Archives for the month of: September, 2014

Last night, as I was putting Honest Girl down for the night, she asked me to sing her a song. Softly, I began:

Baby mine, don’t you cry.

Baby mine, dry your eyes.

“What’s that song?”

“That’s ‘Baby Mine.’ It’s from the movie Dumbo. A mommy elephant sings it to her baby.”

Hearing the word elephant sent Honest Girl’s eternally associative mind on a spin.

“No! Sing the elephant song!”

Now, back in my day, “The Elephant Song” was happy, innocent, and joyful—“Skin-a-ma-rink-a-dink-a-dink / Skin-a-ma-rink-a-doo / I love you”—and called “The Elephant Song” because it was featured on “The Elephant Show.” For Honest Girl, “The Elephant Song” is “Elephant,” by Jason Isbell—a song about a woman dying of cancer who drinks and gets high to escape the “elephant” of her mortality. It’s beautiful, but completely heartbreaking. And there’s an f-bomb in it.

It’s one of Honest Girl’s favorite songs. The fact that she loves this song gives me equal parts terror and pleasure. It’s a reminder of what a weird parent I can sometimes be. A small symbol to remind me that one day she will either thank me for my quirks, or refuse to speak to me for the better part of her twenties.

Or both.

Dutifully, and being careful to substitute a few choice words here and there, I start to sing her “Elephant.” We got to the second verse:

I’d sing her classic country songs

And she’d get high and sing along.

She don’t have the voice to sing with now—

Suddenly, Honest Girl interrupted me.

“Sing me a country song.”

“You want me to sing you a country song?”

“Sing me a country song!”

Immediately, I burst into the first country song that popped into my head:

I hear that train a-comin’.

It’s rollin’ round the bend.

And I ain’t seen the sunshine since

I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison,

And time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train keeps a-rollin’

On down the San Anton.

“Is that a country song?”

“Oh, yes. That’s a country song.”

“No. That’s a train song.”

“Train songs are country songs.”

“Train songs are country songs?”

“Yup.”

She paused, considering my words.

“Sing me the train song.”

And that’s how “Folsom Prison Blues” became my daughter’s bedtime song. I’m calling that a win.

As you can see from this post, I just don’t believe that there is such a thing as “inappropriate” music. My daughter knows all the words to both Sofia the First and James McMurtry, Frozen and Drive by Truckers. I sing her opera as well as Lucinda Williams. She loves when I plunk out “’Til There Was You” on the piano, and sits in rapture anytime daddy plays “Drops of Jupiter.” I’m not going to tell her what she “should” be listening to. I’m just having fun watching her explore it all. That might mean that I’m destroying her innocence, or gearing myself up for some naughty language down the line. But at least I don’t have to listen to Kids’ Bop in the interim.

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22 inches.

That’s how far I have to stand with my feet apart in order to have “thigh gap.”

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23 pounds.

That’s how much weight I’d still have to lose in order to be in the center of the “Healthy” range of my Body Mass Index (as I currently stand, I am considered overweight).

I wanted to open this latest installment of “The New Normal” with some ridiculous numbers to prove a point. I’m certain that you, my dear readers, can see from a mile away what this point is, but here goes anyway.

I will never be that woman. I will never be that thin. That sickly. That close to being physically erased.

I will never have (as my husband so colorfully calls it) “Factory Air.”

I will never be “toned” (a dangerous codeword, used almost exclusively to describe female bodies, which tries to use the language of health and fitness to cover up a reality of emaciation).

I will never try to reduce myself to nothing. To wish for empty space where my body currently resides.

And because of this, I will never be “beautiful.”

But, damn, I’m sexy as hell.

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Instead of focusing on the space that I or anyone else wishes to see appear around me—the space we hope opens up where I used to be—let’s look at the space I inhabit.

First, my scar. 6 months ago, it was purple and lopsided.

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Now, there are whole days when I forget that it’s there. It’s still healing, but it really has improved.

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Second, the befores and afters (though I hate using those words. They imply that my body is some kind of term paper and not a constantly-changing, organic creature. The only true “After” will be when I’m dead).

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May, 2010. Vegas. The pool. This is the day before my wedding. I weigh 124 pounds. 4’ 11”. I’m wearing contact lenses.

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March, 2014. Indiana. My bathroom. My daughter is lying on her play mat at my feet. I weigh 132 pounds. I have bifocals.

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September, 2014. Indiana. My bathroom. My daughter is napping in her crib on the other side of the wall. I weigh 128 pounds. I still have bifocals.

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I remember taking that picture in 2010 by the pool in Las Vegas. That has always been one of my favorite pictures of myself and my body, because I remember thinking, “Hey! I didn’t suck in!” I didn’t even think about my body, my stomach, my thighs. I stood with my siblings, and took a picture, giving not one thought for what my body looked like. It was liberating.

