He asked her what type of animal she'd most like to be. Without hesitation, she replied, "An auk." He wrinkled his nose, confused and dismissive, skating over her answer to answer his question himself. "I'd be a lion," he said. "King of the jungle." They sat in silence, on the edge of the concrete wall that bordered the parking lot outside the youth center. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and a single drop slid down her temple. He jumped down and began to dribble the basketball, every so often tossing it against the wall and scrambling to catch it as it bounced back. She sat and stared, seeing not the cracked asphalt and peeling paint, but instead the glistening of the sun on the surface of the sea, imagining the salt spray and the whoosh as she, wings spread auk-like, dove down to catch a single gleaming silver fish. In that moment, she could both fly and swim. She wasn't too thick for the desks at school, too heavy to jump rope, too rounded to wear a stringed bikini. She was no longer the only girl she knew who couldn't swim, the only one who wore a bulky orange lifejacket when in girl scouts they'd practiced paddling a canoe in the deep end of the city pool. As an auk, she was sleek and beautiful, diving down and down into the glass green sea, finally in just the right body to be wild, to be free.
I’ve always been a dreamer, one of those girls who spends time lost in her own head, always thinking about something bigger and brighter. The future used to always shine. I could get through whatever was in my present because the promise of a tomorrow that was bright and shiny and new was always there to keep me wanting to go forward.
Somewhere along the line, though, I lost that forward-looking optimism. I suppose there was one blow (or ten) too many, and dreaming became something that I set aside and walked away from.
I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, and he said that we get to choose what we carry with us and what leave behind. We were talking about negative things and the importance of leaving them behind and walking away, but I just realized that this can apply to positive things too.
I set aside optimism in exchange for always seeing the gloomy, grey side of life. I thought that it would be what was best for me. I’d been disappointed and hurt so many times that I thought it would be best to stop hoping simply so that I’d stop being so disappointed and blindsided by naivety.
I do think, though, that maybe optimism is just what I need right now. Maybe it is a tool that I can use, within certain limits, to help me improve my view of life, of my present and of my possible future. I want to dream again. I want to believe that the things that I want to accomplish are within my grasp. It’s a scary thing to admit that, to admit that I want to hope and dream and even laugh more. I’ve been melancholy for years.
An example: for over five years, I wore only black. Everything I owned from my shoes and socks to my shirts to my bras and panties. Everything was black. It started when someone I loved died and I bought black clothing for the funeral. I wanted to honor her and express my grief, so I kept the black trend going for a week or so which turned into a month and then months and, finally, years.
I realize now, looking back on it, that it was this slow slide into depression. I let myself go, and along with that, I let go of my hopes, my dreams, my passions, my desires, let go of everything that made me feel alive.
Today, as I sit here typing this, I am wearing a mint green top and charcoal pants. My flip flops are pastel pink. I brought color back into my life, but I forgot to bring back the other more important things that I let go of. I forgot to bring back the dreamer me, the one who wishes on stars, who goes for walks just to watch the sunset, who picks wildflowers and berries and who constantly wants to learn something new.
It is that me that I crave. It’s that me that I yearn to get to know again, the me who makes her own soap out of lye, coconut oil and other essential oils, who goes for drives just for the pleasure of getting lost in the country, who isn’t afraid to try new recipes or talk to new people.
I know I haven’t lost her for forever. I know she’s still here somewhere. This is my quest to claim her for myself again.
This evening I want to do something grand. I want this evening to be special. I want to remember it. I don’t want it to be just another mundane Sunday night. I suppose that it probably will fall into the mundane, but oh how I wish for something more.
I want to go out for a walk like I used to do, after dark, when the fireflies light up the fields and the trees that lean over my one lane country road. I want to once again feel free. I want to stop feeling like like my life has stopped or like my entire body is on pause. I want to feel alive again.
I read somewhere once that the cage isn’t locked. If not, why does it feel locked? When I rattle the bars, the iron door doesn’t creak open. Am I really the one holding it locked tight?
I know I can be somebody. I know I am somebody. I just don’t know who that somebody is. I feel like a stranger’s living my life while I wait inside me for the time when I get to live. Does anyone else ever feel that way? Surely I’m not alone.
All I know is that there’s passion in me somewhere. It’s just that it’s been trapped. I’ve been afraid of the consequences of letting it out. I have tried to pour myself into the socially acceptable roles of daughter, sister, wife. The thing is that those roles are not enough. It is not enough for me to identify only with who I am to other people. What about who I am to me? What about my own identity simply for the sake of identity? What about my creativity, my dreams, the wildflowers and weeds that grow like crazy in my mixed up mind?
I want to go through my mind and pick a bouquet of all of these shoots and sprays of zaniness. I want to place them where I can see them, where they are prominent, place them where I see them first thing upon waking, not hide them in a corner of my closet and pretend that, ever since I became someone’s spouse, I stopped dreaming and gave up myself. I don’t want to give up on any more of me than I’ve already given up on. I’m tired of pretending that who I am and what I want don’t matter, that all that matters is making my husband happy. I’m tired of settling for less than my authentic self.
I can do this. I can open up again. I can be me again. I can be free again. I can speak my mind without fear again. Not just one day. Not just someday. Today. I’m starting today.
Yes, this is an anonymous blog. Yes, I am not sharing this with my husband. Yes, I am also not sharing it with my friends and family, but I am taking the first step to becoming strong and free and independent. I’m getting these words out, even if it has to be in a cloak and dagger way.