This is my daughter. On the shores of our vacation.

She is just beginning to truly swim. And while we were there she learned to lift her head to breathe without putting her feet down on the sand. Trusting her body to stay afloat.

The picture could also be a portrait of me. Because even though I am significantly older than my daughter, I am still a girl. And the lake held my body, too, as I learned. For the first time in my life  — to ski and dive.

And I could write paragraphs about how years of practice and hours of lessons are finally, finally coming together for her. How we never know the exact moment when body, mind, and determination will coalesce to propel us forward.

But I’m not going to.

And while pride always cometh before the fall, I am proud to say that I got up the on skis the very first time I tried. And I stayed up. Each time. {And then, of course, I fell.} But there was plenty of space between getting up and going back down for me to experience the rush of water beneath my feet. And so I could spend a paragraph or two on the importance of balance and tension, about observing what is ahead without fearing the upcoming swells.

But I’m not going to.

I could also write about learning how to dive. About leaning in, letting go. About allowing gravity to pull us under, and having faith for the return to the surface. The duality of finding power with grace {well, in my mind’s eye I was graceful}.

I’m not going to do that, either.

Because while the breathing, the skiing and the diving are all things Eleanor and I did, none of them would have happened without love. The unconditional love from others that allowed us to set aside fear and relax into the unknown.

So I am going to write about the love-ly people. The ones who encourage and celebrate us being exactly, just, well, us. The fireflies.

How do we find them? For they hide in all sorts of places. Family. Friends. Distant relations. Even sometimes in casual acquaintances.

I don’t think it’s about searching.  It isn’t about looking at all.

It’s about listening.

But it isn’t about listening for words. Or voices. It’s about listening to the in-between-ness.

In the middle of conversations, what do you hear? Is your mind racing with questions — what are they going to think? What are they going to do? Who are they going to tell? Will they judge me? Laugh at me? What if I fail? Make myself look like a fool? These are the crickets. Chirping too loudly in our heads. And that’s the love we can do without.

But when you are with someone, and in between the words you speak is stillness? When all you hear in the pauses is silence? Those are the sounds of unconditional love. When you aren’t concerned about how they interpret your looks or your weight or your laughter or your politics or your mind, you’ve found them. These are the fireflies. The people to keep.

That day on the lake I had a boat full of fireflies. People who love me no matter what. My brother. His wife. My husband. Both of our children. Alex talked me through the tactics of skiing. Erica broke down the elements of a dive. The children cheered and clapped with wild abandon. And my husband spoke steadying words of encouragement and calm.

Each one a firefly.

Tiny little beacons of love. Magic that means when we are with them, we believe in ourselves just a little bit more. Enough to try. To breathe, to dive.

And in return, who are we? Do we cricket our family and friends? Harshly critical with our eyes or our tone, sewing self-doubt? Or do we firefly? Popping up at serendipitous moments to shine?

How do we know? If you sit on the porch with your child this evening and listen, what sounds do you make? What does your child hear? Does light fill the air?

That is my daughter. On the shores of our vacation. Standing in a lake full of fireflies.

For whom will you shine? Keep me posted.

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