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“We live in the housing projects. And usually, we are hungry.”
Those are my words at 4 years old. Today, in my mid-50’s with those little girl statements now public in my book Falling into Place, I am fretting… first, that my siblings will disapprove of my pulling back the curtain on our empty stomach years. And second, what will my colleagues think? After a career in television news with its attendant glamour that lures people to work from Manhattan apartments (people who obviously didn’t need the job), I am exposing myself as someone who was driven by need: the hunger that propelled me from the earliest age.
“One afternoon, Mom comes home, which alone is a big event. But this time it’s tremendous. She has bags of groceries. We swarm her, all seven kids jumping, talking, laughing, trying to hug her and grab something to eat at the same time. I snatch a loaf of bread and run upstairs to hide it in a closet.”
Why reveal such things? Well, because something happened to me in my fifth decade of life. God happened. Of course, God was there all the time but I didn’t know it, feel it, or trust it until one day in 2007 when my eyes were opened. Since then, as I look back on my life, I see that all my clawing, striving, climbing was not only an attempt to fill the hunger of the human body… that of the skinny child… but also the hallow vacuum in my soul. I was trying to fill with achievement what could only be filled by God.
As Exodus 14:14 says: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” NIV
For most of my life I was the opposite of still. Through two failed marriages, and in a career that took me from coast to coast in countless high adrenaline assignments in network news, I was the over-achieving, insecure, nothing-is-ever-good-enough driven one, unconsciously trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it. Not surprising really, since self-preservation got its start at such a young age.
“…when Mom finishes putting away the canned vegetables, milk and butter, she notices the bread is missing.
“‘For Pete’s sake, did the clerk not put it in the bag?’
“I don’t say a word. I sit on the couch, staring at my curled up toes. Food is more crucial than honesty. I am learning that my survival is up to me.”
It took half a century to erase those early lessons. Today, I thank God that I no longer feel my survival is up to me. And yet, didn’t I begin this post by fretting about how others might judge my story? If I can hand over my survival, certainly I can hand over that as well.