Tonight was Mairen’s winter band concert. When I got home from work (a treacherous three mile commute) she was dressed in her concert uniform and ready to go. She looked beautiful. This is her freshman year in high school and she plays clarinet. She is first chair for her section and tonight when she stood up to tune the band before the concert began I realized both how young and how mature she is.
For years I have half joked that Mairen is more mature at 13 then I will ever be and in many ways this is true. She is composed and bright and serious. She is a great sister and daughter and friend. She isn’t known for keeping her room neat and is a little obsessed with facebook but otherwise, I can’t believe how easy she is to parent.
This weekend when we were driving home from riding, we had a really interesting and nuanced discussion about our strengths and weakness and how able she is to see others clearly. To be honest, I have seen her as an intellectual powerhouse with analytical skills to beat the band but didn’t really see how emotionally aware she is of others. When I asked what she sees as my weakness, before answering she told me the story of Achilles and how after being dipped in the river Styx he had one small area of weakness and vulnerability. She said that on the outside and for all intents and purposes, he was the strongest man alive but if he was aware of his own weakness, his self confidence would be affected and he may not be able to do everything he was meant to. She said that being told your weaknesses by someone else can be risky and she wasn’t sure she should share her views with me. I told her I could handle it, that it wouldn’t wreak havoc for me and so she told me: my biggest weakness is that I care too much about whether or not others like me and at times I’ll do or say things that aren’t true to who I am to keep them liking me.
Wow. Dead on. Sheesh. This weakness has resulted in times of unhappiness and feeling incomplete. It has resulted in some bad decisions and has hurt me emotionally at times. Listening to myself, my voice, and acting on what I hear isn’t always easy for me especially when it comes to emotional relationships. Being myself in a way that is honest is risky. Some people won’t like you. Some may even reject or hate you. That is the risk and for the longest time I was held hostage by the fear that being myself and making choices that were true to who I am would result in isolation and rejection.
As I am emerging from this period of introspection brought on by a sense of discontent with my life, a process that has been evolving over the last several years, I have come to see that the only way I can be happy and calm and at peace is to be myself. All the time. No matter what. And the pleasant surprise is a sense of connectedness I have never felt before with my kids and my friends and my family. By taking a risk and listening to my own voice, I am happy and whether or not I am liked doesn’t hold the same power over me. I am sharing the real me with my friends and my kids and my family and guess what, I like me. I discovered that was more important to me than whether or not they liked me. In getting to this place of liking myself, I can share more deeply and openly and even though it has resulted in some fallout, it is right and good and real.
Thanks Mairen for seeing me for my strengths and weakness, for having the guts to share yourself with me and accepting me for who I am. That is love and I am finally beginning to understand it and live it every day.