Little Lindsay and the Trunk of Fear

There is a little girl here, inside me. It’s not easy for me to remember what she loved, or what she was passionate about; who she adored, or what she wanted to be when she grew up. I only remember what she was afraid of, and how she was hurt. I remember these things because they are what has shaped my reality since. They are what I held onto, the “lessons” I was given at some point that I packed away and have carried for all of my life. I do not ever unpack them, or look at them, I just let them remain with me and when I stumble across something that makes me feel the same way as that initial lesson – I fold it up nicely, I put it in a plastic bag, and I place it in my chest of memories and I let the weight of my past gradually get heavier and harder to let go of.

Before I can open up and get rid of all that baggage I lug around with me, I have to remember this little girl. I have to coax her out of her shadowy corner and show her that she is safe, and that I will take care of her. That she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore – because as I have grown into a woman, all that seems to be left of this little girl is her fear. She has been told too many times she’s too silly, to be quiet, to stop being so naive. She has been bullied into darkness and I have left her there for too long, forgetting what it was like to be her and want nothing more than attention, acceptance, and love.

I want to remember this little girl.

She loved to be silly – and make people laugh. Dance and sing. She really loved to make up stories, even if it was just a line-up of stuffed animals listening. I don’t think there was ever a day that went by that she wasn’t a doctor or a dancer. An explorer or a movie star. She was always living an adventurous or glamorous life. She organized kick-ball games every Sunday with the neighborhood kids and despite being the chubby kid on the playground she was NEVER picked last. (And I don’t think she ever even worried about being picked last.)

But gradually, she picked up the habits of fear and self-doubt. I am not strong enough for that…I am to big to play on that… I do not want to look dumb in front of other people… And because I was trying to be “adulty” I cultivated those fearful thoughts and allowed them to bully her out of doing the things she really wanted to do.

And then something devastating happened. She forgot about the things she really wanted to do. I forgot about the things I really wanted to do. I was so busy playing “get along” or “dress to impress” I forgot about all those things that little girl loved and wanted to try. My life became a battleground and the winner was never me. It was always those I was seeking approval from. I betrayed this poor little girl and changed myself more than the seasons, depending who I thought I needed acceptance from at the time. She got lost and confused, and eventually she hid.

And that is where she has been for a very long time. I imagine her, sitting on a floor, with her knees tucked under her chin and small arms wrapped around her legs. Her big blue eyes are glassed over and empty, and depending on the day I had – she may have cried along with me. I can literally close my eyes and see her sitting there, hesitant to make any eye contact with me because I have treated her so poorly and neglected her for so long.

Thinking about her there, reminds me of how hard she did struggle for acceptance sometimes, with people that she adored and wanted to make happy. It was unfair of the people in her life to expect her lobby for their love and attention. To behave a certain way before she was rewarded with acceptance. I want to tell her that it wasn’t her fault, and that she didn’t ever have to prove herself to anyone, but I myself don’t fully believe that.

I can explore with detail the times she felt abandoned and left. I can feel her pain and I can hear that experience rattling around in the baggage I carry with me. I am the only one in the world that can know what she went through and how hurt and scared she must have been. And I am the only one in the world who can help her heal. And looking down on this cowering little girl, I know that the only one she wants acceptance from now – is me.

It is so easy for us to dismiss a child, especially the one that lives inside us. It is easy for me to tell her to “grow up” and “act right.”  I judge her constantly for being too emotional, and not being strong enough. I get angry with her for allowing her feelings to be hurt – which has set pattern for my life. I have not taken the time to understand her fears or sadness – I only judge her for it.

I do another mean thing to her too, I make endless excuses for her. I blame her actions on others. I enable the frustration, anger, and sadness by focusing on the person or circumstance that caused it. I am angry that she is sad and I am angry at the people that made her sad.

I am in an abusive relationship with my inner child. 

How do I stop this silent, internal cycle of abuse? How do I persuade her out of her hiding place and get her to trust me again? How do I make her feel safe enough to open up the chest of painful memories and help her sort through them? How do I allow her to be herself and realize those childhood dreams?

With everything the world has taught me about being a grown-up, reconciliation seems impossible at this point. There are too many layers of crap covering the innocence that lies beneath. She has lost the ability to love herself, and I have let her. What can I do from here?

The answer is so small and simple: I must begin by listening to her.  If I am able to listen to her small requests I can start to rebuild a relationship that has long since been neglected. If I can help her work through those times she felt abandoned, if I can relate to her and understand her -together we can unpack the trunk of heartache and let it go.

C’mon little Lindsay, let’s go get a snowcone.

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