Make Space for the Pivots

Recently, I came to understand that there is a vast difference between being defensive and defending oneself. One comes from a position of lack; it says, in your body language and the tone of your voice, that you feel like less. The other comes from a position of power—not power over others, but power within yourself. Defending yourself is sometimes about the words you choose, but it can also be about the words you choose to let slide off your back. Defending yourself is about taking the offence—whether that means putting someone in their place immediately, or modeling for them the type of behaviour that you expect when they are around you. When you are defending yourself, you are demonstrating your boundaries and expectations in a big and strong way. When you behave defensively, those boundaries become very, very weak.

Having made this distinction, it became easy for me to pivot into an offensive position. Awareness is half the battle, as I like to say. And as generally happens, this pivot exposed me to a plethora of perspectives I hadn’t been aware of before. Most notably—most relevant to me and my life—came this one surprising, yet also related, realization: I had been living from the position of victim, rather than the position of owner of my life. I didn’t even know I was behaving in this way, going about my life as though I was victimized by it. Once I realized it, however, it was so easy to see how stupid I was behaving, how far from a victim I actually am, and how to better take control over myself and my attitude. It was another pivot, and one that made all the sense in the world. As I made this pivot I literally felt like I was shedding skin, becoming lighter and more free in the process.

I have been leading up to these lessons and realizations for years. I have been gradually climbing a stepladder to my own personal mountaintop for as long as I can remember. I know, cognitively, what is at the top—that is to say, I know what I am aspiring to. But while climbing, it can be hard to maintain perspective. Every time a rung breaks, every time you take a fall, whenever your limbs are too tired to continue, it can feel like a major hurtle to overcome. I always keep my mind’s eye on the prize, what Dr. Wayne Dyer referred to as “the shift,” the thing that makes your entire sense of purpose and awareness wake up as if from a heavy slumber, but when my actual eyes can’t see anything other than the rungs before me, it can lead to moments of self-doubt and even depression. Perhaps I’m a slow learner. And I do tend to overthink things. But there are lessons to be learned from needing to persevere, from needing to learn how to be patient with life. From relying on your own personal strength to see you through, to building your own endurance.

The thing about pivots is that you never know when they will come or what will spawn them. You climb and struggle and struggle and climb and then one day, a fly starts buzzing around you in an exceptionally annoying way, and whoosh out of nowhere you begin to understand from the depths of your belly that you are no longer willing to take crap from anybody, and a clear path for your life emerges. Ownership emerges. Just like that. And suddenly, after climbing all those rungs with no end in sight, you shoot straight to the top of the mountain. And the panorama is breathtaking. The ground beneath your feet is solid. The air is clear and the breathing easy.

Except, once there, you realize that you’re not at the mountaintop at all. There is a lot more mountain to go. Except, now, the paths are greener and gently sloping. The climb is pleasant rather than arduous. You can see that there are several forks in the road ahead of you, you know that there are dark corners ahead, and more pivots to be made, but when you take an offensive position in your life, when you make the choice to not be weak before the naysayers, to not be weak before yourself, and still, to be humble before the Universe, the path, however long, becomes much more pleasant to journey.

-mtg

Random Thoughts: Self-Care vs. Individualism

There is a great misconception in society today, a divide between honouring our individual needs, and respecting our community. The message to go after your goals, to say ‘fuck you’ to people who are standing in your way, or to “the man” trying to keep you down—that message is good, that message is necessary: Learn who you are as an individual, have confidence in that person, and work diligently to bring forth into the world the you you were always meant to be. There are people who try to change us, and we need to resist. There are voices that try to contain us, and we need to avoid containment. The message “put your individual needs first” is about taking care of yourself in a kind and gentle way, taking care of your soul, so that you can then go out and take care of the world. Give to yourself so that you can then give back to the world (the world in your home, in your town, in your community, and globally).

I feel like people are only hearing half of the message. They hear the “take care of yourself,” and they begin to approach the world with an individual entitlement, like they should be served rather than serve, are owed rather than owe. This kind of individualism is selfish and self-centered, it says “the world owes me” rather than “how can I help the world.” They hear, “the world is my oyster” and respond with “gimme, gimme, gimme,” rather than, “the world is my oyster, I can harvest and reap and still have more to give.” We’ve become a society of people that only want to think about our own needs and comfort. We don’t want our feelings hurt, we don’t want to be made to do things we don’t want to do, even if it is for the betterment of the whole (see: wearing a goddamn mask during a global pandemic). We feel entitled to having every last one of our wants and needs met, whether or not we’ve worked for it, whether or not we’ve earned it, whether or not we’re good people trying our best.

