Musings

I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

Books and Movies, Musings, Pictures, Poet Among Other Things

Hello, It’s Mz. Hyde

Better be scared, better be afraid,
Now that the beast is out of her cage

It’s not clean. They aren’t family friendly in the least. Most of the songs are about sex, whether explicitly or implicitly. The lyrics are full of obscenities. But there’s more to it than that. Sometimes you have to look past the obvious to see the true meaning of art.

One of my current favorite bands is Halestorm. I discovered and promptly fell in love with Lzzy Hale’s voice last year when she sang Lindsey Stirling’s Shatter Me. She has this powerful, gravely, but somehow still smooth voice that I haven’t found anywhere else. The band’s lyrics bothered me for a while. Stuff like, “I miss the bad things, the way you hate me, I miss the screaming, the way that you blame me.” This isn’t a healthy relationship. That song, and others, talk about rough break up sex and other “questionable activities”. But there’s an underlying theme, even in the most sexually charged songs.

But I won’t run
I’m not afraid
I’ll look em in the eye
Gonna hear me say
It’s
My life
My love
My sex
My drug
My lust
My god it ain’t no sin
Can I get it
Can I get an Amen
My grace
My church
My pain
My tears
My hurt
My god, I’ll say it again
Can I get it
Can I get an Amen

Much of Halestorm’s music is about accepting yourself and not giving a damn what others think of you. Having grown up in an environment where even my body wasn’t my own, this is something I’m having to learn in my 20s. I’m learning to own my identity, my beliefs, and my past. “I Miss the Misery,” mentioned above, is about getting out of an abusive relationship, and the twisted reality of missing the pain. While I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, I still strongly relate to the notion of missing abuse. Life is much simpler as a robot without a soul. There are times when all I want is to be back in the culture where I was manipulated, controlled and brainwashed. I’m free now. And I’m working on freeing my mind. I’m making new friends who are more diverse and accepting. I’ve learned a lot from them; like the fact that it’s ok to have very different styles from day to day.

CAM01920[1]Hello it’s Mz. Hyde!CAM01913[1]

I can be the bitch,
I can play the whore,
Or your fairytale princess, who could ask for more?

This deeply bothers a lot people. When you present your self in different ways every day, it confuses them. “I had you pinned as a nerd! What are you doing wearing Birkenstocks and a flower chain? How do I fix your obvious lack of connection to reality when you are dancing barefoot through the forest?” They don’t like to have to think about who you are more than once: the first time they meet you and make a snap judgement. After that, they like to be able to worry about correcting what they saw wrong with you.

When I first wore a black leather vest to school several people asked why I was dressed like a biker. I told them I was dressed like me, how I felt that day. I love this outfit. The tight leather vest, single dangling earring, and black ankle boots make me feel confident and daring. Some days I feel like visually representing the dragon part of me.

But there’s a lot more to me than black clothes and leather, and sometimes I feel like visually representing that side of me. I love my pink stripey tank top, knee high star socks and light grey converse. People are usually amused by this outfit. There are several colors and patterns going on at once. It makes me feel fun and quirky. I wear that on pegasus days.

Bands have songs. Good bands have lots of different songs. One may be about feeling good about yourself and another may be about having the worst day ever, but it’s the same band. People are like that too. They may look and act one way some days and be very different others, but they’re the same person. If you pay attention and get to know them you’ll probably find that those differences are actually kind of similar. My two outfits for instance. One is a dragon and the other is a pegasus. One has skin and scales and the other has fur and feathers, but both creatures have wings. Both are me. I’m also me when I just wear a t-shirt and jeans. Some day I may find another creature that suits me also, and I may eventually not identify with any of them. I’m learning to love and accept this about myself and my new friends. Maybe that makes us freaks, but we’re in good company, and I bet we’re happier than you.

So shout if you’re a freak like me,
You were born to burn,
This is no disease you don’t need a cure!
It’s our time now to come out!

If you’re a freak like me
Are you a freak like me?

