Trying on my Old Self: part 2

By the end of the day last Monday, I was completely exhausted and I’d learned a few things.

  1. I neeeeeeed more bright colors in my current wardrobe. I’ve always liked bright colors, but I seriously underestimated how much joy it brings me to wear them.
  2. I felt prettier than I’ve felt in a very long time trying on all my dresses and heels.
  3. It turns out, this whole thing was never about the clothes at all.

When I first started putting things on, I felt so happy! All my bright, beautiful clothes felt like old and much-missed friends I was seeing again for the first time in a awhile. But pretty quickly, memories of all that I was and all that I did back then began pouring in.

I did important, fulfilling work in those clothes. I had great conversations with smart people who cared about the same big problems I did. I got to contribute to the personal and professional growth of people I respected, cared about, and was (still am) so very proud to know. I had conversations and made decisions that impacted every citizen in my state . . . I lived a completely fulfilling life.

I miss that. I miss working on problems bigger than my home and family. And, I hope this won’t be misunderstood, but I am not completely fulfilled by motherhood. The part of me that is fulfilled by motherhood is the part of me that wanted children, loves my children, and enjoys the process of coaching them into adulthood. The mom part of me is fulfilled and the wife part of me is fulfilled by my life as it is . . . but all those other parts have been languishing for years.

On some level, I’ve been aware of this, I know, because I’ve been working on bringing other parts of myself to the fore for the past couple of years. But putting on all those colorful, old clothes and remembering my life before really put it in black and white for me.

I am not fulfilled. Something is missing from my life-something that has to do with community, important work, and my purpose outside my family. I used to think it was writing, now I’m not so sure. Writing always has, and always will be, part of who I am and what I do, but lately its the sharing of my work, the messages I get and conversations I’ve had with strangers and friends about life, grief, healing, fear, growth, and so much more that have given me little tastes, here and there, of that fulfillment I’ve been seeking. So now I’m thinking it’s more to do with connection.

Most importantly of all, in this moment, I’m ready to actually take literal steps toward figuring out what it is and making it part of my life, or rather making my life part of it.

A daunting, but exciting prospect to be sure. : )

Stay tuned!

Trying on my Old Self

Every year for the past six years, I get out my summer clothes totes and look through everything. I’ve gotten rid of some, but I’ve kept most because I just wasn’t ready to part with these parts of who I was before I had kids. As the years have passed, I’ve come to the realization that a lot of who I was before kids is who I am now, too. Yet still, I’ve put off trying it all on again. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t fit my body the same, or that it won’t fit my personality the same, or that I can’t pull it off anymore.

I’ve lost all my confidence since my firstborn, leaving my family, friends, and career out West, and feeling like I don’t know my place. It’s less about my physical appearance and more about my confidence in the personality that I once wore with such ease—the personality that wore these things with pure joy and didn’t worry at all what it might make other people think.

My wardrobe has gotten more and more muted right along with the rest of me.

And just like every year before, I’ve been putting it off this spring. The timing is never right, there’s always something else I should be doing. For instance, today is cleaning day—our messy house is worse than usual, I haven’t had a shower yet today, there won’t be any hair-doos or make-up, and yet, I’m absolutely certain that today is the day. It’s time to shake her out, put her on, step into her, and see how it feels.

So, I’m pulling down the totes . . . my dresses, my colors, my heels . . . myself from seven years ago. And while I clean, I’m going to try it all on and see what fits—my insides and my outsides.  If you want to join me on the journey, I’ll be sharing pics of each outfit (and our messy house) on my Black Ink Birds Facebook and Instagram stories. : )

Whether or not you follow along on my adventure this morning, my point is this: if you don’t feel like yourself in what you’re wearing, it matters. It changes how you approach the world and how the world approaches you. So whatever your true fit is, go looking for it. Whether that means jazzing things up or toning things down, try it all on until who you are on the inside is accurately represented by what you wear on the outside. It might just change everything. : )

How to Handle a Miscarriage

Step One

Hold very still when you realize what’s happening.
Lest you collapse immediately
and drown in the first wave of grief.

(Or drown here.
If you do choose to wait, there will be other opportunities.)

**Helpful Hint**
When presented with opportunities to drown,
always choose to wait.

Step Two

Tell everyone.

“I have lost someone I never had.
There is nothing to bury but these feelings.
There will be no services.”

Or maybe say nothing
If the weight of even one pitying glance
might push you under
and you aren’t strong enough to come back up.

(Or drown here.
If you do choose to wait, there will be other opportunities.)

Step Three

Go back to work.