The real truth is that by honouring yourself you are actually setting yourself up to serve others in a true and conscious way. By individuating yourself, by separating your self from the whole of our collective selves in a narcissistic way, nobody gets what they want or need, not even yourself (see: the story of Narcissus).

Know this: You are entitled to nothing. You are owed nothing. You have the absolute right to go after your goals and have your voice heard, you do not have the right to bring others down to whatever level you’re on. You have a responsibility to give back to the world, to keep it moving round for future generations. Nobody lies on their death bed saying, “I’m glad I won that battle over not wearing a mask at Walmart, bitches.” But they can on their death bed say, I lived the best self I could, I accomplished as many goals as I could, and I left something good for the world to come.

Be yourself. Fulfill your needs. So that you can go on to respect and fulfill the needs of others. That’s called humanity. We all have to do our part.

-mtg

Straddling the Cultural Hyphen

I went for a walk with my nonno one day. I must have been eight or nine. He kept repeating the same word over and over again as we hunted in nooks and crevices. Wash-a-room. Wash-a-room. I couldn’t understand why we had left my grandparents home, containing two full bathrooms, in search for an alternate washroom. It was only after some time and by the power of observation that I realized that my nonno was actually hunting for mushrooms. Wild mushrooms. He was foraging, and I’d almost missed it. 

This is what happens in the gap between Italian and Canadian. Language gets lost. I’ve tried all my life to keep one foot on either side of the hyphen, standing proudly as a first-generation Canadian, yet not wanting to do disservice to my thoroughly Italian roots. But things tend to get a little mixed up in the hyphen. 

Growing up, whenever my dad would come home I’d say Hi!, and he would reply with “Chipolla, no aglio.” Onion, not garlic. Chi-po-la, no hai-li-o. It was his favourite inter-lingual play on words, and pretty much sums everything up. The juggling, the limbo, the living in both worlds. It’s like how most people swear in their mother tongue, but I swear in Italian; or how as a kid I knew my mom was really mad if I heard her swear in English. Everything is just a little mixed up. 

And it makes me sad, that hyphen. Because there is so much meat to the old-school Italian culture that I don’t want to see lost. My dad’s stories of post-war Italy, having nothing but an army blanket on his bed to keep him warm. Or how his first time intoxicated he was seven years old, playing with a friend in the cantina on a summer day, taking sips from the spout of the wine barrel whenever they were thirsty. Eventually they fell asleep on top of the wine barrel, forgetting to shut the spout, and emptying Nonno’s entire supply of wine in the process. My nonna’s homemade pasta, and her biscotti and latte before bed. My mom’s lasagna—my version of comfort food, which has already been lost in the hyphen between me and my kids. 

My kids, Italian-Scottish-Cornish-Ontarian-Quebecer-Anglo-Gaspesian-Montrealer-Canadian, are so riddled with hyphens that they are effectively now just simply, Canadian. Canadian, in three generations. Three generations to remove lasagna as a comfort food (my son doesn’t even like pasta at all, something I refuse to speak about openly), to no longer refer to veal cutlets as fettine, to refer to wine as alcohol rather than just another beverage belonging with every meal, to live in a house without two kitchens and a cantina. Three generations, and I know my kids’ kids won’t refer to their aunt and uncle as Zia and Zio, that I will be the last Nonna down our line. Three generations of hyphens forming a stepladder up our family tree, a stepladder that carried our family across an ocean and between continents, but that with each step our ancestral memories grow a little fuzzier, our traditions get a little less traditional, and we forget what things were supposed to mean, and so make up new meanings for the future generations. 

 I think of my nonna. On the day she gave birth to my mother she was on the family farm in Italy. She turned to my nonno and said, “I think the baby is coming today,” to which he replied, “So get everything ready then meet me in the fields, there’s work to do.” So, she prepared the bedroom for a home delivery, then went outside to work the fields. The fields are exactly where she went into labour. And I think, looking into her newest daughter’s eyes, did she ever consider it a possibility that this daughter’s daughter would barely be able to carry on a conversation in Italian at all? My phone calls with my nonna always went something like this:

Ciao, Nonna.

Ciao, Maria.

Come stai?

Good. 

