Monday, March 28, 2011

On Turning One, Developmental Milestones, Being Proactive and Letting Go



Cedar turned one on Friday, and is on the cusp of so much change. He’s been a bit of a “late bloomer” on a lot of fronts—the most obvious one being the fact that he still has not figured out how to crawl. I didn’t worry about it much for many months since I knew that crawling was not an essential milestone and some babies skip it all together and go straight to walking. But as more time went by and I watched my friends’ babies who were the same age scramble across floors and furniture, I began to worry-- just a little. It wasn’t just that he wasn’t crawling, but he wasn’t moving around much—rolling, lunging, or dragging his body in ways that other non-crawlers nevertheless learn to get around. He abhorred tummy time, and within seconds would usually just sink his face into the carpet, complaining. Mostly, he seemed fairly content to just sit there and stretch his body as far as he could for the toys that were within reach--developing an impressive ability to do the splits. You could see him looking at something and calculating whether it was worth going for, and in many cases he’d decide, nope, too far.

Online one day, I ran across a link to a free developmental screening offered by the local nonprofit Parent Trust. Why not? I thought. Even though people like my mom told me not to worry, Cedar would crawl when he was ready, I knew I would feel better if I was being more proactive. I wanted an expert to tell me not to worry, or to suggest exercises I should do with him. I’d tried for months placing tantalizing objects like the remote control or other things he wanted but wasn’t allowed to have just out of his reach, then putting him on his tummy and encouraging him to come get it. This occasionally motivated him sufficiently to inch forward a tiny bit, but almost always ended in cries of frustration.

I’m really glad I went to the screening. We sat on the floor in a room full of toys with a woman for an hour and I answered questions about what Cedar could and couldn’t do, while we observed him play. The screening confirmed what I suspected—Cedar was right on target with everything, with the exception of gross motor skills. It wasn’t so much the actual not crawling that was significant, but more that he figure out how to move his body around and get places and things by himself. Cedar had rolled over more or less “on time,” but he rarely did it. Cedar had also not figured out to sit up from a lying down position. He could hold his weight just fine when I helped him stand on his legs, and he was getting more and more balanced while standing against a couch, but he was still pretty far from being able to scoot himself around by himself while holding on to furniture. He was probably most active when he was pulling himself up onto my body, but he still often favored his tiptoes instead of standing flat-footed.

The woman didn’t raise any alarm bells with me, but she did encourage me to start giving him more tummy time—perhaps more often, but for shorter periods. We needed to see how much of his not crawling had to do with the fact that he didn’t have enough practice and motivation, or, if he still didn’t progress in the next month (he was eleven months when I brought him in), then I might want to look into whether he had weak muscle tone. Also, she encouraged me to give him plenty of opportunities to practice standing, for instance by putting toys on the couch for him to reach for and play with while standing up.  

I’d done this before, but now I was definitely more motivated because I had concrete suggestions, perspective, and accountability to someone whom I trusted and liked. It just was that much more on my radar to make sure Cedar got more than just one token attempt at tummy time a day.

It’s been amazing to watch how much he has now learned and explored in just a few short weeks. I don’t know how much of this had to do with my efforts, and how much coincided with the timing and the fact that he was just ready, but it didn’t take long for him to get more tolerant of hanging out on his tummy (reading to him in that position worked well since he loves books), even if he still was far from crawling. And then one day he figured out how to push himself up back onto his knees and then awkwardly get his legs out from under him back into his favored triangle-leg sitting position. This was huge! Once he practiced this a few more times and mastered it, then being put on his tummy was no longer a big deal since he could easily push himself back up. Granted, this means he is still not increasing his tummy time, but what he has been doing is lunging for things, falling onto his tummy, then sitting back up. Or else he’ll use one leg to scoot himself around on his bottom. I can still get away with plopping him down with some books on the floor and going into the other room for a minute (max), but on the contrary, I am getting more cautious about leaving him in the middle of our king-sized bed for even a few seconds (especially if our cat, Miles, is lying there, for Miles is one “forbidden to grab object” that Cedar will not hesitate to lunge towards). While it’s been kind of nice to have been able to delay worrying about childproofing (especially our bed, which we all sleep on and which we’ll have to change to just a mattress on the floor really soon), this is not something that I have wanted to brag about.

