May 24, 2013

and go be it

A lovely recurring thing about adulthood, for me, is that I learn. I learn a lot, and I learn often. You see, in my lifetime, I have believed a lot of things that are not true. I said to someone recently that I feel like lately I just sit back and watch the things I've mistakenly believed to be hard and fast facts of life pop like bubbles right before my very eyes. It is at once the most liberating and terrifying experience of my life to date, and I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

Yesterday while I was walking to the grocery store a few blocks from my house, I stopped at these flowers to marvel at just how quaint my little life was, right there in that moment. And as I stood there, in awe that such perfect colors exist in nature, just steps from my back door, something occurred to me.

Since I was but a wee tot, I think I have struggled with the belief that the things I wanted to be would come naturally to me. I don't mean that boastfully, like I assumed I would just be good at everything - because I can assure you I sacrificed any confidence I had in my "natural abilities" to middle school athletics a long time ago. This is more the thought that I would be certain ways and not others by no choice of my own. I know that sounds weird, but bear with me. A simple example would be that I am not a morning person. At all. In any way. So I would think, oh, I wish I was a morning person. But alas I am not, so I must push the snooze once more. Woe is me. The reality is, if I was serious about being a morning person, it would take a lot of work. It would take days, weeks, of setting 25 different alarms every morning until one day I finally woke up on time. It's possible. Though I'll be honest, not probable in any kind of immediate time frame.

I remember the first time it occurred to me that I could be whatever I chose to be. I was looking in a magazine and I thought, oh, I wish I was a person who could pull off red lipstick and it occurred to me that I COULD BE IF I WANTED. And I did. So I was. Have been ever since, in fact. Liberation and terror abound.

Which brings us to yesterday: I think I've been in a teensy little bit of a funk lately. One where I am very tired from working with difficult people all day long so I come home and my natural inclination is to drink wine and watch Netflix until I eventually fall asleep. Now, that's all well and good once in a while, but for me that's not a super healthy pattern to get into. I don't want to be that person. So instead, last night when I got home, I walked to the grocery store near my house with a cute yellow reusable bag I have and bought a spaghetti squash and some other things I'd been wanting to cook and I stopped to look at flowers and then I walked back home. It was lovely, and I realized as I looked at those very flowers that I was not a slave to my funk. I had gone against my natural inclination and done something that in the moment had not seemed all that genuine to my immediate desires, and somehow it wasn't disingenuous. In fact, just right then and there, I had chosen quaint and lovely [with a little more effort] over funky and mopey [which would have been easy-breezy]. It had taken some work on my part, but I was being what I wanted to be.

Is it always this simple? Heavens, no. There are about a million other factors in this life to contend with than just choosing to have one quaint evening instead of a funky one, chemical imbalances and whatnot. Even to sustain this one little thing I'll have to make the same choice again tomorrow, and the day after that and the one after that too, which is a little exhausting to think about, if we're being honest. But practice makes perfect. I can be whatever I want to be. It may not come naturally. I may have to work at it. But the great part is, I get to choose. And that's at least kind of fun.

All in all, I think my musical boyfriends the Avett Brothers say it best:

If you need me I'll be here, wearing red lipstick and sleeping through my alarm and walking to the store and cooking spaghetti squash and doing lots of other glamorous activities I have busting the seams of my iCal in order to build the life I want to live.

Be whatever you want to be. Be liberated and terrified. I highly recommend it.

May 10, 2013

glass slippers

She grew up watching Cinderella. It was the first movie she ever saw in a theater, a musical she performs often on road trips, one she's watched far beyond an acceptable age to do so, one she can't wait to show her daughter, someday. She still hums that song every once in a while, she'll catch herself: in dreams you will lose your heartache, whatever you wish for you keep...

She'd imagined, once upon a time, that being a grown-up was something like this; hoping secretly that adulthood looked like whirlwind romance, twirling through meadows, and breaking into song at every turn. Certainly, she grew out of this dream in it's fullness. She accepted that she would likely not be rescued from a tower or dressed by squirrels in a forest every morning and the like. Those were realities she could handle. But like any little girl who's grown up might admit to you in a moment of vulnerable truth-telling, one doesn't fully let go of wanting to be Cinderella. The dream changes over time, of course. But well into adulthood, in my experience, a little bit of your heart still believes that it's possible, one day, to feel like Cinderella again.

She is a full-on grown up now, with a job and bills and a retirement account and a dentist she found all on her own. She walks through a mall, mindlessly, on an evening with potential for loneliness. She is thinking it would be nice to have something new, pretty. And with full awareness that there are life necessities like rent and car insurance to be paid, she steps cautiously into her favorite store, which on a good day she can neither a) afford or b) resist. She saunters back to the sale room, nonchalantly touching dresses on the way, trying not to get attached. She peruses candles, aprons, pillows, and a smattering of accessories thrown haphazardly into a tub, when something shiny catches her eye.

It is perfection, in a shoe. Unique, delicate, flashy, and stylish - with a sensible heel. One pair left.

Cautiously she reaches for them, they appear to be an appropriate size, she is certain she could not be so lucky. Sliding one on to her foot, her breath catches as her heel slides perfectly into the back of the shoe.

Suddenly she is overcome with a feeling that transports her back to a time much simpler than this one; she is running out the front door, tripping a little as she kicks off a patent-leather shoe for a particularly participatory uncle to retrieve. He chases her down the driveway, she slows theatrically, just a little short of breath because her favorite part comes next. He stops in front of her and places the shoe over a ruffled sock on her tiny foot. As always, a perfect fit. She felt special. Pursued. Fancy. Loved. Happy.

It's not that she doesn't know it's a bit silly - this stupid pair of shoes tucked back in a sale room for half of half the price in exactly her size and style - for this to be an impactful moment in her life. It seemed she had forgotten for a moment - but on a lonely Wednesday evening in a sale room, all at once, she is special, pursued, fancy, loved, happy as she ever was. A little girl, grown up - a whole world of possibilities ahead of her - and a sparkly pair of shoes to wear as she faces whatever comes next.