That being about the part where she would begin to take pity on me. 

But I also can’t help but think, as I put some weight on my right foot, that there’s something kind of fun about the mix. In the same way that everyone loves a mutt, we get to choose the best of all worlds. I know way more couples in my generation that are culturally mixed than not, and their kids are mutts like mine are, and I think that’s fun, too. Because on one side of my hyphen, culture was not a choice, and on the other, it is. And whereas with my Italian family I am often more concerned with what is culturally acceptable or not acceptable, with my kids we focus more on the choices they make as individuals. 

I can’t help but wonder whether the more hyphens there are, the more choices that will arise. We had to lose a sense of culture in order to build a new one, close a door to open a window and all that. Because ultimately, we will never remember more than three generations that precede us, such is life’s way of forcing us to focus on the present. But we do get to choose what traits get carried over the hyphens and up each new rung of the ladder.

Let it be the food, please, let it be the food. 

-mtg

Self-Care & Pandemic Parenting

I’ve been having a hard time focusing lately. I’ll sit down at my computer in the morning, prepared to get to work, and I’ll just stare at the screen, unable to process my next steps. There are too many balls in the air, too many things requiring my attention. 

The kids have been pushed to being relatively independent since March, but they’ll still forget to eat, or “forget” their chores. Ball. 

The puppy can’t be trusted for more than 45 mins before impending doom by way of an accident on my carpet. Ball.

Back to school is around the corner, and like most parents, sending our kids into an unventilated cesspool of germs is proving stressful. Our lack of options is stressful. Ball. 

I have work to do, a set number of tasks that need to get done each day, a set number of hours I am paid to work each week, I don’t have a choice but to get it done. Ball. 

The kids still need their mama. Several times a day. Pointe finale. Ball. 

Everybody has a schedule. I’m in charge of knowing everyone’s schedule. Ball. 

I need to start labelling school supplies. Ball.  

We need groceries. Ball. 

Those groceries need to be turned into meals. Ball. 

The house…. the house… Ball. Ball. Ball. 

I’m managing my own self-care, making sure to give myself more of what I need. But, these days I don’t even know what that is. I need sleep. I need to not be stressed. I need to hide my stress from my kids. I need to focus. What I need more than anything right now is focus. My brain feels like it is splintering. 

This morning I sat down at my computer, and after clicking from screen to screen to screen, unable to decide on which one I should land, unable to bring any of them into focus, I decided to step away. I went outside. I got on my bike. I gave myself something concrete to focus on. Even if just for half an hour. Even if just for 5 minutes. Sometimes stepping away is the best kind of self-care. 

This pandemic parenting isn’t over. One way or another we need to keep it together.  

-mtg

#getpolitical

It was on a popular mommy blog’s post about the upcoming US elections that I read the comment (and I’m paraphrasing), “I thought this was a mom blog. Don’t make it political,” and I was incensed. Or, annoyed at the very least. The mere idea that a mom blog should not be political upset me to my very core. It led me to ask the question, Why not? Why shouldn’t a mom blog be political? 

Whereas I’ve always had a firepit burning in the core of my belly when it came to social justice, I believe that motherhood and politics merged back in 2016. I was hired at a job that I labelled my dream job. My boss seemed cool, relaxed, and understanding about things like work-life balance. This was particularly important to me as a mother. But, then the US elections happened, and the ripple effect of that outcome permeated even beyond the US borders. Suddenly it was okay to be sexist, racist, and homophobic. Suddenly there were so many more of these uglies, as I see them, feeling free to roam the streets. My boss, much to my surprise, was one of them. Slowly the comments came out—the gays this, the immigrants that—each day becoming more and more ugly. I was naïve and slow to come around to my new reality, but a turning point came for me the day that Alyssa Milano began the massive wave that would become the #metoo. I was pumped. I was excited. I went into the staff kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee and my boss and his cronies were in there, talking US politics. In my energetic state—feeling as I was that a monumental change was on the horizon of human rights and equality—I said, You know, I believe that if and when the day comes that Trump gets ousted, it will be at the hands of a woman. I expected some form of agreement, even if it was only in the form of a nod or uh-huh. I expected that I wasn’t speaking to a room of uglies. But I was. I really, really was. I was not speaking to a room of males that believed women are equals, I was not speaking to a room of men that saw the validity of #metoo, I was not speaking to a room of men that thought women had any place in politics. I had obviously not read the room at all. But once I did, I was legitimately incensed. 

