I’m republishing this post I wrote 3 years ago, as I feel, more than ever, the importance of its message of love and compassion…
My nearly eight-year-old daughter said to me the other day, “I’m good at everything I try.” This was said without any sense of competition or ego; just the matter-of-fact confidence of a young girl who believes in herself. As I reflected upon this statement, I recognized its truth: she is good at everything she tries. Good, in the sense that she gives it her all, her best – she doesn’t hold back from fear of failure.
At the end of a discouraging day yesterday, I found myself thumbing through old photo boxes, looking for pictures of myself from my childhood. I stumbled across a photo of myself at seven, the same age as my daughter. I was standing in the kitchen of my childhood home, my arms wrapped around my dad. I was struck by my easy smile; my rootedness; my joy. I saw, in my eyes, the same confidence expressed in my daughter’s. I plucked the photo out of the box and tucked it into the frame of my bathroom mirror.
That little girl looks out at me, every morning when I brush my teeth, every evening when I wash my face. “Remember me?” she asks.
Last night I saw her face and demanded: “Where did you go?”
“I’m still here.”
My eldest daughter is on the cusp of adolescence. Betwixt and between, she’s navigating that tricky territory where, one day, she feels all grown up, excited about the new responsibilities that come with age and maturity; the next, she longs to be a little girl again.
Some days I feel that way, too.
Some days, I feel weary: the cummulative exhaustion of years of sleep deprivation, the gravitational pull of all the many planets that
orbit around my center: work, home, family, children, spouse; even the fatigue of growth and self examination.
Some days I long to be a little girl again: I want nothing more than someone to push back my hair, hold me while I cry, and whisper reassuring tones. I want someone to look me in the eye and say, “It’s going to be alright.”
So as I sit here, on this Wednesday morning, thinking of a way to offer you, dear reader, a tip for self care, I think about my
daughters, and myself, and women everywhere.
I think about how I haven’t been a little girl for a long time. How I’ve been a mom for eleven years; eleven years when I willingly put my needs below another’s. I think of all that I have done in that time: the laundry, the cleaning, the diaper changes (four children times two and a half years of diapers equals how many?), the meals (11 years times 365 days equals over 4,000 meals); the care; the love; the support. I think of doing that while nursing babies (4 babies times two years means eight years of breastfeeding), going through difficult pregnancies, while running a business, while experiencing incredible financial stress.
I think of how I haven’t felt capable, how I’ve felt ashamed for not being strong; for being anxious; for falling apart; for being
depressed; for losing it with my kids; for feeling overwhelmed. I think of how, for years, I felt so lost—who am I? I think of how I felt like I buried that little girl when I became a Mom; buried her optimism and confidence and joy and her creativity and her endless, boundless energy.
But when I survey the landscape, I see a new perspective: I look at that list and I sit in awe. I sit in awe of myself: Look at all that you’ve done. I think of how I’ve taken for granted, no, how I’ve dismissed my own capability: the capability that cooked all those meals and carried those babies and nursed them and changed their diapers and cared for my home and arranged birthday parties and paid bills and cooked from scratch and still found time to run and make love and learn how to knit and help friends.
I think of my mother, who battled her own depression, who went back to school and received a doctorate, while traveling to a university two hours away and making homemade Halloween costumes and cooking from scratch and caring for a home and two children.
I think of my grandmother, the daughter of poor Italian immigrants, who worked without childcare, raised six children, and spurred her family out of poverty.
I think of all of the women I know: strong, capable, dependable women, who carry their own, and each other’s burdens, with grace and aplomb, never thinking to marvel at their own ingenuity.
I think of women who wake up one day to find the axis of their world turned on its head, a wolf at the door: cancer, illness, the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, the loss of a child, bankruptcy, a job loss, divorce. And yet they still manage to get up and make breakfast.
Is there no greater courage?
I think of how our hearts are constantly broken, how we grieve for what is lost or not to be, and yet we still wake up each day determined to love as hard as we can, to open our hearts. We still do our best to see the good. We have not given up on ourselves, each other or on life.
When I think of being a woman, I feel proud: I am a strong woman, who comes from a line of strong women, who is emboldened by all of the strong women I know.
No, I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m not a teenager. I have, as the Bible says, let go of childish things. I am an adult, with many
responsibilities. And I meet them, even when I’m depressed; even when I’m anxious; even when I’m tired and overwhelmed and would rather pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. Even when the wolf shows up at my own door.
I meet them again and again, over and over, every day.
Sometimes, just doing what needs to be done is the bravest thing you can do. Is there no greater act of love?
And while I have given up childish things, I have not given up my inner child. That little girl is there, too. She’s there with her easy smile; her joy; her confidence. She’s there, encouraging me, “You know, you’re good at everything you try.” She’s there, waiting for me, as close as my reflection in the mirror.