Yesterday I woke up too early. I woke up fidgety and restless. Falling back asleep was out of the picture so Netflix was turned on immediately. When that failed to distract, I got in the car under the pretense of running errands and picking up groceries but the driving was what mattered. Getting out and doing something. Meandering down the aisles did nothing for me so I found myself back in the car. I drove the long way to the movie theater. A favorite form of escaping myself. Only I wound up in the theater forty minutes too soon even after grabbing a bite to eat. I saw a movie about a girl who more or less ran away to find herself and contemplated doing the same. Instead I got back in my car and went to some stores and bought nothing before heading home, completely forgetting to stop at the grocery. The restlessness followed me into my apartment, buzzing and popping in my ear while I waited to go back out. I was so grateful it quieted down once I saw my friends. I wish it had gone away because it would have made for a simpler evening. Instead it turned into anxieties and frustrations and an inability to keep my legs still. It never fully dissipated until I fell asleep. Sleep which mercifully came quickly once I let my head hit the pillow.
January wasn’t a kind month. It’s not one I care to revisit should time travel ever become a reality. 2015 did not ring in with all good things for me or for so many people I love. Honestly January was just hard.
February, while better, has been about regrouping. It’s been about coping in all its glory. It’s been about learning to do simple things that have grown complicated. About navigating the way new normals.
Hence the restless agitation I woke up with yesterday. My coping skills sometimes involve far too much pushing emotions down. This leads festering which I have learned the hard way in the past. I didn’t want to bottle things up because I know I’d eventually explode so I have been talking about how I am when people ask. I’ve also resisted the urge to hide and withdraw because I have been there before and it took me way too long to resurface. Instead I have been very social and engaged in all kinds of activities and avoided hunkering down and going it alone.
This morning, though, when I finally made it to the grocery, feeling much calmer, I realized it’s not the coping that caused my restless Thursday. It’s just that good girl skin itches.
I’m not sure if it started with avoiding time-out or fear of not getting presents from Santa, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I had to be a good girl. It’s a role I’ve worn for as long as I can remember. Just be good. Don’t get into trouble.
I’ve spent a lot of my life being a “good girl.” I rarely got into trouble, I made good grades, and I participated in upstanding activities. I steered clear of underage drinking and premarital sex. The idea of doing drugs or anything illegal (other than speeding) rarely crossed my mind. To this day I am a helper and a fixer and a doer.
Which means that since basically forever, the adjective used to describe me has been sweet. I have received countless notes, yearbook comments, and compliments where people have told me I am sweet. As a teenager, this drove me batty. I wasn’t edgy at all but sweet sounded so blah and it was never an adjective the guys I knew used to describe girls they wanted to date. I was okay with being sweet but I wanted people to realize I was so much more. It’s probably why when a friend told me a couple weeks ago that he was glad I’m around because I’m so mean that it made me very happy. Our friendship involves a lot of good-natured ribbing so he was mostly kidding but I took it as a compliment all the same.
There’s nothing wrong with being good or sweet for its own sake. The problem is that sometimes I equate being good and sweet with good things happening. Be good and you can blah blah blah. Be good or Santa won’t come. Be good and God will give you what you want…
And that’s when I start to feel itchy. Good girls don’t get mad at God. They don’t argue with Him when babies die and relationships get tough and work feels like too much work. Good girls smile come hell or high water. They are sweet and polite even if they don’t feel that way. And they certainly keep it together.
But God never said being a good girl would get you what you want anymore than falling short removes his love, thank God. Grace is a five-letter word I live more and more. I am finally discovering that the good girl is a lie. She doesn’t exist. She’s just a facade I’ve worn for too long and God is peeling that skin away- whether I like it or not.
This peeling skin is unpleasant. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. It comes off in weird patches and takes time. It’s leaving me more sensitive and vulnerable than I’d like. Sometimes it itches, stings, and hurts. But there’s hope in it too. This new skin may be raw but it’s new. It’s whispers that it’s okay if I don’t have it all together because He does. Maybe it’s time to start believing verse I’ve been clinging to and writing on myself, “In Him all things hold together.”*
Maybe then I can say goodbye to being a good girl and start learning how to be a grace-filled woman.