Who’s that girl?

11908585_10206959825821690_7943426081004690238_oJane added 12 photos of you. To add these to your timeline, go to Timeline Review.

Uhm. What?

I’d visited Jane recently, but I couldn’t remember posing for any photos while I was there. It was also my 50-somethingth birthday. My guess was that the photos had to be old. Just how old? Anything stretching back to very was possible.

Jane is a golden friend. She’s been in my heart for a long time, so she has access to the really good stuff. By good, I mean stuff the Dude would find amusing payback for my writing about him for the last ten years.

My high school experience was one of duality. I don’t remember I time when I felt so loved and so unloved at the same time. It all depends on the frame of reference. Thinking about those years can bring forth a cringe and a smile at the same time, sort of like watching The Office, only I’m a smarter Michael Scott.

Jane is firmly planted on the side of the angels, so I poured a glass of wine and plunged into Facebook. There they were, a parade of smiling faces ranging from the age of six to  twenty-six.

Damn, I had a lot of hair. It was the 80’s after all. It was still dark back then. Like my father, I went gray quite young. I’ve been dyeing it so long I’d forgotten the original color. I’m smaller than I remember, too–almost compact. At the time, I felt so inescapably large, like I couldn’t get out of my own way, let alone anyone else’s.

What struck me most, however, is that the Jeannine in the pictures is so happy, so at ease. Nothing like the girl that narrates my flashbacks. I couldn’t look away.What made the difference?

I was seeing myself through someone else’s lens.

Memory theory says that we don’t actually remember events. Our brains rewrite the memory each time it’s accessed, so it’s layered with whatever new information we’ve painted over it, like looking into a mirror of a mirror of a mirror. What we remember is the last time we remembered the event. The truest memory is one that we’ve never retrieved before. I didn’t take these photos, so they had no prior imprint.

We tend to fixate on all of the negative baggage–the idiotic stuff we did–rather than the millions of moments that truly make up the bulk of our very good lives. We play them over and over again, adding more footnotes each time. The versions of ourselves that we remember can often get trapped in a box made by those who knew and loved us least.

Those pictures were the greatest gift. Who knows what those rewritten memories may bring?

So I posted the photos to my own Facebook timeline, even if it screams to the world that I am not a natural blonde. My posture is better, and I will never, ever part my hair down the middle again, but I will try to remember what I tell the Dude all of the time–we are neither as awful or awesome as we remember we are. If you want the truth, ask a friend for an old picture. It might surprise you. It surprised me. Who’s that girl. She’s me.

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Wherever you go, there you are

493343628_98052395a0_zBeing a mother has occupied the last eighteen years of my life. While parenting is an exercise in entropy, it still provides a certain infrastructure. The daily schedule of getting the Dude to school, discussing his fantasy teams, and fighting over his crappy eating habits creates a living clock. It’s easy to find meaning and purpose. I am a parent. I take care of my child. If that’s all I do in a day, I can consider it a success.

The Dude leaves for college next month, and we both will have the world spread out in front of us with no real plan. While I’m excited, there’s a not-so-small element of “oh shit” mixed in. I have no roadmap to guide me. I can’t plug a destination into my GPS, because I’m not sure where I’m headed.

When I think about it too intently, I feel lost. I worry about where life will lead, and anxiety rushes to the surface. Will I ever finish my book? Where will the next story come from? Is this a career or a toe-dip in the land of wish fulfillment? How long can I justify calling myself a writer without some tangible sign of success?

I don’t know. Not a comfortable situation for someone who likes to have all of the answers. While hurtling into the future, I can’t catch the words or the notes. The best I can do is make a mad grab and hope I come up with something profound. Usually it’s a really bad limerick.

If I can manage to stand still, however, even for a minute, I can place a big red star on the map and write “You Are Here.” Sometimes, “here” is the best I can manage. Maybe, “here” is all that really matters. After all, “there” is merely a collection of interconnected “here’s”, right?

When I was twenty, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was thirty. When I was thirty, I knew what I wanted to be at forty. Each decision led me one step closer to that end. Ironically, when I got where I intended to be, I didn’t want it anymore. Somewhere along the way I had changed, but I was so focused on the destination, I hadn’t noticed. If I’d seen a map of my life, a big red star telling me where I was, where I truly was, I might have been saved a lot of trouble and pain.

So as I walk into unmapped territory, my goal is to be dedicated to here. To now. Because this is where the words grow, and the music unfurls. I will stand still long enough for them to find me, and stay quiet enough to listen.

So if you need to find me, you know where to look.

Photograph : Mt. St. Helen’s park entrance by Stephan Adrej Shambora © 2007 via Creative Commons/Flickr