I called C. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I wanted to talk to the person who, more than anyone, has seen and lived through the absolute worst in me. I wasn’t sure my call would be well received but I was sure I would be okay if it wasn’t and, just as importantly, knew that she would be honest.

“Hey!” she answered warmly.

“Hi, C.”

“What’s up?”

“Is it okay that I’m calling? It’s okay if it’s not.”

“Yeah, hun. Are you okay?”

It felt sweet that she called me “hun”. It made me remember how warm she was with me and all of her students over a decade past.

“Yeah. I mean no. But yeah. You know?”

“I think I do. What’s up?”

“I’m sorry for how self-indulgent this might sound but…I had this weird notion that it might help me relax to speak to the person who knows how ugly I can be.”

“Are you relaxed?”

“Maybe. But I think it’s just because your voice sounds sweet and it makes me remember nice things.”

“I’ve been thinking about you.”

“Why?”

She laughs and says, “Because I think about you sometimes, silly. We have a powerful connection. You’re still one of the few people who when I see on a dating site I pause for a minute and look. We bring out the worst in each other but I still love you.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty shit together and I love you too.”

We both chuckle.

“So what’s wrong sugar plum?”

“I don’t know how to say what’s wrong. You remember how I would get when my trauma shit was up? It’s like that. Or maybe at like 30-40% volume. But the thing is that I still don’t like myself there. I don’t trust myself there. And…I don’t really know what I’m saying.”

“You’ve screwed up a bit and you’re beatin’ yourself up about it. You’re scared it’ll be like before. How long has it been since you’ve gotten that bad?”

I begin to tear up. “Inside—it’s always been bad. In terms of how I act…I don’t think it’s been that bad since…well, you.” I feel guilty. I realize I’m essentially admitting to her that she got my worst. “Yes. It’s like the moment I get a whiff of the monster in me I worry that I’ll start treating people how…I treated you. And I don’t know what to do. I panic and then sequester myself. But I’m so tired of it. So tired of putting myself in quarantine.”

“I’m sorry you’re so lonely.”

“Thanks but it’s my own fault.”

“That sounds even lonelier. I’m proud of you, though.”

“Thanks.”

It’s nice that even C can see some good in me. I also realize that her kindness and love are not the answer. I think I knew that before the call as well. I snap out of the self-absorption just enough to appreciate her excitement about her current gardening project. I can’t follow the content but I can easily attune to the joy and sweetness. She tells me about “the rough winter” in terms of her depression. I feel love for her. I remember how debilitating her depressions are; how they knock her out of action for weeks; how they even led her to semi-retirement and disability. Remembering all of that and feeling love for her was more healing than receiving her sweetness. Even if just for a moment I didn’t feel so lost inside myself.

“I have to get back to my gardening. I know it’s not the same as a real hug but I want you to hug yourself and imagine it’s from me.”

I don’t do it until later that night. It’s nice. And I think I say “nice” not because I’m unappreciative of the love that awaits me out there, but because I know it can’t be any better than “nice” until I love myself back into Being.

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