Sometimes it is a beautiful thing to be known. My 8 year old daughter B is reading a book called The Underneath. She started this book back in April, when she listened to it on a playaway during a road trip, but didn't finish it then. When she started reading the print version, it's been a different experience for her. She's paid closer attention to the words. In fact, she's read me several passages aloud. Here's one:
"And then, right there, on the shore of the silvery creek, that creek full of tears, Puck knew that he would never see his mama again. Never.After B read me one such passage, I came over to her and leaned over her shoulder.
It's a soft-sounding word, 'never,' but its velvety timbre can't hide its sharp edges. Especially to a small cat who has broken the rules and conjured the word in the first place. He sat down hard, soaked and cold. In his deepest bones, he knew that no matter how long he stared at the cold water, he would never see his mother again. Never pressed down on him. It grabbed him by the neck and shook him. He sucked in a deep breath, sucked in all that never and started to sneeze. Never filled his nose, his eyes, his soaking fur."
"How did you know I would like that?" I asked with a smile.
"I know you love words," she replied.
"You know what else I love?"
"You," said with a kiss on her cheek.
B accepted the kiss, but moved quickly out of reach before I got carried away and gave her another one, or tried to hug her. She's affectionate, but solely on her own terms. This tendency of B's to love on her own terms makes it all the more beautiful for her to share words with me, for her to think of me while reading her book and take the time to share something she thinks I would enjoy.
B is right that I love words. And I particularly love the way this author uses words in a different way, making the abstract concrete. It reminds me of my favorite book and while B hasn't read my favorite book yet, sharing these words with me has shown me that she knows me.
It's striking and perhaps reassuring that I am pleased to be known by my daughter. I've been thinking a lot about intimacy lately and have been pondering its definition in a book I'm reading by Harriet Lerner. Lerner essentially defines an intimate relationship as one where each person can be themselves, openly express differing opinions and remain in relationship because there is mutual respect. It's not so different than being known by another person. Upon first reading the definition, I immediately thought to myself, "I'm not sure I even want that." I am so accustomed to swallowing any differing opinion I have that I can hardly imagine relationships where I am my true self. Even with friends of many years, I stay silent rather than voice disagreement. I am a peace-keeper, who keeps the peace by keeping quiet.
I've been questioning myself on the value of this approach to - or avoidance of - intimacy. It's clearly not ideal. I have only one, possibly two, relationships in my life that I believe meet Lerner's definition of intimacy. I am very quick to minimize my importance to another person and find it easy to believe I'm replaceable in nearly any relationship, the possible exception being my roles as wife and mother. But even there, I think J is a great catch and who wouldn't want to raise his beautiful daughters if I'm gone? A replacement could surely be found.
Yet it is good to be known, even if it's scary. It's especially good to be known by a daughter who is a mystery I long to solve. Is it scary to be known by her? Not really, but only because I believe B, fabulous though she is, has an eight year old's understanding of me. I tell myself that she doesn't know the real me because if she did, how could she love me as her mom? So can I bring myself to continue to let her know me as she grows and matures? Can I risk letting her truly know me?
Here's where I am: scared to let the real me peek out from behind the me I let the world see. Here's where I want to go: uncharted waters where the wind can blow away my fear of being known.