If you don’t already have children,
bring your sadness with you in your purse
but don’t take it out.
grieve quietly between the lines of your emails
remember to eat
and smile often
wait until you are in the shower, or in bed at night
to wonder if you are only grieving the child that wasn’t
or if the dream of motherhood altogether
is dead and you just don’t know it yet.

If you do already have children,
grieve quietly,
remember to eat
and smile often
fold your sadness into the clean towels
press it into the pages of bedtime stories
it will always be there
but only you will ever see it.

**Helpful Hint**
Remember, if all else fails, sheer force of will-
will see you through to the next step.

Step Four

Read or let people tell you about why it isn’t your fault.

Then, wonder often if it was something you did or did not do.
Wonder less over time.

(Or, drown here.
If you do choose to wait, there will be other opportunities.)

Step Five

Let people and animals love you.
Ask yourself if it matters whose fault it was.
Either way, the little soul has left
the child is not coming
there is nothing for it but to be sad
and let yourself be loved
until you have the energy to love others again.

**Helpful Hint**
If you hold on long enough,

you will have the energy to love others again.

Step Six

Every once in awhile,
when you are alone, and all is quiet,
reach down down down and so carefully
retrieve the memory
of that sweet soul
only you
ever had the privilege of holding.
And cherish it as
only you
are able–
that precious memory
made entirely of feelings
as invisible as the sweet forehead you’ll never kiss.

I Always Fit

It’s a glass jar.
I don’t know where it came from.
I was so little
when I found it
and poured myself in–
not safe
so much as separate.

I grew up.
But the jar remains
and I always fit.

I have children now.
And when I’m in it,
they pass back and forth
through the glass
as if by magic
to my surprise and delight.

Nonetheless,
I need to break it.
I know I do.

Pouring yourself into a glass jar
is for frightened children.

And whatever was out there
is always still out there
when I so slowly and so quietly
drip back.

You Should Go

I threw away half of my clothes last week.
Old and ill-fitting
I’m tired of things that don’t fit
but unsure how to take off this
modus operandi
which has become so tight,
It’ll tear if I laugh too hard.

I do know
nothing will change
unless I change it.

So I threw away half of my clothes last week.
It felt so good.
I bought new things
that fit more than my body.

I pulled down all my make-up from
the dark shelf in the bathroom closet.

I put my wallet and lip gloss,
sunglasses and car keys
in my first new purse
since tossing my wallet in a
diaper bag six years ago.

I dragged out my tote full of shoes
I never wear–
yellow heels, butterfly sandals, red satin . . .
I’d forgotten how beautiful they are.

I bought new earrings–
colorful, a little wild, a little ridiculous,
a lot fun
Just the way I used to feel.

I’ve lived here nearly seven years
and my shoes
my colors
my self–
bold, sure,
slightly ridiculous,
considerably optimistic
have been waiting all that time
so quiet, so small.

When my children needed
Motherhood took
more room
then more
still more . . .
There was nothing left
no energy, no time.
She had to go
out of sight
out of mind
so quiet, so patient
until lately.

Lately,
that part of my self
I put away
unable to part with her
even if I had nowhere
to take her anymore.
That part of myself
has grown restless,
has been rattling around
in the totes and closets,
thumping like a tell-tale heart
against locked, plastic lids–
against my own ribcage
whenever I think about changing up
the ratios.

And Motherhood–
that 800 pound gorilla,
who pushed her aside
who packed the totes
who clicked the lids shut
and walked away
with rolled up sleeves
to focus on her work. . .

Motherhood–
the last one I expected . . .

Motherhood just whispered in my heart . . .

“You should go to her.”




Enough pt 2

So the container broke

I sifted through

and . . .

it’s all still here.

Well, all of it except

the crippling fear

that these words aren’t worthwhile.

Now, I’m left to wonder

was it really too fragile?

was it truly that it was struck too hard

by some malevolent or careless, outside force?

divine destruction?

self-destruction?

or . . . .

did I simply outgrow it?

Enough pt 1: https://blackinkbirds.com/2022/11/09/enough/

Enough

I’ve shattered again.

But instead of gluing the pieces back together

I’m sifting through what was in the container

when it broke.

There’s no one here to tell me I’m ready.

No one I can ask if it’s good enough,

if I’ve met the goal

achieved the end.

Just me and all these words

that look like everyone else’s.

All those years

how did I not realize

I was still storing my worth

in the eyes of others?

I am calling it back now.

From every mis-place.

Even if I’m shattered and

have nowhere to put it

yet.

