Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Soundtrack Of My Life, Mirror Mirror On The Wall

I recently finished the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The book was about two things 1) What it's like to walk thousands of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, and 2) How you heal the holes in your heart by doing something like walk the Pacific Crest Trail.

I've spent a lot of time in therapy the past two years tapping out all of this garbage (my own version of the Pacific Crest Trail). Much of what you're reading here are Significant Events in my life that before tapping felt just as devastating in the present as the past. Fortunately, that's no longer the case. I recognize it sucked, and it shaped many of the (bad) decisions I made later, but it doesn't feel like a stake in the heart anymore. (Good thing, people. It's progress.)

Anyway, after reading Wild it gave me another means of understanding these things. These events all created holes in my heart. Lots and lots of holes. (Some of the biggest holes we have are things we believe about ourselves, but aren't actually true. It's just something someone else said that we accepted as true. And that is what we're addressing today...) So much of what will come after this is all the things I unknowingly did to fill those holes I didn't know I had. I tried to fill them with people and various things. None of that works. No person can fill that hole for you. No thing can fill it for you. Only you can heal that shit up. From this place where I am now... it astounds me that the greatest damage in most of our lives occurs in middle/junior high school and high school. We spend so much time after that trying to fill those holes, but often just making more. What a freakin' mess.

Circa 1978, a few years before this incident, but still... so damn unpretty.
On to the story for today.

When: Sometime in junior high school
Where: Some class I can't even remember, but wasn't mine
Why: I don't even remember

So what happened? I brought a note to a teacher in a class that wasn't mine. Maybe it was from the library, since I worked in the library in junior high. I walked in the door and several boys started making barking noises. You know, like I was a dog. Ugly. As in not pretty.

The whole thing lasted maybe thirty seconds.

Of course, those boys weren't the only people in that school who made me feel that way. That happened on a daily basis.

But that one incident filled me with shame and humiliation YEARS after the fact. I'm positive those boys don't even remember it. Probably forgot it before the class period ended.

The one thing I'm certain that junior high school does is make people feel so damn unpretty. This feeling leaves a hole that many people spend their entire lives trying to fill. I've spent more time than I'd care to admit. Even now, I find myself looking in the mirror not liking anything from my hair to my shoes. It's only in the last few years that I've come to realize that voice is 13-year-old me still feeling insecure, unloved, and unpretty. I have to constantly tell her to shut the fuck up. (Pardon my language, but those negative tape loops are pervasive and only respond to vigorous language.)

One last thing before the song. I know some people didn't care for the movie Pretty Woman... for reasons to large to elaborate on here. However, I loved that movie if for nothing else, this one bit of dialogue that occurred somewhere in the middle of the movie. It spoke to this gaping hole in my own heart (that shockingly enough I didn't realize was STILL there). Now it says to me that way too many people allow negative tape loops to take over the brain. We allow other people and their cruelty to become our own way of speaking to ourselves, thinking about ourselves, etc. And that voice drives our choices. That voice convinces us to make terrible decisions. So, what was the dialogue?

Since you asked so nicely:

Vivian: People put you down enough, you start to believe it.
Edward Lewis: I think you are a very bright, very special woman.
Vivian: The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

(Courtesy of IMDB.) Bolding mine.

Did you feel unpretty in school? Does the 13-year-old inside still sneak out and sucker punch you? Have you healed up the holes in your heart?

If you're enjoying these posts, feel free to share your own Soundtrack. This isn't a hop. No requirements at all, but a suggestion to do it one song at a time. (If you participated in the hop several years ago, you can still do this. Just post them one song at a time, with the freedom to add more songs if you'd like.) I'll link to all participants at the bottom of each of these posts:



  1. Oh yes....I do find it fascinating how huge some memories are for us and th people who helped create them may remember nothing, or a different story.

    1. Maybe it's because it simply didn't mean anything to them.

      I think we've all been on the giving and receiving end of pain. Too many times we've given it without even knowing it... hence, we don't even remember.

