She is who I am…

This afternoon’s instructor asked us to quiet our minds and then let whatever came to surface have space in our thoughts. This is a scary request for someone with a mind like mine…a past like mine. The never-ending mechanical whir of my brain being asked to make room for only one thought is intimidating…and yet that is the why behind yoga…the thing that drags me to the mat…the pull of my practice.

As I stood in samasthiti in a quiet darkened room full of other people’s energy, I slowed my mind, folded my hands at heart center, and tried to obey the instructions. As my mind changed from whirling dervish to second hand on a old clock and my breath began to match the universal pace of breathing in the room, I heard a thought rumble in my mind. The kind bass gravel of my Dad’s voice saying “Lee-Li-Lou.”

This alliteration. These three simple sounds. This nickname.

My pulse quickened for a moment…then slowed in a wave of easy comfort…security. A nickname not spoken often in recent years. In adulthood, as my father and I became strangers to one another, he stopped using this gentle term of endearment. I do not like being called by nicknames. I answer to them only for the most special of people, tolerate them from some, and shut them down in all other cases.

But my father…my daddy…my dad…he can call me LeeLiLou.

For in those three little syllables lies a world of security, safety  and identity. It’s rolled up in the trust of a daughter for her strong, handsome father. It’s sweet to the ears of the little girl lost who still lives in the grown woman. It’s a name spoken in the farthest reaches of my mind…spoken today in the clear space…in the calm…in the changed woman.

Before there was a damaged little person with the weight of the world on her shoulders, there was LeeLiLou.

She of the fierce independence  She with the crazy hair and reckless laughter. She who could scowl with her eyes, put a smile on her face, and deliver a message with a look. She whose very existence was a challenge to anyone who would think to put her down, ask her to hide her light, or tell her she wasn’t enough. She of the brave, funny, mouthy, and soulful.

Before there was ice in these veins, there was fire. Before there was fear, there was fearless love. Before there was hesitation, there was a little actress, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a gymnast, a teacher, & a doctor. These were the dreams of the sassy and promises of the Divine.

fixed lll

I keep this picture in my meditation space because this is a picture of undamaged, unafraid, unabashedly joyful with a kick ass tan, frizzy hair, fight in her eyes, and a smile on her face.

My mother has a different story about this picture…something like “bratty youngest child who cried until she got her way.”

What she doesn’t know is that though I was only 3 years old, I remember every detail of this day. I remember it as one of the last big wins before a series of losses. I picked the day of this picture. I picked the outfit. I picked the doll I got for finally taking these pictures on the 3rd attempt. I smiled the smile I wanted to smile. My eyes say what I want them to say.

Spoiled? Maybe.

In full control of my spirit at 3 years old? Completely.

And for the record…I’ve spent the last 10 years getting that girl back. Every therapy session…every fight to have what is mine at work…every time I’ve spoken up on my own behalf personally, professionally or spiritually…every difficult conversation with a family member…every breakup with a guy who wasn’t man enough…every dime earned…every story written…every dance danced…every song sung.


Taking me back…back to being her.

Like her or not, she’s my hero.

She is who I was…and by God…she is who I am.

3 thoughts on “She is who I am…

  1. When you set out that paragraph to describe LeeLiLou, I thought–that is so Leah. Of course I read on through the changes you observe and the longing to get that you back.

    I know that picture has suffered and not only the passage of time, but she isn’t unfamiliar to those who’ve been blessed to spend time w/ you. I wish you every blessing for her full, healthy, victorious return.

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