Magic Night Cream, Magic Night Cream, Do Your Job, Do Your Job

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Last night, I put my five-year old Stella to bed.   Well, I snuck in and stole the best part from Rick, who had her in her jammies, teeth brushed and she was in her bed with book in hand, waiting for someone to read to her.  I crawled into her bed by her and read her a story.

I love, love, love doing this with Stella.  I regret not loving it with my older two, Carly and Lydia.  We should have separated them more during the bedtime routine so I could have had more of this one on one time with them.  But mostly we did it all together, which made it so much more exhausting and chaotic and filled with fighting and bickering.  By the end of the day I just didn’t have the energy to deal, much less enjoy bedtime.

But Stella gets the story alone.  And she is so squishy and fresh and funny, and I adore it.  She loves the ritual of the hour, and I do too.  I read to her, and then I say, “Stella….”  as if I am about to begin a great story or tell her a fantastic secret… and she will say, “I know what you are going to say!”  I act surprised.  “How can you possibly know?  You can’t know!”  And she giggles that giggle that makes the cells in my body reorganize themselves so they can be permanently attached to her warm belly and her staccato laugh.

“You are going to say, I ADORE you.”

“Whaaaaaat!?  How did you know?”

I usually smash my face into the side of her soft neck at this point.  I feel so full of the force of my love,I want to breathe her into my body again.

Then, we do magic night cream.

My girls hands, (especially in kindergarten),  become so dry in the winter they turn bright red and crack.  (I now realize  it is a hand-washing and drying issue.)  It’s awful.

I have a bottle of Aquaphor by her bed that I rub into her little hands, and we chant, “Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job…” a few times.  Just massaging her squishy hands, still chubby with the vestiges of toddlerhood just greases up the magic of the nighttime ritual.  Last night, I bent to kiss her cheek and she grabs my hair with her lubed up fists and says, “I have one more thing to tell you, mom.”

“What’s that?”  I lean in, her lips right in my ear, bracing for another sweet declaration of her love for me, and she says,

“Boca gum staaaaaaaah… bock, bock, bock bote bote…”

This is what she believes is the first line of the song  “Gangnum Style.”

Which brings on the giggles, and my heart bursts like an over-filled water balloon and I leave feeling like tomorrow, I can do this whole parenting gig all over again, just for the magic night cream, and that laugh.

I am holding tight to this right now, as I am desperately trying to remind myself to be present.  To ignore the phone, burning a hole in the butt pocket of my yoga pants.  To stop checking off the time I am with my kids the same way I check off my chore list.  To quit longing for that glass of wine and a good book, or a moment of peace devoid of Meghan Trainor on repeat and constant bickering.  To just Be in my body.  Be alive.  In the moment.  RIGHT NOW.   There are sensations.  And feelings.  And breathing in and out.  And those things must be noticed, if I am to live a full and meaningful life.  I am trying to wake up and BE.

It’s fucking hard.

So I did some searching, and realized that Stella’s magic night cream is my life line.  My anchor.  My one moment I can count on, where I am fully in my body.

PRESENT.

Right then, I am out of my mind.  I am in my fingertips, smoothing her chapped hands, feeling the dimples still in her knuckles and the meaty part of her thumbs as they connect to her palm, and I don’t need to tell her that I adore her, she knows because my love is a vibrating energy that is coating her, thick and protective.  It’s better than the magic night cream.

It is the invitation to be here, and nowhere else.

Magic night cream, magic night cream, do your job, do your job.

Turn Away From the Light…A Dark Invitation

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And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

-Pink Floyd-

I got bitch-slapped on Facebook last week.  I was in one of those on-going, soul draining never-gonna-go-anywhere heated discussions with someone I am FB friends with,  regarding LGBT rights.

—Deep Breath—

Every once in a while, I am deeply triggered by this whole equality thing, particularly when the perpetrators of righteous discrimination are centered in my cultural roots.  So I found myself upset and riled up. At the end of the evening, a stranger stepped in, and basically called me an agent of darkness.  She urged her friend to ignore any and all things that upset her, and to step out of the darkness (me) and only focus on the light.  It was a huge bitch-slap moment for me, and I thank her for it.  It stung, as those moments do, but it brought me right to awareness of why I felt so triggered.