  2. Good morning, Robin! We can all relate to feeling "unpretty" some of the time, most of the time or even all of the time. I often wish I could press rewind, go back in time to an incident like the one you described, and handle myself differently. In a way I can and so can you. Do it by taking control of your mind and becoming the vigilant gatekeeper, letting in resourceful thoughts and deflecting those that have, in the past, kept you stuck. If you have allowed your mind to entertain painful thoughts for so long, isn't it only fair to give yourself a break from that and implant some powerful new thoughts?

    Let's examine the incident you described. When you walked into the room and those boys barked, it burned a hole in you that still hasn't completely healed. For years thereafter you allowed that brief moment to influence your thoughts and dictate your behaviors. You may find yourself feeling much better about that incident now if you look at it differently. Consider how awkward and insecure those boys were at their age, especially in dealing with girls. Consider crowd psychology and the extent to which peer pressure and the need for group acceptance factored into their cruel behavior. Obviously those boys gave reinforcement and validation to each other when they barked at girls. They derived a feeling of power from it. Yes, I wrote girls (plural) because it is highly unlikely that they singled you out as the only unattractive girl in the school. Chances are, to get their kicks and assert their dominance, they targeted every girl they encountered regardless of their appearance. Change the meaning, significance and importance of that event in your life. Reframe it. You have the power now.

    I wish you a happy Wednesday, dear Robin!

    1. Mr. Shady,

      Your comment was so sweet, but I want to make something clear. I'm not in the angst of these memories any longer. It's why I started this blog bit with the story about Wild and included this:

      I've spent a lot of time in therapy the past two years tapping out all of this garbage (my own version of the Pacific Crest Trail). Much of what you're reading here are Significant Events in my life that before tapping felt just as devastating in the present as the past. Fortunately, that's no longer the case. I recognize it sucked, and it shaped many of the (bad) decisions I made later, but it doesn't feel like a stake in the heart anymore. (Good thing, people. It's progress.)

      That isn't to say that we all, from time to time, allow that negative tape loop to run yet again. I think part of figuring out how to turn it off is recognizing it for what it is. Or, as you say, seeing it all objectively. Those boys were insecure and trying to appear bigger, better, more attractive to THEIR peers. Their "truth" isn't truth. Understanding that changes our choices.

      Sadly, it's taken me a long time to even realize how long these painful memories (belief systems) determined my own choices. If you don't get this, well then none of the bad decisions that came later make any sense. This, my friend, is CONTEXT.

      Fortunately, it isn't where I live... not anymore. I've already reframed it:)

  3. You're right that no one and on thing can fill our holes.
    Middle school/Jr. High is a place of horrors. I think very few come out unscathed. Like most boys that age I looked very young, I was a band geek, and an overall dorky kid with a Prince Valiant style haircut.
    And I don't think you are unpretty in that photo.

    1. I don't actually think I'm unpretty in that photo (now) either. But back then... when this was my reality... I saw it all very differently.

  4. Eek, Robin. The caption on the picture gives my heart a little pierce. I think you were beautiful then and beautiful now. We all look like our family's... little bits and pieces of so many people we love and/or who are a part of us. It's a wonderful legacy to carry around. I think the way we all look is a wonderful thing, and I'm happy we don't all look like the perceived picture of beauty (I'm thinking cheerleader/Barbie doll, whatever). I'd rather look like my mom/grandma/aunts/grandpa (yeah, thanks gramps for giving me the big forehead and large nose, lol) than Barbie. Any day. It's all a part of who I am, and I like who I am. Even when I make mistakes. :) As for those boys, and others who did the same to you and/or other people too...phft to 'em. ;) They probably got their edification from looking big to their friends. That's a sign of their own insecurities, not a reflection of you. :) Hugs to you, and I hope you find your happy place where you embrace and love your individuality. Takes awhile sometimes, I know. ;)

    1. I guess I'm not as good a writer as I'd like to be... I wanted to capture the mood of how that girl felt THEN but give you the information up front that I've come to see it all differently NOW. Hence the three paragraph introduction... lest you think I still "live" in this place.

