Recap: Jake’s silence on Project Baby and Zani’s doubts regarding his adherence to the preconceptual care plan ushers in Dread, Anxiety and Fear. Before she can stop herself, Zani bares her soul to the kind-hearted Vee.
“Brave? Me? Quite the opposite, I’m afraid. I’m full of fear and anxiety and dread. What makes you think I’m brave?”
Vee looks at me earnestly. “It takes a lot of courage to be so honest with yourself. Very few people can do that. It sounds as though the rucksack you’re carrying is wearing you down. Would it be okay if we unpacked it – just a little?”
“Ooookay …” I roll my eyes. I’m not so sure about this …
“You want to be a mother?”
“But Jake isn’t quite ready yet?”
“Yes, but I’m not so sure that I …”
“It’s okay, we’ll get to that … Let’s just unpack the bag one thing at a time. That way it’ll be clearer to see what you need to keep and what you need to let go. You’ve done a lot of reading and what you’ve read scares you, right?”
“Pretty much, yes.”
“But most of all, you don’t feel you’re worth spit?”
My hand inadvertently flies up to my mouth. “Wow! How’d you get all that?”
“You’ve essentially told me all of that in just this brief conversation. It’s not hard to fathom, you silly girl. Shall we begin?”
Sitting with Vee in the Two Tarts surrounded by the warmth of the fire and the gentle flute music, it feels right to allow Vee to continue.
“Did you know that you were created in the image of God?”
I haven’t quite expected this!
“And did you know that using the same raw materials from your parents, God could have made 300 thousand billion people, each one different, but He made you?”
“Yes, I remember reading that that’s what Og Mandino said.”
“But then, my dear Zani, don’t you see? You’re the most amazing miracle on Earth. You are exactly the way you should be – wonderfully made.”
“But the problem is not how I was made – even though the way you’ve put it makes me feel kinda special …” I pause to smile and marvel a little. “The problem is that I’ve messed it all up!”
“And how did you do that?”
“I was never as pretty, as clever or as fast as my elder sister; my mom always said she wanted a boy – and all she got was me; all my goldfish have died, my bucket is full of holes and …”
Vee smiles. “Sorry to interrupt. I just want to put you straight on one score – I don’t know a single person with a 13-year-old goldfish! It’s not your fault goldfish die. The fact that your mom wanted a boy is not your fault. The fact that your sister was smarter and faster is because she was older, not because you were useless! It’s not your fault. And the bit about being not so pretty … Well, I think you need to clean your glasses before you look at yourself in the mirror. You’re beautiful!”
Vee takes a sip of tea and I just wallow in the pause of silence for a bit, repacking my bag item for item, wondering at how each bit somehow seems different now.
“The bit that I didn’t quite get,” Vee continues, placing her cup back on the saucer and flicking crumbs off the cloth, “was the bit about the bucket?”
I laugh. “Jake and I have this thing; we talk about people having a bucket inside them – it’s a bucket that sits in the heart and is filled with all the good things you’ve done, good things people have said, things you’ve achieved – you know, the sort of things that make you feel good about yourself?”
“That’s a lovely way of looking at people. Really lovely.
I try to explain as best I could. “Holes are made when bad things happen, like when you hit a blank trying to say your line in the nursery school concert, or when you lose the money your mom gave you to pay for an outing, or when everybody had a special friend and you never did, and when you couldn’t work or run as fast as the others, or when your mom and dad wanted a boy and you always felt like a disappointment, and you were never chosen as a leader at school and more often than not people have either rejected you, or disappointed you and you’re just waiting for your partner to see you for the worthless person you actually are …”
“Whoa there! Oh, Zani, that’s such a heavy load to carry! But it also reminds me of a wise saying I read somewhere: Where do I run for shelter when the battlefield is my own mind? Now think about that. Where do you run to if your mind is the problem in the first place?”
I don’t quite know what to say. Is she suggesting that the problem is me, that I am my own worst enemy?
If who you believe you are is measured by the sum total of all the negative thoughts about yourself that you have been squirreling away in the back of your mind over all this time, it does paint a rather grim picture. No wonder you’re so anxious!”
Tears well up in my eyes. Yet further confirmation! This kind and generous woman agrees with me – I’m grim, and that’s that.
“And, Zani, all of that is simply not true!”
“No, Vee, unfortunately it is.”
“No, no – I don’t mean to imply that it didn’t happen. I’m sure it did. What I’m trying to say is that the meaning you’ve given to every example you have stored in your memory is not the only meaning you could have given those situations.”
I’m sure Vee means well, but she is beginning to lose me now. I am not at all sure of what she is trying to say.
“No, sorry, I don’t understand. What do you mean by it’s not the only meaning you could have given those situations’?”
“Hang on a sec, sweetie,” Vee says as she quickly gets up, wiping her hands on her apron. “Excuse me a moment. I need to seat those customers. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I look at my watch. Goodness, I didn’t realise I was taking up so much of Vee’s time. Hurriedly I close the book and slip it onto my bag. I take out my purse.
“Aah, sorry, but I do need to serve that table. They’re in a bit of a rush. We can’t chat any further now, but will you come back sometime?”
“Yes, I would like to. Thank you, Vee. But how much … Can you bring me …?”
Vee brushes my hand away, with a snort and a roll of her eyes. “Oh, puhleeze! It’s on the house, sweetie.
“No, no buts. Put your money away. But before you go, just one last thought – do you know that no situation has inherent meaning? Giving meaning is something that only our minds can do. By the sounds of it, your mind has been giving a lot of negative meaning to events and situations in your life – not because you have a twisted mind or that you’re sick or anything; it’s simply the way it’s happened. I’ve got a favour to ask? For the rest of today, would you just consider the possibility that everything you’ve always believed about yourself is not true?”
I don’t know what to say.
“Now go on,” laughs Vee. “Go and be kinder to yourself.” and she bustles over to the other table, notepad and pencil in hand.