Stinging Slap in the Face

The recent newspaper story about me was something I should have been proud of.  No- I was embarrassed instead. When I saw it, I immediately wanted to disappear from the earth!

Oh yes, expectations versus reality!

Sometimes we really struggle to keep our priorities straight, don't we? Occasionally we get a stinging but needed slap in the face to knock some sense back into us.  Or maybe it's just me.  Nah, I'll bet you wrestle with your emotions too.

I recently had a big "first" in my life.  My work was chosen to be in "Chicken Soup for the Soul", a collection of true short stories by various authors. I was so excited! A publicist from the company asked me to provide my local newspaper information, so they could arrange an interview with me. You know, a "local lady gets published" story.

I hesitantly agreed to do it. The interview went well and a photographer took a few pictures. The people were very nice to work with and it was a good experience! That was on a Tuesday, the story would be in the following Sunday's paper.

My husband and I decided to go out for lunch that Sunday. We bought a paper on the way.
We got seated and I tentatively opened the newspaper.
A feeling of complete dread just washed over me! I was expecting a short article and a small picture. Instead, I saw a full page story with a blown up photo of me, covering half the page. But was that truly ME? I almost didn't recognize myself. And WHY did they use THAT picture? I didn't remember scowling!  The article had a couple of mistakes that were misleading about my story too. WHAT?

I could feel a subtle panic start to rise up inside me. Anger too.  I almost burst out crying right there in the restaurant. I knew had to take control of this...this...THING that was getting a grip on me! It had the potential to ruin my entire day, and more.

My husband tried to comfort me by saying " Very few people actually take the paper anyway."  I said "Yep, and in a couple of days it will be lining the bottoms of bird cages." I tried desperately to laugh about it, but little tears leaked out instead.

I fought those feelings of distress all afternoon. I had to put the paper away, I couldn't look at it.

I decided to distract myself with Facebook for a while. I soon read some very sad news. A friend of mine had suffered a massive stroke.  Mrs. L had been a motherly-type friend to me for many years. In fact, I'd cried to her once about the heartache of losing my own mother.

I continued to read loving tributes posted by Mrs. L's three children, shared as they sat at their Mom's bedside. They knew she would not be with them much longer.
(She wasn't. Her memorial service was held the following Saturday.)

"THIS is what really matters in life! Not bad images of myself in a newspaper!", I sobbed to myself.

My heart broke for them. I knew all too well what they were going through. I was taken back to 1998, sitting with my two siblings at my mother's bedside, after she'd suffered cardiac arrest.  She passed away after four days in a coma.

What a profound way for me to regain perspective that Sunday! Hadn't many of my blog posts been about not sweating the small stuff, making the most of every day, and about finding purpose in matters of the heart?
My goal is to practice what I post, you know?

On the other hand, many of my stories have been honest confessions about how very hypocritical we humans can be. I've tattled on myself most of all.

Gratefully, my dear Mama-Friend, Mrs. L, loved all aspects of me. She loved everyone that way.

This unique woman made me laugh, she gave wonderful hugs, and was a compassionate listener. Her faith was the real deal and she'd been a spiritual mentor for me a few times. I'll never forget her.

That slap-in-the-face was one of those that hurt-so-good.  I confess that I did have cringing thoughts about the newspaper story again after that Sunday. Fortunately, they didn't last long. But I think the reality check I got that day will last a very long time. I hope so.


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