Saturday Thoughts

Most of last year, I thought I was watching myself figuratively die and be reborn as someone new. Turns out, I was actually just writing the end of one of the most beautiful and beloved chapters of my life so far. It was excruciating to go through, but I am relieved to find myself still me now that I’ve turned that last page.

I thought it was being surrounded by all that is deeply familiar that was such a relief out West, but now that I’m back, I see it was actually being surrounded by all that are deeply familiar with me that felt so good.

I go back there for courage and find it every time, but when I get back, I open my hands and it’s all slipped away. Is it even courage? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s actually comfort . . .

What if? What if? What if? I’m always asking myself–losing battle after battle in my mind. But it’s not a war, it’s life, and there’s nothing to lose but people you don’t have either way.

Sitting with my best friend over wine and pasta filled every crack in my heart.

The stars are brighter here than anywhere I went this summer and the air is sweeter, too.

We’re home now and as the weather cools and the leaves begin to change, my mind is slowly shifting focus away from the water and toward the words.

As my soul commands each fall, I have purchased fresh pens and a few, empty notebooks so that whatever comes up through the dark and chilly seasons will have a place to go and a way to get there.

Just Lines

Is there anything heavier than a newborn?

Is staying just not leaving? All these years on the wind, I have no roots to put down.

Optimism has returned. I can do anything . . . but I’m still me, so only if I want to.

I am stuck in the space between what I think and what I do.

Not all who wander are lost, but I certainly was. Am?

The path that leads me away from myself always leads me back. It turns out, there’s nowhere else I can go.

The Underworld

It might have been the incessant rain or the murder of crows gathering in the dead oak outside my window. It might have been the dying flowers in their pretty vase or even the candles—flickering their last at the ends of their wicks. Whatever it was, I found myself at the gate. Unlike Heaven, there’s no keeper. This gate is unlocked and you can come whenever you please, though it pleases no one to come here.

I tuck my heart close, lest I lose it, and set my shield down; having been here before, I know there will be no protecting myself from what I find. Next, I tuck my shoes and soul beneath it’s weight, comforted that they’ll have some shelter from the elements while I’m away. Whatever else you do, never bring your soul here—this is no place for the divine.

When all is as it should be, I step through and begin my descent. Down, down over eons of rot that squelch between my toes. Down, down through hallways of bones and teeth where I somehow know which belong to those I’ve loved. Down, down where moonlight can’t go. Down, down where the rain is full of salt and never stops. Down, down until the path levels out and turns to the broken dreams of the living. Only then do I know I have arrived in the Underworld.

It isn’t Hell, if such a place exists. Hell is for souls and there are no souls here. Just the end. The end of whoever it was you were in the middle of loving. The end of yourself as you were when they lived. The end of all you knew and all you didn’t. The end–where all that holds physical form loses it to water and worms.

Now that I’m here, I crinkle my brow the same way I do when I’ve just entered a room and already forgotten why. After all, I already gathered up the remains of my loves and left them here months ago. I stand at the exact place I stopped then and try to remember to no avail. Finally turning with a shrug to retrace my steps to the gate which leads right back to my life as I left it . . . it’s only then I realize my mistake.

I left the wrong way last time–returning to life as I left it—surrounded by empty spaces where love used to be. I let go of their bodies but held on tight to the emptiness they left behind. Turning back toward the dark unknown, I shudder. I want to go back to the gate: back to my shoes and my soul and my shield, back to familiar, if empty, spaces.

But I don’t.

I know I came for this—the sixth stage of grief. The one that comes after you find your way through your worst nightmares to acceptance. It took me a while. Acceptance cost me and I had to gather up fresh courage for this:

There’s new love, new adventure, new wisdom that await on the other side of all you go through when you grieve. More than enough to fill the empty spaces to overflowing. But if you want it, you can’t go back the way you know.

To reach the sixth stage is to set down your shield. It’s all heart. It’s running barefoot through the Underworld, soaked in the tears of everyone ever, in a darkness too deep for moonlight. It’s feeling the sickening squelch of eons of rot between your toes and pushing forward, knowing that if you keep going, you’ll love again and get hurt again . . . and again and again until your teeth and bones join the others here.

And it’s worth it.

Every time.

It’s worth it.

So I run. Heart wide open through all I’ve loved and lost before. I run barefoot through darkness as deep black as a crow’s feather with nothing but hope to guide me forward. Until I’m falling down, down into a deep, slow river. Cool, fresh water rinses the tears of everyone ever from my hair and washes the rot of eons from my feet. I close my eyes and float on my back, not warm or cold, not happy or sad, and not marking the moment moonlight creeps in–slowly turning blackest black into gray and gray into silver, until the sun rises–shifting silver into the pale gold of a new day.