I keep journals for my grandchildren, expressly for the purpose of telling them to be everything the quote in that picture says to be. Be you
is what I keep writing to them in so many different ways. I note little stories about them. Things they say that stick with me. I tell them again and again that I hope they will always have the courage to be who they were created to be. That who they are is enough.
When I was growing up my goal was to be perfect. In my mind being perfect would keep me safe. Perfectly invisible would've been even better.
I was about seven when I shuffled across the kitchen floor in shiny red shoes whose black rubber bottoms had separated from the rest of the shoe. I tried my best not to lift my feet as I went in order to avoid being caught with broken shoes. Eventually I nearly tripped on the flap of wayward rubber and that caught my parents' attention.
My default pattern was to think I was at fault for anything and everything and that included having shoes that fell apart. Sometimes I feel sad for the little girl that I was, the one who didn't feel like she could go to her parents and tell them, through no fault of her own, that she needed new shoes. And I know my parents would feel sad that I had internalized my world that way.
For all the things my parents got wrong, there was one thing they got so right, and I remain grateful to this day for it. They recognized my talent for writing and then encouraged it.
Not that they said a whole lot about it to me. But there was the essay written on two sided foolscap, from when I was in grade 2, that was kept tucked in the little cupboard beside the stove the whole time I was growing up. Folded up like a letter, it was housed alongside pink stomachache medicine, band aids and cod liver oil. I took it with me when I left home and have mourned losing it in a move during my first year of marriage. I've long been intrigued that my writing style was the same as a seven year old as it is now at 56. I not only had something to say, but a way of saying it that has stayed with me all these years.
In preparation for heading off to college my parents bought me an electric typewriter as a graduation present. (An IBM no less!) I loved it. My journalism prof made us type assignments on triplicates. There was something comforting about inserting those sheets and turning the roller until the top of the triplicate peeked above the keys. I lugged that typewriter across the country and back. It indeed traveled by plane, train and automobile before I sold it several years later in order to pay the rent. It felt like a whole lot of hopes and dreams went down the driveway with my typewriter. I could never bring myself to tell my parents that I'd sold it.
I think they were disappointed when I went directly from getting a college diploma to marriage without giving a career much of a thought. They never spoke to me about it, but I sensed they would've liked it if I had gone on to write for a newspaper and honed my skills. I would've most likely lost any job in short order due to my love of booze and a sarcastic mouth back then. I doubt that having a no one is going to tell me what to do
attitude would have gone over very well with coworkers let alone a boss.
Eventually I did freelance work for a farm paper when I was pregnant with my third baby. Then, with three kids under 4, it's understandable that writing took a backseat to the mounds of cloth diapers that were always waiting to be folded on my couch. It would be over a decade before I thought about writing again.
But my love of it never left me. And so you see me on this blog, type, typing away. It feeds something within me. It's a bonus when it feeds something within you as well.
And slowly, with doing the hard work in therapy, I am learning that who I am is enough. I can look at that picture up there and try to embrace it for myself. For my quirky seven year old self and for flawed 56 year old me and all the beautiful, magical and unique ages in between.
I have a new pair of red shoes in my closet now, too.