In honor of her gorgeously growing up, Susannah Conway has enlisted a crew of women to tell a story of growing older that will collectively lift the vibration of what it means to journey through time beautifully. This is my story. Happy Birthday Susannah. xo
“I am thinking about the way that life can be so slippery; the way that a twelve-year-old girl looking into the mirror to count freckles reaches out toward herself and that reflection has turned into that of a woman on her wedding day, righting her veil. And how, when that bride blinks, she reopens her eyes to see a frazzled young mother trying to get lipstick on straight for the parent/teacher conference that starts in three minutes. And how after that young woman bends down to retrieve the wild-haired doll her daughter has left on the bathroom floor, she rises up to a forty-seven-year-old, looking into the mirror to count age spots.” ~ Elizabeth Berg, What We Keep
I needed to talk about my neck I told them.
My neck. I didn’t even want to start talking because every time I heard the word neck I started to well up.
I am 39. It goes like this. I wake up every morning after struggling to sleep during the night. I wake up exhausted from the 2 or 3 hours I’ve been awake or the crazy dreams that won’t let me go. I get out of bed, knowing the battles that are about to unfold for shirts and shoes to be put on and the struggle for space we all scramble for in our tiny life and the first thing my eyes see is my neck.
The weight I’ve held onto makes it a bit puffy. The lines across it are becoming more pronounced. Some days I can let go of the gaze and move to look in my eyes or at my crazy messy hair. Some days I am able to put on my favorite shirt and sip coffee and think about things other than my neck.
But the days when I am unsure, the days where I worry, the days where I feel my growing up increasing and the beauty of my female self changing; those are the days my neck can haunt me.
Like all things female and sacred, the only way to come to peace with what I was feeling (and feeling shame for feeling) was to talk it out. Claiming the feeling of shame and fear dislodges the power that it all holds and ripples that energy in the form of trust back to ourselves.
So there’s my neck.
When I turned 38 I found myself feeling as though I had opened up a window in time to go back to my 19 year old self and journey her through the years until she caught up with me, 20 years later, at 39.
We healed one another, this 19 year old and I. I carried wisdom and she carried hope. I carried deep love and she carried a wild edge. I carried a woman’s body and she carried her youth. I carried the promise that it was going to be so beautiful and she carried her fear. I carried my sadness and longings and she carried the sweetest smile for all she met.
As we have integrated, this young one and I, here I am in a 39 year old body, in my physical world, fully loving where I am anchored. Fully in the fear of unknowns and the joy of all that is.
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ~ Robert Frost
I know her secrets and her longings. I have carried her into the afternoon of her unknown and now she is me.
And so I must talk about my neck.
Because seeing my neck, seeing my growing up brings me to a feeling that only can come after walking so many miles, so many years.
It is the feeling of being fully alive as me. This comes with the discomfort of neck lines, some extra weight and some sleepless exhaustion. Yes.
What happens as we grow up is an ability to stand fully in the discomfort and to see the beauty that holds it. I have never loved myself or my body more deeply than I do now.
When I was young I would dream of having the space between my teeth filled. It wasn’t out of a need to be perfect, it was an obsession I could hold onto so that I didn’t have to fear never being loved.
My neck? An obsession I can hold onto so I hide myself when the next stage of growing up is guiding me to find more honesty in my world.
“I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense.” ~ Eve Ensler, I am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World
My honesty is that I am so freaking alive it terrifies me and excites me, lights me up and exhausts me. I sat down last night with the man who has been walking this 20 year journey with me. Who has been growing up with me. I asked him about aging, growing older, growing up. I sipped wine, he sipped beer.
He said that now we no longer hold onto the sacredness of all we believed in when we were young. Nothing will be perfect. That beauty is the merging of the perfect and imperfect, not a weeding out of imperfection. And for him, being able to fully be himself in all situations was his next gift of learning. We are learning this together, in this 20 years of growing up. We look different. We move through space in new ways. Every day we choose what we truly desire.
I have such reverence for time. I celebrate things so tiny others might step past them. Every cup of coffee, every smile and kiss from my lover, every time the little ones laugh together it is time blessing me, kissing my path, guiding me deeper.
So this neck. And the spaces in between the mess all over the table and the deadlines and the fear where time has allowed me to close my eyes and record the wonder and the fullness of who I am.
That 19 year old had so much she wanted to say to me. She was floating messages until I heard. What she needed from me was space to grow up.
She always felt me guiding her into her tomorrows. There was a trust that one day the intense sensitivity would find a home.
The fear of feeling far more than anyone would want has now become
her my knowing of what or who claims the sacredness of my love, my time, my nurture, my creativity, my work. What was a fear is now my gift of self.
Yes, there is my neck.
To keep rhythm and see time passing. To remind me to look in my eyes or another’s and find the smile waiting just for me. To show me that days can be fucking hard and then fucking beautiful within seconds passing. To remind me that I am a female body holding this really big intense spirit. To give a little whisper each morning that I am growing up.
I imagine the 19 year old somewhere looking on, seeing me in my knowing of sexiness and confidence and tattoos and vulnerability and wondering how much more stunning a story this neck will tell in 20 more years.