This morning I sat on my twelve-year-old daughter’s bed. Between us sat a dog named Indu. On the floor another dog stood at attention. Julio wanted us to play. My nine-year-old slowly woke in the room next door. And Chris stood watching the dogs, KK, and me. Then he said, “Mom looks like her teenage self.”
I looked at Chris. I met his gaze. And I melted into the idea that he really saw me. He liked my teenage self, the one that wants to stay in bed, whose hair is greasy and messy, who groans at the light waking her up. With this one phrase, I felt so known and held despite all of my human limitations.
I keep thinking about the feelings his short phrase rendered in me. It brings me all the way back to our wedding day. During our ceremony the priest who happened to be my uncle gave a homily. Although I can’t recite this word for word, two phrases stick out.
The first sentence of his homily let me know that my quiet uncle was clearly my blood relative. He said, “Some people might think it is weird to be married under a sign of capital punishment.”
My heart leaped with joy at this solid statement of fact. Yes, yes, Jesus was tried and found guilty in a court of law and condemned to death! My uncle had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Like me, writing was a passion of his, and he had decided to use his gifts in a very public forum, much like what I so secretly desired.
I didn’t really grasp what this statement meant at the time. Now I pull it apart. Jesus went willingly to his capital punishment death to die for all of us. Whether or not you believe this tale, it is a good story. Someone made the ultimate sacrifice for me? Who would do that? Someone who loves you. What does it mean to be willing to die for another person? What does it mean to put yourself in the bus’ path, pushing your loved one out of the way? What does it mean to be married?
Am I digressing? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is the other statement I recall from my wedding homily is this: “You will be mirrors for each other.”
I liked this idea. I have turned it over and over again in my head since my wedding day. We hold this mirror up for each other. We say, “See, look at yourself. I see you clearly. Let me help you see yourself clearly so you can strive for your best self, and so you can strive to be content in this world. What do you want and need? What does this mirror tell us both?”
This is what I come up with. And this is what I think abut when I replay Chris saying to me this morning, “You look like your teenage self.”
Ahh, I relax into the warmth of his words. He loves my teenage self, the one that loves to linger in bed with my loved ones and can be cranky and happy within the same minute. He even sees what I do not know. I am a dog person. I have hidden this truth from myself for most of my life time. I will tell anyone I am not an animal person. But I am lying. Give me the right dog and I will melt right open. Chris knows this and he has seen it happen before.
He also knows me right now in my 43rd year, and he knows I crave the unconditional love a dog offers up to her owner. We are dog sitting right now. Two lovely dogs showed up at our house two weeks ago. On that first afternoon, the girl dog Indu sat next to me for a lovely hour and I petted her and thought, “Oh crap, I love her. Oh crap, I really want a dog.”
And here I am right now, in my office with two dogs sleeping nearby. I’m thinking about being really seen by the people who love you, faults and all. I’m thinking about the love that pours out from them. I’m thinking about how lovely it is to dog sit these dogs. And how great it was to have Chris take in our family of six (while we dog sit) and really see us all and fold us into his gaze with one simple sentence. I heard him say that he loves every bit of me. I hold his words to me like a blanket, like the sun that lights up the sky today.
May you all be seen with love today. May someone talk about the part of yourself that most people can’t love, and may you know that one other person sees that side of yourself and loves it, too. There’s nothing like this gift. Soak it in, and take it to the deepest part of you. Save it for later, for a day when the sky is so grey that you can’t remember the sun.