I wrote the following in an extemporaneous manner. I truly had been brought back to a memory and felt I needed to explore it more. It didn’t occur to me why until I felt my way through it all:
I’m listening to a new song by Beck and it brings back a memory of being in a coffee house somewhere. I was young, in my twenties, and beautiful. I didn’t really know how beautiful I was and didn’t project beauty because of it. I felt more invisible than lovely. I may or may not have been on drugs, maybe coming down from some high or another. The feel of the Beck song brought me memories of other worldliness, a higher sense of myself.
It was sunny outside, bright light spills in the window box and over a couple that are sitting on the couch there. I am so jealous of them just because they appear to be a cool couple. “Cool.” I don’t think I’m in Chicago. I think maybe I’m visiting Heather in Colorado. No, I remember now. I’m in Minneapolis and I’ve just completed my second Outward Bound. I had four hours in Minneapolis to kill before going to the airport. I must have looked a bit Bohemian with only one backpack, dressed in camping gear and bitten to hell by mosquitoes. I was not in a relationship with anyone cool then. I was in another relationship with a guy that borrowed my stuff and ruined it, took money from me regularly and cheated on me. So the “cool” couple intrigued me.
There were no drugs, I was just high on the awareness that I was stronger than I had realized. Stronger physically and mentally than I knew I was. At the end of Outward Bound we sat in a circle and were asked to pick a person in the group to hear their impression of you from. I had not really formed any tight friendships with anyone on this trip; instead I had done my usual- flitted from one person to another. That way no one knew me too well. No one could see too intimately into my inner thoughts. There was one person I talked to more than the others but I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I wanted to hear from someone else. How did I appear to people that I didn’t really talk to? I picked an older gentleman from a Southern State.
“Lisa is an incredible young woman. She has re-defined my idea of what it means to be a lady.” I don’t know if I can really use quotes because these may not be his exact words, but they meant so much to me I know I remember closely what he said. “She is stronger than I used to think ladies could be. I come from a place where the men are expected to open doors for ladies, carry their bags and such. They are fragile and need protection. Lisa has made it clear to the men on this trip that she doesn’t need us to carry her things for her. When I saw her struggle the first time she lifted a canoe on her own I really wanted to take it from her. But then she lifted it and walked. The guys and I looked at each other and shrugged. She’s smart, she’s witty, she’s beautiful and she’s strong.”
I had never received a greater compliment in my life. I told him so and thanked him. We wrote letters to ourselves right after that. The letters were sent to us one year later to remind us of the strength we found in ourselves on that trip.
I am feeling weak today, old. I am scared. Perhaps a part of me allowed Beck to bring me back to that funky coffee shop in Minneapolis to remind me of how I felt that day. If I could feel so strong at twenty-eight I could find it in myself to feel it again.
I do not need a man to lift my canoe for me. I don’t need a man at all. I am smart, I am witty, I am beautiful and I am strong.