Still To Feel

I ache with beauty and joy the way some ache from pain and loss. They say the best art can come from suffering, I just never knew my suffering and heartache could be so full and rapturous, so euphoric and life giving. Perhaps this is why now as a mother I feel called to move, dance, make and create unlike ever before. This desire quickly moves past all reason and choice, transforming into a visceral pursuit, an instinctual guiding force. There is simply not enough space in these bones to feel what motherhood has given me, what it continues to give and sometimes take. 

Most days I feel myself spilling over, moving past my shape and form. It's almost as if my affections are looking for a second home, a willing taker, an eager observer, a bottomless space to fit and collect. I've always been called, but lately I feel I have no choice but to spill over onto pieces of paper, old wooden dance floors, and just inside the frames of my moments captured, sealed in time. 

I move, dance, create and share, not because I can, but because I must. It is the very extension of myself, the natural sequel of the fleeting details and moments of motherhood and childhood. The way her eyes light up when I’m available and willing, her furrowed brow requiring further explanation, or our silhouette from the hallway as I peer into the bathroom mirror and rock her to sleep. These details consume me until the joy is so deep and the love is too wide that not even my own self can fit inside these skin and bones.

I created life for them to live, but now I must create a way for me to remember, a way for us to live on. 

In Between

Ten years ago this month, I sat on a hillside in Italy and shaved my head. It was not born out of rebellion or strife, but rather pure curiosity. Just hours after I spontaneously moved my body, improving solo on a stage, looking out to sea, under the stars, for all to see. It was terrifying and exhilarating, an experience you only read about in books or see in movies. It was a collection of moments I knew I would still be sharing as a woman, old and gray. I went back home and adored my bald head and all the lessons it brought about, until the NYC winter begged me to grow back my comfort and warmth. It took 6 years to grow back and for 6 years I hated my hair, the awkward in between, that dreaded transition. I spent my whole life convinced I was an all or nothing type of girl. And in that instance I wanted a shaved head, raw and exposed, or my beautiful long locks, flowing and forgiving. You could have found me in the extremes, until I become a mama. Somehow I have learned how to accept and dwell in the in betweens, the awkward transitions, the harmonious gray, because if not for that space, I would seize to exist. I would have not even a single sliver of myself to hold on to. I decided I'd rather have fragments of myself than nothing at all.

Last night I called my dear friend with scissors and style. She came quick after saying good night to her four sleeping babes in bed. I blended tequila and frozen strawberries and sat in a chair asking for change, the embodiment my head and heart have been undergoing the last year. Even more, I think I still needed to know that I have the ability to shock myself. As simple and low key as it may seem, (for a girl who once shaved her head) I just needed to take it to my chin. I needed to feel chic and bold, a mom, but not too mom. I needed my words and willingness to leave my mouth and control, and make something different happen. So, I got a bob. Not gone, not long, but in the middle, and on it's way. Loud and proud, here and now. It could not be more fitting, it turns out I am an in between kind of girl.


Last week I took the only bus in Casper, that looks more like a resort shuttle, to the dentist. It took an hour to get there and an hour to get back. This means that with travel time and dental work, I had about 3 1/2 hours all to my lonesome. I brought my favorite Ina May Gaskin books, but I couldn’t read because motion sickness got the best of me. So I sat and I looked out the window, and I let my thoughts take over. Rarely do I get the opportunity to truly be alone and revel in my thoughts. Sitting on a bus brought back sweet memories from some of the most formative years in my life. Taking public transit made me feel young, alive, and ready to grab onto life again. Even in Casper, Wyoming, a silly little bus, with a bus driver who will stop in route, for coffee creamer, has potential to flood my memory and bring me back. I remember...

I remember the time I was on a bus, in the middle of no man’s land, Croatia with Jasmine, while a chicken sat directly behind us. A chicken! I remember many long days of dancing in NYC, followed by slightly, and sometimes not so slightly, boozy nights, poetry, and real talk. I remember convincing Jasmine and Adrienne to hold hands with me in the middle of union square and scream at the top of our lungs at the completion of our year-long professional program. I remember my roommate and dear friend Jess, getting terribly annoyed at my constant theatrics, and inability to go to the bathroom with the door shut.  Living life in a few hundred square feet with my complete opposite expanded my heart and mind to levels I never knew were possible. I remember standing in gold sparkled Toms on the day I vowed forever. I remember that just a year before I met my husband I was dreaming and planning for where I wanted to study chinese medicine, specifically acupuncture. I dreamed of China. I still do! I remember standing on a mountain top in Italy, while I shaved my head and cried tears of joy, because I had just faced one of the few things that scared me. I remember improving to Ani Difranco’s “Joyful Girl,” on stage, and under the stars that night with my newly shaved head, exposed for all to see, and scared shitless about what I might just do next. I remember taking a 34 hour train from Oslo to Budapest because I read in a European dance magazine about an audition that sounded like my dream opportunity. I arrived to find myself awkwardly placed between perfect hungarian ballerinas, the only one without ballet slippers, and a few extra traveling pounds. I was cut within minutes. I cried, I laughed, and drank a lot of espresso. I missed Hannah so I flew to London.  I missed Chandrae so I flew to Los Angeles.  Then I ran out of money, so I flew home.

