While I'm driving people to soccer - she's still there.
As I sit in traffic, listening to bickering from the back seats - she's still there.
Walking through the grocery store, tossing in the oft requested Hot Pockets and other necessities - she's still there.
Going over homework, teaching concepts foreign to the student and hazy in my own brain, remembering when I was in the seat and being taught - she's still there.
Occasionally I catch a glimpse of her in the mirror, or in a casual snapshot, especially if I'm laughing. I'm always slightly surprised.
I rarely see her when I'm disciplining kids. Then I see my mother or my aunt. Then, too, I am slightly surprised.
But, when I'm alone and quiet, able to think for longer than a tenth of a second, when I can remember those things that make me happy and whole and me - she's there, in the silence. Still inside, sometimes closer to the surface than others - but she's still there.
I wish I could find my old self all of the time. Don't get me wrong - I'm not melancholy for who I was, but, rather, what I could have been. (As if that makes any kind of sense - it's certainly more deep than I can comfortably wrap my brain about on a night like this, when I'm tired from a crazy, fun filled weekend of games, practices, shopping and birthday parties.)
What I miss is that girl who tried anything and everything without fear, without fault and without encouragement. Some of those things were foolish, and more than once I ended up physically or mentally injured. Once I spent the night in the hospital because I fell out of a tree. I made many, many mistakes - I like to think I learned from them, but the fact that I've made an equal number just shy of 40 proves that I've not learned anything.
I've tried to gather that feeling back, to explore who I was and what I've become - I've tried, as often as I can, to answer yes, just as that girl would. I take muay thai boxing, even though it scares me silly - both to erase the fear and to prove that I can. I push and I stretch at my limits, taking my fear in my hands again and again and tossing it over my shoulder, shaking my head as I stride past the fear I've thrown into a heap on the ground. Striding over it with long energetic steps, pushing past those that say "No, you can't," with the every present, "Yes, I can, and yes I will."
I wonder if it will ever become my default response.