Rad. Older. Women.
Happy weekending, friends!
Yesterday, I did what I do best when it comes to procrastinating before grocery shopping—I found the only sunny corner in my favourite riverside café and dragged out the moments with a really good cup of coffee. A family I’d spotted last weekend had returned and we shared a moment of warm recognition that came easily. Our tables were adjoined and to put it plainly, they entranced me: man, woman, their 10-year old fairie-girl with sheets of long blonde hair, and elfin baby with the sort of cheeks that offer a feast.
I don’t know whether it was the tender way he placed his hand on her lap when a song she loved came on, the moonbeam grins they exchanged as though they were alone, or the way the 10-year-old, equally transfixed by her novel and vegie sandwich, absently twirled a strand of hair while her parents took turns cradling her baby sister. But I was sucker punched in the gut with such sadness and longing that I had to retreat to the bathroom and let some tears spill.
Every jagged shard of broken family, from my childhood to adulthood, seemed to jab me with a ferocity I haven’t felt for several years. I’m no stranger to the harrowing twist and turns of long-term relationships and the stark realities of parenting. And from my vantage point as solo parent with four children (25, 20, 16, 10) I’ve weathered plenty of storms and am presently in the thick of some new ones. In short, my rose-coloured glasses aren’t so damn rosy. I’ve gone face-to-face with those forces and issues that pressure cook relationships, and pummel families: divorce, death of a parent, death of a partner, estrangement from a parent, depression, the dark tunnels of abuse and eating disorders, the building of a business (and all its attendant hope) to the collapse of that business, and unemployment. Entwined throughout, have been moments and years of deep happiness, intense creativity and uncomplicated joy.
Is love enough to get anyone through this? Of course not. Communication and compassion can elude us all, and self-awareness so often becomes a vapor trail when the heaviest shit starts flying. Hearts come un-stitched and the mending is painful. When relationships fracture and trust is shaken, we turn to ourselves, we burrow inwards. We examine, and cross-examine, picking apart the choices we’ve made, and the choices that were foist upon us in the spirit of compromise. We’re so busy holding up our half of the sky we don’t have a spare hand or a spare moment left to help our struggling partner. We can’t see the way forward, and the way back is overgrown with thorns.
But sitting in the café bathroom, the pit of my stomach ached with longing for an intact family. I sat there wishing I could rewind entire years and replay the action with a different ending. My core was aching. And not because I wished to change a fragment of who my children are—not their essence, nor their personalities, nor the embodiment of their gifts and talents—not even my choice to parent at an early age. I just wish someone had told me plainly, that as a parent and woman, no matter how clever, resourceful, feminist and supported you are, you simply CANNOT do it all—without paying a hefty price. No one taught me about balance when I was younger. Instead, over achievement (and where that failed, over compensation) in all areas of life was encouraged, simply because it was now possible. But when the table that is your life tilts, and its crowded contents begin to slide, rushing towards you faster than you can avert disaster, you’re left examining the broken fragments at your feet wondering how to piece them back together. Wondering how to hide the cracks.
I’m keenly aware of the personal and political sacrifices made by everyday women who weren’t afraid to raise their voices, in decades and centuries past, to ensure my rights to education, vote, employment, and sexual/reproductive freedom (including if, and where, I choose to give birth). And yet we’ve arrived at this point in history, where the “You Can Do It All” and “You Can Have It All” messages of encouragement and possibility have been share cropped on a generation of women who feel they’ve fucked up if they haven’t done just that: grabbed every opportunity to seamlessly blend relationships, work, children, community involvement, into a tapestry of superhuman achievement. All the while looking damn hot, never having buckled to the temptation to just “let themselves go”, post-marriage, post-baby, post-divorce, post-anything.
Mine is a generation of exhausted, multi-tasking women, terrified to let a single, juggled ball fall from the mix. Some of us are raising daughters who are balanced on tip toes with their own expectations, reaching for still shinier golden rings and jumping through hoops, both real and imagined, to arrive at their own sense of identity. This is exciting and worrisome.
I have a friend who is single, and largely happy with that state of being. But he once told me that every so often he sees truly loving couples, and that’s when he feels as though he’s “looking at the cake from the other side of the bakery window”. I guess that’s how I felt yesterday. A bit alone. A bit lonely. With love out of reach, even with my nose pressed up against the glass.
I tell myself that it’s okay to be half way or more towards self-love and the quest for a loving relationship, even mid-life. Uncertainty is scary, but it can also be delicious. It’s okay to deflate the power of old messages, to acknowledge regret and forgive myself for not having had the self-awareness to make different choices. And it’s alright to take off the Wonder Woman boots that didn’t fit very well anyway, and the cape that damn near strangled me. I want more for myself, even though I no longer want it all.
We’re called to hold our hands
against the wounds of a broken world
to stop the bleeding
~ Don Miller
Polka dots are the ultimate in not taking yourself too seriously.
So classic, yet full of bravado and a bit of tease all at the same time.
via shutter sisters