Four years later, not enough has changed in the world of uglies. If anything, they’ve become that much more fervent. But, so have the voices of the other side, the ones that do believe in equality is a basic human right that should be available to all citizens and inhabitants of each town, city, county, state or province, country, continent and planet. Whether it’s about #blacklivesmatter, LGBTQ rights, or a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body, the voices have gotten stronger, firmer, filled with resolve and backbone.Which is what made me particularly exasperated when I read that comment, amongst other similar sentiments. Because when there are people out there who still question the validity of any of the above, and who go entirely out of their way to denounce the most basic rights of another human, how can it not be political? And not only that, but shouldn’t the mothers be the ones to get the most political? The mothers, who are raising the next generation of black youth, gay youth, straight youth, white youth; the mothers who want all the hating to stop and who teach that love is love; the mothers who want to raise strong women who don’t need hashtags like #metoo, should be okay with getting political. 2020 is political. 2020 is all kinds of political. Get. The. Fuck. Political. You don’t have to take to the streets and wave flags but, have the conversations and make them count. Don’t shy away. It’s okay if it makes you uncomfortable. Get political.  

That same boss and I had a face-to-face confrontation at one point where he suggested that he be allowed his opinions and I be allowed mine. He thought it was a reasonable approach. However, I did not agree. When one person’s opinions hinder the human rights of another, they are no longer entitled to their opinions. This is the realization we’ve come to in 2020. This is the truth that needs to be taught to future generations. Change is actually possible and women can be the leaders of change.

The suffragettes had a slogan that read, The young are at the gates. The young are at the gates of change. The young must be led by their mothers.

Random Thoughts: Introvert Mood


I was feeling a bit blue today. One thing about being an #introvert personality, and specifically an #INFJ personality, is that feelings come in a big, often overwhelming way. It can be hard to process… often that makes me seem aloof, because I’m so caught up in my head, but on the inside there are whirlwinds to contend with. Today I was spiraling, caught up in the funnel. I tried to sit quietly with a cup of tea, to attempt a meditation, but ultimately I needed to get out and work the feelings out of me through physical activity. I went for a ride. At first I thought I didn’t have it in me, I wasn’t sure I could make 10k, wasn’t sure I could make it up that big hill that challenges me every time, wasn’t sure I had the energy to focus on more than pushing one pedal at a time. In truth I was praying as I went, venting maybe, pleading. Spewing my spiral out into the universe. And then I saw these guys. Deer have forever been my happy animal, just the sight of them brings me joy. They are so graceful and peaceful. We just stood there, looking at each other for a while, and then I got back on my bike and kept going. As I rode I realized that my spiral was over. I was thinking, but my thoughts had turned to more productive things. I also noticed that my body was moving faster. Without even trying I was riding the fastest I’ve ridden since forever, and I powered up that hill with energy I didn’t even know I had in me today. I don’t know… I know not everyone believes that the universe communicates with us. For me, it does. For me it always has. I’m very grateful for it.

-mtg

Random Thoughts: Desperately Seeking

I’ve always been bothered by the “desperately seeking” posts that I often see online.
Desperately seeking mother of pearl lace-trimmed curtains.
Desperately seeking mahogany-coloured bar stools.
Desperately seeking stuff and more stuff.
But I find that it bothers me more than ever, now.
Maybe it’s because so many have lost jobs.
Maybe it’s because so many lost lives.
Maybe it’s because the fight for personal freedoms is still needed in 2020. In 2020 especially.
Maybe it’s because of all it.
If I’ve learned anything at all this year it’s that there’s so much more of value in the world than what we can buy with a credit card.
If you need a chair, seek a chair, but desperately seek a place for your loved ones to rest.
If you need an umbrella, seek an umbrella, but desperately seek a way to keep yourself warm and dry.
If you want a play set, seek a play set, but desperately seek a chance for your kids to play freely and without reservation.
If you need help, seek help, desperately.
If you need friendship, seek friendship.
If you need space, seek space.
If you need food, seek food, desperately.
Seek harmony, desperately.
Seek to share your love.
Seek play.
Seek calm.
Seek health.
Seek the stuff that you need in your life, but,
if you’re desperately seeking,
seek life.

