~ Or Life as Toni ~
Just recently I started a little series of writings that I titled “Silly Scribbles” or “Life as Toni”. I began posting them on a private writing club that I joined. I received such positive feedback I decided to be be brave and share with my Maid Arise readers.
So often the writer in me throbs and insists, but my current work in progress is strictly grammatical at this point and my creative juices feel cramped and unjustly squelched. So I have decided to allow these juices passage and wait to see what comes of it. I decided to share my experiences with you. Sometimes my life can be quite humorous to the point of disbelief which I have come to accept as normal.... or sometimes I learn new things about myself or little lessons God teaches through the inevitable we've fondly labeled “life”. I hope that these shared stories and bearings of the soul are somehow a blessing, or in the least, a few minutes of entertainment.
The Chain of Difference
“Good Morning ladies, what kind of beverage can I start you out with?”
Normally I would have asked for coffee, but I hadn't had even a sip of coffee in over four months.
I smiled up at the waitress confidently. “Tea please”
I was almost sure the waitress looked a little surprised but she quickly turned to my new friend across from me – “And you?”
“The same, please.”
I had only recently met Bethany, a sweet Christian young woman who I had decided to try to get to know better. The Lord has specifically put her on my heart that week which had prompted me to ask the day before if she would like to spend her lunch hour together. Bethany was delighted, but decided that breakfast would be even better and invited me out for the next day.
What she didn't know was that I went home slightly anxious after accepting her invitation. I had planned to just bring my own lunch and spend her lunch hour with her, but “going out” led me to quite the conundrum. I can only eat five foods. What was I going to eat at a Diner? Bringing my own breakfast was out of the question. But when I thought of what “normal” people eat for breakfast I felt defeated. Bacon or sausage...nope. Can't have pork. Eggs, french toast, pancakes, waffles, fruit....nope, nope and nope. I couldn't even “get away” with eating a little bit. Any of those foods would nearly kill me. And so, there I was, sitting in a Diner, with a lovely young woman who had graciously invited me to breakfast, without the ability to eat any breakfast kind of food. This is Toni... the girl who eats chicken legs and carrot juice for breakfast.
After receiving our tea we chit chatted about our families and our recent activities. I sweetened my tea with stevia from my purse and Bethany didn't seem to think anything of it. I relaxed a little. What made me so nervous? Bethany wasn't going to “un-friend” me just because I am different. But that was it – I hated sticking out. I hated being different. Even as a child I remember going through great pains to meld. I always feared that the things I didn't understand were obvious to everyone but me, and would go along, totally in the dark, too afraid to ask any questions. Or how the kids in private school bought their lunches, but mine were made at home, and this bothered me. My brother was always different than everyone else, but seemed to revel in it. Chris didn't care that he thought differently or didn't like what everyone else did, or that his only friend in first grade was the little fat girl everyone disliked. But I cared. I wanted people to like me. I have always desired for approval. I dread the idea of someone, anyone, being upset with me.
“Alright, so what can I get for you girls this morning?”
I had already scanned the menu. Nothing. They even served oatmeal, but I couldn't eat that either.
I looked up at Bethany and found her expectantly waiting for me to go first.
I looked back down at the menu and decided.
“I would like a hamburger, please”.
I couldn't really blame the waitress for looking at me the way she did – it was eight 'o clock in the morning.
“Okay....would you like anything on the side....like hashbrowns or the fruit dish?”
“No thank you....just a hamburger....without the bun please.”
She was writing on her little note pad when she did a double-take. “No bun?”
“Yes, please....” I looked down at the menu to see what came on the burger and took in a deep breath before adding – “and no ketchup or mustard, or onion or cheese...” I took one more look at the Hog's Flat Angus Burger description. “...or pickle.”
I looked back up to see the waitress with pen held above her pad, her eyes with a blank expression, just staring. I didn't dare look at Bethany.
“You mean....” she finally said, “you want a hamburger for breakfast...?”
“...with no ketchup, no onion, no cheese and no pickle?”
She looked at me incredulously. She was a bigger woman, with her hair pulled up too tight, and a brusque voice that seemed to carry across the diner.
“Ooookaay. And what about you?” She turned to Bethany.
I looked up at Bethany to meet her amused face. She was smiling at me, but not only with amusement but almost admiration. “The same please.”
I was surprised. “Beth, you don't have to get the same as me....”
She cut me short and laughed and then looked up at the waitress with a confidence that I realized I had used with the waitress, even if I hadn't felt it. “A hamburger please”.
And so our breakfast was a success and I learned not only how to order breakfast in a Diner on an elimination diet, but also that real friends can enjoy eating hamburgers at eight o' clock A.M. :)
It amuses me really that in general, people seem to strive for difference. As if they seek individuality in it. While all my life I've yearned to be normal. I've always been a slow learner. Also being a Christian woman in this day and age makes me stand out. And now I'm the girl with only squash, meat and carrots on her “Can eat” list.
Who would have guessed that seeing everyone's hands take a sandwich off a platter would make me feel lonely? Or when everyone says “Hey, let's go get an icecream!” Or to sit at the table and see that every plate matches, everything on the dishes looks and smells the same until you come to my seat. Not only am I alone in my difference, but alone in a crowd. Like a jagged puzzle piece that is pronounced by the fact everyone else matches, but me. Not only bereaved but different.
And yet, being different has two sides. It is definitely hard to be different and pointed out. But it has become my new norm, and I have found most people, waitresses discluded, are quite accepting of my difference. The other side is to be forgotten.
Sometimes others presume I don't join in because it's my preference. They have no concept of the invisible chains that hold me back. Difference is no longer a mark that defines me, but a barrier that separates. Difference has become a norm in my life, but others can forget. My difference isn't their constant companion, but mine; it's easy for them to overlook, but it's become my life.
And yet the chain of difference has been entrusted to me. For a reason. Why do I care if no-one knows what sacrifices I must make in order to live my life? They too may have secret sacrifices that hold them back from something I take for granted in my own life. I do not need people to relate in order for me to live life to the fullest. It would be nice to be understood, but their ignorance is not a hindrance, and it certainly is not a show of disinterest in me as a person.
How lovely to be given a life that Jesus has charted exclusively for me. What if it includes difference? With this difference comes Himself as my companion. And not for some of the journey, but all of it. I don't need any one else. He knows the weight of difference. He knows the loneliness. He sees the invisible chains, for He allowed them to be hung about my neck. For my good. They teach me dependence, need, love, empathy. These chains are also a link to others souls who bear similar ones. And I would never have been able to understand had I not had this freedom of normality taken from me.
What liberates me from my chain is not escaping it's weight but the attitude in which I wear it. My chain can become wings of sympathy, and my captivity a prayer for others. The mark of difference is nothing to be despised. I have never had anything else prepare my soul for crucifixion as well as my chain of difference.
Different? Yes, but I have come to accept Difference as a blessing instead of a barrier. A direct link to the very One I need. I have found my chain of difference a gold one.
For more on "chains"click here.
For more on "chains"click here.