I was sitting after work with a few good friends Saturday night. We had all just gotten off a very hard day and were blowing off some steam. In the service industry, you need to decompress after you've been running around all day, making sure every person around is taken care of and having a good time. You need to let yourself sit for a moment or two in the company of people who were down in the trenches with you. There is a comfort in looking at each other and smiling, breathing and knowing that we all made it at the end of the day. You've just spent up to fifteen hours running around like a maniac. You're hair is disheveled. You're sweaty and smell like balsamic. These moments are sometimes what make working in this industry worth it. It's not the people you wait on. It's not the beer you bring. It's not the compliments that you may or may not receive. It's sitting down next to that amazing person you work with and laughing about how dumb the day was. The one thing we all look forward to at the start of the day is the end of the day when we can just be people. And as I was sitting there, sipping on my beer, just enjoying that quiet moment in our frustrated laughter, a coworker looked at me and said I was the most intimidating, kind person he had ever met. I thought about it for a moment, not knowing initially if that was a compliment, I realized it was probably one of the nicest things I've heard said to me in awhile.
Lately I've been hearing some pretty horrible things that have been said behind my back. So to hear that made me smile. I haven't always been the kindest person. I've judged. I've brushed off. I've said some pretty nasty things to some very undeserving people. I can take responsibility for every not so nice thing I have done. I can genuinely say that I feel terrible for all the harm that I have caused people because I am not a cruel person at the core of me... but sometimes I lashed out first in order to protect myself. I've said this before but when my daughter was small and I was alone, I was especially walled off. So many times in my life I was done dirty and it gets to you after awhile. I thought that if I stood my ground without compassion for anyone else, no one would be able to hurt me... but life has a funny way of teaching you things. I thought about those words Saturday night and I thought about where I have come from, where I have been, who I have been. I guess in those words I realized that I finally found my balance between being cruel and allowing myself to be kind. I once thought that being vulnerable with people even with the people that meant something meant that I was weak. Someone told me that not too long ago, too. I thought that if I showed you my cards, who I really was, it would somehow be used against me and trampled I would get. You would then know how to hurt me. I was so tired of being hurt that I just didn't want to allow it anymore. I didn't even want to give you a chance. So, extreme I went and I gave nothing. It left me in a lonely place, a very dark, lonely place. And I realized as terrifying as it was for me to try, I was the sort of person that needed to try.
I will be celebrating ten years with my husband in October. We were having coffee this morning and I started talking about those words that were so kindly said to me. As I was looking at him, I realized that a large part of this balance I have learned is because of him. He is so much kinder than me. His heart sometimes is so large that I feel like mine is not enough which I know is silly. Somewhere in these ten years, he has taught me how to have faith in humanity again though humans drive me absolute bananas. When I come home upset because someone misunderstood my intentions, he looks at me with that crooked smile and reminds me how beautiful my soul truly is. I think that with him I've understood how brave kindness is, how incredibly strong my compassion makes me as a person. It does not make me weak to feel for the people around me but I always seem to forget that I am just as deserving of that same kindness. So, for a long time, I allowed people to walk all over me in fear of becoming that walled off person again. With him, I learned how to balance both. I didn't realize I had until I was described the way my friend described me Saturday night. And as I sat with him and the rest of these dear people, I understood that I am closer to becoming who I have always wanted to be, closer than I have been before. It's not because I have changed it's because life has changed around me. I got older and I guess I learned how to pivot without knowing it.
These last few weeks have been on the rougher side. I have been talked badly of. My character has been put into question. Friendships have been tested. I have worked so many hours and haven't had a lot of time to sit down and digest, really digest, my feelings. I realize that so many times in our lives we are faced with decisions, choices of our own behaviors. Do we strike out? Do we step back? Do settle into the oblivion, pretending like none of it happened at all? I thought about the tough I used to be, the mean that used to sit in me like a poisonous venom. I thought about the tenderness of me that once used to scare me more than anything else in this life, so scared that I would shatter at a kind gesture. It all sort of came together Saturday night in those words. All I want to be in this world is a good person, a good mother and wife, a good friend. I want to love my family and take care of them with everything I got. I want to make the best decisions that will be good for not just me but for the people around me. I want to be more than enough for my own standards... but I also understand there is a line I have to draw even if it terrifies me to pull out my pen. I understand now more than ever that you can be kind but still firm. You can help the people around you and still take care of yourself. You don't have to wall yourself off. And you don't have to lay your heart on the chopping block to appease the pitchforks. You are not a monster for being true to who you are. I was told once that my kindness made me weak. So, I stood up for myself, for my family and this week was called out for it. And here's the thing, the older version of me would have retaliated and the kindest version of me would have caved but I can't be either of those things anymore. There is a place in the middle, a place where you can love yourself and love everyone around you just the same. We don't have to choose. We just have to learn how to balance them both.
I know that I can come off as a pretty sarcastic person sometimes. My humor tends to lean more towards the dark side of life. I'm quick to call someone an idiot when they behave in an idiot manner. I can be pretty closed off, a bit standoffish, not always the most approachable. I take my time with people. I wait and see what kind of person I am dealing with before I make a decision on whether or not I will invest any time in them. But here's the thing. I am one of the nicest people you will ever meet. If I decide that you (not to sound callous) worth my time, I 100% got your back and will continue to have your back even if I get screwed over at the end of the day. Maybe it's a Taurus trait. Maybe I'm just kind of a sucker. It doesn't matter. My path has landed me where I am right now. I don't want to be any other way, not if that means I have to lose all the lessons I've collected along my way. And at times, I know that I pay the price for people who wouldn't pay the same amount for me. I get it but kindness isn't a commodity. I'm this kind for you so you will be this kind back to me. Sometimes being kind to someone is just about being a decent human being, not about what we get back in return.
