Thankful for the Affliction

Speaking of acne, I need to share something important.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about being Busted by a Five Year Old.  The post exposes an adorable little girl who could have been perceived as a heartshattering chatterbox.  Instead, she gave me an opportunity to test my mettle.  I adored her youthful curiosity and openness.

How did I manage to stay positive when I could have been crushed?

Nature sees no blemish.

Nature sees no blemish.

Years before, at 12 years of age, our house in a small prairie town burned to the ground.  My older brother and I would soon be in high school so our parents decided it was time to move to the city.  I panicked.  Besides “bad skin”, I decided I’d feel like a country hick in the midst of hundreds of dazzling, “hip” city kids.

At the end of day one at my new (Junior) High School, two girls approached me. They told me I had to make a decision:  which group was I going to belong to?  I was astonished.  “Well, I don’t want to belong to either group.  I don’t know any of you and want to be friends with whomever I please.”

Both girls stood looking at me, speechless.  I excused myself and began walking home, relieved to be alone and out of the company of seeming silliness.  Why would anyone narrow an opportunity for friendships, I wondered.

Thereafter, both groups were friendly.  I sensed the girls respected my standing up to their “leaders”.

My response to the two girls had come automatically.  As a young girl with acne, I had come to believe if I wanted friends I first had to be one.  The incident at school helped me realize the trump card was personality.  Before anybody had a chance to notice my complexion, I made sure they saw a genuine smile that invited a loyal and true friendship.  Apparently it worked. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I had many good friends who came from various groups.   My boyfriends were young men with values, integrity and respect.  I didn’t feel pretty enough to attract the fellows who attracted hordes of girls.  My apparent lack of interest caused some of those young men to “check me out”.  I shunned them even when I was deeply attracted.  I didn’t feel confident enough that I could match their good looks.

Then one of the most popular girls in high school asked me for pointers on how to develop a personality like mine.  I felt I’d won an award.  I said a sincere prayer of thanks.

By the time I was 25, I’d finished school, traveled Europe, married and begun a career.  Throughout each of these monumental stages of life, my acne persisted.  In spite of prayers, every pivotal event brought stress and the inevitable outbreak on my complexion.

Around age 25 I learned about a new book, The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.  A true story, Corrie and her sister Betsie were put in a concentration camp as young Dutch girls.  Their hut was the worst one and was full of fleas.  Corrie complained bitterly to Betsie who told Corrie to thank God for the fleas.

Corrie couldn’t believe her sister could be so daft.  Thank God for the fleas that were eating her alive and keeping her awake all night?  Yes, Betsie confirmed.  Corrie was to get on her knees and thank God for each and every flea.

When Betsie could, she explained.  Because of the fleas, the guards were staying away from their hut.  The fleas meant a reprise from beatings.  They created opportunities to sneak food to women who were starving and near death.  The fleas provided freedom to talk and encourage one another.  Their presence ensured a sharing of literature and Bible readings. Two sisters were able to stay together.

What a concept!  Like a lightning bolt, I decided it was time to say thanks for my pimples.  I did so – faithfully.  I began seeing all the benefits I’d derived by having acne – from staying away from teenage temptations to keeping character and integrity at the forefront of my life.

I realized how a condition like acne may scar the skin, but it was up to me if I let it scar my soul.

A short time later, I met the dermatologist who gave me the simple solutions that have kept my skin 99% clear for decades.  No more antibiotics, no more expensive creams, no more dread of being embarrassed, rejected or ridiculed.

Writing about an enthusiastic five year old reminded me to renew my thanks.

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Thankful for the Affliction

  1. Sometimes modern medicine is really the bee’s knees. I’m glad it has worked so well for you. You had pimples.I had/have a Jimmy Durante nose which my mother drilled into my head was mark of distinction and fine character. . .something to grow in to. I’m still trying! ;-)

    • The Doctor’s advice was to get away from perfume and oils and no make-up. Only Ivory Snow soap and Moisturel lotion. Worked wonders. So, Linda, you and I both knew about not being able to hide, camouflage or cover! At the risk of sounding like flattery – which it isn’t – and at only having seen only the odd photo of you, my thoughts of you are of a very good looking woman. I think your mother must have been right!!

