I've never thought of myself as white. Pale, yes, but the color of unimaginative walls-- No. I am told because I am white, bugs like my blood better. I do get bug bites seemingly more often than others who are darker than me. Because I am pale, when I blush or have red in my face you can see it easier as well. I feel transparent sometimes and I hate it. Summertime is my friend, when I can get tan lines and my blood can be warmed 24/7. Don't get me wrong, I love my freckles, the way my eyes stand out against my skin, like light and ocean meeting, my hair that is a natural blonde that changes in its exposure to the sun, and my chameleon-like nature, appearance constantly changing as the seasons rotate and the different elements kiss my skin and hair. So the good stuff, I acknowledge it, but I don't write it on post-it notes and put it on my mirror—"You are beautiful." That seems rather desperate to me, like my mind can't accept it without the constant visual reminder.
There's that darn being weak feeling again. Yet, plenty of my strong woman friends who have good self-esteem (in-as-much as "good" can describe something of this nature) put post-it notes on their mirrors, Bible verses on beauty and motivating quotes. These women are women I take advice from and learn from, so then I think--so should I try the post-it method? Obviously there is a need for a boost of self-esteem here.
I've struggled with not being darker--more tan--my whole life. White (let me be clear, I'm talking about the color here) where I come from, Southern California, is seen as rather pathetic. You should be a golden hue, shinning from your hours of sunlight and bathing beauty. Flawless in your skin's smoothness. At least, that's the message I received. Comments of
"she burns so easy."
"You are, like, white white."
"You're so much lighter than your brother! I mean he's got a nice tan!"
burned in my brain as, "better get some sun sweetheart." So, when I started dating my very handsome black husband, the insecurities mounted into a ball of confession to a friend of mine that I hated my skin color. Of course there were tears and the acknowledgement of all the falsehoods, the lies I believed, the acknowledgment that this was a battle in my head and my heart. I started opening up to more trusted people, verbally acknowledging this problem I had. The classic struggle to recognize beauty within oneself was tied to color for me. And then there was race. That was there too—white to me symbolized the "bad" side, the sinner against humanity. I hated that my skin seemed to represent a horrid history of wrongs. I had to admit, it wasn't just the color that bothered me, it went deeper than that, which I knew, but was harder to acknowledge, as it seemed more difficult to "fix". I felt guilty being white. Guilty dating a black man, whom I struggled to believe I deserved because of my race. There are more ways than I have time to write about of how the lie of whiteness being unattractive, and its companion, the lie that I was stuck to be thought of us as an arrogant, racist, bimbo, managed to sneak its way under my skin.
Let's remember Chapter 1 of this storytelling venture and put all the health complications alongside this (if you haven't read Chap 1 think digestion issues, skin issues, menstrual cycle issues, and more)….I have not felt beautiful, desirable, or worthy of affection many a day in my divine existence. I love this new generation's saying, "The struggle is real." Isn't that so true? What is more real than struggle? What is more real than advancing, retreating, fighting, resisting, yielding? More satisfyingly real may be the victory through the struggle, the placing of the sword of truth into your opponents gut….but that has to come after the struggle.
My struggle got more real when my undertones of insecurity met the overtones of health-related problems. These health issues, namely a previously undiscovered Lyme Disease and its co-infection lover, "Mycro-plasma," brought me to places of insecurity I had hoped to avoid in my time on earth. Here's the hope, and it is always there: in my places of sadness, frustration and fear, I was met with a faithful love. It was this love, this faithfulness of being with me, that kept me from sinking into the lies. Instead, I flirted with them, would spend too much time in the lies torrid water, but I never sank. I would reach up, hoping to be mercifully saved, and do you know what, I was! To my amazement, and grateful wonder, I was always saved from myself. This faithful love I speak of is one who I call Yahweh, Creator of Wonder and Delight, Savior, Healer, and my faithful friend, Holy Spirit living in me.
When you believe you are one with someone bigger, better, the best, your heart can lift up from the "lie pit". My spirit met its divine companion, Spirit of Creation and wisdom, and I fought every day to live in the reality of my value and beauty.
I am still fighting, because the struggle is real and the reality of truly lived life is being in the struggle and advancing out of it—this is human. It helps having a husband who loves my being, my skin(!), the enchantments of my physical self I spoke of earlier, (and if you need a reminder—freckles! Red shades in my hair! Eyes that glow with wonder in the colors of the best of nature, a body that moves with gentleness and fierceness all in one choreography…and I'll leave off there) my mind, the intellect that colors my speech with wisdom and emotion and questions of the deep, my heart, my spirit that lives outside my physical self. He acknowledges all of my being and receives the struggle, my struggle, as part of his struggle to.
We weren't meant to struggle alone, with being white, black, Caucasian, African-American, Native, Aboriginal, Mixed, or whatever label of identity the world gives us and/or we take on. It has helped having people who speak spirit truths into my life—I am not my ancestors, I am not the history of white supremacy. We are all influenced by the wrong train of thought from generations past, but we don't have to hop on that train of thought and ride it. We can switch the tracks and try to derail the train for ourselves. We can get close to the train and try to influence others to get off that steaming engine of thought. We can just watch it go by. I often check in on all the trains of thoughts that pass through my mind, on their way to stations of understanding, opinion, action, and I check if these thoughts are being fueled by truth and compassion. I had to ask myself the question, "am I just watching the train of lies and misconceptions on "being white" pass by, or am I taking action to examine its hot engine? Am I being an influencer, am I working to shift the tracks, am I standing in the train's way yelling "STOP!"
I have always been fighting that lie-train. That creeping, puffing mind-trap that wants to roar through my life. I have been fighting against it, because there's a better option. My helper, Holiest of Spirits, Yahweh, has been conducting a strong, peace-filled, well-oiled train called the Glory Train that I am invited to hop on! (And, I did hop)
On the Glory Train I've discovered my identity as an ever-changing tree, a woman with a wolf spirit, a daughter of Love, a person belonging to a mysterious, love-filled family of creatures, a fierce warrior and a loyal, silly sheep of a wise Shepard. These descriptions of me may not make sense to you, reader, but I hope you can receive them with at least curiosity and not doubt. For you and I do not have to fit into a simple description! I can be an ocean, I can be an ocean struggling in the reality that I am free to wave and crash as I desire.
Identity has everything to do with holistic health. I am learning to embrace my skin color every day, and I do have an appreciation for my physical beauty that has been building in confidence as I open myself up to love myself (hence the earlier listing of pieces of me that I appreciate). As for the history I was ashamed of, I gave that to the only one strong enough to bare it, and actually heal it, the one I spoke of earlier, the one who died to make ugly things beautiful. Thankfully, I had pastors who looked at me and said "You cannot bear the weight of the guilt you feel. If you continue to bear it, you are robbing Jesus of what He did on the cross." Ouch. I let the guilt go. I do not hate my skin color anymore. I do not hate that I am "white." I am even looking into my Irish roots, encouraged by friends to find what I do identify with. Sharing my journey of healing and acceptance is a catalyst, I hope, to meet face to face with others, look into each other's eyes, and explore our identities, without judgment. I have not conquered my self-consciousness completely, but then, my struggle is real.