I began as a body, and then became a doll.

Soft infant skin gave way and hardened to plastic. Glass eyes looked on, frozen but aware. My lips sealed shut, ears remained open, limbs susceptible to manipulation. And then one day I went from baby doll to Barbie, glossing myself over to fit better. I knew no sense of self beyond what was painted onto me, and then what was painted over that, and then what was painted over that…

Grief can be so harrowing. Grief is what hardened me to plastic. Grief is what hardened everyone around me. So now instead of becoming a person, I was becoming what I thought would make life easier, a mercurial mask that I didn’t realize slowly poisoned me over time. Then, after two decades of drowning, someone finally grabbed my hand and pulled. As I took my first breath, my now-softened eyes sought my savior. Her eyes were mine. 

She was a different kind of doll. She was the formidable, beautiful outer shell of a nesting doll, decorated to her taste and defiant as could be. She tucked me safely away inside her and I got to know all the many layers that had been forming within, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet because I’d been so busy being shiny and new while feeling tainted, corrupted, and broken. We envelop each other. We hold each other tight and fortify our outermost bastion with all the love and encouragement we can. She is brave and unstoppable.

I am brave and unstoppable.

All at once, I am the baby inside, each unique evolution thereafter, and the great protector on the outside. This is my design. This is my miracle. Sometimes, I forget that we are all here, all working to heal and push forward and learn. At times it feels as though my tiniest, most fragile self is ejected from this cocoon of cocoons. She feels raw and exposed. Nothing she does is ever good enough; she feels unworthy of the minimal space she takes up; she feels ashamed. She was incubated in not-enoughness. She feels that not-enoughness like a second skin, keeping her subservient and placating, sore and sorrowful. It makes her see and feel the not-enoughness of the world around her. Everything is steeped in morose hues of never-ending pain. She gets stuck in this headspace and spurns everyone around her: don’t waste your time on me, she says. I’m not worth it. 

But then her collection of sentinels finds her anew. They swaddle her once more in the words she’s always needed, the words she needed when she was newborn plastic, the words she needed when she was trying to occupy totally unreasonable dimensions, the words she needs everyday when the not-enoughness creeps in. We are a family of mismatched but magical vessels. We are many; we are one.

I am Many, I am One.

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