I don’t notice them anymore. Her tattoos, I mean. And when I do, it’s only in appreciation of how they make her just that much more badass and unique. She has stars and a moon on the side of her face framing her right eye. She has wings of what I imagine is the top of a dragonfly or butterfly peaking up from the cleavage on her chest.
Slender frame and wild hair. Not wild like unkempt but wild like you never know what to expect. Always a fun new cut and experimenting with colors. I try to picture her with long hair like I bet she wore it in her younger days but I can’t. Only the array of fun pixie cuts or spiky short hair or side swept bangs.
She’s a beautiful woman. Pretty eyes and a little nose that turns up just a little on the end. And when she smiles, it lights up her whole face. There’s a passion to her that cannot be missed. You see the intelligence behind her eyes and the fire within her zing through them. An energy of knowing exactly who she is and exactly who she is not. Those eyes see more than you realize and she isn’t afraid to tell you about it. I’ve seen her alight with joy and I’ve seen her attack with righteous anger. I’ve been on both sides of that and do not regret either. I admire all of this about her.
She’s got the style of a rocker hippie. I just made that up so don’t go googling it. It just seems fitting. She often wears all black, combat boots, and an eclectic tee with some crazy design on it. Or she’s in a flowy skirt and willowy top that calls to my inner flower child. She likes to dig in the dirt, drive big jeeps, feel fresh air on her skin. She is a seeker of adventure. She likes to put on music and paint designs on her face and put glitter on her skin. She is a seeker of fluid peacefulness. She is artsy. She is free. She notices things like feng shui and auras and how the stars align with the moon. She notices things like if you’re breaking inside but unable to voice it. She has a heart of gold.
She carries herself in the way that women do when they’ve endured incredible amounts of heartache but have overcome it. A quiet strength that cannot be questioned nor torn from her. She has been forged from struggle and tears and bravery and hell. She is forged from the fires but no longer smells of smoke. She has turned it into compassion and hope and power. I want to be just like her when I grow up.
I met her when I was nothing but a shell of skin and bones and shattered innards. I did not trust her. I was angry that I was expected to cross her threshold weekly. I did not belong. That is the funny thing about life. Sometimes the places we despise the most and fight against the hardest are the places we were meant to be. I was defiant and confused and against her. This did not phase her in the least. I balked at her words and expectations and truths. She gave back tough love, no nonsense, and facts. She did this no matter how many times I questioned them. No matter how many times I asked her to repeat them. Or many times when I didn’t even ask. She painstakingly would scoop up the pieces of her words I was constantly trying to discard or make sense of and press them back into me. Patiently. Piece by piece.
And over time, this woman not only earned my trust but also my respect. In a world that had told me I was nothing, she told me I was something. In a society that says I should lower my eyes and cower with shame, she taught me I could be resilient and shine brightly. In a government that labeled me without any thought to my humanness, she reminded me that there was still a life to be lived. When I cried, she listened and validated my tears. When I raged, she heard me and encouraged my emotions. When I’d come to her riddled with the bullets of the wars I am fighting, she’d give me permission to close my eyes with weariness and rest but remind me to get up to fight another day when my eyes opened. When I no longer had words, she would hand me hers without any expectations of me except to use them for good.
I’d be dead without this woman. Dramatic? Yes. Dramatic in the best way possible. Dramatic in the form of absolute truth. I was on a path of losing my life either at the hands of my monster or at the loss of myself. If my breathing didn’t stop and my abused body wasn’t laid to rest, I would have lived within the coffin of my own skin with no voice or mind of my own. She saved me.
I no longer see her regularly but I know that should I need her, she’d be there. I know that should I need her words of wisdom or her look of “get it together” or smile of pride in me, she’d make space for me. And really, so much of her lives within me. I do not have to hear her for I often already know what she would say. I’m so lucky to have her.
Last night, I got to sit with her. I got to listen to other women tell her what she has meant to them. I got to see her realize the effect she has on so many more than just myself. I kept looking around that room and thinking, “I am so grateful to be here”. And if you knew how I’d started out in that room, you’d know that is the most preposterous thing to think. But I felt blessed that my journey of darkness had directed me straight to her. To hear how she had impacted life after life after life. To see her take it all in and realize that we do not tell her enough.
So here I am, telling her. Let me pour my strength that I have found back into you. Let me gift you with the voice I have found because of you. Let me stand in the gaps and hold you up for once because I’m so very capable of that now. Because of you.
Thank you for taking your heartache and turning it into love. Thank you for taking your monsters and turning them into lessons. Thank you for taking your story and your loss and your tears and your sorrow and your terror and building a woman that literally saves lives. Thank you for choosing a profession that takes the life out of you but hopefully breathes it back in when you least expect it. Thank you for your vulnerability. For your humanness. For your honesty. For your fearlessness.
If I could only say one word, I’d choose brave. She is bravery.
Thank you for saving me.