Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rejected Gifts

Republished from April 2008. As I continue to review posts from my old blog to see if they still echo my heart I came across this one. It seems especially timely given a discussion that I had earlier today. I debate with myself on whether or not is is ok to publish it. Will it cause pain to someone I once held dear? I see a painting, heart spread on canvas. It is painted by my friend. I delight that she has found the expression of her own inner voice. I wish that I could know this person she has grown into. And I decide to publish this because we are not the same people today that we were then. I decide to publish this for all the women holding on to our polished masks. I decide to publish this because I realize that I am not blameless either, that far too often I reduce my friends to a label, a demographic, an extension of their external circumstances. I publish this because the two most precious, beautiful and fragile gifts that we can give another are the gifts of trusting them with who we really are and accepting the gift of who they are, with no expectations and no labels.

A number of years ago when I was a recent college graduate I was dirt poor. Not an uncommon state for a recent graduate. I had some close friends who were, to put it mildly, significantly NOT dirt poor. If they wanted it, they bought it.
When Christmas time came they invited me to spend the day with them. This of course raised the dilemma of what to get someone as a gift when you are poor and anything you can afford they already have ten of. And so I did something I had never risked before, I decided to give them something of myself. I found a beautiful little journal for a few dollars and on the inside I wrote a message to them. And then I filled it with my best poetry. I labored over that book, selecting just the right poems, adding inscriptions about what they meant to me. It was a labor of love (and I was not a bad poet).


Christmas Day. They gave me some lovely gifts, things that I could never have afforded to buy on my own. And then I gave them my gift, handing them my heart wrapped in green paper with a gold bow on top. They unwrapped it, looked at the cover and then laid it aside. To the best of my knowledge they never opened it. They never saw that what I was giving them wasn't just paper, it was my heart, it was vulnerability, it was trust. I stopped writing for years.

It took me ten more years and a lot of hurts to realize that our views of friendship were different.They didn't want my heart. They didn't want to know who I really was. They never looked beyond the cover to see the person inside, the person with hopes and dreams of her own. I was a part of their life but sometimes now I wonder if they were ever part of mine.

People will do that. It's inevitable. Offer them your heart, your trust, be vulnerable and some of them will reject it. Some of them will never even dare to crack the cover to see if what is inside is worth reading more about. But this is the important part, the part that I am slowly beginning to learn. It isn't about me, it's about them. They are the ones who lose out on the beauty that each of us carries inside, the poetry that makes up our life. They lose out on our insights, they lose out on being part of watching hopes and dreams blossom and grow in our hearts. And they lose out on what we have to offer to them.

I spent a lot of years after that gift was rejected trying to figure out how to be accepted, how to be the gift that they wanted. I never could be and slowly I began to realize that I didn't want to be. I wanted to be the book of beautiful poetry, not the useful tool. I wanted to stir the heart, not sweep the floors. And the more I asserted myself, the less I saw of them.

Rejection happens. It hurts, but it happens. You will hand someone the vulnerable part of yourself and they will toss it aside unopened, or they will open it and then mock it. Sometimes they will trample it on the ground. This is life.
"And the day came when the risk it took to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom."     Anais Nin

I'm learning to risk. I blog not because people read it, but because it's my heart. I let it be silenced all those years ago and now I'm learning to speak again. It isn't easy, it's vulnerable. But it feels good to finally find my voice again.

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