Lately the energy that I have found myself in has been suffocating. I find it hard to breathe, to see through the heavy air of just bad vibes. It's this electricity that runs sits in the air and you can't escape from it. You do your best to keep your distance from it but it still seeps into your pores while you're not paying attention. I do my best to keep it at bay. And I tell you what, at the beginning of the week, I do great... but by Friday the heaviness comes out of nowhere and knocks me on my ass. I come home feeling deflated, defeated. It feels like being a kind, compassionate person is something horrible. It would be so much easier to just treat the people around me like the way I've been treated... but what good does that do? You know working in the service industry leaves you with a lot of questions about the general good of the human race. My day consists of people talking to me like I am an idiot, of people demanding some sort of special treatment, of people yelling at me about things I just can't control. And then after all of that bull, I get tipped a 5% tip. It's cool. I get the nature of this beast. I'm doing what I can to move my life in a more positive trajectory. Until then, I have to fight for air. I think to myself wouldn't it be so much easier if I was just as ugly to them as they are to me? Wouldn't it feel great to tell someone to take that ranch and shove it where the sun don't shine? Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to stand up for myself without losing my income? But this is what I have come to understand, that the same sort of behavior falls on deaf ears. I have come to understand by allowing myself to become just as cruel as the world around me sometimes feel I would be losing who I have worked hard to become. I'm not going to be mean to you because you are mean to me. I can't. I won't.
I feel like what we forget sometimes is that we control how we're going to behave, how we're going to react to certain situations. I feel like we've forgotten how to take the lesson from the things we encounter to make it better the next time around. Something horrible happens and we automatically try to find whose at fault. Someone does something hurtful to us and our first reaction is to condemn that person from the start. We've forgotten how to take accountability for our own cruelty, letting the circumstances of our surroundings dictate what kind of people we are going to be. The other day someone asked me for something and I refused, not because I didn't want to do this but because I knew if I did it would be harmful to them. I didn't know this person from Adam. I had no investment in their life, in their future, in the consequences that would come of it. I just knew that I would hope that someone would do the same for me if they knew it would be harmful to me. For as distant as I can be from people, my heart feels too much for everyone. It's the reason why sometimes I can't show any emotion. Even a little is too much. I'm not being cruel. I'm just not always showing you how the world around me can effect me so deeply.
We feel ourselves fall down the rabbit hole sometimes. At times there is nothing we can do catch ourselves. So, we say ugly things and we do terrible things and we make questionable choices. We get so wrapped up in our own pride, in our own hurt, in our own selves that we forget that the person next to us is fighting a battle, too. We are quick to throw judgement on people we don't know because of this or that, because we lack the ability to put ourselves in their shoes. We're so blinded by our own turmoil we just assume that's the only thing that matters. I feel that energy, that black hole that it's so easy to get swallowed into. It's easier to give up, to give in, to fall into someone else's bad behavior. At points, I've seen myself behave in a way that I know is not me. I disappoint myself when I forget my kindness because that's not who I am. I disappoint myself when I forget to put myself in someone else's shoes before I react to maybe them having a bad day. I disappoint myself when I lose the fact that everyone around me is a human being and for that, for just that, they deserve my respect even if they do nothing to earn it. I will break my own heart to put yours back together. And maybe that's not the best quality to have because I know how much it costs me but I wouldn't trade my kindness for anything. We've forgotten how incredibly beautiful we can be to each other but maybe we can start to remember. Be kind because it's the right thing to do. Kindness may make you vulnerable but that vulnerability is the most beautiful part of being human.
Sometimes I don't realize how much life I have lived until a situation happens. I don't get how far I have come as a person until I see the way I react. In my younger days, I was full of spit and vinegar. I feel like I enjoyed the drama, the negative words that flew my way because it somehow made me feel alive. If you did me wrong, I was very quick to do you wrong right back. I didn't understand then how toxic my own behavior was. I felt like if I was misused, insulted, thrown to the side that it was fair for me to do the same thing back to you. I was very quick to cut people out of my life. It was self preservation. You only had one chance with me and then we were done. Then I got older. I had a child, who without her knowledge, taught me what it meant to be compassionate. I met a man who made me see that the world was full of so many lovely things, people. I had just cut it all off because it was easier to feel nothing than to feel something. I've said this before and I'll say it again I love getting older. Where I was once terrified of the wrinkles that may form on this skin, I now welcome each one that appears when I look in the mirror every morning. These wrinkles are a mark of each beautiful day I have been lucky enough to live even the hard ones. Lately I feel like I have been learning something new about myself every day. Sometimes it's just dumb little nuances that I didn't realize I had. And other times are these moments that come from left field.
I am a reflective person. I enjoy observing the world around me. This week has been no different. Every day we are presented with choices. We are given these scenarios and the power to react to them in whatever way we choose. Lately I've been feeling a lot of negative energy around me. I don't do so well with that kind of energy. It makes me feel dizzy, helpless, frustrated. I allow the dark part of the universe to blur my otherwise sunny vision. Earlier this week a situation was presented to me. I was insulted, belittled, and put in a real bad position. The details of it are unimportant. I had a decision to make. Which way would I react? Do I fight back spewing as much toxic energy right back? Or do I simply choose to walk away? My reaction surprised me. It showed me how much growth I have experienced since my more youthful days. I chose to walk away, to not fight back because the energy that I would have given back wasn't worth who I have become. You get to an age where you can identify which battles are worth fighting, which relationships are worth keeping. You understand that not everyone is good for you and you accept that sometimes you have to move on from them.
There have been times in my life where I thought my emotions were a detriment to me so I wouldn't allow them. I wouldn't allow them to even myself. They seemed like too much. Then I became someone's mother. And then I became someone's wife. I realized that the more vulnerable side of me needed as much love and care. I learned by sharing even these words with the world wasn't a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. I learned that when someone does me wrong it does not mean that I return that wrong with another. So, I learned to be kind, compassionate, honest, caring. I realized that to be the best version of myself was to give of myself as openly and freely as I could. I realized that people deserved second chances, sometimes even thirds. Over the years I have become softer, more forgiving, more willing to give the benefit of my doubt. Living my life this way has been more rewarding even if I still get rocks thrown at me just the same. I understand now, however, that how I retaliate to those rocks doesn't mean I have to throw a grenade.