And it has everything to do with the dark.

There has been many times of struggle in my life when my father has told me this beautiful metaphor.  He talks about how the Self is an ancient holy temple, filled with rooms.  Some have windows and sunlight, and we allow people to come into those places.   But inside each temple there are also windowless rooms, places that sit dark and locked up.  There is one room at the center, the inner most sanctuary, called “the holy of holies.” It is the center of the temple, and of Self, where we store our most secret and dark parts of who we are.  It takes courage to open the door to these dark places, shine a light inside, and find out what we have stored there.

I have always loved this metaphor, as it validates a deep yearning in me, and makes me feel brave.  Because I am a person who wants to look inside those places.  And see what is there, to name it, to own it.  It has been my personal quest, to become more aware, more conscious.  My drive to peer into the dark was emphasized enormously by becoming a mother, and leaving my religion.  I have been bravely opening those doors and peering inside, flashlight in hand, an act that directly defies the teaching to “only be in the light.”

What I have found there has been… unpleasant.  All my darkest thoughts.  My ugliest feelings.  Monstrous and powerful fears that I thought were gone, but were just tucked away in hiding.

The opening of those rooms has sent me deep into depression.  Riddled me with anxiety.  Caused terrible, tear-filled clashes with people I love most.

I am realizing now that this temple story has to change a bit.  I have been at war with my darkness. There are hard and unpleasant emotions stored there… jealousy, anger, selfishness, immaturity, bitterness, loathing, rage, unbelievable sadness.  No one wants to feel those.  No one wants to see those stored up in their innermost spaces.  Shining a light in there has made me feel tremendously ashamed and panicked to the point of blindness.

We are so conditioned to keep ourselves in the light. To be scared of the dark. To run from the “bad emotions” and deny they exist at all. In the culture I was raised in, this teaching is so powerful, people are encouraged to never read anything that opposes their point of view, or makes them feel uncomfortable.  To never allow someone to challenge their ideas or discuss things that bring fear or uncertainty.  There are good feelings, and bad feelings, and people are supposed to avoid those bad feelings.

AT ALL COSTS.

And the costs are untold.   We are denying ourselves.  We are cut off from who we really are.  The whole range of human emotions must be acknowledged in order to experience what we all long for as human beings… love and belonging and meaningful connection.  To ignore/deny/negate/make taboo all of our human emotions that are not joyful and uplifting is devastating.  Either we become so cut off from ourselves, we feel depressed and hollow, or we label every “dark” emotion as “bad” and become crippled with self-loathing and guilt for our humanness…. and judgmental of everything.

What I am starting to understand, is that I don’t need to shine a light in my dark places.  I need to open the door, step into the darkness, take a seat, and get to know it.  Welcome all of my Self to exist and be acknowledged.  When I enter these dark places, I now work to become fully present.  A terrifying endeavor after a lifetime of fighting against these unpleasant emotions.  I sit, and step into my body.  Draining my mind, which is constantly operating in the past or the future, and bring full awareness to my body.  Attention to the physical sensations forces me into the present moment.  I notice how frustration makes my throat throb, and anger makes me hands clench and my stomach burn.   I feel how shame makes my toes curl and my eyes close and my body collapse in on itself.  Rather than deny it or fight it, I just acknowledge that it is there, inside of me.  Manifesting in ways that I was  unconscious of before.  These dark emotions are asking for allowance.  The awareness gives it permission to be there, and I am finding that once permission is given, the intensity of the emotion dramatically drops, but it doesn’t disappear.

Following the recognition, comes a question.

“What do you need?”  

The idea that I should welcome these emotions has changed me.  I have been spinning and sinking in a deep swamp of self loathing, feeling that I only had two choices:

1. to completely deny the existence of the dark.

2. willfully explore the dark rooms, condemn the darkness as bad, and fight like hell.

There is another way.  Radical Self-Acceptance.  Which begins by understanding that those scary places have something to say.  When I give it a voice, and permission to exist, I am finding that there is not a good and bad, just wholeness.

A person.

