One day I went on a weekend bike trip in Ohio with my boyfriend. It was all awesome and good until he pointed out a deer and I looked a bit too long, crashed into his bike, and fell to the ground.
I wasn’t badly hurt–mainly just grumpy, but I could not wait to soak in our hotel’s whirlpool and ease my aching shins, arms, and ego.
Once at the hotel, I lowered myself into the bubbling hot tub, probably even emitted a long soda-commercial “aaaaahhhhh” as the water enveloped my entire body. It was late and the swimming pool area was completely empty.
Seconds after I entered the steaming waters, a woman knocked at the window. I groaned. No way did I want to exit the whirlpool, but she stood there, waving at me from afar. I sighed loudly and left the pool, the cold instigating goosebumps along my arms and made my way to the door. I cursed the lady under my breath for forgetting her hotel key and quickly wrapped a towel around my waist.
As I got closer to the door, I realized the woman was not a woman.
It was a little girl, probably about eight or nine years old.
Immediately, I felt bad, and wondered if she had seen my pissed countenance the entire time I had walked toward her. I softened my face, tried to offer a welcome smile and opened the door.
The little girl had her hair wound in the same candy-ball baubles my mom used to braid my hair into when I was her age. Her skin was dark brown and radiant in the way that only really young children can shine. But, her face carried a faint quiver, she had clearly seen how I had looked when I got out of the pool and her fear was evident.
“I just wanted to say hi,” she said softly.
She tried to smile.
“Hi,” I said. I offered the widest smile I could.
Her smile grew more. She waved again and then she walked away.
I am thinking of this story a lot lately. How I mistook that little girl for a grown woman and was set to open the door with an attitude. Once I realized how young she was, I quickly decided to treat her with compassionate kindness.
There are times when the unloved and unwanted girl within me speaks and I treat her like a grown woman. I am short with her. Annoyed, sometimes even downright angry. I wonder why she can’t just get it together. I reason with her, lecture, ignore her. I withhold all manners of compassion.
The unloved girl who reaches for instantaneous fame, sugary foods, negative thoughts, stale friendships is not a grown woman. She is a girl. She does not react to “reason” or “logic” for she is pure, raw feeling, as children usually are. All she wants to say is hello, to have me welcome her and ask her what she needs in that moment.
It is tough to do this. We don’t exactly live in the Age of Introspection. We are taught to beat our “badness” into submission. But I am getting better. I know there are ways in which I learned to reach for substitutes for true love and instead of being afraid or dismissive of these impulses, I am now choosing to say hello.
There is reoccurring theme in many meditation circles of holding our pain, greeting it, letting it be as big as it needs to be. Of saying hi how ya? to our anxiety, jealously, procrastination, grief, and anger. Some meditation teachers even liken it to sitting down for a meal.
That little girl at that Ohio hotel taught me something so profound that day and I am still digging deeper and deeper into this lesson. I forget the lesson and then I remember, I circle lower and lower into the healing this teaching requires, growing the entire time.
It all comes down to being where we are. Greeting our pain with open arms and offering ourselves what we did not get as children. For some it is a gentle reminder that it is okay to be different. For others, it may be permission to set boundaries, to eat slowly and mindfully, or to love ourselves even when we fuck up.
For me, it’s a bit of all the above.
I am learning to greet all my selves with a hello and to love that unloved girl within me. Every time I take the minutes to acknowledge her presence, to tell her that I still love her, that I hear her cry for attention, care, celebration, or connection, her cries lesson.
In the end, all she really wants to do is get my attention.
My hope for you: that you greet your pain and unloved portions of your heart with open arms. Journal, take a walk, cry, listen to sappy songs, do whatever makes that little unloved girl (or boy) feel heard. Ask them what they need for you to do.
And it all starts with a simple hello.
Art: Gerald Sanders, Merry Jaye, and last picture attributed to fullten