I haven’t always loved this woman.
When she was in 2nd grade I told her she looked fat in a bathing suit and that her crush would never think she was pretty.
When she experienced the Holy Spirit for the first time, the church told her that her parents were bound for hell. So I told her she was, too, and that anywhere her parents went was good enough for her.
When she was in Middle School I told her to hide her high fashion scarves and love of horses and “just fit in”.
When she was in high school I reminded her that she was supposed to be interested in boys, but she wasn’t so I cut her wrists and thighs until she was submissive.
When she was in college I let her think she was nothing more than a whore with a child, that’s what all the “Christian” college kids were saying. So she didn’t make many friends and she took 30 credits a semester to get the hell out to start working early.
When her fiancé disappeared on a submarine, never to be heard from again, I told her that if she was prettier, smarter, paid more attention, was a better person—he would not have asked her parents’ blessing, he would not have hid his other family, he would not have left. What kind of person is engaged to a man with a wife and doesn’t know? Trash. Trash is what I told her.
When she had her son I told her she was weak for crying all the time and for cosleeping just to get out of bed. I told her no other Mom had as much support as she did and to shape up. When she started losing her memory of her son’s most important events, I told her he would be better off without her and to leave him to her parents.
When she joined the Navy I told her she was worthless and reminded her of all the older women who chided her parenting—her willingness to leave her child behind to deploy. I reminded her that she wasn’t even “real” military, just a weekend-warrior reservist who shouldn’t have a space on the wall at the Dillsburg American Legion.
When her closest friend died of suicide, I told her she should have gone in his place. I told her she was a terrible friend to have missed the signs and if only she had called…but she didn’t. She was on a first date that night. What a selfish ignorant person you are, I reminded her.
Yet here she is. Despite the lies I’ve told her, despite the times I couldn’t and wouldn’t love her, despite the times I reduced her to a shell of her own being, here she is.
We get along a little better now. Most of our bouts come late into the evening when I start whispering negative thoughts and anxieties to her.
But, something’s changed. She’s stronger. Sometimes more tired than before, but more compassionate to herself and to others, too. She’s resilient. Even on days where she questions everything, she holds fast to toughness, justice, mercy, and resiliency.
She’s still too much, but she embraces the toomuchness and shrugs her shoulders when folks seem overwhelmed.
She takes her best friend’s dog tags with her on every adventure, remembering to live her own as well.
Her favorite human in the world is that little boy. And although she doesn’t remember much about the year after she had him, she remembers his face when he saw the Pantheon, the first time they laid under the stars to watch lightning bugs on the farm, his first Restaurant Week, how he lights up for her every accomplishment, the tears they cried at Le Sacre Coeur, how he bounded into her arms to tell her about his first kiss, how he actively aided a suicidal friend in Middle School, the time they had a snowball fight in Transylvania.
Yeah, she is pretty okay these days.
My friends. No matter where you are.
No matter if you’re your own toughest critic.
No matter what version of you shows up today.
Keep showing up. Keep pressing onward.
And know, undoubtably, that you are loved and not alone.