Every now and then, I think of my younger self, at 22….25….27….. and wonder where she went, or how she’s doing. Sometimes I miss her, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m grateful for all that she showed me and sometimes I wonder if I’d do it all again the same way. Is she still buried in Kafka’s stories?
When I was a twenty-something, I loved to get pixie cuts and dye my hair red, was in love with Dostoyevsky and listened to depressing music. I brooded over the meaning of my life and what it meant to be a “woman”, along with writing notebooks full of bad poetry like, “The Lonely Maple”, “Her Tears” and “Without Purpose”. How cute. I was the most adorable little walking black cloud of existential angst you had ever seen.
As I got a bit older, in addition to being somewhat of a buzz kill for the happier and more fun-loving friends of mine, I also had no interest in marriage. Oh, I might want to “settle down” with someone someday and have children with them, but I wouldn’t marry them. I was too selfish and too restless. I couldn’t easily sit still in life and I didn’t want to feel trapped.
Back then, in my infinite adolescent wisdom, I associated the idea of marriage with the loss of independence. Agreeing to be someone’s wife meant losing myself in some way–giving up parts of myself that I held so very dear to me, such as, all my free time to mope around the house listening to Beth Orton and editing and re-editing my latest poem “The Lonely Wanderer”.
Why on earth would I ever want to give up the fun of wallowing in my narcissism day in and day out???
I did not yet know that you could be in a relationship with someone and still maintain your autonomy, or even more interestingly, you could love someone so much that you’d willingly give up certain things or embark on new things that you hadn’t entertained before.Now, 7 years after I’ve said ‘I do’ to my husband, I sometimes don’t recognize myself and sometimes feel more myself than ever at the same time.
Recently, one wintry Sunday afternoon, as snowflakes brushed up against the windows, I shed yet another layer of skin. The boys were hanging around the house alternating between fighting, running, wrestling and whining to me that they were bored, while my husband was doing some carpentry work on one of the rooms upstairs. I decided to get busy in the kitchen and so poured myself a glass of red wine. There is something so enjoyable and relaxing about sipping on some wine as I work in the kitchen.
I decided to make a lemon-herbed chicken in the crock-pot along with an Apple-Cinnamon bread for dessert. At the start of my marriage, cooking was an uphill battle for me, especially where it concerned pancakes, and now, I was making homemade rubs, stuffing chickens with quartered lemons and baking breads in the meantime.
My house smelled like a home.
As I was pulling the bread out of the oven and inserting a butter knife into the center, I thought about how excited I was for all my boys to taste it. I opened the cover to the crock-pot and was blasted with a mouth-watering aroma of juicy chicken and vegetable and couldn’t wait to sit down at the table and give my husband a nice meal. I placed the bread on the cooling rack and thought to myself, “What has happened to me? Where did my chronically anguished Self who would listen to The Sundays ‘Wild Horses’ on repeat go to? It didn’t seem that long ago that I was 25 and nowhere near even thinking about marriage or kids. And how has cooking my family a hearty meal and relishing my afternoons at home become something that so often brings me so much happiness and contentment?”
Standing by the sink in my apron, I sipped my glass of Malbec, staring out the kitchen window overlooking our great field outback. I couldn’t be sure, but I may have seen my twenty-five year old Self walking outward, through the deep snow into the greying evening. She turned around, only briefly, to give me a slight wave and I delicately held up my glass in response and bid farewell.