Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gold stars

A couple Saturdays ago, I went to an antique mall, the Vintage Rabbit, here in Spokane. I visit it from time to time, to look for treasures and to trip down memory lane. On this day, I was on the hunt for little goodies to add to my art. I pawed through baskets of buttons, hankies, rickrack, sequins, fabric -- whatever caught my eye.

I picked up a gallon-sized plastic baggie of miscellaneous craft stuff, looked it over, set it down, picked it back up, set it down again, and walked away. I could see glitter in there, and a little plastic creche set, lots of felt letters, some buttons. I was intrigued, but not hooked, and I was determined not to spend money on things that I was not in love with.

But. I ended up going back to that shelf, and taking the baggie to the checkout. Rationalizing -- well, it's 20% off, I do like that creche and the letters, and maybe there are other things that I'll use, too. (That's the way my rationalizing always sounds in my head.)

When I got home, I looked through my treasures, saving the baggie for last. Among the old Christmas stickers and tiny, frayed American flags, I found a box of "gummed stars." The kind my teachers used to put on the top of my papers when I'd done well. The person who owned them must have been a grade-school teacher.

Hand with gummed stars

Looking at the stars, I was jolted back to my childhood. Oh, how I had coveted those stars! Especially the gold ones, when I'd gotten nothing wrong on the page. I was always proud to have perfect spelling tests or math quizzes or whatever. It was my goal in life, in those days. Perfect. 100%. Even one missed question was a bit disturbing.

I'm not sure where perfectionism entered my life, but those stars certainly reinforced my tendencies. It was as if I had to be perfect. Straight "A"s were my holy grail. It became part of my identity, and my obsession. By high school, making honor roll was not enough. It had to be highest honors (all "A"s). My extended family used to tease me that I was slipping if they'd seen in the newspaper honor roll that I hadn't earned highest honors. College knocked me back a bit, but I still managed to get a 3.72 as an undergrad. Never earned a "C," had one "D."

I look back at it, somewhat astonished at my craziness.

Now I understand what drove me. It was a way of proving that I was a good person, smart, worthy of taking up space on the planet, worthy of love. I do not know why that unworthiness is so deep in my psyche -- it's not as if I didn't have loving parents, grandparents, friends -- but it has always been the part of the darkness in me.

Ever so slowly, I have been learning that I am worthy. Of everything.

I'm glad I listened to the impulse to buy that baggie. (The universe is always presenting us with whatever we need, if we pay attention.) I also listened to an impulse to take a photo of myself with a gold star on my forehead, as a sign of where I've been.

Gold star forehead

As I look at the photo again, I realize that the gold star also symbolizes my wholeness. I am worthy, just as I am.

(And so are you. I promise.)


Agnes said...

Judy.....your mother could have written this today.....The things that you feel, she feels, too. I just never knew you felt that way. YOu'll learn to accept yourself more as you get older. I see that happening with her now.
Hang in there!!!

Joanne said...

Beautiful! I have tears in my eyes and that last photograph also makes me smile.
Learning our own worth... the mixed messages from the world around us... it is a difficult life lesson and I don't know if anyone totally conquers it.
I'm not brave enough to write about my struggles yet, suffice to say that I am learning to tell the little voice in my head that tells me I'll never be good enough to "Shut Up and Go Away". And then I make myself stop thinking and find something absorbing to do.
Thanks Judy, your words help others to reflect, compare (in a constructive way) and deal with these thoughts and feelings.

Cathy Smith said...

Hey Sis,
Just goofing off at work (since I never ever get a real break here) and catching up on your blog.

We had those darn stars too and looking back I can see how really wrong that system was. We did homework and learned things for the rewards not for the love of learning. The only thing I think that I can say sticks with me is my love of history and reading. I am a history channel addict and just love learning about history.

I think the idea of self-worth is something important and meaningful. Realizing that we all have a place in the cosmos and a purpose here. In old Native American society, there were clans and each clan had a job, and each person in the clan had a job that was important to the whole. All had great worth no matter how large or small the job because that job was a piece of the larger puzzle. So each person had a greater feeling of self-worth than people in more modern societies. Somehow I think that as a society, we've lost something.

GreenishLady said...

I love this post, Judy, and that final photo! Yes, you have earned your gold stars indeed.

inkberryblue said...

Beautiful post Judy. Loving myself unconditionally is something I have to work on all the time. I make a big point of telling my (very young) students that they are special just for being themselves. I love seeing how relaxed and accepting they are with this notion. =]
Have a wonderful Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I've stopped by from Greenish Lady to say hello...I'm so glad I did! I love what you do..you are so artistic and creative! This post is lovely though...your words at the end are much appreciated by everyone who reads them, I'm sure; and your picture made me giggle!

I do like it when people can 'laugh' at themselves! And yes, we are worthy, just as we are...we need to remind ourselves of that quite often though!!

Well said! Thank You! I'll definitely be back to read more.
Bella :)