-mtg

Random Thoughts: Strong Girls

Last night my almost-nine year old daughter was curled up in bed–pajamas on, cuddling a pillow, holding her favourite mug filled with her favourite herbal tea, and reading The Bridge to Terabithia. She was the epitome of cozy. As I passed by she called out and said, “Look, mom. I’m your perfect picture.”

I felt a queasy squeeze in my belly over the word perfect. I don’t like it, I feel too much pressure when I hear it. I redirected her words by responding with, “That’s definitely one of my favourite activities.”

She continued. “I just felt like curling up with a book and a cup of tea, so I did it.”

“Good girl,” I said. But then the queasy returned.

I always feel the queasy when I hear myself say “good girl” or “good boy.” Not because of the gendered part, but because of the good part. I always feel like I’m telling her who to be and how to behave by labeling something good or perfect. My daughter is a fireball, as I was a fireball at her age. I often feel like that was trained out of me, and, difficult as it can be, I don’t want to be the one to subdue her fire.

So I said, “You know, when I say “good girl” I don’t mean that because it’s an activity that I like to do. I mean it because you listened to yourself and went for it.”

She looked at me with a duh expression and said, “Yeah, I know.”

But I persisted. “I mean, it’s not because you’re being quiet and calm in this moment that you’re good.”

At that point she looked at me with an expression resembling something like pity mixed with annoyance over my ineptitude. She actually slowed down her speech when she responded. “Yeah, mom. I know.”

And that’s when I realized that it’s me that has the problem.

-mtg

Random Thoughts: When one person’s opinions hinder the human rights of another, they’re no longer entitled to their opinions.

Every time a movement happens that gives me hope for the future of my kids, I always make the mistake of reading comments sections. Then I lose hope all over again. Why people work so hard to resist the idea of human rights for all boggles my mind. I once worked for someone who embodied the racist/sexist/homophobic white male, and after countless episodes where he felt the absolute freedom to speak whatever nonsense he was in the mood to speak that day, I confronted him. In that confrontation he said that he has the right to his opinions, and that we could agree to disagree. But no, I didn’t agree with that. When one person’s opinions hinder the human rights of another, they’re no longer entitled to their opinions. If you were seeing a therapist, they would tell you from the outset that anything you say will be kept confidential, unless what you say infers harm to another. At that point the therapist would raise the alarm. Right now there are a lot of alarms being raised, because there’s a lot of harm being done. As I tell my kids, it’s not ok to harm each other, we are not allowed that right.

I have this banner hanging on the wall outside my kids’ rooms. It’s the Suffragette slogan, and I keep it there to remind them and myself that they are the young, and they can break the gates down.

-mtg


Lavinia Dock, “The Young Are At The Gates,” June 30, 1917.

If any one says to me: “Why the picketing for Suffrage?” I should say in reply, “Why the fearless spirit of youth? Why does it exist and make itself manifest?” Is it not really that our whole social world would be likely to harden and toughen into a dreary mass of conventional negations and forbiddances–into hopeless layers of conformity and caste, did not the irrepressible energy and animation of youth, when joined to the clear-eyed sham-hating intelligence of the young, break up the dull masses and set a new pace for laggards to follow?

What is the potent spirit of youth? Is it not the spirit of revolt, of rebellion against senseless and useless and deadening things? Most of all, against injustice, which is of all stupid things the stupidest?

Such thoughts come to one in looking over the field of the Suffrage campaign and watching the pickets at the White House and at the Capitol, where sit the men who complacently enjoy the rights they deny to the women at their gates. Surely, nothing but the creeping paralysis of mental old age can account for the phenomenon of American men, law-makers, officials, administrators, and guardians of the peace, who can see nothing in the intrepid young pickets with their banners, asking for bare justice but common obstructors of traffic, nagger’-nuisances that are to be abolished by passing stupid laws forbidding and repressing to add to the old junk-heap of laws which forbid and repress? Can it be possible that any brain cells not totally crystallized could imagine that giving a stone instead of bread would answer conclusively the demand of the women who, because they are young, fearless, eager, and rebellious, are fighting and winning a cause for all women–even for those who are timid, conventional, and inert?

A fatal error–a losing fight. The old stiff minds must give way. The old selfish minds must go. Obstructive reactionaries must move on. The young are at the gates!

Credit: Lavinia Dock, “The Young Are At The Gates,” The Suffragist, June 30, 1917.

We Are Born the People We’re Meant to Be

I believe we are born the people we were always meant to be. Whether or not we remain that person over the course of our lifetime, that’s another thing. But I believe our true self is always the same. 

