But your temperament, mannerisms and words also echo traits I've struggled to accept in myself. I've written so much to you, about you, for you. I so want you to know that there is nothing shameful in being shy, in being who you are. But when faced with evidence of your sensitivity and anxiety in the real world, I often cringe and cry and take on all your emotions as if they were my own.
They are my own.
There's a beautiful, bittersweet Ben Folds song called "Still Fighting It" that's been stuck in my heart since the first time I heard it. It's been in my iTunes library forever, but somehow I never came across it until after you were born. It was probably patiently waiting for the right time to relay its message. And oh, how I needed to hear it. It's a powerful, poignant song because for me it acknowledges the mixed emotions you feel when you have a child whose personality so closely emulates your own.
It's so weird to be back here
Daughter, it took me a good thirty years to sneak out from under my shell. It's still there, my solace, my retreat. When my skin feels particularly thin, I have no problem crawling back in. The good news is that it happens rarely these days.
Despite its daily ups and downs, I think the milestone of motherhood has done more for my self-confidence than any pep talk or workshop ever could. If I can keep an itty bitty baby alive and watch her grow into a luminescent little girl, I can take on the world.
That's not to say I suddenly love being in the spotlight or want to become a public speaker; it just means I've learned to stretch my limits and step out of my comfort zone and still maintain the essence of who I am. I still get nervous in social situations and blush when I feel self-conscious, but I have more tools to deal with life now that I'm older.
Sometimes being with you catapults me right back in time to a place where I was small and wanted the earth to open up and swallow me. I didn't want to be seen or have to speak; I just wanted to blend in and follow the crowd. It seems like ages ago that I was a child or a teenager or a young adult, but it isn't really. When it comes to the psyche, years are only heartbeats away.
So when we're together in public, whether it's at the mall or at your daycare, and you say you don't want people to look at you, I get it. I understand it. When I was younger, I would avoid eye contact like the plague and be paranoid that everyone was watching me and finding me wanting. This was particularly bad when I suffered with skin problems. All I wanted to be was invisible. If I'd worn a hat in those days, I probably would have pulled it down over my face, too.
The years go on and we're still fighting it
We can't change how we're made, or how we fundamentally experience the world. Believe me, I've tried. For so long I thought I had to be someone I'm not. Eventually I figured out that plenty of people liked me fine just the way I was. My friends enjoyed the fact that I was good listener and that they could come to be with their problems. Teachers and bosses were impressed by my observation skills and ability to form genuine relationships. This learning-to-accept-yourself process did not happen overnight for me, and it won't for you, either. I don't have all the answers, but I know this much: you've got to stop fighting who you are and learn to embrace it. Only then can true self-love begin.
And you're so much like me
When you were just a wriggling being in my belly, I wished so hard that I would pass on my blue eyes. I wanted you to have something tangible of mine that I could see looking back at me. I didn't really think about passing my shyness on, or how that would affect you or our relationship in the long-term. Part of me goes sad inside when I look to the future, because I know, dear heart; I know exactly what you're in for.
It was pain
sunny days and rain
I knew you'd feel the same things
There's no way around it and I'm powerless to stop it: you're going to go through the same things I did growing up. An amazingly sensitive soul, you will feel things deeply and personally. This will allow you to empathize with others and feel their joy and suffering, but it will also mean that your own pain and emotions will often be overwhelming.
You'll try and try
and one day you'll fly
away from me
Every day we live and breathe we are growing up and away from each other. That's a hard truth I try not to think about, but it's there underneath it all. It's there at night when I watch you sleep and wonder where the world will take you when you leave my arms.
My sweetheart, please remember this:
You will walk your own unique path, but I will always recognize your footprints. For I know your flaws and your fears; I also know your grace and your goodness. Maybe one day you'll tell your own daughter of your trials and triumphs, and the exact moment you discovered for yourself that you were always good enough.