I share this story with you, not for a pity party, but because I know you have a similar one. Or many. Like I do. Phrases individuals say to you during your life that break you down rather than build you up; that could potentially make you come to a complete stop instead of propelling you forward. I traveled to Mass yesterday and listened to a life-giving homily. The pastor spoke about when others think you aren't good enough and voice their discouraging opinion about your talent. He offered the idea that when someone says you can't do something and doubts your ability, you experience the desert. The first time I was in the desert was when I was about five years old.
I was taking ballet and doing my best, trying to find my own thing as the only girl in the family. Clearly, I remember my black leotard and pink tights and ballet shoes. I still have the white satin and pink sequined costume from my only recital—the recital where I goofed up, forgetting to move backward to stay in perfect form with the straight line of ballerinas. I don't remember why I decided to quit, but I can still see myself dressed in black and pink in the studio, looking up to my teacher when I told her. I can't remember her name. But I do remember her words as she said, "If you quit, you are going to turn into a fat bell."
What, may I ask, is a fat bell? And why, I wonder, the crushing words? It made no sense. Of course, I cried, and with time, I eventually bounced back and went on to something else.
Four years ago, in a dim-lit yoga class, the instructor guided us into a pose that took me right back to the moment with my ballet teacher. I remembered her words, a fat bell. I looked in the mirror before me, which was similar to the mirror I stood in front of when I was five and an awkward dancer. I looked myself in the eyes, thought about my life, pondered on the thought, and had a revelation. I am a fat bell! But not in the way my ballet teacher had implied when she looked down on me that long-ago day.
I'm a graduate of Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame. With the nickname Belles, it isn't a place of frailty or discouragement. It is a school founded by strong women, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, to educate women to be human beings with a "cast iron will to win;" the win meant to be a victory for the greater good of humanity and to make a positive difference in the world. How am I fat? I'm plump with words. Words to inspire and uplift each other in brotherhood and sisterhood.
The story seems so silly, but nothing is trivial about discouragement and someone placing you in the desert. It has a lousy chime, don't you think?
Inspire me to be a fountain of hope to others. As a human family, guide us to be mindful of our words, especially to our youth. May we always strive to uplift and enliven the spirit of a child and be encouraging role models in their lives.