There is always a reason not to write.
I can create legions of them that march through my motivation like soldiers, slaying every idea I have with tempting taunts like you can write that later…
But now is all we have, and now is the time I choose to tell this story.
Though you might not be able to picture it now, when I was young I found it nearly impossible to make friends. I ached for a best friend, for someone in whom I could confide all my mystified questions. We could play pretend! We could talk about boys. We could spend timeless hours outside, collecting frogs, making stick flutes, and draping wooded castle walls with imaginary tapestries.
I couldn’t understand why no one wanted to play this way with me.
Wasn’t this was being a child was all about? To me, magic was the epitome of life. I saw it everywhere: from the field full of cows that I knew were actually elephants to the red glitter I could make rain in the air if I squeezed my eyes just right… This was my everyday. I wanted to share it!
As a very young girl, the other girls not only did not want to play this way with me, they wanted to sexualize me instead. “I’ll be the boy and you’ll be the girl!” they’d exclaim, while I lay there confused about both my enjoyment of these explorations and their lack of interest in the much more enticing things I’d rather we do. Why didn’t they also wonder if the cubbyhole in the wall would make a good elevator?
Even at a young age, I was taught by my peers that everything I had to offer was best experienced through sexual exploration. Nothing else I had was wanted.
I defaulted to humor and an outlandish wardrobe.
Later on, the girls stopped paying attention to me when the boys started paying attention to them… then I was rejected outright when I moved to a new town. The girls banded together and threatened to shun anyone who tried to be my friend. I didn’t know until later that they were bullying each other to stay away from me. All I knew was that I didn’t want to date the boys (at age 11) who kept asking me out, and I didn’t want shallow, fake friendships either.
I spent my childhood and teens constantly mystified why I was always so alone. Even among the misfits, I couldn’t find my place.
I’m proud that I didn’t give in right away and settle to be something other than myself. But in other ways, I did cave. I became obsessed with achievement – determined to never get less than an A. I launched into drama and acting as a way to fully embrace life’s melodrama without actually processing my own feelings. Instead, I’d play a holocaust victim, a cancer patient… any character that made the audience cry was the one I lusted to be.
Then I got my first boyfriend and promptly lost myself completely… He was the captain of the basketball team, muscular, hilarious; a misfit in his own right with bright red hair, a rebelliously anti-yuppie family, and a penchant for fishing trips. He also told me things like, “You’re the stupidest 4.0 I’ve ever met” and “I still love you” when I refused to lose my virginity to him on my parent’s couch while they lurked about upstairs. I saved that for later, when sex became the only way I knew to reach out and connect with him.
He didn’t want to play pretend with me.
As I went to college and evolved into the 20-something you might have read about here, the magical me was still lurking just under the surface. My mother would bemoan the Banana Republic wardrobe in my closet, the diamond watch I just had to have, the trappings of the life I thought I wanted because the bohemian me had certainly never “gotten me anywhere.”
At least, I’d not yet arrived at wherever I thought I was supposed to be going.
I began to step forward as my technicolor self at age 31… and life as I knew it unraveled at the seams.
I opened my first marriage, once again trying to find soul solace in sex and not quite getting what I wanted. Still repeating patterns, still learning.
But, because being ME felt so fucking amazing and free, I began to shout, sing, dance, leap from the rooftops in exuberance. It was a lot for the people around me to handle.
Then, one day I met someone different. This man wanted to play pretend. He wanted to leap from rock to rock and be mountain goats, he wanted more than just my sex… He was an artist, an altruist… I didn’t know it at the time, but he was my one – my one in seven billion.
Even though I leapt at the enticing unknown ahead of us, at first I didn’t think I deserved him.
Until this point in my life, the world had shown me that only my shallowest aspects were acceptable. Like a fox, I’d gotten very good at camouflaging myself. I thought I’d conquered the fear that if I let my true self out, I would end up alone.
But, I could feel shadows of it in my jealousy – an emotion I thought I’d never experience. I could feel it in the new ways I tried to be perfect – perfectly imperfect! Perfectly bohemian! Perfectly open! Perfectly loving!
I was once again designing myself to be the one that doesn’t lose.
It took a series of initiatory events to finally understand that I am more than a beautiful skin that others could wear to feel like me. I am more than a good lay, a seductress, a mother, a wife, a Fox…
It took getting what I always wanted and my conscious choice to incinerate it all to realize that I’ve got nothing to lose.
Living with an open heart in all your messy truth isn’t easy.
Our society teaches us to only see and value each other at the shallowest levels. We turn everything into sex and then reject our own sexuality. We have no container for the black hole fears that live inside of us – so they eat us alive, give us cancer, wake us up too late.
I know how hard it is to accept the depths of yourself and dare to BE THAT in the world.
And I know that this is what we are all aching for.
We think we want to be:
But we can’t truly have any of it until we give it to ourselves. Even if we get the man, the job, the money, the house, the family we’ve always wanted… we won’t see it for the gift it really is until we fully understand that we deserve it.
So, I’m going to tell you what my Tiger husband told me over and over again until I believed it:
You don’t have to be anything different than what you are RIGHT NOW. Right now, you are already perfect, in all your fucked up glory.
And whatever it is that you want?
You deserve it.
My eyes have learned to see who you really are, and you’re amazing.
Illustration by Gordon Crabb