Here is one of the greatest things about being adult. You are in control of your own self. You can choose your company (mostly). You can choose your environment (mostly). You have the power to direct your own course and the ability to decide your own behavior. And if you screw up, you can address how to come to a conclusion that doesn't cause harm. You realize that not everyone has your best interests at heart and that's OK. We are all on our journeys but whatever energy they throw at you, you are the one who decides what to give back. I didn't know how far I have come until I was faced with a toxic situation this week. I didn't know that I somehow gained the ability to just walk away as simply as I did. I realize that my own tendencies to cut off the world, the people are still very much in my DNA and that's OK, too. Old behaviors never really go away. We just learn to keep them at bay. I think having that ability to protect myself is just as important as sitting here being vulnerable and writing these words. The true sign of growth is how you choose to use your tools. This week I understood that I don't have to let the negative energy swallow me. I can choose to walk away from it even if that means I lose things along the way. At the end of the day are the negative things I lose worth losing myself? I will no longer entertain energy that is toxic to me. I will no longer feed that beast. The energy I give back to the world is of my own choosing. Walking away from something, from someone, from somewhere that is bad for you is not a sign of weakness. It is sometimes the best choice, the strongest decision you can make for yourself. No apologies needed.
Over the last few weeks I've come to a lot of realizations, about the people around me, about my own path, about what I have chosen to surround myself with. There was a time in my life where I was so angry that I shut the world off but over time I realized that was not the way to live one's life. So I changed. I made the choice to allow people into my life, my thoughts. I started sharing my words and my pictures and my creations to show people the inner workings of this beautiful, chaotic head of mine. I started to realize that communicating with the people around me was just as important to me as it was to them. When someone hurts my feelings, I should share that with them instead of bottling it up. When someone does something to make me smile, I should share that with them. When someone is kind to me, I should say thank you. I've grown leaps and bounds with the way I interact with other people since my early twenties. I feel proud of myself and I am no longer ashamed to give myself a few props here and there. Lately, however, I've noticed I've started to keep things to myself more than I should. I allow the negative environment I find myself in to seep into me like a teabag in boiling water. And why? Because I feel like even if I form the words, no one would hear them enough to fix the problem. What a defeatist attitude, right? But what battles are worth fighting? There's been a lot of soul searching lately, a lot of decisions about what to do next, and I'm happy to say that my direction has been found again. Sometimes I think we lose sight of how important it is to communicate not just with each other but with ourselves, too. When I allowed myself to push the distractions of what was directly in front of me, I was able to hear what was waiting for me.
I decided to go back to school a few weeks ago starting in Spring. Lately my current environment has become unwelcoming. I cry in the car on my way home at time. I crawl into a shell while I'm there just to avoid feeling anything really. This feeling of being stuck overwhelms me. And the anger I feel when I give my best but my best gets met with passive aggressive comments starts to boil over but my drive to take care of my family keeps it at bay. I was sitting on the couch watching my husband play Fortnite when I had this Aha! moment. I was looking at the backgrounds, the way the avatars were moving, how fluid everything felt. I thought I would love to do that. I would love to take my already creative tendencies and put them towards making something lovely. In the back of my head there was always this plan for me to go back to school but I think I just didn't know what for. I didn't want to invest the money unless it was into a future that I was positive about. The joy of being an adult, of living so much life is figuring out who, what you really want to be. At 39 years old, I finally figured out at least my career. I turned to my husband and said I want to go back to school. I want to earn a degree that is actually going to give me a career, not just a job, not just something to pay my bills. I want a career. And please before everyone jumps on me I will say this. The service industry if you want it to be can be a rewarding career. It has its values and its lessons and its rewards. By no means am I throwing shade at the brilliant people that do that for a living. I just know, for me, it was never supposed to be something that was the rest of my life. It was something I finally allowed myself to admit.
I look at my kid who is about to start her last year in high school. She has her whole life in front of her. She has so much time that right now she won't realize right now is going to fly by in a wink but she has right now. I feel her eagerness when she looks at me, the way her wings twitch even though she hasn't quite figured out how they work. Her youth inspires me. This blooming life that I get the privilige to watch take off moves me to start my own flight. I laugh at the way maybe I did things a little backwards. These things that I am now brave enough to try are the things that most people do in their late teens and twenties. In way, though, I feel like this way is better for me. I gave my daughter my youth and there is not a single part of me that regrets that choice. She's almost on her own now, knowing that my role in her life is about to change. So what then do I do with myself now? Keep tending bar? Keep bringing the ranch that woman desperately needs? Continue to feel the cartilidge in my joints slip away? Continue to feel like it's just about getting through the day? And I can't. My daughter said to me the other day that I am much softer than I was when she was a kid. She's right. I haven't had to fight for survival as hard since I found a partner in my husband. I haven't found it necessary to fight as many battles either. But in that loss of fight in me I think I forgot the value of that part of me. I don't have it in me anymore to rage over things that don't matter but I want to find that spark again to battle for the things that do. Sometimes I feel myself screaming inside but I drown her out. Maybe I should hear out now and again. It's time to listen. It's time to move. It's time to change.