Although Cedar still lags behind many of his peers who mastered crawling long ago and are well on their way to walking, I know that there is a big range in which babies hit their milestones and now that he’s made so much progress in just a few weeks, I feel reaffirmed not to worry. I also know better than to blame myself or worry that I created his lack of motivation to move because I “carry him too much” or bring toys to his side. Surely giving him more tummy time helped, but I also think that the main factor in how kids develop has to do with their innate personalities and bodies. Cedar has never liked to be laid down for long (perhaps partly due to his frequent early discomfort from gas?), and so I’ve held him all the more. Cedar has also always been a watchful baby, content to sit back and take things in as opposed to a baby who impulsively lunges and grabs for things. He loves books and is content to sit there flipping through one after another on his own. He alternates between being quiet and serious, and being loud and talkative. I continue to be astounded by how fast he recognizes new songs and words.

Even though Cedar will probably be a late walker too, I am nevertheless beginning to see the toddler in him emerging. This is both exciting and a bit scary (can you say, hello temper tantrums and stubborn will?). Although he has yet to utter his first words beyond mama and dada (and perhaps a few others I can’t be sure of), I can tell he understands so much more than I realize. I ask, “Do you want to read a story?” and his eyes flash up to the bookshelf by the bed. “How about ‘Mud’?” I’ll say, and he’ll smile and pant and wave his arms excitedly. In response to other questions he’ll answer simply by uttering the all-purpose affirmative syllable, “Na.” I feel like I can now have a call and response conversation with him, and I witness more and more of his distinct little person every day. What happened to my baby? He’s still there. But so now is the vision of a growing, opinionated child.

Case in point: just yesterday I registered him for a toddler co-op preschool starting in the fall. It will only be once a week for a couple hours and I will be there with him (unless it’s one of the alternating where I’ll spend an hour in the ‘parent education’ group), yet still, it is a bit mind boggling to already be signing him up for something called school! It’s exciting to think of all the books, animals, songs, games, train tracks, jungle gyms, circle times, dancing, painting, cooking, and sensory projects to introduce him to in the years to come (hello nascent preschool teacher inside!—yes, I’ve worked part-time in preschools since high school, and I probably still would if they didn’t pay so little). At the same time, I also keep reminding myself to imprint the image of him now, as a baby, in my mind. Imprint, imprint, imprint. For it won’t be long before I’ll look back on pictures of today and say, “Look how little he was!” instead of bemoaning how BIG he’s gotten, and how much carrying him around is killing my back.

Other recent changes for Cedar include finally waving bye bye, finally cutting his first tooth at eleven months, and just in the last week or so—rolling around or outright sitting up as I nurse him to sleep in bed (or when he wakes up later on). Part of this has to do with the fact that we finally stopped swaddling him at eleven months (I asked the popular Seattle nurse and educator Anne Kepler what she thought about us still swaddling, and she said if it was still working for us no reason to stop swaddling before he’s a year or so). The transition went just fine, although I fear the day when he outright protests going to sleep AND we can’t just confine him in a crib and walk away since we don’t use a crib. (Cross that bridge when we get there). For now, I am grateful that he goes to sleep mostly without protest and sleeps pretty well at night (without flailing all over the place) by my side.

I’m supposed to schedule another appointment with the developmental screening lady soon to check in, but I don’t feel a pressing need to now that Cedar’s made so much progress. I think I still will however, because I enjoyed having a knowledgeable and concerned woman to talk to at length about my son’s growth, especially when my visits with Cedar’s doctor at Group Health are so hurried and short.  The screening also helped put on the radar for me other developmental skills to look out for in the coming months and gave me ideas for activities to do with Cedar to help encourage them. Any Washington state resident can schedule one if your child is between the ages of one month and five and a half years.

I do not aspire to be the kind of mother who is obsessed with developmental milestones or to be constantly comparing my child to the children of others, but I admit, it’s hard not to enter the comparison game, especially when I know so many parents of children who were born within a month of Cedar since we were all in the same PEPS group. I suspect we all do it, whether we are aware of it or not. It doesn’t just happen when our children can’t do something that others can. It also happens in the natural bubbles of pride that swell when our child does do something new that seems fairly advanced. But it’s so important to keep all of this developmental milestone and comparison business in perspective. Watch, take notice, celebrate, and talk to others about your concerns. Try not to worry or jump to conclusions, but also be proactive and look into it. I know this can sound contradictory, but for me, I worry more if I try to corral off my worries into a little corner of my mind that I don’t want to look too hard at. I feel better if I investigate my small seeds of concern, and take conscious actions. That way I can know
that I’ve done what I can do, which makes the more important and difficult act of letting go that much easier. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Baby Notes: A Food Sensitivity, Muscle Testing, Banana Eating, Elimination Diet Saga Update

Every day for the last seven months I’ve written down in a little notebook everything I eat and drink, everything I feed Cedar, every time Cedar goes to sleep and wakes up, whether he’s had any gas or a rash that day, and whether I’ve put hydrocortisone on his face.

