I woke up at 5am today, drenched in sweat. So much water fell off of my body and my bed that I was actually cold, despite the heat being set to 73 degrees.
I woke up and realized I was having another Jewish Deli Nightmare. I know this sounds completely crazy, but it is most definitely true. Bizarre, but true.
In another life I worked as a waitress and manager of a very successful and amazing Jewish Deli. I don’t want to state the city or name of the successful and amazing Jewish Deli. In another life I was really skinny, irrational, wild, lots of fun with a fair amount of drama mixed in for good measure.
That was almost a decade ago. Sometimes it feels like it was an hour ago.
I spent the last weekend on another magical yoga retreat with my sister at Kripalu in Massachusetts. To say that it was amazing would be an understatement. I sat and watched 33 women and 1 man go through some phenomenal transformations, revelations, and life changing shifts.
I looked around the room on Sunday, as the last moments of the retreat were upon us, and I was inspired to get busy writing again. I really need to write is all I could think about. I really need to write about what I know, about what is true for me, about where I live in my heart. I kept thinking that if I was honest, really raw honest, that I could accomplish big things in my life. I could help other people accomplish big things in their lives.
The nightmares began upon returning home. It was my calling to write about something that still haunts me. It was my time to start writing from that place that I keep hidden and reserved for only me.
The Jewish Deli was more than just work for me, it was my family, it was my calling, it proved to the world that I was young but throughly capable of handling such a big job. I always knew, even as a young woman, that I could handle the biggest of jobs and that there was no task I couldn’t or wouldn’t take on. I was so proud of myself when I worked there, so proud of what that job represented to the world. I was something. I was respected. I was smart. I was capable.
Self fulfilling prophecy, I knew I would find a way to sabotage my position.
The staff at said successful and widely popular deli was like family. We were all so close, although I was told to stay away as the manager, of course I never listened. We were such a fun bunch. I was so fond of all the people I worked with. There was no division in the staff, the waiters and busboy and dishwashers and managers all partied together. We were a gang, a click, a force to be reckoned with.
There was one thing that separated me from the rest of the gang. I was the addict. I was the user. I was the unstable one. It hurt that the same people who used drugs with me found it so easy to throw me under the bus. It hurt that the same people who partied till the wee hours of the night were so easy to single me out as “bad” and “different from everybody else.
That played right into my insecurities, my worst fears. I never wanted to be disliked, wrong, or incompetent.
A fool I am not. I knew what all my so-called friends said about me when I wasn’t around. I knew what was said when I turned my back. I have never said it out loud before, not publicly, it hurt really bad. It was an extremely low point in my life. I was sad and desperate with a broken heart.
The people I worked for were two of the most interesting and difficult people. They are both brilliant, creative, smart and dedicated business people. I admired them and feared them in the same breath. I knew they were on to me. The disappointment I felt towards myself as I let them down day after day grew too heavy to bear. It was like wearing head to toe full iron body armor. I couldn’t bear it anymore. At one point I gave up trying to hide. I had nowhere left to run.
I would watch from a distance as those who were my friends all laughed and had a great time, so pleasant to my face, but distant. I felt it. Every day that I went to work, which was almost everyday, I felt the sting. It was a massive paper cut across my heart, open and burning. It was as if they were pouring lemon juice right down the middle of this cut that refused to heal. I just wanted to be loved and liked in this world, for me it is always about that.
As the days grew closer for my departure from that job, that city, that life, I came to terms with a few things. I knew I had to forgive myself for who I was ‘at that time in my life’ and secondly I realized that some of those who chastised me had demons of their own to hide. As long as it was my demons on display theirs could stay hidden away in their giant walk in closets.
I got in my car and drove away that January day and I never went back again. I still have not returned to said deli or city. Almost a decade of still carrying the hurt of that time inside my body. I assumed when I moved away and became the woman I am now that I would be forgiven, that I would be seen for who I am, or at least accepted for who I am now. I assumed that distance and time would erase the past.
I am still that girl from 7 years ago to some of those people, those who poured the lemon juice in my paper cut. That is their idea of who I am, that is always going to be their idea of who I am. I will always be the skinny, irrational, fun spirited, wild and drama filled girl. I will always be an addict. I will always be the Rachel that I was at 25 or 26 or whenever it was they decided I would always be that girl.
The dreams come often. I dream that I am back at said deli and I walk in and nobody will talk to me. I bring my children with me and all the same people work there and I am still the same old Rachel, I just have kids now. I have that same stinging feeling, it is so strong that it wakes me up from my sleep.
How can I still be dealing with this? How can I still be having nightmares of a jewish deli?
I am working hard on forgiveness in my life now. Forgiving other people is easy, forgiving myself, not so much. There is where the work needs to happen.
I sit and think over and over about the idea of forgiving myself and what stops me. It finally hit me like a hammer on the head. I can’t forgive myself because I have spent my entire life asking for permission. Permission to take a step forward, permission to take a step back, and permission to forgive myself. I realized that if only those people would forgive me, then I could move on in my own forgiveness. If only those people would tell me that it’s okay, I am not bad, I am still meaningful in this world, if that would happen then I could FORGIVE myself.
It is never going to happen. They are never going to do that. I am never going to get that reassurance that I crave.
Pretty earth shattering to finally get the bottom of those jewish deli nightmares. Pretty scary to admit out loud the reason that they still haunt me. Pretty breathtaking to finally realize that it is time I stop asking for permission in my life.
What else is on hold in my life, because I am waiting for the OK from somebody out in the world? Where else am I playing it safe or small because I need somebody else to take my hand and lead the way?
I looked around this weekend at Kripalu, at the faces of people who have lived through things I couldn’t imagine surviving and realized it was time to stop waiting. I don’t want to wait until, I am diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, or a loved one dies, or I lose it all, before I realize the only one leading the way in my life is me.
Where in your life are you holding back while you wait for somebody to tell you it’s okay?
I would love to hear all of your answers.
What will people think? What will people say? What will I look like to the world?
It was laid out right in front of me. My worst fears come to haunt me and I was staring at them as if I was staring down the barrel of a sawed off double barrel shotgun.