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The Truth about YOU (short story)

Updated: May 30

By Martha Jeifetz - Written for Kissed by God book - December 2021


A number of people came and went from my life over time. But no one had the strength and the influence on me more than Irma. Everyone has an “Irma” in their lives and everyone has the power to unlock their best selves from that experience. I invite you to explore it with me.

I grew up in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. It is a large, modern, and

a cosmopolitan city that some would compare to other international destinations such as Madrid or Paris. Yet, there is a singularity to Buenos Aires as it feels usually busy, unapologetically loud, and vibrantly alive. There is the constant noise from the buses, transporting people at all times of the day and night as well as dense fumes coming from everywhere that add to the intense smog that usually overloads one’s senses.

There is also the clank clank clank sound of small shops opening their aluminum curtains to welcome the opportunities and hopes of the day while shouting good morning to neighbors and passing by customers. Buenos Aires is busy, almost restless, and yet amid all of this, we are reminded to take deep breaths and find our way forward.

Taking deep breaths is not a privilege I take for granted; particularly since my mother

only carried me for seven months. My parents described me as a multitasker years before people even understood the meaning of the word because I had the ability to do a great number of things simultaneously and well.

Perhaps, the most remarkable of my talents were the skills of organization and tidiness. I remember my mom repeatedly telling the same story about how when I was three or four years old, she dressed me in white clothes and sent me to the park with my dad and my sister. I sat on a bench and read a book and even played in the sandbox for hours but still managed to come back home happy and spotless. I have always been calm, organized and strong willed. That is until I met Irma.

I do not remember exactly when she came into my life. I cannot recall the precise moment that she made her official and bold appearance. The things I remember are her strong presence and the profound impact she had on me. Sometime, during the Fall of 1983, Irma made her existence felt for the first time in the beautiful area of the Argentine Patagonia, full of trees and very lush foliage. I never knew a lot about her or her family, as she rarely shared personal information. I guess she had a lonely childhood and because her parents worked a lot, she was often “watched-sat” by humble and caring people. The type of caregivers who would follow along with her games and would try to protect her at all costs from any potential harm.

Irma was about 5’7 tall and had a long and silky dark coffee-colored hair. Her round,

deep, and hazelnut-colored eyes seemed inviting and innocent at the same time. She reminded me of a skinny and beautiful eucalyptus tree. These kinds of trees are allelopathic, as they quickly absorb nutrients and water from the soil and leave other plants thirsty and malnourished.

Branches that extend from their medium-width trunk are filled with evergreen leaves that are lanceolate-shaped and have a glossy green look. Eucalyptus tree branches give them the ability to reach any height with a soft, almost imperceptible touch. The tree is a symbol of strength and protection, and it is known for its survival skills and its nature of eradicating other native plants. They protect their space by using their roots to pull more water from the soil so other plants cannot thrive.

The first thing people noticed about Irma was her strong presence which included a

robust fragrance of a minty, pine scent with a touch of honey, much like a eucalyptus. Although I could smell her coming, she moved gracefully like a ghost nearly gliding across any room and making me feel uncomfortable, out of my own element.

Irma grew up playing alone and over time she started exploring brain games, such as

crossword puzzles, quizzes, and word problems. All of which gave her the chance to sharpen her thoughts, improve her memory, attention, focus, and brain speed. She became an expert at using words to influence others with her ideas. Irma had a bright imagination that she used along with her creativity and overprotectiveness to get what she wanted ALL THE TIME. She would play the victim role with her sitters and even her parents.

I watched her win almost impossible negotiations with her parents and teachers with finesse and ease. One of her tactics was spotting a hole in an idea, contort it, and convince an adult of moving otherwise. She could also persuade them she was innocent and disadvantaged in virtually every situation. I have lost count of the number of times she made me lose confidence in myself. I was a great student and yet, Irma made me believe my grades were never good enough. It was in high school that the her allelopathic-like true nature really began to become visible for me.

During high school, I spent most of my time listening and hanging on to her words. She

was jealous of my friends and hyper-protective of me. She demanded my attention all day. She couldn't stand me spending time with other people and oftentimes, she would come up with stories to make me believe others were being mean to me for no reason at all. She would hurl insults at me reminding me of the things I was not good at or shining a big light on my failures while making little mention of my accomplishments and successes.

Why couldn’t she celebrate with me when I was selected among hundreds of teenagers to represent the country in a global competition? Why would she make me feel I didn't deserve the honor I so hardly worked for so many months? When I was presented with new opportunities and even promotions at work, I could not celebrate or even talk about them with Irma because, in her unique way of looking at life, it was never good enough.

For years, I felt was under her spell, having lost count of the times she convinced me I was not worthy enough for my friends, my family, my job or even myself. She made me feel meaningless and insecure, Ant yet, I loved her nonetheless. It felt like being in my lights and shadows at the same time. Like living in a constant oxymoron without enough clarity of where I was standing at.

She could compel me to believe in whatever she said by twisting my own words, making

me believe something I would have never though or said. Numerous times I have thought, “Wait! I never said that. You’re putting words in my mouth.” But she was always there with me, whether I wanted her to be there or not. I was stuck with her and oddly, felt the safest in her company.

Irma had a solid voice. Once, she leveraged her tone and a couple of words to destroy my friend Matt’s self-confidence in less than five minutes. She didn't say much, but she used the right words in just the right way to make him believe he was unworthy of love and attention and forcing him to crumble to the floor. I felt hopeless and guilty as I watched the scene unfold.

