Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Look What They’ve Done to my Song, Ma.

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I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman. Crazy I know. But the truth is, I really only know what it feels like to be me. And to make matters even more ambiguous, I only know what it feels like to be me at this very moment. Like most people, I’ve been changing since the day I was born. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Intellectually. In every conceivable way, I’ve changed. And so have my feelings and perceptions of myself. Ergo, the only “me” I really know is the one right here, right now, typing these words.

Lately I’ve been thinking about gender fluidity, a term I must admit I’d never heard of, until I read this bit online about Miley Cyrus, where she said that she was gender fluid. Although I’m not entirely clear on what this means, something about it resonated with me. I know, more crazy talk. Me? Miley? Worlds apart, right?

And then I watched one of her Backyard Sessions with Melanie Safka and thought maybe we aren’t all that different. Maybe no one is. Is it possible that human beings, from all different walks of life, have more in common than not? And that we all defy being defined, limited and restricted?

The pair was performing an old tune of Melanie’s, and one of my all-time favorites, called Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma. And in that moment, I was charmed. I had loved Melanie back in the day, and truthfully I thought she was dead. But there she was, as beautiful and quirky and amazing as ever. Watching her and Miley took me back to my bedroom floor at 204. I used to lie on my back, with my head right next to the record player, with my eyes closed, and belt out this song over and over and over. I couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s funny how things go round and round. Like that song. It came to mind a few years ago when I wrote this love song for Eric for our wedding. A very talented bluegrass musician was helping me refine and polish it. He was also attempting to teach me bluegrass guitar, which was undoubtedly frustrating for both of us. And let me stop here to say, I’m not a bluegrass musician, Eric is.

During that time, when the bluegrass musician and I were working on my song, we had very different opinions on how it should sound. To him, it was bluegrass all the way. But to me, it was a sweet little folk tune with a hint of an Irish lilt in its cadence. At one point in the song-making process we were camped in completely different worlds. But in the end, Fragile Moment landed happily in the most harmonious place within my beating heart. Not my vision going in, but exceeding all expectations when it was done.

But in the beginning, I’d come home from one of our sessions and think, ‘look what he’s done to my song, Ma.’

So there’s Melanie’s song and there’s Miley’s backyard. And then there’s me, and this gender fluidity, that makes sense on some level, despite not fully understanding. But I am intrigued. In fact, so much so, that I declared to my youngest daughter the other night, that I think I’m gender fluid.

“When did this happen?” she asked sardonically. Admittedly, a very reasonable question for her to pose, especially to me, a person who has been known to utter lots of utter nonsense but nothing of this ilk. If I could have read her mind, I’m pretty sure she was thinking, ‘what the fuck mother.’

“When I stopped having my period,” I blurted.

I don’t know what made me say that. But I do know, that around the same time, Ma died, and then The Old Man did too, and then I started to feel differently about everything. Including myself. The “me” I thought was me was being whipped and refashioned by this menopausal hurricane. I’d had the first real brush with my mortality and it scared the shit out of me. The worst thing was, much of the time, I felt irrelevant, insignificant and invisible. I loathed feeling irrelevant and insignificant. My feelings were hurt. I felt unloved by the universe. But I have to say there was something incredibly liberating about feeling invisible. I was flying effortlessly under the radar and for the very first time in my life I felt free to say and do whatever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t causing harm to others or myself.

Since my period stopped I’ve started. And like Miley, I’m just me.

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Backyard Sessions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX9A5vv-jOM

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Snapshot of Ma in the Driveway at 204.

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Ma stood in the driveway waiting for her sister Hazel to come and pick her up to go shopping at Intercity. I sat in the orange plaid swivel rocker and watched her from the living room window.

The sky was clear and blue and the snow was crisp and clean. The snow banks were so high on either side of the driveway entrance that they dwarfed Ma’s already small frame. She was wearing her gray fake fur coat. I don’t know what animal it was imitating. Her purse was draped across her chest. She wasn’t wearing a hat.

While she was waiting, she traced the snow in an arc with the toe of her boot. Like a windshield wiper. Back and forth. Every now and then she would pause and look down the street for my Auntie Hazel’s car.

Her cheeks were blushed red from the cold air and her dark eyes were so bright and alive. I had to remind myself that she was well into her seventies.

