The Knock

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?

Knock knock.

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.

Set free.

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.

  • Erin, your words are always a delight for my soul. Thank you for sharing this – I’ve never thought of it this way – that telling the truth will set others free as well as us. I needed to hear it and I am thankful that you are willing to write and share your truth. It sets my heart free. You are a blessing.

    • Oh Greer (first of all, I love that name!) — thank you for your kindness! I appreciate your encouragement so much!

  • Erin,

    You seriously are one of the best writers. Whenever I read your blog posts, my heart feels so full and happy. Every. Single. Time. I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am that you are willing to share your words on the internet for all to read. This post is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. By the way, I saw your book is on preorder on Amazon! Anxiously awaiting over here :)

    • Oh Jackie — thank you so MUCH for your kind words!!!! I feel so grateful to have you guys as a community; thank you. And thank you for the kind book words – it’s such a surreal thing! Can’t wait for you to read it. :)

  • Goodness, this made me cry. Just this morning as I was driving to work I was asking myself if I’m really ready to take on a new relationship, to let someone see all the messy parts of me. It’s scary, but it’s also so freeing. Thanks for reminding me of that! xoxoxoxo

  • Spot on. So true, so hard to indeed show your imperfections, let go. Soooo relieved too that I’m done with the baby-stuff. Héhé.

  • As always, reading what you write is one of the highlights of my day. In our “styled” social world of perfection it is good to know at the core some of us are still human. And that’s OK.

  • This is so beautiful Erin, it brought tears to my eyes. I try to live like this- real, simple and authentic. Just today I was writing in my journal wondering if there is something wrong with me for wanting to have all things in my life simplified and minimized- my hair,my home, my yard… As we approach being empty nesters in the next few years, my husband and I have made a lot of these changes and it feels right and good. I just wonder if it seems odd from the outside looking in?
    Thank you for your words today. They helped! ?

    • Oh I get it, Julie! I’m so happy your changes are feeling right and good — what beautiful progress to make!!! Keep up the good work. :)

  • You are a beautiful friend. Having truth received is becoming almost as good as pie. To be loved as you are. Beautifully said.

  • My heart is always so full reading your posts. And every time I finish I think, “gosh I love her… and her thoughts… and her writing.” Inspiring for everyone, in all stages of life. Give that little bee a kiss for me!

  • These words were so lovely to read, and ring so much truth into our own lives. I think I’m getting better at letting people in when things are messy, instead of pushing them away because of the fear they won’t think I’m “perfect”. Perfect isn’t real anyways, right?

  • Someone knocked on my door today. I didn’t answer. Because I was lying in bed after a nap and I wasn’t wearing pants and I knew that by the time I got dressed and to the door, there’d be no one there (recent health issues mean that I move very slowly these days).

    But I have to admit, I was also relieved that I didn’t have to let someone see me as I am right now, see my house as it is. The imperfection, the not knowing what’s going on.

    Much to think about here. Next time, I’ll try to move a little faster. Just in case it’s a friend.

    • Oh I can completely relate, Barb – what a beautiful perspective to share with me – thank you!

  • From a fellow Erin – your eloquent words and TRUTH blasted me back to those early newborn days (my “baby” turns 2 this weekend, gah) and brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the absolute weight of it all from that feather-light being in my arms…for seemingly all hours of the day. Beautifully written and a wonderful reminder to not place a veneer on our lives but to let the truth shine through. Just beautiful.

    • Oh man, those newborn days were crazy, yes? And thank you for your kind encouragement!!! :)

  • Erin, you seem to always write about exactly what my heart needs to hear. Thank you.

    I have struggled with shame for as long as I can remember. So that no one would know how lonely I am I pretend to others that I have more going on socially than is true. Having done lots of work on improving my life via therapy, excercise, mindfulness, I fully agree with you that a big factor in embracing and learning to love yourself is to tell the truth, lonely weekends, leaky breasts and all!
    Thank you so much for your beautifully written piece. I can’t wait to read your book.

