August 7, 2017
Dear Cherished Heart,
Sometimes traits that are valued in others are the hardest ones to live with when they show up in your significant other. It could be said that I am a challenge to live with.
When my siblings and I were young, the word spirited referred to a plucky horse, a full-swing party, or a lively debate — but not to children, especially a shy one.
The term “spirited child” was coined in 1992, with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s eye-opening book, “Raising Your Spirited Child”. In 1997 I married a man with two children, at least one of whom was spirited. I would graze the words in Kurcinka’s book as if they were the appetizers I needed to make it through to supper.
The word spirit comes from the latin word spiritus, which means:
Sounds like something to aspire to, doesn’t it?
However, “the word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is the word more. They are normal children who…..possess [certain characteristics] with a depth and range not available to other children.” –Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Raising Your Spirited Child
Spiritedness has to do with temperament—an inborn (not learned) behavioural style. It conveys MORE in the areas of activity, intensity, irregularity, moodiness, perception, persistence, sensitivity, and adaptability to change. I don’t remember what I was like as a child except that I did get sent to my room for my big emotions . . . on occasion.
As an adult, I am MORE in almost all of those areas.
A few nights ago I played a rousing game of cards with my cottage neighbour and her daughter, my daughter, and their friend (two adults and three 15-year-olds). A night or two earlier my teenagers had said, “You don’t even like cards, do you mom?” HORRIFIED, I stared at them, and then in my Minnie Mouse voice I said, “I love cards.” Then, I went to bed.
But the next time they asked, I showed up. Big time. (Embarrassingly BIG)
Adults who have known me since my twenties would immediately recognize the arrival of my spirited self at the card table, or on the dance floor, or in the kitchen. But the more recent additions: my children, their friends, and my new friends have rarely seen the intense side of me. She has been hidden for a long time, which brings me (finally) to the point of my letter Cherished Heart.
For what feels like A Hundred Years I have justified the self-imposed gagging of my MORE in the name of being GROWN UP. Hear me loud and clear . . . That Was A Mistake.
Through working and being a responsible employee; through marriage and being a loving wife; through parenting and being a dependable mom; through friendship and being a reliable friend—I gave up the essence of myself.
I thought there was something wrong with me; and I tried to make it right.
Sometimes we change so slowly, it is as if we are only losing dead skin—but then the pain of walking around without skin finally hits and we must make a change.
My partner-in-marriage seemed completely able to accept my flaws and imperfections over our many years together; it was my gifts he had a harder time with. And so I behaved in ways that were MORE tolerable.
Sometime in the last decade I watched the movie called, “A Walk on the Moon”. It was set in 1969, the period of history which claims Woodstock, and also the first moon landing. In the movie, the female lead—a married woman on summer holidays with her family—has an affair with the “Blouse man”.
There is much going on. Love. Risk. Faith. Family. Rules. Change. Loss. Reckoning.
The husband finds out about the affair. Eventually, the wife chooses to stay with her husband. There is a scene near the end that sticks in my head (I purposely did not check the internet for accuracy)— The wife is trying to explain her actions to her husband on the porch of the summer cottage. The radio is playing. When she tells him how much she has had to change herself within the marriage, I could feel the pain on the edges of her words. The husband says something like, “But I never asked you to change.”
Those words hit me hard. Are we supposed to change FOR others; are we supposed to live to an IDEAL the other holds; are we supposed to be THANKFUL for all that we have, and bury the dead?
I knew I had changed; I could see and feel the missing parts like apparitions in-waiting.
What I realized after the card game, and as I slowly see the spiritedness return throughout my life, is that he never asked me to change, but he also didn’t welcomed all-of-me to stay.