Fifth grade. It was the year I got chickenpox, broke my wrist playing kickball (and I must tell you, I got Rob Zook, the biggest kid in our grade, out and won the game), and got my first boyfriend. His name was Mark, and he asked me to “go with him.” I didn’t know what that meant except that we shared gum, and he sat by me in lunch.
I also wanted people to like me. I would do anything to be popular. I wanted to belong, to be a part of something, but I instead felt disconnected and alone.
So I bought the book, 10 Steps to Becoming Popular, from the Scholastic Kids book fair.
Jumping ahead to present day.
Jack’s been asking me to tell him stories about my past before bedtime. The chicken pox and kickball are easy, but I must say, I’m running out of stories as it’s not quite appropriate to tell him about Jagermeister in college or dancing all night on fraternity row.
But there was one story that I was hesitating to tell. Every time I go back to this story, it reminds me of the hurt. But ironically, it is the core of my being, my mission.
I told Jack last night, and he cried. “It happens to me too, mama. And it doesn’t feel very good.”
I’ve only been able to tell my story recently so this is all new to me and quite frankly, a bit scary. To admit I was never really the popular one. To open up about my shyness and feeling inadequate growing up. To wishing that someone would yell, “You’re it!”
As far back as I could remember, I felt alone. Or maybe lonely. I can’t tell the difference. I was afraid of my own shadow, as I was told many times by teachers, my parents, relatives, and even other kids. I never spoke, and if I tried, my voice was so soft that I was asked to repeat but louder. “What did you say? Speak up!” I would flinch and just try again, feeling defeated, feeling alone.
Why doesn’t anyone “get” me? I wondered.
(I now know that I’m highly sensitive so I can tell how someone is feeling a mile away, don’t like loud noises or bright lights, and I hate anything around my neck so I don’t own one turtleneck.)
I can remember crystal clear, a time when I felt so disconnected from the world. I can picture it now. I can also feel the pit in my stomach as I write this to you.
It was 1977.
I made my communion with my cousin, Keith. I had on a pretty white dress with fancy shoes. I felt like a princess. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the ceremony, just some prayers and songs. Seems like I was all about the dress, really, not too concerned with learning the Bible or what Communion meant anyway.
After the ceremony, there was a big party at my Aunt Louise’s house. Tons of people were invited. We are Italian, and I had many cousins, all boys except for my sister and my cousin Carmie. And they were all older and bigger than me, and loud, you know, Italian.
My sister was the youngest, and I tended to rely on her to hang out with since she fit in so well with this crowd. But she ran away from me to play with all the kids at the party. They were playing tag. I tried to join in, smiling, asking politely, but I was told, “No. Get lost.” My heart ached. I can remember sinking down against the wall in the dining room in my pretty little dress with my head in my hands.
I felt so alone.
My dad came over to see why I wasn’t running around with the others. I couldn’t admit I was left out. That no one wanted to play with me. So I kept quiet.
At that moment, hearing the words, “You’re it!” would have made me feel connected and in sync with the others.
I noticed that this was a trend that happened in each stage of my life. In high school, I wasn’t invited to drink “over the hill” with the popular kids (probably a good thing!). Or I would find out that my girlfriends went to the mall and didn’t invite me. In college, my boyfriend and I were inseparable so I didn’t have to take risks on being rejected by others. When we broke up, well, let’s just say I lost it, and it took me a long time to recover.
Over the years, however, I began to realize that I’m not a weirdo. My sensitivity, my shyness is actually a gift.
I’m really good at making sure no one is left out. I love to include everyone, make them feel like a part of something. I can immediately tell if someone wants to play so I make sure to invite them.
Welcome. Join. Embrace. Play.
I now feel so connected to others, and while I might feel lonely or alone at times, I am able to speak louder, in my own voice and honor my story. That unwanted feeling doesn’t linger as long as before.
When I include others, tell them to come with me, I can feel the vibration of peace. This connectedness is so powerful, even with animals, nature, living things. I like how we are all in rhythm with each other. Like a heartbeat. A pulse.
By including others, I am able to be my truth. I’m able to honor my story.
Come play with me! Tag you’re it!
