Perpetuating our own truth

Even before I got out of the car I questioned why I was here. I had pulled myself away from a cozy fire and good company to go out into a chilly, damp December night. I was about to walk into an overheated crowd of locals, some of whom I hadn’t seen for twenty years or more. Immediately we have two problems with the scenario: 1) I’m an introvert. I don’t like crowds or rowdy parties. I’m more of the intimate dinner party type where you can have deep, interesting conversation. How’s the weather? and What have you been up to for the last twenty years? strike me dumb. 2) I don’t drink (that much). And 3) at this particular point in our lives I was painfully aware that the money passed across the bar for the wine or Malibu and Coke that might have relaxed me a little could have fed my family a nice dinner.

It was my high school class 20th “preunion” held in advance of the official July reunion in deference to the few class mates who were shipping out to Afghanistan  in January. Hubby and I had spent Boxing Day (the British name for the day after Christmas) with my parents and so were in town anyway, I thought we should go.

I worried that I looked slim enough, 37 and not 45, and if my hair wasn’t too poofy. And I worried I wouldn’t know what to say to anyone. The very few people I was close to in high school weren’t going to be there and any others were in reality only acquaintances. Yes, we had spent four years knocking around the same halls and suffering under the same teachers, but I did not know them. And they don’t know me.

I hadn’t spent my formative years with them. Our mothers did not chat over coffee, our fathers didn’t watch the Game together. I never went to high school parties because back then I was “religious” and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to attend even if I had been invited. I wasn’t a cheerleader or soccer player. I attempted to play field hockey but that was only because a friend had told this newly arrived “English girl” that you weren’t anybody in high school unless you played a sport (she also told me that it was imperative that I wear a turtle neck under a button-down oxford – and I thought there wasn’t a school uniform here). So upon arriving at the school, I signed up for the only sport I had any experience with in my former school. I spent the next three springs sprinting (which I was good at) up and down the side of a field, stick in hand, praying the ball wouldn’t come anywhere near me. The only compensation was that I knew I looked good in the little pleated skirt.

I was too shy to join any other groups other than drama and the peer help group called Students to Students. Not one student ever came to talk to me. I question whether that was because no one had any troubles or because I sent out vibes that declared I was unapproachable? I’m guessing the latter. The truth was I was so anxious and unsure of my place in the (American) world that I erected a protective wall of which I was unaware but very few people penetrated.

Where I really belonged was in the music room. Once dear Mrs. LaPlaca heard me sing that’s where I and my closest friends spent a lot of  time. It was here I felt freer to be me.

That was twenty years ago. My high school friends are living their own lives and we are no longer physically or socially close. I have been away from the area for more than 15 years and I am not the shy, unauthentic, uncertain 16 year old I was. Or am I?

Walking into that bar, seeing faces from another time, another life time, bought it all back. The discomfort of not knowing where you fit, how you fit, or if you should even try. If I was an extrovert I would not only have had more friends in high school to begin with but I would be able to walk into a room of almost-strangers and initiate conversations, chat about football or kids, and throw caution and money to the wind for a few drinks.

But as it was, I felt like running away I moment I stepped over the threshold. Not because of the people there but because of me. I didn’t like being reminded of the lost little girl I once was. Just like the pathetically bad field hockey player who missed out on being in two plays because she was trying so hard to be a “somebody,” and the socially awkward student mentor, I felt uncomfortable and ostracized. And who made me feel this way? Me. I was once again the self-conscious “English girl” who didn’t belong. And so I made it so.

We make our own beds. What do you believe about yourself that you know in your heart isn’t true? How do you continue to perpetuate your own truth? How can you change this “truth” in 2010?

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Saying goodbye

Today I took down the crib that cradled my two children through nights and naps from infancy into their toddler years.

And today I cried.

It’s not that I want another baby. It’s not that I’m attached to the 3rd-hand crib or the space it was taking up in the kids’ room. It isn’t even because I jammed my finger while trying to wrestle the thing apart (which I didn’t, but surely would have if I hadn’t enlisted my husband to pry its bolts and screws from their nooks and crannies). No, I cried because… well, I don’t know exactly.

Twice I have endured the morphing of my body into an unwieldy monstrosity. Twice I have labored and summoned strength and stamina I could never have imagined for myself. I have brought into this world two babies, two beautiful, smart babies.

I have been splattered and spit up on. Puked on and peed on. I have been sucked on and slept on. I have picked up, mopped up, and been fed up. I have cried, I have laughed, I have felt pride, and I have felt guilt. I have yelled and I have hugged. I have felt alone and I have craved to be alone. I have wanted my life back yet never want to go back to life before I met my children.

I love my children but I know I don’t want any more. I am ready to get myself back, to begin the life I have wanted for myself but have had to put on hold. With one child in kindergarten and one ready to take on the world in his new 2-year-old shoes, I am beginning to get a glimpse of that life.

So why the tears?

Maybe I was crying for the babies I will never hold to my breast again. For the times I gently placed them, limp with sleep, into that crib, their soft breath whispering through milky lips. For the first time I found them standing, holding the crib bar for support, triumph beaming on their face.

Or maybe I was crying for the future toward which they are headed now that they sleep snug and secure in their big girl and boy beds? For the patter of feet down the hallway or the thumps down the stairs. For the curly-topped head that seems each day to have grown a little closer to my waist. Or the slammed doors and stands of defiance that mark another step toward independence.

I can’t answer the question with one definitive answer because I don’t think there is one. Taking apart and stacking in the hallway the biggest physical aspect of my children’s babyhood is an obvious metaphor. What is not so obvious is the part of me I was dismantling along side it.

Tick Tock, The Clock Won’t Stop

This is just uncalled for.

On the eve of my 36th birthday I found, not one, not two, but three gray hairs peeking out from under my otherwise auburn mass (not Auburn, Massachusetts… hehe, I’m so funny). How does that happen? One day you have none and the next you have three pigmentally-challenged hairs. Do they suddenly grow or do regular hairs turn gray? I suppose I could look this up on wikipedia but I can’t be bothered with that right now. I’m more concerned with why this would happen on this day of all days.

Tonight at midnight I begin the downward slide to 40. I am beginning my 37th year with three holes in my head from whence I yanked the offending follicles. Am I supposed to read something into this? That the time has come for me to face that I am no longer a young woman?

You see, I have this thing about age. I always assume (completely illogically) that if someone is in a high position of power or reached a stage in their career that puts Director or President or CEO by their name, that they must be old(er). I even think anyone who has children – of any age – must be beyond me in years. I can never quite wrap my head around age.

At my new job I am reorganizing the personnel files. It was with shock that I discovered on a list only two or three 1970’s birthdates. Other than the really old ‘uns – born in the 50’s and 60’s -the majority of my co-workers were wailing in their cribs when I was Karma Chameleon-ing to Boy George.

Who do they see when they say hello to me from the hallway? Someone who stays home every night -even Fridays and holidays – who is dosing off at 8PM and gets buzzed on one glass of wine? Someone who will never again zip a pair of jeans without first folding in the baby belly, and who didn’t like the 80’s styles the first time around. I AM one of the older ones to them.

But aren’t the 30’s are supposed to be the best years of a women’s life? (No? It’s the 40’s? According to Oprah, it’s the 50’s… ???)

Yes, tonight for the first time in my life I believe I am having trouble with a birthday. Planning our 20th high school reunion and realizing this year’s seniors were born the year I graduated certainly doesn’t help.

So, Happy B00-Hoo To Me.

(I still want cake.)