There’s a bridge that intersects childhood and womanhood. For a while my body has been sitting on the womanhood side of the bridge. However it has taken my mind and heart a little while longer to cross the bridge. My body has been sitting on the other side waiting and waiting…and patiently waiting.
Mind and Heart stand on the opposite side. Heart clings to the railing of childhood. Mind stands behind her.
“I can’t do this!” Heart called to Body.
“Please just come!” Body yelled back, “I promise you’ll be okay.”
“It’s not safe.” Mind insisted
“Yes, it is safe!” I’ve been safely waiting over here for forever. Womanhood will not kill you. So get a grip!” Body said
“I do have a grip!” Heart shouted
“On the childhood side of the bridge.” Body scoffed
“Yes! Of course. The best side of the bridge.” Heart chuckled nervously, on the verge of tears.
“We can’t do this!” Mind hollered
“Yes, you can.” Body yelled, “You just cross the bridge. Childhood, teenage-hood will be in your memory but you cannot stay in the past. So please take a step forward! I need you!”
“You need me?” Mind inquired
“Yeah! I need you to make wise choices for me and for us.” Body said, “Choices about what we eat, when we sleep and the person we want to become. We are a complete being, but we cannot function if we don’t act like a unit.”
“Do you need ME?” Heart asked angrily, feeling jealous.
“Yes. Of course!” Body said, “You keep things going with your big dreams, and creativity. You pump life into the system. You are a big part of the unit, but you must cross the bridge into womanhood.”
Heart clung tightly to the railing of childhood, “Okay, but I don’t feel like a woman. Can I cross the bridge and still be a girl?”
“You could?” Body said, “But technically you’d be a woman. You actually already are a woman. For several years you’ve been a woman whether you feel like it or not. However I NEED you, you too, Mind, to cross the bridge. I can’t do this without you.”
“No, no, no, no, no!” Heart slammed on the railing, “I NEED to stay here!”
“Why?” Body insisted
“Uh, it’s not safe!” Mind repeated, “You see, the bridge is made of wood and if the wood breaks then we could fall through. Then we’d have to run and try to jump off the cliff to cross to the other side. That’s even more unsafe. So we’ll just stay here. Sorry!”
Body tensed, “Oh my gosh! If you cross the freaking bridge then you won’t have to jump across the cliff. So just cross the fucking bridge! The world is moving along. Life is moving along and I can’t wait for you losers anymore!”
“NO!” Heart screamed
“WHY!?” Body screamed back
“Because!” Heart yelled
“Because why?” Body hollered, “Why? Why can’t you just cross the bridge and help me out?”
“Because I’m not good enough! Ok? I’m not good enough to be a woman. I can’t do it! There’s too much expectation and underestimation. There’s too much responsibility, pain, heartache, and irrational hope. I’m just not ever pretty enough, hardworking enough, and in all other ways good enough to be a woman. So, no!” Heart faltered, tears streaming down, “I won’t cross the bridge. I can’t cross the bridge.”
The breeze swept up the leaves and woke up the trees. Heart still held the railing but she couldn’t stand anymore.
Body took a breath for Heart and herself. Now she understood. She took another breath, “It’s okay, Heart. You can be scared. I’m scared too. It’s scary being on this side without you, but I had no choice. It was just something I had to do, but I’m deeply malnourished, tired, and bored. I need your love, Heart! I’ve missed you so much. I miss you too, Mind. Please cross over.”
“Uh…I don’t know.” Mind hesitated, “I can’t leave Heart alone right now. I miss you too. It would be nice to be a unit, but I’m not unit material. I mean…I mean I could be, but I just can’t. I mean I…feel similar to Heart. I’m not smart enough to be a woman, confident enough, or fast enough. I’m just not cut out for it. I’m not fully equipped. I need to know so much, preferably everything, before I can think like a real woman. One who’s mature, who can make wise choices, one who doesn’t get flustered easily, or who cowers at love, life, and life itself. I’m sorry I’ll just never be able to live up to the standards of womanhood.”
Body sat motionless, staring blankly across the bridge. The water below sparkled and reflected pockets of light. The clouds rolled over the blue sky like a cartoon and the breeze continued to play with the trees.
Heart and Mind commiserated on the childhood side for a while. They had out grown this side of the bridge long ago, but they could not bare to cross the divide. So they wrestled with themselves and each other for years. Every once in a while calling across the bridge to Body to apologize.
“We’re sorry!” They’d say
Exasperated, Body would yell back, “Yeah! I bet you are!”
“We are!” Heart would say
“We just need more time!” Mind would add
“You said that 4 years ago!” Body clenched her fists, “You say that every damn year!”
“More time…please!” Heart said helplessly
“One day I will be dead.” Body said, “In fact I could drop dead anytime now. So by all means just stay stuck on the other side. It’s fine!”
At some point each year Mind would force Heart into a serious conversation. They’d look at Body on the other side, lying flat on her back, looking up at the sky, and motionless. This year the conversation was hard to ignore.
“Heart” Mind began, “Each year Body’s condition gets more serious. Her need for attention, wise, mature, balanced, loving attention becomes more evident. Life IS moving. It has been for a long time. Do we really want to keep coasting through the world like this?”
“No, I don’t.” Heart says reluctantly, “But…”
“But what?” Mind wonders
“But it’s just…”
“Just what?” Mind urges
“It’s too hard and scary and hard, and I just don’t want to.”
