Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who Nose? Me....And Now You

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand
But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand
But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"
But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
-Casting Crowns

"You've got ta go dere ta know dere."- Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Stepping out of my comfort zone....if ever I've done that..really done that .this is it.  And it is all I've got- my real truth.  The part that I've told almost no one, because it hurts so bad and there is so much shame here.  And I've told some icky truths, friends.  And some of you have heard them. Or read them.  This is a story a long time in the making.  A tale that begins with a hell of a lot of anguish, but one that ends on Carson Street, in Pittsburgh, yesterday.  As I lay here, composing this, watching my breathing, in and out, pushing myself to give it up, for the world to behold, I feel the weight of an enormous pain washing over me, then leaving.....

It was 1981 and I was in fifth grade.  Just an ordinary day like the rest.  The teacher was rambling on about some subject we didn't care for, I assume, and suddenly, the kid across from me blurts out "oh my God Judy.  You've got a really BIG NOSE."  And that was all it took- everyone got on the bandwagon, even my best friend, who I counted on, joined in the fun- at every turn I had kids sneering and laughing about my nose.  Then came middle school.  Nicholas Orem Middle School.  And the barbs flew at me like artillery on the front line.  The most painful of all of the memories, the one I see and feel when I am especially vulnerable, is the one where I was eating lunch in the cafeteria and about seven kids, whom I didn't know, encircled me and began taunting me "how do you see over that thing," "you are so ugly you should just die," "stupid white bitch with the big nose like Pinocchio..."  the good Sunday School girl just took it all, staring down at her tray, tears flooding her face...she was turning the other cheek, or so she told herself...(the girl I am today would have thrown the hot soup on all of them and told them all to go fuck themselves, fervently reminding them of what losers they were and how they would never amount to anything...with their free lunch-gum smacking-remedial brained- piece of trash selves.  and I would have had the shit beaten out of me...but I would have had more dignity.  Today, I counsel all of my children to hit back. And hard.  Sue me, but I don't buy the meek thing- kindness only works when you can also be kind and advocate for yourself.  Jesus didn't take shit from anyone without being in control.  He was humble, yes, but with a love of self that kept him from being a doormat.  They don't teach you that in church and I think it is a big mistake.  Blaspheme I do, but with good intentions).   By eighth grade, things were worse, and I came home crying everyday, sometimes not even making it through the school day, going to the nurse's office and calling my mom to come and get me. 

We moved shortly before I turned 14, and, as a result, I had the privilege of attending a high school where there were an abundance of kids with above average intelligence.  Some of them even had noses like mine.  The burn-outs and the rednecks gave me the same grief, if I walked by them on the way to school, as they lurked about smoking and talking trash, but, once at school, I was segregated from the lot of them, in classrooms of kids who were going places- who had goals and creativity and self-esteem.  I had a normal teenage life.  The scars remained, but I dealt with them, buried them, survived, thrived... 

Five years ago, in the spring of 2005, I consulted the chief of cosmetic surgery at Georgetown.  I figured if I was going to go under the knife to "fix" what was wrong with me, I was going to go to the best of the best.  I had prepared myself for what I knew would be a painful session of asking someone to scrutinize my face- and paying dearly for it-but this time I was the one in control, and that made it okay.  My assumption was that the Dr. would be as critical as the schoolyard bullies, just with more professionalism and a few nice words thrown in here and there for good measure.  His assistant interviewed me first and, after hearing me tell the reason for my visit, appeared a bit confused.  She said "hmmm...I'll go get the Doctor and we'll see what he thinks..."  Are you sitting down, people?  Really, have a seat, buckle up, because you aren't going to believe what comes next.  He refused my business.  He told me there was no way he would change anything about my nose.  "I would consider it a more sought after shape, actually."  "What?," I quipped "I'm sorry, I don't seem to have heard you correctly.  Sought after?  By whom?  Because I've never met them and I've met a whole lot of people."  "Have you been smoking a wad of crack on your lunch hour?!"  "Do you  know the things people have said to me, my whole life, the hell I've been through?!," I argued.  He sympathized, said he was sorry  but emphatically denied that I needed rhinoplasty, saying, "I will not operate on your nose- other surgeons would do it, for the cash- some will do anything their patients request- but I know what I know -in layman's terms, it has a bridge- I have clients who pay me to create those.  It has sharper features than a nose that is flat, or wide, or turned upward.  You don't want any of those noses, Judy.  It would be a huge mistake."  And that was it.  I walked out of the office, called Tom, sobbing uncontrollably, telling him a miracle had just occurred or Georgetown had a lunatic on their hands.  My husband had never agreed with my opinion to begin with, so he wasn't particularly shocked.    He would have supported me but that was the extent of it.

