Curiosity. Perhaps that is the theme for the month, maybe the year.
In Mare Chapman‘s class last fall, (wonderful teacher, by the way) a discussion about feeling ‘less than’ led me to tell the story of my brother challenging my ability to do a task because I was a woman. One of my classmates asked what I would say to my brother today if he said the same thing to me today and I was silent. When I admitted that I had no idea what to say, she offered, “I’d ask, ‘Why would you think that?’” Her answer/question stunned me because it was so simple and yet, so far from my grasp.
I’ve thought about the interchange often this winter. Yesterday, for the first time, the answer tumbled out of me. Of course, of course, I could not ask that question (and so many other questions that might have been asked in my life out of simple curiosity) because I was scared of the answers. I had answered all possible questions before my imagination even gave birth to curious questions. I did not ask those ‘why’s’ because I already knew— I was lacking, I was unworthy, I was not smart enough, not savvy enough, not loving enough, not womanly enough, not tough enough, not talented enough. Just plain not enough!
Wow. “Just Wow,” as Lilly would say.
I rushed through a whole bunch of life experiences when I was mysteriously not at all curious and that ‘not enough’ pit-of-stomach ache was there every time. Well, I’ll be. . . . It was discovering the nose on my face, another Dorothy moment — “You always had the power to go back to Kansas” — and so . . .
So, I was curious as to why. Why now? Pretty easily came the answer: transition, the time between, the slightly foggy, grey time, standing at a precipice and expecting angels to catch my flight attempt. Yesterday I was talking to my realtor who was encouraging me to become a minimalist in order to show the house in a month. I found myself saying, rather forcefully, that when I packed up books and took down pictures (and admittedly I have many more pieces of art on my walls than would be called tasteful decorating and way too many books), I was losing my home. Whoa, my ferocity surprised me. So much is stirring up, turning the compost pile of my soul even in the frozen days of winter.
Since Fall, I have been considering moving. Researching schools and towns. Looking into possibilities. I could write “My daughter and I are going to move to [insert town] next summer,” without really, really meaning it. At least, not seriously meaning it to my deepest insides. Then, I told a few people, inner circle types and then, some people a ripple out. They asked me when and calculating the end of school and a Penguin Project production, the soonest was July 1. Then, I decided I needed help selling the house. I suspect if I was more ambitious, I could organize the sale on my own. The market is good, houses in this neighborhood never last long, but the solo decision making was sad, the prep work overwhelming, and I was not at all certain exactly what I needed to do and how to maximize value. Also, I needed support. And so, I asked a friend who is a realtor to first talk, then take me on. And off we went. 17 boxes of books later, my overstuffed shelves are minimally filled ⅓ books, ⅓ object’s d’arts and ⅓ intentional space. Today, the places where I’ve hung art to the ceiling is being taken down today and work to maximize my closet has begun. And since the first book was plucked from a shelf, I dived deep into moving Julia and I from here to there. From Madison to Boston. And something I knew but had forgotten, I am no longer living as deeply in Madison as I was, I am not at all living in Boston yet, I am somewhere between, somewhere ambivalent that will not bear any more definition that that. And I will not be home until at least October with unpacking and finding our way around. And then, the longer time until some community is found and there is someone (besides Cheshire) who I can meet up with for coffee. A member of a group that I lead asked if I would be able to do some similar work there and that is a question that runs around my mind. “I’m open to it. I’d love to,” was all I said. Who knows?
But back to this time of in-between, some stirring and turnings:
A friend sent me a valentine’s ecard. One of the pretty ones with drawing and music and a sweet message. It tickled me, brought a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart — Not the usual empty dark hole of other years. I probed a bit inside and low and behold, I was not suffering or sliding down any rabbit hole of despair because of my alone-ness.
