You were just a girl when you learned to play pretend.
When you built houses made of cardboard boxes, draped with musty blankets, your secrets hidden in dark corners where no one would find them.
Even then, you were ashamed of your house. Of the way it crumpled at the sides, the way it fell down in the middle, the inadequacy of it.
But the thing is, some people had help to build their houses.
While others did not.
And eventually when the time came to build a real house, there was no one to help you.
So you continued to play pretend.
You didn’t know how to lay strong foundations, construct solid structures, or place bricks in straight lines that wouldn’t fall. So you watched others build their houses, and you copied. It didn’t matter if their ways were right or wrong, truth or lies, healthy or destructive. You needed shelter from the storms that raged around you, so you built with flawed tools and foolish hands.
You knew your house wasn’t built well. It was thrown together with crooked lines and uneven edges.
Unbalanced, unstable, unreliable.
But you did the best you could with how little you knew.
You looked at the other houses built by those who were taught well, and you were ashamed of yours. You hid your shame behind a wall of perfectionism, a shield to keep everyone away. That way they would never see what a mess your house really was. They would never know your foundation was built on lies, your bricks laid upon cover-ups, your walls painted with the picture of the life you wanted others to believe you had.
The life you wished you had.
You became driven to keep up the appearance of perfection, no matter the cost. No matter how many lies you had to tell, how many secrets you had to cover up, how many people you had to hurt to stop them from seeing beyond the façade. You couldn’t let anyone see inside your house, into the broken mess you had built with your own two hands.
You never meant to harm or hurt. You never meant to deceive or betray. These things grieved your hearts. You were simply so desperate for others to believe you were whole, the same as them. Your greatest fear was exposure. You feared others would see into your house of shame, and would hate you more than you already hated yourself.
You lived like this for many years, until one day, your house of cards collapsed around you.
It wasn’t the storm that blew your house down. Not the wind, the fire, the rain or the floods.
You are a survivor, after all. You can withstand any force of hell thrown upon you.
Instead, it was your own breath that dismantled your house.
One moment of stillness.
One moment you looked inside your house and surveyed the damage, the destruction. It crucified you to know how many years you lived like this—what that has done to you, and the ones who have tried to love you.
And you knew you no longer wanted to live this way.
You knew it was time to leave your old house and build a new one.
So you began to tear down walls, dismantle structures, dig up foundations.
You felt exposed and vulnerable, often weak. You grew tired of the renovations and longed to crawl back into your familiar hovel.
But you continued the work.
You stopped blaming others for their lack of help in building your house, and took it upon yourself to learn new ways, better ways.
You laid a new foundation of truth, built walls of integrity, floors of authenticity, ceilings of strength and courage.
You placed large windows in your house where the light would always pour in.
Where there would be no more secrets hidden in dark corners.
Now, you stand back and look at your new house.
There will always be a few cracks, some rough edges. It was, after all, built on the tears of your regrets.
But you are proud of the work of your hands, so strong with determination and hope.
You are proud of what you have built on your own.
You step in, your soul at rest.
Finally, you are home.
Author: Kathy Parker
Image: Olya Voloshka/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran