All dressed up…

 

I’ve never been the kind of woman men so affectionately refer to as “high maintenance”.  I do not insist on branded clothes. I will not be seen in heels and full face at the grocery store, or with acrylic nails and false eyelashes. I envy those women in many ways- so prettily prepared. So fully done. In my mind, these women exude more self-assured confidence and femininity than I possess. They are photo ready and flawlessly coiffed and accessorized.It is powerful magic they perform just to get out of their houses every day.

It is this envy and appreciation at the core of my own rituals of self-enhancement. For many years I tried to hide from family and romantic partners the lengths I went to in the private temple of my bathroom to make of this raw clay something like their sculpted perfection. I agonized over every hair, pimple, mole and ounce out of place. I plucked, shaved, scrubbed, buffed, painted, weighed and measured incessantly.

I beat back the things I hated about myself again and again- and like anything so strongly resisted they continued to show up to try to teach me their  lessons of self-appreciation, self love and acceptance.

The changes in my mind, heart and body since the birth of my daughter have made both the noise in my head, and the peace in my soul stronger by turns. I have struggled mightily to love this body and the inevitable changes wracked upon it by pregnancy. This loss of “control” over the vessel of my body has brought to bear all the mean and ugly things I have ever said about myself as well as an incredible awe and gratitude for that of which it has proven itself capable.

I step from the shower or bath and see before me in the mirror the extra pounds, the looser skin, the tired eyes. I rise from sleep stiffly and bend more cautiously to lift my daughter than I would have done before. There is a grief. A deep and quiet sadness that creeps over me sometimes as I judge this Self to be not enough- pretty enough, young enough, thin enough, “mother” enough…

It would be so easy to let those judgments define me- sometimes when I am too tired to do better, they do define me. But at my core, I know I am not the sum of all those criticisms I heap on myself. I know the voice I hear mumbling and screaming is not my Voice- not the Voice of the powerful loving expression of the divine that I know my soul to be. It is merely the sounds of the insecure animal trying to name, define, and label its world in a way it can grasp and control using the limited vocabulary and ideas it has been fed. I try to find love and patience for that scared and struggling animal at the same time I try to tame it and silence it.

So I still pluck, if somewhat more haphazardly. I try to watch what I eat, but most days I’m jest relieved when I find time between diapers and naps to feed myself at all. I look at my face in the mirror and I say to her the loving things I say to the other mamas I know-

You are strong, loving and kind.

You are patient and forgiving of others and yourself.

You are powerful, courageous and amazing.

You are beautiful.

Some days I believe me. Other days I just take it on faith that I’m no bullshitter and trust that tomorrow will be better.img_0524

 

 

 

 

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To my father

Dad,

I am writing this letter to you for me. And for my son, daughter and partner.I know I will never say these things to you, and you will never read this. If I were to ever try to open myself to you like this, I don’t know that you would let me get one sentence out before you attacked…

For as long as I can remember us, there has been this tug’o’war between your will and my own. Your disapproval and criticism are the crucible in which my heart was annealed. The burn of your eye is the oldest measurement of my self worth. The sting of your words- or worse, your stony silences- are the soundtrack of my memories.

As a tree grows toward the light or away from the wind, my childhood was bent to the storms of your anger and punishments.I saw in you unconquerable strength; the power to shape the world to your will.  I became so twisted that all I could do was grow to resemble you. I spoke in anger and saw nothing but failings and insufficiencies in those around me. My words became knives and I stabbed at anyone who dared come close to me- close to my truth. I saw only weakness and it made me blind with rage.

When I’d built myself a fortress of righteous anger and blame, I challenged you- I stood chest to chest with you in the driveway of my childhood home and I dared you. I dared you to keep hurting me, hurting my mother. Burning the world down with every word I told you you were nothing and that I had grown so much greater than you. I told you I could take away your power with a gesture and I laughed as you sputtered in fury.

Jump ahead 20 years. I have worked so hard from that day to make of myself someone more whole. More human. Someone in touch with their motives who doesn’t lash out from a place of unconscious conditioning to hurt people just to feel strong. I prayed and cried and begged for a better way to find my power. I found coaching and found my voice.

And yet, I still long for you. I long for your love, your approval. I ache for a father.Despite all evidence to the contrary I hope that you will one day let go of the blackened filter through which you see all people and actually see ME. I fear you never will.

So here we are. You hurt me again today. I don’t know if you even realize there is a choice anymore. I can almost imagine what the noise inside your head must sound like. The bitter, repetitive monologue that points out the faults and failings of every person in every situation every time. The relentless disappointment in life, love and people…

I have to let you go. Loving you is like holding shards of glass in my bare hands. There is new love in my life now. Gentle, patient and forgiving. I am laying you down, Dad. You are too heavy. I don’t want to carry you anymore. Making you into the father I deserve is not possible. Wishing things were different only wastes energy and breaks my heart when the real you keeps showing up.

I am not angry. I am a little sad, but I know I am grieving a father I never had- just the idea of one. I am not building walls, I am just shutting a door. There is no malice in my heart; there is no crusade to change us. I am turning from our past and toward my future. img_0821I know this will not be a perfect process and I will find myself caught in the habit of wishing, but I will let it go again and again until it sticks.

I hope you find some peace. Your war is no longer with me.