It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen. – Claude Bristol
“Why are you being so nice to me?”, I asked her.
She looked startled, dumbfounded even. Her confused face said nothing more than “Huh?”
I don’t remember what she said. I am sure she said something supportive and friendly. I do know that she still remembers that conversation to this day. She finds it so odd that anyone would come right out and ask someone else why they were treating the other nicely.
At the time she failed to see it from my point of view.
I was seventeen years old. Pregnant, one thousand miles from home, locked in a maternity home and surrounded by strangers. I felt discarded by my family and abandoned by my boyfriend. I had offended the Catholic Church by having sex outside marriage. I had shamed my family. I was surely going to hell. I wanted my baby but was told she deserved better than me. Why would anyone be nice to me?
I was evil incarnate. I was persona non grata. Pond scum. Not worthy of anyone’s love and not worthy of my child.
Why shouldn’t I ask her why she is being nice to me? I wanted to know what she wanted. Surely she must want something from me. The agency was being nice to me because they wanted my baby.
Why else would this friend help me get to work, give me money for food, and pretend to care for me? She wanted something, right?
She is older than me by at least 20 years. She is highly educated and attractive and artistic. She is sensitive, caring and amazingly nurturing.
She is also an adoptee.
During one of our conversations, I compliment her on some of her work. Maybe it was her artwork or a recent effort, I don’t recall, I just know that I liked it and I told her.
Her 60 something aged eyes lit up like those of a 5 year old child. “You really like me, don’t you? I mean you really really like me?”. Even her voice had a childlike tone to it.
It was my turn to be dumbfounded. Her words seemed so off. So immature. So wrong.
Of course I liked her. Why wouldn’t I? Why would someone as gifted and talented as she even question someone liking her?
Oh, that’s right. She is adopted. Even sixty years after the loss of her mother, she assumes no one wants and no one likes her. Even in the face of extreme success, at her core she assumes she is not worthy, not lovable and not wanted.
And my heart cracked for her. I know that feeling all too well. I know what it is like to have been abandoned by those that should care for you and be left on your own. I know what it is like to work so hard to be perfect and wonderful and smart and brilliant and supportive with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, you will finally be deemed lovable and acceptable.
I paused for a second, uncertain how I should respond to the child/woman standing in front of me. I wanted to hug her. I refrained. I simply said to her in a calm, firm, caring voice that I would use for my children:
“Yes, I really do like you”.