  2. Oh, you have written about something that shaped my early years – that acne. To make matters worse that song came out right in the thick of those years…you know “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers. “Why do all the boys just pass you by?”♪
    Not even the hopeful last message could coax me out.
    “Hey there, Georgy girl
    There’s another Georgy deep inside
    Bring out all the love you hide and, oh, what a change there’d be
    The world would see a new Georgy girl.”
    It just wasn’t that simple for me. So in my “affliction” I dedicated myself to books, studying and earning good grades. I joined the swim team so that oily skin would get a good drying out from the chlorine water. It wasn’t a bad path. I fared pretty well going on to a big ten school. I qualified for State in five swimming events and now have a sport that I can enjoy at my age. Yes, “that acne” shaped me and decided several paths along the way.

    Such a good post about gratitude. And, I hear my mother’s words throughout this post. “To have friends, be a friend.” “If you think you have problems, just look at (insert tragic circumstance here).” Reading you, keeps me in touch with my mother’s Pacific Northwest wisdom. Thank you for writing this. I can relate.

    • What a sweet, sweet comment, Georgette. You “caught my eye” because of your warmth and wisdom…no wonder you have both. It takes another person with skin problems to have even the slightest inkling of all the ramifications and shenanigans that go on inside us. Any people who grew up with poverty or lack of freedom may pooh-pooh such a “skin-deep” issue, but truth is – it is all relative.

      Whatever our affliction, we have a choice whether it’s going to kill us or enrich us. The choice is activated through highly personal experiences and, as with all good things in life, there seems to be no short cuts for any of us.

  3. So many blessings come in disguise, don’t they? I love your approach to High School cliques. I had a horrible self-image and was not in the popular group, but ran with the “eggheads.” My sister (through marriage) and I were the same age. She was “popular.” Whatever that means. It amazed me, when we went to our high school 30th reunion–her so-called friends shunned her and swarmed me. It was so painful for her, we never went again together. So much (way too much) is based on appearances. God bless fleas and acne…and whatever else the Universe sends our way.

    • It’s so surprising what time presents to us. I’m wondering, Victoria, does a quiet, unassuming countenance come through as the one that holds? It sounds like those classmates liked what they saw many years before…unless you have become wildly famous in the meantime and haven’t told me! :)

      Some high school classmates claim I was popular and it’s still a shock. I must have looked popular because I made sure I was free to enjoy whatever group of kids I wanted to engage with at that time. When old classmates express those perceptions, I wonder what on earth would have happened if I’d known. Would it have been a travesty of riches! For sure, my quiet spiritual life was my sustenance throughout the teen years and I’m so glad I had it.

  4. A beautiful post, my Mom always said that you must be happy with yourself, what’s on the inside of us projects outward and each person takes different things from us. She always said,” To thine own self be true”. I still find it fascinating how others are observing you even when you think they are not.

    • Yes, Shakespeare captured a most significant truth for life and living. I agree, Dee, it can be surprising who observes and what. On one hand we can laugh at ourselves for thinking “everyone” sees us while on the other we find some do watch us in incredible ways. So what choice do we have BUT to simply be who we really are. People certainly see authenticity!

  5. Oprah says this about her success as well. When you don’t have the easiest path, you often develop skills which might not have been necessary had the challenges been absent. You sent down deep roots and developed into a beautiful being, from the inside out.

  6. Not just a cause, but a purpose or reason can be gleaned from just about every situation. Most times in retrospect, but isn’t it wonderful to be given the insight whenever it comes? Beautifully told, tender & wise, as usual dear Souldipper.

      • Hi Amy! Yes, I too feel like you’re an old friend. You & Contoveros were my first & faithful supporters on WordPress. For that reason, you both will always have a special place in my heart.

        Plus, thought of our initial interactions now bring me back to a place in my life that was, & still is, difficult because of my Mom’s illness. I remember (~5 years ago now?), late at night, loving to read your stories. I barely get a chance now, for all that is going on. Thank you, though, for your lovely presence.

  7. I’ve been missing such a lot of reading here. Must find time to come around more often. This was a lovely write-up and I loved the flow with which you took us to your school and college days and back to the present again. Will come back soon to read more. Hugs :-)

    • Hi Nadira…how sweet it is to hear from you. I was thinking of you last week – wondering about your beautiful spiritual side of life. Yes, haven’t we all changed our approach to blogging. It’s so good to have the connection and contact without major stress over “posting” so frequently. Many blessings and thanks for staying in touch.

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