      Being perfectly honest, I do revisit it occasionally when my guard is down and those negative tape loops kick on, but only occasionally.

      I think you're a 100% right... in many ways, like me, they perceived their value in what others thought. It's a dangerous road and most of us were on it. The thing is that road shapes so many people until they die. Until they die. Think about that. We only understand the behavior of others when we truly get that most people are walking around with holes in their hearts inflicted from childhood (and don't even know that those holes are there). The best we can do is fill our own holes. Some of the worst we can do is try and fill those holes with people and things.

      And that has been my work of the last two and a half years. Filling my own holes. In doing so, I see it all very differently now.

    2. I'm glad you're in a better place. And I totally get that we have holes at some point. Thank goodness for drywall patch (or whatever else we use to fill 'em up). ;)

  5. Junior high is a cruel time. I was glad I taught high school though sometimes those cruel behaviors would carry over to the older kids. So sorry you went through that.

    1. Ah well. The more I read the responses here and watch the world (at large) I KNOW I'm not the only one. Sharing this is actually intended to 1) see if it hurts at all when I tell it (so far, no:) and 2) help others to see if they have any holes in their hearts.

  6. Kids are mean, but our whole society is based on a definition of beauty that has been sold to us.

    I saw this band last weekend (flew four thousand miles and saw them three times), but one of the highlights of Marillion Weekend 2015 (for me) was when they played "Beautiful," a song about just that.

    So like the song says, "stand up and be beautiful"


    1. I think that there are a whole bunch of things at work here.

      In the case of those boys... I think it was more about them and less about me. They wanted to feel more important to their peers. I'm sure I'm only one of many people they reduced to feel bigger. Yeah, it was just another form of bullying because they were insecure.

      Then there is the layer of "what is beautiful" defined by celebrities and magazines... yadayada. It's a measure of beauty that is unattainable. Heck, most of them have been airbrushed for photos.

      I listened to your link. Good song. We all need to shake off these belief systems that don't actually serve us and accept ourselves (and others) for the good things we have to give.

    2. It took me a lot of years before comments from other people stopped bugging me. Sadly, there always have been and always will be bullies (never did care much for them).

      Funny thing is, I know a lot of people my age who are still so insecure that the bullying behavior has morphed into bragging (look how great I am, look what I own, my kids are all Mensa geniuses with superior athletic prowess)-which bores the daylights out of me.

      Those guys probably got the same treatment during the same time period-I don't know anyone who made it through high school unscathed.

      A friend's daughter actually finished her senior year of high school at home because of treatment like that, and she's a great looking young lady.

      Sadly, now bullying seems to come from both genders.

    3. OMG... I haven't thought about the insecurity turned into bragging, but I know just want you mean. I know people like that... and it is irritating beyond belief. It kinda helps to know it stems from that hole of insecurity that was never filled.

      Not only is bullying these days coming from both genders, but there is now cyber bullying. At least when I was a kid I was safe at home. Not true for the kids of today. I think they might get the worst of it after school is out and all the bullies are at home tapping away on their computers. A good reason to keep your teen off social media IMO.

    4. What's funny is, with social media it should be so easy to ignore it.

      Back when I was new to the internet, there were e-mail lists (sort of like Yahoo Groups or digest e-mails) for musicians, and I was on one for Todd Rundgren (big surprise, huh?).

      I got into an e-mail debate with a guy and told him we should keep it off-list (e-mail each other directly). He started in with abusive language and profanity and I took the bait, and a few e-mails went back and forth. I did get pretty nasty (in kind-he was very nasty), but this guy took quotes from my e-mails-the worst ones, of course-and sent them to the list trying to get them to boot me off.

      The list moderator was someone I knew, and he was shocked. I told him the comments were real, told him they were in response to provocation, but admitted that the whole thing was pretty childish and for me in my late 30's, a disappointment. I told him to do what he felt was right regarding banishm,ent (I was not), but from that day on I just used the delete key.