Actions in Activities, Musings

Stage Addict

You know how sometimes people joke about various methods of getting high? Sometimes I’ll respond with a joke about my physical intolerance for drugs. I had my wisdom teeth out several years ago, and the doctor removed not only my extra molars, but any curiosity about drugs I ever had. Like after most surgeries, they prescribed hydrocodone for the pain. I took what they gave me at the office, of course, and then the prescribed amount for maybe a day, before the sedation fully wore off. But once I woke up, I was done. No-thank-you-sir. The pain of a bruised jawbone, four open wounds and precarious stitches was nothing compared to the mental impairment from the drugs. I have a high pain tolerance and a low drug tolerance. If ibuprofen couldn’t kick it, I’d just deal with the pain. I don’t want anything clouding my mind. And taking drugs when you aren’t in pain? My imagination is vivid enough, I don’t need any help getting distracted or compromised.4198e81a1d650f717a831dd4e53ee8ba

Sometimes you can’t avoid a high. A surge of endorphins. Adrenaline is my drug of choice. Roller coasters. Ice skating. Oh, ice skating. Not just your quaint little families-on-a-pond ice skating. I mean flying. I mean taking your life into your own hands– er, feet, because if you crash you could slice your leg open and die from arterial bleeding. Or at least, that’s the objective (though, not the dying part). I’m not actually that fast of a skater, and if I crash, the worst that would happen is that I’d blow my knee out (which I’ve done several times, and survived). But adrenaline isn’t only found in high octane, low drag activities.

Hi, my name is Annie. [an overly enthusiastic, but curbed “Hi Annie!”] It’s been one week since I set foot on a stage…

The morning after we closed I thought to myself,”I imagine this is what it feels like to be hungover.” My body hurt. My brain hurt. I was emotional. I just wanted to forget about last night. Forget that I wasn’t going back to the theater that day. That I was no longer Mrs. Elizabeth Martin. And yet, I didn’t want to forget a second of it. After the last show I had to go back on stage and collect a prop that was mine. Most of the furniture was gone. All that was left was a couple of tables, baskets, and our lovely yellow walls. I picked up my plates, looked around the empty room and ran out. Try as I might, smearing my makeup was unavoidable. Thank God for waterproof eyeliner, or it would have been worse. Someone jokingly asked the director why she was making her actors cry and we all laughed because Kittie is just about the sweetest person ever. But it bugged me. Why was I crying? It wasn’t because I was put on stage and made to feel special. It wasn’t because the show was so fantastic. It wasn’t because I was exhausted and relieved to be out of that itchy sweater. Those are all true, and valid reasons to assume, but they weren’t the real reason for my tears. Then on the way to the cast party I figured it out between sobs.

I have never felt that chosen and accepted before. I was cast, without knowing a solitary person in the theater department, without a single show on my resume, and having been in the same room as the director and stage manager only once. I wasn’t cast because someone put in a good word for me or because I had any kind of reputation. All they had was me. It didn’t take long for the other cast members to realize that I’m pretty naive about a lot of subjects. I was, in all honesty, a sheltered homeschooler. I would say things that, evidently, don’t mean what they did when the books I read were written. They would laugh because they knew I didn’t mean it that way and inform me of the current word usage. But they didn’t dismiss me as too weird. A subject would come up and they wouldn’t treat me as dumb for knowing nothing about it. It was mentioned that we should play “Never Have I Ever.” When I stated that I’d win in 5 turns, another game was chosen. I don’t have any scandalous stories (unless pulling your brother and sister from a frozen pond or riding in the back of a passenger van with a three week old calf is scandalous). Most of the time, I’d just sit there and listen. But for the first time, being myself, holding nothing back, not only wasn’t an automatic rejection slip, it was why I was there.

People are insane, ya know? Either we act; We develop multiple-personality-disorder and put ourselves out on a stage for the world to see, raw, exposed, intimate. Or we don’t act; We live our lives as only one person and keep our clothes and bandages on, never fully immersing ourselves in our imaginings. I don’t know which lunacy is worse, but I know that after tasting both, there is only one for me.

The Bald Soprano. It doesn’t make any sense. Think about it too hard and you’ll only give yourself an aneurysm. People asked me “Who played the Bald Soprano?” There is no Bald Soprano. The phrase is mentioned once in the entire show. Don’t try to understand the jokes. Just laugh and move on. It’s insanity on a stage. But it was mine, and it’s gone.

This has to be what it feels like to be in withdrawal. I find myself reading scripts for upcoming shows that have only just been announced. Looking for my next high, but knowing I won’t be able to find it for months.

Books and Movies, Camp, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Filling Journals

I’ve had journals since– I don’t remember not having journals. Sure, the entries were about 20 words long and illustrated because I couldn’t read for so long, but I had things to say, even when I couldn’t articulate, let alone spell them. I look back on some of those rudimentary scribblings and laugh. If they weren’t so old they’d be embarrassing. e678b832b693eac8bcb557b690cce3d8But even though I couldn’t write down how I really felt, and often didn’t actually know, I wrote enough to trigger memories. There’s one journal that Dad gave me around the time he was deployed overseas. It’s just about the ugliest shade of green, that one that is evidently the only dye color the military has, so I quickly took my crayons to it and made it mine. Our basement flooded a few years ago and it was barely saved. But on one of the pages, that has been threatening to fall out for years now, are a few words about how my day was ruined because Wendy’s messed up my baked potato, complete with a picture of how the spud should have looked. I remember that day. We had just been visiting one of mom’s friends and I was overwhelmed with the cares of being 9. It was the last straw. Either mom was pregnant with Adam or Dad had just left, but I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t show it, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, and now my lunch was a travesty.

