Wednesday, November 13, 2013
There was softball in the 6th grade but other than that, I never took part in anything competitive. One time, I tried out for high school swim team on my best friend's suggestion. As I tippy-toed my way through one lap at 5:30a.m., the kind coach leaned in close to my foggy goggles and whispered, "Maybe swimming is not really your sport. You can probably sleep in tomorrow." It was like euthanizing a 22 year old cat. I was ready to go.
So, instead of competitive sports or after school activities, I held down jobs most of my life beginning at age 13. I lied, said I was 16, and became a cashier at Meadow's Farm's Nurseries. Met other kids "my age" and had the best year sipping scalding apple cider with mittened hands because our office was a barn and those barn doors were open. When the poinsettia trucks came in we all grinned like Matt Dillon. Peeling back thousands of protective brown paper bags might sound like a nightmare but having "snowball fights" with those thousands of paper bags in the solarium with twelve of your favorite co-workers was the sweetest reward. After Meadow's Farms, I worked in a Floral Shop. This transition might lead you to believe I have an innate green thumb but my lack of houseplants tells the truth; without skin or fur, I do not understand you.
So the many years I spent earning paychecks and honing my simple change making skills aided in real world knowledge without a spirit of competition. It's not like we were having bow-making contests or bouquet placement races until all hours of the night. Nope, just every day people vacuuming inside/outside carpet around customers shopping for boutonnieres.
Even in college, I veered away from all things resulting in winners and losers. My major was the furthest thing from domineering: English with a concentration in Creative Writing. No checkered flags in sight.
Years later, I would discover the natural competitive spirit of girls. Motherhood. As a new mom, I felt ill-prepared for the "mompetitions" happening in circles around me. Do I breast feed? Do I Ferberize? Have I considered Early Reading? Why don't I put my baby in daycare? Did my toddler watch LeapFrog or WonderPets? Whoah. There are a lot of eyes on your actions after your womb grows a person.
Eventually, I navigated my way through judgments, opinions, and criticisms until one morning my gray hairs gave me the cajones to not care what anyone thought at all. It's true, if you let your grays keep going, out pop some invisible testicles that help you appreciate beer and the WTF of life.
Now, with almost independent children who don't need me to watch and abet their every move, I am finding it easier to avoid competition with other moms.
Instead, I've developed friendships or "real-ationships" with women who are doing their thing. They are all different. Some are strong and shy. Others are smart and trustworthy. A few are Christian and beautiful. The funniest one is atheist and artistic as all get out. We share stories about our lives. We walk neighborhoods confessing our possible mental illnesses. We go for a run and end up at a bar. We meet in dog parks and bond over poop bags. We chat on the phone and try to make each other laugh. We text three words and make each other cry. We drink red wine from the bottle in my minivan right outside of our houses. We take selfies together. We email each other instead of comment on each other's blogs because I like to imagine her smile when I trash talk life a little. We FaceTime before 7am and answer the call. We pick each others kids up when we are sick. We worry about each other when it's been too long. We get what it means to relate. We don't feel the desire to compete. And why should we?
In this world of ours, there is enough racing going on. Girls should be able to rely on each other, not run away from each other. We know how hard this is. Motherhood, periods, menopause, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, death, life, eyebrows, jeans, and being cold all the time. We understand each other in ways men can never appreciate. A man will never remember to lock all the doors at night and turn on the alarm. A man will never know why you tied a hoodie around your waist to go into a store.
I am lucky to have my girlfriends with their girl spirit who share their lives with me. It's because of them that I don't mind showing up as me every day here in this new unfamiliar place. Or maybe sometimes at their house in my pajamas for movie night. It's those friendships that bring strength to me when I'm feeling tired and color to my world that is growing pale.
It's what we can do with each other that brings meaning. Who gives a sh*t if you do it best.