Monday, March 11, 2013

An Unexpected Message

I am just a couple of hours away from hitting the road back to SC... a place that I once called the "dreaded place." It was the state where I ended up in 1982 after my sister passed away, when we moved from Massachusetts back to my mom's roots. It was a place that I was not well received, where I was bullied, saddened and hurt by people who did not even take the time to get to know me. I have visited nearly once a year since I left back in 1999 to visit my mom, my brother, my dad, and 4-5 people that I have managed to keep in touch with all of these years whom I consider friends, but still dreaded every trip. Strange... that after living there that many years, bad memories consumed each and every visit back.

This trip will be different... very different. I am almost overwhelmed as my nerves shimmy and shake at the thought of seeing many people from my past; some who were once those bullies, the ones who made me sad and hurt my feelings. However I am headed back this time to celebrate becoming an author, to share my book and sign them for some of the very people that had a lot to do with me writing it; many  are now my biggest fans. It's weird, and scary, but in a bigger way, it's awesome.

I am looking forward to seeing these faces, perhaps shed a tear or two as emotions come flooding back and memories both good and bad overcome me. I feel blessed to be changing lives, minds and feelings of people I barely know. God has directed me the whole way and through my journey he is leading me back to make what once was a bad thing... good. I know that SC will become a very different place in my mind for the future after this trip. I have already begun to feel the love and support from both friends and foes over the past two years as I wrote the book and shared the journey on social media sites. I have received many emails and messages that have warmed my heart... but the most beautiful one yet came this morning from one of the people who bullied me in high school. She read the book and as I read her email message tears rolled down my face. I have decided to share a small excerpt of her email  to me. I could not include the entire thing as it contained some very personal matters of the heart, but she shared that my book came as an unexpected blessing just at the right time.

"I felt very sad in reading other parts of the story. One thing that really struck me was how much we had in common growing up. I grew up in a very conservative home with parents who were extremely religious as well. I remember having to hide my cassette tapes under my waterbed mattress and not being able to wear pants at times in my life, not being allowed to go to movies. That was always a big source of conflict in my life and it made me sad to know that I stood beside someone who shared the same experiences and possibly could have been a good friend had I bothered to get to know her. But sadly, even if I had known that, it probably wouldn't have mattered. I wasn't in a place in my life where I had learned how to cultivate true friendships. That would come years later. in high school, I was too self centered and immature to be a good friend to anyone. 
I never knew about your sister. I don't know if the other girls did and if it would have mattered but in looking back, it is heartbreaking to think about what you endured in school after having experienced the loss of your sister and moving to a new state. A lot of people would have just shriveled up after the relentless bullying you went through. The fact that you were able to use those experiences as motivation is a true testament to your strength and character. I really wish that I would have been there for you and it makes me feel very small and weak to know that I wasn't. I also have a 9 year old daughter and I talk to her a lot about character development. For all of my religious training and Sunday school lessons, no one ever asked me, what kind of person do you want to be? I ask my daughter that questions a lot and I have shared a story that happened to you with her several times as an example of how hurtful people can be and how important it is to be self aware in how you treat others. I want her to really understand the effect and impact her actions can have if she is not careful and thinking about it. 
I am very happy for you Shelley-not that you need validation from me, or anyone else for that matter, but that is what I feel so I'm saying it. You should be very proud of yourself and how hard you've worked to become so successful. You look amazing and happy, and it seems like you've built a very rewarding life. On top of that, you are touching other people's lives and inspiring others and that is not something that a lot of people get to do on such a large scale. Thank you for sending me the book and sharing your story. I think I read it in like 2 days. It was very hard to put down. I hope you continue to have success with it and that becoming an author and sharing your writing is a very rewarding experience for you. You deserve it."

My lesson for you today is that it is never to late to change, we have all made mistakes but forgiveness awaits for those who are truly seeking it. Just as God forgives, we too can forgive the people who have caused us pain, who have made mistakes and judged us wrongly. Feelings or angst and revenge only eat at us and weigh us down, we need to forgive and let it go. Of course we never forget, it forms who we are but forgiveness is the first step in healing. This person's email has touched my life and forever changed how I feel about her moving forward. Although I forgave all of my bullies and haters years ago when I asked God to forgive me, it was beautiful to receive such a message today and in my opinion it came at the perfect time. 

Have a great day, night, or morning wherever you may be.