As I begin to sit in my dark rooms in welcome rather than judgement, I realize the scope of this practice. As a mother of three girls…being capable of modeling self acceptance, showing them how to love themselves, to feel welcome in every room, embody all of the human parts, not just the light ones.  Their beauty lives in the dark places too.

There is a reason the innermost sanctuary, the holiest of holies, is a perfectly dark room.

The most sacred work is done in the dark.  The answers to the simple question,  “What do you need?”   are the real reasons we are here.

The Painful Distinction of Doing and Being

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*Image credit:  Gardner Edmunds

It’s December 17th today, I am sitting in my office (the Panera Bread location) and enjoying the high of just mailing the last of my christmas gifts.  It’s a short-lived high. My to do list, is still a thick, itchy, wool scarf… wrapped entirely too tightly around my neck.

I don’t have time to be writing this.  But, if you are a follower of mine, you might recognize that I seem to NEVER have time for this anymore.  And there, my dears, is a dilemma.  Because much to my dismay, I have a lot of complicated needs to keep me from diving into a pit of despair and self-flagellation.

Two most important: I must exercise regularly.  And I must write things…to download these emotions that pile up like the mountain of mail order catalogues that are swallowing my kitchen table.

The real thing I should be doing right NOW, is writing a paper.  A  six page reflective essay  relating to a book about development of the western mind since Zeus ruled the heavens. An essay, due today, on “the identification and interpretation of personal beliefs that influence the creation of meaning in your life.”

Can’t I just turn in a link to my blog instead?  It is ridiculous that this assignment has me hand-wringing, since I have thought of little else in my life over the last ten years.  In addition to grocery lists and christmas cards and the fact that I am still wearing toenail polish put on my toes in August, my brain is mostly occupied with huge, all-encompassing things like GOD.  And Guilt.  And Spirit.  And Shame.  And Worthiness.  And Judgement.  And Redemption.  And Soul-Crushing Inadequacy.

-Deep Breath-

Here is the thing, about my personal beliefs.  And how they affect my daily life…  This mess, that I need to neatly roll into a beautiful, personal, reflective, six page, double spaced essay:

First, an internal audit of my beliefs.  And, I find an overwhelming recognition that the toxic, corrosive, divisive, emotionally blackmailing, schizophrenic, mainstream religious cult that me and five generations of people I love have  been marinating in… is still offering me plentiful chances to learn forgiveness and acceptance and self compassion.

It has been ten years of really hard work, to unravel so much of the control the religious training had over my life.  Like a comically long and preposterous to do list, I have taken care of obvious ones, like wearing the kind of underwear I want to, and the not so obvious ones, like redefining my feelings about sex and morality. Throwing out the devastating metaphors of girls being a “licked cupcake” or “Already Chewed Gum” when they decide to become sexual beings has been a serious chore.

It has been almost ten years of liberation and excavation.  Now, I am free to have a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, wear a tank top, drop the F bomb, watch a rated R movie, buy a bag of apples on sunday or read a book about anything I wish.   And I can do those things without guilt!  I now know that strong families and sincere love and limitless joy and unfathomable generosity exist outside of mormon life.

I can watch clips like this one, and see men I was taught were infallible prophets to revere and to digest their words as God’s words, and finally hear the controlling patriarchal rhetoric and the dark stream of damage that runs through the doctrines and teachings of the faith I was born in, those things I had once taught and defended as Truth.  I have ferociously fought off ingrained belief that my only purpose in this life is to be a support for my husband, and bear children and be obedient to men who know better than I.  I have had to challenge myself to rethink what it means to love someone, what the difference is between faith and magic, how to draw appropriate boundaries for myself and my children.

Much of the DOING is DONE.  There is not much left to DO, when it comes to creating concrete distance between myself and the LDS religion.  So imagine the rude awakening I have had, when I came to the end of that to do list and unwrapped that itchy scarf, ready to breathe freely and be done with the Deprogram the Mormonism Program, and find that the really painful damage, the deepest, darkest wounds… were underneath the all that doing.  The unwrapping has revealed what is left…. raw and dangerous emotion.

Over the past ten years, I have also been busy discovering and declaring what it is I believe.  It has been exhilarating and freeing and I have felt relief and unimaginable joy in the self discovery.