When I was five years old I was a flower girl, along with another little girl my age. There is a picture of the two of us as we started our trip down the aisle. In the photo the other girl wore a perfect smile, she was poised and proper, she was holding her basket of petals with grace and she was not at all daunted by the ogling eyes of the crowd. Standing beside her was me, the exact opposite of the put-together image she exuded. I was a scraggly mess, my hair was already unkempt and my dress looked like I had been doing cartwheels while wearing it. I was dragging my basket behind me, and in my eyes was the unmistakable look of someone who wanted out from that crowd. Looking at that photo, even as a young child, I could easily see that there was a difference between us. No one had to say it but the message was clear: Maria equalled mess. 

I was always the one with the hair sticking out in all directions. Clothes went onto my body clean and pressed, but were lopsided and dirty before I even left my room. Whenever someone in my family tells a story about me as a kid, undoubtedly I’m being someone they shake their heads at. I was wild, had crazy ideas, and an artistic flair that my practical family didn’t know what to do with. Maria equalled confusion.

I tried, at various points in my teenage years, to dress with style or learn about makeup, but I was always more comfortable wearing cargo pants and hoodies. On the soul level I always felt like I was swaggering between what was normal and what was me; what felt acceptable generally, and what felt acceptable for myself. Maria equalled limbo.

For me, life is a series of paths put together in various intertwining shapes and forms. Sometimes we go off path, and when we do, the question always remains,–somewhere, ringing deep in our bones–Will we find our way back to the path where we belong?

In my early twenties, I worked at an art gallery. We had a volunteer that would come every Sunday afternoon and take ownership of the jewellery counter in the gallery’s shop. She was in her seventies, always wore a skirt and heels, and was never without her hair pinned and her makeup on. Her name was Margaret, and she was a sophisticated old broad. 

I grew to love Margaret. She had outlived both her husband and son and had kept on living, with spunk and determination. She was always regaling us young girls with stories about her bus rides up to the casino and weekend vacation tours. She was a free and proud woman.

Around the time when I left the art gallery for other adventures, she invited me out for lunch. Over roasted chicken she told me about her many pursuers, and about how little she was interested in any of them. She listed off her upcoming trips, the extent of which put my own social life to shame. She spoke about her life, she spoke about the future, she reminded me to fully be myself.

That was the last time I would ever see Margaret, but as I left her that day I was filled with a goal, a lifelong determination, to heed Margaret’s message. To shine, to be okay with my crazy, to show my wild, to not give a shit about the opinions of others. I knew that I could never be as elegant as Margaret, but I could grow into a Red Hat Society kind of old lady and that was good enough for me.

If we were each a tree, the branches would be the complications, the distractions, the judgments and the pressures that can alter the course of our lives. The older we get, the more forks we find in our branches. But all branches lead back to the tree’s base, the core of the tree, the centre of its strength. I think that the older women get, the more they align with that core. The more they align, the more they want to align. Also, the less they care about dropping a branch or two along the way. While I was mixed up in the branches, Margaret was standing solidly at the base of her own tree. 

The path where we belong is not about the what we do. It’s about the who we are. It’s the little girl you wrote to in your first-ever journal. It’s the teenager who went against her parents’ wishes when choosing her university major. It’s how you feel when you find your step and walk with purpose.The who you are is the person you say good-bye to each night, once the kids are asleep and the lights have gone out, and you’re free to breathe.

The who I am has stayed consistent throughout my life. There were certainly times when I chose a wrong path, a path that moved me away from my core. Maybe it was that time I didn’t speak up, or that friend I stood by when I shouldn’t have, or that feeling I got from my family about my choices, or how I felt judged when I was at my most vulnerable. Maybe it was that boyfriend or not trusting my instincts or that choice I made that I now regret. But, ultimately, I always come back to me. I try hard to listen to the inner voice that calls me forward. I try hard to pay attention to how I feel along the way. I try hard to remember Margaret and how she taught me what it feels like to be free. I try hard to remember myself, my wild, my artsy, my crazy, my messy, my scraggly, and all of the me that’s been there since day one. When I remember that person, it becomes easier to get back to her. 

Maria equals the sum of all my parts. Unequivocally, entirely, undeniably. Like Margaret, when I stand at the base of my tree–strong, proud, firm and unwavering–I am also my most free. Although I may still buy myself a red hat when I’m fifty.

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