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My Mother Gave Me Permission

This memory exists in sharp detail: Nine-year-old me, lying on my bed in a sweltering attic bedroom with sun-yellow walls and a nubby, multicolored rug. I'm listening to the radio: country music of course. I don't recall the name of the song that was playing, just that it was incredibly sad. A story of lost love, heartbreak, and loneliness.  I felt all of it. I felt the devastation and the overwhelming grief. The pain of loving and losing. The longing in the singer's voice. At 9 years old, years away from truly understanding a broken heart, that song made me deeply, massively sad. I dissolved into tears, weeping little girl tears over grown-up heartbreak, tears of recognition that the world--and specific people within it-could stomp on my heart. I remember drenching my pillow and feeling bewildered. Where was this strong reaction coming from? I knew I was too little to really get it, but my heart went on that journey anyway. And once I started, I couldn't stop: the wail

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