Every human being has inherent worth.  Worthiness is implicit.

There is nothing to prove.

There is nothing to earn.

What happens after this life is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

The purpose of my life is to practice living each moment in the present.

I am adequate.

Every person longs to be seen and heard.

Good and evil are judgments.  There is only fear and love.

Staying OPEN is the only goal.

Being CLOSED is part of the process.  I will be open to that too.

There is no need to define the Divine.

These things I can comfortably and passionately declare as my belief system.  My list has been scrubbed free from the doctrine I was immersed in since birth. The trouble is, now that the doing has been done, when I look at myself in the mirror, there is still the mormon girl staring back.  

The doing has not created the being.

The act of writing those words sends pain rushing up to my throat like hot bile.  It threatens to expose me.   It is the recognition that the actions taken over the last decade, as terrifying and disorienting and inspiring as they have been, have not healed the anguishing canyon that exists in my soul.  On one side, the powerful, complete woman who embodies that list of beliefs, and on the other, a weeping girl who will never be worthy or adequate or whole.

I have come to the very edge of that abyss.

Maybe the only thing I really believe right now, is that I am not alone here, on this edge.  I know my story is not unique.  We are all good at the doing.  The doing, no matter what is on that list, or how tightly it threatens to strangle us, is a matter of overcoming inertia.

But to be in alignment with our true beliefs, to begin to stitch up the giant chasm within us…requires the being.

Being is where things get real.

There is no doing left for me here.  Not when it comes to healing my spirit.  And the being is the excruciating part.  The part where the emotions must be felt.  The part where the feelings must be allowed to exist.  The part where true compassion is discovered.  The part where I simply exist.

I don’t really know how.  But I know there is no try… that is a doing word.

So for now, I will just breathe.

The Wound

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“The wound is the place Light enters you”    – Rumi

About a year ago, we were entertaining guests on a friday night.  I opened the refrigerator to offer my friend a beer, and the bottle seemed to launch itself at me from its overstuffed pocket and smashed to the tile floor, pulverizing in an impressive explosion of beer foam and teeny shards of glass.  One particular piece of miniscule shrapnel left the tip of my pointer finger bleeding, the glass stubbornly embedded itself deeper and deeper with each attempt to pull it out.  Eventually, my finger healed over the shard, and I had a tiny brown freckle at the tip of my finger.  It would give me a sharp, biting reminder of it’s presence once in a while, when any pressure was applied to my fingertip.  It was a part of me, this invader, a permanent wound lurking under a new layer of skin.  I lived with it there for a long time.  And then, many months later, I found myself in pain again.  My finger became red and sore, the tip got swollen and hot, and my body began to fight.  The eviction notice had been sent.

This process was shocking and sudden and a bit unwanted… I had grown accustomed to the glass, and did not appreciate the throbbing pain I was suddenly dealing with.  The expulsion was much more painful than the first moment it entered me and left me bleeding.  My body smartly worked that glass back to the surface of my fingertip, and in a moment of desperation, wanting to end the pain, I aggressively pinched under the enflamed tissue, hard and tight, and squeezed until the glass cut through the skin once again.   Finally rejected, I rinsed it away,  purged at last.

 

 

I have been silent.  Gone.

 

Things happened, and the pain swallowed me up for a while. And I am learning that I do not handle my own pain well.  I have no tolerance for my own tears.  My own suffering.  It simply does not feel just, when I am so aware of my privelege.  There is a magnitute of suffering outside my own sphere that I cannot comprehend…  So,  I have learned to be scornful of my wounds.  And now, that scorn has revealed itself… the dark truth of it’s nature.

We all have shrapnel, healed over and buried beneath our skin.  Words that carry shame and rejection, moments that violate and negate… these are the shards that cut deep and become a part of us, grown in.  We carry them until it is time.  When we are ready to let them surface, force them out, and bleed again.

But it is not the purging that transforms.

It is in the wounding.  The embedding. The healing.

In this spiraled process, we are found whole.

The Cure

We think we get over things.

We don’t get over things.

Or say, we get over the measles,

but not a broken heart.

We need to look at that distinction.