      But you are right-teens get subjected to the abuse on their Facebook pages (wasn't there just a suicide related to that-may have been local) and if I could get lured into a senseless war of e-mail, why would we expect less from someone 20 years younger?

      There needs to be an electronic version of a punch in the nose (best solution for a bully-hit them hard and they run like the cowards they are).

      How sad that it takes us so long to learn how precious all life is and how beautiful everyone is (or at least how beautiful everyone can be when they let the negativity go and let themselves shine).

    5. Speaking solely to teens and Facebook: I haven't seen this cyber bullying (I really don't have many teenaged FB friends... mostly just my ex's kids, and I haven't seen cyber bullying there. Although, H-Girl sometimes posts things in her status that make me think she is getting a rough time at school. Stuff like, "You can try to make me feel bad to make yourself better, but it isn't working." Which blows my mind. She's already got these bullying types figured out. Bravo for her.) Anyway, I think that someone who is being actively bullied ON social media doesn't get into an email war. Or comment war. Or any war. I think someone posts something awful and then a whole bunch of other people say really mean things in the comments. And the person being bullied reads it all, but doesn't SAY anything. I find the whole thing horribly sad, and I think social media (for teenagers only) should be monitored by an admin who deletes the accounts of people who bully. Since they don't, parents really need to take a more active interest in their teenager's social media accounts.

      Yes, it is way too easy to be drawn into a wordfight with someone on the computer. Usually you reach a point when you realize that you aren't doing yourself any favors and quit. BUT, it happens to the best of us... at least once. Then we ignore or use the delete key.

  7. Middle school is an incredibly tough period in life! I have scars from it, too. My daughter is going through some nasty stuff, because that's where she's at. It would be nice if we could completely erase from our minds that stuff that happened then. I guess we just have to focus on what we've accomplished and the good things we've experienced, and try to leave the hurt in the past.

    1. I think the only way we successfully leave the hurt in the past (the goal, for sure!) is to heal up our own holes. To do that we need to see them for what they are. Then see it all for what it was. And release the pain of the whole darn mess once and for all.

  8. I think kids are often mean because they're all trying to displace their own insecurities on other people. We're all tossed together in this place called school and are forced to deal with each even though we'd often rather be somewhere else with different people.

    I can't say that I felt "unpretty" as much as I just felt invisible. My insecurity was probably less warranted than should have been since I had a lot going for me. But I was scared and lacking in confidence. No one bothered me much at all, but they didn't seem to pay much positive attention to me either. Looking back I realize that a lot of that was likely my own fault for not trying to reach out and to fit in.

    In high school I remember one girl in the class beneath me who was genuinely unattractive in her appearance. A lot of the guys made fun of her and were extremely mean to her. I didn't know her and I never treated her badly. Before her graduation I remember the school paper had all the seniors say something about their school experience and to "will" something to the underclassmen. When I read what this girl had to say it genuinely broke my heart and brought tears to my eyes. She had gotten through high school having experienced so much cruelty and yet she managed to maintain some sense of dignity about it all. I have wondered whatever became of her and how much of that hurt she continued to carry with her through life. The school alumni directories published years later always showed her address unknown because she'd apparently not responded to the inquiries to be included. I guess I can see why. She undoubtedly wanted to leave those school years behind her.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    A Faraway View

    1. The irony is that everyone has more going for them than they believe during this time.

      That story you shared is heartbreaking, and I think it exists in every school. Well... not everyone handles it with dignity. I feel sad for her, and I didn't even know her. I really hope that she reached the place of understanding that it's really about a) what's on the inside, and b) what you think about you vs. what other people think about you. So long as you insist on seeing yourself through the eyes of others, you will always be disappointed.

  9. I really think you've come a long way in figuring out these holes. Every day can bring one up- or back, as the case may be. But there are some it's constructive to deal with, and some are just depression looking for a bone to chew. I get the last type a lot. This week I was musing on the actual damage to myself that no one ever helped me fix. But I know that a lot of that was from no one knowing the damage, or me rejecting the help I couldn't see I needed.

