Friday, October 30, 2015

Mr. Cocky Pants and Lady Samson

A few weeks ago I measured my pal, Satish, for a new sweater I planned to make him for Christmas.  He's one of the biggest University of Michigan fans I know, so of course he was elated when I said I could knit a blue pullover with a gold "M" on the upper left side.  Surprised at how much he has grown in the last two years, I exclaimed, "Wow!  I'd better get to work on this pronto."
Days later I had a conversation with Satish's mom during which Nidhi said, "He's so excited about his sweater...he even asked if you could finish it by the end of October."
"I wonder why?" I replied.
Then, while driving Satish and Danta home from school, we got to talking about prospective Halloween costumes.
"I'm going to be an Avenger!" Danta exclaimed...after which he had to explain to me what that meant.  (Since I no longer teach preschool or first grade, it's hard to keep up with the latest superheroes.)
"How 'bout you, Satish?" I asked, glancing in the rear-view mirror.
He shrugged.
"Would you like to be a Michigan football coach?"
"I've considered it," Satish admitted. 
I knew he'd never ask me to do a rush job on his gift, so I volunteered.  "Well, your sweater's supposed to be for Christmas, but I could try and get it done in a couple of weeks.  Would you like that?"
He brightened.  "Yes!"
" 'bout this..," I offered.  "The back is almost done.  I'll get to work on it this weekend and let you know by next Friday if I can finish it or not, so you'll have time to plan a back up costume."
"What else would you wear?" I asked.  "A whistle and a ball cap?"
"Yeah," Satish nodded.  "And cocky pants."
I giggled.  "You mean like the ones I have on?"
"No...they're more brown."
I knew he meant khaki pants, but I didn't correct him.
"Why that color?"
"Coach Harbaugh wears them," Satish explained.  "So now all of the coaches have started wearing them, too."
"Sounds like a plan."  I smiled. 

In the past few days, I've spent every spare moment working on Satish's sweater and am delighted to say I just finished sewing the blue and gold "M" on the front...a day ahead of deadline.  And I know that it's big enough for him to wear for at least two football seasons...maybe more.  Then he can pass it on to Danta.  
Well, maybe not.  
In typical fashion, Mr. Contrary requested that his  sweater be green and white a la Michigan State.  
In any event, I'll be giving my head and my hands a break for the weekend, so here's a repeat of last year's Halloween blog, "Lady Samson."
Hope you and yours have a safe and happy celebration!

Lady Samson
Originally published on October 31, 2014

Outside my window, in the midst of howling wind and a rainy/snowy mix, I can hear the shouts and laughter of children braving the weather to go trick-or-treating.  For the past three years I was with my pals, Satish and Danta, and their family, but this year it was not meant to be, so earlier today I passed out treats to little ones I know in my neighborhood.  Now I'm happily sequestered in my office until Halloween is officially over.
You see, it's not one of my favorite holidays.
Sure, when I was a kid, I loved dressing up, loved pretending to be someone who represented my unconscious alter-ego at the time.  If memory serves I was once a gypsy, a hillbilly, and a hobo.  The thirty-five millimeter film reveals my three-year-old self as a tiger, complete with a blackened nose, thanks to my mother's careful application of her mascara. 
But my favorite part of Halloween was when my mother would cut the top off of our pumpkin.  Then I would eagerly shove my hands into the gooey mess of seeds and pulp, pulling it out by stringy handfuls so I could horrify my sisters.  There are pictures of me stripped to my tidy whities gloriously grinning with my arms elbow-deep in the muck.  They still make me laugh with delight and a glorious awareness.
Then and now I've never minded being a terrific mess as long as I can clean up afterwards.  And that counts for more than what you can see on the outside.

This past year has been a bittersweet one as ghosts from past life experiences have snuck up behind me, spooking me with their relentless repetition.  Yes, I've had moments of indescribable peace, but they've been interspersed with days of debilitating grief.  It's been a year of loss and a messy one at that.  Not that I haven't experienced this kind of thing before.  Live long enough and you'll start to notice patterns that repeat themselves.
Still, in all this time I can see a slow evolution...a strengthening of my spirit as I allow myself to drift in a muddle of confusion, to cry and ask why and finally let go of needing to know all the answers.  I can feel my alter-ego becoming more conscious through each lesson and each opportunity to reframe it so that I can learn what I need to learn and move on.
In all this time, I've been growing my hair...and I don't think that's a coincidence.

Last spring I was teaching a yoga for kids class with a group of lively preschoolers.  All of them had shoulder-length hair or longer; a couple even had tendrils drifting halfway down their backs.  As we rolled up out of a ragdoll pose, Nina shook her head and gently pushed her hair off of her face.
"It feels really good to do this," she beamed, tilting her head so the blonde locks dusted her upper back. 
"Yeah," piped up Emmie as she mimicked her friend.  "It really does."
"Yeah," echoed Milly and Brianne as they tossed their heads from side to side.
Nina looked at me knowingly.  "And you know, Katie, it feels really good when I'm naked."
"I'll bet," I said, winking.  At the time, my hair barely dusted my neck, but I had to giggle at Nina's forthright discovery. 
Since then I've discovered that the longer my hair grows, the more I allow my feminine side to flourish.  I can now pull it back into a French braid or twist it into a clip.  In the morning I love to wake up knowing I don't have bed head and can run a brush through my locks with more than one styling option.  The silver stripe over my left temple looks bolder and I no longer feel the need to hide it.
Perhaps I'm like Samson...and as my hair grows, so does my inner strength.  For certain I know that my ability to handle waves of sadness has become more stable and enduring.  I'm able to recognize an emotion without repressing it or shoving it where it doesn't belong.  I can keep my own counsel and still know when to reach out for help and a shoulder to lean on.

A few weeks ago I dreamed of teaching some kids at our local art museum.  My little charges were painting landscapes at their easels, fat brushes bursting with color in their tiny hands.  I smiled as I meandered my way through the rows of preschoolers when I happened to look up and see a man from my past.  Raji stood at a distance with his own group of children.  I was startled at first as he was completely bald.  Where a thick mane of wavy dark hair used to adorn Raji's crown there was now a shiny pate. 
As I tucked my own long, dark hair behind my ears, he smiled at me, but said nothing.  I nodded and smiled back, then turned my attention once again to my did he.
Waking up the next morning, I knew that Raji no longer had any power over me, but neither did he seemed to be weakened for having his hair taken away.  I suppose it was simply my unconscious self wanting me to wake up to the fact that I'm finally done with that chapter of my life.  That I no longer have to plow through my pain with vicious determination.  I can soften and creatively go with the flow while I paint a colorful new way of being...and still keep growing.
I plan to let my hair unwind as it will over the next year or so.  Perhaps by next Halloween I'll know what it feels like to have wavy tendrils dust my naked back, metaphoric or otherwise.  And perhaps I'll shift from embodying a feminine version of Samson as my alter-ego might want to try out Lady Godiva instead.
I'm certain the ride will be a fascinating one.