You see, living in the moment has always been my thing. Caution to the wind, was always my motto. So after all these flash backs I started to wonder where this woman went. I have a husband who fell fast, and hard for these qualities, and I have a daughter who shares a deep enthusiasm for life. By her toddler nature, she has no choice but to live in the moment. My closest companion and dearest friends love me for exactly who I am, the spontaneity, the messiness, and all.  So I’ve been asking myself, where did I go, and why? 

I didn’t always dream of having children. Not because I thought I didn’t want them, but I’ve always been so lost in the present that I hardly ever day dreamed about the future until a few seasons before my heart and mind were ready to embrace a big change. I love being a mama, and I adore this role more than any other, but becoming one has not been natural for me and then I have carried guilt for feeling this way. This guilt has quieted my intuition, and taken away my confidence. I have agreed with hundreds of other women who appear to have it together and seem to know more than me. I hear things like, "children need rhythm, children need consistency, children need…" fill in the blank.  It’s all rather overwhelming and so I’ve assumed that they are probably all right.

Octave may or may not need consistency or these things people claim, that is not the point. The point is that I recently realized that I’ve projected my own needs on Octave.  I am the one who has needed structure and consistency, and this has been a fairly new need for me. When something doesn’t come natural, you have to work extra hard at it.  With that hard work, and maybe out of survival, I’ve replaced spontaneity and freedom, two qualities I’ve known well, with structure and consistency, while all along telling myself this was good for Octave.

Octave is intuitive, and she is smart. I believe she has sensed this all along, and she buts heads with me most when I work against myself and my better judgement. It’s as if she is trying to remind me of who I really am, and is asking for the real me to be her mama. She needs me, my mess and vulnerability, my inconsistency and all. She needs that Mama who will sing, dance, laugh and cry whenever the moment arises. That is what I do best! She needs to see me admitting that I have no idea what I am doing. I don't! I want to guide her and teach her, but I just can’t get behind being a super strong authoritarian, it is just not me. When I explain myself and reason with her, which contrary to popular belief TOTALLY WORKS for me, she responds really well. That may not work for others, but this is my style, it’s who I am, and Octave knows that. When I explain the who, what, when, where and why, even to my almost two-year old, I see major progress.  When I parent with my heart and guts, she believes me, I believe me, and we are both much better off.

I think I’ve doubted myself because I have not ever seen my ideals played out, because I don’t have an example for the type of mother I want to be. I have a wonderful mother who I have always been very close with. She has always given me room to be exactly who I am, without judgement. She was my biggest supporter for moving to NY at 18 and or following my wanderlust, learning about different religions, or whatever else I was curious about, while questioning social norms. She’s always supported me, even when I came home with a shaved head! Nothing was ever too much for her, or at least she did a good job at biting her tongue.  With that said, I have many examples of great women, and mothers in my life, but I have spent the majority of my life dancing to a different drum and I always thought I would parent the same way. I have bits and pieces I can adopt from my own mother, but ultimately, I am still very different from her, and will do things differently. Not out of spite, but simply because I am not her. And while paving a new path alone has always given me a high, I will admit that with another little human, it is kind of scary.

But beneath the fear, deep down, I just want to just be me, a messy, inconsistent, confused, spontaneous, present, laid back mother who loves her daughter fiercely. It’s just taken almost two years to realize that this is what Octave needs and wants too. 

In the last few weeks we’ve turned over a new leaf. Last week we wore helmets and danced on wet pavement outside of Target, simply because she asked me to dance with her. She always asks “mama dance,” at the least opportune time, but for a feeler ready to smash her face back into life again, her timing is impeccable. Later we laid down together right in the middle of the snowy sidewalk because there were squirrels to watch and were we really in a hurry to just get home and sit? These are little things and yet they are everything. No agenda is more important that what life brings when my eyes are open and my heart is ready. These past few weeks I’ve been available for what each moment can bring and this is me to the core. I am finding my very own rhythm and I am trying not to be afraid of my inconsistencies. I am trying not to parent in fear. Sigh(deep.)

This little lady of mine, I have so much to learn from her.