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Backsplash on the Sunshine Whore

Somewhere in my basement is a box of treasures from my childhood.  A doily crocheted by my grandmother,  a poetry project from sixth grade, a wallet from my dad’s foray into leather-tooling, a doll dress my mom sewed by hand.  In amongst them, (I assume though I haven’t looked through the box since our last move in 1999), is a red autograph book I was given for my eighth birthday. 

 My friends and I all had these little books and we would sign one another’s with poems and jokes, trying to sound wiser and worldlier than the children we were.

“Tulips in the garden! Tulips in the park! The kind of tulips YOU like best is TWO LIPS in the dark!!!”

 None of us had yet moved into the world of kissing “for real” but we could see the humour and frankly couldn’t wait to grow boobs, get periods, and kiss boys. 

 I would have tossed the book long ago but for one special entry in that distinctive cursive of one who went to school long before, when handwriting was taught as a discipline reflective of character.  Dear old Mary, a friend of my mother’s mother – the link to a grandmother who’d died before I came along.  I remember her delight when I asked her to sign my book, as if it was a great honour to be included.  She paused thoughtfully and then wrote:

 “Those who spread sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from their own”

 I took that phrase to heart and think of it often.  Of course, I now know it is a paraphrase of Scottish writer James Matthew Barrie’s work but the sentiment is more important than the exactness of the quote.  I took it to my young little heart and did good deeds in earnest, knowing my own life would be better for it. Just by smiling at a stranger, I’d feel happiness back.

 Ah but careful, careful there little one.  The mind is tricky, and will start to keep score.  It quietly takes stock of every time you give more than you receive and lays a thin, gossamer layer over your heart.  Eventually those layers build to a film that grows so gradually you hardly notice the change, but it’s there.  Your smile feels brittle, your heart aches but you don’t know why.  You grow bitter, and you know it’s wrong so you tamp it down and hide it under more smiles and achievements.

I can see it now, how I let that happen to me.  I became an approval junkie, a sunshine whore.  I barfed freakin sunshine all over the place in hopes some would splash back on me.

I took a lovely notion, a truly sincere sentiment from a dear old lady and warped it with my mixed up mind.  I couldn’t see it for most of my life and considered myself beyond criticism because – what?  You’re going to criticize me for all the selfless good I’m doing?

I am still reeling from the recent lessons learned about expectations and resentments.  I sit and write this now with my sobriety goggles firmly in place.  If you do good things with the expectation of return on investment, you’ll eventually be disappointed.  Continue that behaviour long enough and you’ll have yourself some nice resentment brewing.  Throw in a box or two of wine per week and you’ll be…well, see my first few posts.

 That said, I still believe in the power of sunshine.  I know dang well old Mary had it right.  I see it here, in the feedback from this blog.  I see it in others who bless me with their kindness.  I know it in my heart; I just have to trust that it’s true without holdings expectations.

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on June 14, 2011, in Getting Sober. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I too can totally relate to this, and I believe it is at the base of my drinking. Part of why I became sunshine whore was because I was brought up to believe there was something odd and “not right” about me. My parents were very conservative and mindful of appearances, and I didn’t fit the mold. I wanted to laugh and run, wear bright cool clothes and share (tastefully) what I was thinking. How that ties in I believe is that I wasn’t accepted as I was, so I overcompensated by being the person that brought sunshine, who cared, who made everyone feel better. In this way, I felt needed and loved. But the underlying feelings about myself were still there, and the positive feedback I got from my behavior was like slapping paint over rust. And, as you stated, if you always expect sunshine in return you will be sadly disappointed over time. I found myself focusing on what I did wrong, or who didn’t like me, or how I could have behaved better in a social situation. Rather than focusing on the many good things I did. The wrong parts validated my inner tape of “you aren’t good enough, you are strange and don’t fit in”. Although outwardly I knew this to be untrue, it was still embedded.

    When I drink, I feel free from this tug of war, and of worrying about what people think of me. Until morning, of course, when I look back and scramble to remember what I said or did. I am at the point where I recognize what the issues are, but what truly hit me today was the realization that the real work will be in accepting and loving myself for who I am. I haven’t any idea where to start with that, but I am ready for the challenge and feel committed to sobriety (at least right now).

    Happiness doesn’t come from spreading it around like confetti, it comes from self love, acceptance, and structuring your life in a way that you feel safe and nourished. Now…how to do that! One day at a time.o

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  2. Hi! I am on day 2 and am overwhelmed by the online presence of other women just like me! Thanks for sharing your story. I started at the beginning of your blog and this post resonated in particular with me. I am a sunshine whore!! :). I’m doing the 100 day challenge with Belle and am thinking of string to blog as well. You rock! xxoo

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    • Hi Julie! Im a few months behind but doing the same thing! Started the 100 day challenge now on day 3 and reading Jean’s blog too. Hope you are doing great!

      Like

  3. I love this insight. You write beautifully!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Sunshine Blogger Award | unpickled

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