What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am? --Oriah, Prelude to The Invitation
I am doing a Holy Week post - no, really. (Sorry, Dom, I know I promised! By Maundy Thursday...)
It just seems to be further down my muse's list than I think it should be. Or maybe there's just a certain way I think it has to happen, how I picture it unfolding - and that's not the way it's meant to. So I'm going to do something I find very hard - let it go. When it wants to be written, it will be.
This morning, as I scrolled down the 250-odd news items in my fb feed (I have busy friends), I noticed that one of my friends from high school had joined the fb group for our class. "Wow," I thought. "I didn't know my class had an FB group!" I went across to see who was there, and saw 20 members, including my 7th grade geography teacher, Mr Caussin, whom I've now friended.
Join? Not join? I was a year younger than the girls in my group, and my close friends - Nicole, Larisa, Sue, Lauren, Lauri - were all in the year below. I never really felt *part* of my class. In no way was this a fault of the class I was a member of: I had overprotective, controlling parents who wanted to push me as hard as possible academically without making sure I had a solid social life and support network to balance that - so I stood out in all the wrong ways, vacillating between lashing out, being standoffish and unbearably know-it-all. I didn't know how to connect, to have fun, to revel in the carefree time it should have been, with mingled apprehension and expectation of the life to unfold ahead, aware of the possibilities and potential I carried within me. So I never bonded with them over boys, parties, class activities, sports - so it never really gelled, despite the 7 years I was a member. I suspect life in that class would have been exactly the same had I gone to Springbrook, my local state school.
Nonetheless, I joined the fb group. No matter our past, we share a history. Outsider or no, they are my peops, those I grew up with, went through classes with, shared a school culture with. It was time to step into my past and own it - to make it mine.
Of course, the first thing I did was go to the photograph tab - expecting to feel what I felt in high school...or at best, nothing. But as soon as the first picture popped up, I was stunned. As I looked at these faces that I knew so well - yet didn't - frozen in a moment of time from our shared history, I was overcome by a fierce protectiveness and love for the girls they once were.
And for the women they've become, though I know them not. Such are the ties that bind.
The profile picture is of all 75+ of us at our graduation. Me in a white sari, the others in white dresses, looking out at the photographer on what was to be one of the most important days of our lives. Happy faces, apprehensive ones, sad ones, hopeful... did any of us, I wonder, as we stepped out on our paths, have an idea of how much possibility and potential lay before us? The choices we could make, including the one of stepping off the expected path of parents, society, school? Choosing our own success, creating out own paintings, defining success for ourselves? Knowing we could start again every day.
I doubt it. But maybe we have more of an inkling now.
What would I say if I could step through that photographer's lens and speak to those girls, to those expectant, happy, sad faces, with Senator Danforth's wonderful commencement speech on applauding for others yet to come? I'd ask them the question at the start of this piece, and then I'd ask them the following, also from the Prelude to Oriah's The Invitation:
What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your essential nature- gentle, compassionate and capable of living fully and passionately present?
How would this change what you think you have to learn?
How would this shape the choices you have to make about how to spend today?
What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?
How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?
To understand, they might need the experience that was the gift of their lives yet to come: the joys, the sorrows, the losses, the heartbreak, the epiphanies, the everyday moments that were the threads that would form the tapestry of their lives. I'd give that girl in the sari an extra look of encouragement and try to let her know just how strong she really was. And to let her know, through the emotions struggling with each other on her face, that one day, she would understand.
Because I love her too. And I find myself rather fond of the woman she's become - I like to flatter myself that I know her very well, though sometimes she surprises me.
To my girls going to our reunion in a few weeks' time: I may not have been with you then, but I'm with you now. I wish you all the love and joy in the world, and may each year find you happier than the last. I can't be with you in body, but I'll be with you in heart and spirit. I wish I were there to hear your stories - but I hope to hear at least some of them here on facebook. Know that my love is with you.
Celebrate your lives and be proud. After all...
...we've come a long way, baby.