The more you know, the less you know. Seems cliche or contradictory, doesn’t it? But it is neither and I know this because I have been living it for a month now. It’s been awful. And awesome. Having knowledge that hurts forces a person to live and to feel. I have been tested in ways that wouldn’t have crossed my mind mere weeks ago. And yet, here I am: living and feeling.
Since having, not-so-arguably, the most difficult month of my life, I have been seeking emotion in a way that I hadn’t in years. Risks that seemed unimaginable for much of my life, I have taken. I am a proud self-proclaimed scaredy cat. I think fear is pretty reasonable and believe it is what will keep me safe well into my early 100s. But enough is enough, and I am done being scared of the dumb stuff. Thanks to the last month, tumultuous times to say the least, I have been less risk averse.
- I got a tattoo. Not so surprising. I have had 11 tattoos in my life. This one though. It is the first I ever did all on my own. The first that is not a tribute to someone else and my love for them. No. This one is a tribute to ME and my love for MYSELF. A solitary, black hot air balloon to commemorate travel, adventure, movement, freedom, and growth. Queen Maya Angelou says, Still I rise.
- I drove in Saudi Arabia. Something that was off-limits for those of us with lady bits for so long is now a real thing we can do. I am not about to pat myself on the back for this–I will stay in my lane here (intentional pun). Driving in Saudi is something that the women of Saudi deserve all the credit for bringing to fruition. Regardless, it is a tough place to drive. It’s a man’s world on those roads, so sticking the key in the ignition and taking my family to school has been liberating. Seeing other women doing the same has been empowering. It’s a reminder that women can do it. Whatever the IT is.
- Bats. Those effing nocturnal, flying, unnatural mammals. They’ve haunted me since childhood. Finding their way into my most vulnerable moments. Whether it was invading my home as a little girl, dive-bombing my face while I slept my first night in a college dorm, stalking me on twilight walks around town with their seemingly random flight patterns, or finding previously unknown crevices to sneak into while I was parenting alone when Riley first moved to Saudi. They are always there. An omen of the unknown and the unkind. I was in Austin, Texas in late July. The largest urban colony of bats in North America resides there under the Congress Street Bridge. Hundreds of people gather each summer night to see them– THOUSANDS OF THEM– emerge in a cloud of squeaking black bleakness to devour insects and find scared folks like me to torment. I went and watched as those little bastards flew out from under the bridge at dusk. And I went on my own. I cried out of fear and out of pride and didn’t care much about the people staring at my tear soaked face. I looked fear in its dumb eye-holes and won the staring contest.
- Public speaking is hard for me. I am not charismatic, nor do I have the confidence to fake it ’til I make it. But, where I work, I found amazing colleagues and administrators who lifted me up and gave me an amazing opportunity to lead something that I believed in wholeheartedly. Alongside these colleagues and administrators, I helped to organize a day of professional development and spoke in front of our entire school district. Wobbly knees and a shaky voice did not stop me.
- I am a little bit like oil. Me and water? Impossible combination. The loss of control being underwater? No thank you. The feeling of being small/insignificant amid a large body of water? Good Lord NO. Water is among the MANY IRRATIONAL PHOBIAS (see: BATS) in my life. But, dammit. I am spending a week on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, and my kids want me to get in the water with them. So, I have been in every pool. I swam in the sea…farther than I could touch. I went tubing. And, during that tubing expedition, we were all terrified. But, I refused to let on. Glennon Doyle and Elizabeth Gilbert equate familial discord with turbulence on a plane. During turbulence, we look at the flight attendants. If they are going about their business and continuing to serve the peanuts, we tend to shrug off the turbulence. If they are losing their collective crap, we panic. Well, on that Big Mabel in the rocky Mediterranean, I wanted to lose my collective crap. I didn’t though. I kept serving the gosh darn peanuts and the kids stayed calm-ish. (I would not recommend this particular activity with 7 and 5 year olds, for those of you wondering).
- Body positivity has never been my thang. Don’t generally like how I look, have struggled with my weight since I was in kindergarten, am easily confused with others due to my overwhelming ordinariness. But, you know what I did? A Turkish bath. I had not a clue what that entailed when I scheduled my appointment, but When In Turkey, right? This is a family blog, so I won’t go into detail here, but being OK with your body is sort of a pre-requisite for Turkish-style bathing. I let my insecurities go for thirty minutes and left clean, both figuratively and literally.
- I am allowing myself to feel it all. Fear, curiosity, anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, love, forgiveness, repeat. This might just be the meaning of life. Don’t let it own you, but FEEL IT ALL.
It’s exhilarating. Starting to conquer my scaredy-catness was necessary to remind me of my bad-assness. Still I rise.
Tomorrow, I might just take my son down a water slide. (Or not).