Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fear, Friendship and The Closet Woman

When Liz stepped out onto the stage, the closing performer for the stage production Expressing Motherhood, I felt like I was going to burst out of my skin.

It was the final night of a three night run at the Durrell Theater in Cambridge, MA.    There were twelve women in the cast, all Moms, none of whom were professional performers.   They each told a story, with only a microphone and a spotlight as props, about motherhood.   They spoke of love, loss, lust, laughter and redemption.   It was a roller coaster ride of emotions:  side splitting laughter followed by free flowing tears.

As the spotlight bloomed to life and surrounded Liz in a halo of light, my heart swelled with anticipation, pride and love.   She had done a dry run of her piece for me, which made me laugh, and then cry, and then laugh some more, but nothing could have prepared me for what it was like to see her up on stage, telling the story of her daughter Eden's birth and mysterious illness that plagued her first few months of life.  

She spoke about Eden's delivery, and the terrifying complications that followed.   How all she could do was lie on the operating table and endure.

She spoke about how she faced her deepest fear one horrible night seven weeks later, when the doctors could do no more, and she went home to cradle her desperately ill infant close to her chest and pray.  

She spoke about the culture of fear that surrounds mothers these days, about how when she lets her two oldest daughters go an aisle away in the grocery store to bring back milk and bread, they are invariably returned to her by an accusing stranger who hisses, "I found them wandering in the dairy aisle."

Where is the line?  is the question Liz poses.   How do we raise children to be independent, confident people if we're living in fear ourselves?   It would be easy to succumb to fear, hover endlessly over and around our children, mistakenly believing we can prevent any horrible outcomes by sheer attentiveness.  There are so many things outside of our control; our children will get sick, hurt and have to suffer through their own trials and tribulations.   The best we can do for our kids is to choose not to live in fear ourselves.

Liz had to face fears of her own to do the show:  stage fright and speaking publicly about a raw, vulnerable time in her life.  She stared those fears straight in the eye, squared her shoulders and dug deep. 

She was radiant.  

The stories of Expressing Motherhood are the soundtrack to our lives as mothers.  How we navigate the waters of fear, loss and frustration.   How we celebrate the simple moments of joy and awe.  How we struggle with identity and purpose, and feel like the woman we were before becoming a mother fades from our reach, hides away in some back closet of Things That Used To Be.

She doesn't fade completely away, though, this Closet Woman, the one who tackled the world head-on, without fear and hesitation.   The woman who ran board meetings, or earned a graduate degree, or built a company of her own, or traveled the world, or worked two jobs to put herself through school.    She lives inside all of us, and I saw her up on stage last night in each and every one of the brave performers, who put a little of themselves out there so we would all feel less alone, less afraid. 

~~~~

Liz asked me to design a bracelet and earrings for her to wear onstage.   I obsessed about it; I wanted to create the perfect piece - something funky and yet not too over-the-top.  After creating two bracelets and cutting them apart because I felt they weren't good enough, I realized this was so important to me because Liz is so important to me.  

She was my first mommy friend, all those years ago when our daughters were born within nine days of each other.    Together we figured out new motherhood by making mistakes and celebrating successes.   We weathered endless New England winters holed up at her house, or our friend Karin's house, huddled together against the long, cold afternoons.   Huddled together against the fear.  

Her loving, level-headed friendship has helped to pull me through some of the darkest days of my life.   What she taught me is that we're not supposed to be perfect, we're just supposed to love our children without reservation, without fear, and do the best we can.

So I didn't create the perfect piece, because it doesn't exist.   But I created something straight from my heart, something fun, classy, colorful and with a little sparkle.   Just like Liz.







In honor of the Expressing Motherhood performance, Liz is hosting a giveaway of a duplicate set of the bracelet and earrings I made for her.    

To enter and read more about the performance from Liz's perspective, go here.

Thank you.


5 comments:

  1. I love this - What she taught me is that we're not supposed to be perfect, we're just supposed to love our children without reservation, without fear, and do the best we can.

    thanks for sharing

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  2. You know, I read Liz's post first, and I wanted to let you know that the banter between you and server after the show wasn't just funny (and it was); I know it took a lot of strength, so kudos to you, too.

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  3. Those pieces are so beautiful Ellie! And your description of the performance is wonderful, I'm sure it was a fantastic show. Props to your friend for getting up there and facing her fears.

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  4. Those pieces are beautiful. Just like your friendship.

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  5. You know, I read Liz's post first, and I wanted to let you know that the banter between you and server after the show wasn't just funny (and it was); I know it took a lot of strength, so kudos to you, too.

    ReplyDelete