It takes us years to understand the inner workings of ourselves. It makes sense that the older you get, the more you reflect on. Is it because you have more things to reflect upon? Because you've lived that much more life? Isn't that relative though? We all live such different lives, experiencing different things, fighting different battles at different levels. Comparing one life to the other is apples and oranges. I work with a lot of younger people. Sometimes I have a tendency to try to teach them little things that could make their lives easier simply because I've already gone through it. Sometimes my unasked for advice is appreciated but I don't get angry when they look at me and dig their heels down deeper. I can look back at being that young and remember how I wanted to tell all those older people to save their breath. After all, I knew everything, right? Of course I knew nothing. In a way I sort of miss that kind of ignorance (but believe me not enough to relive my twenties). We watch the people around us, recognizing similar plights that we have faced. Instantly we want to try to shield someone else from the hardships that we went through and you can't. I tried to tell someone the other day how to do something easier and their response to me was a bit on the ugly side. I stepped back. I thought about my response. Then I just walked away, realizing how much I've changed over the years. The fiery, younger version of me would have spat back that they were ungrateful and nasty but this older version? I shrugged and wished them the best, knowing that some lessons in life we embrace at our own time in our own way. If I could say anything to that younger version of me? I would tell her to listen. There is a lot of wisdom in the words we are too stubborn to hear.
My natural tendency to mother people has often blinded me to my own needs. Over the last year, I have let myself explore parts of myself that I would run away from. I believe that as we get older, the more we need to embrace about ourselves. Hey, I'm not getting any younger and I still have a lot of things in this life I want to do but in order to do them I need to be honest with myself. I need to understand why the anxiety attacks when it does, the reasons behind the triggers. And once I understand them, I need to learn to let them go. I'm quick to let myself get overwhelmed at times but I know that's not really me. It's just over the last few years I've allowed other people to spark flames that should have never been embers. I get so concerned about what goes on around me that I forget to take a look at myself at what I'm doing. And I guess because there are so many younger people around me these days it's been sort of an eye opener. Its forced to me to evaluate my own behavior. I'm not saying that I am a bad person or that my behavior causes need for concern. These days I work my shift and go home to my family because honestly I'm not a twenty something anymore. Sure, I like a beer now and again. I enjoy having a good time but recently my priorities have become clearer. I have accepted that because my priorities have shifted where I put my energy has shifted as well. I want to help the people around me. If I can save someone from making the same mistakes I have made, absolutely I want to be a helping hand... but I get that words are only useful when someone wants to listen. It took me years to understand that. I still struggle but I understand the beauty in now more than ever.
I wish I didn't get so frustrated still but raising my daughter has given me the most important lessons in this life. Being someone's mother is such a gift. I never want to take this role for granted. She will be eighteen this year, flabbergasted that so many years went by so quickly. And if I really sit down and think about it, I understand why sometimes I fuss over the people around me. My nest will be empty soon. While I have my cats, that tiny baby girl will be out there in the world without me. So, I look at these kids around me and my motherly instincts go on high alert. I suppose, in a way, it stems from my daughter. As a parent, you learn to put your needs to the side. As a parent, you learn that you do what you need to do no matter what that entails because that child depends on you for everything. That need doesn't go away because they get older. That need just changes as they get older. I look back to my own mother who watched me fail and break and fail and break over and over again. How I must've broken her heart time and time again... but she never gave up on me. When I sit down and really look inside myself, I understand why so often I give people so many chances. I understand why I offer my hand even if I know that disappointment is what it will be filled with. I used to get angry about it. It used to break my heart. I would rather someone outright hurt me than disappointment me. I would try to help but it would just be met with such disdain and then I would be crushed. Raising a teenage daughter toughens you up. Over the last few years, she has helped me understand that sometimes we just have to let people fail. Sometimes it is the only way life is taught.
I am in my last year of my thirties. I once thought that it would be horrible to be so old. Now I just laugh. My thirties have been some of the best, most eye opening years of my life. I have lost in my thirties but there hasn't been much tragedy during this decade. So much happened in my late teens and twenties that I didn't have time to stop and think about what was really going on around me. I was learning what I was made of, what I wasn't made of, what kind of person I wanted to be. I was angry and sad and depressed and lost and just a giant mess. But my thirties? My thirties I started to understand that who I wanted to be was going to take work. Then I accepted that I may never become that person and that was OK. Whoever I became was going to be just as wonderful. You take all the newness of being an adult away and you are left with just you. You've learned how to pay your bills (mostly). You've learned what kind of people you want in your life and you know how to get rid of the toxic ones that try to stick around. You know what you stand for. You get up quicker when you get knocked down. The best lesson I have learned is that I will always be a work in progress. It's perfectly acceptable to reset, to readjust, to start over however many times I need to. And I get that it's time that taught me these lessons. My twenty year old self would have told me to bug off and I get it. I'm not mad about it. Words only have meaning if you allow yourself to hear them. Some words just become easier to hear the older you become.
Sometimes these blogs are born out of a couple of days of a sentence that pops in my head. I don't necessarily know where they are going to go from that seed but, over time, they start to come to fruition. Wednesday there was a Teacher's Rally (and they deserve every single thing they were rallying for). We were caught so very unprepared at work for the rush of red that came in on us like a tidal wave. We saw it coming and could do nothing to get out of its way. I think everyone lost their minds that day. In the middle of the worse chaos I have ever seen at that place, I fell right on my ass. I busted my elbow and my knee and hurt my hip and got right back up. We were getting the crap kicked out of us so hard I did not have time to figure out if anything was broken. I did not have a second to assess my own well being because people needed their beers for the love of green apples! So, I fell. The place got quiet. I bounced right back up and the room cheered for me... and thought to myself I will deal with the pain later. It was in that sentence that I learned something about myself that I guess I just didn't want to accept. When something hard happens in my life, that's exactly what I do. I get through the moment. I'll deal with the pain later because later will be easier, right? Not at all. I remember sitting on that bar floor, cried one tiny yelp, and told myself, "Get the bleep up, Jes." And I did. I did regardless that my elbow was on fire. I did knowing that I would be in more pain later that day. I did because it's just what I do.
