Friday, January 27, 2012

Growing Up Female

Though I haven't seen the film Miss Representation, this is a subject near and dear to my woman-heart. I've taken the pledge and want to thank Ronna Detrick for her call to respond.

Here is a part of my personal story on growing up female. Grab a cup o' tea and join me in my journey to uncover.

On Body

I was tall for my age, had size 8 shoes by 3rd grade, and my body began changing rapidly, before nearly everyone else. I didn't quite know how to handle this; I couldn't share my experience with my friends because they weren't experiencing it yet. The boys in my class noticed. The girls definitely noticed. The adults in my life noticed, including family, friends, teachers. My parents noticed. And I noticed their noticing. And I had no idea what to do with it.

Luckily I played sports from a very young age. I was able to tap into that deep wisdom that my body was a strong vessel. I look back on the power I felt on the soccer field more than anywhere else. I felt myself ease into this body and begin to secretly like it. I liked the power I felt on the field.

But then I began to notice something: my body had this unyielding power off the field as well. 

My parent's friends told my dad to lock me up until I was 18. Though I knew what they meant, my innocent mind truly had no idea the half-spoken truth behind their words.  I secretly naively reveled in this attention. I remember rollerblading around a campground once and someone yelled out to me from their campsite.

I stopped. "Hi." I said, half-aware where this was going.
"How old are you?" the guy in the beach chair asked me. I noticed the beer in his hand.
"How old do you think I am?" I asked, more out of curiosity than flirtation.
"I don't know... 21?"
I smirked. "I'm 12." And I sped off.

On Mind

I was a smart kid. I got mostly A's and an occasional B, and I flourished in school. I loved being smart. My friends on the playground were often different from my friends in the classroom. Except for a few, the ones I played sports with were not the ones I'd share grades with to see who did better. It was a healthy challenge. This gave me a chance to be friends with everybody. I liked being more of a 'floater', as I called myself, than part of just one clique that wasn't always friendly to everyone else.

Then I noticed something. Everyone seemed to have that one friend, that best friend, and I really didn't. There was that one girl everyone wanted as a best friend. I didn't want to play that game. I didn't think there was something necessarily 'wrong' with me, I just started to not like being 'different'. I'd talk to my mom and she'd tell me I had an 'old soul' or the kids were just jealous... and while that helped a little, it couldn't take away the hurt.

In high school, I followed the same path: friends with everybody, feeling outcast here and there but knowing ultimately I was doing what I wanted to do with what I had to offer. I took hard classes instead of extra gym credits. I knew at this point I had an uphill battle with proving myself as female, and if you hand me a challenge I'm damn well going to beat it. That's how I approached this time in my life, wholeheartedly.

Despite loving it, I dropped my AP Art History class when my course load became too overbearing so I could prove myself in Physics and Calculus.  

This is the exact moment I think I began confusing what I want with what I need to prove as a female.

On Spirit

I played well with the boys. Almost better with the boys than the girls because they could be so feisty and overbearing at times. I was the one playing touch-football instead of jump rope. Or better yet, I'd do both. I loved the flexibility of this lifestyle. Until one day I didn't. It was ultimately a very lonely place to be; I did not having that one place to return to where I knew I belonged. It just made me so confused.

I struggled for a long time with understanding the power I knew my body had (looking closer to 20 than prepubescent),  and the calling I felt from the boys and the distance I felt from the girls. For a long time I relished in the calling from those boys. Well into my 20s. It became the only comfort I knew. I was seriously lacking some tools. While my ultimate optimism never fully disappeared, I was alone and confused and not feeling completely respected, by others, but more importantly myself.

On Unity

It is only now that I can put this all in a better perspective. I see now how I slowly neglected my body, and the powerhouse it can be, so that people would see beyond that. How cliche. I hate it. I hate that I felt I had to 'tone down' my physical strength and beauty to be seen as whole. My naivete was gone. I felt uncomfortable in my skin.

I long for that beautiful, strong body again and, more importantly, I long to feel SAFE in it. My spirit is very solid these days; I've finally learned the type of people I want in the front row of my life.

But, ultimately, I'm still fighting for unity between this body, mind, and spirit that I am.

- - - - - 

So what's your story on growing up female? Are there any similarities? How does your story differ? If you are male, how do you respond to this? How can we protect and change the story for our daughters of the future? Is there something I missed that you think about often?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Too Dark, Too Deep... Too Real.

I think best in the shower. I swear at some point in my life I will give in and get a waterproof voice recorder to keep in there with me. So you may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. This seems to be a reoccurring theme, and I hate it. (Maude loves it.)

Do you want to know why I stop blogging time and time again? (...Or do you maybe already know from experience???) It's not that I fear what you think, what you'll say; I encourage and embrace that wholeheartedly.

It's what they think. What they'll say. You know, the people who just don't get why someone would ever be so open, so honest with any of this... stuff. Them. And while I hate to create a divide, I can't deny coming across this continuously in my life. And while it's never so black-and-white, I'll digress from explaining myself more. (Humor me here.) I also gently encourage the thems to explore anyway, for fun, and really go there every now and again for a hot minute to see what treasures they may find.

