Graduation Season

Today we went to my niece’s graduation party. After missing her actual graduation due to our sweet, old cat Isis choosing the same night to pass away, I was happy we got to go. She is a good kid, even if she does strike that completely unnatural hand-on-hip-slightly-bent-kneed Kardashian pose every time there is a camera within a 20 foot radius. Oh to be 18 and filled with the potential of your whole life ahead of you instead of…well, not.

Her first summer of post-grad freedom reminds me so much of mine – a month of work, six weeks visiting relatives abroad and then back for her first days of college where she will hopefully meet one of her best lifelong friends in a History of Western Civilization class taught by some guy who looks like Hitler and is fond of muttering gems like “they all TOLD me not to teach at a community college” at random times during his lectures. Oh, the places she’ll go!

It was such great barbeque weather – perfectly sunny and breezy. Being the most awesome auntie ever, I got the graduate to tickets to go see her favorite performer (Drake) with a friend in September. I have no idea who he is, but he is apparently way cooler than either 80’s hair bands, Nirvana or even my early childhood Hardy Boy of choice, Shawn Cassidy, none of whom she recognizes. He is also way cooler than the Hanes cotton granny panties I threatened to get her, if she didn’t give me some clue as to what she would enjoy as a graduation present.

Of course, there were lots of cameras and pictures at the party. These days it only takes a nanosecond for whatever you’re doing to show up on Facebook. Typically, I try to stay on the business side of the camera, so there are not a lot of pictures of me floating around, but somehow I ended up in a group shot. And, oy, are my chins and I depressed after seeing what I look like in my uncomfortable with my body glory. It makes me want to cry, give up AND crack down on my diet all at the same time.

But then, I started thinking about how this has been a bit of a graduation year for me as well. I faced my worst fear – losing my job and somehow came out okay. I’ve made some significant changes in my diet and lifestyle. I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s an important start. Like life, it’s a process. So, instead of being depressed and loosing steam, I’ve decided to look at it as a “before” picture. A before where I was the awesome, kind, funny, creative, gentle, animal loving, bleeding heart of a person I am now; a before where I acknowledged that I was not living in a healthy manner and had the fortitude to do something about it.

And, I guess, if I had to give my young graduate friend a piece of advice, it would be the same advice I’d give to myself: Enjoy life, be open to new experiences, be willing to change when something isn’t working for you, rock on with your Kardashian posing self and let people take pictures of your happy smiling face for posterity, and, most of all, don’t be so hard on yourself.

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Foxglove Don’t Care

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And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~ Anais Nin

Today at church a friend (who also hosted a wonderful Beltane ritual this weekend – more on that later!) talked about foxglove. Anyone who knows her knows that she is an engaging storyteller. Her mind works in wonderful ways, taking twists and turns you don’t always see coming, but somehow know will leave you feeling “Oh my gosh, I totally GET this!” Her thoughts on these pretty pinkish wildflowers particularly resonated with me. In short, they were this: Foxglove don’t care!

What does that mean, you ask?

Foxglove, which grows abundantly in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, belongs to the genus Digitalis. In addition to being (according to flower lore) a favorite hiding place for fairies, foxgloves also have great medicinal value. When administered in the correct amount, digitalis can be quite effective in treating atrial fibrillation. When ingested less carefully, it can be highly toxic. Deathflower or helper and friend to the literally heartsick – the foxglove itself doesn’t care. It simply is what it is. It goes about the business of being pretty and pink whether we like it, hate it, fear it, want it, shun it, need it, find it beautiful or funny looking. It is perfect in its foxglovicity. What we take from that is our business.

And what a great symbol that is for those of us who struggle with body and self-image. It is too easy sometimes to hide in corners or let ourselves adapt to what we think other people think of us or need us to be. It is too easy to not do the things we want, because we think we are too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too this or too that to draw attention to ourselves. So, instead of blossoming as we are intended to, we allow ourselves to stay closed up into this tight little bud that never gets to feel the sunshine on its face or the wind in its silky petals.

The other day while I was out, I was stopped at a traffic light where a heavy woman in shorts was waiting to cross the street. It was a gorgeously sunny day. A lot of people were out walking. A small group of pedestrians were also coming down the street. As they passed by this woman, one of them made a loud crack about her weight, advised her to go on a diet, then walked off laughing with his buddies. After a fleeting look of pain, the woman told him to fuck off, then stood staring straight ahead, waiting for the light to change.

There was a big part of me that wanted to jump out of the car and give her a hug, but since people generally don’t cotton to being groped by strangers, I refrained. It didn’t stop me from thinking more about her, though. I’ve had people make cruel comments about my weight before. I know from experience, if I were her, I would probably have done my best to not let the offending asshat see how hurt and frustrated I was, then I would have gone home and cried. And, the next day, I’d find that I felt just a little more closed up and self-conscious.

I know as I’ve gained weight I’ve been guilty of this. There are days when getting up in front of people to talk makes me feel so self-conscious, I can barely do it, despite the host of magnificent and hilarious ideas that run through my brain. I try to force myself to do it anyway, but it is really difficult. There are days when I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin, I can barely stand it.

But then, there is also this little foxglove inside me, beating its little belled fists against the windows of my soul. Lately, it’s been beating louder and louder. I want to blossom and live in the sun. It’s part of why I’ve been so motivated to make changes. I feel it in there exhorting me to be all the crazy, unapologetically beautiful wildflower I can be.

Foxglove don’t care. And when it comes to embracing ourselves not matter where we are on our journey, neither should we.