The Best Compliment I’ve Ever Received 

A woman I know from church once told me that when she is reading the Book of Mormon every time she comes across a person who played a peripheral role yet influenced others with his/her actions, she thinks of me and says to herself: Veena would notice this person.

I cried when she told me that. I’m crying now thinking about it.

Almost without exception it is the only compliment that has ever meant anything to me. And it wasn’t even a compliment. It was a friend expressing gratitude for some probably outspoken and overbearing opinions I shared at church. I hold it in mind now when my ability to do or think anything good has deteriorated.

I’ve been sick for a while. I get it. I should take it easy. Not expect so much of myself. But you know how I can tell when I’ve cut myself too much slack? When I’m unhappy. I’ve been taking it easy and not expecting myself to be a perfectly loving human being, but honestly my daughter would have been better off with a piece of drywall for a mother than me for the past three months. People tell me I’m exaggerating. Those people overestimate my need for blind comfort and underestimate my capacity for truth. I took Zoe on a mother-daughter vacation for the express purpose of some loving time for her that she sorely needs. And how did we spend the first morning of that vacation? Zoe pinned to floor, arms locked behind, screaming, “MOMMY, THAT HURTS ME!” while I raked through her hair with a comb for twenty minutes.

The anger that I unleashed on her unsuspecting bed head was my low point as a mother. I know that if that is the worst it’s gotten and it’s the only moment that comes to mind, overall, I’m doing pretty well.

I’ve just never been satisfied with “pretty well”– especially when the emotional health of a child depends on it.

And so I remind myself of that statement: “Veena would notice this person.” I let myself be in awe of my capacity for genuine, gentle concern in the eyes of someone else. That’s who I am. That who I want to be and will continue to be. Morning sickness can go screw itself. Or more eloquently: fuck that shit.

No one else can know what I’m capable of. Only I can know that it’s this: more. I can’t become a perfect mother but I can excuse myself before transforming into Snow White’s evil step-mother. No pressure. No fear. Just assurance and a desire for more good, more love, more tenderness. I’m a woman, damnit. That’s what these trials have molded me into, and I can handle this and I can do it a bit more gracefully.

Because I’m the person who notices. I’m the person who cares.

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