It's funny how one day before I was supposed to do something to cheer up my soon-to-be step-sister, I was in desperate need of cheering up myself. Wait, what? You're probably wondering what happened and who this soon-to-be-step-sister is. Calm down! Let's back-track shall we?
So I work in a school as a secretary. Not glamorous but it pays the bills. My dad's girlfriend, now fiance, has two daughters who both go to this school. They're only a little over a year apart with the youngest daughter being 13. Ouch! I know! Very difficult years to navigate! Well on Friday the youngest came into the office to call her mum because she had a bad day. After she hung up, I pulled her to the side to talk. Now I know it would be very easy to ignore this situation as we are nothing to each other. But I'm the bigger (older) person and I have to set the tone for how our 'relationship' will be, i.e. whether or not we'll even have one. I should mention that before this, we had never spoken. Even during the photo shoot, I just took their pictures and communicated through my dad. I didn't expect her to say much of anything to me (she's a teen, they're tough to talk to). But as soon as we were alone, she immediately opened up and began crying. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm awkward around tears (despite also being an MFT Intern). I either start crying too, or completely ignore you. I listened to her, shared some of my own relevant experience and in a last minute effort to win her over, I offered to come by on Sunday after church to do some craft projects with her. This really got her excited and we even hugged on it!
I was really proud of myself for answering God's call to lend a helping hand to someone in need. But this joy didn't last long. On Saturday, I went to my mum's hairdresser for a wash and TRIM. I emphasize the word trim, because it seemed simple enough, yet I walked out of there with more than three inches less, than what I walked in with. As angry as I was with her, I was angrier with myself. I knew that she tends to cut instead of trim, but I still went to her because the service was being paid for by my mum. I had a feeling that she was cutting off more than she should have, but I didn't stop her. I didn't demand that she turn me around so that I could see in the mirror exactly how much she was cutting off. I didn't speak up.
And trust me, I have watched enough episodes of Law and Order SVU and read enough textbooks to know that the victim always blames herself even though it's never the victims fault, but I couldn't help it. I cried all night. Even when I thought I was over it, I cried again. My mother, dad, brother, boyfriend, best friends, even my boss (when I ran into her after the incident) tried to console me and shared in my anger. I think what made this even more difficult was that back in 2009, after getting my heart broken by my first real boyfriend, one of my best friends helped me to dye my hair at home, and then like an idiot only one month later, tried to perm it at home. You're probably thinking it couldn't have been that bad, could it? Oh it was bad trust me! The bottom right side of my head was bald and the rest of my hair was thinning out. I had no choice but to cut it in one of the ugliest haircuts I have ever seen (a little on the top, practically nothing at the back). That was definitely in my top 5 traumatic experiences ever! So when my hair got cut again, it definitely brought back flashbacks and major PTSD. I was ready to skip out on Church and the crafts on Sunday, but I made a promise to her and at her age, broken promises make you good as dead to them.
So on Sunday, I wrapped my head in a scarf, ready to hide my shame, gathered my craft supplies and headed out the door for church. I wasn't crying any more over the haircut, but a dark cloud still loomed over me. But get this. When I stepped outside, I noticed that the Hibiscus tree was in bloom. And so were my mother's Lilies. Fresh flowers that weren't there the day before! It was a miracle. I knew instantly that, that was God's way of smiling down on me and letting me know that everything would be okay. Imagine. While my world was in chaos, the outside world was still functioning and better yet, BLOOMING! My mother's lilies hadn't been in bloom in about a year. I was struggling with my outer beauty, when there was so much beauty around me.
Sure I still had an anxiety attack at church and practically ran out of the room before crying again, but that was the last of it. Having dinner with my step-family and bonding over painting mugs and bowls was really therapeutic as it allowed me to get to know them better and create something beautiful.
Now I am not an expert artist. Painting is not my forte. Nor my step-sisters. But we had a blast fudging our way through it. I think my mug turned out pretty decent and I'm proud I was able to produce a bowl to match. Sure the bowl looks a little tribal, while the mug is more like a cow skipping through an asymmetrical garden. But everyone loved the design and I think my grandmother will love it as a Mother's Day present! (I was originally going to give it to my mother but she reads my blog so that would totally ruin the surprise).
This is the beauty of healing through art therapy. In art therapy, words are not always necessary. A mere lump of clay or a blank canvas can be far less threatening than giving voice to painful feelings, words, or images. The simple act of a scribble on paper can likely bring light to darkness, ignite conversation, or be a release for a depressing thought. I leave you with this verse to encourage you throughout your week:
10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.