To stand looking her eye-to-eye, her green eyes glowing in their pools of tears, to hear her beg, “Please don’t make me do it, please don’t make me go. I can’t do it…I can’t do it…I can’t do it.” I felt like I was completely outside of my body. Everything I had said to that point had spun her deeper in to the negative, as if my words were fuel for this rocket that was propelling her to the depths of her darkness. When I didn’t speak my silence was condemned. There is no winning for me…but this isn’t about me. Not in the least.
To wake up as a spirit that is nearly 14 years young and to quickly scan the day ahead: a 2-hour science final, a duet with a friend on stage in front of the entire 8th grade class, a congested head from a lingering cold, 2 relentless pimples she’d been coddling for days, raw memories of weeks past when tears kept flowing and sadness hovered like the stench of something rotten on a hot, still day. “Please don’t make me do it.”
To feel all of this inside herself, to feel so alone and ugly and full of doubt. Add to that what she feels from outside of herself: judging stares, insensitive questions, empathetic inquiries, whispers. What will they think? What will they say? They’re going to laugh at me. This will haunt me for years. I can’t let her down. My mom is mad at me. My dad is frustrated. 200 questions on this exam and I’ve already missed 10 minutes. “I can’t do it.”
I’m outside my body and I see her. This is necessary. This is part of it, this is part of life. I can’t protect her from what she’s experiencing–it’s part of who she is. I’m in awe of her courage and her strength, but today she is weak. Her nearly 14 year old spirit hasn’t had the heartbreak, learned the lessons, or seen the sweetness of the other side of pain. I dream of her feeling the abounding joys that her life will bring her, but she can’t truly experience those if she isn’t dropped in the cave of her darkness left to crawl and feel her way out. I can be a light on the outside that guides her back to safety, but I can’t drag her out. I can’t stand at the entry and act as a bouncer. That’s not my job, and it’s not my place.
All I can do it shine my light. I can hold her, and listen, and love her. I can teach her to be a witness to the power that is growing within her. And I can preach the sacredness of this power and the importance of not giving it away. She has lessons to learn that she can only experience by living her life, by trying, and by failing. It has taken me a long time to see failure as a gift. This is not something I expect her to understand. If she could only see herself through my eyes and my heart, she’d see how perfect she is.
After the exam, after the performance, when she’s back in her room reflecting on the day, I hope she feels proud. I hope she feels safe. I hope she feels a little more powerful. She will have days like this again, and worse. And each time she overcomes, her power will grow–as will my pride.