I have another journal that my then best friend’s mom gave me. It has a picture of us in the front. Little, tiny, 7 year old us. This one is blue with vines, a picture window on the cover and a ribbon bookmark with a heart lock charm on the end. The one that I simply cannot remember not having is my Winnie the Pooh locking diary.

I used those two off and on the most, since the military surplus one was ruined, but I’ve yet to fill a journal. I’ve filled plenty of random notebooks with sketches of rooms and beginnings of stories, but I’ve never written my soul from cover to cover. That’s what a journal is. The soul on paper. Whether it means what it says or is just a symptom of the true condition is for the reader, usually your older self, to decide.

But that trend is about to change. 4980f05fdb74af85e118941df03bd15f

I have six pages left. I really don’t know what to do with myself. It feels as if my filling of that last page will end something in my life. I got this journal 2 years ago when I was a finalist in the library’s poetry contest. It was the year that Meg was also a finalist and Claire was the Honorable Mention. I didn’t win anything, but it was my last year of eligibility. I graduated high school right after that, and then started writing in the little book at Camp that summer. Only first few pages actually bare the thoughts of a baby counselor, as I quickly got too busy to write. Instead, it chronicles the heartache of a life turned rightside up. Learning to accept my PCOS, giving myself permission to live, embracing my gifts. It’s all in there. It hurts to go back and read who I thought I had to be. But the closer I get to the end, the less it hurts and the more it is beautiful. Most of my “poems” are actually journal entries, written as I’m falling asleep. They are raw Annie. What she sees with her eyes, but also with her heart. Moonshadows. Will-o-the-wisps. Dew laden blades of grass.

The closing of my little book coincides with the closing of my first semester of college. I never thought I’d go to school past what was required. I had no need to. I began the journal feeling broken and purposeless. I close it happier, more full of life, and whole. You don’t come through a chapter like that without scars. But scars fade. They remind you who you are.

Actions in Activities, Musings

How To Be a Girl

“If I were a boy, life would be so much better. No one would care what I wore or what I did.” She looked up at the enormity of the sky outside her window, laid her small head of matted, mouse brown hair on a pink Barbie pillow, and fell asleep.

“I have hips. When did that happen?” She sits on an examination table in a cold doctor’s office, looks down and notices her own, fully formed body for the first time.

I went directly from being a little girl to being a woman. At least, that’s how it feels. Those years that most girls get to grow accustomed to their bodies were stripped from me. No, I get it. Everyone is awkward during puberty. But I wasn’t just awkward, I was resentful. From the time I was 9 until this past year, I resented and hated the fact that I am female. During those years, the only emotions I truly felt at all were anger and hatred, so of course that was the only way I could view myself or my body. My parents never taught me to think this way, it was the 905dfa71e173a5a222272b7585f56c14pervasiveness of the ideologies of the purity movement in our church and homeschool community that hammered it into my brain, but the purity mindset was still encouraged. I am the one who took the encouragement a step further. The feminine form was something to be hidden, if not ashamed of. I still hated skirts, because all things that are feminine were weak and therefore must be eschewed. So, I wore boys jeans even though I was beginning to get tiny teen hips and they didn’t really fit right. I wore unisex t-shirts and sports bras almost exclusively. It wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier to find clothes when you just need to cover your shameful nakedness and hide your seductive form.

I recently got cast in a play at school, and it’s been so, so good for me. I realised that I still often carry myself like I’m ashamed to be alive, even though I’m happier now than I ever have been. I slouch. I mumble. I look at the ground when I walk. I avoid eye contact. As far as I’ve come, I’m still not used to being a girl. But I noticed something else. One day at rehearsal our director was talking about not being ourselves on stage, but being our characters. Mrs. Martin is a very posh, English gentlewoman. She crosses her ankles when she sits, with her shoulders back and head held high. Whereas I sit hunched over with elbows rested on the desk in front of me, my legs either out in front or tucked up under my seat. The first time I felt this dissonance between myself and a character I was portraying was at comic-con last spring. I was cosplaying for the first time, and I had chosen Snow White from Once Upon a Time in her huntress get-up. As I walked through the crowded hallways I noticed my attitude. I was standing straighter, but walking more urgently. Like the hunted princess. I was running from the Evil Queen (who, incidentally, is by far my favorite character), and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into a sprint.

