I am leather. I am impenetrable. I am a bear that will knock down the hunter with one mighty swing of my paw.
But I am raw.
Being a mother has warmed and worn my skin to expose my nerve endings, they hum and vibrate constantly, tickling the pools behind my eyes and making them spill over. My chest is tight in its openness. My heart resides in my toes, in my belly, in my throat, and in the soft puff of air that surrounds me. Jostle the air and my heart moves with it, like a leaf on a current, or a comment on a Facebook post.
I want to pull myself out of the social media reeds, it’s murky beneath the water there and I can’t see clearly the space around me. My feet are sticky in its mud, this swamp of other mothers and fathers who sluff off their anxieties and judgments into a shared space, who dwell beyond their soft puff of air and prod fiercely at others, perhaps not realizing that by doing so they’re prodding at a warm and human heart. But it’s also in these reeds that I hear a whistling wind, a familiar push of story and experience and connective emotion, a wind that blows through my soft puff of air and connects me with the air of others. It’s in these reeds, feet sticky and stuck in the competitive quagmire beneath me, that my leathery hide meets public hiding place. And though I refuse to be sucked under, I’m afraid of what’s beyond the reeds, what’s above it. What if the only soft puff of air out there is my own?
I used to be the color yellow, shining bright and created from nothing except light itself. I couldn’t be dimmed. I wouldn’t cry. I didn’t know myself but I knew the palette from which I was painted, pliable mounds of acrylic in varying shades of sunshine. As a mother I want to be the color rainbow, yes it’s one color, just ask my 6 year old. She’ll tell you a rainbow is the most elegant of dreams, the most aspirational answer to the question “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” She wants to be a rainbow, of course. And I tell her that truly it is the most beautiful thing you can be, with a far more interesting palette than any single hue. From the calmest of blues to the most haunting of purples, from bleeding heart reds to pained pastels, there is every degree of light and love and hurt and grief and doubt and humor. But being the color rainbow will require sunshine, and it will require rain. You can’t be the color rainbow if you live in the murky bottom where popularity presides over kindness. You can’t be the color rainbow if you’re stuck among the reeds, no matter how safe it might feel. You can’t be the color rainbow if you seek permanence and safety.
You have to be raw. Be exposed. Be vulnerable to the rain and the sun in equal measure.
This was originally published on It’s Me, Kelli.