I walked into an out of the way, idyllic farm orchard store with my baby girl. I was looking for berries, they didn’t have them, but they did have cherries, kale and oddly a lot of fabric swatches.

An older woman with high 1980s hair sprayed bangs and two teenage girls were running the shop.

The one girl behind the register looked about 18. She made no eye contact and seemed uncomfortable.

I plopped my 7 month old daughter down on the counter to pay, and smiled at her. She said my daughter was cute without looking at us. And as she turned to her right to tear the receipt off the machine, I saw a series of horizontal scars underneath her right wrist.

A beautiful young girl working the counter at her family’s orchard. Cutting herself.

When she turned back, I smiled again and caught direct into her brown eyes. 

I wanted to hug her, to squeeze her with me and my daughter. To tell her that she is loved no matter what. To tell her that it was okay to scream, to cry, to feel, not to be happy, to want to be seen, to be heard.

And at the same time I imagined how relieving it must feel to systematically release that energy through opening the flesh in a precise and surgical manner. To control the pressure that bounds one up entirely; invisible yet pounding, isolating, trapping, guilty pressure that screams you aren’t strong enough and you’re also wrong for feeling it.

I saw myself as her mother, telling her it was okay. All of it. And her feeling relief, not from cutting, but through the release of someone accepting you, someone looking at you in the eyes directly without shame, seeing you and smiling real big. No conditions, no critiques, no questions, no buts. Just an okayness with all that’s hard.