During our snow day last Tuesday, we ventured out late in the afternoon assuming that we could get to Julia’s cello lesson and trauma therapy. Our street was not plowed and I muscled through but as soon as I turned onto the main street, driving was fine. And all was fine on the Beltline and the streets at our exit until we arrived at our cello teacher’s street. Possibly the only one in her neighborhood not plowed. I was giddy and assumed I could muscle through this one as well. I made the turn and sunk deep into snow that concealed ice. I could not escape. A guy living across the street from the corner came out with shovels and we dug, Julia’s cello teacher and her husband came down to help with boards and cardboard to get some traction. Nothing worked. I called for road service and the wait was to be at least two hours. And then a woman in a jeep stopped, leaned out of her window and asked if she could help. She suggested pulling me out with a tow rope. The road service guy said he would hold on and see how that went—he was on speaker phone and was a vocal part of the team. The woman in the jeep pulled me out, we all cheered, thanks all around and I headed home. No lesson, no therapy but so, so happy to get home. By the time I got there, my street was plowed and my driveway was impassable. I left the car on the street and trusted that my snow guy would shovel me out eventually. The next morning it was done! No idea what time he came. I was happy to be home and I remembered how my own rather new neighbors dug me out of snow our first winter in Madison, and here, my last winter, there was a community to dig and pull. I came home with gratitude, blessings and feeling well cared for.
But it is all such a mixed bag. Still pondering schools. Last week, I lost someone who I thought was an expert on public schools, autism and transition programs. Touched real fear for a little while but then, recalled that I’ve trusted myself, of course, with the help of teachers and therapists, but myself with research and gut feelings to raise my girl. Why should it be any different this time. Through an online bulletin board, I found an education/transition specialist and scheduled a phone meeting. She was good. We talked for almost an hour. I already knew about some of what she advised and she could answer questions about programs that I felt I needed. Who was flexible enough to be of the most use to Julia? She gave me her opinions and observations, which were, of course, just her take on things, but she could offer observations that no one else had. Something clicked, I passed some hurdle. I have appointments for two of the three optimal schools during our spring break visit. I have hope of a decision afterwards.
Julia does thrive during transitional time. Transitions have always been hard for her, really hard, something worked on in so many therapy sessions with so many therapists, I’ve lost count. But it is a growth time for her as well. Julia came out of our grieving time much stronger, and she is moving, albeit quite reluctantly, into this relocation with more and more strength.
Last week, one evening, we were both doing desk work when Julia leaned over and checked the time. I asked what she was doing because Julia never, ever, ever checks time! She casually told me she was making sure she was getting her work done with enough time to have some free time before bed. I said, “Okay,” and tried not to fall off the chair or send up whoops of joy. Might this be the beginning of incorporating time into her life? Hard to explain to anyone not touched with Julia’s challenges the step that this is. I try not to run ahead of myself with projections and possibilities.
No matter. No matter at all. Julia checked a clock!
Penguin Project has begun and Julia got the chance to read for the witch in Wizard of Oz. The company does not do auditions, instead the production team watches kids as they read through the script a few times, learn songs and dances and general interest and interaction over the next few weeks. Parts are then assigned. I didn’t really think there was a ‘part’ for Julia in this show but she owned the witch. And she had a good time! Something she could not have done last year.
This past weekend, we went to Anime-Con in Milwaukee and there was definitely some ‘finding of her people.’ Julia had a very good time! We went for one day of the three day event and next time we’ll go for more. Julia worked a jacket and some clothes into a sort-of costume, but I have a feeling that next time we will be sewing.
Julia cheered her last West High game on Friday. I didn’t put it to her like that but she told her coach she was moving and asked her to visit us. I hope the research I done into school means she will be cheering next year, albeit in different colors.
As to Julia and moving, I see some acceptance. We still have days of denial and times when she leads me on with a series of questions that end with “Will I do [insert activity] at West High when I’m a junior?” She is daring me to tell her we are moving and sometimes poised to protest. She also tends to ask at times and in places where it is impossible to give the question the time it deserves. But there are also times, and I think more frequent, when she asks if there is [insert activity] in Boston and usually I can assure her that indeed there will be. This weekend, the question was about anime cons and I’m also positive she will find her people there!