GENDUSA COLUMN: Our final showdown with life

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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“She lays all her cards on the table in her personal showdown with life.” My good friend and acclaimed writer, Lee Walburn, was gracious enough to write this sentence as part of a blurb on the back jacket of my latest book. When I read the words about me, I found them profound and correct. But how I got to the point of taking the cards out of the sealed deck was quite the chore.

We all come into the world with different talents, personalities and views. As we grow, we might find we are not so comfortable with who we are, so we try to become who we aren’t. I was so self-critical as a young girl that I often pretended to be my fabulous friend, Barbara, or anyone who was not me. I began to dislike almost everything about myself and would hide behind a jovial, effervescent persona I created. 

Sure, later, I discovered I was clinically depressed as early as third grade, but at the time, I just thought I was not worth two cents. And if I took away the shroud of pretense, others would think I wasn’t worth a penny. 

It took many years to fire the actor in me. I shed so many tears while looking into a mirror; I am surprised the mirror didn’t wash away. But then I considered how many others pretend to be who they aren’t. How many of us try so hard to fit into a proper acceptable mold that we forget God purposely created each soul differently. 

The desire to be loved by our peers can prevent us from letting even our closest friends understand who we are. Many are comfortable living on the surface and not allowing anyone to dig deeper into what makes them tick. That is fine, but when we close ourselves off, we might miss a golden opportunity to aid others and ourselves. I know folks who will not even divulge their age because … I have no idea why. What difference does it make when numbers don’t tell your story, but how you lived your years does?

Why do we hide from each other? We could assist many by sharing some of our struggles, missteps, and heartaches so that others understand it is just part of life.   

Don’t you just love the politicians who fabricate stories about themselves to be elected? I always said if I was running for office, I would first say, ‘Well folks, in 1970 I did this, and in 1988 I messed this up, and oh, I forgot to tell you about the wreck I caused in ‘90.”

And end my introductory speech with, “If you don’t want to vote for me because I erred about a zillion times, that’s fine, but at least you know who I am.”

People shouldn’t search for perfection; they should instead search for honesty and humility. 

We all make a mess a few times, but what we become after the clean-up helps us grow and encourage others. There isn’t a person who should go through life living to be accepted by others. Instead, we must live to find value within ourselves and please our Creator.

The mental health of the young can be boosted by representing the importance of being true to oneself rather than trying to be truly perfect. Children are taught early to be the best, beat the competition, and succeed.  However, shouldn’t we also help them understand how loss can build character and compassion? 

Teens are pressured to belong to groups, be popular, and be noticed. Unacceptance and bullying can lead to severe consequences and deep scars. Are we teaching the young the importance of individualism and the beauty of purpose by the way we behave? 

It is difficult for me to understand why some still view mental illness as a character flaw. 

Sadly, many are afraid to seek help because others might think of them as weak and ruin the image they have created. 

If you suffer, then you must have a showdown with life and realize you are more important than how others view your importance. 

I still look in the mirror and occasionally question myself, but today my shoes fit more comfortably than trying to wear Barbara’s larger size. I decided not to live for others to love me but instead to live to love others. 

So, have a showdown with life and win. Enjoy being distinctly you because no one else is like you in the whole wide world. 

If you feel you don’t fit in and are not like the others, then you are absolutely right. None of us are the same; we just spend a lot of precious time trying to make it look that way.