Monday, March 19, 2012

be a girl

My daughter is a girl’s girl.  Her head is full of floral dresses, pink ribbons, pirouetting dolls, porcelain fairies, flying unicorns, bouquets of roses, peonies, foxglove, carnations, delphiniums, daisies and pink frosting curling atop a vanilla cupcake.  These icons are code.  They tell the language of girlhood, a language of friendship, a mutual language she utilizes and manipulates. The cypher goes something like this: We are girls. We like these things. We have mutual interests.  We can be friends. 

She likes bugs, worms, caterpillars, pill bugs, loamy dirt.  She explores and uncovers the filthy world with zest.  Fearlessly, she rides her pink fringed bike up hills and down, sometimes forgetting how to brake.  She has a mean throwing arm and a talent for hitting a ball with a stick.  She tackles the world in carefully planned pink outfits, skirts with flounces, dresses with ribbons, and a tiara of flowers. 
It is shocking.  I did not grow up accepting this ordinary girl lexicon.  I was a tomboy independent of girlishness.  In my childhood, Barbies were decapitated, thrown out the window and sometimes burned.  I fought with boys.  My hair was a mess of knots and my jeans were proudly torn.  I was often dirty and rebellious of dresses.   I didn’t trust girl signals.  I forcefully rejected them and many of the girls that embraced them.  I was a five-year-old dissident. 

Our five-year-old perspectives stand at opposite ends. 
“Mom, you don’t wear enough dresses.”  She says to me.  She is dressed in a pink polka dotted dress and a headband with a shocking pink rose.  I’m wearing jeans and a warm well-loved carrot-colored jacket. 

It is true.  I don’t wear dresses. 

Ironically, it was motherhood that robbed me of my few feminine conceits.  Since kids, I’d forgone makeup, wore jeans, baggy sweaters, t-shirts.  I hid my jewelry from groping baby hands that broke locks and painfully pulled at shiny loops in my ears.   For similar reasons, my hair was hidden in a bandeau or ponytail.   This was my new, more mature lexicon of a proud, hard-working mother.  I had outgrown my girl-ness. 

Childbirth is the ultimate feminine.  I respect and love my woman-ness.  It does not deserve a puffed up pastel colored fairy on a cupcake. 
Beyond childbirth, moms work hard at the planet’s toughest job.  We run an extreme business.   We plan kids’ lives to details. We worry about happiness.   We worry about futures.  We worry about relationships.  We worry about right action when we know there is absolutely no right answer.  We commiserate and strategize.  We evaluate and test repeatedly.  Mothers straddle a delicate balance of potentials; work, home, friendships, marriage, children and at any moment if one collapses the rest will sink into a black hole.  There is no more precarious profession. 

Motherhood is never-ending and relentless.   It is a tattoo suddenly and perfectly imprinted on each one of my heart’s chambers, never dislodged, forever permanent.  Its mark is a scar, a war wound, a blossom, a blessing, and a flawless circle.  Pink’s frivolity doesn’t belong near it.    

But Dana has complained more than once about my girl-less-ness.  She doesn’t understand how we can connect without a common girl language.   

I look in the mirror.  I remember a time when fashion was a personal badge.  I expressed myself in color, patterns, fabrics, textures, metals, shine, powders.  I carried a collection of jewelry on my body.  I believed in romance.  Fairytales nourished and fed my imagination. Magical unicorns unlocked a hidden world of possibility.  All forms of beauty were serene and life giving.   I like being a girl. 

Maybe girlhood and womanhood are not in battle and they can embrace each other. 

I like lipstick, mascara, shiny sunglasses and colorful earrings.  I could write to the moon about bikinis and own more than a girl from Seattle should.  I have an extensive collection of necklaces thanks to Blugh.  I’ve always wanted a crocheted dress.  Scorching ardent crimson bewitches me.  Vanilla bliss, not floral, but spicy and spirited scents ground me. I love lingerie with playful icons; hello kitty, snoopy, polka dots and stripes.  Romantic comedies make me cry.  It is fun to turn a head or two, but more fun to surprise my husband who witnessed and supported this journey and has proclaimed me beautiful every day and on my worse days. 

And it is delightful to witness my daughter’s expression when she sees me in a silk paprika-colored dress.  We enchant each other with our girl-ness.          

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hide and Seek

I forgot the thrill of hiding.  It is exhilarating to be crouched in a corner, body scrunched as small as it can be, waiting and praying for invisibility.  It is easy to forget to breathe, difficult not to giggle and delightful when the hunter passes by so close I can see their arm hairs yet remain safely unseen.   Other times, it is amusing to find the perfect spot, hiding in plain view but unnoticed by my seeker.  I love to hide under the seeker and peek up through bench lattices as she counts. I giggle and even scream when I am suddenly and surprisingly found. 

