“Are you sure you don’t want to go to Homecoming buddy?”
I sat on my usual barstool on the corner of the kitchen island at my laptop. My senior baby’s in the kitchen telling me about something that happened at school the week I was gone at my writing workshop.
“No, I don’t want to go Mom, it’s not my thing.”
“Is Brett going? What about just going with friends?”
“Yeah, Brett has a girlfriend. He’s going.”
“No girlfriends in the picture bud?”
“No Mom, I don’t like to talk to people. I have five friends.”
“Five friends is a lot!” I smile. But he isn’t smiling. “Everyone else knows everyone in the school Mom.”
I pressed, knowing the risk I took. “Will there be a senior prom?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah and I probably won’t go to that either,” he said turning around and walking back down the hall to his room while I was still talking. I quickly rose from my stool and followed him. This was my chance.
I’m sad. He has what I have. Or had anyway. And I’m feeing the desperate ache in my chest like I did when I was in high school. I couldn’t talk to people. I couldn’t look people in the eye. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin it pained me to interact.
“Can we talk for a few more minutes Bud?” I ask nervously starting to clean up his room as I enter.
“Okay,” he says, pulling his hands away from his keyboard and sliding his gaming headphones down around his neck.
He’s just like his dad, shit everywhere, I think, and I spend a moment procrastinating; “You know, when your room’s clean and there’s space, it’s an energy thing. You’ll actually feel better.” “Mmm hmm,” he responds politely, making me think he was listening.
“Are these clean?” I ask, moving the basket of laundry from the floor, to my nose, to his bed and starting to fold. And then I go for it:
“Listen, there’s a trick to talking to people; to it feeling better. I was the same as you in high school. Talking to people felt like a fucking torture chamber,” I said, knowing swearing would help. He looked up with some interest as I continued the Mom lecture.
“I was exactly like you. I was an athlete and that was okay for a while. My friends were my soccer team, like yours were in baseball,” I tried to convince him.
“I had one best friend,” I divulged, which got him to raise his eyebrows at me. “One, buddy!” “If you have five, you’re doing pretty good!”
“The thing is, you’re not the only one who feels like this. You have to remember that when you’re in a crowd of strangers. All you have to do is ask them questions. People love talking about themselves,” I offered. I continued with a little role play, to show him how to ask questions and which ones to ask.
“You can talk to people Bud. You’re smart and handsome and really funny,” I said, watching his eyes move up to mine again when I finished my compliment.
“It’s not like you sit there and say nothing when someone asks you a question,” I reminded him. “You know how to talk to people!” I repeated with a little too much mom enthusiasm.
“When someone is there and says, ‘Hey!’ you say ‘Hey’ back. If they ask you a question, you answer it. So the trick is to ask people questions and break the ice that way.” I waited for his buy-in. He was silent, so I continued.
“The next time you’re in one of your smaller classes at school, look around. There are people more shy and uncomfortable than you, promise. Try asking them a stupid, easy question, even if you already know the answer, and watch them come to life.”
I explained how sometimes you just need someone to see you. To notice you. To make an effort to talk to you, and everything becomes so much easier. I asked him to try to get over it being all about him and approach someone else who might need more help than him.
I’m not sure if my talk sunk in, but I was really glad I decided to try. I placed another one of his shirts carefully on the pile and told myself, at least you have the courage to try, remembering back to the sickening pain I felt when I was his age and how alone I felt in it.
“Does this all make sense?” I asked, frustrated by his silence, something I’ve never gotten used to, always hoping one day he’d break out with all of his vulnerable feelings, confiding in me and healing in the same moment.
“Yeah,” he nodded, barely audible, turning his face back toward his big, black desk and double monitors.
And God, did I speak from experience. What I really wanted to say in that moment was, “Dude, don’t spend your entire life (like me) trying to find your self-worth, only to realize it was up to you this whole time. Don’t spend your whole life figuring out you matter, that you’re amazing and intelligent and funny and the world needs your magic.”
I did talk to him about self-esteem and worth. I snuck it in there as gently as I could. I tried to get him to see it doesn’t have to be all about him; that he can reach out through his own pain and fear and help someone else worse off.
I finished folding the basket of laundry. “I love you Bud,” I said turning to leave. “I love you too,” he replied.
I shut the door behind me and went back to my spot at the island, leaning my elbows on the cool, brown granite and staring at the login screen. There’s got to be a way to help him, I thought. What’s all this healing work for if I can’t help my own son with the problem that’s plagued me my entire life? What’s this all for, if not for that?
My mind continued with desperate problem-solving chatter mixed with a wiser voice that said, it’s okay, he’ll find his way.
I believed that voice.
You’re a badass for trying, the wise voice said next. I believed that voice too.
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Laura Di Franco, MPT is a holistic physical therapist, published author, poet, blogger and black belt with over two decades of experience in healing. Her programs combine the transformational tools of body awareness and therapeutic writing to help you learn the language of your intuition and gain the clarity you crave for your life and business. Laura’s enthusiasm is contagious. She’s the sherpa you’ve been looking for! Want a workshop that’ll give you practical powerful tools you can use to heal yourself today? Find them at www.BraveHealer.com And more free inspiration on my Facebook page HERE.