This girl. This young woman. Nearly twenty seven years later, I can look at her now with such love.

She didn’t love herself, not back then. She didn’t know how. All she knew was that she wanted happiness, and she believed what she’d been taught. That love and happiness would come in the form of a traditional marriage, preferably with a son and a daughter, in that order. Along with a cat and a dog. And this was before the days of minivan decals in those shapes.

If she could be a good wife, a good mother, she’d live happily ever after. so she crammed down her real dreams – of living wild, living free, living within a tribe, on wide open land that smells of mama earth herself. She forgot those visions, which came so early in life to her, she learned her lessons well. And she chose a good man, one who she believed she loved, and was quite sure would be able to love her.

It was a really good plan. And if things had gone according to all that she’d been taught by the world around her, it would have worked. She certainly tried. He did too. They had a much wished for child, had the dogs, gave up on the cats so as to avoid allergies.

It wasn’t bad, and often it was good. She did her best to follow the rules, even as her body protested with illness and injury and imbalance. She took her medicine and tried harder. She took in all that she, he, the world believed was wrong with her and she tried some more.

Until one day, she couldn’t anymore. She stopped trying so hard, stopped putting the whole world ahead of her heart. Stopped wearing the masks, and eventually the makeup. Over the years, she made room for peace within.

And her heart began to speak to her. In her dreams, mostly, and she began to remember who she was. How good she was, despite all the criticism she’d heard. And in time, she found her way home.

She found that place that held the smells she recognized from eons before. She remembered that she belonged there, where she could be free. And wild. And home with those who had always known her, and had seen her in their dreams. Had called her back and lit the way through the brilliance of their hearts.

Once she found all that, there was nowhere else to be. So she took a series of leaps, big ones. Even though those leaps – that she herself – tore asunder all that she’d been told God had brought together. Though she could feel God smiling on all this too, feeding her dreams that helped her find her way.

Somewhere along the line, the light came back into her eyes, helping her see so clearly that she could not deny herself, the place, the people. She loved herself enough to go, finally understanding that all she had walked through was all for this.

This girl. This young woman. She is older, wiser, has more lines on her face. And she’s where she belongs.