If you were sitting across from me right now, scanning my face for clues, you’d find shiny, blue glass and fire and a hazy phantom paint-by-number of unrealized potential.

With only the 1’s filled in…and not even all of those.

When I receive compliments and praise, my brain filters them like an assembly line because it can’t understand why someone would say things like you said. They get auto-sorted…little gloved hands reaching out to pluck them from the line and drop them in the right bucket: “Insincere”/”Pitying”/“Threatening”.

Because not a cell in my body recognizes myself in the picture you paint. Not one. There is no funnel for “True”.

And then I feel shame for allowing myself to consider I may someday be worthy of even a fraction of your professed admiration. Maybe I’ll never be a “Brilliant”…. But maybe I can be a“B”. It’s a beautiful, beguiling letter and I maybe can take ownership of the meaning. Maybe if I keep working and trying and learning and growing…maybe I could be a “B”.

The warm light of that thought shines its tiny pinhole dot on my floor for a microsecond before the reverberating hum of doubt vacuums it up like a tiny, tangible thing.

Why would a stranger give me such a precious thing?…nonetheless in the richest currency: words. The specter of the grief I’ll feel when you inevitably realize you were wrong looms like a funnel cloud. Swirling over my head, well-practiced and masterful, ready to reach down and suck me up whole, as if I never was at all.

You have given me so much to lose.

But now, as I write this response, I realize that your gift is far more than praise. Something about the rawness of your words liberated what would normally be the arduous process of figuring out what to say to position myself as appropriately appreciative on the spectrum from gushing to dismissive. I don’t have to decide which face to put on or what color with which to paint.

Somehow your comment is like snow…crisp and fresh, begging for footprints and angels.

And, just like that, the cumulous dread has been swallowed by blissful, blinding light. In this moment I am free to dance between these lines and simply “B”…and I cry from the lightness of your pardon.

I send my thank you, from a place that is so foreign and beautiful that I’m convinced I might be dreaming, for what you gave me today.

Your words will stay with me.

Mama, writer, lover, fighter — I wear my heart on my sleeve because my pants pockets are too small. www.ajkaywriter.com

Mama, writer, lover, fighter — I wear my heart on my sleeve because my pants pockets are too small. www.ajkaywriter.com