I found this picture of myself from when I turned six years old.  I’m at my backyard birthday party eating the same strawberry cake my mother still makes me every year and laughing with my off-camera buddies.

I was in the Garden of Eden.

Sitting plopped in grass I’d worn thin, my glove by my side.  I proudly sported my baseball uniform as if just returning from battle (an idea reenforced by the fully automatic water gun hanging from my neck).

I was having my cake and eating it too.

The look on my face says it all.  I was loved and celebrated and I knew it.  I was eating up every bit of attention and affection along with that strawberry cake.

I just wanna hug that little guy.  I wanna tell him he’s wonderful and special and precious and that there’s nothing he needs to prove to anybody.  I want him to know that he’s a badass.  And most of all, I want to warn him of what’s to come, and I want to tell him that it’s not his fault.

Yet as I look in the mirror today, I can’t bring myself to tell the thirty-three year old boy before me those same things.

Because the me in the picture didn’t know any better, while the me in the mirror should.  And the me in the picture is new to his scene, while the me in the mirror isn’t.  He’s had more than enough time and plenty of second chances to have gotten it right by now.

At least these are the stories I’ve made up and told myself for so long that I can’t recall there being anything else before them.

Somewhere along the line I quit believing that I was loved and celebrated.  Somewhere along the line I gave up and decided it was my fault.  Somewhere along the line I forgot how to eat strawberry birthday cake with a machine gun hanging from my neck.

I guess at some point I realized I was toothless with a terrible haircut, feeling more like Dumb and Dumber than I did Rambo.

Kind of like walking with God in the garden one day and then realizing I was totally naked and wanting to hide the next.  And so as the wounded me of today cowers from behind my fig leaves, the me in the picture is calling the mirror-me out.

He tells me I am wonderful and special and precious and that there’s nothing I need to prove to anybody.  He tells me I’m a badass and that it’s not my fault.

And then with a toothless grin he hands me a piece of strawberry cake and laughs out loud as he tells me how silly I look when I shame myself.

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