I have three makeshift columns: the left side is sleep; the middle is what I feed Cedar plus any gas or rash symptoms for the day; and the right column is what I put in my body—which usually starts with tea (x2) and ends with wine. My handwriting is messy and much of the  notes are coded in a way that only I would understand (AB is almond butter; if something is circled it means I’m suspicious of it; if something is circled and starred it means it is something new I’m introducing; if something is highlighted it means I went back and tried to trace correlations over time; and, if there has been a reaction then I scribble all over the page, drawing arrows and question marks, making my best guess for the source.

As the months have progressed and as Cedar’s gas and rash problems have mostly gone away, I’ve gotten more relaxed about not recording every last thing— for example I might write down “chicken pasta” without listing the other ingredients—let’s say olives, mushrooms, balsamic, and zucchini—because I’m not worried about the dish and I trust I’ll be able to remember what was in it if I should need to go back and double check what I ate the last few days. I also might even skip a few days now, if, say, Cedar is mostly with his grandma for the weekend and thus I don’t know when he slept and woke as precisely; it’s good for me to let go a bit—and tracking sleep is more out of habit now than really necessary. (I will however go back and write down what I ate, roughly, especially if there was anything new or something old that I’ve still nevertheless had my suspicions about).

You might think I’m being a bit obsessive, but keeping this record has helped me figure out a lot of what would otherwise still be mysteries. To explain this, I’ll need to back up a bit, and also refer you to my old elimination diet saga post if you want all the background details. But in a nutshell, after many months of self-sacrifice, I figured out that Cedar was sensitive to: dairy, soy, garlic, tomatoes, plus various gassy vegetables and beans that I’ve continued to stay away from to this day. By now, with Cedar being almost one year old, I’m willing to test or retest virtually anything, but this process is still very time consuming. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not either gauging the reaction of something new I’ve eaten or something new that I’ve fed Cedar, and waiting the requisite three days in between each new food. Plus, so often, results have been inconclusive and so I’ve had to go back and test things multiple times.

Cedar’s gas symptoms mostly went away once I figured out the main culprits. But they never went away completely, and nor did his rash, and then once I started introducing solids it became even harder to be sure what his lingering reactions were now from. Finally I got it together to visit a new naturopath, and she let me know an appropriate dosage of fish oil to give Cedar each day (1/2 a teaspoon), in addition to the 1 tablespoon I was already taking myself. This was for his eczema, and seemed to help a lot. I also started taking probiotics, and gave Cedar a pinch most days too for his tummy, which may or may not be helping, but it doesn’t hurt. The ND also suggested I check out the ingredients in my prenatals, and to my shock and frustration I discovered that there was soy lecithin in the coating! Soy was something that Cedar had some of his strongest reactions to, and here it was in the very pill I was taking every single day for his benefit. Oh, the irony.

Around the same time that I visited the ND, I also decided to contact a woman in Olympia who does muscle testing for allergies who had been recommended to me by several friends. “Applied kineseology” is a method of holding a series of little vials filled with different foods and potential allergenic substances against your body (or in my case, the body of my baby while I am holding him), then holding out your arm and having the practitioner press down on your arm to test for various levels of “muscle weakness”. Theoretically, when your arm stays strong and solid, there is no allergy detected. But with some substances, your arm goes weak and will offer no resistance to the person pushing, try as you may. I know this sounds a bit strange, and I’m sure you could get a better explanation of it somewhere online (along with sources that call it hokey which I’m glad I didn’t read before I went in or it may have prevented me from going). All I knew was that several of my friends had tried it for their children and wholeheartedly recommended this woman -- and these were intelligent, informed, open-minded women. It cost $60 for one hour-long session to test scores of substances and it was non-invasive. I figured it was worth a try.

