Today, at around 3:00pm, women from around the world are going to show up to my retreat, and I just need to take a second and let that sink to the bottom, and rise to the top, at the same time. Because life is life, and in the tornado of motherhood, I forgot that in 10 hours, one of my most giantest, and longest held, dreams is going to materialize.
Gather the women.
It's been a calling of mine since as long as I can remember. Scrappy voice, skinned elbows, scrawny and awkward but super determined, kind of like a single blade of grass growing all bendy and thin from the smallest crack in the driveway pavement. My recipe has always called for equal parts hot mess and fierce warrior. It means I speak out the truth before it's refined and fight for what's right with my shirt accidentally on backwards. It's always been this way, and I never let it stop me. Sisterhood has always been what I'm here to preserve, with bandaids on both knees.
In college, I studied/fell madly in love with feminist artist Judy Chicago, and even made a tiny vagina plate shrine for my desk to help me remember what I was born to do. Her Womanhouse project made me cry the kinds of tears that come when you realize, with brutal clarity, why you were born.
And this morning I woke up before my alarm, and all of this came slamming back into my consciousness. Because I packed away my plate, and I began to fill my journal pages with more things like, "Why the fuck can't we find the right high school for Braedon?" and less things like, "My top ten favorite graduate schools for me to study feminist art history someday..." I'm sure that the grandmother voices who have ushered me along in every single endeavor worth doing were still whispering in my ear, I just couldn't hear them over the screaming chorus of Mom Guilt.
Today a group of incredible women from around the world will come together tucked away under ancient cedar trees, surrounded by books and tea and deer and endless homemade bone broth on tap. And visiting female artists from around Austin will visit us and teach us how to make things like "Fuck-it embroidered lavender eye pillows." And I have no clue what is about to unfold, but I know we will sit side by side and we will work with our hands and we will replenish the life-sustaining sister-love that is needed to make it in this world. Just like women have done since the beginning of time. What? You think we were weaving baskets around the fire, while our cavemen were out hunting, talking about the weather? Fuck, no! We were complaining about our partners and crying about our losses and celebrating the fuck out of our resiliency.
Sisterhood is a survival skill, and that is what this weekend is all about: resuscitation in the name of art.
We are going to road trip to super sacred river waters, way passed the point where phones lose all signal. We are going to laugh and maybe cry and definitely remember.
And I did this. I made this. I slayed the snarling dragons of self doubt and shame with a sword made only of blind and blundering courage. I didn't know what the fuck I was doing every single step of the way. But I did it.
And maybe that's so important for you to know.
I was planning on waiting to write anything until after the retreat was all over. When I had a collection of photographs from everyone to share, shouting memories like rap battles back and forth until the mic gets dropped in an epic black and white of hands held tight under the Texas sky. But before this thing even begins, there is a thing worth noting: There is no logical or historically anchored reason I should be leading a retreat in 9 hours, and truthfully the odds have been against me since my first gulp of earthside air, and yet, here I am.
I was born to do my little part in reminding women of their/our power. And even though I've been doing that with River Story for years and years, this gathering feels like HOLD ON. I am about to step into a drawing I made in a journal 15 years ago. Like stop everything just for a single second. It's kind of profound. And then, (and here is why I am even writing this) at the same time, I'm honestly just like holy fucking shit, this is not what I thought it looked like when you step into your wildest and most sincere purpose.
For starters, I thought I'd have my shit together a little bit more. I thought my hair would be washed. I thought I'd have something resembling an actual outfit, and not hand me down yoga attire, to wear. I thought I'd have a PhD or at least a fancy car.
I guess I also assumed that by now I'd be able to eat at Taco Bell without panicking over wether or not I think I saw the cashier slip me a ruffy. I assumed I'd have some sort of magical breathing technique that dispels all anxiety, instantly, so that I wasn't having a mild, but very real, panic attack while packing my car. I thought I'd spend my waking hours looking out of my floor-to-ceiling office window at the sweeping ocean views, typing away on my bestsellers, while my children and husband lived without any sort of pain of any kind, ever. I'd be on the other side of things with the greener grass and the ironed clothing. I mean, right? I mean who wakes up kind of sweaty in a way too big "Polite as Fuck" sweatshirt because her daughter kicks her square in the face at 4:00am on the morning of her sacred sisterhood slumber party River Retreat and then goes online to pay her water bill? Where was that magazine cutout on my manifestation board collage in the summer of '98?
So I forgot. Because I am in the middle of being an actual human being and not a staged instagram photo, and because, all of the real life. I forgot that I am fucking doing it! I am living the life of my dreams. I am gathering the women and continuing the Womanhouse work of one of my biggest heroes of all time, WHILE FOLDING THE DAMN LAUNDRY AND DRIVING TO AND FROM BALLET CLASS WITH UNMATCHED SOCKS.
I am doing it the only way I have ever done anything: by being the mighty-little-train-wreck-that-actually-never-really-crashes-but-kind-of-looks-like-she-did, that I've always been.
Sometimes I don't want to write things because it sounds like I'm a raging ego-maniac. Like who the heck cares, Michelle. But then I think, no wait. I bet there is someone else out there just left of having it all figured out, and they need to know that they aren't alone and they need to keep going. Maybe there's someone else who loves being a Mother more than life and also knows she has a purpose all her own to fulfill, and maybe she needs to know that I fully support her. And she doesn't need to wait to feel better/easier/prettier. And it's OK to just put one foot in front of the other.
Also, my writing serves as little trail markers for me. I'll admit that 99% of what I spill is totally selfish. Because I lose my way, and I get super disoriented, and I need these little warrior paint marks on the sides of the trees to get my scrappy self back on track. These posts are basically letters to myself to be like, hey, lady, stop worrying so much about Braedon's egg-drop science project and wether or not it will have an effect on his chances of getting a full scholarship to his dream college, and just take like two fucking seconds to look at what you've done. Look at what love can build, even when that love is hopelessly imperfect. Especially, actually.
It's no longer a matter of when, because it's here. Today. My dream is my reality. And that's some potent stuff. But/and for now, my son's alarm just went off which means it's time for me to make some pancakes, and check some history homework, and re-start my load of towels in the laundry that I left overnight, and then later on I'll show up to a magical thicket in the woods, and hold some seriously sacred space for fierce primal feminine brilliance, and it's all here at the same time, together, and that, I'm realizing, is the gift.