Pride, Power, and the Pen

The subtle softness of dusk’s glow only highlights the inactivity post storm, my freshly pruned rose bush’s thirst now satisfied, and just the orange cones and clean concrete a reminder of the gas line’s noisy month-long project.  They’re a friendly bunch who keeps me company while I finally attend to those neglected garden beds.  Yesterday, one said he liked my Supergirl look.  That was a new one.  Wonder Woman, occasionally.  I glanced down: red top, blue shorts.  Oh, then it hit me.

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The beachy blonde waves, a product of about $20 bucks and Angel’s Wednesday night and a super fun curler courtesy of Amazon Prime, had unwittingly opened me up to a whole new realm of  likeness comparisons. This past month has been pregnant with life-altering changes in trajectory.  If it weren’t summer vacation, I’d still be filtering my perspective though the elements of a short story, surprising myself with plot twists I set in motion, watching as supporting and new characters rise to fill vacancies for regulars now pursuing solo careers.  The story is changing.  I’m changing, and I’d never so strongly sensed the desire to make a drastic outward modification to reflect the new tone of a familiar setting.

I’ll admit, when I woke up the next morning, I had shocked myself.  The hairdresser’s words from two weeks back echoed between my ears as I took inventory of the olive skin and dark eyes as she urged me to cherish my brunette locks before begrudgingly compromising with some golden streaks Angel would later cover and color.  My Italian heritage wasn’t compromised by a bottle dye job, despite any texts my bestie may have received from my mother begging her not to make me a blonde.

That’s probably the most obvious character missing from my narrative these days as I’ve attempted to respect her wishes not to make any mention of my family in my blog.  Losing someone’s trust is easy.  Regaining it is a challenge.  That’s life, and accepting the responsibility for one’s actions isn’t enough.  The void of daily afterschool calls with Mom is impossible to ignore, but that’s what happens when you drop a bomb on your future marriage.  I hadn’t thought about the fallout or casualties.

The blonde is growing on me.  The archetypal color of the sun is warmth, hope, goodness, and even truth.  A visit to Walmart and some quality time with Angel allowed me to make a change to my protagonist that would fit the theme of the new story she’s writing.  The reality is that I’m not Supergirl.  When the key breaks off the FOB in my car and the top drawer of the cabinet snaps in two and my Google account gets prematurely disabled and my car is making a rattling noise, my gut reaction is not to look up and soak in the sunlight.  No, I question myself.  I doubt, I fear, I pity.

I pick myself up eventually, but it’s not pretty.  Writing has always been my therapy, my safe free place to unburden my brain, untangle the strands of spaghetti to light on something that will make me better, make someone else better even just by saying what no one else will.  It never ceases to amaze me that my most well-read posts are not the uplifting, encouraging ones, but rather those times where I laid bare my brokenness and said things like I’m about to say now.  I’ve never really liked myself much.

My gym mentor is MIA this week with his wife at the beach, but he left me with tidbits to reflect on.  I’ve been wrestling with how to write authentically these past few weeks without having the freedom to write about what’s most weighing me down.    Chuck likes my family, but in this instance, he caught another glimpse of what has defined my self-worth all my life: their approval.  No standing ovation was needed after a performance, just Mom’s delighted smile of pride.  In my eyes, she was always the perfect woman, no superhero powers necessary.  Wonder Woman couldn’t have raised four kids with a full time job and made us all feel loved.  Mom made it look easy.

The effects of her praise, it turned out, had a superhuman reach after all.  Somewhere over the decades, I think I forgot how to be proud of myself.  She’s always been my number one cheerleader, and I will always be grateful for that.  Now she’s silent, and I’m grateful for that, too, because as I’ve been tackling job applications and interviews these past few weeks, the urge to call and ask for advice has been reduced to a palatable level.

My counselor’s brow went up when he confirmed during a recent visit that this was the first time I’d heard that thirty-five year olds don’t usually talk to their mothers every day.  While having a strong relationship with your parents is certainly a positive, I don’t think I could see the dependence I’d come to have on mom until she exited by way of a plot twist I subjected her to that was a far greater shock than my blonde hair will be, I imagine, and perhaps even longer to outgrow.

I’ve lost that smile of approval.  I don’t want it anymore, at least not until I don’t need it.  I’m in the subtle quiet of my street after the storm tonight typing beyond fear of disappointing by isolating that Supergirl strength, in my DNA or hair dye.  I’m Wonder Woman’s daughter, and if I had to change the color of my hair to reaffirm the commitment to find power and self-worth beyond her legacy , to choose to overcome rather than throw a pity party, well, then blondes don’t just have more fun; this character trait change is an attempt to alter more than hair color.  Streaks weren’t enough.  It was all or nothing.  Dark to light, all over.

My greatest healing power is in the pen, and I can’t write my way to a person I can be proud of if my hands are tied.  I held back last week, restricting myself to the safest topics among the relationship rifts created by my marriage-ending bomb, but another week of tiptoeing around in this brave new world has given me sufficient opportunity to find my own opinion, my own voice – I am finding that I don’t know as much as I thought I did, and that like my students, being forced to own my learning instead of relying on the wisdom of others exercises a critical thinking skill that might just help me change that pesky, internal narrative that says I’m not enough.

I might have resembled Supergirl yesterday, but I have years of bad habits to unlearn.  It’s going to take more than a few bottles of hair dye to eradicate the dark spots.  I loved my brown hair, just like my mother’s, and I’ve always loved being my mother’s daughter.  I’ve never loved me. I want to love me.  I want to be someone full of light and hope and warmth like my beachy blonde hair does, encouraging me whenever I catch a glimpse in the mirror.  Mom’s text to Angel didn’t stop me from making the change, but it freed my writer’s integrity to pursue purpose in my life with the power of the pen.  I’m not much of a writer if I’m in a room full of elephants and fail to include them in the setting.

The storm was over before I sat down to write, but stubborn spurts of showers kept me company as settled into an authentic rhythm.  The cool, summer breeze soothed me as I stirred up dust with my words.  The darkness of night contrasts the golden locks framing my face as if to confirm we’re at peace, Mother Nature and me, that change is possible, that all things take time, and the time between the sunset and sunrise only seems longer than its lighted path.