(This post was originally written in wedding season.)
Today my cousin and I did sprint-circuits around a sunken lake. Four times round was equal to a mile, she said, AFTER I had done it. Otherwise she would’ve created expectations in my ‘I’ll rest when I’m dead’ brain.
My best overall was ¼ mile in a minute 34 secs.
She let me go first to check my ability. I hit 1.37 and took the timer. Before she got into stance, she said: “You have to encourage me, okay?”
I nodded and watched her tiny form. I found myself saying pathetic things like: “Keep pushing! You’re doing really well! C’mon you can do this!”
That is basically something a midwife shouts at you.
How awful am I? I thought. I love her, I’m supporting her by doing exactly what she needs and there’s no lack of feeling there so… What’s going on?
It just didn’t feel natural. I realised I live in a very undemonstrative family. It’s something that’s made me really sad for years. It feels like we’re only ever talked to because we’re doing something wrong. This, by the age of twenty-six creates a defensive feeling of extended adolescence at home: while the world at large has run out of superlatives for you.
And you don’t believe the world.
I once went on a college trip to Manhattan for a week with Media class. I was sharing a room with my friend and every morning her parents would phone and always end with: “I love you.” We NEVER ended by saying “I love you.” Ever. Our standard is “Alright, huh, okay God keep you.” And that is lovely (translating traditional Muslim greeting) but it’s just standard.
It’s said, not meant.
And if something said is not meant, then it’s not FELT by the person hearing it either. I’m sure this was also just a sign-off to her… But it struck me.
So the next morning, my parents happened to call and I was speaking to my Mum last.
“Well I’ll let you get off the phone now.”
“Okay. (Biggest deepest breath I’ve ever taken.) “Um. I love you.”
Huge pause. Oh God.
“Yes. Right. Me too. Love you. Bye.”
I was half relieved and the other half of me wanted to throw up. I was eighteen. Should I have been over it at that age?
You know this love-languages thing? I’m starting to put more faith in it.
Back at the lake, I decide this is a cycle I have to break, first by celebrating my little achievements, second by encouraging others. I believe what I’m saying, and even if it feels weird, my voice might be the only thing carrying her, and no way am I letting her fall.
“You can do this! You’re amazing! Long strides, deep breaths! You’re doing so great! You’re INCREDIBLE! Well done!”
And you should’ve seen her smile. You live and learn. *** Since writing, I have a new best time of 1.27!
~ Pola ~