Tuesday, February 21, 2012

connecting this girl with that girl

Recently, I was having lunch with some girl friends and I was telling them about Cowgirl's last martial arts belt test. Every 3 months the center has testing for the next level belt and the exams include knowing the full form, individual combinations, and concepts such as the school's student creed or black belt code. It is a grueling process - although I am only speaking about my experience as a mother sitting on the sidelines watching her incredibly small but brave child undergo such rigors.

As a rule, the students usually have to test twice. The first round everyone seems to "fail" (they don't label it as such, but that is how it feels) and they are admonished to go home and really practice and prepare. A lot of the time the issue is about attitude: demonstrating confidence, enthusiasm and strength.

This last test Cowgirl was with a group that had already tested once and were prepared for the second round in the gauntlet. Cowgirl had been sick, so we waited until midweek to attend. She was called out with 3 other kids to perform their 34 step combination form and around step 22 she got lost. It was a slow motion torture for me; she looked around, moved her arms in and out a few times and attempted to find her way back into the sequence. Finally, she just stopped and stood at attention, waiting for the others to finish. The instructor asked everyone else to go sit down and left her standing on her own in the middle of the room. He began shuffling through some papers and then talking quietly with the other instructor. All the while my girl stood completely still in a full but silent room of students and parents. All of us watching and waiting.

Finally the instructor called 3 other students out to join Cowgirl and she tested again with a new group. And again she got lost and attempted to fudge her way through to the end of the form.

She didn't pass that night but she held it together until she got off the floor. Then she climbed into my lap and dissolved into tears.

I was telling my friends how I then sent the Husband with her for the second test even though I knew she would pass because she knew she could pass. I was explaining that she is so much tougher and braver than I was at her age (hell, even in my twenties I didn't have such grit!) but that it is hard for me to not project my memories, my experiences, my fears upon her. And my friends unanimously shouted at me "Stop projecting!"

Coming upon the heels of this event was a request for me to post a picture of myself as a child to group forming for the upcoming ecourse Paint Your Story. As we would be channeling our inner child in the course, the idea seemed to be to to reconnect with the freer or less inhibited version of ourselves. Looking through the few photographs I have of myself as a child (well aware the glut of images chronicling daily adventures of me and Cowgirl is in direct response to this gaping lack) it dawned upon me that my taking such courses is precisely to heal this child:

This photo was taken across the road from my Uncle's house in Colorado. I believe I am around 7 or 8 years old. I absolutely loved horses and my fantasy life as a child would have been to live far, far away from other people, having only my loyal horse and the wide open fields for companions.

As a child I was given a small green photo album and this picture is one of a dozen I saved in that album. Flipping through its pages, I realize this album acted as a kind of repository of ambitions or dreams for myself. I have 2 other pictures of me with horses, several with my first dog and many more pictures of the adults in my life who I trusted and admired. I think this album was like a vision board of how I wanted to feel on the inside: accepted and connected and safe.

Looking at that picture of myself with the horse, what I see now is hesitancy, uncertainty, and doubt. I wanted to embrace that horse but was afraid to. And the horse seemed to sense my fear. I look at that girl and I am puzzled as to the source of so much discomfort. I'm stumped as to how to heal what was so deeply rooted. I remember that girl but I'm not sure how to redeem her.

That girl and my girl couldn't be more opposite. It has been challenging raising a child who is so different that I was; her responses and reactions beyond anything I could have imagined myself doing or being. Our being together often seems like a great cosmic joke. But if I know anything about the Universe and its sense of humor, I know humor holds the deepest teachings. Being together may be a karmic healing: Cowgirl teaching me about being a warrior and holding firmly to one's convictions while I in turn teach her it's okay to ask for support, not know all the answers, creatively seek solutions and trust in one's softer self. It is about balancing all parts of ourselves and learning from others how to access those aspects of oneself that are less familiar or developed.

I've been thinking a lot about the icons that inspire me; who does embody the me I feel myself to be on the inside? This is the material discussed on Jen Lee's Icon Self cd series which is pretty much rocking my poptarts ever since I popped the first disc in. (Why yes, I have been eating poptarts lately ... much be an inner child thang ... thank you for pointing that out!) The idea that our shadow aspects could be positive or empowered parts of ourselves held in check because culturally they are not considered appropriate (good girls don't make demands or fight back) is something I'd never considered before. But how profound is that idea?

For further clarification of this idea, do take a listen to this piece by Jen Lee on why we need Icons:

Emerging Icons: Why the World Needs Icons from Jen Lee on Vimeo.

And for other videos in her series, check here. I love what Jen is doing in this series and I love the message that we all are seeking to embody the fullest expression of ourselves and that by doing so, we support others in manifesting their whole and complexly wonderful selves.

So when I say I am wandering about many fields of thought, this is what has been on my mind. Healing myself, preparing my daughter so that she has the tools for her own healing (because I am thinking none of us gets out of this task; there is either avoidance or acceptance), and wondering who are my icons and what role models - what heroines - do I want for my girl? I think what is needed is a gallery collection with commentary - a vast pool from which to select and choose and I would love some suggestions. How do you step into the empowered version of yourself? What garb do you don? What tools do you gather? What songs do you play? Who do you turn to for inspiration and insight?


  1. your post is so powerful, lis, for so many reasons. i believe our children are our greatest teachers. they are our mirrors but we have been gifted that precious addition of hindsight so we so often know the possible outcomes of the choices they are navigating. and within this journey of motherhood, we too are blessed with that possibility to grow, heal, nurture, and expand our own selves...to look back at what held us back, what engendered fear, what gremlin kept us down. and this is the gift our little ones give to us, the opportunity to navigate and chart a whole new perspective for ourselves...if we are willing to face it. you have a brave little warrior guiding your way, lis. she will keep you safe. xx Suz

  2. Lis - there are so many lessons here in this post. thank you. I think our journey here weaves together the frayed parts of ourselves -parts that we need to heal - and some of that is inner-child work. I believe too, that our children mirror to us the aspects of ourselves that need more attention for healing. Everyday my sweet peanut shines a light for me to see more clearly what aspects of myself still need work. Like I say, I'm a work in progress, hopefully never 'finished' - I will learn more about my self (and others) and allow that to ripple out. You're an amazing mom, friend, and teacher (and more) thank you for sharing your life here. xo

  3. Oh, how I admire all you brave mothers out there! And, fellow Scorp, this reminds me so much of Rob Breszny's words for us earlier this month: "SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): This would be an excellent time to round up a slew of new role models. In my astrological opinion, you need to feel far more than your usual levels of admiration for exceptional human beings. You're in a phase when you could derive tremendous inspiration by closely observing masters and virtuosos and pros who are doing what you would like to do. For that matter, your mental and spiritual health would be profoundly enhanced by studying anyone who has found what he or she was born to do and is doing it with liberated flair." As I've been inspired to gather new role models of my own I've been feeling quite a healing affect - something must be in the air:)

  4. ack! how did i miss this?!?!?!


    indeed. i have to say i was dying inside reading how C-girl was left standing in the middle of the room like that. it reminded me of Savannah's first karate class where it was everything i could do to not swoop in and snatch her up and take her out of there....soooo many memories of my own coming back -- oh how HARD it is to not project our own experiences onto our girls....

    i'm still struggling to identify icons and role models that i had/have....i think i purposely didn't do that as a child...i wanted to be brave and not "dependent" on some hero....

    which is, in itself, a lot to chew over...:)

    beautiful post, beautiful you....