“Me and John went to the store earlier today…”
“You mean, ‘John and I went to the store…’”
“Thanks again, Correcto-man. You little brat.”
I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. A bad habit as a child without much social awareness turned quickly into a nickname, and not in a nice way. I, however, had never expected what I had come to know as a hurtful name to be used by my Nana. How did she find out?
Shame from a Grandmother can go a long way. I started dropping the habit, slowly realizing that there were only a few times in life where it was ok to point out errors. The impulse never really went away though.
I was cooking with some friends, cutting zucchini while swapping stories from the week.
“Yeah, can you believe it? I found it for only twenty dollars!”
“You mean, ‘twenty Euro?”
Oh no. Wait. Come back! I didn’t mean for it to happen, it just slipped. Apologies come, and my friend just looks at me and shakes her head, but with a smile on her face. I hear my Grandmother’s words in my head, “Thanks again, Correcto-man,” but this time, the shame is mixed with humor, and I began to laugh. What a ridiculous nickname.
My friends look at me, waiting for me to explain why I’m laughing. I freeze.
There is nothing in the whole world like being known. Of the deepest cravings of the unnumbed heart, it ranks supreme in ways love is encountered. And yet, in the face of such love, fear rises, for if I let myself be known, I cannot guarantee my own safety. If I hand over knowledge of myself to another, they can use it to love me, but also to hurt me. Knowledge is powerful.
How knowledge has power, however, may be more up to me than I realize.
I’m frozen, trying to decide if I tell this story to my friends. There is hurt in these memories, and yet, I can see the humor of it too. To be known is to be loved. Yet, in the room is a guy with a genius wit. Words don’t fall lightly on him. It’s all material for a future joke, the potential to bring more joy into the world. It’s a gift, really… but one I’m not sure I’m ready for.
To be known is to be loved, and that’s worth a risk. I break my silence and tell the story. They laugh and I laugh and there’s no going back.
It’s not quite twenty-four hours before it indeed finds its way into a joke. It’s not malicious. It’s just funny. Hurt swells with my own laughter, and I have only enough emotional room to let one of them win the day. A quiet voice reminds me something:
To be known is to be loved.
That’s worth the risk.