Today as we travelled back after my second vaccine we stopped at the sweet shop. The sweet Muslim man that owns it was there. He was away for a long while leaning his son holding the fort.
He has been there since my girl was at little school.
Originally from Bolton he is what for me is the perfect version of a really gentle soul.
Always friendly, always kind, always remembers who you are, always remembers what you buy.
A real genuineness to his way and a real care in the questions he asked.
Always checks in on my girl whenever I go in there on my own.
Often not there because he hasn’t been well as the pressure of life and work got to him and he just disappeared for a long while.
Getting little updates from his son who must have felt the affection for his dad.
Just a lovely man.
It has been nice to see him on the odd occasion back behind the counter even though he has lost some of his sparkle. A real tiredness. But when I go in he always makes an extra effort in being chatty and warm.
I told him how much I missed seeing him when he wasn’t there and would always look in if I passed to see if he was there.
I don’t know him beyond our chats in the shop and the things he has shared about his family but I have a genuine care for him despite the fact that our lives don’t cross beyond the sweet shop.
He hasn’t seen my girl for ages until today.
He couldn’t believe how old she was now.
She looks so young. You would never know that she was 19.
She still looks like a girl. A very fragile girl right now who who feels very lost and doesn’t know how to be the gentle and wonderful and beautiful girl in the wider world.
Feeling it all deeply inside in all quiet gentleness.
When we look at each other we recognise each other.
Sitting in the forest sharing thoughts and stories.
I told her about my Nan who was another truly quiet and gentle soul.
Always looked beautiful in pink against her comfy trousers and running shoes.
Loved watching the teletubbies which always made me smile, cleaning my mums skirting boards whenever she came. Loved Christmas with the family, loved going to the boozer on a Saturday afternoon with me and my mum for ham egg and chips. The same boozer that would always have fights outside in the night.
I remember her sitting next to her when we all went to the pub one night at a pub near my mums with my brothers and my sister too. They had a disco going on. She was sitting right next to the speaker. My mum asked if It was too loud for her but she didn’t care at all. She was as happy as Larry just watching all the laughs and holding my hand. She would laugh when anyone asked something that she couldn’t hear and then I would repeat it to her in her ear.
Always friendly and polite to anyone.
But behind all of that she was so strong. This little person who was so unassuming and quiet had such a grit to her.
No one could tell her what to do. She would listen and then go do it
In her own way.
When I used to go to her to put in her eye drops she would always tell me that I was such a good girl inside my beautiful shell.
I loved the care I felt in gently placing the eyedrops in her eyes and then giving her a cuddle when they were all done.
A simple shared experience of young and old and feeling her proudness in me being her grand daughter.
The man in the sweet shop chatted to my girl like he did when she was a kid buying some sweets. She told him what she is up to now.
Talking about finishing her first year at uni but not mentioning that she might not go back or all the things that she is trying to deal with at the moment in all her frailty.
They laughed together with such kindness and warmth on both sides.
Two very gentle souls.
When she came out she mentioned that he seemed so sad and wondered what was happening for him.
It is true he is sad. I spoke to his son who works in there with him now.
He explained that he had left for a while because he was struggling in life. It had worn him down.
This beautiful gentle warm and kind man had got beaten down by all of life’s challenges.
As I’m sitting here working thinking about this I find myself wondering why life feels so difficult for gentle souls.
That being a gentle soul can leave you feeling very alone in this world.
I see it such a lot.
I guess it’s why there is the phrase if you can’t beat em join em.
But rarely do those gentle souls choose to join em.
Sometimes feeling alone and sad than try to become what feels unnatural.
When I lay under that tree last night feeling sad and alone it hurt. As quietly behind my glasses I felt the tears I had been holding release themselves where no one could see them.
But I also felt like me.
In its purest and most sensitive version.
As though my Nan was putting eyedrops in my eyes.
Feeling all the beauty that surrounded me in that quiet and natural place and not having to try to be a tougher version.
I don’t like the tougher version.
I don’t want to be that.
And I don’t have to be when it’s just me.
I’m sure the tougher version would make life on the surface feel so much easier and better.
Would make me more successful and admired. But inside it would make me feel like a fake.
Because the fact is that I do feel everything. I do care and I do love.
Perhaps to others that makes me appear weak and stupid.
But despite how much it often hurts and how that hurt can make me react in ways I don’t wish to be or feel proud of I’m still glad I’m made the way I am.
It’s certainly not perfect, it’s certainly emotional and makes me irrational, but in the end it’s me.
My little sign in the bathroom says
“The bravest thing you can ever do is just to be yourself”.
And today I feel proud in returning to being me. A quiet and gentle soul ❤️