Drinking my green juice has been a big part of my shift in honoring my story. As the green goodness enters my cells, my blood, I’m connecting, vibrating, and feeling at peace. Might sound a bit woo woo, but as your cells change, your thoughts, actions change, too.
Beauty Remedy Juice Recipe
(My signature juice which helps me serve up my truth plus gives a glow inside and out)
Ingredients to juice:
1 bunch of kale leaves (1 cup); remove stems, approximately 6 leaves
1 apple (Granny Smith is my favorite)
1/2 lime, peeled
1/2 inch ginger root
Juice up all ingredients. Drink up!
Makes 12 oz. of green goodness
So the Popular book talked about being nice to others, asking about their lives, and not gossiping. Good advice. Well, it’s not about being popular. It’s about your health.
Starting with your food, eating and drinking real, whole food, can assist with building community. Belonging is a human need crucial for good health. Many get sick when they feel alone, disconnected, and unloved.
There’s no need for that.
I’m so grateful you are here with me. You belong. You matter. You are a part of something.
You are invited, included and never left out. Ever.
Does my story resonate with you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
(And make that juice…really, it’s delish and I drink it daily! I swear it gets me closer to that belonging we all crave).
Thank you for this piece Lisa. Moving, touching, and I can so totally relate!! Thank you for shining your light <3
Robin, my dear! Thank you so much for your cheerleading and unconditional love…this was hard to right because I sometimes want to seem perfect, the popular one, but those days are over. Fuck that! Making sure that none of us is left behind is the most important. Love you!
Oh Lisa, your feelings are exactly what I felt growing up! I was the youngest and always felt highly insecure never enjoying sports or group activities. My young adult years were a time of self discovery. In my mid twenties, I found myself and it clicked that being alone was okay and empowering without being a part of someone’s circle. It’s hard to explain to children, but I preach the exact same thing to never leave anyone out. My hope is that eventually those children will discover their own strengths and “stand out” in a positive way. Thank you for sharing!
Danielle, thank you so much for sharing your story. Being alone IS okay, as you stated, and I make sure to let my Kate and Jack know that. Sometimes it just breaks my heart when they tell me they were picked last for something or feel that they are misunderstood. But they do make sure to never leave anyone out and hopefully someday they, too, will celebrate their superpowers. It means so much to get your note…thank you, my love! xo
Hey Lady~Thanks for sharing. I can so relate to how you felt as I felt the same way a lot of the time as a kid…the third wheel, shy, quiet, wallflower. (We would have made good friends!)
Glad we finally met and can be bffs now.
So glad that you can relate! Even though I thrive on being with others, there comes a time when I need to take a break from all the stimulation. Being sensitive is a superpower and now I relish in the fact of that gift. Wonder twins activate! Hee hee! Much love to you, Jean!
I know these feelings only too well. And hey! I also can’t stand the feeling of something around my neck! No turtlenecks, no necklaces (except one really light one that Colleen gave me!). What’s that about?!
Joanna, it’s so good to hear from you and that you get it…totally. And I know, like, right? It’s the highly sensitive thing…it could be anything. Such as Jack hates when his hands or feet get sticky or wet. I remember he had fits when he stepped in a puddle and even now it took him forever to learn to tie his shoe because the tactile experience is too much for him. AND what necklace?! I want to see the one our girl Colleen gave you. Oh, how I wish we all lived near each other! Love you, lady and thank you for sharing.
Lisa my sweet. I have such similar memories of being a kid. And a couple super painful ones where I was intentionally left out, and told to “get lost.” In my case, my two best friends sat me down and informed me that we were no longer friends. Ugh. I so would have read that popular book 🙂 xo Bryce
Love, that sucks, like, a. lot. What is wrong with people? I can feel that pain you describe completely. Thanks for sharing with me, and well, I think you are the bestest, and I’m so honored to be your friend. I wish I could see you everyday, in fact. Love you!
Lisa, your story speaks of what we are going through with my oldest daughter. Growing up as a twin I always had my soul friend by my side. My daughter does not. She is not able to see how wonderful she is, only how she is not fitting in – not being cool. My heart aches for her everyday and I will share your story with her to show her the power she possesses inside of her, just waiting for a moment to shine.
Thanks for sharing!
