There’s nowhere to hide, so she runs. Tears mingle with the sweat and prayers bang on the walls of her mind until the pressure overwhelms her. She finally surrenders with a yell, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”
The long days stretch out into late night car rides made up of coke icees, french fries and pajama bottoms. Somehow the rejection isn’t quite so heavy when she lets people help her carry it. No one has any idea where they’re going. They feel loss and stress and incredible heart ache, but they feel it together. They battle through boyfriends and breakups and backstabbing hand in hand.
This might be the place she takes off her mask for the first time. It’s been so long that she doesn’t really know what exists underneath. But it’s so hard to breathe behind the mask. Concealing the ugliness cannot be worth the struggle.
One night, cross legged in front of her friends, she surrenders. Pieces of the mask crumble to the earth and they gaze at her in wonder- not because of the ugliness, but because of the astounding strength and beauty.
She breathes freely and she uses every ounce of that breath to fight. She fights to keep the mask off. She fights for her friendships. She fights against fear of rejection and fear of the future. Most of all, she fights to become the woman she wants to be.
The world is a new place filled with new thoughts and feelings and ideas. With every inhale she takes in the fresh air of intellect and with every exhale the composition of her heart and mind change the smallest bit.
The heart inside her chest beats harder every day with new love, crisp pain and unrefined passion. Her old self picks up fragmented pieces of mask and fights against the forgien. The tension builds and builds until the day she finally falls at her knees and surrenders with a prayer, “Help me be brave.”
The days are gritty and lavish with feeling. Her newborn strength laughs at the rejection she felt the night she ran south through campus. She smiles at the fear she felt sitting cross-legged in a circle. She longs for last year’s fight.
Somehow she’s simultaneously full of confidence and insecurity. She longs for the future and clings to the past. She’s weak and strong, peaceful and frantic.
She’s beauty, brains and brawn in no particular order.
She drives with the windows down past the landmarks that have built her story. She lets herself feel every memory, experience every regret, cry out every fear. Surrendering, she prays, “What do you want from me?!”
Suddenly, she’s sweaty and crying in her blue asics. Tears sting her eyeballs, not with sadness but hope.
The very question that gave birth to the life changing four-year surrender reminds her that many days of surrender still lie before her.