That sentence has been ringing through my head all week. So, I let it gestate. I let it bake. I analyzed myself, my past. My world fell apart when I was a teenager but I had to get back up and move on. I would deal all of it later. I got pregnant on purpose because I needed someone to love me though I had no idea how to do it. I would figure it out later. I married my first husband, a man who never once really respected me but I would deal that later. I lost my father and went back to work right away because I had to just get through those moments. I would deal with his loss later. I lost my dog but I just had to get through those first moments. I would miss her later. I let all of these things swirl around my head like tiny tornadoes and allowing the lessons that were presenting themselves to me do their reconstruction, letting them sink in. Yesterday was my birthday. Maybe that's why I allowed myself to finally see these things about myself. I turned 39 years old. I turned 39 years old and I'm still under construction. So often I push through things that I need to take the time to deal with. And I make up all these excuses of why what I'm feeling doesn't matter. He needs me. She wants me. That girl is going to die without her ranch. It's my own doing. Sometimes I just don't want to deal. Sometimes I just want to fall and stay there, to not fix the parts of me that I know are broken. I've picked up so many of my pieces over the years. I've got buckets hidden away like a hoarder with the ghosts that sit at the edge of my bed at night. I push through all of it because it is easier to skim a page than to figure out the real meaning of any of it.
These last few weeks I've had a lot on my mind. Where am I in this life? Where do I go in the next? What exactly is going to make me happy? Perhaps it is a mid life crisis. Who knows? I think I go through one every three years honestly. As much as all this self reflection hurts at times, I never want to live my life blindly. I want to understand and learn and reset as many times as I need to. Losing my father, changed me. I know that may sound a bit dramatic but losing him allowed me to see myself in a way that I couldn't before. When he passed, I saw, not just saw. I accepted that someone could have so much unconditional hope in me. I guess in a way I started to feel that way about myself. It was like losing him gave me permission to be brave in the ways I ran away from before. It gave me permission to truly learn who I was, not who I wanted people to think I was. There was this quote by Alexander Pope that has often been a theme I have lived by for years. "Act well your part: there all the honor lies." So I spent a lot of my life playing this part, not exactly who I knew I was because I thought that was what I supposed to do. I fall. I get back up. Time and time again I get back up. I don't have time to mourn or cry or fail. I get back up and deal with the pain on my own terms behind doors that no one can break through. Time and time again I hide because I've always felt like that's the part people wanted me to play. The older I get, the more I realize sometimes it would be nice to let myself break for a minute. It would be nice to deal with the hurt while I'm shattered because dealing with them after I've healed is like breaking a bone that's healed wrong. Writing this blog today makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and I'm tempted to erase the whole thing... but I always want to write from the most honest place I can. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve. Mine resides in these words. Part of growing and learning who we are is facing the parts of us that don't always work. I will always get back up but I am starting to learn that I am allowed to take a minute to heal, too.
I had this dream last night where I was super stressed out about something that didn't really matter anyway. I'm not a big believer that dreams mean anything but maybe there is something to it. Our brains are a wondrous beauty, full of so much that we don't use and don't understand. Why wouldn't our subconsciousness being try to tell our stubborn wake minds what's wrong? Yeah, I know, most times dreams are just dumb. I can't tell you how many nights I dream about not being able to find the tea urns at work or how my entire section disappears. They're dumb... but then last night's dream happened and maybe I should take a closer look. Putting it into some sort of context does make it seem like it could mean something but doesn't everything? I won't go into the details of it. Let's be honest. We all hate when someone is telling us about their dreams (not that we'll admit that). It really was me worrying about something that turned out didn't matter at all. I think about ranch and how I joke that this life is just a bunch of unnecessary ranch. Why waste our precious energy on this stuff? But sometimes we do. It's not wrong, it just doesn't get us anywhere. Yesterday I was standing behind my bar, watching the day play out, already knowing how it was going to roll (not great), and I just started chuckling to myself. I realized in that moment how hard I try for things that ultimately are just ranch. So, when the man got a little saucy with me, I just smiled, knowing that the three second wait that he had to endure for me to pour that beer wasn't going to determine my worth. It just doesn't. And I can run around all day, stressing myself out because there is no tea in the urn. I can throw racks across the back, making myself angry because I feel like I'm all alone on that floor. I can walk around in a sour mood all night, wallowing in the frustration, knowing it won't ever really change... but I'm so tired of feeling the weight of a world that will never appreciate it on my shoulders.
I remember in this dream last night I started to laugh at the people around me. Who they were? I don't know and it doesn't matter. They all looked at me, not understanding why I was laughing. I just kept laughing, stopping what I was doing, and started walking away. I guess my dream was, in a way, mimicking the thoughts I was having during the day. Maybe I'm finally having a mid life crisis. My birthday is a matter of days away. I suppose in a way I'm contemplating my plot in life. Is this where I want to be? Is that where I want to go? Do I really want to keep working for the tips? Or do I want to find a nice office job and slowly fade away? I don't know. I want to write and draw and laugh and just be happy. I want to get up in the morning not dreading what's to come, preparing myself to be treated like human walking poo. I don't mean to sound so melodramatic. My husband tells me every day that I have a spot with him if I want it. I just don't know if trading in one thing I settle for is worth another thing I would be settling for. These words "at my age" go through my head and I want to straggle them right out of me. I know that age doesn't matter. I know life doesn't work like that. So why does that statement haunt me so? Yesterday I was talking to one of my bar guests, a kind woman, the kind of customer that makes this industry worth it. It made me realize why I keep beating my head against this wall though I feel the bruises more distinctly these days. At my age, I have relationships and a family and I'm good at what I do, getting better at what I want to do. And I realize perhaps that dream last night was telling me just that. All this other stupid stuff I cloud my brain with is just that, clouds. Clouds pass.
