By the end of my twenties, I had begun to recognize that I couldn’t go on as a wind-up doll forever, that no matter how faithfully I followed the programs and performed the tasks expected of me, I could not win the deep affection and unmitigated approval I longed for. No one could love my true self, because no one – not even I – could see my true self, obscured beneath so many layers of attempts to appear acceptable.
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t hold my world together. My husband lost his job and had to go back to working on the road, leaving me alone with three young children from early Monday morning to late Friday night most weeks. My church fell apart and the friends to whom I clung desperately to keep me afloat were no longer there. None of my well-rehearsed scenes were playing out according to the script I had studied, no matter how hard I tried to adapt my lines.
Sometime around my thirtieth birthday, when I was broken open enough so that a bit of light and air could get through to my real buried self, I made a decision to stop: to stop trying to be perfect enough to make my parents happy, to stop trying to be sophisticated enough to mingle with my husband’s business associates’ wives, to stop trying to be spiritual enough to accept human leaders’ foibles and failures as God’s master plan. I realized that I didn’t want to be a ventriloquist’s puppet any longer, reciting the speeches my various audiences wanted to hear. I wanted to be Rebekah, a real live girl of whom I had caught occasional glimpses through the years.