Truth: The apple seems to have fallen from an orange tree in this case. 

'It's too dark, it's too deep, it's too real.' My super-sensor-social-media-aware-watch-your-back critic tells me.

'Okay.' And simple as that, I shy away.

But every time, I return.

I always kept a journal as a kid and teen... and well, I still have one. But as time went on, I'd berate myself over and over again so much that the writing, the opening up, came to me with less and less ease. Why? 'Because you always say the same damn thing' Maude tells me. 'No one wants to hear about your crap, what's going on "insiiide" you and it's just plain depressing.'

She's so harsh. So glad I can smile at her these most days and turn away. She's not talking to me. She's talking to anyone who will listen. Frankly I've had enough of her.

This is where I belong. I want you to hear my voice. I want you to feel my words resonate, to hear my words and say, 'Yes, I've felt that,' and know it's okay to think and feel the way you do. It's part of the human condition. Why can't we collectively embrace that? It is my hope to give you a safe place to relate. It is my hope to nurture that part within you and me, for I have so longed for that place to belong. I sense maybe some of you can relate.

And now that I've found it (for the millionth time), I'm claiming it. It is mine. I don't want to let it get away again.

Today I claimed, 'I am a writer, and an artist.' This is me.

A New Year (a Little Late)

(Hi there Maude... I see you've been back at your game. Now it's time for me to get back at mine.)

I've had an amazing January thus far, prompted mostly by the simplest action: choosing a word to guide me in 2012. I've never given this concept much thought (maybe it never came up?); I've always stuck with the process of pondering resolutions. Instead, I let the words roil in my head, one by one. I remember grasping for a few, but I knew better to simply trust. Strangely, I don't remember where or when this word came to me, but it hit me strrrrong.



Give it the space on your lips it deserves.


Let it sink slowly from your mind into your heart.


There. Within just a few days of entertaining myself with this new word (which I immediately fell in love with, of course) I sensed something shifting within me. I sat smiling with that strong, solid feeling and let it know I am here listening, waiting. Patiently as ever.

I've always been the type to jump at the chance for a fresh start. I've always felt so grounded in those moments: the start of a new school year as a child, a new season for sports, a new quarter in college, a new class, a new friend, a new year in my life, a new YEAR for the world. I thoroughly embrace the clean slate concept.

I smirked silently to myself during a conversation my mom led at my Grandpa's 94th birthday last Saturday. I knew it was food for thought.

"So does 94 feel any different than 93?" she asked.
"Nope!" he responded cheerfully. Simple as that.

But that's just it. There is nothing tangible changing. It's an invented moment: purely man-made. It's nothing more than a chance to feed on the newness of that moment.

I will take that chance.

BELONG. I (re)realized in the past 6 months... I never felt much like I belonged in my hometown. Last August, I returned here for the first time in 10 years, down to the exact month I'd left. It sucked. My (poor) brother drove me home all the way from Saint Louis. I was a mess the first half hour. I cried again 5 hours later (probably right when I woke up). And I broke down hard the moment we pulled into the driveway wondering, "What the hell have I just done to myself?"
But that was 2011 (Phew! See what I mean about the clean slate?), and I've grown accustomed to trusting the process. Now, here I am ready to pack my car and leave for Georgia on Monday. Freedom. A place I belong. And even better? What has ALL OF 2012 been about? Belonging... Even. In. My. Hometown. WOAH.

Not that I'm meant to stay, but that was all a part of it: recognizing I don't belong and being okay with that regardless of how others feel. My friends and family who are here have filled the past few weeks with so much love, and I've let them. I've even asked them to. (Gasp!) I don't even think, okay I'm not going to have enough time to see everyone. The reality: feeling welcome and belonging aren't quite the same thing. So why couldn't I see it? Why couldn't I let myself belong for the past 5+ months?

Because I never have. Some of this goes deep, and it hurts (when I let it). But I see it, and I'm so solidly okay with putting this swiftly behind me. I'm finally learning, in 2012, just 6 months shy of turning 30, how to belong in this world and IT. FEELS. GREAT.

I can tell you in all honesty, in pure happiness and without desire for pity, that for the first time in a long while I'm actually waking up and feeling like these days are mine to have and to hold. I wake up thinking, "I belong to this day."

So simple yet so ridiculously profound.

(There will be more on this topic I guarantee.)

- - - - -

This post is dedicated to the many people souls I've learned belong in my life...
Zak - for gently urging me to keep writing (thank you), and patiently reminding me again and again of the amazing comfort another human being can offer...
Margaret - for sharing the journey of The Artist's Way and so so so much more...
Kara - for leading me to The Artist's Way, and understanding with me sometimes it is the only way, for without it we are lost...

And the soul-full women I continue to connect with online with whom I want can't wait to learn and share so much....
(list and links to come!)
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