It was my birthday last week.
And Husband knows me:
- I like to anticipate goodness more than by surprised by it
- I prefer much smaller groups over large crowds
He hosted a birthday gathering for me with some of my favourite people.
They told me that I positively beamed while they sang Happy Birthday to me. I believe it…because I was looked around and saw so many of the people who make me…well, me.
L. was there. Long ago, I got to know L shortly after she became a single mom. I watched her as she developed a career to support her kids, making a new life after hers fell apart. She leaned on some of us a lot in the early years of our relationship, and I came to love her. She was honest in her struggles, sincere in her love, and transparent in showing up in our relationship.
L. told me I would make it when I became a single mom.
I believed her words when I couldn’t yet believe in my own abilities.
She said that creating laughter in our home would be the key to making it through.
She was right.
She brings me white daisies every year as she remembers my silent sons…even the year she got married, she made sure I got them.
She is interested in me, she wants to know my opinion about what’s going on in her life. I feel so valued by L.
My care group was at the party.
We meet once a month for supper. Someone hosts, and others bring salad or bread or dessert.
We visit and laugh and catch up on friendly news.
At care group, we also talk deeply about what matters to us. We share our concerns and pray for one another. We do life together–we attend the funeral when someone’s parent dies; we send encouragement. We talk about the real stuff of life. Husband invites them for my birthday, and they come.
We show up for each other.
I don’t know what we will talk about, but we will meet next Sunday.
Of course we will.
That’s what we do.
J was there…the J that has self appointed herself my personal shopper. There have been occasions where she has told me which store she has put the right outfit on hold with my name on it to try on and buy.
For someone who hates shopping, this is true compassion!
J the one who travelled to see Oprah and Brené with me.
The one who shows me how to be brave in ways that make my life richer and fuller.
Mary was at the party, too.
Mary, who listens to me patiently as I ramble repeatedly about the challenges of bonus parenting. She celebrates with me around my thrill of a recent workshop gone well. She tears up as she talks about the first birthday of her mom after her mom’s death.
We trust each other with the real stuff.
There is no need to pretend with Mary. She lets me be me.
Mary loves me. Even though she sees me at my worst, she tells me she is proud of me.
Somehow, when I see myself through Mary’s eyes, I like myself better.
The best kind of person to have in my life.
A few weeks ago, I was with a group teaching them about self-compassion. One of the elements of self-compassion is to talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend. I told this group that sometimes when I notice that I am berating myself, I ask myself, “What would Mary say?” and then I know how to be properly kind to myself.
Mary doesn’t let me off the hook when endless indulgence, but even when she kicks me in the butt to smarten up, she does so with tenderness. I know Mary is on my side…even when she challenges me. I know I can use Mary’s voice to easily locate compassion when I need it.
One of the participants said: “I wish I had a Mary”.
The others chuckled…and quickly agreed.
G was there too. I don’t see him as often now I as used to. He rented my first office space to me when I opened my practice. It was at a rate that was so reasonable, I could start a private practice and not lose money. He also taught me about websites and search engine optimization.
G believed in my business before I had one.
The other G was there too…the one who heard my crazy request for a wedding ring and made it happen. He shows up fully for conversations…he has taught me so much about growing by being open about struggles. He and L have trusted me with much.
To be trusted changes a person, doesn’t it?
I’ve been listening to Tattoos on the Heart: The power of boundless compassion by Father Gregory Boyle this last week. Melanie recommended it me some time ago. G is the Jesuit priest who began Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation program in the US.
I only wished I had listened to it the moment she suggested it.
I especially liked this section:
We choose to become what child psychologist Alice Miller calls: enlightened witnesses. People, who through their kindness, tenderness and focused attentive love, return folks to themselves.
It is a returning, not a measuring up… We don’t hold the bar up and ask people to measure it up. One simply shows up and commits to telling the truth.
At Homeboy Industries, we seek to tell each person this truth: they are exactly what God had in mind when God made them.
And then we watch from this privileged place as people inhabit this truth.
Nothing is the same again. No bullet can pierce this. No prison walls can keep this out. And death can’t touch it. It is just that huge.
But much stands in the way of this liberating truth. You need to dismantle shame and disgrace, coaxing out the truth in people who have grown comfortable believing its opposite.
I looked around the room last week as they sang. I gazed at the ones I love.
They had brought gifts…a scarf, some make up, lotions, a bottle of wine, a candle.
What they didn’t realize was that they didn’t need to bring gifts…
These people are themselves such a gift to me.
My friends are enlightened witnesses in my life…knowing and loving me exactly for who I am. They see past all the ways I am impatient, too busy, too tired. These incredible people look past all the times I forget an important occasion, or don’t return a text fast enough.
They love the me that is exactly what God had in mind when God made me.
And when they love me well, as they do, they help return me to myself.
And that, friends, is the greatest gift anyone can ever give another.