In my observation, I now understand what it felt like to take that first breath 32 years ago.
Each mother that gives birth waits for that moment. They wait for their newborn baby to cry. To inhale. To let out that first exhale.
It’s a sign of life. It means things will be okay. It will be a long road ahead of them, but there was a breath. An inhale. A tear (or a few)
It means a beginning. While we’ll never know what it was like to have the whole room stop and wait for that big cry, any mother that’s given birth, and any father that’s been nearby, can surely relate to the anxiety that comes with awaiting that first breath. For me, after the recent events in my life, after the ups and downs and turbulent conversations — after trusting that the people with whom I’ve entrusted my life, my emotions and my soul — have proven not up for the task, at least I can say that I truly know how to breathe.
I’ve spent the last week and a few days running through my mind. I’ve run marathons. I stopped breathing. I stopped waking up. I stopped living. It’s okay. It’s something that I’ve done for 32 years. But this time was different. This time I gave all of myself to my friends. I have nothing left to give. I try to set my expectations at a reasonable level. In saying that, I think 50/50 is ridiculous. It isn’t something that is attainable in real life. And, although I live in the world of emotional sensitivity, I’m still a realist. It’s not negative, and it’s not to be mistaken as such. It’s simply the way it is. So, in an attempt to be realistic with expecting a certain amount of reciprocity (my favorite word), I alter the scale by which I weigh my expectations. I think 70/30 is reasonable. And its by this ratio that I guide my expectations.
Having said that, I recently met my grave. I entered into a darkness, that which I have not felt in a long time. I was lost. It was cold, and dark, and lonely. I sought the people that I value most to give me a guiding light. What became of this situation was honestly nothing I ever expected.
I refuse to call it “tough love”. For clarity, at this age and in a group of friends, I don’t believe in tough love. At this age and with my friends, I just believe in love. I believe in being there for the people that need me, even when they don’t realize that’s the case. In the end, the appreciation far exceeds any prior frustrations relative to the issue.
This was different. Now that I have taken my first breath and cried, now that I have stepped away, now that I have given myself the forgiveness of knowing that it doesn’t always have to be my fault, that I am an amazing friend, that I am worth my weight in salt — now that I am breathing, I realize that my first breath brought me into a place of mourning, as well.
Although it’s in my nature to apologize, to hide from conflict, to run from confrontation — although it’s in my nature to fix what’s broken, regardless of fault — it was with this first breath that I have been afforded the new light by which to guide my principles. And it is with this new light that I understand, as hard as it may be for me, that my enormous heart is well suited for the people that will let me in and let me love them. While I don’t ask to be met halfway, I ask to be met — somewhere. It may seem like I put a lot of effort into my friendships, but that’s not necessarily the case. I put a lot of love into my friendships. The work is the easy part. The love comes with trials and tribulations that I’m not always willing or able to absorb at the time.
This time, my learning didn’t take a decade. It didn’t even take a week. It maybe took a day or two.
After the dust has cleared and the tears have dried, you’re there or you’re not. I will guide you to my heart when I need you. I never expect anyone to just “know”. But when I’ve given you the keys and the map, do me a favor, and be my friend. For the 364 days a year that I will stand by you no matter what, do me a favor, and pencil me in one the one day that I need you. I’ll write you directions if you’ll just show up.
After all, watching someone take their first breath is an amazing miracle. Why wouldn’t you want to be there to experience it?