Looking back at old pictures of myself, I'm always shocked at what's changed. How the shape of my face has widened over the years, how my once wavy locks have lost their boldness, how what I thought of back then as a heavy, clunky body frame was actually quite svelte! It's a ritual of acknowledging what has come before, what is gone for good, and what is left.
Aside from the tragic loss of my girlish good looks, there are of course parts of myself that changed for the better. I'm not the same woman I was seven years ago when I met David for the first time, or (GULP) nine years ago when I stood on the steps of my high school and threw my graduation cap in the air. I'm not even the same as I was in sixth grade, when, at a birthday party, some brave friends of mine streaked around my house in the middle of the night and the rest of us looked on in fear and amazement. I miss the days of little-to-no flabby-ness but I don't miss the bad, not-so-great parts. I'm glad they were around for a bit, I'm thankful for the lessons they taught me, but I ain't that girl anymore.
Yes, I just said "ain't."Bob Dylan said it a few times in the same folksy way so just calm down.
Upon some more reflection, here is a list of other things I "ain't" anymore:
...scared of what others think - Sure, sometimes I'm still preoccupied (read: consumed) with what others think of me (Am I a bitch to be around? Am I hospitable? Am I funny?) but the whole concept doesn't scare me anymore. I used to shut myself off to people for fear I wasn't enough for them. "Enough" fashionable, "enough" interesting, "enough" cultured, "enough" wealthy, "enough" slutty. ('Nuff said.) Now, I get through each day on the belief that we're ALL CRAZY so it's better to embrace it than run from it.
...as sarcastic. Please note the "as" there; still working on this one. OK, blame it on the fact that I was a D.A.R.E kid but somewhere in my early years I started to get nervous about trying things out of my comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, like the rest of millennials, I was raised believing that WE ARE THE WORLD, and America is just a big, beautiful melting pot, and the sky is the limit, and if you believe it, you can achieve it. I wanted to see the world and try new things, I really did. But it turned out to be everyday life that I wasn't really ready for. I quickly discovered sarcasm was a great friend in low places who could help me put down and push away new people and experiences and always help me come out looking like I was on top. I bashed things that other people loved simply because they had passions and I didn't. I rebuffed certain books, music, movies - for a long, long time - just because I just wanted to resist something, not go with the flow. Because I was closed off and not accepting new outlets. Over time, I've learned to let go a bit and open myself up to the beautiful people and experiences around me. I've accepted that not everything has to be a definition of who you are. You also don't have to gain approval for the things you like to be valid, and vice versa. Sometimes it's just another Tuesday afternoon and you feel like listening to a little Bette Middler "Wind Beneath My Wings" (note: this is most Tuesdays for me). It's all OK; everything is going to be OK.
...bashful about eating. If you know me in real life: STOP LAUGHING! Truly, I am hungry most every minute of the day. But, c'mon, consider all the cosmic powers of force that must be mustered for this bag o' bones to rise out of a chair or walk down a hallway. (Also note: My metabolism is a freak of nature.) I used to be super self-conscious about how much and how often I ate, about being the one who yelled "CHEESEBURGER - with FRIES" from the backseat as salad-eating friends looked on regretfully. I'm over that now. As long as I am putting healthful food - well-balanced snacks and meals - into my body, I can do no wrong. So if my loud snacking on raw nuts is bothering you, so sorry. If a blob of my greek yogurt landed on your blouse, my apologies. Now SUPER SIZE ME, fools.
...so resentful. The great theologian George W. Bush once said "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again..." Look, it's a very complicated analogy so I understand his confusion. I used to be so damn angry - at the world, at everyone, at myself. Everyone had "fooled" me two times too many and couldn't be trusted. The slightest provocation would give way to an explosion of venom - tears, and words, and confusion - hurled at my victims. Everyone had let me down. No one had stepped up when I needed them most. I used to hold myself up so high on this imaginary pedestal; I would look down at the people in my life below, whispering their slights against me as each one's face came into view. Liar. Cheat. Phony. Deserter. Sheep. Everyone else's flaws made me feel better about myself. But those feelings were fleeting. This behavior lead me to continue pushing people away, keeping them at arm's length, which, in turn, only made me feel more alone and angry.
If you struggle with this: LISTEN TO ME. Give that shit up. That is the 100-pound pack on your back, breaking you down with each step. It's that pit in your stomach that keeps you up at night. Face the pain; it's so much worse than hiding. By concealing it, you allow it to grow that much stronger. Over the years, through experiencing much love and grace, I learned that the beauty of life is its fucked-up-ed-ness (sorry, mom). We all screw up, let each other down, sabotage ourselves and the ones we love from time to time for no good reason at all. We are imperfect, each one of us. We're the anti-hero with whom we can so strongly identify. We're the one who crushed someone else's spirit because WE were feeling miserable inside. We're the sneak at work who benefitted from someone else's hard work. We're the liar who wasn't-exactly-not-totally-straight-forwardly-kinda-not-really that honest about what that text actually said, where we were the other night. We're flawed and that's what makes us (plus Don Draper, Tony Soprano, Walter White) so fully lovable. What do you say we all just stop pretending we have this shit figured out all the time and have a good cry/laugh. "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?! ME EITHER" hahahahahahaa "I THINK MY MY MARRIAGE IS FALLING APART" ahhhhhhhhhhh "I THINK I JUST WASTED THE LAST 12 YEARS OF MY LIFE" wahhhhhhhhh.
Once upon a time, I thought I wanted perfect, on-time, every box checked, and the lines matching up. These days, I just want raw. I want REAL. I just want you to show up - there on the sidelines, maybe sopping wet, or covered in dog puke, or naked and shivering. However. Just show up and we'll stand there and breathe together, and eventually, when we're ready, we'll make eye contact and figure out our plan of attack and storm the field together. That's all you can expect from anyone anyway: Exactly what you're willing to put out there. And sometimes you even get lucky, score a peach, and end up with more than you bargained for.
...someone who says "ain't." That was the last time. I swear I ain't gonna say ain't ever again. Say it ain't so.