When I received the call to ask if I was willing to consider going back to work for six months, one of the things I said (before saying yes), was that I had some plans set up for June 10-15th. The plans were made, and I couldn't back out of them. It is Dylan and Brittani's anniversary and it has become important to me to make the trip there so that they can celebrate themselves. The company scheduled me for those days off without hesitation, making them a condition of employment.
So I have five whole days to spend with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. There will be cribbage or rummy games after that girl goes to bed, and we will call out music for Alexa to find as the cards are shuffled. I always go with clothes for Iris, and some crafts and activities. I've got a little fairy scene for her to set up in her mother's flowers, and I've got a thimble that we will fill with teeny tiny 'fairy flowers' in the yard and leave them for the little fairy girl at the front door of her little fairy house. We will have a grand time like we always do.
Brittani also mentioned that they had gotten a family pool pass to the local pool and said that I should bring my suit.
'Bring my suit.'
So offhandedly mentioned, but I haven't had a bathing suit for 30 years.
It's hard to pinpoint if there was an actual beginning. My dad had strong feelings on girls being obsessed with their looks. We weren't allowed to shave our legs. We weren't allowed to wear nylons. We weren't allowed to wear make up. Perfume made us smell like whores. Our skirts were to our knees. We were only allowed to wash our hair once a week. A boy called once. My mother shouted that he was never to call the house again, and she hung up the phone. My father ran a very tight ship, and he would not tolerate whores for daughters. My mother paid a heavy price if things did not meet his standards, so being a popular girl was a dangerous thing. My mother's words of wisdom, given to me on a regular basis were, "People just don't like you, and one of these days, you'll figure out that it is you."
There was the husband who thought that after he had gotten his master's degree, he deserved better. Privately, I believed him and I knew in my heart of hearts that he was looking for that woman.
In the intervening years, that husband left, and despite the vow that I'd never marry again, there is Tim and we have been married for 23 years now. There has been cancer, and a lopsidedness that embarrasses me, both in public and in private. I also jiggle more than I did all those years ago. My hair is thin and gray and I've given up trying to find a style for it. I pin it away from my face and let it tumble to my shoulders. I've got a bulgy vein in my left leg, and my right knee is wonky. I'm not smooth and polished, and all of those things that women seem to spend a lot of time on. Sometimes, my children were ashamed of me. I'm awkward and self conscious and feel like a weirdo most of the time. I hate to have my picture taken.
So...my first thought when Brittani said, "Bring you suit..." was "I'll watch from the side of the pool. That will be fun to watch Iris play in the water." I never once hesitated. It never once entered my mind to get a suit.
Except that last week, I had a short conversation with a friend. She is a free spirit, and already she is deeply tanned, with rosy cheeks. Her gray hair is always in an untidy bob, and tucked carelessly behind her ears. The woman's got things to do, and those things are mostly outside. She's has really done a lot of gardening around the property. She sits on her porch and listens to NPR in the evening, or hangs out with her friends. I don't even know what we were talking about honestly, but I said something about dieting, and she looked at me with the most astonished look on her face. "Why does it even matter?" I didn't know what to say to that. She is the most unselfconscious person I've ever met in my life, just as free as an person can be. I admire her.
I've been thinking about her words.
And then this week was the work 'thing'. I always was an outsider at work. Always. I just didn't fit. I'm not even sure why. I'm just an odd duck. This week demonstrated plainly that I'm still the odd duck. Part of it is that I don't try very hard these days. I will never understand people who need to say ugly things about others, and I give them wide berth. I don't expect to be liked. I just accept it how it is, because. well, it is always how it is.
But I do have friends and I love them and am grateful for them. We can talk easily about big things. I'm not self conscious around them. I feel them as 'kindred'. We swap books back and forth and we talk about everything under the sun. We listen to each other's stories with love. I love the time that I have with those folks in my life.
Tim and I have a nice life. He loves me, and sure there are those days when we plainly piss each other off, but in the end, we know that we are very blessed people. We are fortunate souls who try to share our good fortune with a free hand. I don't want to be with anybody else, and he's never given me the slightest sign that he wants anything different than what he's got.
In short, I seem to fit where I fit, but there seems to be a lot more places where I don't fit than where I do. I see my flaws and shortcomings better than any person on this earth and know that I am far short of perfect.
Friday at work, I really began to think about this whole sitting on the side watching Iris and Brittani splash in the pool and it struck me that it was really a metaphor of my life. I'd spent a lot of it watching from the side.
I'm not a huge woman, and plenty of gray haired women with a lot more jiggle than I have wear bathing suits and are diving right in. And worrying about lopsidedness? 12 years ago, if you would have asked me about that, I'd have told you it was a small price to pay for living.
I worked away and I pondered these things as I worked.
My husband loves me, and he doesn't understand this self consciousness. If he tells me I look nice, I automatically tell him that I know that I don't.
Why is that?
By the time that I walked out of work, I had made up my mind. I did not go home. I went to the store and I studied bathing suits. I picked one out and when I got home I stood in front of a full length mirror and studied myself for a long time, wondering about what other people would think.
I noticed that the brightly colored tropical flowers on the top sort of disguise the lopsidedness, and that the scars were mostly covered by the strap. The black swim skirt looked cute. I really need to do something about those pasty white legs, but over all, it wasn't horrible, The realization surprised me.
It will be fun to be in the pool with Iris and Brittani and have little Iris paddling back and forth between us. A lot more fun than watching from the side.