Yesterday I was at my local Target, looking for a nightgown. Pajamas are my favorite clothes, and I took my time as I browsed the various robes and short sets. I walked past a clay colored camisole and stopped to rub my fingers over the fabric. Ah! It was as soft as it looked.
A teenage girl was to my left; smiling, she reached up to touch the same camisole.
We looked at each other and laughed as she said – “Ooh, that’s so soft!”
We chatted a bit about how we shopped by feel, buying the clothes that felt the best.
As I looked at this young teen – her hair tied loosely on top of her head, her shorts and glasses, the t-shirt from the local high school that three of my children had attended at one time – I found myself wondering about her, and where she found herself at Anderson high: her worries, her struggles, her hopes and dreams, and all the places where she found belonging.
And I found myself remembering my own children at that age, and their worries, their struggles, and their hopes and dreams.
My heart filled with such tenderness for this girl.
As I left the pajamas to look for athletic tape for my son, I told her, “That was such a sweet moment we had together.”
I hope our brief time together – laughing in the pajama aisles – filled her as it filled me.
The field of interpersonal neurobiology teaches us that everyone that touches us – or that we are touched by – becomes a part of us.
In some way, that young teen is now a part of my inner community, and I am now a part of hers. This awareness about the ways we interrelate fills me with reverence and awe – oh, the power we have to impact others, to create a sense of belonging and connection!
And this knowledge can also fill me with dread and worry. For in the same way we can invite rest and acceptance, and seed welcome in each other’s inner communities, we can also sow rupture – confusion, discord and shame.
As far as I can tell, there’s no way out of this conundrum. We can attend to our wounds so we can better care for ourselves and others, and to minimize any harm we cause. And yet we do and will cause harm.
Oh, this is so hard to bear sometimes – especially for those of us who are highly sensitive. Often the last thing we’d ever want to do is hurt another.
For many of us, we may try to avert this by trying to fix and do as much as we can, where healing becomes a fixation. We can become caught in a hypervigilant conscientiousness where we’re second guessing ourselves and remaining watchful at every turn.
Ah, I know that place well!
We all know those moments of rupture and sorrow – when our pain prevents us from accompanying and meeting another, or from accompanying the outcast parts of ourselves. These are places of tender regret. Oh, how we wish we could’ve done differently!
But those places where we’ve failed to meet our expectations are also places where we can return, where our mistakes can rest in a field of mercy and compassion. In this field, we come to meet the richness of our compost: here we realize that we can and will make 1,000 mistakes.
These places of misattunement and dysregulation become doorways to lean in, where we can look again, and gently ask, “Oh, what’s here?”
What’s here that brings such strong feelings, up to the surface?
What’s here that leads to lashing out?
What’s here that leads to gorging on ice cream sandwiches?
In this way, we can begin to befriend our inner world, and each other’s.
As poet William Stafford writes, “you live on a world where stumbling always leads home.”
Bless the stumble. Bless the road. Bless the many, many ways home.