by Mandy Steward
It started with stationary. I had this desire to look for floral, feminine, stationary with a bohemian flair, so I could scrawl out love letters to the world. I hesitated just now in writing “the world,” but I have to use that phrase, even if it sounds dramatic because that is how entirely big this passion inside me feels sometimes. The world needs love letters, and I want something pretty to put the words on. I want something soft to hold my vulnerable outpour when it comes.
I can feel it longing to come.
From there I felt the desire morph into the realm of clothing. I wanted to adorn myself in gentle things, lacy things, floral things. I said out loud, “I want to be softly feminine.”
The darker parts of me revolted. “Don’t you dare go soft. Remember, we are messy. We are imperfect. We are prickly and things get snagged on us.”
I know. I know. And I want to be a soft place for all those things to land. I want to have me. If I can have me, I can have anyone. I am tired of clinching. I am weary from bracing myself.
I made an appointment with myself at noon on Thursday afternoon, and though I was running 23 minutes behind, I honored the appointment.
“Get thee to a thrift store,” I told myself, “and find some gentleness.”
I collected articles of clothing off the rack with great care, running my hands over the garments. They had to feel inviting. They had to feel like a soft place to land. A black lace slip, a soft yellow skirt, a silky floral top, an oversized thin gray sweater, a baggy pair of the softest drawstring sweat pants you have ever felt.
I am the woman who cleaned up a dog’s shit and vomit today. I am the woman who soaked up a bloody nose of a child. I am the woman who mopped up the cookies and cream ice-cream drippings that have been on the dining room floor for who knows how long. I want to figure out how to look all these messes in the eye and still go gently with myself, with my family, with the world.
Here is the cycle of my life:
1. I have felt obligated to clean up any and all messes and certainly not to cause them.
2. I have come to grips with the fact that messes are going to happen regardless.
3. I have worked incredibly hard to shield myself from anyone who wanted to fix my messes, minimize my dark realities, or control my inevitable crumbling.
4. I am ready to just be me…softly. I am ready to let others just be them…softly.
My son drew me a picture one day. It said, “You’re the flower queen to me, Mommy.” How did he know that right now that is all I want to be? The flower queen. Exactly how he drew me. Fragile blossoms. Healthy growth despite vulnerable exposure. Tender smile. Scribbly tutu. Not because he needs me to be this, but because he already sees me as this. Because I Am this.
I want to create a reality much like he has, where I am a fairy tale character come to life with equal parts dark and light. A person that has done enough of her own inner work that she can truly be a soft place for people to land. That as much as it is up to me, no one has to snag on or get stabbed by my thorny bits. Not even me.
I am wearing my yellow skirt today with lacy trim. I am embracing friends who are nothing short of unconditional acceptance. I am saying yes to an impromptu invite to attend an international high tea. I am rubbing lots of lotion into my dry cracking hands. I want to find my own mad flavor of gentle, soft, tender.
I am airing the words, “I am scared.”
I am saying, “I need love in order to be love.”
I am off to find my own gentleness, and I am very aware that this might be a long trip.
I want to write tender, vulnerable love letters to the world, but I know the first one is going to have to go me.
Dear Flower Queen…
Mandy Steward is an artist and author of Thrashing About With God: Finding Faith on the Other Side of Everything. She blogs her messes at MandySteward.com. She also creates custom painted and inked Secret Messages, self-publishes a subscription based ‘Zine of gypsy journalism, and divulges her truth in a zealous band of Secret Rebels. She co-creates a way to to keep her faith alive via The Wild Mystics. She finally has a Self and finds that breathtaking. Find her on Facebook here.