I was sitting in a counseling session not too long ago and after sharing some information, I heard words I had never heard anyone use when describing me. I heard "she is tender". The statement sat with me for a second and I realized after hearing the explanation that followed, they were right. I am tender.
As a result of what I have been through as a child and young teenager, life has made me tender. I never knew that nor did I ever think that word could be used to describe a person, much less to describe me. I have heard time and again how strong I am after sharing the same information, hearing the word tender took me by surprise.
Today I can say I am tender and not think of a piece of chicken or beef being pounded and made thin. I can say it and think of all the jokes someone has made that left me feeling inadequate. I can hear it and think of every tear I shed when I felt I had let someone down. I can hear it and think of every time I shutdown in the heat of a conversation because I felt like a child in trouble again. I can hear it and think of every moment of silence I sat in with thoughts running through my mind of how I messed up and made someone mad or uncomfortable. I can hear it and think of me, Jasmine. I am tender.
This is not something negative as I initially thought it was. Being tender is not a bad thing nor is it the beginning of a sentence followed by a comma telling me I need to change and stop being tender. It is my reality. A response to some of the trauma I have experienced, lingering in me. This is a fact I must accept. I am tender.
I don't always know when someone is joking. I can take things (and myself) too seriously. I am hard on myself. I can be quick to judge and slow to trust. I can put on my best smile and ask "how can I please you" if it means I don't make you upset, but miss out on something I may want to do that is different than you want to do but for the sake of "keeping the peace" I will smile, nod my head and say "yes, let's do it". I can be difficult. Never really expounding on much yet silently thinking it all. I can be afraid. Scared that if I get close I will lose someone again, lose again. I can be easily hurt. The slightest bit of pressure can cut me bone deep and leave me too wounded to continue. I am tender.
I am learning to be okay with being tender. I am learning to love myself in the tender moments, when words seem more harmful than anything physical. When memories of what once was find themselves replaying in the mouths and actions of those around me who were not there years ago. I am tender.
And that is okay.