At the age of thirty, I had yet to become brave. With a third baby on the way, we were discussing leaving our beloved city to end my husband’s hour long commute. I had only just started to sink into a sub-community of Earth mamas and crunchy hippies. With each baby, I learned more about the science behind breastfeeding, the benefits of herbal medicine, and how to care for my family from the ground up. I was finally becoming that woman that I always knew I wanted to be. Unconventional, strong in my convictions, holding the Earth and its rhythms in highest regard. A mud-caked home-canning oil-diffusing nettle-tea-drinking dirty-footed yogi. Six months ago, I was round with pregnancy and scared about handling three boys under the age of five. I was not brave.
Then Reece died. And I had to become someone new. I was sitting in the salon chair, telling my long-time stylist I was back in town for a girls’ weekend. Between the stress of grief and the normal hormonal fluctuations that come with being postpartum, my long hippie hair was falling out.
“Cut it. Make it shorter,” I told her from under the black shiny cape.
“Are you sure?!? I don’t want to make you sad when you are already sad.”
“Angie, my baby died less than a month ago. A hair cut is not going to end my world, I promise you. Do it.” And she did. It needed to stay long enough to pull into a pony tail because unfortunately, it’s still falling out. I usually waffle on the simplest things like hair cuts. No more.
Just last weekend, I sneaked into a cafe writer’s group. A quick scan of the room told me I was deeply out of my element. I was easily the youngest one there. I clutched my laptop, just glad to have escaped parenting for one night, and searched for a place to plug in. The man leading the group passed around a sign in sheet. I scribbled my name down on a line and passed it back.
I glanced across at my table mate, a man easily in his seventies. I came here to write and hide inside my head for a while. The group leader approached the microphone and said he was going to have people read from his latest novel. A whole cast of characters lined up. I listened, thinking this was a weird way to start off a quiet writer’s group, but whatever. They finished.
He clutched the clipboard and said, “Ok, next up on the sign up sheet we have….” My ears went fuzzy as I panicked. Say what? Sign UP sheet? Like to read stuff into the microphone? No, no, no no. SHIT! I didn’t have anything for sharing, I’m a fly on the wall, I am a chair, I am…
Standing. I’m standing up. My knees were shaking, my breath a bit ragged. He adjusted the microphone to my height and I clutched my awkwardly heavy laptop in one arm. I picked two poems I had written years ago because I wasn’t ready to share my whole story yet.When I finished, they clapped.
Six months ago, I was asked to compile poetry for a book. Meh. Maybe someday. About two months ago, someone asked me to submit a post I wrote here to a magazine to share my story. Yeah, ok, maybe. It was that moment I felt the change in me. Standing up at the microphone in a room of grey-haired strangers that it occurred to me that I would have normally backed out. I would have piped up with a “Oh, shoot, I thought that was just a sign in sheet. I don’t have anything to share” and sink back into my chair.
But I do have something to share. I have something to say. I sat down and listened more intently to the others after me.
“Silence is not human,” she read out loud. “people need to prove they existed and the best way to do that is to give their existence voice.” I sat taller in my chair.
What the hell am I waiting for? I have walked through hell fire itself. I have been down to the deepest of despair, raw, and real and unchangeable. I have lived every mother’s nightmare. Some days are moment to moment and I still cry often for the baby I cannot raise up to a man. But I am still alive. Living with a broken heart does not mean living broken. I am more than my grief.
Here I am. Breathing. Writing. Existing.