My mama always said it was rude to stare.
With her sweet and wise and loving way about her, she would look at me from across the table, mid-space-out and say, “You’re doing it again, Diana. It’s not nice to stare.” I’d snap out of it and laugh and then she’d laugh and tell me how I looked kind of disturbed when I gazed hard into nothing. Or something like that. And, of course, as moms usually are, she was right. It’s rude, unbecoming and certainly makes the average human being feel quite uncomfortable when you stare at them until their face goes blurry and you don’t blink for a good 15 seconds.
But it’s just my eyes do this thing – all the time – where they fly to one place and take up residency while simultaneously taking in details. It’s like they take little backpacks into the woods – sleeping bags rolled tight with bungees, Nalgenes hung like Christmas ornaments from carabiners – and they unpack their eye-ball sized tents before hammering stakes into the thawed soft ground. In spite of its rudeness, I somehow just can’t help it.
My eyes focus.
My eyes fixate.
My eyes settle.
The very moment I walked in, my eyes flew over to your back-corner table. Like pizzeria magnets on an old fridge that remind you of their phone number mid-11 PM-garlic-knot-craving, they found you and stuck. It’s not that you’re not beautiful – in fact, it’s the exact opposite. You’re earth-shatteringly stunning. Beneath that beaded beanie, tucked back into the left-most corner of the midtown Starbucks, no matter how hard you try – you are uncomplicatedly radiant.
And I saw that with the first glance. I all but basked in it, really. But it wasn’t what drew my eyes your way. Your beauty was merely an added value to my habit of staring.
What drew me to you was a different kind of magneticism.
The kind we typically reserve for rubbernecking on the highway or eavesdropping on that couple who is less-than-discretely arguing about the difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the middle of aisle 12. What drew me to you was a condolence of sorts; a lenity for your current predicament. In instant solidarity, I looked at you and picked it up.
You looked worn.
Your eyes didn’t droop and your posture was perfectly linear. But there was something about you that quietly whispered, “I’m just feeling kind of weary.”
As Manhattan-embedded Starbucks tend to be, it was quite loud in that teeny 15 x 15 storefront. But while my mind was struggling to tune in above the noise of someone yelling about the eyebrow threading lady next door, my eyes couldn’t break from your little bubble. I was fighting hard to comprehend what my eyes were absorbing; trying to will synapses into existence at a faster rate, when a less-than-pleasant lady leaned in and said, “Lines up, ginger. Let’s go.” I shook my head quickly and looked back at my new friend before moving forward. “Sorry,” I muttered.
When my eyes darted back to find you, you were gone.
So. In one giant missed connection type fashion, I want to tell you this: There is a big, big glaring difference between being worn out and being worn in. And no one will fess up to it, but the former is just the squeeze that gets you the juice of the latter. Through our wearing, tearing and heavy-burden bearing, we are all in this constant process of being worn out.
No one writes about it.
No one busts into the office on an idle Thursday morning and says, “Yeah, I’m going through this thing where I just feel utterly hopeless. Haven’t eaten in 12 days. Haven’t slept more than a couple hours in a good four nights.”
No one Snapchats you a video of their mid-week ugly cry.
No one live Tweets the crumble of their marriage, the stages of their grief or the darkness of their most enslaving addiction.
I don’t know how it got there, but somehow, embedded in each of us is this wicked inclination to tuck away the wearing into our own private corner of the world. We take the messy and fold it up as neatly as we can and we shove it in our back pockets to keep the process hidden. In a weird way, it’s like we click the “Repeat Song” button on the bottom-left-hand corner of our iPhone and – over and over – we remind ourselves that the end justifies the means. But we never talk about the means. We somehow never get around to sharing the messy or the ugly or the imperfect or the wearing.
And we feel so alone.
But no. There is solidarity, sister. I want you to know it. And I want you to know that it more than just exists. I want you to know that it’s real and it’s binding and it’s a forever sort of thing, okay?
We’re in it together. All of it. The muck and the dirt and the filth and the unnecessary and the frustration and the abandonment and the addiction and the pasts and the anxiety and the future. All of it. Together.
And I know right now it’s overwhelming and it feels like you’re being worn to the point of evaporation, but keep. wearing. out. Keep letting the waves wash up on you. You will not drown. (Together. We won’t let you.) Let the tide bring the sand and the rocks and the glass – and let them batter you while you cling to something Higher. Let it smooth the shoreline. Let the coast be refined.
I promise you, on the other side of wearing out is the part where you get to be worn in.
Like your favorite pair of jeans or those geometric wedges that used to pinch your toes and rub your Achilles raw, the worn in part trumps the shoving your hips into stiff denim. The worn in part makes all of those blisters worth it. It’s as if this slow – sometimes abrupt and most times uncomfortable – process of abrasion, just kind of wears you down until all of the parts of you that weigh you down are rhythmically eroded away.
The juice, boo.
It’s always worth the squeeze.
Photo: Dan Lurie via Creative Commons