    • Oh Frances, thank you! I can absolutely relate as I’ve lived through seasons of this as well. Keep up the good and worthy work!

  • I am worst at answering the door. I can’t hide my face. Sometimes my friedns are asking me if i was expecting them, or not.

  • This made me cry. Thinking of those days almost 13 years ago when my son was a newborn and I was a mess. No family, no friends close by and wondering when I could shower or sleep again. There are new challenges with a teenager, but at least I get to sleep and shower when I want :)

  • I really appreciate this post. I ran into our neighbors a few nights ago. They were pushing a stroller with their brand new baby. I don’t really know them well, but I instantly recognized the tight, polite smiles and the tired eyes when I cooed over the baby. I almost said something beyond that nice things we say about babies – something more about how hard this can be, because I’ve been there. I didn’t, because I don’t know them well, and I didn’t want to barge in on their space.

    I think I’ll make them a dinner and walk it down to them. I’ve been there, and it’s so, so hard. I never opened the door either, when I was there, but I wish I had. It would have helped, I think.

    • Kristin, what a beautiful perspective to remember how hard it was and then offer a helping hand. I remember when dinner felt like the weightiest decision and it took what felt like all my energy to open the fridge, so goodness, what a blessing you’ll be!!!

  • Thank you for this. So well said and written so beautifully.

    My kids are 19,21 and 25. It seems like yesterday that I couldn’t open the door.

    I have a new prison I hide behind. Panic attacks keep my doors closed now. I don’t answer the door anymore. This is probably the remnants of post partum depression.

    Either way.. I thank you for this post. And putting my thoughts and feelings into words.


    • Erin, I’ve absolutely had experience with panic attacks and can totally relate. Sending love your way.

  • I love this. I’m too tired from work-wife-mommying to say much other than my youngest is 7 snd this still resonates and brought tears to my eyes. Lovely.

  • I’m reading your post while on the way to a friend. I’ve been feeling tired and messy and out of control and seriously doubted whether to go. But my friend is going through a difficult time as well and I realized that our vulnerability might actually help connect to each other. That it might make it easier to share our actual feelings. Reading your post just confirmed that. I’m continuing my journey, not looking forward to a fun-filled afternoon, but to (re-)connecting to a dear friend.

    • Oh Saskia – what a beautiful thing to read! I love hearing this – thank you for sharing it with me. I hope your time is fruitful today. :)

  • Your thoughts resonate with me on such a deep level. Thank you for putting it all out there. I wish I had read such words when I was going through post partum depression and everything that comes along with that. All of us need to be able to step out just as we are, no pressure. Perfection is a myth and us moms, especially just need to ‘answer the door just as we are’. Keep up the good work and I wish I could meet you in person one day.

    • Oh Jehanara – you are so kind! Thank you for your support and encouragement – I so appreciate you leaving such kind words!

  • This is just perfect and so true… And actually how I met one of my best “mom friends” ;) When I had my first daughter, I tried so hard to be so put together and perfect (which was, of course, exhausting), but the day I was wild eyed and a mess was the day that my lovely and now very good friend stopped me to offer words of encouragement and camaraderie. Thank you, as always, for your honesty and the excellent reminder to let people experience our truth :)

  • Erin, I just found your blog through another blog I read and this is the first post I read. Even though I am not a mother yet I can totally relate. I am also working on my way out of my own prison but also on how to react when someone opens up in front of me, how to support them, how to encourage them to be comfortable to do so again anytime.
    Erin, you write really beautifully and I’m adding your blog to my rss feed reader ;)

    • Thank you Katka – I so so appreciate you sharing your perspective, and also the encouragement!!!

  • are you kidding me? :) found this post/blog via inhonorofdesign and your post made me laugh, cry, and smile. You are amazing! Thank you for this post!

  • I just stumbled on your blog. I think it’s my new favorite thing. The line about the reflection of the glass is a beautiful metaphor.

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