As I look back now, I see that those chapped lips were an outward expression of my inner depression and anxiety stemming from my father's accidental death. I was so ashamed of my lips and I could not stop licking them. I could not stop! Behind the lips, I also had funny looking teeth. My tooth buds died because of an early fever and I only had 18 tooth buds. So, my front teeth had wide gaps between them.
Because I was absolutely obsessed with my appearance, I really thought that everyone was looking at my teeth and making fun of me. I thought that something was really wrong with me and I had the visible scars to prove it. I have discovered, in subsequent years, that most of us had these self conscious feelings about some part of our appearance in our early years and that most of us still do.
There are times we step back into the idea that “it's all about me” and I am the center of the universe. Sometimes we wake up from these self centered ideas and remember that we are not what we look like. We are not our bodies. We are the ONE who holds the space for our beloved bodies. This body is my soul's address.
My mom was frustrated with me because she couldn't get me to stop licking my lips either. I felt invisible at home; my emotional pain went without notice. I think she believed that my lips were about her. She was a beauty queen in the small Wisconsin town we lived in. I, her middle daughter, was flawed.
In the eyes of my paternal grandparents, I was visible. I was the apple of their eyes. My grandma would put vaseline on my lips and say “there, there my little one.” I am so grateful for their unconditional love.
I believe that this sharp memory arose for healing because it can't be healed in the background of my unconscious mind. The question the memory asks is “can you love me now?” The answer to that question is “yes, absolutely!”
Today I forgive myself for licking my lips, for obsessing about the lips and the teeth endlessly. I know now that most of the kids back then were thinking about their own issues- pimples, or extra pounds, or bad hair. Maybe they didn't have the kind of pain that I did, maybe they did. And, I also forgive myself when I go back to that old familiar body obsession. I don't always know another way.
In retrospect, I see that having had chapped lips and funny looking teeth was both a curse and a blessing. That pain back then and now, caused me to be a lifetime seeker. I HAD to find ways to forgive myself and step away from the self loathing. This intense emotional pain, and the underlying depression and anxiety condition, led me to a spiritual solution. Today I can bring that wounded 7th grader back onto my lap and remind her that I'm sorry for the judgment and the obsession and that I love her with all my heart. I'm grateful this memory arose for transformation and healing. The God/Goddess of my personal understanding ALWAYS, ALWAYS, has room for me on His/Her lap. I'll close with a poem by Hafiz, full of self forgiveness and self love.
Jump to your feet, wave your fists
Threaten and warn the whole universe
That your heart can no longer live
Without real love!