It was a fall weekend, and I was probably 12 years old. Other girls had gotten their periods already, had had them for a few years by that point. I don't know why I was kind of envious of them, except that I've always been in a rush to grow up, only to then grow up, survey the room, and think, Woof, nevermind!
That fall weekend, I remember shopping with my mom, walking the hallowed halls of Mervyn's, or maybe it was JCPenney, or Sears. Times were simple, and I was happy to be strolling the shopping racks for something, anything. This place had everything I could have used at least one time or been content to stare at in my overstuffed closet and dressers, but nothing I really wanted or actually needed.
Then, gasp! Something caught my eye! A clear plastic tube, about the length of a pencil case but double the width, holding within it: a bra. Not a real bra. A folded-up tube top thing that was really just a thin swath of sheeny tan material, with tiny bands of elastic lining the top and the bottom (though "top" and "bottom" were merely interchangeable terms), the kind of shoddy elastic that leaves itchy indentations in your skin after twenty minutes. No padding, no wires. Just stretchy fabric and the promise that I'd be maturing out of pre-teendom and into the world of whatever no good these fools were up to on 90210.
"MOM!!!! Can I have this!!???"
I skipped regular asking and went straight to pleading. Mom looked at the plastic tube that I held up to her face, read however much of the packaging she needed to know her answer, looked back at me, dead in my eyes, and said, "For what?"
Ouch. Yet, also, lol. I've always respected Mom's gangster, even if I moped inside a little bit as I put this poor excuse for a bra back on the ecru metal shelf that was to remain its home.
The thing is, Mom was right. This has always been an issue of mine, that the driving force behind many a decision or the agony of indecision is whether or not it will bring me closer to where or who I think I should be in order to obtain maximum approval, attention, or acceptance.
I didn't want this bra because I had breasts that needed to be suffocated. I didn't have any semblance of a breast. I wanted this bra because I thought it would make me grow up faster, so I could join the ranks of girls my age who had actual breasts that required support, though thinking about it now, the idea of supporting one's breasts feels like another trap of consumerism and/or the patriarchy, don't you think? Granted, I have no lived experience of the back pain that comes from having very large and very heavy bosoms, so feel free to discredit me on that particular stance. Either way, that's another letter for another letter.
I love questions. I have always loved questions. My parents' way of avoiding my barrage of inquiries as a 10 year old was to ask if I were a journalist, and for which magazine or newspaper I was writing. I'd laugh then move on to the next.
Is this why I fell into therapy as a profession? So that I'd be expected and paid riches upon riches to ask as many questions as possible in a 60-minute window? Kidding, that's not all we, as therapists, do, of course.
But there is one question I do love to ask my clients, and it's a version of the question my mom asked me all those years ago: What's your intention?
Asking what one's intention is for a prospective word or action is a valuable springboard from which to explore as much or as little as we need to figure out if it's what we really want to do or say, and if it will truly nourish and nurture our best selves, if that's who we want to be.
Asking, "What is my intention here?" produces a quick reframe, like fixing one's posture with the slightest straightening of the back and seeing what else, in turn, shifts. It's not just about considering the initial effect, but what the ripples may be, much farther down the line.
As examples, Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy/in love? Do I want to cause harm or do I just want to be heard? Do I want to wear a bra that isn't really a bra, or do I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin and able to accept myself fully, whether I'm 4, 14, or 40?
But, a question doesn't do shit if the answer isn't going to be an honest one.
Let's assume, though, that the answer will be the most honest one possible. Asking what's at the deepest heart of the outcome that we're intending will spark anywhere from a flicker to a bonfire of truth - and point us in the direction of what to then say or do, or not say or do.
Maybe, too, sometimes, questions aren't meant to be answered. Maybe they're meant to be answered and then the answer discarded like the expired vegetables I buy every week and never get to. Maybe they're meant to be noticed and observed like clouds passing in the sky, and the answer then happens to float in on the next cloud, the next breath.
What is your intention?
And what's a question that's stayed with you or shaped your life?
as always, with love and thanks,