Just when you figure it out

When I was dancing in my twenties, it seemed every year I slowly got a little bit wiser and more skilled in every aspect of my dancing. I also got more injured, and therefore, closer and closer to not dancing any more.

By the time I stopped, I was dancing as well as I ever had. I was more comfortable, more confident, more present in every moment. I was also seeing more chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists every week to manage my injuries. And I was a married 31 year old who wanted to have babies, plural.

I was finally figuring out how to be comfortable on stage, how to bring my whole true self into the performance process, right as I was giving it up and moving on.

It was sad to me that I couldn't have used my hard earned wisdom for just a little longer. It seemed unfair that I should finally get through a performance without wanting to vomit from anxiety and have it be my very last one.

That last performance was an odd experience. To feel excitement before a show instead of dread. To stand backstage, bouncing on my toes to stay warm as I waited for the whisper yell: "Places!" and not feel the usual stomach lurch when it finally came. To wish, as the applause began, that it wasn't over, that we could do it just one more time.

There are, of course, parallels to mothering my girls.

Every time we go through a new stage with Z, I am fearful, anxious, clueless. I read, I experiment, I learn some things. Then I get to go through it again with E, who, while she's a different child, provides an opportunity to apply at least some of what I learned the first time around with Z. By the time E's moving on, I feel almost comfortable with that stage of motherhood. Almost confident and present and capable.

I feel this familiar swelling inside, a feeling of beginning to own myself in this process, of knowing myself as a mother just like I ever so slowly grew to know myself as a dancer.

This is yet another reason it is sad to not have another child. This is yet another reason I find myself all too happily offering my opinion about friends' babies. Even when they don't ask for it.

In each phase, I find myself wishing I could use this self-knowledge just a little longer. In each phase, I wish I wasn't so slow in becoming who I want to be.

In each phase, I wish I could do it again, just one more time.

Instead, I am attempting something new: to carry over some of that fledgling confidence into each new phase with Z or E. To quiet the anxious voices inside that tell me I'm no good at this, that I'll mess them up, these perfect beloved creatures. To remind myself that we'll figure it out together.

I remind myself that every day is a chance to apply all I've learned along the way. My growing wisdom and confidence isn't lost just because my children are getting older. It informs every moment I spend with them, even after they leave the phase I just figured out.

That has to be enough.


Kate said...

Beautifully written and well said. I feel like that every day, as a former dancer and mommy of one. bittersweet!!

Whimsy said...

Exactly - and so very wise. I think the easier thing is to look out on each new stage of parenting and think that it's this totally new experience and you can't possibly feel confident or comfortable with it until it is far passed. The harder thing is to do what you're doing, and to face each new challenge with some of the awesome confidence you've built up so far.

And BTW, you are more than WELCOME to share those hard-earned learnings with me any time.

Doing My Best said...

You are as eloquent as ever! I struggle with this as well!

Alice said...

a far less lovely/eloquent parallel: in college, it took me until my final semester of senior year to figure out you didn't have to read LITERALLY every page of homework assigned to you. i finally figured this out in a french class where i just could. not. bring. myself. to read Proust... and still wrote a paper on it and got an A.

at first i was devastated - i could be getting the EXACT SAME GRADES with 1/10th the work!? wtf?!?

but then i realized i was able to write convincing essays only because i HAD read so much other french literature in the previous 4 years, and had done so much prior analysis. i was able to draw on all that knowledge and put it to use in this final class.

so, while i was a stranger to these new novels, everything i'd learned & used in my previous french lit classes still helped me pass this new one.

each new stage may be unknown, but every moment you've spent with your girls has taught you how to better handle the new.

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