I See You


"Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart."
~Dr. Brene Brown

It is no mystery that the growing up years will completely devastate you and/or push you into an eating/drug/behavior disorder, true?  Like most of us, there was a time in my life when I hid my true self from the world. During those years, I buried that girl as fast as I could, totally sure that whomever I really was just wasn't enough...or was too much...either way she was getting deep six-ed as fast as I could (assimilate! assimilate! assimilate!).

There were some adults along the way that either didn't see me at all or chose to see only the persona I had crafted.  Maybe there were one or two that really looked at me (outside of my family, of course).  Sometime around my second year of college, I developed a friendship with a pretty amazing guy that saw me- truly saw me.  One night we were walking down the middle of the street during a snow storm to the Shell station to buy cigarettes and a cold Big Red (because youth).  I was going through a shitty break up at that time and was venting about all of it.  I can remember him turning to me and saying, "J.B., I think you need to come to terms with the fact that you are just a really sensitive woman with a big heart".  I don't know that he necessarily saw something new in me, but I was finally in a place to see myself for the first time with clear eyes- that vulnerability is not weakness, that having a trusting heart is not a flaw, that empowering myself is not merely a buzzword but absolutely essential.  I have spent 20+ years since then trying to re-surface that part of me I buried when I could still count my age in single digits. 

Along my long and meandering life path, I have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of kiddos- some in the classroom, some in my family, some in the jobs I have supervised.  There are dozens of them that have impacted me.  I hope that I have impacted as well.  But there are a handful that I have truly seen.  In a moment, something in our spirits recognized each other and we were forever linked.  It happened the first moment I held my oldest nephew, less than a day old, and kissed his sweet, heart-shaped mouth, the moment I met my claimed daughter in a high school office where she wanted to disappear into the furniture, the moment my claimed sons looked at me with wry grins and mischief in their eyes.   They have all dared me to love them.  They have waited for me to judge/leave/write them off.  But our relationships have always been founded in the knowledge that we are linked in some cosmic way that will be forever.

This week is Mother's Day.  It is a day that we rightly celebrate- hopefully with full and grateful hearts- the women that gave birth to us.  It is also a day that I celebrate the non-traditional mom relationships that I and countless others have with our kiddos.  I look at them and my heart aches (so full of love) and makes my eyes water from their amazingly beautiful struggles.  I want to say to them that "I see you.  You may be able to fool the rest of the world, but you can't hide your heart from me.  I see all of you- the dark and the light- and love you even more everyday."   I couldn't be more proud of the souls they continue to become if they had come from my own body.  If I could impart one thing to them, it would be to truly tell the story of who they are with their whole heart, to live fully- out loud, to see and be seen.  It's a wish I have for all of us.

I hope that this Mother's Day is a great celebration for all of you, whether your relationship with your mom is traditional or not, positive or not, whether she is still here or not.  You are who you are because of her- one way or another.  I am so lucky and humbled to be able to say that about my own momma.

Photo by Marni Rothschild

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