Napkin Rings


[Image from @KushaAlagband]

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I recently read a fantastic post by one of my favorite writers, Candid Kay. It was a reflection on a legitimate fear and problem. It made me reflect on something that has been on my mind, all weekend. My own fears.

You see, people do the oddest things. We all have our own hopes and dreams. We also come from our own experiences, which color us in one way or another– whether we like it or not.

I consider myself a strong woman. I like adventure; I have survived adversity (by the grace of God and my amazing mother), and I can build or fix just about anything I set my mind to (thank you, ma!). I thank God, every day, that I wasn’t raised to be fearful or mousy. I have moxie.

For some things, I can be tenderly naïve, but for most, not so much. Skepticism is not exactly a bad thing in my profession. It’s actually pretty necessary. A friend of mine at work actually thinks I am not skeptical enough. He is even skeptical of our clients’ coffee cans. It’s a long story, but the point is that his years of being lied to have trained him to have a patient but hawk-like ability to spot lies and fraud from miles away. I am not quite there yet. I have also noticed that distrust can also bring jadedness with it.

Time shapes us. Just as my friend’s experience has made him the master skeptic, I have realized more and more that my own experiences have shaped how I approach certain relationships.

Relationships are so hard. Dealing with people is not easy. We are each like our own little country. Sometimes, countries go to war. Sometimes, countries form alliances. Sometimes, you meet a rare person who doesn’t just have a country inside, he or she has a universe to share.

I heard a woman say the other day that she was freaking out because she was unprepared for something. She said it gave her anxiety because  she was used to having everything under control. “I protect myself,” she said.

We all do. We have our defense mechanisms that kick in, like a good immune system, when a threat is registered. Like a country under threat, we protect our walls, our borders, where things flow– anywhere there is an opening.

In recent days, there have been moments  where I felt betrayed, used, and I felt like something important was slipping through my fingers. It was an all too familiar, sour feeling that came upon me like acid reflux, with a screeching, “I am baaacckkk.”

I was on the train having a conversation, when threats started firing their darts. I clung on tight to the cold metal poll and shut my eyes. I was mortified. I was sad. I was confused. It felt like all my walls were crumbling. It was like a call for war raged on inside. It was time to fortify the walls, my head seemed to scream. It was like an alarm went off inside and my pride, with fear and anxiety started making an assembly line to stack bricks.

Then, I made a decision. HALT. Today, I wouldn’t be fortifying the wall(s). My hands started to let go of the poll, and it was as if bricks were falling from my hands. I was terrified, but weight was falling away.

I would not fortify the wall. “It’s going to be okay.” I told myself. “You are not going to shut down. You are not going to close any doors. Don’t shut down.” There I was, trying to talk myself into trusting, openness, vulnerability.

I am a private person, believe it or not. I don’t share many deeply personal things with people. Not many have access to the world that is the world of Gabby. That’s my right. But still, those around me, who want to foster a deeper relationship, need to realize that certain things, words and actions trigger my distrust, and I am trying so hard to keep this shop open, even through blizzards.

I am trying. And it’s hard to let people in, when some of the people you have trusted in the past have been self-centered and disappointing. And I am trying, not in hopes that I won’t be disappointed; I mean, let’s be real, here. We are humans. We always disappoint (some more than others). It’s about opening up, despite the flaws and knowing that disappointment may come, and you won’t have a shield. Instead, the sword will cut through you. It’s an effort to be human, even if that means bleeding.

On my long walks through NYC’s richest residents’ sidewalks, I see the beautiful houses and see their libraries through their glassy windows; I see so much beauty. There is one particular house that has a stunning dining room. Beautiful cloth napkins folded with elegant napkin rings caught my attention once. I sometimes chuckle to myself about the absurdity of some of the unnecessary things a well-established household contains. And I mention these things, not because I want the material things (I don’t need a big house or a giant library). But, I mention these things because they are a home. A world built with others, out of love.  I want the napkin ring household, someday. A person doesn’t get the napkin ring household by hiding or shutting down. Only a brave person, brave enough to love, gets to build a home with a drawer for the napkin rings. 

I want to be that brave. Brave enough to be open and honest, even when another decides to leave me there, standing like a fool with what seems like a one-sided story. I want to be that brave. Some stories and situations won’t have happy resolutions. Still, I am just going to put on my eyeliner and lipstick, curl my hair, and remove the lint off of my suit. I am going to do this for me, and because I have faith that, someday, the woman I see in the mirror every day will set a table for more than just one, and there will be napkin rings.

I will be honest. Right now, I am still telling the pride-fear-anxiety assembly line to drop the bricks. We won’t be rebuilding. I am absolutely terrified. I keep telling myself, “It will be okay. Just think: napkin rings.”

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

2 thoughts on “Napkin Rings

  1. I am honored to be mentioned in this great post! Thank you:). You can have the napkin ring household if I get the one with the library:). A book nerd’s dream!

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