She arrived late to the competition. It wasn’t intentional. Or perhaps on some level it was. The last battle was long and wearisome and had taken its toll. The scars she had were not by her hand, though she took them on without complaint. That was part of the rules, was it not? But after the 25-year battle, she hid, healing the wounds with salve given to her by the Earth, ensuring others wouldn’t be infected. But she was ready, knowing what she offered was valuable.
Her eyes, though battle worn, were intent and aware as she surveyed the gathering of competitors. She cringed at the sudden feeling of inadequacy. How could she possibly compete? She watched the leaders selectively sift through the crowd, letting strands of hair fall through their fingers, cupping faces more youthful than hers against their palms. The young ones were eager, wide-eyed, optimistic, less willing to cast doubt or question their leaders. They were desperate to blindly follow, compromise their values, and become something they were not, in order to serve them.
Oh, she had made that mistake so very long ago. Never again. Perhaps that was her downfall, her own boundaries getting in the way.
But she couldn’t deny the shift that was palpable in every fiber of her soul. The confidence she had in battle now whittled down to nothing as, one by one, the leaders passed her over. What could they possibly want with a veteran who saw life through narrowed eyes? They looked for trainability, not one so set in her ways. The sudden rejection left her vulnerable and weak, her ego judging her worthiness based on their approval.
It occurred to her that though her body was strong and her mind stronger yet, the young ones were skilled in ways she was not, for while she led her own battle, she’d neglected skills she rarely used, and those had eventually withered away. She argued that she had different skills, stronger skills, life skills, skills the newcomers had yet to discover. She held up the weapons that were well-honed, time-proven, and sharpened with age and wisdom. She insisted that her youth was a shadow behind her maturity and calm, and that she could fight alongside them.
But none of that mattered.
Was that punishment for the years that she refused to back down?
She stepped away from the crowd, her spine straight and jaw set. She fought against the tears that spilled from her heart as she saw her future denied by virtue of her past. It occurred to her that she had her place, but it was no longer on the front line. Times had changed, and she along with it. But she had no idea.
Until now…. until it was almost too late.
“What?” His eyebrows shot up as he leaned toward me just a little. “Twenty years?”
He blinked once. Then twice.
My jaw went slack, realizing what I had just revealed.
Then he sat back hard in his chair, shaking his head. “You need to be kissed. You need to be kissed.”
I noticed he wasn’t offering his services to remedy the situation. He merely stared, digesting my confession.
Two decades is a long time to go without being kissed. I mean, really kissed. I was embarrassed, wondering if I was even capable of kissing that way again. I swiped at a tear that started to form, hoping he didn’t notice.
So this was it. This is what I had become. A closed-off, passionless excuse of a woman. How could I have let it get to this point? For that matter, at exactly what point did it get to this point? Did my softer edges sharpen during those first years of raising my children when laundry, cleaning, and cooking, had to fit somewhere between the hours of my day job? Maybe it was during the years after that when I took on the additional roles of taxi driver, gardener, and all around super mom.
Sexy lingerie was shoved aside to make room for baggy t-shirts and sweat pants. Practical shoes took the place of fun, strappy sandals. No one knew how long my hair really was since it spent most days tucked up underneath a baseball cap, mainly to hide the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to touch up the roots.
Somewhere between the “I do” and the “I don’t want to do this anymore,” I had lost myself. I lost the ability to tilt my face to the sun and soak in all of its goodness. I lost my creativity and the ability to laugh. Not that I didn’t have the opportunities – I just didn’t have the energy for it.
Worst of all, I had forgotten to write, something I had done since I was a little girl. My dream journal was buried under stacks of paper and magazines, never experiencing the touch of a pen to its pages – because I had forgotten to dream.
And like anything in this world, if it is neglected, it will die.
And die I did. A thousand times.
On the outside I was Wonder Woman and Martha Stewart rolled into one. I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be the perfect wife and mother. I tried. I tried really hard. Books on how to knit and sew and quilt and make candles for Christmas lined the shelves. Cookbooks for pasta, vegetables, barbecuing, and even sushi were lined up neatly in the kitchen. Playing at the park or going to the beach were regular activities.
I deceived them, all of them. “How do you do it?” I was often asked. I would just shrug and smile. If I were to answer them, I would have said, “Miserably.” But I never said a word.
I may have fooled them, but I didn’t fool me. I knew that by not being who I really was, by not being filled with my own joy, I had nothing to offer. I might as well have been a bot.
When I finally hit the tipping point, I prioritized. I wanted me back. I threw out the how-to books, the knitting needles, and found a nice home for the upright piano that mocked me every time I would pass it.
And then I looked for me. I wasn’t hard to find, for as I was looking in, the woman I searched for was looking out, and when we met after so many years, it was magic.
After that, I wrote. And I wrote. And I tipped my face towards the sun and soaked up all the goodness that its warmth offered.
And still…I write…I have found my muse.
How about you? Is it easy for you to lose yourself to others? Is it difficult to put your needs first? How do you find that balance in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts!