She Saw “ME” and melted my defenses ….

When I’m afraid I typically appear that I am angry. Not so much now, but certainly up until my early 40’s. I can’t say I fully understand how that translates from my childhood, but it’s a coping mechanism that I was first busted on by a late and precious girlfriend I had.
I hadn’t been in America too terribly long, I don’t even fully recall what the event was that triggered my fear, my sense of security felt threatened, and she was there with me when it happened. I started speaking out loud, protesting and arguing against whatever the incident was. I remember my heart was pounding and I was fearful of being able to stay in America. My mind was racing and in turn my body responded by getting busy. I went into the kitchen and started washing the dishes. I was talking incessantly (always an outward sign that I am feeling fear) and she came up behind me and put her arms around me and rested her head on my shoulder. At first it irritated me; I wanted to push her away. I felt my insides squirming, wanting to wrestle away from the warmth of her comforting arms. My eyes stayed focused on the soapy bubbles in the sink, I was physically uncomfortable. I felt restrained, not so much by her arms, but more her tenderness. What was I to do with gentleness? How do I embrace such a stranger to my soul? Why isn’t she responding to me with angry words and demands to calm down? Rather she started to cry and asked, “what are you so afraid of?” Those were the first words in so many years that were able to penetrate my solid steel defenses. She saw “ME.” She wasn’t afraid of, or turned off by my apparent anger, rather she moved herself toward me with tender arms and soft-spoken words. I clearly and emotionally recall how that felt to my twenty-something year old self. I remember how my body came to rest, how my heart stopped pounding, how my chest eased from its tightened stance. I felt “seen” and I started to cry. The relief was immense, the freedom to drop my guard and to feel safe with a human being was unrecognizable to me, I’m still unable to articulate those feelings and a place inside me still longs for how that felt.

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