You know how I know we’re going to be okay? It’s because you’re so good at giving me space to be myself. You’re excited to see who I turn into. No one’s ever been on my team the way that you are for as long as you have been. Even when it feels like things are a little bit too big. Even when it feels like we might burst and all these years that we’ve devoted to one another will get washed away–even then. You tell me what you’re afraid of and what I’m afraid of too. You say, “I don’t want that to happen.” And we both hold on a little tighter.
Part of the thing about a long term friendship, though, is that “holding on tighter” actually means to loosen your grip. We stay together because we stay elastic, flexible, and able to move without losing our own shape. We are that perfect pair of jeans infused with just enough spandex to keep your ass looking great but not so tight that we’re uncomfortable.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.
There are things in this world that, no matter how much I love the person who is saying them to me, the my instinct is just that flat mouth, wide-eyed emoji. And when a person is laying their heart out for me like that, I can’t just allow myself to respond that way. My care for them is what drives me to dig just a little bit deeper. To move past my initial instincts and reach down, in that moment, and practice being the kind of woman that I want to be. Do I want to be reactive or do I want to be the kind of person who invites the wholeness of the other person into the conversation? Because discomfort is a part of life and it’s easy to overcome. Just takes a little shift.
A lot of my life was spent working on the appearance of things it’s the soil where I was rooted. Everything was great so long as we had happy smiles and clean counter tops and we said polite things to one another. But under the surface, there were ants and anger problems that we dealt with in toxic ways–aerosol sprays and avoidance. Wipe it away. Pretend it was never here.
My favorite people to be around, these days, are the ones who are able to accept the contradictions of life. We can have clean counters and we can get ants in the summer–that’s a thing that happens all the time. That’s a thing that has no bearing on us as a people. We can smile and feel angry, too. One doesn’t counteract the other. You can hold both. You have two hands. And even more than that.
The past few years have been the most achingly happy of my entire life but they’ve not come without unimaginable pain.
I used to keep my soul so under wraps. It was private, a thing just for those closest to me. Just for those who had earned access to my heart.
Except–it grows when you give it away. Rip a piece off, hand it to someone, it’ll grow back. Really–it does. Try it. It’s worth it. That person might not know what to do with it, sure. But someone else might find a way to hold it with their own. Smoosh it together and create something new–just the two of you. Until someone else comes along.
The universal They is always telling you to guard your heart but I’m not there. That’s why I’m ripping open for you, here. I don’t know everyone reading this. I do know some people who are reading this–some of those are people that I am angry at or people that I would avoid eye contact with if we were in the grocery store. But that’s the practice, isn’t it? Right now, that’s my practice. Here, hold a piece of me. There are enough careful and grateful hands that I can spare a little extra.
So when someone tells me a thing about themselves that causes me to react, I want to take a step back. Sometimes that means responding in a way that isn’t coming that naturally to me, so that I can practice being the kind of person that I want to be. Sometimes in the moment, that’s the right thing to do.
And then go home and think.
I don’t want to think about the ways that my reaction was right. I don’t want to think about the ways that the other person is wrong. I don’t want to hold judgement.
I want to know myself. I want to know where that feeling came from. Where did my guard come from and why did it try to block me so hard? What’s keeping me from reaching out to my friend and holding this piece of her heart that she was so brave to hand to me?
And then I want to grab it. And I want to smoosh it into mine and let it live there, something brand new. And I want to go forward and keep handing it out to the other people that I love. And in time maybe we’ll all have a piece of one another.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.