Becoming A Woman: Lesson One

Dear Daughters,

Aunty Mary came over on Saturday. I was supposed to be studying, but Aunty Mary showed up so all the studying got pushed aside. Sisters and sister fun is always priority. We lay in bed for a while and I made Aunty Mary try out my charcoal peel mask that came in the mail. We read through all grandma T's handwritten recipes and we laughed at how many times she wrote the recipe for cornbread, watergate cake, and biscuits. Now we know why she named her cat Biscuit. We looked through a pile of Tanigawa family photos in my hope chest. Mostly we talked about our favorite subject: being a mom. If you didn't know, it's all I've ever wanted to be. Same for Aunty Mary. Eventually we started talking about the days that you all were born. These are our favorite stories to tell and remember.

In the midst of re-telling these stories, Aunty Mary asked me what is something no one told me about childbirth, that I wish someone had. And I told her about baby blues and my experience with postpartum depression. No one ever tells you about that when you are pregnant. When I experienced it, I felt very alone.

And because of that conversation I've been thinking about you growing into a woman, and all the things I wish someone had told me about becoming a woman - but no one ever did. Lesson one -

You Are Enough.

Deep in the heart of a woman is a tiny voice with a great, big question - am I enough?

Smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough. A good enough cook, or life-partner, or mom. Many, many women live with this nagging little question consuming their days and stealing away moments to just be alive.

For a really, really long time I carried this great big question. It was a source of heartache and disappointment, and it was always begging for an answer. I thought my mom could answer it for me. I thought my husband could, or my children could. I thought my work could. I thought Facebook and Instagram likes could. Then one day, late in my 30's I realized that no one could answer this question for me. I had to answer it for myself. And when I did, my life changed.

My energy was no longer spent trying to prove that I was enough. I stopped looking for affirmation of myself in someone else's eyes. I tried new things and took risks without worrying about what everyone else would think. I made mistakes and didn't blame others for them because I knew that mistakes didn't define me didn't make me less worthy of love. I learned the subtle difference between not worrying what everyone thinks and not caring what anyone thinks.

I became more generous and genuine than I had ever been. I could be with others and be wholly interested and invested in the magical synergy that was created through our dialogue rather than being absorbed with anxiety over what they thought of me and if I was saying the right things to make them like me.

My dear, beautiful girls. I look at you and marvel at how you've grown. I celebrate your sass and daring confidence. Your humor and laughter. Your imagination and ability to create. I think you are amazing even when you are still and at rest. But no matter how incredible I know you are, you will still have to have an answer for your heart when it asks the question.

And when it does, this is what I hope you do. Whisper back, immediately - yes, I am enough. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in, open your eyes, and looking through your love glasses, begin to examine the beauty of others. Examine it as though you are on a mission to document every detail of the full-of-wonder human that they are. And then tell them. Jump and clap and exuberantly celebrate them. Silently hold and sit with them in their sacred moments of pain without trying to fix it or make it go away.

That's it. Big secret, huh. Must seem pretty silly and obvious to you. Love others as you love yourself. Love others first, and it will in turn plant seeds of love that grow within yourself. That's my first secret of being a woman.

I love you.

With all my heart,

Mom