The thing that becomes part of our experience,

never becomes less a part of our experience.

How can I say it?

The way to get over a life is to die.

Short of that you move with it, let the pain be pain.

Not in the hope that it will vanish

But in the faith that it will fit in,

find its place in the shape of things

and be then, not any less pain,

but true to form.

Because anything natural has an inherent

shape and will flow towards it.

And, a life is as natural as a leaf.

That’s what we are looking for:

Not the end of a thing,

but the shape of it.

Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life

without obliterating, getting over,

a single instant of it.

                       -Author Unknown

I Went To An Art Party and Ended Up Getting Baptized. Again.

 

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There is a certain feeling you get when you are around a person that is self-possessed and fully expressed.  A person who is not arrogant or tightened inside, but open and fluid.  They have a different energy about them, a softened look behind their eyes.  They  lack  self-conscious defensiveness that others carry when  afraid to be fully seen, fully themselves.

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Photo Credit: Gardner Edmunds

 

I adore these people.

 

I think most of us do… they are the ones that make you feel instantly more at ease, safe in their presence to unwind a few notches and take a breath.  They attract people like a light bulb surrounded by moths, clamoring to be near.  Sometimes, they are hard to find.   Most of us are wound up and covered in armor, desperate to be seen but not seen.  We are busy trying to impress, trying to hide, trying to find the perfect balance of control that will make us not appear to be total asshats.

 

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a party called  Creative Cocktail Hour with a lovely friend, a local artist.  Rick and I both adore Stefanie and her husband Carl,  because they both have this light presence, and when they are together it is even more inspiring to witness.

 

We went to Creative Cocktail Hour with a friend of hers… both of them attend these monthly parties faithfully… It is a  gathering of local artists and art-lovers at Real Art Ways, a space designed to showcase and support local art and the art community in Hartford.

 

I was scared.

 

My inner introvert shrinks like cojones in an ice bath at the thought of meeting and chit-chatting and mingling at a large party of “cool” people.  People who probably know how to talk about art.  I am not sure that unused Elementary Education degree I earned was going to come to my rescue when I needed to find an intelligent contribution to the small talk.  Unless somebody wants to talk about making homemade playdough sculptures.

 

That scared, uptight, insecure voice inside me was worried about being seen as a scared, insecure, uptight gal in a sea of self-expression.

And that is exactly what happened… at first.

 

We were greeted at the door by a huge, barrel chested  man named Tito, whom Stefanie and Greg hugged first.  When I extended my hand in introduction, he swallowed me in a hug, declaring,   “No one shakes hands here!” in a deep bellow.  A tall thin man rode up on a bicycle with a spatula taped to the back end of his helmet and dismounted.  He also hugged Tito, and then we all made our way into the building, passing an older couple in their late 60’s wearing hats made of disposable picnicware.

 

There was no visible commonality in this gathering.  The variety of ages, clothing style, hair style,  gender expression, sexual expression …was astonishing.  It appeared that every kind of person from all walks of life had come out to hug and chat and dance.  There was one golden thread of detectable similarity there, and after softening into the night I began to see it.  I wanted to belong there too.

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So I was baptized that night.

 

It was my second time being baptized, in fact.

 

The first was a religious affair… one of the most important moments of my life as an LDS child remains a gauzy, soupy memory I can’t quite access.  But this I know:  I was eight, I wore a white dress and people hugged me and shook my hand and told me how proud they were of me for making the only right decision there was to make… to be baptized by immersion for the remission of my sins.  So I could belong.  When I came up out of those waters, I emerged fully committed to do my best to become the person God wanted.

 

At Real Art Ways, I was baptized by immersion again.

 

Immersion in a scene filled with people who were all unapologetically themselves.

 

To be exposed and immersed in this unadulterated authenticity was not for the remission of my sins, but a remission of my armor.  The crowd pulsed with this free energy, the acceptance of people as they are.  Simple.  In a gathering of people all devoted to becoming, every day, more freely self expressed, the beauty of humanity is a palpable force.  It existed in the art on the walls, in the music the brass band was gifting to us, in the  air that surrounded us.  It entered me with each breath, and then right through the pores of my skin.   I felt it move to open the hardest places inside me… this collective energy has one message:

 

You are supposed to Be exactly what you are.

