Dear Beautiful Girl –
Metaphor is the blessing and the curse of the writer. It’s the tool that gives us the ability to voice the un-voiceable truths, open the doors inside of other humans and air out all the unspeakable things, and also the crutch that makes us insufferable in an argument and pretty much the worst when all you need is a straight answer.
Our deep love, deep need for metaphor also renders us exceptionally vulnerable to the profundity of the everyday, to the lightning strike of inspiration in the darndest places. It’s the reason you’ll find me tearing up in the produce aisle, or lost in a day long reverie around the symbolism and strength in the way we interact with coffee cups.
Or pickle jars. Today, it was a pickle jar.
I’ll be the first to admit that I often cast my husband in his gender binary role as “Household Jar Opener.” Sure, I can open jars – I haul a three year old around on the daily, so arm strength and I are on pretty solid terms. But he’s better at it, and faster, so I rarely bother with the jar struggle. I hand them over and preserve my pretty little precious lady fingers. Or whatever.
But today I needed to open the damn pickles, having just arrived home from the store with neither the time nor the mental energy to sort out an alternative snack for a pickle-demanding toddler. Game on, girl verses jar, and that sucker was stuck. I did the whole “bang it on the counter cause sure that does something” trick. I did the “make a loud sound because clearly loud people are stronger” trick. And then I dug my heels in and twisted as hard as I could, for just a few seconds longer, just a tiny bit harder than I thought I was capable of doing.
And then I stood there, in the kitchen with an open pickle jar, and sank into the weight and the beauty and the love in my broken-hearted soul for metaphor. Because how many times – how many times in my life have I experienced the magic of this same simple sequence?
Quit again, declare that I simply cannot – I don’t have the arm strength or the stamina or the heart space or the will anymore dammit.
Try, and this time try just past the point I am actually capable of trying – try right into something that is beyond me, something bigger than my mental and physical and emotional limits. Try beyond where I was 100% sure I was able to go.
Labor. Late night baby wrangling. The early sting of an alarm clock, the last mile of a marathon, the box I couldn’t lift, the project I was afraid to start. The friendship that seems to hurt more than it heals, the belief that feels broken, the longest day, the edge where the wind and the fear and the pain are the strongest. Love, god, always love, love and every other place we meet each other. The challenge of community, the way we can break and burn, the way we wound and heal. The paralyzing feeling that you’ve gone exactly as far as you have the strength and the courage and the will to go.
And the moment when you keep going. Keep going.
Pop, and the newborn miracle arrives in your arms. Pop, and you somehow are awake for another day, another hug, more laughter. Pop, and the hurt is mended into something deeper, and you find a belief that is rooted and strong, pop and you jump and you fly and you love and life, all of life, all of the best of it – the sweet salty pickle jar magic of living your whole wide open life – all of it is right on the other side of that place just beyond the last of your strength, the end of your courage, the shattering of your will.
I stood in the kitchen with my pickle jar and wondered how much of my life I’ve been living just shy of that moment. How many times have I quit just before the magic kicks in, surrendered to my own definition of limit at exactly the wrong moment and shorted myself by inches of all kinds of improbable beauty? How often have I sacrificed potential by writing off wonderful in the moment just before it happens – when it’s simply too damn scary, too damn painful, too damn hard?
How often am I too tired or terrified to wait for the pop?
I’ll tell you one thing: pickles are delicious. And you are stronger than you know. And just beyond whatever you are sure you can’t accomplish is life. And you are worthy and ready and more than enough for that. You deserve all the pickles. You deserve all the life.
Keep going. Keep going.
Wait for it.