are the children of one's youth."
These arrows - one for each child - were sketched by my artist friend Melissa and adapted by my tattoo artist D-May. One thing I've always loved about the comparison of children to arrows is that we are meant to be raising them to shoot out into the world, not just coddle them close. I don't know where they'll each land, if they land at all, but I'm so full of hope when I see the amazing people they already are.
Speaking of hope, I ran into a mom friend at the elementary school this morning. She hadn't seen me in a while, and - with the piercings and haircut and tattoos and darker lipstick - she almost didn't recognize me. "I love all of it," she said, "but what is this?" I gave an answer that was partly true, but I've been thinking about it more. I didn't tell the full story, the one of hope and of shooting into the world myself.
Here's what I would say if she asked again: "This is me. I've stopped trying to fit where I was never meant to fit."
I'm not angry or bitter about the places or views that I've outgrown (or, more likely, that I've finally admitted were never my size and shape in the first place), and I'm thankful some dear friends find rest and joy and hope in the spaces where I never did. You're probably trying to read into this and guess what I'm talking about... politics? church? theology? my family? The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes (though the family piece has nothing to do with my now family. That change has been a matter of revoking permission for abusive behavior from many members of my family of origin. This is not about Lee and the kids, never about Lee and the kids. I have never felt like I fit anywhere as well as I do with my loves).
The reality is that my outside self is starting to match my inside self. Just like I reclaimed Christmas, I'm reclaiming myself. For those of you who've known me for a while, I know some of these changes may feel disorienting to you. I recognize that, but I'm not sorry for it. I'm still the Shannon you know and love; I'm just not holding back or trying to please everyone else but me and my God.
Now that I think about it, this past year or so has been a launching of my own arrow. I'm not sure I've landed yet, and I'm okay with that. Maybe we aren't really meant to land, as we never complete the process of growing and changing and developing and learning and becoming all who we were created to be.
I know this, though: For the first time in my entire life, I love me. I've always shown care to others while hating myself in secret. Some of that self-loathing was the internalizing of others' harmful words into my own inner voice, some of it came from living in a culture that regularly devalues women, and some of it came from my own sense of never feeling like I was enough.
Maybe you feel that way too. Maybe it's time to stop holding back your arrow and instead fly in faith into the unknown of all that God has in store for you when you're no longer worshiping the idol of who you think you're supposed to be.
Maybe this is your day to fly.