A letter from Kerry, a mother in recovery, to her young daughter can provide inspiration and hope for us all.
My Dear Girl,
Today we went to the playground. For weeks you had been working on overcoming your fear of falling, and now you wanted to show me how high you could climb. I held my breath and watched the space between us grow as you climbed higher and higher. And when you reached the top, sunlight spilled across your face and the sound of your laughter filled the air. You did it.
As we were leaving the park you reached for my hand—it still amazes me how such a small gesture can have such an enormous impact on the heart. At that moment, I realized what every parent realizes at some point after a child comes into this world and changes their life forever: I won’t always be there to hold your hand. I won’t always be there to make sure you find your way home. And the truth is that someday you will get lost. Your struggle might not be an addiction like it was for me. Maybe it will be illness, or the loss of a loved one, or the loss of yourself. I lost myself for a while. I need you to know that I fought like hell to find my way home. I know you will do the same, because you are stronger than you realize, and life is going to be an amazing teacher. I have something to offer that is better than my hand to hold: it’s my faith in you to send you off into this world. But just in case, here are a few things that I learned along the way.
Your own journey will be unique to you
Know this right now: life is going to take you to some unexpected destinations—spaces and places that weren’t on your original map. That’s okay, because you don’t need the map. You never did. Inside yourself, you hold a compass that has existed from the very beginning of your being. It is your greatest navigator in life. All you have to do is get really quiet and sit with yourself long enough to know the way to go.
Whichever way you go, do not take the shortcut. Even if you are afraid. Even everything hurts. Even if the burden feels too heavy. If you take the shortcut, you will miss the lessons you were meant to learn along the way. I can’t tell you what those lessons will be. That’s for you to figure out. But I can tell you that it won’t be the challenges that will define who you are—it’s how you choose to carry them that will shape your life. I hope yours is a life built on a foundation of honesty and courage. So pick up whatever you are carrying and walk.
Cherish the love you find
While you are on your way, friends and family will try to help you. Let them. They will ask you how you are feeling. Tell them. And tell them honestly. Let them sit with you through the pain and the tears. These are the people who love you. They don’t care about the car you drive or what it says on your business card. These are the people who have looked into your eyes and seen the goodness in your soul, and they love you. Let them love you. And if they want to bring you a casserole, let them bring you a casserole, because sometimes casseroles mean love.
As others are loving you, please try to love yourself. I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care where you’ve been. You deserve to be loved. Just. As. You. Are. Maybe you’ll reach a point where it’s been a while since you’ve looked in the mirror and loved the person you see staring back at you. If so, I suggest starting with small acts of self-compassion. Nourish your body with good food and your spirit with good friends. Remember to shower. Rest when you are tired from remembering to do all these things.
Look to the world and people around you
Practice daily gratitude. Make a list and read it every day. Gratitude will help you see the simple miracles of everyday living. So go find one. If you need help, go outside and tilt your head back to the sky. Close your eyes. Let the sun warm your face. Feel the breeze on your skin.
Help others. The fastest way for you to find yourself is to help others who are lost. Ask them honestly about how they are doing, and then stop talking and listen. Sit with them through their pain and tears, knowing that sometimes the greatest act of kindness is just being a witness. Make them a casserole.
Then one day you’ll wake up feeling different. Feeling familiar but somehow changed. Stronger. You’ll find yourself laughing and realize you haven’t heard that sound in a long time. You’ll feel the sunlight when it spills across your face. You’ll catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror and think, I remember her. And you’ll know that you are home. Home was never a place on a map; it was a place inside of you. A place where you are always loved. A place where you are always safe. A place where you belong just as you are. And whether I am living here on earth, or someplace in your heart, home is where I’ll waiting for you always.