I see her

Sometimes I see her, wide eyed, eager, searching for someone to introduce herself to. Hand outstretched, smile beaming and blue eyes open, expecting and warm. She carries herself, ever-in-movement, as if everything around her is a ride in a theme park of thrills and she can’t wait to try each one, unable to be still for all the joy available to be had. She would always find a way to get lost, though was only rarely aware that she was so. To her, everything was an adventure. Lost was not a thing to fear, it was a place yet to explore.

I tilt my head a fraction lower, to the side, finding a smirk of memory at her sight – at my awareness of her.

More often, now, I see a changed version of her. One who has more patience, more restraint at her eagerness. Not a note of wariness, but hesitation at knowing that not all moments present the same opportunities for behavior. She is not wise, but becoming more wise with each experience. She thought she would have more figured out by now, yet finds that she can still be surprised by life, shocked by a perception she wasn’t expecting, realizing her once instant ability to read and relate to people, is a skill better used in careful, continued observation rather than immediate assessment.

She still offers extended hand, sincere smile, warm eyes. But she has learned to expect less of a returned enthusiasm. She has learned to surmise less and keep an open mind that others, like herself, are complicated creatures, on the brink of containing numerous emotions in lieu of a variety of situations. She still loves thrill rides and parks, yet she has come to understand that life has more than one kind of roller coaster. She still gets lost. Only sometimes does it bother her. But fear creeps in, in those moments of wayward – unpredictable and catching. She has become less sure of herself. Of her ability to be welcome in places that didn’t call for her.

I often wish I were the first girl again, more steadily, more oblivious to dark and suspicion.
I often wish I could hug the other girl, as much as is needed. To soothe her into knowing that abandon is a good way to live, and abandoned is something much, much different – something I cannot protect her always from, but that which does not hold power to define or confine her.

I would look her in those searching blue eyes, willing her to hold my gaze (something that hurts for her to do, always has, and a skill that shakes her still, though she tries to become better at it) until we can agree, until she believes, that she should not lower her open hands. She should not stop eagerly looking for people to know and to invite to know her.
Be open,” I will tell her. “Keep your feet steady, your walls lowered. You’re here. There are reasons.” We will remind one another that adventures are still everywhere. To be lost is to be given an opportunity at discovery. That beautiful game we once jumped at the chance to play.

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