I never liked my eyebrows or my nose when I was a kid. It was a time in society you just didn’t see representations of me in magazines or on TV. I wanted to look just like the California gold standard that graced every cover, commercial and lead role.
No matter how hard I plucked and tweezed and tried to contour my very Middle Eastern features to more closely resemble the blonde blue eyed, aquiline lovely models I saw wherever I turned, it just wasn’t gonna happen.
I was teased relentlessly for the shape of my nose for the first 25 years of my life, and dreamed of the day I could have it “fixed”. I wished and exercised away my teen years desperately wanting narrow hips and the waif-like figure of Kate Moss.
No matter what I did, my nose was still big and my thighs were too thick. At an audition I was told that I was wonderful but really didn’t look like a “lead”. The man gently explained that girls like me are cast as the funny supportive character, and the “ethnic ones”.
I felt like the ugly duckling. The one who would never grow into a swan but was secretly actually an ostrich. Don’t get me wrong, I think ostriches are pretty cool birds, but they are not the bird you visualize when you dream of becoming something beautiful.
He was right at that time too. No matter where I turned, the reality of how beauty was defined showed me I was an ostrich, and not a swan. I decided to hide behind a pen and keyboard, and to pour my words out to the word where it didn’t matter what I looked like.
Oddly enough I was an adult, a mom to five incredible kids, aging gracelessly when I really learned to love myself. My appreciation for my body grew out of an appreciation for how easily it could betray me. Suddenly I saw myself as an important vessel that was essential to bigger and much more important things than my own vanity.
I wanted to be able to walk and move and do more than just watch my children grow, I wanted to grow with them. I learned to love the moments I moved without pain. The days my face didn’t looked weary and low. I looked at my reflection and wanted my face to show tenderness and compassion.
The world is a bumpy place and life can knock you ass over teakettle so many times you have trouble catching your breath before tumbling again. I wanted people feeling thrown and embattled to look over and see hands stretched out through my eyes.
I’ve been lifted up and dusted off by complete strangers. People who saw struggling in me and wordlessly communicated “I see you and you are not alone. It gets better.” I began to shed my down and let gorgeous feathers replace them. I stretched my neck towards the sunlight and like a swan, set sail.
I wandered absentmindedly through the yard in the direction of the goats, reading my son’s paper with one hand, and carrying a bucket of feed in the other.
I stood at the fence, not looking up from the paper, and patted Honey’s head affectionately. She bleated softly and nuzzled my hand. I looked down to smile at her and realized she was on MY SIDE OF THE FENCE! An escapee!
She had squeezed under a section previously hidden from her by a deep layer of snow, now gone in the fifty degree sunshiny first day of Spring.
A rather extensive chase/reign of mayhem ensued, including an unexpected trip into and through THE HOUSE. And over my freshly washed floors. And much to the delight of my children.
My head is absolutely spinning. I love my kids and raising them has definitely stretched me in ways I’d never dreamed and made me a better person.
But lord help me…The teen years…. The hormonally driven wild highs, followed by sudden and dramatically fast drops, swooping up only moments before impact and soaring again and sucking everyone in the path of the storm along with it.
I never know which version of my teen will be the one walking through the door or whether it’s going to be a dance party or a red wedding.
The only thing less stable than a teenager is a martini glass filled to the rim with nitroglycerin, teetering in a tray carried by a blindfolded circus bear riding a unicycle on a tight wire that’s being yanked on by clowns.
And even then, the outcome is more predictable and less stressful. Lord have mercy…
One of my littlest littles at work tucked a note into my hand as he swooshed around me and past me in a blur of excited energy and relatively controlled chaos. He delivered it with a brief, tight hug, a thickly lisped plea for juice, and tore on to his next adventure further down the hall.
I had slipped it into my coat pocket quickly in order to accommodate his request before leaving to head home to my own busy brood, a long list of errands along the way.
This morning I pulled on the same coat to meet a friend for coffee and found the folded and crinkled paper. My heart melted at the bright crayon flowers, the carefully shaped letters phonetically spelling out words that curved around the edge of the page to fit. “Ellie I lof you”.
