It all started with a salad.
For the record, I hate salad. Asian people don’t grow up eating salad. And Asian people like me, raised in third world countries, really don’t eat salad. We cook our vegetables, lest they kill us.
“I’m home!” My husband called. We were in the trenches of raising tiny children who never slept, and he had run to a nearby restaurant for takeout.
I remember exactly where I was standing when he held the bag out to me, suspended in midair. I was in our garage-turned-playroom, in my pajamas, with hair so unkempt I may as well have been electrocuted.
“I got you salad,” he said smiling.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I think I just hallucinated. What did you get me?”
We had been to this restaurant exactly one million times, and every time, I ordered the same thing. Teriyaki chicken wings with sweet potato fries and broccoli.
Every. Single. Time.
“I just picked something for you. I got the Southwest salad.”
I took a deep, steadying breath. “You got me the Southwest salad? Have you met me? If I ever order a salad – which I never do – at least, I order the Asian salad. But Southwest? SOUTHWEST?!”
“It has blue cheese,” he said lamely, which in his defense, is his favorite cheese.
You would’ve thought he flipped me off. At the absolute top of my lungs I screamed, “I HATE BLUE CHEESE!!”
The reason I still remember this moment isn’t actually because of the salad. Or the blue cheese. It was because at this very moment, I heard our new neighbor outside, talking calmly on his cellphone. You could hear every word as clearly as if he was in the room with us.
I went from rage to humiliation in one second flat.
Forget inviting him to church. Forget pointing his family to Jesus. Forget even pretending to appear sane. I was outed.
Why Being Exposed is a Good Thing
Life has a way of exposing vulnerability. Anxiety attacks, shame, sadness, anger – it’s all a form of exposure – the unfiltered “you” popping to the surface. You can respond in two ways: shove it all back down, or dig through the layers.
Exposure always comes with layers.
Believe it or not, the salad incident was a turning point for me. Honestly, if my neighbor hadn’t overheard, I would’ve forgotten the whole thing. But being outed gave me pause. It was painful.
The first layer of pain was embarrassment. What must he think of me?
Below the embarrassment, there was disappointment. Why do I do this? Why am I so hot headed? I wish I didn’t react this way.
Under the disappointment was resentment. Parenting is so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m angry it’s so hard.
And at the very core, there was sadness and shame. I feel like a failure. I’m not the mom I thought I’d be. I’m not the wife I want to be. I’m not the Christian I ought to be.
Whenever you experience a moment of awakening, you have a choice. You can turn toward it or away from it. Turning toward an awakening means allowing it to expose all of the thoughts and feelings it needs to expose. It means following the layers of uncomfortable emotions. Don’t be afraid to follow the layers, because at the bottom of all those icky feelings, you’ll find your core beliefs.
And once you’ve exposed those, you can begin …