The truth of the matter is we're all perfectly imperfect works in progress that may never be complete. I may look in the mirror in five years and still be like, "what the hell, Jes?" and you know what? That will be all right. I think what is important is that we learn what things are important to fret about and what things are just ranch to toss in the trash. I had this customer the other day who ordered four ranches (yes four ranches) for herself. While I was annoyed to have to go get her four more ranches, I laughed at myself for that annoyance because who cares? The girl likes her ranch and, by god, she certainly enjoyed every single drop of that ranch, too. What I'm trying to say is that so much of our existence gets wrapped up in these dumb things that make us miserable. I don't want to be miserable any more. I don't want to spend my days worrying about what he's not doing or what she is doing or whatever because it doesn't matter. I get so wrapped up in what other people think of me when there was a time in my life I really didn't care all that much. I am kinder sometimes than I want to be. I shut my mouth too tightly when someone hurts my feelings. I turn the other cheek way more than I should. And I do too much for people who take advantage of it... and I get it.... and I'm tired... As I was talking to this customer the other day, she reminded me that I need to get back to me, this funny and smart and confident girl that I used to be, and (pardon my french) fuck the rest. When I go home at night, I have a husband who loves me and I have a daughter who will love me again (once we're past these teenage years). I have a hand full of friends that will be there the minute I call them. I have a strong, brave mother who believes in me and siblings that support me without question. I have my hopes and dreams and my compassion that pushes me forward. All this other stuff? Yeah, it's just ranch that gets thrown in the trash anyway. Over the last few weeks, I allowed things and events and people dictate my behavior because I thought it was the only thing that mattered. And this week what I realized in all those things that didn't matter, I forgot the one thing that does. I matter, too. At my age, I'm still learning that lesson.
Over the last week, this blog has been forming in my head, trying to figure out the best way to put these words together. The theme of my life for the last week with each passing day has become more and more evident. I have these two thoughts that seem like they are battling each other but when I sit down to think about it, I mean really dive deep into them, they are the same thing. The most constant thing about this life is that it always changes, people and places and things. Nothing stays the same because it can't. I watch these young kids stand up for change, to make this world better, to make the world safer for the generations to come. I see the pride in the adults eyes as we sit and watch our children stand. Why? Because things have to change. I look at my own life and I know that change is happening all around me. What was is no longer and what will be? Well, what will be starts with me and you and him and her. It has to stem from all of us. We all have to some sort of pride in what we're doing. Because if we don't? Then what is broken will never get put back together. I can't make you change. You can't make me shift. But we can find some sort of middle ground and find a solution together. It's people. It is you and me and him and her. And all of us are going to change and break and rise and fall and do it all over again. We may never be what we were but we can be better than what we are.
I have worked at this job for the last five years. I fell in love with this place, with the people, with the vibe the minute I walked through those doors. It was a family, one where everyone cared for each other and helped each other. I was welcomed so quickly and so openly that it instantly made my heart swell. I don't often allow myself to feel so much so swiftly but there was something about the way that everyone worked so well with each other that drew me in. I am not saying that it was perfect but it made me smile. It made all of us smile. We made each other smile. I can't quite pinpoint what made it work so well. It was one of those things where the formula just worked. It worked for years... until it didn't. I can admit it is not what it once was. The mentality seems to be collectively different. And when I sit down and really think about it, I mean really think about it, what it boils down to is respect and compassion. Instead of helping each other, we seem to be belittling the other. Instead of trying to figure out the problem, we just brush it off onto someone else's shoulders. I can sit outside that patio all day and list all the things that aren't working but at what point it is enough? The other day a coworker was upset. The weight of the world sat heavy on her shoulders, feeling like it was all up to her to fix it. Instead of trying to build her back up, to make her feel supported and figure out a positive way to come back from what is broken, this other person just told her that nothing was going to fix it. I realized in those words that what has really changed is the people, not the place. Where once there was this feeling of us together had become this darkness of this "me" mentality. I can sit here and tell you about all the things in my life that don't work right now. I can stew on them and water them and help them grow until I become so overwhelmed that I drown in my own anxiety. I can look at my daughter and tell her that her life won't amount to anything if she doesn't get her shit together. I can look at my husband and tell him that our financials suck and they will just continue to suck. I can sit here and look at myself and tell myself that I am the problem that I am not where I thought I would be at forty years old. I can sit down with my coworker and tell them everything they are doing wrong and give them nothing to make it better... but what does any of that change? Sure, I see the flaws and the weaknesses but that just means what we are doing now is not working anymore. Life changes. People change. The things that swirl around us in this universe change. We have a choice. We sit and pout and sulk that they did. Or we readjust our own trajectory. I can look at this place that I work at and see how it's not the same anymore. I can be sad about it. I can even be angry about it... but really that sadness, that anger is not the point. Sometimes in this life you have to accept that you are not what you were. You have to let go of all those things, good and bad, and find where your feet stand right now. I can't bring back the things, the people, the parts of me that I've lost along the way but I can figure out who I am now while still honoring everything that I used to be. Hey, I'm never going to be 105 pounds again. I'm never going to wake up again and not feel every bone crack when I stand up. I'm never going to be who I was again and all of this fine. Sometimes holding onto what we were holds us back to what we can become.
So, I sat a little bit longer, asking myself these questions about what can I do to readjust? What can I do to help the people around me understand that we just have to change course a bit? I realize that I cannot control your actions or your attitudes or your anything. I understand that I can't make you change any more than you can make me change. So, what can I do to make this life better? I think I've always accepted that if I ever wanted anything done in this world it was up to me to get it done. Blame it on my mother who I watched do everything by herself because she could get it done faster. Blame it on my stubborn need to kiss all the scraped knees better. I have and always will put the pressure on me to make the people around me feel better even if I want to knock them out at the same time. As I was sitting there with my sad friend and listening to the other throw shadow, it became very clear to me that it has to start with people. Respect is something so easy give if you break it down to its foundation. I respect you because you are another human being if nothing else. I show you compassion because I, too, carry so many heavy burdens on my shoulders. If you are having a bad day, I want to make your day easier, not worse. I feel like we throw each other away so easily these days. We go after the weak parts of each other while we blow the strong parts of ourselves out of proportion. So, I sit and I think about what I can do to help this change? What spark can I create that is going to ignite a fire to improve this life? I realize the only thing I can control is me. I can choose to be positive instead of negative. I can choose to find the solutions instead of creating more problems. I can give you respect and love and compassion and honesty. I can choose to live my life in every fashion with my best, even the things that make me want to scratch my eyes out. If I choose to face my life with kindness and empathy, then maybe others will follow suit, understanding that some probably won't. I can accept that I am not who I was and I can have faith that who I become will not forget where I have been.