Today, my belly turned over when a curtain pulled back unexpectedly.  I squawked and she jumped.  We locked eyes, seeker and found, electrified.  We burst into laughter.       
It is routine for Dana and I to play hide and seek at the community center pool while we wait for Daire and dad to finish their class.  We made new friends with 8 year old twins, Megan and Kelsey, towheads with large inquisitive aquamarine eyes.    The four of us roam the lobby and locker room looking for perfect hiding spots and amusing onlookers. 

Who would have thought that watching a game of hide and seek would put a smile on so many faces, both young and old?
There are nights when I don’t want to play.  I’m tired.  A lot on my mind.  Crappy work day.   Too much to do.  The garbage of adulthood haunts me. 

Dana insists.  She loves our time together. She loves making friends.  She loves laughter.  She vividly remembers the thrill of hiding.  I concede.  Within minutes I forget the rubbish and remember what Dana never forgets; everything worth keeping is subject to play’s gravity.  The rest can float away.      

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Firsts and Fear

This weekend marked a significant and exhilarating first for Dana. It was momentous because it marked a step towards tangible independence; her first sleepover at her friend Emmy’s house. The whole day leading up to the moment her excitement lit her up.  She was wound so tight she bubbled, sparkled and popped. She packed diligently; matching PJs, a change of clothes, toothbrush, sleeping bag, hair brush, a soft stuffed doggie named Blue and at the last minute, a carton of soy milk. She would have packed the whole house if I had allowed it. Instead, I explained the importance of necessity and reminded her of the abundance of new and different delights at Emmy’s house. Thirty minutes before we left, she stood at the front door counting down the minutes to the easy walk a half block up the street.

As I walked down the stairs to accompany her to Emmy’s house, I saw taut fear stretch across her face. It was the first clue since announcing the intended sleepover of anything amiss. I asked her if she was ok and her response completely delighted me.

“Yes. I’m ok. I’m scared. But I’m only scared because I’m about to do something I’ve never done before. I’m scared of the dark and I’m scared of monsters.” She put her hand to the side of her mouth and said in whisper. “Even though I know there is no such thing as monsters.” Then her hand dropped and she said. “Mostly I’m so excited. But I’m scared.” She bounded up the stairs to hug her brother and dad goodbye.  I giggled, completely enchanted by her. 

May she never forget these words.

And may I never forget that energy, the driving life force that makes us grow, stretch and yearn for more.  It is the tension between fear and wanting.  The point when fear is outweighed by a yearning so profound we suddenly blossom. 

Dana matured last night.  She successfully tested her independence. This morning, when she returned from the magical night a confident radiance hovered around her.  She had explored herself, her limits and had uprooted new self-discoveries.  She tested her fear and had thrived.       

Sunday, March 4, 2012

sticky commitment

Sticky commitment is constant inquiry.

I’m not referring to blind commitment when one simply follows for followings sake. That is rooted in fear. Its vision is narrow, the scope is tiny and the world is scary. The realm of blind commitment, aside from the current path, has few options and all of those will bring ruin. Blind commitment may bring demise anyway. You wouldn’t jump off a bridge if your friends did, would you? Maybe so if you were blind, scared and option-less.

Personally, I cannot subscribe to blind commitment in any form. My world is limitless and I prefer it that way.

Sticky commitment reveres options, the unlimited, the mystery, everything known, and unknowable. It recognizes that there is always opportunity. It is constant inquiry. It is constant wondering. It is always dreaming. It recognizes that no choice is absolute, the world unfolds a buffet of possibility, and an individual has the power to command destiny.

And what does that have to do with commitment? In such an expansive world, how can anyone just choose one?

In most things, we don’t have to. I have many passions and support as many as I can; kids, family, husband, travel, climbing, painting, writing, sustainability, creativity, teaching, education, salsa dancing, fitness, cooking, wining and dining. Of course, there is an ebb and flow, like the ocean waves crashing one after the other as one takes priority and then another. They compete and I question, but ultimately we balance. My passions serve my varied facets. Life is abundant. And I’m committed.

Other times it is necessary to choose one. My husband, for example, is a singular choice. Of course our vows, made almost ten years ago, commit and bind us. Our children form a bond stronger than any adhesive. But he is not off the hook and I will not play blind. There is constant inquiry in our relationship. Could we be better? How? What is our goal? Is it worth it? Would it work better this way? Can we change and how? I examine us, dissect us, probe our construction, diagnose the failures, reengineer and reassemble the parts. If we move this part would we work better? What if?

Don’t think it isn’t painful. Don’t think I never yell. Don’t think I’m confident that we can’t ever break down. Remember there is mystery, chaos, the impenetrable.

That is the nature of sticky commitment. We place a microscope on ourselves and bravely scrutinize. We do not know the answers before we ask the questions. Sometimes it leads to loss, pain, fear, regrowth and eventually a new found gift or delight. But the resilient passions and the persevering loved ones are powerful. These deserve our sticky commitment.