So, what now? Well, I have lines and blocking to memorize. Lines for Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, and blocking for Ms. Annie Hall. There is still so much character development in the works. Who is this girl with such a complicated past and such an ambitious future? How does she carry herself across this stage? She is a princess and a storykeeper. She carries herself with grace and love and confidence. What is her motivation? Life. Vivacious, glorious, abundant, splendid, Life.

Short

First Day on Campus

I’m sitting in the commons area. The ebb and flow of students is nearly fascinating. Nearly. People watching is actually an interesting thing to occupy yourself with here. It’s amazing how different the population is so close to home. The populace of our small town is primarily WASPs in camo hunting gear. The town where I work is fairly racially mixed, but also fairly urban. In one corner there are several tables of people playing Magic: the Gathering and other card games. Along the walls there are dozens of faces lit by bright computer screens, or they would be if the window behind them didn’t create such a glare. Sprinkled throughout there are groups of old friends, catching up after a summer away from school. “Ashley! I didn’t know you were going here!” “Hey Jason what are you taking?” This world is very different from any I’ve been in before.

People speak disparagingly of freshman, but then asking simple questions that make me chuckle under my breath. What’s the difference between you and us, other than the number of years you’ve studied? If those years haven’t taught you some of these simple things, what do they really mean?

As the clock reaches the top of the hour, the hall clears out and the volume level drops, but only a little. I only have two classes on Wednesday, but they are 4 hours apart. While having a math class at 8 in the morning, half an hour away from home is primarily a pain in the neck, it does get me a good parking space. This morning after class was over, I tried to connect to the internet. Whether the problem was with my computer or the network, I have no idea. I really don’t care at this point though. I’m just glad to be connected.

So far it’s been an interesting first day. Let’s see what the rest of the semester holds.

Books and Movies, Musings

More Than Just Books

“I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry. Don’t cry. You won’t be able to stop. Don’t start.”

It seems like lately I’ve walked into many places thinking this. I get anxious before tests and decision making, two things I have been doing quite a bit lately. But I don’t often leave a place with this running through my head. There was no crushing medical diagnosis. No loss of a much needed job. No one died. You may laugh, but I was leaving the library. I’ve been volunteering there for over a year now, and this afternoon was probably my last day. I’m starting college next week.

When I told the children’s librarian that this was my last day she smiled and said “Well, I guess I knew you would get a life some day.” But I didn’t work at the library because I didn’t have a life. I worked there because I loved it,library and it was part of my life. It was a hard year for me. I was figuring out life. Who I am. I was hard on myself, even cruel at times. My future went from set and definite to this current state of flux and uncertainty I’m in now. But no matter how rough of a week I was having, or how tired I was, every week I would have the library. Two hours when it didn’t matter what else I did with my life. All that mattered was that J comes before K and 4 comes before 5. It reminds me of in A Wrinkle in Time how Meg goes through the multiplication tables to calm down, because it is steady and unchanging. Alphabetizing and shelving books is the same for me. There’s nothing trivial about it, Bab goes before Bac, and when it feels like your world is doing backflips, that is a very comforting thought.

When the branch manager heard that I was going to school she said “Isn’t this enough education for you?” We all laughed, but I learned so much in those two hours a week. I’ve never really kept any kind of job that wasn’t super flexible for a very long time. Even though I could tell them I couldn’t come one week or that I needed to change from Friday to Thursday, I was still expected on a certain day, at a certain time, unless otherwise specified. I took debate and bible quiz, but those were both things that I did in school and I couldn’t change the time that classes and meetings were. Volunteering was the first thing I did where I was in charge of deciding I was going to do something, and then do it. It sounds weird, but I kind of learned how to adult. I was expected to be grown up. I was expected to not make a mistake. I was expected to straighten up other people’s mistakes when I noticed them. I learned that I can be liked by people who don’t have to like me. Maybe these are both odd things to learn from working for free at a library, but that’s where I learned them.

I can’t believe I’m starting school on Monday. It will be an adventure unlike any I’ve ever taken. I’ve traveled alone all over the country. I’ve witnessed firsthand the birth of 3 of my siblings. I’ve been pseudo-mom to around 20 girls. Getting up in the morning, driving, sitting through classes of more than 10 people, studying, and interacting with people I’m not related to on a daily basis. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle this, but I bet I’ll end up back at the library.