|here we have it, lovelies: a foolish face.|
After graduating from college, I was working for Jen Lemen
in her little art studio on the third floor of her house, doing fruitless things like trying to get the scanner to work. The reality is, Jen was exponentially generous with her mentorship, and often, I'd leave her house a bit rattled--her capacity to shoot truth like a tin can atop a tree stump, a bit uncanny.
The thing with you, Rach, is you're terrified to look foolish.
She said it ever-so nonchalantly one summer afternoon with the windows open and the birds singing careless and free.
FUCK. Don't you love/hate it when someone nails you right on the head?
Here I am, five years later, still stomaching that reality. As I practice the art of stepping all the way into myself, I can feel the precarious edge of foolishness lurking, waiting for my missteps, haunting me with the threat of falling into some deep abyss of shame.
I can feel how unavoidable foolishness is, if I'm to truly pronounce myself, sound myself out one syllable at a time. It's clear that the art of becoming is much like the English language--with certain things that make no sense, follow no patterns, and are just plain old stupid. And still, we must learn them by heart. We must pronounce them wrong, over and over and over again. We must continue to read aloud, anyway. In front of the whole class. Everyone listening as we stumble on words like unique, Illinois, amateur
So the question remains: Am I willing to lean into the challenge? To try my hand at something that actually scares me? To publicly show you, This is really where I am. Right here, right now, this is my damn best work. Foolish mispronunciations, and all.
And I notice, the best way to write this book might be to pretend that no one will ever read it--no one's actually listening as I sound myself out, one stumbling ah-tem-pt
at a time. This is for me. My growth. My learning.
And, you see, that's the whole real challenge for most of us, anyway--to hold (or let go) and evaluate (or not evaluate) our experiences for ourselves. To set our own standards, be our own judges, sing our own praises, feel satisfaction intrinsically.
To cross our own mountains--because we must--for ourselves.
To live for ourselves. To become full and round and every bit as devilish as delightful. To love all our wild, untamed parts, and all the ways we worry. To be foolish enough to begin, not knowing where this damn road will lead, or what might happen along that long stretch of nothing, somewhere between mountain and sea.
Because it's there, in those stretches when you run out of gas or lose the tire like a tumbleweed spinning away without reason, that you grin or sob with liveliness. It's at the edges where you discover indigo, burnt sienna, colors beyond Crayola packaging. Where you find the fullness of yourself. Where you learn to love the fool that brought you there.
So with that, here's a short list of things that I'm letting myself embrace, despite the ways I wobble:
1. Skateboarding. (I suck and I'm terrified, but I love it so much I'm doing it anyway).
2. Dating woman. (I've always been queer, but when you've been married to a dude for 7.5 years, dating women raises all your foolish/clueless flags... as if dating, in general, didn't already).
3. Writing a book. (Okay--I've been writing since I was seven. But a book
? About my fucking life? Eeeep!).
4. Going on dates alone. (It actually feels scary to take myself to the movies, a concert, a club. But I'm doing it. Because, hell, I know how to treat a lady).
5. Paying all my bills and completely supporting myself financially. (Brian was the... uh... breadwinner. I tremble every time I open my bank statement. It's a work in progress, but, damn it, I'm committed).
6. Dying my hair. (This doesn't sound like a big deal, but if/when
I actually dye my hair red/orange, IT COULD LOOK TERRIBLE AND I COULD BE EMBARRASSED THAT I WAS A FOOL TO DO IT).
And I'm willing to do these things--to take myself to these ledges--to find out who I really am in my discomfort and my power. Because, what the fuck? What else am I gonna do? Stay here? Awkward and afraid? Half-knowing and half-trembling, waiting for someone to scoop me up and save me from myself? Hell no. I may be afraid of myself, but that right there, is a fear I'm willing to face. The most important one of all.
What about you, dear soul? If you were willing to sound yourself out slowly, one syllable at a time, what might you pronounce? What dares might you dream to begin, foolishness be damned, knowing that we all wobble, we all fall, and everyone gets as many chances as they give themselves?