I ended up taking Cedar to this woman twice. The phenomena of feeling my arm go weak in some instances and not others (without knowing what was being tested at the time) made me a believer. That, and the fact that the sessions confirmed what I already knew: that Cedar was sensitive to dairy, soy, tomatoes, and garlic. But more importantly, I also discovered a few surprises: sensitivities to onions, citrus, coffee and chocolate, too. Now, mind you, I had tested each of those things via the elimination diet; in fact coffee was the very first thing I reintroduced (which tells you how much I like it)-- and I had detected no reaction. But when I’d first tested coffee, I only had half a cup (then a little more a couple days later, until gradually over time I was drinking over a cup a day again). And when I tested onions several months later into the diet, I only had a little bit (knowing that Cedar was super sensitive to garlic, I was worried about its cousin). I had been a little suspicious when I’d tested citrus, and thereby concluded that a few squeezes here and there were okay, but whole oranges or glasses of juice were not. Now, I realized that it was entirely possible that these were all foods which, if I had a little here and there, there would be no obvious reaction. But if I ate or drank some combination of them every day, the cumulative effect would take its toll.

Sure enough, once I eliminated these last four things, Cedar’s lingering gas disappeared, as did his rash for the most part. I was bummed to give up onions and citrus since these added a lot of flavor to my no garlic, dairy, or soy diet. And though I knew I’d miss my coffee and chocolate, it was not that hard to give them up knowing that I was finally so close to solving the food allergy puzzle that I’d invested so much energy into for months now. There was nothing more satisfying than to finally get to the end of this intensely consuming investigation!

Of course, I wasn’t going to just blindly trust whatever the muscle lady confirmed, but once my own experimentation corresponded with our session’s results, I had no problem in believing in her methods. Sure, it still sounds a little hokey to me when I imagine explaining the method to those whom I know are going to raise their eyebrows with suspicion (e.g. my parents). But all I know was, it helped us, and this wasn’t any ‘placebo effect’ since we’re talking about Cedar’s responses and not mine-- and Cedar doesn’t know what I’m eating or not eating.

Our bodies are mysterious, sensitive, and complicated organisms. We manifest and register illnesses in such a magnitude of ways. Within the natural medicine world, this muscle testing practice is widely accepted and it is also used by many chiropractors. My mother-in-law, who is a counselor and hypnotherapist, also uses a form of muscle testing known as EMDR as a part of her practice, specifically for patients who’ve experienced trauma. You ask them a question and they respond by raising different fingers for yes or no. Our bodies know so many things that our minds suppress.

There is also a process of “clearing” an allergy which involves holding the offending substance (in the vial) next to your skin while having certain pressure points massaged at the same time, thus reconditioning the body to accept the substance. Although we did try this for Cedar for a couple things (why not?), I have less faith in this process (and time or money to invest in it), since it supposedly can take a few sessions to fully clear it. It does sound a little “too easy” to me, and perhaps I’m a little too traumatized to want to rush into giving Cedar soy or garlic again. But I am open to the possibility that it works in ways that are beyond my own abilities to easily explain. I’m also convinced that the world of naturopathic medicine has a lot more to offer to the growing rate of those who suffer from food allergies than Western medicine has been able to come up with. Where the pediatric dermatologist told me, “We mostly never know what causes the eczema,” the naturopath said, “Something is causing it and we need to figure out what it is.”

That said, I’m content for now with just staying away from dairy, soy, garlic, onions, citrus, tomatoes, coffee and chocolate, knowing that I won’t be breastfeeding forever and that Cedar will likely outgrow most of his sensitivities in time. I am however planning to try little bits of cheese (I heard that some dairy-sensitive people can often tolerate mozzarella), along with other foods that Cedar may be able to handle the older he gets. I want to try some organic soy sauce we found versus the regular GMO kind, as well as try cooked tomatoes versus fresh, and try dairy that’s baked into foods versus raw—all of which I’ve heard from a conglomerate of random sources that a some food sensitive people can better tolerate. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m still oh so eager to introduce Cedar to more foods (it’s so fun- so satisfying to see his facial reactions each time, not to mention to keep building a varied, flavorful diet for him), so it’s always a trade off—who gets to try something new this week?

Sometimes it seems like this is all taking so long, so I get impatient and thus more sloppy, not waiting the full three days in between trying new foods, or else eating something and giving Cedar something (both of which I’m not positive are okay) around the same time. I have tried goat cheese three times already, and every time I haven’t been sure about the results. (Was that slight rash from the dairy or from the cold air? Or was it from the coffee, onions, or citrus I was still eating back then?) Speaking of citrus, I only recently realized that lemon was in the Canola mayonnaise that I’ve been eating (with relish, I might add, once I deemed that eggs were okay). Which means that the food reaction I noted to banana during that time I was having a plethora of chicken salad sandwiches was not necessarily the banana. Sigh. Even after months of this process, I still make mistakes. If nothing else, this diet is a practice in careful regimenting and patience.