Maria, thank you so much for sharing your story…and being young is so hard especially these days. I hope my love note inspires her to just “be.” Be who she is and celebrate that being unique is actually a good thing. She is already shining in our eyes and I know she will soon shine in her own. Beautiful, Maria. Beautiful. Hugs to you!
I just wanted to leave you a note and thank you for sharing your story. I too was very shy as a child, and sensitive. While I’ve grown out of it in my own time and found my own path, I understand why it was a challenge, even now, to be vulnerable and share your story. Bravo!
I’ve been receiving your newsletter for a while and I really enjoy it. Thanks for that, too, and for sharing yourself and including all of us on your journey.
Nikki, darling, thank you so much for sharing with me…and yes, even though I’m grown up and hardly think about the fitting thing in, sometimes I get triggered. Having strategies to get out of it quickly helps. Thank you so much for being a part of this with me and reading my notes every week. So thrilled to be with you! xo
Wow, amazing act of vulnerability Lisa. Beautiful story to share with your child as well… It’s totally triggering similar stories within my own past, and clearly the lives of others who read it. Very well done.
And aside from the peeled lime and ginger root… I DRANK YOUR CELL-ELECTRIFYING magic concoction today.
And I feel #ALIVE
All the un-inclusive, abusive, too-cool popular types only refine our offering… which is ultimately more powerful than anything anyone could ever take away. Or withhold from us, or make us need to prove value for to get some BS nod of acceptance. Funny how it takes so many of us full lifetimes to remember who we’ve always been: singularly unique, infinitely valuable, beautiful, and cool.
Totally on that same tip, sister.
My brother, thanks so much for your kind words and that reminder, “we’ve always been unique, infinitely valuable, beautiful, and cool.” Hells yeah! And right on with your bad self getting in a juice today. #thatshowwedo Very honored to get your note and excited to know that you understand where I’m coming from. Big love to you!
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous post. (I find authentic, purpose-full vulnerability gorgeous. Thank you for demonstrating it so beautifully here!)
And I do feel you on this, too. I’m the youngest of seven kids…Brady Bunch + 1…I’m the +1 so six yrs younger than the next youngest. I think I spent most of my childhood wishing my older siblings would spend time with me. I know for sure that from the first day of 6th grade on, I had fairly rampant insecurity about social circles…they were mystifying to me, and I truly had no clue how to operate in the world of cliques and such. Then there was 10th grade, when one of the most popular girls in school decided she hated me, and for most of the school year, I had only one friend who would hang out with me as long as the other girls didn’t know about it. YUCK! It actually feels good, though, to write all that out.
You’re not alone, we’re not alone, and funny…I’m a total inclusivity-lover now, too. “Be the change” indeed…thank you for publicly leading the way with your heart on the outside. 🙂
So glad to be in your sphere!
Laura, you are so gorgeous yourself! Thanks so much for telling your story…I only had one sister so I can’t even imagine 6 siblings! AND the youngest! We are so not alone, at all, and I know it sucked in 10th grade with that girl and even your friend sneaking to see you…but you are an amazing woman and I’m forever grateful to be connected to you. I’m sure that experience, just like mine, had such a huge effect on you but in the end it couldn’t break you and now you’re living a good life (hence the project!) and embracing inclusivity. Thank you with all my heart for sharing with me. You are simply a rock star. xo
Isn’t amazing how so many of us have felt those same exact feelings–I could recite the same story as you–with just a few of the details changed. It’s really comforting to know that there’s a group where we all fit in–we’re just quiet about it and don’t advertise it as loudly as the group we “thought” we were “supposed to fit.” Thanks for this!!
Ahhh, we are not alone, sweet Gayle. I love how you put it. We all belong, all of us and we can make sure that no one has to feel the way we did when we were young. What an amazing world we will have if everyone was accepted and included. Bam! Thanks so much for being here. Hugs!
I stopped counting how many times I was called weird…..or made fun of… Even into adulthood! As a highly sensitive peep, I get the struggle to not feel isolated or alone. I loved reading your raw experiences…. It really is amazing that you share these things with your son too! Good for you! My daughter is wrestling with high sensitivity and how to fit in or belong! It reminds me I can share my story with her. Thank you. What a great read!
Highly sensitive people unite!!!!!!!
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