I have this app on my phone called Timehop. It collates the experiences you shared on social media on that particular date in previous years. Most days, happy memories populate my Timehop feed. I love when the app shows me photos of my much younger sons or of me traveling or participating in an event or hanging out with friends. For the most part, it is a positive way to check in on my progress through this life.
Today, one of the photos was a shot I captured in my therapist’s office three years ago. I remember that session well. She handed me a deck of cards with colorful, emotive drawings on them and asked me to sift through the deck and pull out any cards that resonated with me somehow. There were some fifty cards in the deck. When I finished, I had four cards in my hands. She asked me to show them to her and tell her why I had chosen them. It was one of the most eye-opening sessions I’ve ever had. Here are the cards:
The first card shows a little girl standing on a table while people around her, presumably family and friends, mock her. The second card presents a stern-faced judge issuing an admonishment. The third one is of a person alone, backed into a corner. The final one depicts a child running on a hamster wheel surrounded by scary and sad thoughts. Oof.
I explained the first card represented how I felt as a child. I was that girl on the table, red-faced, awkward, and singled out as wrong simply for being me. The second card represented the result of being that little girl in the first card. I am constantly afraid to do something wrong, to draw negative attention, to be chastised or called out. I’ve lived my life trying to fly under the radar, to not be seen lest someone catch me making an honest, human mistake or appearing naive or uneducated or imperfect and pointing it out. The third card told the story of how I usually feel on the inside as a result of the experiences I related from the two previous cards. I feel isolated, inherently broken. The final card represented the usual state of my mind. I’m a perpetual over-thinker. I spend most days in my busy brain either ruminating on past mistakes that come up because of a more recent, similar mistake or trying to figure out how to just be better because it’s obvious there is something wrong with the way I am. Yikes.
If you’d asked me when she handed me the cards what I thought was going to come of this exercise, I would have told you probably not much. I was so wrong. The feelings that came up for me when I saw those four cards explained where I came from, what that past created for me, how I felt around other people now, and how I lived my daily life. It was all negative and it was a lot to take in. As the session closed, I asked if I could take a photo of the cards I had chosen. I guess I thought I might want to reflect on them again at some other point. Apparently today was that point.
When the cards showed up in my feed today, they hit differently. Yes. I still recognize that little girl in the first card but, instead of feeling there is something wrong with her, I feel there is something wrong with the rest of the people in the scene. Yes. I sometimes still shrink when someone close to me points out my flaws, but other people’s opinions about my choices in my life mean much less to me now. Others don’t hold the map for my journey, and I know they are out of their lane. Sometimes I still feel alone and different, but I recognize the feeling will pass. I know we are all struggling and lost. It’s nothing unusual. And yes, I still run that damn hamster wheel in my head. These days, though, the thoughts are more appreciative of the me I am now rather than reproachful of the me I was.
The past three years have been something else for us all. They’ve been a little extra for me too, but I’m so stinking proud of myself. The work I put in is paying off. And I kinda kick ass.