Yesterday, I gave Cedar banana again, letting him have a third of one. He loves tasting banana, and often reaches for it when I am eating it, so I was really hoping banana would be okay. It’s one of those easy foods that everyone always has around, no need to heat up or puree. Well, a few hours later—and all night long—Cedar squirmed and cried out in pain. All night long he sucked on my boob for comfort. Poor guy. Poor mama. We are both very tired today, and I’m not sure his tummy pangs have fully gone away. Now I know for sure: bananas are not okay. They may be fine for me to eat, but this is no way to gauge whether Cedar’s delicate system can handle it.

And so the food, gas and rash saga continues. Overall, however, the diet is much less work now, but still our life is not without it’s occasional wakeful nights of discomfort or regret for not being careful enough. And Cedar’s rash is way better too; I only put a dab of hydrocortisone on it about once a week versus almost every day, and otherwise keep his skin well hydrated with all-natural oils and creams.

For now, I experience a small triumph every time I eat something or give Cedar something new, and there is no reaction. Yay- chicken is okay for Cedar! Yay- shrimp, beans, collards, and ginger are okay for me! The main thing I’ve been craving is CHEESE, in all its luscious forms, and by extension of this, also PIZZA. First, I’ll need to test that tomato paste though, and then we’ll have to make it at home of course since I can’t have garlic or soy oil which could be in many crusts.

Yes, it’s a constant challenge and game to see what I can get away with. And, it’s a constant return to feelings of remorse and weariness when I discover what I can’t. But never once throughout this process has it occurred to me to give up breastfeeding. I love breastfeeding, the bond it creates between me and my baby. And, I know that Cedar is getting so many essential nutrients and antibodies through my breastmilk that I could never fully replicate with even the best combination of formula and solid foods. So I celebrate the fact that amidst these trials, my milk supply has stayed healthy and strong, and so has Cedar’s immune system. It’s kind of amazing that neither he nor I have barely had one cold during this entire first year of his life. I can’t say for sure that it’s from the breastmilk (or fish oil, prenatals, probiotics and healthy-ass diet), but it doesn’t hurt anyone for me to take some credit here. No one else has been tracking our progress as closely as I have, so I might as well bask in this moment of satisfaction. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Walking Olympia

I’m sitting at Traditions Fair Trade cafĂ© in Olympia. I love this place, the multi-generational crowd it draws, a mixture of young students from Evergreen and aging hippies, peace activists, white-haired ladies and men. It brings back memories of the few years that I lived here and came often to drink a pot of tea and write, back when I was single and solitary and would walk for hours through this town by myself. When I lived on the Eastside I’d often walk down Legion, pass the old Armory, the school and ball field, the churches, while crunching on fallen leaves beneath the giant oaks. I’d visit the Japanese peace park, or go down by the marina and sit on the dock, or browse through Orca books and grab a bagel at Otto’s. But Traditions was the only place where I ever felt like a true regular, Traditions with Dick, the kindly and fierce, grandfatherly yet youthful owner, and Jodi, the smiling woman with short hair and glasses who’d always hand back your bills of change with two hands. Did I mention I love this place? It is not a place to hide behind hipster fashions and stay separate from others. It is a place to feel comfortable in your own skin. 


I was such a shy girl then. Afraid of being seen. Desperate to be seen. Afraid of being misinterpreted. And thus choosing to hide instead of risk disappointment. I was also such an intense girl. Steeped in tai chi and long solitary walks at Priest Point or in the Evergreen woods, or on long winding bike rides through town. Today, as I walked down the hill towards downtown from my mother-in-laws house, I felt a body-memory of that time in my life, that part of me that still lives inside even though she’s long been dormant. For a flash, I remembered in my senses what that felt like to be so alone, like I was then, waking and walking and searching for signs from the Universe on my own.


