I have been shaped by moments, ideas, seasons, and poems. Molded in part by the waves of an enormous lake, the rustling of dark forests, the smell of newspapers. Every decision I have ever made, no matter how insignificant, has led me here to this day. Every kiss, every song, every missed bus and missed opportunity. Every sigh, hug, and handshake. Every glass of wine, glass of spilled milk, and midnight feeding. Every plan, coincidence and moment of serendipity have led me here to me. It’s overwhelming, actually.
There have been other hands in my Becoming as well. Some hands that held my own as I led the way, some hands that guided, some that pushed. Some hands held the door while others slammed it closed. While this journey is my own, there have definitely been teachers and tempests. And because my life, my strength and my essence are so intertwined with my womanhood, I thought it only right that I talk about five of the many, many women that have helped me carve my way.
First, of course, is my mother. I was born when my mom was 22. She was married and a full fledged adult- no scandal there. But I look at that age- a full 14 years younger than I am now, and realize just how much growing up she had to do on her own while also raising two curious and outspoken kids. One thing I know FOR SURE is that parenting is not easy. In fact, it is the most difficult and emotionally draining thing I’ve ever done. And my mom stayed home with us! All day! She literally put her entire life on hold so that we would be taken care of. Looking back at that and knowing how hard it must have been and what a good job she was able to do just blows my mind. It was during those precious early years that my mother taught me feminism. In between the stories and the crafts and the trips to the pool, there were these amazing lessons that were never designed, she just summoned them. I remember her taking notes one day as the commercials played between my cartoons. When I asked what she was doing, she told me she was writing down how products were being marketed to girls, because she didn’t think it was fair. A commercial for a science kit came on. “Does that look like fun?” she asked. Yes! It did! She thought so too. So where were the kids that looked like me? She taught me that I needed to think outside of the box. I wasn’t going to be spoon fed the life that I wanted. My dreams would never be marketed to me. People might give me the tools, but I was in charge of the building.
Next is Diane. She was my god mother, my aunt, my friend and the easiest person in the world to talk to. She had an amazing knack for making people feel totally comfortable, and everyone she met instantly became an old friend. She was blunt, hilarious, and unabashedly herself, and when you talked to her, it was like everyone else faded away. Somehow she was always able to make you feel like the most important priority, make you feel special. Even when she was dying of cancer, she made sure I knew I was loved. Diane taught me how important connections are, how beautiful confidence is, and that our time with our loved ones is limited. I miss her every single day.
Next is my mother in law, Betsy. It’s sad to me that mother in laws get such a bad wrap- mine is incredible. Betsy has worked her ass off as a social worker for 40 plus years- to provide for herself and her family, yes- but also to help others. She has written books, traveled around the world, led trainings, and has immersed herself in the adoption community in order to assist in providing stability and happiness to children and families. The best part is, she loves what she does. Betsy has taught me that a career isnt just something that pays the bills- it can be a passion and a labor of love. She has also taught me that it is ok to need assistance occasionally. Her Love Language is acts of service for sure- such a beautiful and noble thing. Prior to knowing her, I was always the one offering help- I was too proud to accept it myself, and MUCH too proud to ask for it. I felt that if I couldn’t do everything I needed to on my own, then somehow I was a failure. It took time, but eventually I learned that accepting help makes the giver feel like they are doing something good, and only lightens the receiver’s burden. When Evvie was born, we would have been lost without Betsy- she took care of Griffin, cooked for us, folded laundry… it allowed us to take the time we needed to be with our new baby. And it felt AMAZING.
Without mentioning names, I’ll just say the next woman is a previous supervisor. Not every woman that has shaped my life has been a positive force, and this woman was not. She was an enigma and would never tell me what she wanted from me, she only told me when she was unhappy. I lived walking on eggshells for two years while I suffered from what was basically emotional abuse. I never knew when I’d be pulled into her office to be threatened or berated, but never thanked or even guided toward a more positive work environment. I will never forget the moment that she told me I was not management material- that some people were not, and that I would always need to be delegated menial tasks- not designing them. I think about her every day while I run a successful program and create positive change in my new role. She taught me how important it is to build the people around you up. When you tear them down, it only makes them want to run. And she also pushed me toward my own success. Hearing her tell me what I never could be only made me want those things more. I give thanks that she came into my life for that.
And finally, I need to talk about my own daughter, Evelyn. This beautiful, perfect, funny, spirited and smart little girl. Yes, she’s only a year old, but this tiny woman has already changed my life in such profound ways. She came into our lives on her own time- which meant it was when I was not expecting it. At the time, I was convinced that was a bad thing. But she has shown me that I have the strength and willpower to make things work, no matter how difficult. She is also, somehow, completely on her own, SO. GIRLY. When she was new, I refused to buy her pink. I only chose gender neutral toys. I never wanted her to think her worth was only to be pretty or a princess. I still don’t want that for her. But Evvie is drawn to shoes and purses and jewelry in ways that Griffin never was! And she bats her eyelashes or demurely tilts her head in ways I never taught her- it’s just her. And that’s ok!! She taught me that being girly isn’t bad, or a negative societal push- it’s just how some people express themselves, and she is allowed to be whoever she is. Having a little girl in my home has made me rethink a lot of my own behaviors as well. I never want her to grow up with body issues, and it has really pushed me not only to stop using fat-shaming words about myself, but to just start loving myself more in general. I’ll never be a size 6 again, and that’s ok. I have two beautiful children to show for it. If she grows up with a happy and confident mama, chances are she’ll be happy and confident herself.
I wish I could write about ALL of the incredible, strong, and beautiful women I know, because there are so many- and they deserve to hear how special they are. But these are my Five. Who has helped to shape you?
* this post was part of the CG Write your Face Off event