Afterwards, she turned to me and asked, “What did I say?” and I was speechless. I could not remember the exact words but for sure they were deeply hurtful and destructive. It took Matt several years to find the strength to believe in himself again and especially, trust others.

Irma was a force of nature. I could feel her energy filling my home and my body like a

hurricane wind whooshing swiftly and moving across the floors; turning everything in its path upside down with quiet resolve. It felt like a silhouette was passing by me coming from another dimension.

To understand Irma’s motives, is to know the sheer silence and calmness one feels when they are in the eye of a hurricane. You know something powerful is coming, but you are not sure when its’ impact will strike or how strong will it be. I often wondered why Irma picked me and why did she choose to stay with me for so long? More importantly, why did I let her?

Over time, I started to question Irma’s intentions. What was it about me that Irma craved

so much? Attention? Love? Or perhaps she was simply lonely. I did not know, but as I grew into adulthood, moved to other countries and met new and different people, I began to gain clarity. I developed perspective and recognized that I might have been living in a made-up world. I had believed her stories about me, consumed her lies, and internalize her condescension.

For the first time in my life, I understood it was time for me to have a heart-to-heart

conversation with Irma, my oldest friend and confidant. I remember replaying the conversation in my head over-and-over again, repeating my mentally rehearsed speech, rebutting her objections and every childish reaction I could imagine I would possibly encounter.

As thoughts tumbled through my head and my heart, I was afraid I might hurt her and make her feel unloved too, but the pain I was in was no longer serving me and so, I knew I had to act and quickly. I mustered up the courage one night and confronted her. I didn't know where to start. My heart was pounding hard in my chest; my hands were sweaty and I felt a quiver of panic. I knew she could be waiting and ready to defeat me with her words one more time.

It was the shortest conversation I had in my life. I opened up to her, appealing to our

shared time together and trusting that she would listen to me with all her senses, embrace me as an old loving friend and help me move forward. “It is about time and you need to let me go,” I said. “Although I’m thankful for all you did for me and all the difficulties you helped me overcome, I don’t need you anymore. I need you to leave me”.

And right there, it all made sense to me and I felt my life was passing by in front of my eyes. I could see my parents and my grandparents along with their expectations of me. I could see myself doing my best to please everyone in my life so that they will be happy.

The perfect daughter, an amazing student and the highly driven and successful professional. All roles I felt the need to cover so I could accomplish other people’s ideals. But what about me and what I wanted to achieve in life? How was I listening to my own desires and passions? How was I being happy with my choices? All these thoughts passing through my head and my body simultaneously and then it hit me. Irma had

served a purpose, protecting me from “negative” experiences, not meeting other people’s

expectations, and keeping me out of danger.

But she also prevented me from being who I truly am and could become. How was I supposed to learn and grow without making mistakes? I remember crying a lot, feeling uncomfortable and free at the same time. One of the strangest emotions I had in my entire life.

Irma was witnessing all this process unfolding before her eyes so she finally had to hear

me and pay attention to what I was demanding for me. She understood her power over was no longer there. It was at that moment that the hurricane force that lived inside me disappeared and, for the first time ever, I could see her eye-to-eye. Her familiar and profound minty smell dissipated and, almost as magically as she came into my life, she was gone.

And with that, I started to see clearly what was important to me, who I wanted in my life, what made me unique, happy and fulfilled. I felt a heavy load being lifted from my shoulders. I wasn't feeling sad or teary anymore. Instead, I felt liberated and powerful and found ease in being able to choose what I wanted to do next. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time.

After confronting Irma, I realized her existence made me weaker and doubtful when I

needed to be strong and confident. I also noticed that she lived in my head all this time. Irma was a made-up figment of my imagination, even though she has always felt so real.

It was then that I truly understood the power of my own words and beliefs and knew I could create my own destiny, and live on my own terms. And it was right there that I discovered the number of possibilities opening right before me, my ability to pick myself and care for what I wanted, to set my own expectations for life, and to be completely and utterly aware of my own power of choice every single moment.

I felt on top of the world, passionate, incredibly alive, and ready to embrace my beautiful

and imperfect self again and forever.

After years spent in therapy, meditation, and lots of reflection, I can understand how

Irma cared me from a place of love and protection. She shielded me from any negative emotions that others would wreak upon me. But as she shielded and protected me, she also inflicted great pain and self-doubt that prevented me from learning from my own mistakes and also blocked me from taking chances and daring to try.

Gratitude now fills my heart where Irma once lived. Today, I am thankful for her

existence, her presence and her company throughout the years. I was able to “survive” and overcome many of my life’s challenges because of Irma. Watching her courage, made me take some risks and learn from them, grow and feel appreciation for myself and others, for the opportunities to find happiness and love, and to fill my days with those people that support me and push me forward.

I might confess that it was a painful and deep journey for me and it taught me so much

about my values and how to build the self-confidence I needed to bring my whole self with me every day. It was my own process of self-discovery to find out how powerful we can all be when we choose ourselves first, we believe in our capabilities and we serve others with love and compassion.

From time to time, I invite her back to my life and on rare occasions, I honestly miss her

and the way she made me feel. At times I allow her to remind me of my own strength; and she comes to keep me company, taking the back seat while I drive purposefully into my goals and dreams. It was through her life that I was able to discover who I truly am. What an amazing gift she shared with me!

Ultimately, Irma taught me that finding my self-worth is what makes me and each person

unique and beautiful beings. And with that, we can consciously choose to bring our best selves with us every day. It makes us powerful and gives us the amazing opportunity to create the life we deserve.

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