Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who Is This Woman?

I spent my mid-to-late-twenties living alone in a one-room schoolhouse. It was like being at the cottage all the time: comfy, mismatched furniture, no television or computer, instruments and books for company, a deep bed, and most of all: peace and quiet.

My life now is as far from that as I can imagine. Unless you have 2+ children, you cannot fathom the cacophony that is my daily life; the screams, laughter, demands, arguments, and constant chatter of children can be overwhelming. Add to that the seemingly endless string of tasks and responsibilities, and it's no wonder we barely recognise ourselves sometimes.

Lately when I look in the mirror I find myself searching for that woman I was. She's still in there, surely. She used to have this poem taped to her bathroom mirror, smiling at the sense of recognition:

Portrait By A Neighbour
Edna St. Vincent-Millay
Before she has her floor swept

Or her dishes done,
Any day you'll find her
A-sunning in the sun!

It's long after midnight
Her key's in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Til past ten o'clock!

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon,

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back in cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne's lace!

I loved this self-indulgent woman dearly. She wandered in the woods in her rubber boots, collecting bits of nature to render in watercolour later in the day. She adopted stray cats and let them give birth on her bed, then found loving homes for their kittens. She existed on crackers and cheese and tea, and good books. She fed guests on antique silver and china. She stayed up late noodling on her mandolin, playing the piano, singing to shake the windows. She sat in dreamy silence a lot of the time. She had a few suitors, but preferred to be alone.
I miss her. Part of the aim of my retreat was to seek her out, ask her how she is, and if she'd like to visit me in any small capacity. I think I caught a glimpse of her late at night, in a candlelit mirror, but only when I didn't look directly. Look past the little lines of worry and joy, the softer places experience has wrought...do you see her there, in my eyes? Near the corner of my mouth? Now, if I can just figure out a way to coax her out more often...


  1. I am always amazed at humans capacity to change and grow. In a few years (8 - 10) you may be looking in that mirror again and wondering where that mom with the 3 little ones went? I love the post Steph! It is so important to remember where we came from and our experiences as they help us embrace our future.

  2. What lovely writing and a beautiful poem you have shared.
    I see her in your photo:)

  3. Such a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman. She is beautiful NOW, as she surely was then and will continue to be in the future. Hold hands with then-you, and sing to shake the windows with the choir that surrounds now-you. Future-you will appreciate it.

    I love how you share your reflections, both in words and in the mirror.

  4. I love this post. I struggle with a lot of this lately and trying to find the girl underneath all the distractions of "life" is quite the expedition.

  5. I think it is a wonderful idea, really fabulous. We are expected to be superwomen in this era, Mothers, career women, sexy goddesses - it is impossible and exhausting to be everything to everyone all the time. If more women took this little time, even one weekend to retreat, re-charge and nuture themselves, there would probably be less marriage breakdowns and less health problems! Nice one Stephanie, I love it. xox Ps, it looks and sounds terribly romantic.

  6. Thank you for sharing so sincerely... I do know just what you mean about the demands of the children and home and trying to work it all in each day. I love aging, though, because it has taught me to enjoy each day all the more and to let just a bit more of me shine through, not the Mother Me or Wife Me, but Me.
    Warm wishes,
    (Oh, you are beautiful!)

  7. Your post touch a soft spot in me. I looked in the mirror today and had to do a double take.

    I said to a friend the other day that "I want my sexy back" then it hit me - I need to re-create my sexy - now that I am turning 40.

    We need to cherish who we were but also who we can become.

    I look forward to reading more posts from you.

    Namaste, Nicole

  8. Your post was amazing! I totally have to agree with you, it's hard when our lives are so different than what they used to be. I have given up on finding my old self, but on the otherhand looking back, I am so much more happy now even if I have to go to bed 8 just to feel normal the next day, ot that I exist on black coffee (a pot) and I scream so much more than I have have b4!


  9. The old you is YOU! We are all a summary of of our life experiences...she's a part of who you are now, (only now you have the added JOY of being a mother, wife, teacher, farmer...and those new roles make you more radiant)!
    Embrace the YOU that you are now...the creative, funny, beautiful, smart and wonder-full person that we all know and LOVE!
    (we see her every time we look at you)!
    xo maureen

  10. Powerful post...looks like your retreat is doing just what it should be...
    I wish you the clearness of mind on your journey.

  11. Oh what a great post! And so true. We often lose ourselves somewhere along the way to growing up. The good thing is that it's usually pretty easy to be found again. And I love Millay's poetry.


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