There’s this moment of adulthood where you really take a step back and just observe the workings of the relationships in your life. I’ve done that. A lot, lately. I’m in a new relationship, and it’s amazing. And every time something happens to add to the amazingness, there is one person that I want to tell: My Aunt Linda.
It’s sort of silly to me when I think about the amount of time that Linda has been in my life. In fact, I don’t really remember life without her. She married my uncle Greg when I was very young, and the only thing I remember about their wedding is that I wore a pink dress with puffy sleeves and my Uncle Jerry spun some girl over his head on the dance floor. Those were the important details.
Ever since that night, full of dancing and puffy sleeves, Linda has been in my life. Steady. Constant. Concerned in a good way. A helpful way. A caring way.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, on the cusp of a broken relationship, that my Aunt Linda and I really started getting close. She came into my life and spoke something to me that was so strong and so reaffirming. She told me, “Leah, you will be okay.”
That seems silly, doesn’t it? For someone to tell you something so simple and for it to totally transform your outlook? Especially something that we say constantly, dozens of times a week to strangers, toddlers throwing tantrums, people we work with, the random woman crying at the grocery store, the barista who keeps messing up the order…anyone, really. We are constantly telling people that it’s okay…that they’ll be okay.
It’s weird how much we need to hear this in our lives. Sometimes spoken softly, sometimes spoken with force behind it. The idea what we will be okay- that we can get through days that are confusing or overwhelming for our souls- seems foreign when we are right in the middle of it. Unattainable. “Okay” seems impossible when we are anything but okay.
But when it comes from a place of love- from another soul who celebrates yours in moments of grief and happiness- it sticks.
And this stuck with me.
My Aunt Linda is a powerful woman. She is smart. The sort of smart where I’m not still actually sure what she does at work, not because she’s isn’t a baller, but because my creatively-wired brain actually can’t grasp it.
She is determined. She is a big boss, cancer-survivor, get-things-done sort of woman who does it all while still being kind, honest, and invested in the lives of others. In the corporate world, heck, in the real world, that mixture is incredibly hard to find, if not non-existent.
And there she was, standing in front of me, telling me that I would be okay. Not as a brush off to get out of the conversation (I can be annoying when I whine, shocking, I know, because I’m so charming.), but because she honestly believed it. She knew that I could get through it. She knew that my mind could work through this and come out better than it was before.
I can be a tad on the dramatic side, and she knew it. She knew my brain and knew how to approach it. She paid attention. She took the time. She invested.
Sitting here now, I am thinking about all of the other moments where she spoke those words to me. And they weren’t just moments of pain. There were moments of “I might die from happiness!” and “I have spent 12 hours over analyzing this text.” (Rare. I hardly ever over analyze things…)
And even more moments. In hospitals and restaurants and family-get-together. In moments of despair and moments of complete overwhelming excitement where I thought I would burst. She always knew that I could wade through anything that life handed me- the good and the bad. She knew long before I did. And she made me believe.
Whatever the situation and whatever my emotions on it, she was there. Reminding me that I was fully capable of navigating it.
So today, on her birthday, I want to honor her by saying thank you. Thank you for seeing me in both my darkest and brightest moments and loving me equally. Thank you for seeing my future and never letting me settle for less than extraordinary. Thank you for believing with me in the moments that I didn’t believe, and celebrating with me in the moments that I was exploding with happiness.
You have taught me so much, but perhaps the greatest thing has been the lesson of love. You show it endlessly, without restraint. I am a better woman because of the woman that you are.
You aren’t just my aunt. You are my friend. And that is the greatest gift.