Happy New Year
Two round chocolate cakes are out cooling on my kitchen counter. Let it be known that they are box mix cakes- ain't got time for all that. But, the ganache will be homemade. Tomorrow is New Year's Day, my birthday, Anyone who knows me even just a little bit can at least guess that I am a celebrator and that my birthday is my favorite day EVER. And this year, people, this year something momentous is happening... It's a friggin' PALINDROME! How cool is that? It's once in a lifetime, and some lives can't possibly have one. It's JUST the reason to really celebrate like crazy.
This birthday also represents a very essential piece of my composition at this point: I am one half Texan and one half Seattleite (and the Seattle grows stronger everyday). On Labor Day, I'll officially be more Seattleite than Texan. I feel them, the two halves. And I look forward to writing some more about that on Labor Day Weekend. I have a very special arts project in the pipeline that I hope to share with you all then.
Tonight, is New Year's Eve, and I am doing what other people do on December 31st- I'm taking stock, choosing words, evaluating the last 364 days, dreaming dreams, making plans. The past 6 months were filled with labor pains- contractions of my soul as someone new (or, rather, someone who has always been around, been a part of the plan) gets ready to show up. Thing is: I didn't know the pains were labor or growth. I just felt a discomfort, a disquiet. The other day at the zoo in the python habitat the sleek, enormous (and, to me, beautiful (sorry, Brenna)) snake lay resting behind its old skin. I think of him hurting, itching, moving to leave what once worked for him in order to be a little bigger. I didn't know what was making me feel uncomfortable and cramped...
until the last few days.
Forgive my Christianese, but it's a language I speak, and I don't know how to express this concept in another. "Freedom in Christ." Doesn't that sound fantastic? I've always thought so, but functionally I have not understood it at all even while longing to live it. Truth is: as a Christian, whether you are conscious of it or are enjoying it, you do have it already. I just have not been sure how do the conscious and enjoying parts. Slowly, though, the opposite of it began to show itself at work in my life- Slavery to Expectations. This is not the first time I've written about this. This is not any sudden or grand revelation. But tonight I feel like a snake who is feeling a new length. I feel as though a tight membrane of restriction around my heart- like some alien pericardium- finally popped and now my soul can breathe and expand more fully. I recall the popping sensation of my water breaking when I labored Bran almost two years ago; it was a relief and a reassurance: the baby IS coming. The spiritual version is more satisfying even than that, and I'm so excited to try to be the woman who is being (re)born.
Maybe you who love me know this already; and I think you do; and the love that makes me feel for you is spilling out from my eyes and blurring this screen, but I'm only really now just feeling so great to say it about myself. I say it with no shame, no embarrassment, no sense that I'm a faker for the first time since I walked out of a professional dance studio for the last time:
I AM A DANCER.
I'm someone who finds joy and delight in performance, and practice, and pursuit of perfection. I still want to learn new steps. I want to be bad at them but love how they feel and how they look on someone else on the stage so much that I will flop about like an idiot, then stumble like a gosling, then do it at least correctly, then add some finesse, and then NAIL IT. The steps now are things like felting, being a doula, designing a terrarium, writing a song, writing a poem, writing my first fiction, playing an embarrassingly plastic ukulele that I bought on Amazon, drawing my family members over and over again. I care a lot about creating perfect cocktails or meatballs and not really at all about the organization of closets. I want to party, and listen, and watch people. I want to be able to mimic exactly everything I love about the people around me just like I wanted to move my head like Suzanne Farrell or straighten my knees like Gelsey Kirkland. Now, I just want to magically provide a comforting ambience like my friends Blythe and Emily, constantly work at my craft like Elizabeth, look effortlessly stylish all the time like Karen, make myself work-out like Brenna, be brave like Amanda, and marvel over Scripture like Becky. I want to be silly and carefree backstage (whatever that means now) even as I know how to keep it professional and work hard the rest of the time. I'm a dancer, and that means more to me now than it ever did when I still had a dancing body. I get it now. I'm an EX-dancing body, but I'm still a dancer. What a joy!
So, now for the harder part: letting myself be a dancer who has the most wonderful, approving, enabling director anyone has ever known. I'll never, ever get thrown out. I don't have to keep my injuries secret. There is no understudy waiting for me to fail. There are LOTS of right ways to spend my time. Tonight someone said to me: "maybe this can be a year of you doing what you really want to do." My reaction was one of fear and embarrassment. "Oh, no, no," I thought. "I'll screw everything up if I'm left to my own devices." But I caught it, and I did still say it out loud but knew it was a fear I don't have to lug around anymore.
Here's where that "freedom in Christ" comes in. I'm loved and free to be the person I most feel I am. Now, I come from world of rule-following, so I have to say: I don't mean that I can just do WHATEVER I want with complete abandon. This isn't some mardis gras coming down the pike. I just mean that I can spend time pursuing the good things that seem to be in and in front of me. Other PEOPLE may not always get it. Other PEOPLE might judge how I spend my time or my energy, but I don't answer, ultimately, to people. And, sometimes, I am seeing, God wants different things from me than people do. That was definitely true of the people in Jerusalem when Jesus was with them. He was pretty hard on the people who were holding burdensome, judgmental demands over their heads. If you aren't familiar with the Bible or Christianity, you might be thinking right now, "She feels free to stop following all those dos and don'ts of her religion." That isn't what I mean, and, actually, the more I understand this concept that God's approval matters more than people's, all those dos and don'ts look more and more attractive because God is the only one capable of giving rules that are truly in our absolute best interest. That's what I want: God's best plans and parameters for me. And the more I see that He is loving and compassionate, the more I want to find out what those plans and parameters really are.
And it's essential that I point out that most of the PEOPLE who I'm worried will disapprove, or shame, or scold me somehow only exist in my mind. They are an amalgamation of all the fears of rejection I've ever felt (and every judgment I've ever passed on someone else... chew on that! yeesh!).
So HAPPY birthday to ME! And praise be to God for the freedom to be the exact person he made me to be without fear that doing the things that I think are beautiful, good, and fruitful are inherently selfish or wrong. I'm attempting now to leave that notion behind for good. Will there be things I have to give up? Surely. I learned that these last 17 years. Will there be things that seem right to me but that really are somehow selfish? Probably. That's what you all and the Holy Spirit are for. I trust you all to gently help and show me my poor choices when I make them. Mostly, I trust that God didn't make me this way by mistake and that He will help me to bloom in the right way and for the right reasons.
Get ready for a lot more silly songs (why do you think I wanted to learn ukulele?!), lots more limericky poems about parenting, lots more well-crafted food and drink, lots more writing, and feel free to pray for God to shape and continue to flow my novel out of my fingers! Don't come looking for clean closets or dog-hair free floors (HA! Now that I type it, the preposterousness that anyone is coming to ME for THAT is pretty obvious!).
Eat some cake for me, and THANK YOU FOR READING. Seriously. If you are reading this, you are an encouragement to me. I LOVE to hear from you, and the more I fall in love with and develop ambition around writing the more your feedback is a help to me. Please keep coming.
art credit: Elizabeth Van Snellenburg (THANK YOU FOR SEEING ME!)