On this “who am I” journey, part of what I have to do is make peace with my past. I also have to define what I know about myself. Some basic truths.

Truth #1. I am tenderhearted.

I look away from animals dead on the side of the road. As a matter of fact, for a very long time, the only way I could even COPE with those animals on the side of the road was to close my eyes and picture their little animal soul rising up and trotting it’s way into Heaven.

When I get my feelings hurt, I perseverate on it. I replay the moment of hurt and let that burn or shame or embarrassment or “less than” wash over me again and again like an acid bath.

On a tv show, if someone is getting their feelings hurt, it makes me squirm.

When I dive into my genealogy and really look at what those women went through . . . when I really put myself in their place and imagine losing children and their husbands, I get teared up.

I avoid getting hurt – I don’t try new things, I won’t talk to people if I feel shy, I don’t risk love . . . sometimes I even expect to get hurt, I try to be invisible.

I feel a pang over “hurting mother earth” when I throw away a bunch of fast food trash or I don’t recycle.

When someone criticizes me and I feel that burn or shame or uncomfortableness, I shut down – If I am attacked, I will shut that person out. I will not read more from them, I will not take their calls. They are off the island. Their torch extinguished.

I sob over the words from friends. I take their pain and hold my piece of it, trying desperately to make their impossible hurt at least a tiny bit less.

I struggle to make myself vulnerable enough to love Alex with my whole heart, to go all in. He is FOUR and sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever totally fallen in love with him, if I love him as much as Scout does, if that’s why he likes Scout more than me . . . and my tender heart hurts for all of that. I read of nights up late with him, and I miss them and his need for mommy.

I’m self conscious of my boobs. My boobs that in no way hide in the crowd. I remember comments made by campers when I was in high school and had to wear a swimsuit and how ashamed I was of my freakshow body.

I have “heart friends” and I try to let them know I love them. When I am moved by the words they write, I want them to know that they matter to me. I try to feel that attitude of gratitude. I try to take care of them and appreciate them and love them and be a good friend to them. I hurt when I fuck it up.

I take care of those friends, I make it a priority to remember meaningful dates for them and take pride in letting them know I care. . . . and beat myself up when I forget or when I don’t get around to doing anything for them.

I don’t pay attention to every single “a-thon” or walk or pledge drive. I can’t wrap my heart around all the pain and need in the world. I don’t watch the news of Haiti or Alabama or starving children. I shut it out, because my heart can’t take it. I don’t help because I don’t want to feel the hurt.

I asked on facebook for examples of me being tenderhearted – friends said

Your email to me the night your dad passed away?

Dropping everything to come listen to me cry after me and Catherine had our accident when you were going to Drury 🙂

Um , talking to me on the phone for 2 hours a couple of falls ago when I texted you – “Mayday”.

It is very difficult for me . . . If not impossible . . . to hurt deeply. I go to numbing that strong feeling with a pill or a drink or deep breathing or avoidance or flat out running away . . . whatever I can do to avoid being alone in that painful space.

Truth #1. I am tenderhearted.