you’ve come a long way, baby

by vanessagobes

i’ve been on a cleaning spree all weekend.  it began when my son came down with strep.  my husband took the girls up north to go skiing and i stayed home with the little man.  for the most part, he slept while i scoured every nook and cranny of my house.  i’m talking creepy basement closets, mudroom cubbies, behind the lazy susan in the kitchen corner cabinet…  whole hog.  the purge felt nearly blissful, undercut only by the inevitable shame attached to buying so many stupid things over the years.  i recycled as much as i could, but far too much junk was laid to rest in trash bins.

the rampage continued this morning – monday.  the kids left for school and i got busy clearing the useless contents of my personal space.  i started in my bathroom, tossing crusty bottles of hair gel and half-used hotel shampoo samples.  then i moved onto my closet, launching last decade’s kitten heels and tired pashminas into a box labeled “salvation army”.  i dumped loads of t-shirts and old sweaters into the same box without taking the time to consider if i’d wear them again.  it didn’t matter.  if someone else can use them, that’s what’s important.

i then scooted into my bedroom and pulled open the drawers to my nightstand.  i barely use these drawers.  they’re oversized and hard to open, so i don’t put anything in there that i need to access frequently.  as it turned out, my life’s story was buried inside:

a stained rasied-seal birth certificate for one “Vanessa Linsey Cronin”; a gold necklace given to me by my beloved gram who passed 7 years ago; a diary filled with pages cursing my father for leaving me when i was 11; unsent love letters to boys who broke my heart; calendars marked with cheerleading practices, key club meetings, midterm exams and sleepovers; a panty liner, random, i know, but it stirred the clear image of me at age 15, with a figure like flat stanley, pleading daily to the menstrual gods that i’d get my period; a little red monopoly hotel; expired immodium AD tablets – left over from my years of suffering from IBS, a time when i was so emotionally twisted up that i could barely leave my house for fear of pooping my pants; an autograph autobiography on rex trailer, an old time TV star who helped me put together the resume tape i schlepped down the east coast in hopes of landing a TV reporter gig, a gig i never got; postcards, maps and museum passes accumulated over several european adventures; a white silk rose from my wedding gown that i swapped out for a peach one for the big day; a funny sex kit i won at a winchester neighbor’s club yankee swap (too embarrassed to leave it for the trash man); a loving birthday card to me from my husband; my first baby’s hospital ID bracelet; a pile of books about buddhism and spirituality; a few pens, some yoga pose cards and a box of matches.

looking at all this stuff, i really felt for the girl i used to be.  though her life was pretty good, it wasn’t always easy for her.  as you can probably tell by the contents of the nightstand, that girl’s adolescence was emotionally challenging.  she experienced some real torment, some desperate times, some sadness and sickness.  but she was a survivor.  shit happened and she found a way to make it better.  she cried then laughed then cried again.  but in the end she was just fine.  she got involved, had some fun and dreamed big.

sifting through these relics, i saw the progression of things – how that girl overcame one obstacle at a time.  sometimes alone, sometimes with help.  but she forgave, she worked hard, she acted on good advice, she never said no to an adventure, and she remained hopeful.

life has continued to move along, the young girl’s patterns and tendencies creating the woman i am today.  sometimes i think about my herstory and wince, happy it’s in the past.  sometimes i look back and smile upon fond memories tucked away in a fuzzy thought bubble.

it’s the goodness, to which i was able to cling, that overpowered the angry, insecure, disappointed, lost kid i used to be.  i still have my shortcomings – the same ones that have haunted me all my life.  i’m messy, i procrastinate, i talk too much, i’m a terrible eater, i’m too sassy to my husband, i hate to exercise, i’m jealous, i give up on things easily.  but these qualities are very manageable now.

i think they are manageable because i love myself just the way i am.  good at some things, bad at others.  some people like me, some don’t.  some things i screw up, some i kick ass.  i don’t need to spin my wheels trying to reach the unreachable goal of perfection.  because when i’m perfect i’ll either be enlightened or dead.  and based on the rate of awakening i’m experiencing these days, death will come sooner than enlightenment.  so why not just accept myself as i am and spare myself years of frustration.

the point is, we don’t have to define ourselves by who we used to be.  we can clear out those unhealthy habits and traits like we’re clearing out a drawer full of junk.  it’s just a matter of deciding that it’s time to let go of the clutter.

from mine to yours,


p.s.  feel free to share this with other formerly flat 15 year old girls…  or anyone who might like the story for that matter.


first grade, front row left, shortest (always the shortest) kid in my class.