In the age of Instagram and Twitter and all things social, I feel like I’ve been falling behind lately.
I’m a fairly social person, and I like to take pictures. I have been labeled as a “paparazzi” by a certain sassy Latvian, who claims I would take a picture of her on the toilet if I got the chance.
But the last two months or so, I’ve been quiet. I haven’t posted many pictures. I actually haven’t even taken many. I went to Latvia, and when I came home I realized I hadn’t pulled out my camera much at all. I performed on stage and looked the best I have in years, and I didn’t even think to ask for someone to take a picture of me in my dress or posed with my family.
I don’t know why.
My mom always says she has a tendency to “hold her cards close.” She comes from strong Scottish stock and often others don’t know the deep struggles—or grand joys—that she experiences.
The older I get, the more I see what she means. I see how sometimes the waves of life, good or bad, can just bowl us over and make it hard to breathe.
Right now, it all feels overwhelming.
So I’m holding it all close.
There is sadness that I need to process in my soul. So I have. I stay silent for now.
I’ve had the possibilities of bringing Peter Pan to America derailed because of his choice to get an apartment in Latvia. And I will tell that story. Soon. Just not now.
I’ve stepped away from a church I was a part of for almost thirty years. It was a church that framed some of the most important journeys of my life. Sometimes that has been through my positive relationships with its members; other times it has been in struggling against the church’s propositions to figure out who I am and what I want to believe. And while I am more than ready to move forward and am excited to find something that fits more with my core belief system, I feel a bit unmoored. The loss is palpable and difficult for me to talk about.
I’ve watched as Little Man processed the loss of a “brother” and the way the demons of his family members have broken him. I’ve tried to help him understand how our stepping away from our community is not on his little shoulders, yet I know I am not large enough to fill the holes of emptiness left there.
But there has also been joy. It’s just that it feels impossible to capture everything in my heart on paper without cheapening it. So I haven’t. I’ve just lived in it.
I’ve grown in love and affection with my dear Sunshine, and we discover together new, wonderful facets of our relationship as she joins the journey of motherhood.
I’ve been investing in others, too…quietly, without fanfare. Resting in the comfort of it all. Cozying down into the living of life and seeing where the road takes us. The best stories are often the ones that simmer in your soul alone for a bit before you begin the telling of it.
I dove headfirst into the process of being part of Listen to Your Mother: Pittsburgh. I shared a part of my hosting story in a way that stretched me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. The experience was so overwhelming, it’s little wonder I forgot to take pictures.
I got up in front of about 400 people and spoke my truth—I performed a piece about how I became a mother to Sunshine and the way we grew to be a family. It was recorded for YouTube and will be released later this summer.
I know that there are many people who read my blog and think that I live my life outward, that I bare myself in ways that are open and honest and relatable. And while this is often true, there is also a space in writing, a distance that the medium allows. Writing and reading is a reciprocal process, a joint experience that connects. But it is also solitary, this process of text shared between writer and reader at different moments.
But performing a piece, well, that is a different thing all together. There is power in it. There is something to be said about the passion that only pours out in the lilt of the voice, the emphasis of speech. At the same time, it feels more vulnerable. What I say becomes more about all of me, the verbal and the nonverbal, the body and the voice all at once. I do not have the safety of the distance that the published word creates. Instead, it is spoken and heard together as a community. That is exciting and terrifying all at once.
Some of the women I performed with were so brave to tell the stories of the things that happened to them, or to explain the ways they struggle, or confess the truths about their lives. Others were brave because they honored someone in the audience as a surprise tribute.
My brave was in being physically present to speak my words. My brave was in knowing my nervousness would accentuate my differences but doing it anyway. My brave was stepping onto a stage like I belong there even when there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that someone like me shouldn’t be so eager to share my words. My brave will come again when I share that video and let all of you watch it.
But here’s the thing. I thought I was doing this all alone. I thought I was the only one who had to fight through all the fears to share my story. Except something amazing happened between the day I auditioned a few months ago and show night.
I found out I wasn’t so alone.
This wasn’t just my brave. This was the brave of fourteen other people, too. This was joining a community of women who didn’t feel quite like they fit either. And they still spoke.
This was the connection of knowing that even though we are so different, we all carry our burdens that threaten to keep us from being brave.
I wanted to try out for Listen to Your Mother because I knew I would regret never knowing if I could have made it. And I have enough regrets. I needed to know if I had what it takes to stand up and speak my truth.
I have always known that there is power in speaking. I just never knew that through this process I would find comfort in the listening, too. And maybe, just maybe, I have found a new little niche, a new community. It is something that is difficult to put words to, the joy of finding others like you.
How does one turn all of these things, these losses and these gains, into 140 characters, or a pretty filtered picture?
I just can’t right now. So I don’t. But it doesn’t matter, because I know the things I will keep.
The things my dear one whispered in my ear after I performed don’t need to be documented anywhere except in my heart.
The way my mother and I talked and talked until two in the morning after what feels like a year-long drought of missed conversations doesn’t need a picture to commemorate it.
The languid, absolutely glorious “do nothing” day of Mother’s Day didn’t get Instagrammed. Instead, it was spent doing nothing with some of the people I like doing nothing with the most. There’s just an out of focus quick snapshot on my phone that makes me want to kiss all the faces when I look at it.
So I will kiss the faces. I will carry my sadness. I will quietly cultivate these new sprigs of joy.
For now, I will hold it all close.