Suck it up, buttercup was a well used phrase by a friend of mine. Without fail, every time she used it, it surprised me. Coming from such a generous, empathetic, warm woman, it sounded shockingly harsh. With those four words I would suspiciously wonder if she had a dark side that I had never seen. I recognize the hilarity in that. It’s such a gentle instruction. And yet when she said it, it made me worry about the day she would use it on me. Oh, she used the phrase in passing, during a meal we ate or something. ‘Is there any balsamic dressing? No? Shoot.’ Suck it up, buttercup. Nervous smile. That’s about as dangerous as it got.
I’ve lost track of all the things I suck up – either willingly or begrudgingly. There are so many. Keeping a list is not an act of woe, but rather a triumphant war cry of my goddamn accomplishments. I get through because I suck it up, like a buttercup should, and I am learning how to see it as winning, not whining.
It wasn’t always like this. Quite the contrary.
I spent a decent portion of my adult life trying to fight this battle without protective gear. Decked out in honesty and vulnerability I forged my way through enemy territory and wondered why every altercation left me wounded. I wanted to fight with my soul bare, staying polite, beautiful and giving. No wonder my depletion levels got so low I came to a sputtering stop. No wonder my wounds are lasting; scar tissue for days. My depletion left me in a paralyzed shock and as I lay in wait for somebody to come and carry my unarmed body away to safety, I realized the hard and simple truth. There is a lot to suck up.
When I realized this, I spent another healthy portion of my adult life mourning. Then pouting. Vines grew over top of me, earth weighed me down. Spiritual decomposition at it’s best. It’s only been recently, inspired by buttercups that I had the brilliant idea to change my fighting tactics. Maybe I could protect myself in this life battle. Maybe I could stop baring and start conserving. Maybe. Battered and bruised, laying there in my beautiful nightgown, heart open, I heard her whisper in my ear.
Ripping myself free of the overgrowth has been awful. With each torn root, I wonder how it is that I let this drag on for so long; continuing to believe that my bareness was an effective weapon. Digging myself up feels as though I’m making a tremendous mess for others, and I’m worried that I’m disturbing their garden. My nightgown is torn to shit. But things always gets worse before they get better. I read that once. The surprising news is that my amour is thick. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, and I have urges to shuck it off, crawl back into my cotton nightgown, and run out into the night and assault my loved ones with my tender self again. But I’m practicing life in this new armour and am learning that some positions offer less chaffing. There are some moments that I even forget I’m wearing protective life gear. Baby steps.
Because there is a lot of sucking up to do. Everyday I catch myself, and instead of it sanding away layers of my vulnerability, I slap it onto my armour and watch my protective layers grow. I need this radical shift in my life for a decent period of time. While I am not turning my heart-felt vulnerability off, I am removing it from plain sight. You need an access code now. That’s right, buttercup.
My friend passed away before I had the chance to experience receiving her most frightening, gentle ass kicking. Instead, probably more true to her intention, I hear her every day, carrying her words with me and seeing her animated hand gestures and shoulder shrugs as she uses this most complex metaphor to encourage my growth and survival.