Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis. Maybe it’s symbolic. Maybe I’m simply returning to my roots. Whatever the cause, I have taken flight.
Some weeks back during a very rainy spell where we thought we’d never see the sun again, I stumbled across a viburnum-lined wall in the city and it made me smile. Here was something that thrived despite the gray drizzle. It came alive.
The lush green and dazzling white flowers spoke to me in a strange way. I remembered how much I loved to dance. I haven’t danced much in the past few years. I fear I’ve succumbed to the awful idea that when you near forty, you’re supposed to feel old. But the truth is, I don’t feel old. Maybe I feel wiser—I am more thoughtful with my time and whom I spend it with—but I don’t feel old, physically. I feel, well, pretty darn good.
I looked at the wall and thought to myself, You know what would be cool? To leap in front of it.
And with that idea, something inside me broke free.
I asked my husband to take a picture of me leaping in front of the wall. I didn’t care who was looking; didn’t care what anyone thought. I threw caution to the wind, challenged gravity and for a split second floated above the Earth.
Feeling bold, I posted the image on Instagram. This was me freeing myself from the burden of being self-conscious.
It felt good. I felt strong. I felt like me.
Soon after, I caught some negative comments about showing off. I talked to my daughter about them. While they were upsetting and made me feel a bit ashamed of myself, we both agreed that you can’t let others win at trying to make you feel small. In the wise words of a teen, “You do you.”
Our heart-to-heart gave me the idea to do more jumping and to do it as a mother-daughter exercise. I wanted her to see that you can still be active and joyful as an adult.
I called up my friend Leslie Fandrich who is an artist and the creator of the Feminist Art History IG feed. I figured she could help me explain why I was compelled to do this. Did other women use themselves as models in their own work? And if so, why?
I’m not going to restrict myself to who you think I am. I’m going to take up space.
Leslie said yes and explained the answer to the second question is as rich and varied as women themselves. But she did offer some thoughts about my project.
“In your case you’re reclaiming yourself and your youth and body and visibility. And that is a huge piece of why women started using their own bodies in feminist artwork in the 1970s. Women and their bodies in art are usually used as objects by men.
With your project you’re also saying to others ‘I’m not going to restrict myself to who you think I am. I’m going to take up space.’”
And when she said that, I felt totally badass. And it made sense. Leave it to an artist to help you make sense of your actions and your world. Honestly, where would we be without them?
There is room for everyone in this world. So please fight the urge to make yourself small to fit the narratives others have crafted for you. Yes, it can be scary, but you are worthy of being seen on your own terms.