I found her sleeping, wedged peacefully between two filing cabinets. Her face told a different story though, of a little girl who wanted a bed to sleep in, with pillows surrounding her on every side.
I’m used to hearing her voice on a daily basis. I’m used to smiling inward when she speaks.
The absence of her voice is what prompted me to go looking for her.
And Find Her. Slumped. Two File Cabinets. Abandoned. Worn Out.
I approach the corner of the room, kicking debris from under my feet. Moving a few chairs out of the way. Pushing things to the side. Just to sit down next to her.
Her eyes open as I kneel to the floor.
I say nothing. I am just so happy to see her.
“You left me here,” she says, opening her eyes as if she had never been sleeping but rather, waiting for me to rescue her. “I am not even supposed to be here but you stranded me. You left me, Hannah.”
The Moment. The Moment when guilt kidnaps coherent sentences. The Moment when another person’s accusations are more right than anything you swear you’ve ever told yourself.
“How long did it take for you to realize I was missing?”
“Not long. I stopped hearing from you. I am used to our long and winding conversations. I miss them.”
“I don’t know when is the last we have had one, Hannah. I think I have been sitting her much longer than you know. Not that you have had much time to look around and see.”
“But how did you get here? I didn’t put you here,” I ask, looking around. The room is cluttered. Inspirational photographs and old tattered newspaper articles line the walls, overshadowed and dulled by the mess of stuff that makes my brain look more like a garage sale than an actual place to do my thinking.
“I belong in your heart, Hannah. That is where I have always lived.” She begins to pick herself up off the floor, dusting off the party dress and stepping over me.
“Yes, I know. That is why I asked, how did you get in here?”
“You put me in here. Little by little you packed me up and sent me to live in your head, surrounded by all these things & people & goals that you don’t even care about.”
“I did that?”
“Yes, you did that. It wasn’t long ago that you were listening to me, that you and I were talking nearly every day. I would wake up energized, ready to whisper new ideas into your being. I was always so happy to see you run with my ideas and make them a reality. For you to live out your dreams.”
“We are a good team.”
“Were. We were a good team.” She is not letting me forget the split so easily. “Do I look like I even belong here? Do I look happy to be here?” Her tone is rightfully accusatory, advanced for a second grader.
She looks like a little child lost on “Bring your Daughter to Work Day.” An eight-year-old girl holding a tape recorder who stumbled off the path towards her birthday party and ended up in an old, cramped office space.
“I didn’t mean to put you in here. Honestly, I don’t even know how that works.”
“It happens everyday. Other inner children told me it would just be a matter of time before you stopped listening to me, like everyone else. I thought you were different but I could see it coming from miles away. I may only be eight, but I am pretty smart, Hannah.”
“It starts one day when you get a real look at the world. How hard it is. How miserable some people can be inside of it. And you start to forget things. You start to forget our conversations and you swap them out for Grown-Up Stuff. Logistics. Loans. Taxes. All the things that you think you should be talking about, instead of talking to me.”
“Before long, you are no longer filling your heart with inspirational conversations and words of wisdom, the kind of stuff you used to feed me on.
And this is what happens: Your mind begins to be cluttered, instead of your heart. More and More Into Your Mind. Less and Less Into Your Heart. And you run out of room. Your mind, and all its Worries and Fears, need a place to stay. And so, often without realizing it, you clear out your heart. You make space in your heart for more worries and more fears. And all the things that once mattered in your heart, they get squashed. They lose their footing. Just last week I had to sit cramped in between your Loan Worries and your Spiritual Angst. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that was?”
“That stuff isn’t in my heart though. You are in my heart. My dreams are in my heart.” I want to prove this eight-year-old version of myself wrong. She may be small, but I know she is smarter when it comes to wisdom of the wise.
“The second you stop relying on your dreams, on the people you care about, and you start listening to this Foolish World instead, then your heart & your mind begin Swapping. Trading. The other day your Heart passed me off to your Mind. Do you have any idea how that felt? To go from being your guide to being some cast away? To go from sleeping under a canopy bed, cushioned by our dreams, to a cold floor next to a filing cabinet full of Insecurities.”
“I’m sorry.” The two weakest words in the world. I know that they are.
“I am just hurt, Hannah.” Looking into her eyes, I realize that even with the fourteen year distance between us, our eyes have stayed the same. Brown. Green. Yellow. A mess of Golden Sunshine around the pupil. Always confusing people, making them too afraid to say the word Hazel. “I always thought that you would prove people wrong. That you would hold tight to your dreams of being a writer, of being an editor, of creating and inspiring and making people feel alive and validated. I was excited to see that happen. To see that come to be.”
“But it won’t happen if you start living in this world so much, if you become bogged down by all that you have always refused to believe in. The tea parties that I attended in your heart were always so good. I sat next to your mother, and your grandma, Celia & Carleigh & Corey. And I chatted with your Ambition and your Love for Others. And I have never been happier. There are no tea parties in your head, Hannah. Just sad little coffee breaks with Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Old, Cranky, Obese & Negative.”
“I let you down, I know that. I get that. But its not so easy to avoid getting swept up in this world and the money to be made and the fortune to have.”
“It is not that you won’t have money or fortune, Hannah. It’s just that it was never your job to go worrying about it. To abandon me, and my voice, to listen to a drawn out, impersonal voice recording of the Worry of this World.”
“It is so hard not to listen though.”
“Then close your ears and just listen to me. I swear I won’t let you down. Have I ever? You are thinking too much about oysters these days, Hannah. Oysters and their Way of Life. You were never made to be an oyster. You serve the world much better as a pearl. And you have to believe in that, because it is your calling in life. Beyond Money. Fame. Recognition. Some people are blessed to come in this world for the sole purpose of taking the oysters and helping them to realize their potential as pearls. Don’t take that blessing for granted.”
Tears fill my eyes as her small freckled hand reaches out to touch my wrist. Her fingers dance along the pearls that line up neatly in a row. My own pearls of wisdom.
“Can I come home now? It’s cold in your mind, cold & cluttered and I don’t have my yellow sweater to wear to keep me warm. I want to come home. Back to your heart. We can start over again, there is still time.”
I want nothing more than to bring her home again. To listen to her voice inside of my heart, an eight-year-old who knew all the beauty in dreaming and living with a heart wide open. In her cowboy boots. In her party dress. She was always the belle of the ball when it came to my heart. My Passion adored her. My Ambition blushed when she would show up. My Dreams ran in a frenzy to hug her first upon walking through the door. The Shirley Temple of My Heart. The Hostess of My Dreams.
“Yes, we can go home.”
Her hand falls into mine and I wrap my fingers tightly, so as to make sure that I never let her go again.
Together we step around the clutter and the littered documents of Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Back to her tea party with the people that love her, believe in her and want to see her take a big sip from a Cup Full of Aspiration, the World as her Sweetener, her Potential as her Creamer.