Today I have been consumed by an unpleasant feeling that I have yet to fully understand but it was related to the personal challenge I set myself - was it only yesterday? I will let you judge the outcome (so flippant - it's easy to be judged by a readership of none!). I was at the park soaking up a day that everyone wishes they could dial up as easily as a pizza - sunny, squirrely and bright - dogs and children lolling about the park - the buzz of the community interrupted only by the constant wail of Washington DC sirens. Perhaps it was that I didn't belong, I was an interloper, external to the essence of the day, that I found myself suddenly naked and vulnerable in a small park in Capitol Hill.
Of course, I am speaking metaphorically, and I am sure that my fellow park-goers would appreciate this - if only they knew! I was working away on my lit review, showering in rays of vitamin D, when a young guy came and sat about two seats away from me and began singing Kanye West - Love Locked Down. It was melodic and haunting, and I found myself thinking of yesterday's blog commitment - 100 blogs of everyday people's stories. I smiled at him several times thinking that I undoubtedly had the perfect subject there for my blog-a-thon - but, guess what happened? (I know, there is no suspense here). I chickened out. Before he had even got through the second refrain he skittered out of the park, and the look on his face betrayed his thought that he was about to be attacked by a rabid cougar...ah...um...roar??...
Then I spotted my next victim - an elderly lady shuffling around the park, her socks half-mast and wilted in the summer heat, her face scorched with wrinkles scratched in with the pen of life. If I couldn't catch her with my wit I at least had a pretense under which to offer her a seat. I scrunched my bag and books up to make sure the space was available. She shuffled closer, scrutinising the pot-hole ridden brick pathway for possible obstacles. Here she came. I had the perfect opening..."You have to be careful for the pot-holes!" Okay, so it wasn't particularly creative. But she did talk back. "Yes," she said in a thick accent from I don't know where, "particularly along this bit." "Still," I hear myself saying in my simpering and lisping voice (as opposed to the sexy, strong voice that I used to think I owned before I heard myself sing) "it's nice weather for it." She nodded. She shuffled off. It's nice weather for it???? Another opportunity missed.
So there I was naked in Capitol Hill. I had exposed myself to two people and had baulked both times. They put show-jumping horses down for less. I suddenly lost heart, my uselessness verified. I thought back to my journey to purchase food. I had been stalking to the food court at Pentagon City when I was accosted by a twenty-year old Israeli girl desiring to sell me outrageously priced moisturiser from the Dead Sea. Imprisoned on the make up seat in the full glare of harsh lights and mall pedestrians, the Israeli girl had tried vainly to excoriate my face of its laugh lines. Failing to strip the life from my face she resorted to stripping my self-confidence with her fierce criticism of my wrinkles ("You surely don't use anything on that skin do you? It's in such bad shape!"). After that cruel and unusual punishment I visited the food court three times. All three times I had so little confidence that I was unable to decide what I wanted to eat, and exquisitely conscious that the act of chewing might turn my wrinkles even further into doughy, deep crevasses. Hopeless.
Introspection followed then, as it did today. Today I decided that these were issues of identity. Who am I and who I am trying to be? Being in Washington has stripped me of my strengths, of every important marker that I use to identify myself - as a wife, a mother, a friend. Instead I am left only with the bones of me. I don't have to do anything, I can do what I want, only I'm not entirely comfortable with myself, or by myself. I'm naked. But you know, at the end of a long day of soul searching I've decided - so what? Naked's okay as long as the weather doesn't change.
I'll try again tomorrow.