We were listening to music, folding the laundry and dancing. They go hand-in-hand. Laundry is miserable. My seven year-old walked up to me, shoulders straight, and said, “One thing is when I do get married, I won’t get married to anyone who wants me to change who I am.”
She looked so strong, so defiant, and so proud. She was practically shaking with pride. She knew that this is the right answer. It is a Truth. I looked into her eyes and watched her looking at me for approval and validation.
She is right. This is a truth. When you find yourself in love, you find yourself making choices that compromise who you are, you leave. I reveled in this simple truth, as it is still simple for my young girl. A girl who is hopelessly romantic, nurturing, awkward and open. She feels this truth but doesn't yet know how un-simple it becomes. How murky the terrain looks, how deep your boots sink.
She doesn't know, yet, about letting someone love you so much that they begin to see the unfinished bits, or the dirty places she hasn’t quite accumulated yet. She doesn't know about loving someone so much, that you bring them the heavy, long-packed boxes of your heart to open alongside you, to be an anchor, to help see you more fully. She hasn’t started packing yet. She doesn’t know that letting someone close enough to see the unfinished parts, or the engines that are running less efficiently, or your dusty storage, will feel unsettling. She doesn't know that the ones who love you will see your need and offer help and love.
She doesn't know, yet, that help and love can feel like a changing of who you are. And it is a changing of sorts. My wide-open girl isn't aware that the trick is learning which changes will bring you closer to home. That she will change herself, and she will allow others to change her, and sometimes it will hurt, and a part of her that is broken and half dead, starving and desperate will shout out in its death throes to be saved, to be put in the way of this change, to be valued over this new world of more love and unknowable other pains and joys. And she will not know which one is the real her, which life to save, which wolf to feed. The compass will spin wildly. Her heartbeat will sound. But it will not point.
It becomes un-simple because we do change for ourselves and the ones we love. Allowing others’ experience of us to change how we interact with the world is empathy. It is an opening of the heart and an expansion of the mind. It is the thing that changes the world. But it is slow, and hard, and painful at times, the changing.
“You've got it right, kiddo,” I said to her and pulled her in for a hug.
Maybe it’s not so hard if you've always been allowed to be who you are. I sure hope so.