When I dropped my kids at school the other morning, I heard a father saying goodbye to his daughter. She had started to walk away, and he called her name. She turned, expectant, and he yelled after her, “Remember honey: conquer! I love you!”
She smiled and waved and ran into school, but I stopped dead in my tracks.
I love you.
His four words are simple perfection, together both the base and the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From this safe space of my love you will rise, a warrior.
An instant shot of both fierceness and protection, conquer-I-love-you has become my mantra, an anthem, my thread tethering me to the divine while the rest of me blows around this messy life like that inflatable dancing guy my kids shit themselves with excitement over when the McDonalds down the street had its grand opening.
And this life is REALLY messy right now. Not just mine—although definitely mine—but all of ours. We are a bit of a collective hot mess, half of the country hating the other and Angelina leaving Brad and global warming and rape culture and slut shaming and mansplaining and both soft and hard racism and people making bombs in their basements.
I stood in my kitchen the other night with my father, after my kids had misbehaved so badly during dinner that I had choked back tears and my husband had choked back rage and my father had just plain choked, and I said, “This is really hard, Dad. I’m kind of drowning.” He put his hand on my shoulder when he left and bent to kiss my cheek. I closed my eyes and in my head I let the hand say “conquer,” the kiss say “I love you.”
And I remembered that I was a warrior.