When I was three and a half years old I wanted to go swimming. So, precocious girl that I was, I put on my pink swimsuit with the ruffles, grabbed my towel, stepped out the front door and walked the four blocks through town to the pool. I was disappointed to find the pool was closed. I do not know how long I was at the front gate before a man pulled over. He knew who I was because I lived in a small town and everyone knew everyone, plus my dad was the local postmaster. He got out of his small truck and asked me what I was doing. I told him I wanted to go swimming, but the pool wasn’t open yet. He said I shouldn't be out all by myself and drove me home. Even at my young age I remember that I was pissed off and embarrassed. I could feel the heat coming from my body and sense myself shrinking on that ride home.
Shit. I wanted to go swimming.
This week I took a walk that was so familiar to me, like that day. The way the sun was shining through the clouds, the hint of cut grass in the air, the mid-day calm of a weekday and the subtle buzz of traffic. I felt like a child again with no worries. I imagined the far away sound of TV commercials selling dish and laundry detergents in between dramatic soap opera instrumentals. I imagined the bed sheets on the line, blowing in the wind, and then I was overcome with sadness and I felt so alone.
Do you believe in signs? I do. Two times on that day I looked down at my phone and it read 2:22 pm then 3:33 pm. I began to send messages into the universe. “Dad, are you still with me? You would be happy to know that I don’t tolerate insensitivity and inconsiderate behavior anymore. I’ve pushed everyone away, so they won't hurt me.” … I’ve pushed everyone away. I’m a lot like you. I’d rather not deal with emotions and feelings.
That little girl has endured some scarring beyond that embarrassing moment in that truck.
I’ve worked so hard to be the person that I am today. To evolve. Because quite frankly I used to suck at being human. I mean really suck. When I was a shitty person, it wouldn’t hurt when people treated me badly. When I became a better person, I didn’t think people would be cruel to me so when they are, it hurts so much more. Payback is a bitch., but let’s face it, mean people suck.
I think I need to take more walks. I need to walk to remember my Dad, and remember he was grieving his parents too. I need to remember he was feeling the pressure of supporting a family with four kids. I need to remember he had scars too. I need to accept that I am a lot like him to a fault. I need to strive to understand other people better (even the mean ones who suck). I didn’t have that sense of empathy with my father when he was alive. I had not yet developed the capacity for that. Maybe I am more evolved than I thought.
Today, I imagine an encounter with that little girl in the ruffled swimsuit. I cannot hear the conversation, but there is such happiness that permeates the greeting. The conversation looks like me telling her she’s a badass and shit and then there is an enthusiastic high five. Finally, there is a long loving embrace that I imagine feels warm and comfortable and we both have big smiles on our faces. There is one single tear flowing down my cheek. We agree to keep in touch and love each other unconditionally and to grab our swimsuits whenever we can to create big moments of wonder.