    It would all be so much easier with an instruction book, eh?

    1. It's funny, CW, but the best way I find a "hole" now is to track my migraine. If my migraine is bad, chances are good I've just stepped into a "hole" I didn't know was there.

      And that is part of why I write all of this "junkola" and make it more palatable with music. Just last week my mom and I ran into an old friend of hers. She was a mess. Her daughter (probably in her 30s/40s) has been living with a chronic daily migraine for four years now. This lady said a friend of her daughter's is also dealing with chronic migraine. I told her what I'd learned and suggested she change doctors, start tapping, etc. But it brought home to me that the longer we don't deal with those holes OR we step into one we didn't know we had (and it's a relentless life situation)... well, it's going to result in physical pain. Maybe migraine. Maybe back pain. Whatever, it will manifest in pain.

      So, if someone reads this and thinks, "Oh dear, that experience from (insert time) still hurts like crazy..." Maybe they will stop and realize they need to fill up that hole. Or something else is going to start hurting like crazy.

  10. This just broke my heart reading this, Robin. I'm so sorry those boys did that to you at such an impressionable age. You didn't deserve that. It never ceases to amaze me how much damage can be done in a matter of a few moments. You're right, no one can fill that hole inside us except us. I'm glad you're making that happen. Go You!

    1. I would say, "Feel bad, but not too bad." I don't. Not anymore. However, this incident (and other bad incidents) ruled my internal monologue for the longest time. I now see it for what it is. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people have similar stories... and even worse. Worse yet, there are a whole bunch of people whose internal dialogue is still being run by this voice (or voices).

  11. I had a similar experience in junior high only the boys tapped on the desk with their pencils because supposedly my ears were like radar dishes and could somehow hear whatever message they were sending. Oh, and I got called Gretta after some dog they knew. Yup. Good times. I always wonder what sort of person I would've turned into if that hadn't been my experience.

    1. I don't know, Marcy, but if you think it can be someone who is unaffected by those experiences (in the sense that they no longer have sway over your internal dialogue), I say, "Choose that." Accept that those people were only trying to boost their self image by hurting yours. They were insecure. Ergo, nothing they said (or did) was an accurate reflection of you. When you believe that, it will almost be like that experience happened to someone else. Mostly because it did. It happened to someone who believed it, but you are no longer that person. That shift changes you in extremely positive ways. Open the door and let the sunshine in.

    [I haven't read the other comments yet, so hopefully I'm not repeating stuffs with this one.]

    You sneaked this in on me somehow - didn't see it yesterday. But then I wasn't on the computer much yesterday, as I went for a long, long bicycle ride.

    The barking thing... my heart kind of broke for you while reading that. But [Link:->] OH! LOOK AT YOU NOW! Guys all after you 'n' stuffs. Some young dude gets sore because you break up with him. Payback's a bitch, boys! Ha! (Even though I know that "payback" isn't what's in your heart and mind.)

    For me, junior high and high school really helped to make me an individualist. I was painfully, Painfully, PAINFULLY shy (if you can believe that), but there were certain experiences where I consciously removed myself from the "in crowd" in a way, and as a result I too was occasionally teased or criticized.

    But in the long run, I see how it was an early, foundational building block in helping me to find the strength to go it alone and stand up to people who need to be put in their places.

    Of course, it was still many years before I really found "myself" - and God's influence, plus all the reading I did played the biggest roles - but I can look back and see the things that made me who I am today (for better or worse).

    I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating: In their very early days, some writer in a music magazine reviewed a Carpenters concert (this was back in their pre-recorded Jazz days) and referred to drummer Karen as "Richard's chubby sister". And guess what! She read the review, took it to heart, and that's where her eating disorder began which ultimately killed her at such a young age.

    Offhand, casual remarks and so-called "jokes" can wound some people far more than many could possibly imagine. And in Karen's case, a thoughtless remark actually killed her eventually.

