Month: April 2016

::The Dance::

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DANCING SHADOW

He had no choice but to betray me. Did he? Did he have a choice? No. I don’t see how he could have avoided it. I was too much. I was every single thing he both loved and hated.

I am a dreamer. I was born singing, and madly in love with life. My arms are flung wide, embracing all of it.

I’ve never stopped being that person. Detours? Yes, of course. I’ve gone off on a fool’s errand more times than I can count. But I’m always guided back by the lighthouse of my heart, and the musical joy that lives there.

The perspective at my center is maddening to someone who can’t see it. Generally that’s a cynic; someone who finds their own center unloveable. They define everyone else by their  lack of personal acceptance. Cynicism runs deep, denial is creed, because if they lose a handle on the lie they’re living, if the mask slips the slightest bit, who they claim to be falls apart. It’s come to me gradually over the years that yes, he was one of those. I take no pleasure in knowing it. But it explains a lot.

Okay, so the die was cast; we were young, beautiful, and almost immediately became caught up in the dangerous dance dreamers and cynics love. Maybe that’s it.  We each fell in love with the dance itself. I’ve never really seen it that way before. It must be time.

After a few years it started to dawn on me that about half the time I was dancing alone. He partnered with me when he needed an injection of the mad love, the joy, the dream I brought to bear. Once he was filled, I depleted, he was off again, climbing his ‘success ladder’ on the energy I gave. This act of transfusion happened repeatedly, and became central to the dance itself.

Some started saying I was too open, too forgiving. Too willing to glue the shards of us back together again and again.  There were those who called me stupid; co-dependent. I was neither. I knew what I was doing. I was holding in place a life that represented everything I was born loving so madly. I did it for my children. I did it for myself. Hell, I did it for him. And no, he still doesn’t have a clue.

Three pregnancies – one miscarriage and two healthy children – were born of that union. If nothing else came of it, that is a gracious plenty. My children are beautiful, and they have at least a portion of my madness flowing through them; my eager love, my spiritual center, my excited fascination with life. The music, which always came through me, pulses in them. They are music makers because, well, I’m their Mama.

Eventually his betrayals of ‘us’ became a routine part of his dance. But my dance steps had started changing too. I was no longer able – or even willing – to hold together the shattered pieces of who we’d become. I would like to say, simply, “I walked out.” But it was more like, “My life exploded, his final betrayal was so outrageous; there was nothing left that could be saved. He made it his mission to destroy everything.”

So. There’s that. But the interesting thing is, I’ll never regret the dance. And through the years I found my way back where I started; a dreamer, madly in love with life, arms outstretched. The lighthouse of my heart guided me home. My faith, and my music, and my beautiful children keep me here.

::All I Am::

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All I AmThere are certain things I’d never call myself. Beautiful, for example, is one. Extensively educated, at least in the formal sense of the word, is another. Lord knows I’ve learned a gracious plenty, but the really important lessons rarely happened in the classroom.

Life starts telling us who we are early on. As little ones, we’re blank slates, eager for the information. And we don’t know better than to swallow whole what adults tell us about ourselves.

When I was three years old, one of my dad’s friends, who I only knew as Cuz, called me “muscles.”

Even at that young age, it felt like a bad thing. I didn’t want muscles. I wanted blonde curls and blue eyes like my cousin Joanie.  But there I was, a sturdy little girl with black ringlets and hazel eyes. A kid who in summer turned brown as a biscuit in ten minutes flat.

On the playground at school, the nuns would cluck disapprovingly as we lined up to go back inside. “Cecelia’s voice carries. You can hear her above all the other children.”

I remember, at around ten, being at my Nanny’s house in the summer. Old lady North, who lived the next street over, would come across the alley and in the back door for coffee. I dreaded that woman.

“Myers,” she’d say to my grandmother while studying me, “I think this child is an Indian.” Then she’d reach out and take hold of  my upper arm. “She’s brown as an Indian,” she’d say. Nanny didn’t argue. She just passed the half and half, lit another Chesterfield, and changed the subject.

As innocuous as they may have been at the time, those descriptions from the grownups in my childhood delivered the bad news to my sense of self. They informed me about who I was.

And the fact that after so many years I can still go back to those moments, see those people, observe them observing me, tells me just how impactful the comments were.

It’s taken decades. But eventually and deliberately I let go of my tendency to be defined by what was said long ago. In fact, those statements serve me well now. They’ve made me pay attention.

When I talk to children, I’m purposeful with what I say to them about who they are. Because the words adults use have staying power; they will frame – for a while, or forever – how those kids feel about themselves.

And when they think back, I want to have contributed tender words about their own beautiful truths.