I can still remember the first time my mother-in-law asked me how I liked my eggs. Easy over? Scrambled? Poached?
I didn’t know. I just stared into my palms feeling like the Runaway Bride and mumbling something about it not mattering; I would have whatever everyone else was having.
I was 32.
And I wonder how many of us are the same way? We don’t know how we like our steak, or what our favorite shampoo is. Do you remember when your child first asked you what your favorite color was? Did you know the answer? Did you know the color that makes you sing when you see it? The one that makes your spirit dance?
I was always so busy trying to choose the “right” answer, I never knew the honest one. But perhaps the truth is this: We don’t know the girl within because we’re afraid we won’t like what we find.
We lose ourselves to the piles of laundry and the monotony of meal-making and the Pinterest pressure and the Facebook news-scrolls, never measuring up to our own (or others’) unattainable standards.
We desire so badly to be known, loved, heard or seen for more than our dishwasher hands. But we can’t accept it even when we are.
We shrug off the daily reminders that we are deeply cherished.
The little people with peanut-butter fingers who kiss our cheeks with their sticky lips and wrap their chubby arms around our necks and cry when we leave the room — the children who never tire of us reading them stories or snuggling with them or feeding them, who look up to us and say, “Mommy, I love you so, so, so, so much.”
We shrug off their love as being “little” or we take it for granted, but every embrace, every kiss from these children is not just from them, but from the Creator who made them — and you. He sees you in your quiet, hidden moments. He loves you in your pajama days, as you change diaper after diaper. His love for you depends nothing on the world’s standards, and everything on the state of your heart. And you, dear Mama, have a beautiful heart.
We forget the way our husbands’ pull us to themselves in the middle of the mattress, the way they kiss our foreheads in the morning and tell us we’re as pretty as the day they met us, in spite of our matted hair and red-rimmed eyes. We take for granted they come home each evening and take the kids off our hands so we can have some alone time; we think it’s just part of their job, but really, it’s because they cherish us. They see us, and they love us.
I can’t count the times my husband has tried to give me a compliment, and I’ve rejected it. He’ll say, “You’re amazing,” and my immediate response is, “No I’m not.”
We hold up our shields, afraid to let the love in, for fear it will break us and force us to see inside our own souls.
But in order to know our favorite color; in order to realize we’re introverted and that we hunger deeply for space and silence, or extroverted and shrivel up without people to talk to. In order to declare boldly we like our steak medium rare, or that we love the color purple, we have to let the love in. To follow its trail straight into our heart and discover the girl sitting there, the seven-year-old girl who got silenced somewhere along the way and has been waiting all these years to speak.
It’s not selfish, friends, to accept love.
No, it’s self-less. Because it’s only when we begin to love ourselves that we can truly love others.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirAtlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.