I was so sensitive back then, so attuned to my qi and the qi of others. It was hard for me to interact with strangers, especially men, or those with whom I was particularly enamored. Like Matthew, my future husband. He carried a quality of unattainablity to me then. Not only was he ‘taken’ and in a long-standing committed relationship, but he also seemed so rooted in who he was, so calm and confident in his skin, with eyes that would no doubt pierce through all my weak insecurities if I ever had a chance to let them. We worked at the same restaurant; he was the baker, I was a prep cook/busser/waitress/delivery driver. I didn’t know him well, but I always had a feeling about him, and once I even had a dream. Eventually, I allowed myself to wonder aloud in my journal one day: I wonder if we’ll be together one day…

Matthew, however, was oblivious to my crush and to my potential charms. He confessed later that he thought my energy a bit strange. I didn’t know then that he was born and raised here in town, that he loved goats and lived in a log cabin with an outhouse, that he was a butoh dancer and a bass player-- and that one day he’d be my husband. Our story of eventually coming together is too long to recount here, but if you’d told me then that some day we’d have a son together and live in Seattle, suffice it to say that I would have flipped out. Probably in gratitude and happiness. It would have been such a sweet relief to know that all the hard solitary work I was doing inside, all the exploration of my spiritual path and my writing path and how these intersected and were joined but not identical, would someday be redeemed with a sweet whispering affirmation from the gods, that yes indeed, some day in the not so distant future (what’s seven years?) I would be with a man whom I loved and felt fully seen by. Of course, we’d first have to go through a period in which I flirted dangerously with fear and doubt and almost fucked up our chance for good. We went through a period of drama, broke up a couple times, and quite possibly might not have found our way together again, in this life anyway—except that we were meant to after all. It wasn’t easy, as the best of relationships, the ones we learn and grow the most with, rarely are.





But anyway, where was I? Dick, the owner of Traditions, just walked by and said hello. It is sweetly comforting to still be remembered here, in this town, Olympia, where I spent six years of my life—three pre-Matthew and pre-China, and three post-China, with-Matthew. I’m grateful that Matthew’s family still lives here and so we have a reason to visit, even if our trips are hurried and I’m still tied to Cedar’s schedules. Yesterday we had a brief “date afternoon”—a walk at Priest Point, then a hot tub at Matthew’s moms. And today, Matthew skis with his brother while I write at Traditions and silently soak in a taste of the conversations and community around me. Maybe if I sit here long enough I will see someone else I recognize, even if the people I truly know in this town now are few. I never made many friends while I lived here. Even when I went to Evergreen, my friends were mostly the woods and the shoreline and the wind.


Now, as I write of this time in my life, it feels like a lifetime ago. It was another life I lived; I was a different person then. And now that I am the mother of Cedar, this feeling is only magnified. Yet I can still taste on a day like today what it once felt like to have all day, every day, to myself, to wander, to write, to read, to study, and to plan and worry about my future. To wonder what profession or career on earth might possibly contain the vast sense of what I wanted to do with my life—a feeling much too large and mythical for any clear rational answer. I can still taste this part of me, feel her inside of me, even if I am more grounded now, and less afraid.

Back then I thought it had to be all or nothing. Either dedicate my life to peace and the Tibetan freedom movement and Buddhism and writing, or be lost and sell out and turn my back on all I know is true. Back then, I was so lonely and confused. Back then, I was so pure in my intentions, so fresh, so translucent and blue.

I don’t have time to be a peace activist right now. At least not in the outward, traditional, or most obvious-- organizing, demonstrating, and petitioning sense. My peace activism, at least the place where I feel the most authentic and thus the most impacting in my actions, has always come from this meditative relationship I’ve cultivated with solitude, silence, and the page. The process of steadily growing and gaining confidence and authenticity in my voice has allowed me to become more authentic as a person, as a community member, as a human being engaged with others, learning from their activism, and sharing moments of my own. I knew this then too, but I didn’t trust it. I still thought I needed to be out there with the marchers and bullhorns. I doubted my own resistance to roles that weren’t cut for my skin.

Today, I am grateful for that girl, that twenty-something bud of a woman I once was, that girl who I’m still learning from, that girl whose igniting fire of spiritual inquiry, questioning, and aching persistent longing still teaches me right now. I don’t want to be as cloistered and solitary now as she was-- and I don’t imagine I’ll get a chance to be that solitary even if I wanted to be, at least not until I’m old and grey. But this much I know: she is still alive in me. She is the part of me that closes my eyes and inhales with a sense of gratitude and exhilaration as the wind blows across my face and the limbs sway overhead. And she is the part of me that still yearns to look each stranger in the eye as we pass on the street, and that remembers to nod with recognition and respect when I do.

Hello, friend. Hello, fellow wanderer. I see you. I know how much we all long to be seen.




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