“But you do want to.” Mind says, “I know you want to. You’ve wanted to for a while.”
Heart heaved a sigh, “I want to appear less childish and more grown up to others. I want to feel and be authentic without feeling like it’s dumb, or that I’m small or that the space I take up in the world isn’t a waste. I want that so badly, but being a woman just feels wrong. It feels too big for me. It feels far fetched. The word itself just doesn’t sound right, or feel right coming out of our mouth.”
“I get that.” Mind says, “I can’t even think the word without cringing, but womanhood is here. According to our birth certificate we are well into…you know, womanhood.”
“Ugh…I know! I know. I know, but also no!” Heart exclaims, “It’s too much. It’s all too big. I know we’ve neglected Body for…years. I feel really badly about that but crossing the great divide could be a disaster. No, it’s just going to be a disaster!”
“Heart” Mind says, sitting close, “It’s already been pretty close to disastrous. I mean look at Body. She’s not doing so well. Feel Body. Get quiet for a second and feel Body. How does Body feel?”
After a moment Heart jumped up and started pacing, “She’s really hungry, unsatisfied and barely hanging on, but you know, somehow she seems to be kind of fine so let’s just go.”
“Go? What?” Mind says, anxiously, grabbing Heart, “Kind of fine? Is that what you just said? That’s not okay, Heart. She is not fine, alright? She’s not even kind of fine. And you know I’m not kind of fine either. I can’t even think straight I’m so tired. You are definitely not fine. You’ve been all over the place for years. You know now that I think about it I have no idea how we have survived this long! Some friends have said we’re strong but I don’t know anymore. How did this happen? How did we get here? Where are we exactly? Nothing makes any sense anymore!” Mind begins to cry
“Whoa.” Heart says, “Wow. You are tired. Why don’t you just sit down and watch this, and I will be right back.”
“Wait! Where are you going?” Mind says in distress, “Don’t leave me here alone!”
“I won’t. I mean, I’m not! I’ll be right back. You watch that movie and I’ll be back before it’s over.” Heart walks to the bridge.
She looks at the sparkling water, the sky, the clouds, the light that dances down below and Body looking haggard on the other side of the bridge. Heart sits down. She sits quietly for a while. She feels the weight of her emotions, of Mind’s many thoughts, and of Body’s exhaustion.
“I’m really sorry” she whispers, “I don’t know why I can’t get it together. I know lots of hearts that have managed to beat from childhood to adulthood with no problem. They may still get scared, but they seem to be able to do things without getting sucked into the dark. And if they do get sucked into the dark they are really good at not looking defeated.”
“How do you know that?” Body says, rolling over to face Heart across the bridge
Heart looks up and stares straight at Body from her side of the bridge, “It just feels that way. Everyone knows when I’m scared, or distressed, or uncomfortable. I make it so painfully obvious and I hate it. Other people seem to just mask how they feel. They paint a big smile on their face and tell me to be happy too. So I don’t want to cross the bridge if I have to fake it till I make it, or practice inauthenticity.”
“So don’t.” Body says, sitting up, “I like the way you beat. There’s nothing wrong with the way you are.”
“Thanks.” Heart says, shyly, “But I don’t know…there’s still so much more…that holds me back. I wonder if I’ll be strong enough to last through a full-time job for more then a few months, or take care of a future house, or even an apartment, and the bills, and make sure to get enough food, but not too much that it spoils. I wonder how to do all that and maintain relationships in life, especially when they are so far away. I wonder how every woman on screen, or actress on stage, or women in business find the strength to get up each day and go to work. How do they do it?”
“I don’t know.” Body says, “I guess they just really want it, or really need it, so they just do it. Sometimes you just have to do it. Like eating, for example, sometimes you just have to put some kind of meal together and eat it. Sometimes you just have to get in bed, close your eyes and sleep. You just do it.”
“Okay, okay, geez!” Heart snarls, “I get it. I’m really sorry I abandoned you for so long, but facing you, Body, meant having to cross the bridge. I just couldn’t do it. Sometimes I can’t even handle being a girl!”
“Would you rather be a boy?” Body asks, tentatively, “I mean, I guess…well it feels a little late for me, but I could get surgery if you wanted?”
“Oh, no! No. Whoa, no!” Heart urges, “Please don’t do that. That’s not necessary! Like at all! I like being a girl. You don’t have to change, Body. I mean, sometimes I wish you had slightly bigger breasts and that you weren’t so tall.”
“What’s the matter with small breasts and being tall?” Body observes herself, uncomfortably.
“I just don’t like it.”
“Heart!” Body scolds
“And sometimes I wish you didn’t have to go through a reproductive cycle.” Heart says genuinely
“Oh. Yeah. I wish that too.” Body says
Heart says, “But mostly I wish I wasn’t so embarrassed about it.”
“You’re embarrassed about it?” Body asks
“Yeah. I am. I’m embarrassed about how I’ve shown up so far and many other things. I wish I wasn’t and I wish I hadn’t been so childish, slow, and all over the place.” Heart sighs, “But I was and I can’t take any of it back. That sucks! It really sucks!”
“It does suck, but what are you going to do? What else can you do? You can’t go backwards.”
“I know!” Heart says, impatiently
Body didn’t take offense. She shrugged it off, “And you can’t stay where you are for too much longer. So where does that lead you?”
“F…fuuu…forward.” Heart says, cringing
“Yeah.” Body says, “Just one step. One step forward. That’s all it takes.”