Settled

Do you know where

You are?

Have you found the place

you fit?

Do you like it there, between the what and the who and the when?

Do you feel settled where you are?

Or are you like me

Floating through it all

knowing that the strings

that tie me in place

also weigh around my neck.

If my feet

stop twisting between beats

the noose will raise me up

and I will be found

but not free.

The Place Where I Belong

She calls me, breathless.

“It was amazing,” she panted. “I loved it. I was made for this, Ima. I need it.”

Patched up by the threads trailing behind her gathering into a seam sewn with every fall and knotted with each triumphant rise, my lungs fill.

My hands slow their spasms. My head sweeps the day’s anxious pacing to the place in my brain that archives these moments in memory where they no longer hold me by the throat.

**********

I had been unsure for so long.

She was my rainbow baby.

When I grew her in my womb, I stopped the world to keep her safe. I could not trust my body, it had betrayed me before. I slowed time, went still, and waited. Month after month, I pushed down my swelling heart, locking it up so it could not get hurt. I would not dream, refused to take any steps further than the one right before me.

And then she burst into the world.

I had never seen the colors she threw at me, the way she blended the lines and filled the spaces with depth and layers. One on top of the other, her shades of joy spun me around and changed me.

But light does not color darkness. Beneath it all, the part of me written into her code lay dormant, waiting to pounce.

It found a moment of vulnerability and doubt and dug deep into her translucent skin.

Oh, how it hurt.

It strangled her with the rope I had never been able to shake off my neck. She couldn’t explain it to me, the only one who could really understand.

“I know,” I would say, imploring her to let me in.

“NO! No, you don’t.” Screaming with rage, she’d pull away. “You’ll never know what it’s like to be me.”

Punching my gut from my past stood 10-year-old me.

“I know,” I’d whisper to her through the years. “I know exactly how it feels to be you.”

So I tiptoed around a ride through hell and ecstasy, hoping she’d get what I never could find. Her voice rose and fell with each curve, gathering speed as it steadily spread the black between each vibrant color.

Flashes of pain seeped into her notes. It was haunting and beautiful and the scariest sound a mother can hear.

My prayers swept around her tormented thoughts, her twirling emotions, her bright overwhelming light, into the vastness of a universe I feared could not see her.

Just one little corner, one place to lay her head down… please let her feel like she belongs.

Her song grew strong, too strong. It began to surround her and swallow her with its need to be heard.

It could no longer be contained.

Softly, with the gentlest touch on her fragile little back, I steered her towards the spotlight.

And then she stepped onto the stage, a solid black ground raised for the world to see. Her eyes blinked, her heart stilled, and she poured out across the place she was meant to be.

Curled up at home where I could not rush to her side, I waited for my star to rise.

**********

“I was made for this, Ima. I need it.”

“I know,” I say to her and to me and to all the times we didn’t believe it and all the times we won’t be comforted by it. “I understand.”

And I do.

Defining Me

Recently a friend asked me what I was looking for.

I’ve been searching for a job for the past few months. I joined all the groups on Facebook and I tidied up my resume. I let people know I’m looking and created a LinkedIn account. I sent out my resume to a few relevant places and I called to set up an interview for a job that is in a field completely different from what I thought I wanted. I’m exploring options for working at home. I’m actively looking.

“What are you looking for?” he asked.

I didn’t have an answer.

For the past two and a half years I was a cake decorator. I didn’t think I wanted to be one or that it was something that could interest me, but I took a part-time job close to my home and it turns out I’m good at it. A few hours a week became a few days a week which became full-time and then I was at a managerial position, taking charge and overseeing operations in a business I hadn’t ever thought about.

A few years before that I opened a small drop-off daycare service in my home so that I could stay home with my two-year old. I thought I would have a few kids here and there but the parents wanted more hours and I found myself on the floor every day laughing and singing with the greatest little group of humans who went home happy to satisfied parents.

Before that I wrote an article for a magazine because my mother didn’t want to do it and then they called me to do an editorial piece.

Before that I did some part-time work for the therapeutic school I had gone to and became an integral part of the program for as long as the school was able to survive in a struggling economy.

Before that I was a failure at everything, especially at committing to drug addiction and alcoholism.

Before that I dropped out of school and roamed around looking for meaning.

Before that I had a lot of potential and no one knew how to help me actualize it.

“What are you looking for?”

What am I looking for?

I can decorate cakes because I am an artist.

I can run a daycare because I am a leader.

I can create articles of substance because I am a writer.

I can connect with teenagers because I am real.

I can overcome failure because I am a fighter.

I can search for a life of meaning because I am a believer.

I can actualize my potential because I am adaptable.

“What are you looking for?”

Maybe I should answer with an explanation about how I didn’t get a degree because of a broken system. Maybe I should say that my needs are so immediate that you can hand me a broom and I’ll clean for you if it means I can feed my kids this week. Maybe I should explain how I freeze at the thought of starting over at this point in my life when it feels like I am constantly knocking down doors only to find that the hallways opened up for me end in another concrete barrier.

“What are you looking for?”

I don’t know.

I know what I am.

I am an artist. I am a leader. I am a writer. I am real. I am a fighter. I am a believer. I am adaptable.

“What are you looking for?”

I’m looking for a job that doesn’t define me.

I am looking for me, in a job that embraces me.

“What are you looking for?”

A dream?