Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Letter to my Daughter

This is a letter to you, my daughter.

How do I even begin? My letter to you will last your entire lifetime. You will be writing your story as you live your life and I will be writing what I said, what I wished I’d said, what I did, what I wished I'd done. This is a lifelong letter. It will never be finished.

But, today, you are turning 10. You are double digits. You have a lifetime ahead, but you are already ten years wise. You have given me so much. And you have so much to give to the world. And I have so much to give to you. 

I want to give you the world.

So, this is my attempt--to give you the world--in a letter.

I could write to you about your body and your health. But so many others have already written that letter to their own daughters. Those letters are beautiful and poignant and honest and true. They talk about honoring health and rejecting societal standards. They talk about learning to love and respect the skin we are in. I have read them all, and I will share them with you. But those letters are not my letter.

My letter to you is about me as much as it is about you. It is about the lessons I have learned as I repeatedly banged my head against the wall of the world and tried to figure out how to be. I know that you will have to learn your own lessons in your own ways, but I also hope that you will listen. And I hope that you will bang your head a little less often than I did. But I know you. You are stubborn and curious and intelligent and emotional. You are passionate, as your pre-school teacher so succinctly summarized when you were an emotional rollercoaster at 3. You will live with passion and you will find your own way. But as you do, I hope that you will listen.

Listen. Listen to your own breath. Listen to the silence. Listen to the spaces in between. The spaces in between the sirens are full of beauty. There are frogs and crickets in those spaces. There is the sound of the wind in the trees. The spaces in between the words are pregnant with intention, emotion, and the things left unsaid. Listen to the words that people are not saying, and listen to the thoughts that they share. Listen with your eyes and your heart and your soul. Listen to what they want to say to you. Listen to how you want to respond. Sometimes people just need to be heard. Sometimes they just need you to hold some space for them. Sometimes they don’t need advice or solutions or instructions or feedback. And sometimes they don’t say what they mean and sometimes they don’t mean what they say. But if you can stop, and just breathe, and just listen...There is so much honor in listening. There is so much integrity and self control. But there is also a peace there. There is a beauty that radiates from those who listen. You are so quick to respond, so clever, and so passionate. It has been my lifelong struggle to listen. And it will be a lifelong struggle for you, too. But it is a fight worth fighting. I will always try to listen to you. And my hope, for you, is that you listen with all of the passion in your soul. Listen to your own words, and make sure that you are proud of how they reflect you. Listen to your reflection as you speak.

Because you will speak. You must speak. You must speak out whenever someone makes you feel uncomfortable. You must speak out when someone is being disingenuous. You must speak and defend those who can’t find the words or the strength to defend themselves. You have the strength, and you have the passion. You have a way with words that is profound and thoughtful. What you have to say must be heard. You can change the world with your words and with your actions. Maybe the world you change is small, for that one person in the room that you just defended. Maybe the world you change is bigger, as you eloquently push back against hatred and ignorance and discrimination. Maybe the world you change is huge, as you lead by example, and help others to speak out. Maybe the world you change is only in this tiny moment, as you offer a kind word or a compliment to a stranger. But there is a power in your words. You have the ability to wound, and you have the ability to heal. You have the ability to inspire. Use your words well. Never stay silent.

I cannot promise you a life without conflict. I cannot promise you a life without pain. I cannot promise you a life that is always inspired.  But I can challenge you to live each day with passion and integrity. I can warn you against the soul-crushing monsters of apathy and ambivalence. I can beg you to be kind. I can try to inspire you to find the beauty in every day. And I can try to listen to you with my soul, and to speak to you with honesty and honor.

I hope that I can lead by example and teach you to do the same. I am so lucky to be a part of your journey as you become the young woman you strive to be. 

You have passion. Use it well. Listen to your soul and speak the words in your soul.

You have an incredible soul. Honor it, and be true.

Happy birthday, Helena Skye.

I love you.

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