The truth is we must learn from where we came from to not repeat the same mistakes that we did before. I look at my life now and understand all those wrong turns I took. I can own each and every one and then move forward by letting go. This life is going to change again on me and again I will have to readjust to what that will be. In a way, it's a beautiful thing, this reinvention of one's self. If we stay stagnant, what do we learn? And if we hold onto that stagnation, doesn't that just poison us in the end? I can't parent my teenage daughter the way I did when she was little. Taking away her desert doesn't quite have the same effect. She changed and I changed and our lives changed. We've had to figure out a new way of relating to each other, to speaking to each other, to listening to each other. It's been a hard journey. If I'm being honest, I haven't quite figured it out yet but I'm changing and readjusting and trying new solutions to this equation that life keeps changing. I know things will get better. I have to keep trying. I know things won't be like it was between us like it was when she was little but I can't hold onto that and be a good mother to her now. She will continue to fight me and I will continue to stand my ground but what we have in common is that we love each other. We love each other so much that sometimes we drive the other crazy... but we keep trying to find our best way to honor the other. I sit in this life of mine, trying to figure out how to make it all not feel so dizzy. I think about all pieces of my life that I've lost along the way, all those things that were, all these things that are no longer. I've reached this point in my life where I can let them go. Sometimes moving forward is letting go. Sometimes changing your part in the equation is the solution. And while life will change again, we will, too.
I started writing this blog in the shower this morning, knowing that all the wonderfully put together thoughts I had while washing my hair wouldn't last the body wash. It's OK because as I was driving to this lovely coffee shop of mine, I think my thoughts took a better turn. This last weekend my kid did some pretty amazing things that I didn't even know she was interested in doing. Sometimes I look at her and I shake my head. I see so much of myself in her but there is also this other person that she's figuring out that I get to know along the way. I know that I have done blogs about my kid a million times. As parents, we think that our kids are the (pardon my french) the shit. Everything they do is golden. Everyone should pay attention because every word they utter is genius. And she is a genius but she's also a young, teenage girl who has lot of learning to go. That's OK. I want her to take her time, to stand up and fall down, to get back up even if it just to fall down all over again though my heart is scarred with every skinned knee she's ever had. As children, they need to stretch and push and go beyond so as adults they understand their possibilities. She spoke at a huge public event this last weekend. This tiny little thing that used to kick me in the ribs stood in front of millions of people and spoke about something she believed in. She could have been talking about bowel movements and I would have been proud. The bravery that this kid of mine pulled out of her once shy tiny bones blew me away. I didn't get to be there and it broke my heart that I couldn't be in that crowd cheering her on but I saw the video and I wasn't any less proud than if I had been standing there. I was with her in spirit like I always am and she knew that. I'm never far away really. She stood tall. She smiled her brilliant smile and spoke her strong words and I saw for the first time the kind of woman I knew she was on her way to becoming.
I think there is a perspective on her kids that we have to hold onto. When she was born, I really had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I loved her and that everything I did from the moment she was conceived was about her. The decisions that I would make as a woman were effected by the kind of mother I wanted to be. They say we raise our kids but when I look back at those years with my kid, there was so much about me that I learned from her. In the way she looked at me, I understood what it meant to look up to someone unconditionally. In the way she snuggled with me at night, I understood the importance of letting other people into your life. And in her love, I learned to love back, not just her but other people in my life. She was the reason I was strong when I felt like I had nothing left to give. She has always been the reason I push myself as hard as I do even now in these teenage years. When she was little, it was easy. I felt like I could tell her something and she would just listen. I knew everything, right? The older she got, the harder it became for me to speak. And I know that it is natural. I'm sorry to my own mother for being as rotten as I was (though she has told me I wasn't the worst out of the four). I get it. She's just figuring out who she is, who she wants to be. She'll land somewhere in the middle and it's all completely normal. But, yeah, it was easy to show her the way when she was small. Now, I fumble, not knowing how much of my help she really wants or doesn't. It's almost like I have a third cat. She wants my attention when I'm preoccupied doing something else but very clearly wants me to go away when all my attention is aimed at her. Hey, it's cool. I think somewhere along the way I've learned to stay in my own lane unless she gives me the signal to come on over (Christina Aguilera) and my feelings don't get as hurt as they used to. I realized recently that when she really needs me, my little girl comes back home and puts her head in the little crook under my neck like she did before. And I get that she will continue to push me away for the next few years but I also know that one day she'll realize that I've never budged from being right where she left me either. I'm never far away.