And I’m starting to feel as though I could get back there.

Because I’m liking the space I’m taking up these days.

It’s my space.

And I’m going to use it all.

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen Frozen, and you don’t want to know anything about it, stop here. For real. Stop. I warned you.

 

The premise of Disney’s juggernaut, Frozen, is beautiful and simple (as most beautiful things are): true love overcomes fear. A young woman, Queen Elsa, is born with the power to create winter. At an early age, she accidentally strikes her younger sister, Anna, in the head with her powers, and when her family takes Anna to be healed, Elsa is warned that “Fear will be your enemy.” The family misinterprets the prophecy, thinking that the fear that needs to be contained is that of other people. They subsequently lock Elsa away, keeping her hidden from other people, and try to teach her to successfully “pass” as a non-magical person. (To be fair, the prophecy shows Elsa being attacked by a mob, so it makes sense that her parents would think that the prophecy is warning against other people judging her unfairly and thinking that she’s a “wicked sorceress.” This is why I don’t blame Elsa’s parents for secluding her, which I know has been a big issue of complaint from the Frozen fan base.) This, of course, creates enormous fear in Elsa, and she lives in constant worry that others will discover her powers. Elsa’s fear, though, is what makes her powers dangerous and uncontrollable. It is not until her little sister, Anna, demonstrates that she truly loves her sister, flaws and all, that Elsa’s fears are shattered, and she is able to thaw the endless winter she has created and control her powers. Finally, she is able to use them for good.

And there’s a talking snowman.

Who rocks.

As a mother of two daughters (two sisters who bicker, fight, hold hands, hug, and love), I have seen this movie approximately 812 times. And I still cry at the end. And at the beginning (“Do you want to build a snowman?” Oh, god. I can’t.). I think that it’s Disney’s biggest triumph to date.

But I also know that its singular premise is deeply, deeply flawed.

Because I have true love in my life.

And because of that, I know what true fear feels like.

True fear is knowing that my very being is wrapped up in two tiny girls with blue and hazel eyes.

True fear is making sure that I whisper “I love you” to them every single night, just in case one of us doesn’t wake up in the morning.

True fear is fervently praying that it will be them who will wake up to the sun. Always.

True fear is recognizing that I mean nothing compared to them. That I would give everything that I am—my body, my mind, my very soul—for them. And I would do it without hesitation. Without question.

True fear is going into labor too early, and giving birth to a girl who can’t breathe on her own.

True fear is a well-lit NICU.

True fear is the way that time seems to suspend itself indefinitely in the half a second it takes for my two-year-old to run down our driveway and into the street.

True fear is being able to run faster than I’ve ever moved before, just to throw my own body in front of hers when I see our neighbor’s car turn the corner.

True fear is realizing that nothing—nothing—is worthwhile without them.

True fear is a part of true love.

But my heart isn’t frozen.

Because I don’t live in those moments of fear.

They’re always there. And they’re normal. Even, dare I say, healthy.  It’s good every now and then to sob, to cry, to hold my babies tight-tight and smell the sunshine that clings to their hair. But it’s even better to let them go.

Because when I see them run.  When I hear them laugh.  When I watch them pick blades of grass and smell the greenness.  Or press their cheeks and bellies against our French door, to feel the cool glass. Or kiss each others’ faces and hair. That’s when I can forget to be afraid.

When I marvel at my toddler’s love of books and stories.

When I watch my one-year-old furrow her brow and work all day, just to figure out how to climb up onto a chair and get back down again.

When I see them crawl into a single bed together and speak to each other in a language all their own.

A language that is full of smiles and clapping.

Even when I see them push each other, and fight and cry over who gets to play with their Olaf doll.

I forget the fear.

Because the love is stronger.

True love doesn’t overcome fear. They walk hand-in-hand together, sometimes one leads, sometimes the other. Sometimes one needs to carry the other. I haven’t figured out how to break the connection between these two. It seems one can’t quite exist without the other. They have a bond I can’t explain.

They are sisters.

As much a part of my life as a mother as my own children.

 

I have no grand take-away for this. My true fear was born at the same time as my true love. I have no tips for you. I don’t know how to get rid of it. I don’t know if I can. I don’t even think I want to.

Perhaps that’s how I am able to live within the loving fear. Perhaps that’s how I’m able to stay warm, to keep the summer sunshine filtering down through my heart.

Because I accept the true fear.

Maybe, in a way, I love it.

Because the terrifying truth of motherhood is that it is terrifying.

I’d die for them.

I’d burn.

I’d melt.

It’s that simple.

And beautiful.

Team Olaf all the way!

Team Olaf all the way!