There was a time I didn’t answer the door.
Once, when I was pregnant with Bee, an acquaintance I’d known from church asked if she could bring dinner over after the baby was born. Do you like Greek? she’d asked.
(I love Greek.)
But then, the baby was born and the visitors descended and the emotions were wild and when Bee was maybe two weeks old, a knock.
I had been nursing in the bedroom and Bee had fallen asleep. I was peeling off another one of those Lansinoh-greased nipple shields and was trying so hard not to move her, not to disturb the restless sleeper, and I had been crying because it hurt, because everything hurt, and how could something so light in your arms feel so heavy?
Ken peeked his head into the bedroom. Your friend’s here, he said. Can you come out?
I could not.
On my front stoop stood a loving woman cradling a picnic basket with handmade Greek wraps, with tzatziki sauce, with San Pellegrino, with a three layer chocolate cake plus a quiche (made from her own free range chicken eggs) for the next day.
And here I am, surveying my soaked bathrobe, my leaky boobs, my dirty hair, my tired soul. Here I am, letting my embarrassment get in the way of my gratitude. Of connection.
Ken answered the door that night, thanked her for the both of us. He’s good at this, at the receiving. He’s not one to turn down a friendly face, or a gyro.
And it’s just that I often wonder if we’re too busy painting these portraits of perfection – online and off – that we can’t handle smudging our masterpiece of self-reliance. We don’t want to tarnish our name. God forbid someone finds out we haven’t got this ship under control, you know what I mean?
God forbid we answer the door with leaky boobs?
A few months ago, I saw that same acquaintance at the grocery and stopped to say hello. We caught up on the things you catch up on when in the cereal aisle – her teenage son’s first driving test, the letting go, Bee’s first ballet class, the letting go.
And I asked her if I could apologize for something.
Remember when you dropped off that incredible Greek food? I began.
She laughed, as the best people do. And she forgave me. And she was comforted by the truth.
It was kind of nice to see a mom being human, she said. It was kind of nice to see I wasn’t the only one who had a rough time adjusting, who needed time, who didn’t answer the door wearing eyeliner and lip gloss, freshly showered and back in her pre-pregnancy Madewells.
It was kind of nice, she had said.
We talk often about the truth, that it sets us free. That by confessing to the truth, the burden of a lie will be lifted from our shoulders, that we’ll be released from our own prison of deceit, of perfection, of saving face.
But I’m no longer convinced it’s that simple.
The “us” means everyone, doesn’t it?
The truth-teller and the recipient. The giver and the receiver. Both of us.
All of us.
Sometimes, telling the truth releases us from our own prison.
But other times, telling the truth releases another person from their prison. Sometimes, offering a window to your soul provides just enough clarity, just enough glass, for someone to see their own reflection.
I sometimes wonder what had happened if I’d answered the door. If I’d have let this acquaintance into my home and asked her to stay, asked her to come into this mess, asked her to grab a fork, to pass the cake, to tell me everything she knew about newborns and breast pumps, about post-partum and sadness.
I missed out on her wisdom that evening.
I hadn’t yet set myself free.
Last week, it is me on the other side of the door. It is me with the picnic basket (paper bag) of Greek wraps (burritos) and homemade tzatziki (Chipotle guac).
My friend answers the door in a bathrobe, the familiar tears, the familiar hair, the familiar doubt, the familiar confession – I’m so sorry; I’m a mess.
It’s kind of nice, I say, as I walk in, unload the food, refill her water, pass the forks.
Neither of us were hungry, not really, but we ate in abundance.
It had tasted like freedom.