Dear Nice Girl:
You know who you are.
You're the one who helps the elderly couple struggling to carry their luggage up the stairs.
You're the girl who calls after a truck full of strangers to give them the book that flew out the back. (Maybe it was important to someone.) Your boyfriend locks his eyes on yours, shakes his head and says, "Nobody does that." But you do.
On the plane, you pick the fallen peanut package off the floor and place it gingerly on the tray table so the passenger sitting next to you -- a sleeping soldier -- can eat them when she wakes.
You're the one who tidies up the dishes on your table at the restaurant to make it easier for the server.
You try to make it easier for everyone.
Pull forward at the drive-through to put the change in your wallet so the car behind you doesn't have to wait a fraction of a second longer.
Always check behind you and around you to see how you can move out of another person's way ... never dreaming of making someone get out of yours. (Maybe you should.)
Didn't conform at school and have one clique. You fluttered between all groups, getting along with the cool kids, the smart kids, the nerds, the gangsters, the jocks -- everyone.
There's simplicity in the way you love.
Peeling back façades, gently lifting off masks others wear is your specialty. You peek behind and say, "Ah! There you are!"
You keep secrets. Nice Girls are Professional Secret Keepers. You safely carry stories of lost pregnancies, abortions, the steel barrel shoved in his mouth and betrayals measured by the number of kisses down another woman's spine.
You're good at keeping secrets... but not at keeping love.
You attract men with war and conflict on the soles of their feet. You recognize complex Achilles-aches and provide a place of centered calm; but his feet are too tired and too wounded to carry you. His war too bloody.
For years, you help and support conflicted men, hurt men, men in crisis, men in transition feel grounded. They say you saved them.
You even get some thank-yous. The Nice Girl carries them in a pearl box, knowing gratitude matters.
You think this makes you special, loved, different -- almost powerful -- to be The One who penetrates him, who sees his potential, his spirit... even when he does not; but it's not your job to heal his wounds.
Eventually, he wants a backpack and no possessions. A divorce. Or he wants what you can't offer him: his own children and a clean slate. Or he moves away to focus on his education... he can't have you and focus on dreams.
When he asks you to let him go, you gently bless him, and blow him away to freedom.
This is the pattern. It begins to feel like continuous rejection, a cyclical sacrifice of self. You wonder what's wrong with you.
Look: Not all people are nice.
Some betray you. Don't keep their promises or show up for you when you need arms around you ... because they're too deep in their own hurt (all while you, Nice Girl, are empathetic about their pain and try to help them through it, even when they were the cause of yours).
The generosity you give to others you don't give to yourself.
They push the boundaries of hurt... because they can. Because out of kindness (and perhaps, sometimes, fear), you've let them.
You learn that "You're one of the nicest, sweetest people I've ever known," comes with a slap-down, a "but."
- But he tells you not to fall in love with him.
He loves you...
but doesn't choose you.
There are some who, at worst, know how to turn your compassion inside out.
They set fire to your self-worth and rain ashes on you.
You'll burn, yes; but you'll burn brightly and the moon will smile at you from afar, knowing you are the fire.
Ashes will fertilize the soil and you will grow again.
Ashes are story kindling. Stories that alight.
What looks like destruction is rebirth.
See, not everyone wants tranquility. He might like the steel cut of a knife or the desert sting of wind. He might like edgy storms.
And you know how to weather storms...
You see the front coming and unlike most -- who retreat -- you go straight out. You see how far you can go. The air shifts. The rains come. You smile and brace for those winds and let them rip through your hair. You want to spread your arms out as wide as the tumultuous ocean lets you, embrace it all and scream, "BRING IT!"
It's in those storms that you feel the hot, raw, visceral energy piercing through you. It brews deep in your soul.
Oh ... there's a wild strength within you.
And you want more.
It's time to harness that energy and make a choice: Live out the ache of old patterns or create ones that honor you.
Listen to the whispers of your heart. They've been there all along, inviting you to generously devote time to yourself, Dear One.
Live in devotion to yourself until you realize that you are the Love you seek.
Surround yourself with those who see your gifts of sensitivity and empathy as just that: Gifts. Know this for yourself.
Know there's beauty in disappointment: It leads you to finally recognize what it is you do want.
When you're ready, build yourself a luminescent, storm-torn door. A door that humbly stands in the beauty of its imperfections, right in front of your golden meadow heart.
Only you can open it.
There will be those who meet you there.
Watch on the horizon for the storm chasers. The ones that show up, courageous.
They drive hours just to have coffee and see your face.
He notices little things: the tiny mole above the knuckle on your index finger and the one on your heel; that you curl your toes and screw your mouth to the side when you're nervous. He'll kiss your crooked mouth still until he knows, you know, that you are loved.
They love in quantities the galaxies hold and go so high, they grab handfuls of stars for when you have nights that go dark.
Their soul clicks and their arms spark when they see you.
They show up when you're on your knees.
They won't burn you... and you'll have stars.
Keep your palms open to the sky, Nice Girl.
Build your door. Carve beauty all over it.
Let them come to you.
And remember, always, who you are.
This is an edited version of the previously published Letter to the Nice Girls (2013) on the author's website.