I'm a woman in America. This means that my life has been defined by certain outside forces. I'm a queer woman in America, in a relationship with a woman. We have a child. I'm white, middle class, educated. We live in a house. Somehow, the bills get paid.
All of these facts contribute to my experience of the world.
It would seem that I ought to work from a "modern" understanding, that I ought to relate mostly to stories of "modern" women.
Where I find my deepest resonance, is with fairy tales.
Perhaps, to you, fairy tales are unrealistic, misogynistic tales, told to keep little girls in their place, emphasizing making a good marriage and giving up agency.
I find them to be the opposite. Perhaps it is the fairy tales I choose, but my heroines are brave, resourceful, kind, and adventurous. They do not wait around to be saved. They save their loved ones, trick giants and kings, weave shirts of nettles, create worlds.
They are invincible in their vulnerability.
Recently, I worked with a woman with the tale of Tatterhood. For her, on first hearing, the story was of how the brave and exciting Tatterhood gave up what and who she was, became acceptably beautiful, in order to marry the prince. "Wow," I thought. "That is so far from my reading. Why is that?"
Together, we explored questions of what it is that is being unveiled when Tatterhood removes her hood. What conditions have to be in place for us to remove the veils we use to keep ourselves safe from others? What is the question we need to hear in order to take that step? And how do we get someone to ask when we need it?
I love these stories. I love the depth that I can get to so very quickly through their wishing-well of images and archetypes. I would love to share them with you.
My kid is feeling good about himself right now. He's in the back yard, helping an older boy whom I've hired to clear a bunch of weeds. I wasn't looking forward to this afternoon. I had envisioned sweating in the heat, attacked by mosquitoes, as I assist two little boys in pulling weeds. Instead, I've stepped back, sprayed them with bug spray, and am sitting in the shade writing while they work. They feel good about what they're doing, I'm here to help if needed, and we are all winning.
When we step back, and allow others' competence to create magic, a sense of calm and peace can arise. That is a gift. It's a gift to ourselves, and it's a gift of trust and belief in the abilities of others to contribute. This is especially true when those we are allowing to shine are young people. I forget just how much my seven-year-old can do for himself. I forget that an eleven-year-old can handle sharp tools and responsibility for another kid. But when I remember...
Just a quick update -- steroids are amazing. Yes, I'm feeling tired, run down, and unfocused, but
I CAN SEE! My vision in my left eye seems to be back to about 80%. This is extraordinary. I am still waiting on test results and I'll have more MRIs tomorrow, but for now. For now, I am so very grateful.
Did I mention it's my birthday next week? Want to give me a present? I'd love for you to join me in supporting charity:water. My birthday campaign is here -- I set the bar low so we can blow it out of the water, so to speak! This is an opportunity to really change lives, folks.
Six years ago, on Easter Sunday, the sight in my right eye dimmed and became gray and fuzzy. Frightened, I dropped our son off with my partner after Easter dinner at my mom's, and headed to the ER. After a long evening, I was referred to the ophthalmologist with a tentative diagnosis of optic neuritis. Optic Neuritis is an irritation of the optic nerve, caused by a deterioration of the myelin coating on the nerve. It can be a sign of Multiple Sclerosis.
After a few scary days and an MRI, the neurologist said I did not have MS, and I decided to forego the suggested steroid treatment as I was still breastfeeding the kiddo.
Last Tuesday, it came back, in the other eye.
My brain scan is still clear. My new neurologist has ordered some blood tests and some more MRI scans, to see if we can determine why I've had a recurrence. I started steroid treatment on Friday, and I'm cautiously noting a little improvement. Optic neuritis can take up to 8 weeks to resolve without treatment. With treatment, that can be cut down by 50-70%.
So the world is a little fuzzy. I have a pirate-style eyepatch to wear when driving gets hard -- my eyes sometimes have trouble working together right now. Colors are softer. I can sometimes read a little, I can see faces, but not features, with my left eye.
I'm really feeling okay, overall. Fatigued, but not overwhelmingly. My first three days of steroids were IV administered; now I get to switch to oral tablets. And I still don't know what causes this. My headaches, which actually started a few days before I lost vision, are getting better, so I'm hopeful.
With my fuzzy vision, I've been shying away from computer work, but I need to dive back in-- there is blogging to be done, and a new program to prepare for you, as well as my work on the curriculum project (our bread and butter these days). I'll have to be patient, take breaks, and work with more determination and less reliance on powering through.
Oh, and I turn 40 in 8 days.
Life is kind of fuzzy. We see things through so many lenses of experience and identity. It's good to be reminded of the effort it takes to see clearly, to peel off the glasses or wipe away the perspiration or blink away the tears... I can't blink this away, but I can be patient. I can take the medicine and be scanned and tested. And I can welcome every newly emerging color, every sharp line, every beautiful, familiar smile.
Look, I know there are issues. There are always issues. And up until Friday, I wasn't that excited about the Olympics this time. Except about Simone Biles, because that woman is 4'8" of pure power.
But then, our son and I watched the Opening Ceremonies. And I felt it again.
Hope. Deep joy. A belief in the power of people to come together across differences to celebrate a common love of excellence.
I was so deeply moved by the beauty of what Brazil created to welcome everyone. The brave acknowledgement of its own history of slavery and oppression, and the contributions of people of all economic strata and ancestries to its culture. And then, they reminded us what's at stake in this time of volatile climate change. The beautiful tricycles with the seeds and trees for the Athletes' Forest....
And now, I get to cheer on athletes, mostly much younger than I, but some older, as they live their dreams.
i can't help it. I love it. I love it all.
This morning the house is open. the pets are eating breakfast. Kiddo is having some screen time, and I am easing into the day. It's summer still, but there's a deepening of color outside that says, hurry. Enjoy it. It's fleeting.
It's a month until school starts. It's two weeks and two days until I turn 40. That sounds very old to me, because wasn't I just 27 or 33 or something?
Summer feel over when August comes. The stores are full of school supplies, the notices of tuition due and first-week plans start coming from school. Little League is already sending Fall Ball notices.
But it's a beginning time -- looking forward to a new school year. Celebrating the 10,000-some young people (and older people, like the 41-year-old gymnast and 55-year-old sailor) gathered in Rio de Janeiro to interact through competition, not combat.
Oh, that team of refugees. Oh, the teams from Vanuatu and Tuvalu, whose islands are shrinking year by year as the ice melts and the seas rise. Oh, all those joyful, determined faces. The brave acknowledgement of Brazil's history and of our common need for change. The Olympics choke me up every time. I'm deeply moved by the spectacle and the small moments.
So here are the questions I'm living with this month: What is beginning? What is ending? How can I savor and stretch out these days of summer, while doing the work I need to do? How will I greet a new year of life and let go of being a young woman?
What are your questions in this deep summertime? Or perhaps, this quiet, deep wintertime in your part of the world? How do we understand our journeys, and where are we on the path? At every moment, we are making that journey, in every decision -- we travel from the call, to the forest, to the crisis, to the resolution, and back to the village. Over and over again.
What is ending? What is beginning?
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.