January 17, 2013

Skinned Knees

It seems like only a few years ago I spent my summers with red, skinned knees. Sometimes it was the roller skates, sometimes it was because we played tag on the concrete driveway. I didn't always cover them up with bandages, and I didn't mind they showed beneath the hem of my Sunday dress. I didn't have to look perfect. I was a kid.

These days everyone seems to be in competition to appear perfect: the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect friend, the perfect employee, even the perfect Christian. For women more than ever, being human and making mistakes is a sign of weakness. We're not supposed to cry, we're not supposed to fall down. We quietly take our prescriptions every night along with brushing our teeth or stay up too late filling our emotional canyons with junk food. We must, at all costs, never let anyone see our bumps and bruises.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with a friend during a writing break at the library. As we made our way slowly around a cold, winter-kissed lake, I found myself confessing to her that I was having a hard time letting go of bitterness caused by someone who had wronged me and my family. It was hard being around the person and acting polite, when inwardly I was seething. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop the feelings that hurt no one but myself, and I abhor hypocrisy.

The author, far right, sans skinned knees.

My friend only laughed and emphasized with my struggles. She's a special person, one who has no problem sharing the intimate details of her very difficult life. She doesn't pull any punches when it comes to discussing her weaknesses and faults, and to top it off she never says an unkind word about anyone else, even if there's room to blame.

I admire people who are open and upfront about their mistakes. It takes courage to say the words out loud, even if we know what's wrong in our head. I've realized hearing ourselves voice it to a friend or even to the world, can be a catalyst for change. Sometimes too much shame, is a shame.

It's okay to knock over hurdles as we run for the finish line. It's okay to fall down and get hurt. We need more self-honesty in the world, and we need to be comfortable with it. Open up and talk frankly with your special partners and friends. Don't be afraid to admit when you've done dumb things. We all put our foot in our mouths. We all mess up our kids and let people down. Being vulnerable with someone we trust can help us find the courage to heal.

No one in this life will make it across the finish line without skinned knees. The sooner we reach out for support, the easier and faster we can get back up again.

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