This is the song I used to sing and imitate…when I was like ten. As I’ve said, I didn’t carry a barometer for appropriate behavior. I loved this song. I loved Natalie Wood. In my mind, this was a perfect song to sing in middle school in the cafeteria, while swaying my hips about and tossing my hair. Trouble started when I didn’t outgrow my delight in life—this innocence to dance and sing, and just be. Big trouble, as I approached high school, while still a ten year old in my mind.
I got downright cute and sexy approaching freshman year in high school, but didn’t know it. Once I turned fourteen, I always thought I was ugly. I was entirely clueless why the boys gawked and the girls jeered. Why the boys wanted my number and the girls shunned me. To me, I was still some scrawny kid inside. I didn’t see my sexy, my curves, my short shorts, my passionate eyes. I didn’t see what the others saw. As I matured into pretty, in my mind, I was still a little twiggy girl with buckteeth, a chipped front tooth, stringy hair, high-water hand-me-down jeans, and a flat chest. I had no idea I’d blossomed.
This was the other song I sang loudly in the middle school cafeteria
I used the moves and all. I was special. I was confident. I was damn awesome!
Before I turned fourteen, I was engorged with passion, full of life, energy, and the feeling I could conquer the world. At the end of eighth grade, Mother plucked me from the coast of California and moved me to Massachusetts to live with her longtime lover. All at once, I knew no one, was loved by no one, and knew not who I was.
This was a time of unmentionables. I transformed from wild stallion to fearful doe. I hid. I stayed in dark rooms. I pretended not to exist—this after being driven down a long country road by our twenty-something neighbor who was married to the flat-chested lady I babysat for the next door over. A scene, I blurred and blanched out of memory, that sucked out my passion, that transported the little girl I had been to a frightened woman, terrified of life, terrified to live.
I stopped living at the age of fourteen. I just stopped. My daily laughter turned to daily tears. I no longer danced. I no longer sang. I just existed. It was then I began to see my past, to compare what I’d been through to what my peers had been through. I recognized all at once how different I was, how damaged, how hopeless.
I stopped living because I finally saw my mother. I saw who she was and how she never was who I longed for her to be. I stopped living because I was ostracized at school, made fun of for my “California” looks, for my clothes, for my curves. I stopped living because when I looked in the mirror I was something horrible, unrecognizable. I wasn’t me anymore. The spirit of me, the joy, the lover of life, had been siphoned out of me. I was staring at a stranger in my skin. My eyes dulled. My heart numbed. And my entire view of life grey.
I no longer trusted the world or anyone in it. And I didn’t know where to go, how to be, and knew not enough to tell a soul of my agony. I angst perpetually from want, desire, and deafening loneliness. I ached for companionship, for people, for someone to shout out they loved me, for someone to see me—for someone to find me, wherever I’d gone.
I dreamt of ending my life. I dreamt of my prince, my twin flame, my soul mate, and would spend hours with him, in some enchanted place my spirit held. I imagined wherever he was, he would know the heart of me, that his heart would match mine, that he would be holding my heart, and would someday find me. I wept and wept and wept for him as much as I wept for the lost me.
I walked emptied.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that my spirit returned. I don’t know how, or why, it just did.
I have ever changed. This joy-filled, spirit of light has once again turned on, filling me with child-like glee. I have a plethora of things I want to do. A list that keeps growing and a spirit that keeps yearning and celebrating. I’m dancing inside. I’m walking on air. I’m not caring how silly I look. I’m loving me. I’m embracing my beauty, the beauty I lost thirty years ago.
Only in waking, some three decades later, I am finding myself in a strange land somewhat, surrounded by strange people I almost don’t recognize. Questioning my place, my role, my purpose. Wondering who I was for the last thirty years. Who I’d become. What choices I’ve made. How I’d let myself suffer. How I’d numbed my life.
I’m not recognizing photos of me from a month ago. Not understanding where I’ve been and who was inside of me for so very long. I can’t explain this transformation. I just can’t.
But looking into my eyes, I can see that the little girl who danced passionately without fear in the cafeteria, swinging her hips back and forth and tossing her hair about, is back. The lovely happy girl who played beside nature, climbed the trees, sang and dance, cuddled with puppies, held hands, and skipped and skipped long after sundown across paths of gold, rainbows, unicorns, and her forever friends, has returned to me. And I am embracing her fully, and never letting her go.