Today I am thankful for smoke breaks. Those quiet moments in between class and tasks at work. Where I take some time to just sit and be with myself. Where I finally let myself do nothing and just enjoy my company.
I am so fortunate to have found a therapist so perfectly suited for this point in my life. Today she asked me if I think I am deserving of self-compassion. When I couldn’t answer she asked me what I thought self-compassion meant. I took a deep breath, looked her right in the eyes, and said, “I guess it means always assuming I’m doing the best I can.” No one has ever asked me that question before. No one has ever asked me if I deserve it. I’m looking forward to learning how to believe I am.
We’re doing inventory at work right now. For those of you who don’t know, I work in a bead shop. This means we have hundreds of thousands of different beads and we are counting every single one of them. Every ear wire, ever bead cap, every card of silk. Everything. I am so happy that I work with people who are making this time amusing and enjoyable instead of the incredible stress heap it could be. I’m also insanely grateful for the scales we bought this year so we can count by weight instead of by hand.
I got the news of your birth while I was at work. Shrieked. Showed the friends I was with pictures of your tiny red face and your beaming parents. “Congratulations, Aunt Ruby.” It ran through my head over and over. What the responsibility of being an aunt means. What my own aunts mean to me. I think about the times I’ve called them crying. The times they’ve called me. All the talks we’ve had about how simple and beautiful and hard and devastating life can be. How resilient they are. How resilient we all are. What a strong family you have come into. After fifty hours of labor, I’m getting the feeling you’re pretty strong, too.
And you’re going to have to be. You’ll learn quickly how challenging living is. How exhausting just existing can be. You’ll learn all about heartache and suffering. But you are strong, just like your mother, and you will continue. We all do.
Perhaps I’m not the one to tell you of the joys of life. I’m just crawling back from the edge and you probably know more about them right now than I do. But I want you to know that I will always teach you of fierceness. If I can accomplish one thing in our relationship it will be to show you how hard we can fight for ourselves. And to never confuse that fight with toughness or stoicism. To fight with a passion and a fire and a caring so magnificent it cannot be smothered out by the hardship of existence. You do not need to be tough, you do not need to build impenetrable walls. You only need to learn resilience. To trudge forward despite how hard it is. Everything else is just background. Thrown in for interest and texture. You will learn, we will learn together, that everything is piled on our own foundation and we are the ones who build it.
I will not fill you with false promises. I will not overload you with ideas about who you should be or how capable I’m sure you are. I will not tell you you can do anything. I want you to show me. Even when you think I’m not watching.
I love you.
Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt.
Spring loaded. I push away from anything that might hurt me eventually. Wrap up in myself and say it’s for the best. Try instead to salvage open wounds disguised as relationships. Tell myself I am not deserving of the goodness of being safe and loved.
But sometimes I learn to grow instead.
So I drive back to Andrew’s house and tell him about who I am. How I get scared and run away instead of facing it. How I always pick the biggest shift available instead of working on the small things. How I seem to always choose wrong when it’s flight, fight, or freeze. He follows up with me.
Surprised, I listen to him describe the kind of person I am. He unearths the flaws in my system with delicate precision, but lacking accusation. Does not leave me with instruction on how I can be different. Not even the hint that I should be. Instead, his voice is doused with a tenderness that says he understands it, it’s okay, he loves me.
“Everyone gets scared sometimes,” he says as he curls his fingers up in mine. I plant my trembling feet next to him and together we continue putting down roots. Interwoven.
Photo courtesy of Li Yang.