This morning she was on the radio standing up for the same thing she took a stand for at the rally. Again, I am bursting with pride for this kid! I posted all of this on social media. One, I wanted her word to be spread because what she says, what all these kids are saying matter. As adults, we need to listen. But, also, because I want everyone to know around me how freaking awesome my kid is! Because as a parent, that's what we do. We brag about our children and we parade our children and we want the whole world to stop and look at our children. The reality? I know my kid is just another great kid in the great big ocean of great kids and it's all good that the world doesn't stop.... (but really she's the greatest kid in the world). I've been getting all these beautiful, supportive comments about what a wonderful kid I raised and how it was me. I appreciate every single one of them, love them in fact. As a parent, you always doubt every decision you ever made. Should I have cut her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches diagonal like that? Should I have maybe put a chastity belt on her young? (That's a joke, guys). Did I do enough to make her strong? I decided from the start that she was not an idiot. I looked at her and said, "OK, kiddo, you're just a small person and that's how we're going to do this." Never once did I imply that she wasn't capable of doing exactly what she intended... but I made plenty of mistakes along the way, too. You just never know which mistake you make as a parent is the one to really mess them up. You cross your fingers and hope for a smooth recovery. I was reading these comments full of love for my kid, for me and I was touched but what I realized is that who she is becoming has very little to do with me. I gave her a foundation like my parents gave to me and their parents gave to them. Everything after that is all her. I will never be as brave as her, at least not in that way. I will never be as poised or as put together as this child of mine. I look at her and see so much of me, yes. She got my stubborn nature and my ability to hide her feelings and my unfortunate battles with anxiety but the kid is something beyond me. We want out kids to be better than us. We want them to have better opportunities and to thrive and to succeed and to not have to face the same struggles that we had to go through. And we sacrifice everything sometimes to make that happen for them but it doesn't feel like you've sacrificed anything when they look at you with those smiles. Every struggle, every fight, every tear, every break down on the kitchen floor, every slammed door and "I hate yous" were all worth what they will become. I gave her a foundation but that young lady standing at the podium? Well, that was all her. She's just getting started.
I often try to figure out what really triggers me. What are these things that make me get so riled up? And why these particular things? Being a human is strange sometimes because often we don't make any sense, what triggers us versus what we let go. I think back to my young child days and nothing seemed to bother me. Well, everything except not being able to watch Kids Incorporated and Mickey Mouse Club. I threw a royal fit about those. Other than that? I was a pretty chill little kid, just kept to myself, played with my toys, and wrote books about cats. "Kittens are like cats. Just smaller." That is a direct quote. Then my teenage years came and I thought everything was an injustice. I can't smoke at that coffee shop? Strike! That bully is picking on that kid? Get him! I fought the fight for the underdogs everywhere. The way my blood boiled looking back in retrospect was comical though I do think there is something lovely about that fire that once burned... not that I want to burn that brightly any more. It was exhausting. And then came my twenties, on my own with a kid, and I was just angry at everything even the good stuff. You would look at me funny and I would imagine your head exploding. I felt as if the entire world was repulsive and owed me something. It was dumb. The world owes me nothing but it took me years to figure that out.
So, now here I am, almost forty. I'm beyond the childish games, past the teenage angst, left behind the confusing twenties, and almost done with probably the easiest emotional decade I have ever experienced. What boils my blood now? It's funny to look back and compare. Some of the things that made me so mad seem so ridiculous now. I think as we get older we're able to pick and choose what fights are important. I think that's a really important lesson to learn, probably one of the most important lessons I've absorbed. Maybe it's because I have a teenage daughter and in her journey, I have found my clarity. Sometimes even the outcome isn't worth the battle. I know that sounds strange because isn't every battle worth it if it does something good? It's relative in the end. That being said there is one thing that still sparks my older self much like it would the younger version of me. I encounter all types of different people during my day. With the industry that I make my living with, the spectrum of kind and rude is large. If you work or have ever worked in the service industry, you will understand this statement. You start to become numb to the disrespectful way you can be treated. It still makes you mad but it's almost as if you expect it. And when you have someone treat with you kindness? It makes you cry a little. The sad thing is that kindness should be the norm, not entitlement. That's not just for this particular job. It's for everyone everywhere. There is no reason we have to treat each other so harshly. There is no reason we need to yell at each other to get our point across. Sometimes people will listen and sometimes they won't but knocking them down doesn't win anything. It just starts another war.
Maybe there is still that young little kid in me that believes that we can make this world a better place simply by being better people to each other. Perhaps I am still a bit of fool and my kindness makes me see the world in blur. I just don't think yelling at each other, hurting each other in any fashion solves problems. If you have an issue, talk about it. Find a solution that doesn't involve tearing each other apart. Sometimes at work we get weeded so badly that we lose sight that we are there to help each other. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we say ugly things to each other because all we see is the twelve tables waiting on their food and the three new ones that just sat down and everything needs ice and we have no cups and that kid just spilled their milk all over the back of the booth. We get caught in these truly horrific, chaotic moments and we snap at each other. We're human. It's going to happen regardless. So what do we do? My younger self would have said suck it up. Deal with it. Stop being such a pansy. But me today? Talk about it. Deal with it, yes, but in a way that dissolves the tension in a healthy manner. Last week I had a moment and I snapped at a coworker. I felt horrible about it and a few days afterward I apologized to her. I was caught in a moment and unfortunately she was the one to catch my frustration. We talked about it and moved on from it. I don't want to leave that bad blood between me and her not just because we have to work together but because I adore her as a person. And as a person, she deserves my respect.
No one is perfect in this world. How boring would we all be if we were truly flawless? I realize in my older years that I tolerate so much more but in the same breath I tolerate so very little as well. I don't care about the dumb stuff but if I had to say what makes me red now? Well, it would have to be respect or the lack there of. We can all have our opinions. We can all lead our lives whichever way we choose. We can like the music we like and play the games we play. We can like and date and love and marry whomever we choose. That stuff is yours, not mine. I'm cool with it. But what I'm not cool with is when we start treating each other with disrespect whatever the reason. We all carry our hypothetical baggage. We're all just figuring out how to unpack it. Why make each other's lives that much harder? If I say something ugly to you, that's on me. And if I don't apologize for it, that's completely on me. I try to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Admittedly, sometimes I am better at it than others. If I mess up, I try to fix it. And I guess what gets me is when people don't. I think about how they would feel if it was done to them like that and I realize that some people just don't think like that. It's disappointing. I don't want a world where we're all perfect. I just want a world where our imperfections make us that much better. Maybe I get so upset because I can see that we can be great. We all have this amazing potential that we just don't use because of this or that. It's all so simple. Love each other. Be kind to each other. Respect each other. It's just that simple.