Anna and I
Time to get the oars rowing through the fog of unprocessed experiences. Search for the light that’s trying to break through. Listen for the music that inspires the images waiting to emerge.
I’ve decided to share an experience I had with my granddaughter this last week. It touched me deeply, also brought me back to consciousness after I’d slipped into the projections fear creates.
Five days before the wedding I had a reaction to some new eye shadow I’d bought. My goal in purchasing new makeup was to look as beautiful as possible. I must admit though that my intention was less than honorable. My son’s stepmother, a woman I have to work very hard to be kind to, flew in for the wedding. Over the years I’ve used my beauty as a weapon. Deliberately trying to create insecurity in women I felt insecure around. She was my nemesis in this way. Not because she is more beautiful than I am though.
When my children were young, she used her position as their step mother, the one who was there, the so-called “good” woman, [mother] to exaggerate my difficulties, mistakes and failures. She also discredited and blocked my attempts to love and be there for my children, making a painful situation for me and my kids worse. Thinking about it made me angry, very sad. That said, I started the weekend focusing on the problem, not the solution.
So back to the allergic reaction that ruined my vengeful plan. My eyes swelled shut. The skin around them as rough and red as someone who’d been sobbing for weeks. Not only was I unable to paint away the pain, I couldn’t wear any mask at all, for several days. At first I was very self-conscious, secretly focused on how I looked. The old me would have gone so far as to not show up at all, believing my beauty was all I had going for me. Intellectually I know better than that today. Emotionally though, it didn’t sink in until my granddaughter said what she said to me.
The first evening we all spent together was so painful for me I soon forgot about what me eyes looked like. All my energy went into pretending I was fine, even though my heart felt like it was being torn right out of my chest. The past rushed in and nearly crushed me. All I wanted to do was run out of there, drive away and never go back. But, I was also determined not to let her drive me out again, so I stayed. Shared a meal and tried to carry on. I thought I was doing pretty well but after I left my youngest son, [the groom and the child who stayed with me], called to see if I was ok. The old me would have smothered him with my pain, manipulated him to choose sides. Instead, I assured him. Told him to have a good time, promised to see him the next day. Then I pulled my car over and sobbed.
Before now, I’d only met my grandaughter once. She wasn’t two yet, didn’t remember the visit at all. When her and her daddy came through the terminal door at the airport she ran to me. Gave me a huge hug and kiss. The relief I felt was physical. My heart opened like the wings of a butterfly opening when it emerges from its cocoon. As we all walked to the car, the wall of pain and fear between me and her father was gone.
When we got back to where we were staying she wanted to walk down and see the pool. She didn’t have her bathing suit on so she asked me if it would be ok if she took off her clothes, went into the water anyway. No one was around so I said yes all the while wondering if I was making a mistake her father wouldn’t forgive me for. On the walk back she asked me not to tell her dad. I confess I was suddenly terrified but told her we had to tell her daddy the truth. Only because I was afraid she would tell him later. That he would think I was trying to keep it a secret. He was fine with it. Laughed and teased her about skinny dipping. I was relieved.
Later that night she and I went back with our suits. Her daddy and my husband, who she was already calling papa, walked back to the pool. They watched while her and I spent the next hour splashing around. Before we went to bed she insisted on her and I taking a shower together. Inside I hesitated, wondering what she would think of my naked body. The chlorine made my eyes worse. They’d started to weep on their own.
In the shower she was humming a song, a chant that sounded like she’d learned it in a temple in india. Knowing her family doesn’t listen to such things I asked her where she learned the song she was singing. ”I’m making it up. Do you like it grandma? Do you want me to keep singing?”
“I love it Anna. It’s beautiful.”
Suddenly she stopped, looked up at me and said, “Even though your eyes are sore you’re still pretty grandma.”
Her words took me off guard. I’d told no one what I was feeling. “Oh. Thank you sweetie.”
After I’d dried her tenderly she asked me to rub her body with lotion. Her five-year old skin soft as velvet, innocent and undefiled, I was humbled by her openness and trust. I gently combed her fine wet hair into a ponytail. Each of these everyday things feeling like a part of a very important ceremony to me. We both put on our pajamas. I hugged her, told her how happy I was she was there, to which she responded, “It’s not about how you look grandma. It’s about showing up.”
The next three days went great. Other than a tug or two my heart stayed open and inviting. By the time the wedding day arrived my eyes had recovered enough for the makeup artists the bride had hired to work some magic and I looked dazzling. When I arrived at the reception many of the guests who didn’t know me, thought I was one of the bridesmaids. I would have thought the compliment ridiculous had several people not said the same thing. Although it felt great to hear, the most interesting thing for me was that I didn’t have the thought, “Damn straight, take that!” For the first time in my life I was able to receive a compliment about my beauty. Say, and mean, Thank you.