The immersion will not be an experience I will soon forget.  It was a moment of experiencing the possibility of being free from sin.  And, I am coming to more fully understand what sin really is.  Sin is the armor of self-protection we wear… to make ourselves appear formidable and fierce and brave.  We put on this armor so that we can go out and be seen, without exposing our most tender places, without being vulnerable to the pain of rejection or loss.

 

We cover ourselves up and hide in the open so we do not have to hear the message we dread:

 

Be ashamed.  You are not enough.

 

Stefanie, the friend who brought me,  is less covered by this armor, and by being more freely expressed, more authentically her, I sense the safety in being me.  I realize, where they gather, these people who are figuring out how to move through it and lay down the armor –  love is less diluted.  It is more easily accessed and felt… it is the golden thread that binds us.    We ALL belong already, we just have to take off the protection and express who we are… and others will see that golden thread too.

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Photo provided by Stefanie Marco, KiNDSPIN DESIGN

So go out and find those people, the ones that carry themselves with that spark of authentic presence.  It is not hard to recognize the lightness they possess, their loving energy is more free to flow.  Immerse yourself in their authentic lightness, in the generosity of spirit that surrounds them… in that spirit, there is no fear.  Only love.

 

When I emerged from this second baptism,  I came away not committed to becoming… that commitment is the sin.  The armor.

 

I emerged more willing to Be.

 

Unapologetically, just as

 

I am.

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Photo Credit: Gardner Edmunds

Daring to Lose the Baggage We Carry

 

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Photo Credit: Gardner Edmunds

 

When I was a kid, we had one of those monstrous hard shell luggage cases that could transport obscene amounts of luggage, effectively transforming our minivan into a giant, lumbering turtle. The first summer we owned it, we crammed it completely full of baggage and mom drove us out to Utah from Colorado to visit our family. When we got to Grandma’s, we unpacked the shell, completely emptying the vessel.  And then we just snapped the empty case shut and  left the giant shell trussed up on the van as we shuttled around Utah…my dad had so aggressively tied it to the roof, it wasn’t going anywhere.

 

One night, just before rush hour bloomed on the freeway, as we were zipping north on I-15, the case was thudding and banging on the roof, the hot summer wind was raging through the valley, and my mom white-knuckled the steering wheel to keep us from blowing into the next lane.   Suddenly there was a loud ripping POP! and we watched in horror as our luggage case somersaulted across the median, miraculously through oncoming traffic of the southbound lanes, and down an embankment into a field of weeds.  The case had been aggressively strapped to the luggage rack… my dad had made sure there was no chance of it coming loose.  But without the weight of the luggage inside, the wind tore the luggage rack right off the roof of our van.

 

I find myself thinking so often of that luggage case blowing down the hill.

We are like moving vehicles on a grand adventure, and we each have a giant shell tied up to the roof to carry the baggage.  In our childhoods, that case is packed full of experiences and ideas and grand moments and terrible, crushing loss of innocence.  For the most part, we cannot determine what is packed inside, giving weight and heft to our lives.  It is filled with the baggage we carry with us as we strike out on our own.

 

Most of us, at one point or another, stop to take out the baggage.  And my first real stop was after the birth of my first two daughters.

 

They forced me to pull over and examine what I was carrying.  I had two baby girls, and when began to unpack, I realized I didn’t want the bulk of it.  It was full of fear and molds I had been trying to pour myself into.

 

And guilt.

 

It was filled with desperation and apathetic surrender.   It was filled with hard and glittering notions about womanhood.  It was brimming with hundreds of years of handed down expectation and servitude.   And untold instruments to measure my worth and acceptability and faith.  It was filled with boxes and boxes of unanswered questions that I had been told to put away and not worry about. Injustices and inconsistencies and confusion that was my own damn fault for ever acknowledging in the first place.

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Photo Credit: Robert Faulkner  

 

I unpacked all that I could.  I knew I could not carry it any longer, and I would not be handing it to my daughters.  It was an abandonment of my genealogical legacy, family history, the ideals and mantras and precious cargo of my tribe.

