Just as I pick up the scrap of paper that says, “TREAT YOURSELF GENTLY” –– Treat yourself gently it says it in all caps printing, tho in a lower kind of uppercase, apologetic even, tight and uneven and in the top left corner so as to not take up too much space, or maybe just being obediently frugal on the small, lined page …
TREAT YOURSELF GENTLY it starts, and then the reminders:
You are forgiven.
I hear you.
You can take whatever time you need.
I’ve been moving the paper, the TYG mini-treatise, all over the house. Each time I see it I wonder, when did you write this? For who? For you? For someone else?
Newer notes are scrawled on the page because it was handy, and the annotations are urgent––the name and the date, the age a daughter would have been this year had she lived––her mother so strong, so real that every time I speak with her that old, familiar urge appears: I want to crawl into their embrace, their heart, their home and never leave. They are kindness, they are the hard-won women who paper their scars with, “I hear you, you are forgiven, you can take whatever time you need.”
The paper is clipped to a print-out from Maya Angelou in conversation with Oprah. This is hard-earned wisdom on the page, including a ballgame reference. “Don’t go thru life,” she says, “with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.”
And so I find the scrap of paper again this morning. I am getting ready to see a therapist. I have fallen apart again. I prepare to meet her for the first time and feel like a young girl packing for a sleepover. All the writings of late, all the chronicling, all the trying to answer the question, which DOG, which god, which DOG, which god do I feed? All the mourning pages, the writing down the bones I’ve logged to see how I might come to some kind of ceasefire with myself, to see somehow, someway I might find some inner cooperation with myself, all the words clamour to come with me.
I pick up the TYG page again. Maybe I should take this with me, take it as proof that I surrender, and as I pick it up and wonder which pile of papers to move it to this time, the silk runner that I have hanging on the back of a desk chair, you know the one, the one with the three, Celtic circles in the middle, the one with honey gold colours and the long, soft tassels at each end, the one I refold and re-drape nearly every time I sit and rise from this old, oak desk, the desk my mother helped her late husband buy when he ventured he would set sail with her all those years ago, the husband she still thinks is waiting for her at home, is still worried about her, maybe a little lost without her, just like her daughter, this long line of hard lessons to learn to know how to maybe treat ourselves gently … you know the silk runner that hangs folded on the back of the chair …
I’m wandering with the scrap of paper and then, just as if the breeze of me approaching is enough to set revolutions into the street, the silk releases its bent draping, it flutters, unravels, unfolds and, in seeming slow motion, it slips to the floor in that beautiful heap of gentleness into which I want to crawl.
Even in the fall it whispers, especially in the falling it whispers, “Treat yourself gently. You are forgiven. I hear you. You can take all the time you need.”