Each summer, starting after school was out, I would spend every weekend up north at my grandparent’s cabin. They had a small, long, one bedroom cabin just south of Two Harbors, MN. The smell of damp forest and mothballs still takes me back.
The highlight of those summers for me was going on the Circle Tour for an extra long weekend. The Circle Tour is essentially a driving tour around the Great Lakes. We just did a small portion of it, but I remember thinking the name sounded so cool and so special. We’re doing the Circle Tour. I’d see the vintage-looking brown signs along state highways and yell out whatever numbers on it I could read.
We would head to the upper peninsula of Michigan every single time. We went to a small town that had a couple Ford dealerships and a Comfort Inn. I never knew this was a Comfort Inn until much later, we just called it The Blue Hotel. The second we’d turn off the state road into town, I could see The Blue Hotel at the top of the hill.
We spent most of the time in the pool. I, to this day, could spend all day in the water. Looking back, I feel like my grandparents could have saved some money and time and just got a hotel in Two Harbors, but maybe the magic was the drive. Either way, we got there, checked in and I slapped my suit on as fast as I could.
I didn’t have any siblings, so it was just me and them. I never brought friends with me to the cabin and I didn’t really have friends up north. Since it was Summer, though, there were always lots of kids in the pools on their breaks and vacations with families. I’d always join in and play with them. I have one memory of making a little friend and watching TV in her hotel room with her family one night.
One normal day in the pool, really my memory only starts with this conversation, my grandpa called me back over to him in the pool and leaned in and whispered, “Kade, let other kids come to you.”
It was then that I first remember thinking I was too much. The feeling that washed over me was the warm shame bath and I felt that sinking feeling in my stomach.
While the comment wasn’t meant to induce shame, it did, and what was once a happy, carefree pool day turned into an uncomfortable and awkward afternoon. It was one of the first times I remember feeling at odds with myself, clunky in my mind and body and personality.
The truth is, I that cold corner of the pool is where I return to every time that warm wave of shame washes over me. I am now an adult who has to work hard at being on my own team, to not be at odds with myself.
I have spent most of my life afraid that I was too much. I’m too aggressive, I’m too loud, I’m too big, I’m too opinionated, I’m too “adult”, I’m too smart, I’m just too much.
At home, I never felt like I fit in or was adding to something more than I was annoying or bothering people. In college, I had a lot of friends, and some of them were the people everyone thought of as ‘cool’. And while these people were my friends and even housemates at some points, I never once felt like I was actually part of them. After college, when I moved back home, I generally felt on the outside of most things, just one ring out from the inside circle.
I talk about this with Stephen all the time. Part of it, I know, is my own issue. The tracks I play in my head about being too much and therefore being unlovable or unwanted. A lot of it, I learned, is also perception. A really flawed and isolated perception.
Anytime I would share these sentiments and thoughts with someone, they would immediately act shocked because I’m happy and loud and host a lot have a lot of friends, so how or why would I ever feel left-out or unwanted?! Then, nearly always, they would say they feel the same. In fact, most people would say they felt left out from me- which always floored me. I love these conversations because they bring so much unity and healing- healing that comes from realizing it really is all perception.
When things were hard here, Stephen once cautioned me against some of the things I was saying about being lovable and wanted. He said, very clearly and very correctly, that if I was looking for that, I would see that. We see what we look for, and our minds are continuously telling us stories and we’re subconsciously looking for evidence to make those stories true. If you’re always telling yourself you’re too much or too messy or too sweary, then all you’re going to see is evidence that that’s true.
It always makes me sad when those healing conversations happen. One, because generally both of us were believing lies about how the other one felt and two, we were alone in those lies. Recently, a sweet friend and I sat while having our feet rubbed and got brutally honest about how we both felt like the other one didn’t need us or really cared all that much about being close. How wrong we both were. While I am beyond happy that conversation happened, it also breaks my heart. The last thing I wanted her to feel was indifference, and I know the same is true for her.
As we’re leaving, I cannot help but see that short-haired, chubby, big-toothed girl in the pool. She was honest and eager, ready for friends and fun and love. She was scared and anxious and she desperately wanted to know she was wanted and belonged.
This girl now has longer hair and her chub has turned into a birthing-machine body and her teeth fit more in her face now. She still tries to be honest, and she is for sure eager. Eager for life and experiences, for friendship and family, for creating and being a part of spaces of belonging.
I cannot help but stand in the corner as warm waves start rolling up, wondering if this all happened or didn’t happen because of me. Because I am too much. Because all those things said about me really are true, and I’m just delusional about who I am.
If I could go back, I would jump in the pool with myself, take my hand, then my face, and say, “Let’s go see if they want to play Marco polo.” And if they didn’t, I’d play with myself and grandpa. And if they did, super fun.
So today, when those waves come, I hold my hand and then my face and I say, “We tried. We did the best we could, and now, we’ll do better. This is the next right thing, and we’re doing it. That is enough.”
I want to be more honest, in every relationship and in every circle about the perceptions I have. One, because I want my own freedom, and two, because I want our freedom. We are not alone. Most women I know secretly wonder if “it” was their fault because they are “too (something)”.
I don’t want to sit in the corner of the pool anymore. And neither should you.
Today, as we say goodbye, I am not wondering if I did this, if I ruined something. I am proud of me, proud of Stephen, proud of the boys, proud of Haven.
And more, I feel clean. I feel clean in a way the worst times make you. Clean in knowing my deepest junk, my most broken places of too much or too little, are not the end of the world. Before coming back, I’m not sure I had this fight for right-seeing in me. I was quicker then to believe that, yes, I ruin things, I did it. Chiang Mai took that out of me a little bit, and I am so thankful for it.
As this door closes and the plane takes off, I’m letting it close and lift without added force. I’m not assigning meaning to ease pain, and I’m not tying strings to connect things inside my heart. I’m just letting it shut and letting it lift.
And I’m getting out of the corner.
“I wonder why things have to change,” murmured Piglet.
Pooh thought for a while, then said, “It gives them a chance to get better. Like when the bees went away, and came back.” -A. A. Milne