My job is a hard one. Children come to us in such crisis and pain, often expressed in anger because they are just hurting so much. They just want to be loved and to love and who could ask for a better job than that?
When I was a little girl I was afraid of my own voice. I was afraid that if the time came when I really needed to make myself heard, to cry out for help, no sound would come out. No help would come to the voiceless.
Silence was also comforting to me. Keeping painful things away from the spoken word meant I could cocoon myself with my memories and seal them away from the rest of the world. Allowing them to break into sound on my tongue, to let them live in the ears and the air around me just could not be allowed to happen.
My own mother has a powerful voice. She never hesitated to express what she was feeling or thinking and encouraged me constantly to know my own worth. Still, I struggled.
While my mother lived life out loud, I lived my own in my head and I worried about how I could possibly bring the world inside myself into harmony with the world outside.
I was painfully shy and only managed to emerge from my shell when I could pull on a character and slip onto a stage, free to be as loud as that version of me could be.
It was empowering. To stand on a stage, to inhabit someone else’s skin.
I could say and do and be anything I could dream of. I wanted that feeling to last forever, but always the moment I stepped into the wings, my voice became strangled and afraid and my world seemed confined to those anxieties. I lived there such a very long time. The world I could never escape.
It was a child, the heartbeat of a child, actually, that pushed me to start peeling back the layers of my cocoon, to shake and spread my damp wings for the sunlight. It took motherhood to tap into a power inside myself I never knew I had.
With each child that came into my life, a fierce determination came with it. A determination to instill self love, pride, and a courage to fly as far as their dreams dared them to go.
I started running after the birth of my 5th child, just telephone pole to telephone pole, adding another each time. It was embarrassing and hard and I felt foolish. I’m a slow runner, but I never give up.
I just wanted to be able to run a few miles in the sunshine, to feel freedom and strength. I wanted to experience that release. What was so unattainable started to move closer to me.
I decided to force myself to aim for something so big and wide it couldn’t help but grow me in its pursuit. A half marathon. It was something I never in a million years thought I could do as I ran telephone pole to telephone pole to 5k and then further.
I ran in silence. I ran in tears. I ran face to face with my thoughts, and I ran into and out of their path as my feet found the earth.
I ran that half marathon and it was just the beginning. It was time to break free from that cocoon of silence and let my heart speak too.
It was agonizing. It stretched me. It gave me the space to howl and cry out and even to scream. And then I spoke. I spoke my truth out loud. I found my own voice and with it the power to move mountains. And I found someone buried deep inside myself and aching to breathe free. I found a girl who knows her worth.
I swear to god I’m my own worst enemy but this takes the cake. On my way to the gym I noticed a potted (long dead) plant in the middle of our driveway nudged/nibbled there by my goat. Hand to god. Without a thought I went to kick it over into the yard with my slipper clad foot (yes, slipper clad. I keep my sneakers in the gym bag and you all remember yesterday’s plumbing disaster, so slippers were as dressed up as I cared to get. Judge if you must).
Turns out a dead potted plant in 14 degree weather makes it equivalent to kicking a large rock of equivalent size. My big toe is twice the size of its twin on the other foot, a few different colors, and twenty times angrier. It hurts like a motherf’cker if I even breathe on it.
Still hopped to the gym (because I’m not about to let myself off that easy) and managed 30 minutes on the elliptical Hell machine. I’m too tired to shower, grumpy and still chubbier than seems fair after the last 24 hours. My foot is now up, big toe on ice, middle finger extended to the universe. Future me is laughing. I hope like hell future me gets a great blog out of this, but now me is writing this up as is.
Red nose because it’s damn cold in this house, dark circles because why sleep when your brain wants to spend the night thinking about the plumber, the burst pipe, the drenched and mushy fallen ceiling tiles filling totes around the Christmas tree downstairs and creative ways to pay for all of it. No make up because why bother today, and two large chai lattes with double shots of espresso because a momma soldiers on. Bring on the day!