In February, one day after my 30th birthday, I received a package in the mail. I opened it to find a small wooden box, small but sturdy, with a chunky, lego-like heart magnetically affixed to its detachable lid. Underneath the lid was a digital screen with instructions on how to configure this “love box,” which I would soon come to learn is an ethereal portal to capture love notes, buzzing with energetic anticipation as new messages wait to be opened.
After a *difficult* year having extinguished the last of my spiritual reserves, splitting from a love I thought would last a lifetime, and slowly, helplessly watching myself wither into a vacuous casing of my former self, family and friends rallied to show up for me in ways that I neither felt deserving of, able to reciprocate, nor previously imagined possible. From my hard-ass mom offering her most tender shoulder to cry on and attentive ears to listen as I recited the same frustrated incantations over and over again, to Dean who created boundless space to hold me during grief, lifelessness, and utter despair, continuously brining me back to myself after years of slow decay, to my brothers, who gave me faith in myself, in the life I’m pursuing, and hope for a beautiful future, to my dad, who infused in me the strength, tenderness, and care that we are capable of, to my dearest friends, Lisa, Kasey, Nick, Haley, Tessy, Carolyn, Andrea, Louie, who buoyed me when I was sinking with strong and understanding hearts, an abundance of warmth and laughter, and a feeling of home, to the Dream Maker’s circle, a group of 16 women with whom I explored the depths of my being and reimagined what a thoughtful, unapologetic, “big” existence could be, to new community who has shown me the grace and power of friendship, and of what is possible when we care for each other, even when it isn’t easy or convenient.
So it came as little surprise, but with an ever melting heart, that I received a literal love box at my door for a momentous year—momentous for bringing me to my 30th year, and for seeing me through my darkest hour. What came as a bigger surprise though, was to learn that it had been sent by my dad (after rejecting my mom’s appraisal of it as “just a gimmick” no less)—my dad, an upbeat and supportive but altogether unemotional person, who would prefer to shoot the shit about work and fitness regimens than feelings and sentimental ruminations.
Over the past month, I’ve received dozens of love notes, the overwhelming majority from my mom, who sends me heart littered love notes, uplifting greetings, and empowering mantras, among a myriad of other loving digital mementos. Scattered between these notes have been messages from Anne, Neal, Michael, and, of course, my dad, who, unlike all other authors, sends his notes anonymously, on a black background, bookended by a series of red hearts that fill the borderless screen.
In more recent weeks, the frequency of these notes, in particular from my parents, has waned. This is perhaps because I’ve been traveling but perhaps more realistically, I had thought, because the novelty had worn off. But today, as I frantically hurried to wind down the work day with a frenzy of messages and to-do lists, I heard my little box buzz in urgent commotion. I hastily ripped off the lid, expecting to read a sweet scribble overlaying an endearingly kitschy background, before getting back to work. What I saw instead, I instantly recognized as my dad’s calling card—no author’s name, black background, white text, adorned by red hearts. The message read “Hi Sweetie! I’m listening to a podcast the dream hunter. I realized that through your life, you have been your own dream maker to be where you are! Keep dreaming and dream big! And you are our dream! ❤ ❤ ❤ [ ❤ ad infinitum]”
My relationship with my dad has been far from perfect throughout my life, often times far from intimate, and certainly complicated by life’s messiness, and subject to its mistakes and lessons. Yet, or perhaps for this reason, this message hit me deep in the gut, for its beauty, its simplicity, and its recognition. So many women, myself included, suffer the violence of men in their lives, whether it be at their physical hands, or the more silent cruelty of their thoughtlessness, carelessness, selfishness, ego, inability to express emotion in healthy ways, if at all, and so on. To say that the same has not been true of my dad, albeit in what feels like a far removed past, would be an omission of certain realities, as would saying that it hasn’t complicated my relationship to myself, to men, and to being in partnership with them. And so to read these words is to mend wounds accumulated over years of self-doubt suffered at the hands of indignity after indignity. It is to feel relief and protection from the constant onslaught that the world, including those I’ve most foolishly cherished over myself, would have me believe is my lunacy, my misstep, my deficiency. It is to feel solid ground under my feet, so that I may stand tall in my conviction of character and self, without judgement or reprieve. It is to be nurtured and honored, truly, by the love of a man who means so much to me, after facing the brutality of those about whom I had believed the same.
2022 has been the year of the divine. Manifesting my deepest intentions, finding community in women who possess and radiate the undeniably divine, and rebuilding a life that finally feels like my own. I cannot believe in the coincidence that, despite speaking very little with my dad about this journey, he writes about being a dream maker (the literal name of the women’s group with whom I continue to work), and about dreaming “big,” a mantra repeated in this same group. I cannot believe in the coincidence that he writes this to me after months of committing these very ideals to my life—unbeknownst to him— sometimes faltering, but all the more proud. In a year that continues to surprise me, I’m overcome by a deep feeling of awe and alignment, one that’s supported by the big love around me, engulfing me as it pushes me forward.
To more big love in 2022 and beyond,