I will always remember her that way. The image of her at the end of the driveway, with the winter sun shining its pure radiant light on that particular spot, in that particular solitary moment, and on that particular woman, just for me to see. To bear witness.

And in that sacred, intimate and private moment, my heart was overflowing with tenderness. And love.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Create the Soundtrack of Your Life.

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Girl Warrior. Create the soundtrack for your life. You’ve got the music in you. Let it out. Wherever. Whenever. Don’t be shy about this. Or embarrassed. Don’t listen to your inner judge. The one that says you’re tone deaf. Can’t carry a tune. Or have no talent. For it’s not about that. It’s about joy and wild abandon. Glee and harmony in hard places.

It’s one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and spirit. So get musical. From your bobbing head to your tapping toes. Put a song in your heart. Let it rest easy in your soul. And flow through your veins like Tupelo Honey.

Pick up an instrument. Shake a tambourine. Beat a bongo drum. Stomp your feet. Snap your fingers. Clap your hands. Play the air guitar. Sing in the shower. Or while driving the truck. Join a choir. Or form a girls’ band. You don’t have to be a virtuoso musician. You don’t even have to be any good. In fact, you can be terrifically terrible. There are far worse things Girl Warrior.

Like dying with the music still locked inside you.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Snapshot of Mel at Four.

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Melissa sat in the brown Rubbermaid laundry hamper hugging her knees. She was wearing her over-sized blue sweatshirt with the Dalmatians on the front and purple leggings. Her feet were bare and pale.

She had pulled the hamper out of the closet and placed it in front of the television in my bedroom. Her petite body was fully contained with only her head peering out of the top like a sprung jack-in-the-box.

I don’t know if it was something she saw on TV, something someone said perhaps. I don’t recall. But she turned to me and said, with the simple unvarnished directness of a four-year old, “I believe in God.” In that moment, I saw her ancient soul. The one that had been around since the beginning of time.  The wise One.

And in that holy moment, for it truly was divine, I was envious of this sweet wide-eyed child of mine. Because at four, she was so resolute and confident in this elusive thing called faith.

And I was not.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Be Generous.

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Girl Warrior. Be generous. In every way. With everything and everybody. Don’t be stingy. Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things. Never covet. Give of what you have. What you know. Give a little. Or give a lot. But give. And forgive. For that is the ultimate gift. To others. To yourself.

Give it all away without hesitation. And watch it all come back in miraculous ways. Go out there and be someone’s blessing. You will be blessed in return.

It’s the way of the Girl Warrior.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Dress the Part.

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Girl Warrior. Dress the part. Every Girl Warrior should have a costume. Something that is uniquely her. At first blush, it might look just like someone else’s. Don’t be fooled. No two Girl Warriors wear their costumes in the same way. This is your personal power suit. Put it on.

Strut your stuff. Don’t apologize for the cut, color or condition. Walk. Run. Skip to my Lou. Black leather jacket. Frilly blouse. Skinny jeans. Mini skirt. Floor length gown. A sundress blooming with flowers. Floppy hat. Or fascinator. A pinstriped suit. Kick-ass boots. Red stiletto shoes.

It’s not about fashion. It’s about expression. Wearing the inside out. It’s about attitude. Character. Originality. You are a rare bird Girl Warrior. Know this.

So put on your cape. And fly.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Take Good Care of Yourself.

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Girl Warrior. Take good care of yourself. Do whatever it takes to be physically healthy. All the days of your life. Do it for yourself. And for all the people who love you. Be active in every arena of your life.

Find the thing that moves you. Go to the gym. Take a fitness class. Play a sport. Be part of the team. Or go it alone. Do the Sun Salutation every morning in the tranquility of your bedroom. Walk the dog after supper. Chase the cat around the yard. Climb a mountain. Run down the hill. Swim circles around the competition. Pole dance. Or plié at the barre. Go fly a kite. Or paddle a canoe.

Whatever floats your boat. Makes you feel alive and well in your skin. You don’t have to master it. You just have to do it. Get off the couch, away from the table, or out of the bed. That’s half the battle. You need to be strong Girl Warrior. Fit as a fiddle and in fighting form.

Ready for anything.

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