What's interesting about so many of life's journeys is that we often do not realize we are even travelling down the road, we do not see how far we have actually managed to come, until we pause and look back. In the past few weeks I've been glancing back and realizing that it is time to write about this, time to acknowledge my journey, because I have truly come much further than I thought. It's reason to celebrate, it's worthy of acknowledgement.
Back at the dawning of this year when I shared that my word for the year would be "blossom", I wrote:
I am in a season of change. In retrospect, it began over a year ago with dreading my hair, though I didn't realize it at the time. It is proving to be a season of spiritual change as I reflect and re-evaluate my faith and my vision of the church, of what the church is meant to be and how I fit into it and how that affects and effects my relationship with God. It's a season of emotional and existential change as I reflect on my identity, my role in our family, my role in society at large. I have been meditating on what and how I contribute, on the value of what I do, on balancing my desires for my children, my family, and myself. I have been struggling with how to balance what I do with what I think, my full-time mothering with my feminism.Since then I've been largely focussed on my own sanity and health, but as things have levelled off, as I've started to gain a better understanding of what I need (sleep!) and need to avoid (corn products and peanut butter!) I've been able to investigate new possibilities.
A day after I wrote that paragraph I quoted above, I wrote this:
I need to exist in relationship with others. Too often I've heard truths about myself - about what and who I am, from the people who surround me, who love me, who see my own realness - which I had not seen before. My first step on this existential journey is to acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I cannot merely reflect on myself: I need to see myself reflected in the people around me.And, beautifully, that is precisely what has happened. Before this summer I received a phone call from a dear friend, a member of my circle of fellow birth-minded women. This dear friend is not only a kindred soul but served as our doula at Bubby's birth last year. We first met in 2009 and instantly connected. She is a wise, funny, Christian (but not drippingly puritanical) birth-worker. And back in the late spring, she asked if - nay, she told me - I was ready to start attending births formally. To put myself out there, hang out my shingle, and no longer call my self an aspiring doula, but just a doula, here and now. I said, "I don't know" and she told me: yes, you are. You really are.
So I am. I'm a doula with Nativity Birth Services. Cool, eh?
And then one evening after we moved I was playing with some henna and I did my foot and my hand because, hey! pretty! and the next morning I was out with the girls and went into a shop to buy a wallet. The shop was very quiet and the girls were particularly funny so the shopkeeper and I ended up talking for quite a while and she noted my henna. She said, "That's beautiful: did you do it?" and I replied yes, and she said, "You should give me your business card: I always have people asking who they can get to do their henna." This lady was Indian, and I was absolutely floored: a woman from India - where they know good henna work when they see it - thought mine was good enough for fellow Indian women to wear at their wedding. So I gave her a Nativity business card with my info on it. Nice. But it seemed like I should do more, since one doesn't automatically think "henna" when one hears "doula".
So I declared myself a henna artist and call myself Red Tent Henna.
But because I've seen mother-blessings go oddly, and have spoken to women who have wanted one but lacked a circle of friends and family who understand what it is, I decided I'll lead mother-blessings, too. And then I thought, "Hey, I love a good rite of passage for all sorts of reasons: why limit myself and the community to only mother-blessings?" So I don't.
So I've done some blossoming I didn't really expect to do because I opened myself up to the reflections of myself in the people around me, the people who see my capabilities clearly without the fog of self-doubt and worry, without the nagging weight of past struggles.
And isn't that exciting?