My 13-year-old daughter has a vernacular all her own. She “feels all the feels” and validates her experiences because they’re “for reals.” She punctuates her sentences with acronyms and wild hand gestures and dramatic facial expressions. When she trips on the sidewalk, she asks, “How do you walk?” That particular phrasing carries over into everything she questions. (How do you volleyball? How do you solo? How do you relationship? How do you Algebra?)
Last week, she sent me this text from school:
How do you life? 😦
My heart skipped a beat or two as I contemplated what might have gone awry in her 8th grade world. An empty lunch table? A fight with a friend? A crush who likes someone else? They’re studying the Holocaust right now, and she’s been “feeling all the feels.” My girl’s heart is big, and it absorbs and carries everything in its path. It’s heavy, sometimes, all that carrying. I understand.
I replied, “Sweets, what’s wrong?” and waited.
When she didn’t respond, I followed with, “Do you need to talk? I’m here. Call me. XO.”
So I began contemplating how to answer her question, that million dollar how. It’s a big one, life. And figuring it out is what we’re all here to do.
It’s a personal journey — one that can’t be taught in a classroom or deduced from a textbook. My answers to that question are woefully inadequate, but they are the gift I get to offer her, my child. She was given to me to guide, and I accepted that job the moment I first looked into those stunning baby blues.
And so, I wrote this for her… and found out it was just as much for me, too.
My Dear Sweet Mary Claire,
How do you life?
It’s a question for the ages. Men and women far wiser than I have been attempting to answer that one for centuries. I’ve only been here for four decades (with a few extra years thrown in), but here’s what I’ve discovered so far…
“How you life” depends on who you want to be and what you want to give to others. Creating a community of loving, trusting friends and family is the reason we’re here. It seems easy on the surface, but it’s far from simple.
People will hurt you along the way. Sometimes they mean to, sometimes they don’t. You will hurt others. Sometimes you’ll mean to, sometimes you won’t. The gift we all get in this life is a unique set of eyes with which to see and interpret things. You will see things differently than everyone else. Everyone else will see things differently than you. It’s beautiful, really, because if we open our eyes to seeing through another lens, we get an even broader perspective of this big, beautiful world.
The important thing to remember is that you should never force anyone else to look through your lens. It may seem that your way is the right way, the one way, but there are many ways. It may hurt when someone can’t see what you so desperately want them to see, but it will happen. Time and time again, it will happen.
The lesson in there is this: Remember to look through others’ lenses every chance you get. It’s an opportunity to make someone feel loved, appreciated, and acknowledged. And that’s how we all want to feel, isn’t it? You don’t have to agree with their view — or even want to continue looking at it — but open your heart enough to go there, to try and understand.
Let them see you.
To see someone — to truly see them — is to love them. To let them see you is vulnerability.
Your Nana had a book that sat on our coffee table when I was young. In between marathon sessions of “Laverne & Shirley,” I would pick it up and attempt to decipher it. It was called “The Prophet” and was written by Kahlil Gibran. That book has stayed with me throughout my life, even though I didn’t fully understand it as a kid. I probably still don’t. But the author remains one of my favorites. In fact, one of his excerpts on love was read at our wedding, when your Dad and I promised “‘Til death do us part.” And this Gibran quote has always resonated with me: “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”
You are strongest when you open yourself to others. Many — through their own lenses — will view that as weakness, but I believe it is just the opposite. Strength doesn’t come from pretending we are someone we’re not, but from saying, “Here I am. This is me in all my imperfect glory.” What others choose to embrace — or to not embrace — about you is really all about them.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million times more to you, to your brothers: What others think about you is none of your business.
Be soft. Be unique. Be kind. Be gracious. Be open. Be grateful. Be vulnerable. Be strong. Be smart. Be you.
If you can know your own heart, inside and out, and live that truth every single day, you’ll know how to do life. And you’ll do it well… just like you always have.
Much love to you, my beautiful, quirky, smart, sweet girl.
I see you.