    This was a painful blog bit to read, but I'm glad you wrote and posted it.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. StMc,

      If you read the comments, you know I'm not all torn up about the barking thing. I get what was going on there.

      I will say that because I did take all of this to heart (for a very long time) I was *probably* a bit hyper-sensitive about my appearance... well, for most of my life. And even now I find myself struggling with the grey hairs (blah blah blah). But, I do believe this is better (as in much better) than it was.

      As for that young whippersnapper... I believe I told you about that really mean text message he sent me. I read it to my therapist and told her my response, which was to laugh at it. She said, "Wow. That was bullying. You've come a long way." And she was right. The old me might have engaged with that sort of thing trying to make him like me. Or think I'm likable. Or not what he said. I don't know exactly, but would've been uncomfortable with just leaving things that way. No more. I'm now perfectly fine with it. (I feel like a Marlboro ad... wasn't that the one that said "you've come a long way, baby?")

      It's funny, but you say "it was many years before I really found 'myself'"... In some ways I feel like I've just now found myself. What do you know? I like me more than I thought.

      I didn't know that about Karen Carpenter, but, oh yes, that is precisely what I'm talking about IN THIS POST. We allow people who don't matter to get into our heads and drive our choices (usually in a detrimental sort of way) and sometimes we figure that out... and sometimes we don't. Sadly, she didn't. And it's a shame because she was a beautiful woman with a gift for singing.

      I post these things so that anyone who might still be listening to that voice can recognize it for what it is (and tell it to shut up).

    2. Yes, the text message is exactly what I was alluding to, but I didn't want to say too much because I wasn't sure how much you'd revealed to others about that.

      "You've come a long way, baby" - a Marlboro ad? Ha! No, about 180-degrees different. Think: Virginia Slims. (Wow, are you ever bad in your awareness of Feminist propaganda! I got it down better'n you and I haven't been a feminist since... since... since one of my past lives!)

      >>... "(and tell it to shut up)".

      Don't you mean "shut the fuck up"?

      Going to work on your E now, and I haven't even started writing my BOTB for tomorrow. Looks like I'll be up late tonight.

      ~ D-FensDogG

    3. I haven't blogged about the text message. It's funny, but I think it has to do with the level of insignificance it has for me.

      Virginia Slims. Yep, you're right. I kinda knew Marlboro was wrong when I typed it, but I couldn't think of anything else.

      Yeah, I meant shut the fuck up. Those voices need strong language!

      I'm not sure I'll reply to your E today, either. But, it was a good one:)

    4. <<---I'm not sure I'll reply to your E today, either. But, it was a good one:)

      I read this again and it didn't sound right. What I meant was this: I'll definitely reply (it was a fantastic email), but probably not today as my plate is looking very full. Better????

  13. I just read Wild too, and was amazed at her method of self healing. And yes, those voices, the negative ones, need to be obliterated. But if you are a sensitive soul, it is so very hard to to. Robin, I must say I am always impressed in the way you use music to identify issues and heal yourself. You are getting better. I can tell.

    1. It was a fascinating book, no? I still find myself thinking about the more strenuous, physical aspects of it (and how physically painful it was) and the level of perseverance required to keep going in the face of it. I think someone only can do that if they NEED to. I don't think she understood the reason behind her need at the time, but it was there. I'm so glad I'm finding other ways to heal up the holes in my heart so I don't need to walk over a thousand miles.

      I don't think I would be this far without 1) this blog or 2) my tapping therapist. Both have helped me to release painful things so that they don't dominate my thinking any longer. And that helps move me toward a healthier (migraine-free???) me.

      When I look at how far I have come, I can't help but wonder how far I have to go? Does that sound crazy? I've traveled pretty far down this road (and still have migraines), so how much further is required? And then that part of me that feels very tired wonders what I would've done had I known that the journey was this long? I guess I still would've gone, because staying where I was... not an option.

      Thank you for hanging in during this very long trip. (I bet you thought I was going to "crack up" before I got here! If so, you wouldn't be the only one... I had my doubts, too!)


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