the baby

Breastfeeding art by Katie Crenshaw

At bedtime, Inara for the first time in a very long time didn’t want me to let go. She wanted to and insisted I nurse her until she fell asleep. So, after repeated failed attempts to put her down (one of which was because I had to go to the bathroom), I happily gave in and held her close—along with Sophie and two blankets, all of which she insisted on and clutched onto.

Nursing, I held her to me and listened to her breathing. The little sounds of her fidgeting or burrowing or settling in. I watched her large hands, her squishy fingers, the dimples where her knuckles should be as she played with Sophie or tried to position one of her blankets over her head just so. I breathed her in and missed her already.

Raising a toddler and a teen at the same time is so very hard. Not the least because you are reminded how quickly your babies grow up.

my world

Since getting locs, I feel as if new worlds are opening up to me filled with wondrous secrets and treasures! I’ve found a reason to consciously live outside of white culture and it’s been so liberating! (Especially since I have been living as white for so long I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed my Filipino and Arab cultures.)

Because of my hair I am having to look for hair products in places I hadn’t known existed—both virtual and real—as well as learn about new practices and tools. And in learning about all of this, I am coming to terms with parts of my self I have almost always negated or dismissed.

Despite loving to care for my skin for as long as I can remember. Loving all the different cleansers, lotions, and oils. I have always felt guilty for taking time to perform a proper skincare routine.

Now, years later, I can’t help but wonder how much of that was the Puritan form white culture seems to have taken until just recently about self care.

Ever since as far back as I can remember, to those early days reading issues of Glamour and Marie Claire magazines, women have simultaneously been provided with innumerable ways of caring for themselves along with tips on and the expectation that they will manage it in less time. Looking back, it’s insane.

Why should we feel guilty for taking the time and pleasure in caring for our selves? And why must it be capitalized on in such a way that it has become less about the process than the product?

I am learning so much about simple solutions and process right now. An Apple vinegar mixture to rinse out my hair. Rosemary and mint spray to help when my scalp itches. Castor oil to massage into my scalp. A locally made ‘butta’ for when I twist my locs and smooth onto my ends.

And in being forced, in a way, to learn about and care for my hair I’ve begun to embrace my love of skincare. I’m trying to manage all the steps every night. To enjoy the facial massage, the different textures and smells, and the way my skin feels as I fall asleep. I’m learning I’m worth it. That I can care for and take pride in my appearance. That I can take ownership in this body I make up.

It’s liberating and enlightening and I’m so excited to learn more. To open up my world to more again.

middle-aged

As I draw closer to 40, more of my past becomes more nuanced or I gain a greater perspective. And as I do, I gain a greater appreciation for those in my life.

As I look back at everything I had done when I was the same age as Nemesia is now and how my parents handled it I have a much greater appreciation of them.

When I was about ten, my dad received a book about the history of taxes as I gift and I remember thinking at the time and for much of my life after how boring that book would be. Then, a few days ago, I happened to catch myself thinking about how taxes might be perceived as a historical indicator of a society’s priorities and what that might look like. And, maybe, because I had come to this way of thinking the subject of my dad’s book wasn’t so boring after all.

Since recently learning more about black culture, hair care, and skincare I have found my self connecting why I have always gravitated toward skincare but always felt guilty spending the time to use all the products I pined for or owned. Now, as I am working to consciously embrace self care I am reminded of my Aunt Paula’s skin care and hair care products. Her makeups and perfumes. And I suddenly hope that I understand my aunt a little more.

Being middle-aged has given me such a tremendous and unique perspective not only of my self but of those I have known (in the ability to not only remember my past life but to view it from the added perspective of a parent/spouse/etc). Yet, in addition to being able to look back from an ever greater perspective, I am still young enough to look ahead. To still know that I am someone else’s child.

Clark/Superman

art by Jorge Jiménez

As Inara continues to grow and the more time I spend with her, the more I begin to see and understand her personality (or, at least, I think I do)…

And in doing so, the more I am reminded of and see myself. The more I understand me.

I experienced this with Nemesia too but with different personality traits.

Like me, Nemesia is highly sensitive, thoughtful, and nurturing. Inara, on the other hand, has “the confidence of 10,000 cisgendered white me”—as Nemesia once put it—and constantly strives to learn and be understood. (Inara is the version of my self that referred to the neighborhood kids as “my kids”, the one who gave away all of her money and Otter Pops to her kids. And when I no longer lived in that neighborhood I would continue to look for strays. So that they knew that they didn’t need to be alone if they didn’t want to.)

My girls are so different. But, they are both me. My Clark and Superman.