I can't say that I don't consider, daily,  getting a nip here and there, a tuk here, and there.  Hard as I try, I still look at myself through the eyes of the hateful souls that were an unfortunate but, I believe, probably a providential part my youth- those whose damaged lives left them little else but to inflict similar wounds on someone, who deep down, they resented- for being something they'd most likely never felt:  hopeful. Children aren't born monsters- they learn it, and for these particular youths, I'm certain there were sticks and stones and names beyond any I could ever imagine.   The faulty half of me flips them the bird, in my head, every now and again and secretly hopes they've remained in their own puddle of misery.  The faulty half of me believes they deserve it.  But the half  of me that knows my own spiritual dirt, and the grace that has cleaned me up, is more empathetic, maybe even forgiving

So, without soliciting opinions or permission from anyone in my life, yesterday, I drove downtown, alone, to a tattoo parlor, called In The Blood.  For some of you, this may seem quite the oxymoron, but it is a Christ-centered establishment, the idea of which both intrigued and comforted me at the same time.  I drove around the block a couple of times, parked, edged my way past some guys on the stoop, and,  for the first time, chose power over pity for all of this that has ached in me for so long.  And the images of Jesus, in every art form you could possibly imagine, surrounding me on the landing and in the waiting area, soothed away all the doubt that may have ushered forth.  Being amongst people whose unique, yet, quite honestly, somewhat grotesque body art, I could barely comprehend, I normally would have at least felt a bit out of place.  But we've all got a story to tell, and while I never in a million years pictured myself at home in such a shop, I knew I needed to be there yesterday, with this overdue request.  "I'm here to get my nose pierced,"  I said.   And with all of the courage I could muster, I sat in that chair, unapologetically, and with no shame, and I took the pain of that needle so I  could claim this part of this face that I own.  And  it was done.  "How was it?" the man asked.  "Oh, I've given birth to ten pound babies, with marginal epidurals, believe me, it was fine.".  Then I thanked him and explained that the piercing wasn't a vanity thing- this jewel on my left nostril.  It wasn't some whim to fit in with the trend or some impulse to hold onto my youth..I was finally taking back what those kids took from me a long time ago.  Then I walked out, edged past the guys on the stoop, again, but this time, with my shoulders held higher than before and sporting the confidence of a superstar.  Because this time, and with this simple gutsy act, I won.  I won.

5 comments:

Deidre J. Robinson said...

I'm proud of you. Wish we could talk and see each other like we used to but know that I think of you often.
Luv you, Deidre

Janine said...

Juuuuude! I love it and I love you. You are so beautiful. I never noticed you had a big nose. Perhaps I couldn't see it over my own. ;) Thanks for sharing your story. I had similar obstacles growing up. Even a particular incident in Mrs. Heinz's english class. People are so mean.

Janine said...

Juuuuude! I love it and I love you. You are so beautiful. I never noticed you had a big nose. Perhaps I couldn't see it over my own. ;)

Thanks for sharing your story. I had similar obstacles growing up. Even a particular incident in Mrs. Heinz's english class that i will never forget. People are so mean.

Lori said...

Well done and well said, Judy. I, too, endured some rather nasty criticisms growing up and carry those insecurities to this day. I'm so happy for you embracing yourself and finding peace. Lots of love on this very special birthday!

Judy Ollerenshaw Sombar said...

I know and love each of you who've left those comments for me. You have no idea the impact that has on my writing and on my life in general. Thanks! :)

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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