I remember the first time I lived inside of questioning my body. When I was 8 years old or so. I was taking a ballet class and I wore a t-shirt over my leotard. I was the only girl who did this. I wanted to cover my belly. Since a child I have had this lower belly bulge. It has made me question my body and my beauty my whole life.
Isn't that amazing? That one spot on our entire gorgeous selves can make us question everything? Worth. Value. Love. Beauty. Desire. Longing.
As we got closer to the recital the teacher came up to me and said that for the final rehearsals I would have to take off the shirt. All I can describe that feeling as, is fear. Deep, fear.
Of being judged.
In high school I flipped that fear into full blown rebellion. I was a vegetarian-peace loving-outspoken actor who would protest wars and wear black and listen to The Smiths. In an army school. I took my fears and my shyness and my sensitivities and let them lead my next iteration. Living in Europe was comfort to my feeling different as I never once felt weird in my time off the base or outside of the army school.
I decided if I was going to be judged, then why not do it up. I loved the feeling of being different. I was 16 and free.
I returned from Europe at 17, started school in New Hampshire. I wore leggings every day with clogs and big wool socks (to serve as leg warmers, at this time finding leg warmers was not easy) and a scarf that I wrapped around my head to hold my hair back every day.
Patrick, my kids dad, said the first time he saw me, he had never seen someone like me. And he knew that I was different, which is what drew me to him.
Once when I was 17, I never questioned myself.
My friend Chelsae and I were looking at photos and videos of me when my third little one was 2 years old, I was 36, and we were talking about how different I was. I had been trying to become the perfect mother and wife and health coach. I cut all my hair off. I straightened it instead of wearing it in the waves and braids and messiness that I had when I was 17.
I was playing a role. Trying on something new. Iterating again.
Chels is an artist and much younger than me. She started giggling and said, "Isn't that funny that we met and loved each other then? Because that you was so not who I am drawn to."
I was playing a character. I had iterated back into the fear of being judged. I longed to fit in. To blend. To take a break from being the one who stood out. Who was different.
Who was judged. Because being different is a set up for judgment.
I needed a break. As I often do. I have iterated back and forth my entire life. Changing to please others or to please myself.
At 36, I started to grow my hair out and I pierced my nose. Something I had longed for since I was 17 years old.
At 37, my first tattoo.
At 38, a soft separation from husband.
At 39, an epic scavenger hunt around Providence to celebrate who I was becoming.
At 40, a new home, a new start.
At 41, I find myself once again questioning everything about who I am.
My choices. My body. My lifestyle.
I am afraid that I bring more negativity and stress to my new love's life than I bring him joy. I am afraid that I have gained too much weight from the stress of this last year to be seen as beautiful. (Circling back to the belly.) I am afraid that I can't sustain supporting my children on a business that I am creating each day. I am afraid that I am more alone now, in the midst of so many that I am trying to love up and nurture and hold. I am afraid that I am going to lose all my hair. I am afraid that those who judge me will make me question everything about who I am.
Like the little girl who was terrified to take off her t-shirt.
And be judged.
Once when I was 7 years old, I was fearless. I didn't know that I might look different or be different or ever be judged.
Once when I was 17 years old, I felt a freedom in my belly, in my center, and I longed to be loved, held, taken care of, told I was beautiful.
Once when I was 41 years old, I was afraid. I had so much unknown before me, and all I could, can do, is pray.
Once when I was another age, in another time, she will know what I didn't know. I will have iterated over and over. I will have learned in my past from my future self. And my future self will love up the one that was.
The t-shirt goes on. Then off. In fear. Fearless. Judgement. Shining.
I am the wing that you can see, bold and bright, and the one that is the shadow. That is yet to become. That is becoming.
Once I was 17 years old. I felt beautiful. And all I wanted was to be loved. To have someone to love.
Once I was 17 years old with the desires that have all manifested.
And so I must begin again. Iterate. Question.
I fear my body. I fear the future. I fear the choices I am making. I fear that I am not beautiful or able to bring or be loved.
In this fear of judgement, I begin again. At 41. And once and still and now, I learn to be free and feel the joy that knowing who you are will bring.
Once I was 7 years old and I wanted him to find me. To find him. To have all of our babies. To grow plants and play house. To find my house. To love them up. To be adored. To spend the rest of my life taking care of him as he takes care of me.
To watch our children grow into 7 and 17 and 36 and 38 and 41.
While we sit, holding hands, remembering when we were 7 years old.
I am questioning everything. The only feeling I can describe it as, is fear.
Once I was 41 years old. And everything before me was unknown. And filled with more joy than I ever thought possible.