 

I drove away, my case more hollow than full, more light than heavy with burden.

 

We all do this, I am realizing.  In various degrees, this is how we humans roll.  Maybe not everyone.  Some, I am sure, roll right along and do not dare open the case to investigate the cargo, to find out if it is weight we would still like to carry.  But the way we create our own experience, forge our own path, and improve upon the journey for people we love is to look it over, and face what has been packed inside.

 

I changed my life, drastically.  And it was agonizing to leave it behind.  It always is, when we take a close and honest look at the things we choose to carry.

 

I had hoped that I was done.  My act was radical and came from a dire place inside that would be crushed by the weight of unwanted ideology.  And I naively believed I had accomplished what I had set out to do.  I had improved my life, and brightened the future for my girls in untold ways.

It was The One, enormous, painful, transforming reach for more freedom, less guilt.  More discovery, less propriety.  More authenticity, less fear.

But it is not done.  It wasn’t enough, I have known now for a while.  In a slow, anxious, build it is becoming more painfully present.  Just as the welcoming of my first two girls had forced me to pull over and examine the contents of my shell, this last child has done the same.

 

Last night, I put on a white dress, curled my hair, wore bright pink lipstick and heeled sandals that made me well over 6 ft tall.  It didn’t feel like me.  We are staying at a lovely resort in Orlando, and while Rick is working the day away, going to meetings and listening to lectures and schmoozing VIP’s on the golf course, I am at the pool.  And in the evenings, we go to work functions to wander the outdoor gathering, shaking hands with strangers.  I have done this many times before, at annual actuarial conferences ripe with mathematicians and insurance executives.  I have enjoyed the lovely hotels and the chance to tour around various cities and the opportunity to sleep in late, wake when I wish, and leave the daily mothering grind to the grandparents.

 

But last night, with my heels and my lipstick, that haunting presence of the weight I carry made my bones ache with weariness.

 

I no longer want to be just a woman on his arm, his satellite.

 

I have known this for several years now.  The feeling of growing out of your own skin is a slow, building pressure, and discomfort that grows into urgency.  The imminence scares me, it is regrettably familiar.

 

The highlight of the evening was speaking briefly with his boss, whom I had not had the pleasure of meeting before.  In a quick, private moment, she gave me a lovely gift, sharing with me that she had never known a man more openly proud of his wife.  How he speaks about me with admiration and respect and greatly values my thoughts and ideas.

 

Such words, such affirmation of his love was a forceful moment of reckoning for me.

His love for me, his support, his patient and gentle reassurances that he believes in my ability to change my self, to honor who I am and wish to be without fear or apology, that has kept me moving forward.

 

And he knows, as I stand next to him in my heels and lipstick, that I want more.
I do not wish to be a woman, standing forever at the ready to support her man.  I have done this for 12 years, as I was trained to do.

I am so afraid.  It means pulling over once again.  It means going through the baggage, and pulling out pieces of me that terrify.  It seems so silly that the idea of digging out my ideas of what makes me a woman and what I have to offer the world have put me into such a state of terrified paralysis.  Women everywhere have been vigorously doing this work.  Throwing out the limiting patriarchal bullshit and becoming more.

 

These women were not admired and revered in my culture.

 

I am looking at hundreds of years of training and expectation and gender roles and patriarchy. Thousands of hours of prayers and talks and books and lessons on how motherhood and marriage are the pinnacle of a woman’s existence, the shining glory, the only aspiration that matters.

 

I remember the sound of the pop, the tearing of metal as that luggage case wrenched itself free and went somersaulting into the weeds.  The sight of an empty vessel, no longer needed, being ripped away.  It sounds violent and scary and ruinous.  It horrifies us all.  But perhaps, this is the sight we all need to witness.  The carrier of our baggage, being torn away, is the very moment we want to achieve.  When we finally unpack all the baggage that weighs us down… we examine it, we see it for what it was in our lives. We acknowledge how it got there, and our power to release it.

 

And when that case gets light enough, it will tear free and blow away.   We will finally be free to drive away, without the weight… just the vehicle we came in.

 

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Photo Credit:  Gardner Edmunds