By Tanya Tiger
I want to be inspired, to live out loud and run naked in the moonlight.
I want to wear flowers in my hair and sing at the top of my lungs—not caring who can hear me. I want to feel confident and brave in my own skin. I want to feel like I matter, like I made a difference somewhere along the way. Isn’t that what life is all about? Isn’t life about touching lives, bringing love, inspiring others and making the most out of the time we are given since none of us really know how much time we have?
Sometimes I forget.
Sometimes, I think we all forget. When I realized that life is “like an hourglass glued to a table” (to borrow a line from an Anna Nalik song), and that I only get one chance at living my life my way, I developed what I now deem FREAK Envy. The term FREAK, yes all caps, is a term of endearment I use for any and all people who embrace every fiber of their being and have made it their life’s goal to be fully present—as themselves—every waking moment of every day (or at least they make an honest attempt to do so). I have been striving to achieve FREAKdom!
I see pictures of people wearing rainbow colored hair and gypsy clothes, striking yoga poses in front of ancient temples and I want to be there too. I want to ride elephants and paint larger than life canvases of images that blow your mind wide open. I desire a deep connection to that part of myself who knows exactly where I originated and who cares little for the opinions of people who only judge.
So, how does someone like me…a small town girl turned Social Worker, writer, wife and mother get to that place?
I think I’m finally regaining my ability to find the magic in the mundane—an ability I had as a child but lost along the pothole covered road to adulthood. Sometimes I think that I’m beginning to embrace the very quirky, spiritually unbalanced, “muffin-top” Goddess I am becoming. I have definitely discovered what a long and winding road it is to recovering your soul.
So, how does someone get so far off the path to their true self anyway? It seems so strange to me that we are born into this world full of life with a belief in magic and then we lose touch and it all fades to gray. Everything is so new and exciting when you’re young.
My 4-year-old, Katie, is constantly demonstrating how the simple can become something grand. A light frost on my car was brought there by Jack Frost, the birds outside her school door sing a welcome song to each parent and kid as they arrive, the moon follows us home so she can say good night and all beans grow into magical beanstalks where giants live.
She proclaims out of nowhere that her little sister Kristin, who lives in heaven now, enjoys ice-cream and making snow angels and still visits from time to time. Life, for my sweet girl, is full of wonder. She has helped me grow into a better version of myself. She inspires me to be and do better. I want to set a powerful and loving example for her so that she can hold on to that wonder and excitement for life.
I want her to know just how magical she really is and to never forget it.
Because of my two daughters, I now realize that there comes a time when one must drop all the masks, the costumes, and the ideas of who we are “supposed to be.” They have taught me that I should be proud of everything I am and reclaim the parts of myself that I have surrendered in order to “fit in.” Katie doesn’t care who is watching when she busts a move to a song she hears in the grocery store, or when she gets the words wrong but sings it loudly anyway. She doesn’t care if her outfit doesn’t match—hey, a pink tutu goes with Spiderman sneakers, okay!
To watch Katie is to watch an entire universe tucked into a tiny body. She spins on her own axis, moves to her own beat, and is perfectly at home in her body. Her mind is constantly awhirl with whys, what happens ifs, and her thoughts are a beautiful constellation to behold. She has that twinkle in her eye—the one that says, “I am excited to be alive and I can’t wait to see what happens next!” My girls got me thinking about my own self-image and my place in this world. My love for them reignited a love for myself. Yet, the self-doubt that had grown thick around my heart was not so easy to peel away. I needed a nudge to jump off the edge, but what?
This “what” or this “wake-up call” to drive my daughters’ point home arrived, loud and clear, when Death came to call on three babies very close to my heart. It began with my youngest daughter Kristin, and then we lost our sweet and shining friend Lily, and then the tender yet tough Mighty Maks, who was only five months old. None of them reached their 4th birthday but all brought so much love, light and inspiration to this world. If ever life brought the message home of how short and precious our time here could be, this was that message.
I admit that I became upset, and a bit angry with myself, that it took such a shock to the system to wake the f*ck up. Why did it take the extreme pain and grief of my family and friends, to realize just how many blessings I have in my life? Why does it almost always seem to take some earth-shattering event, like 9/11, to rock our foundation and make us pay attention to what really matters?
I’ve sat with these questions and feelings for a while now.
I’ve gotten quiet and still and then I’ve sobbed and screamed. I’ve gone from the extremes of Rainbows and Sunshine to Deep, Dark, and Depressed. I’ve asked every question I can think to ask. I’ve read numerous books about the Self, and Spirit, and Soul, and Finding the Path. I’ve inquired with respected peers, friends, family and even strangers about how they see the world, their place in it, and how we can stop taking life for granted. I’ve looked everywhere outside myself for the answer to what it all means and “Who Am I?”
I realize now that it’s all a part of life. It doesn’t always make sense.
Sometimes it gets down right painful and ugly and messy. But sometimes, sometimes, it’s all so beautifully perfect. I mean, do I really need to strike a pose in front of some gorgeous vista to feel like I’m rocking at life? Nah, I have so much to be thankful for right here, in my own backyard. I finally looked inside myself for the key to my FREAKdom, for the answers to my questions of why things happen the way they happen, and why I’ve struggled for so long to find my magic again. The answer came quietly, like a soft whisper in the wind. “You are exactly where and who you are supposed to be.”
It’s all part of my journey—of our journey. It’s all part of life. From the moment we are born we’re dying. We are all being propelled forward in time with no map and no guidebook on how to get through life unscathed. The truth is, sometimes life sucks, no matter how many layers of sparkles and glitter you throw at it. None of us get out of here alive and we all carry scars. They are the emotional and physical badges of proof that we have lived. Our experiences—good and bad—shape who we become.
Sometimes we are blindsided by life and that is when the power to choose is at its most powerful.
That is when we truly shape who we are and what direction our life takes. Live or die? Stay down or get back up? Keep going or give up? It took a visit from death before I learned what it really means to live. And, it took making the choice to grieve, but to keep going despite the pain, to realize how blessed my life has been.
I know now that I never really lost my “self” or my sense of wonder but I did take them for granted. I failed to nourish them and they faded to the background. I realized that my inner FREAK has been hanging out just below the surface, I just haven’t had the nerve to let her out…yet.
So, tonight, I will hug my sweet Katie a little tighter. I will sing that song in the grocery store. I will drum like Neil Pert on my steering wheel while the neighboring car passenger watches with a slightly perplexed look on their face. I will dance like no one watching. I will take the patches I’ve used to mend my broken heart and I will sew them into the biggest, most awesome FREAK Flag ever and I will wave that puppy like it’s going out of style.
Because there is no time like the present, tomorrow is never guaranteed, and life is too damn short not to live out loud.
Editor: Dana Gornall