Today is my husband’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for almost eleven years now, that we’ve grown older, that we’re not that relatively young couple starting out anymore. I look at him, now a year older, and I know how incredibly lucky I am that he chose to love me and my daughter. I think about the life we have lived, how much of it was lived without him and how incredibly grateful I am that I didn’t have to live without him forever. We’ve had some rough years together. We’ve struggled with our families. We’ve buried two fathers. We’ve raised a child together, surviving her teenage years. And so many of those years we were figuring ourselves out, too. We’ve grown and we’ve changed and we’ve adapted. You know what? We’re still kind of fuck-ups, too. This week we’ve realized that out of the entire world, we really just prefer each other’s company. The world just seems to be daunting lately, like it’s just one morning after another convincing ourselves to walk out the door but our home? Our home is safe. And when I think of this brilliant man, that’s how he makes me feel, the only person in this world who has ever made me feel that way.
I wish I could say that I fell in love with this man the moment I saw him but I did not. He did not fall in love with me instantly either. It was a slow build. It took time. We took time to build because this man was smart enough to know that I wasn’t the kind of fool to rush into anything but when I saw him? I mean when I truly saw him? I saw the kindness in his eyes, the truth in his words, and this confidence that inspired my own. I loved the way he gave people the benefit of the doubt, the way he would just offer whatever he had to whoever needed it, the way he could laugh even when it was rough. I saw this strength that woke up something inside me. I saw the way he looked at me, this way no one ever had before. More than anything, I felt his love and I believed his love. We carry the scars that others give us and we put the blame on the next one to come along when it’s not fair. I won’t lie. This man had hurdles to jump but he never faltered, never hesitated, never gave up on me even when I thought he would. On our wedding day, I remember my mother standing next to me. She said, “I’ve never seen you this happy.” Barring the birth of my daughter, she was right.
I’ve quit smoking but every day when I get home from work, I do have one with him. It’s just decompressing and a small treat for me, a bribe for the anxiety that I battle. If you make it through the next eight hours, you can have this. It’s dumb but it works. We sit on our deck and watch our neighbors be ridiculous, shaking our fists at them like two old people yelling at kids to get off our lawn. We talk about our day, realizing that so much of our days are spent dealing with entitled, demanding people and how much it now takes out of us. I look back at us ten years ago and I see two people who didn’t seem to mind the outside world and now I see two old people that have very little interest in going beyond the living room. There have been so many changes in our lives, some good, some bad, and some are just whatever, but what hasn’t changed is our love for each other. He still gives me the same smile he gave me years ago. He still has this ability to make me feel secure when I feel like my insides are crashing. These small moments of sitting on our deck at the end of the day, of laying in bed when we wake up, of sitting on the couch making fun of the entire Bachelor franchise are the parts of my life that I treasure. Because in these small, insignificant moments, the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
There is a song called If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit that always makes me think of him. I was lucky enough to find this man at a time in my life when I was ready for him and young enough to spend the better part of my life with him. I realize though that this life will not last forever and one of us will go eventually. I’m not being morbid especially on his birthday but it is the reality of life. With this realization, I cherish all of the moments I am granted with him because one day that seat next to us will be empty. I get it and it's OK. People like to say that other people complete them but he doesn’t complete me. I am complete (though broken lately) all on my own. What he does do is inspires me, encourages me, helps me become a better person. I think about who we were before we met each other. I try to imagine what my life would be like if for some reason our lives would have gone a different way but I don’t even want to. All those ‘What ifs’ don’t really mean anything because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but beside him. Sometimes I wonder if he knows how incredible he is. I hope he knows how loved he is, how many people adore him even if they don’t show it all the time. I hope he knows it is my honor to be the one who sits next to him, to partner our way through this annoying, wonderful life of ours. No matter what.
I’ve been told in my life that I don’t have a lot of sympathies when it comes to people and I’m not fighting that statement. I just think I’m taken out of context. There was a time in my life that I did worry very much about how people took me, that I thought a lot about if I said this or if I did that how would I look? What would they say about me when I walked away? Would they want to be my friend? Or would I be good enough to want to be around? Would I be invited to their parties, their coffee dates, their adventures? There was a time in my life when I hid behind this stupid idea that I needed to live up to others’ expectations. If I’m being honest, I’m so glad that is no longer me. I am so relieved that at the end of the day I can go to sleep knowing that I gave it my best and if it wasn’t good enough for someone? It doesn’t matter. It was good enough for me. I understand how I can come off as standoffish, slightly aggressive if you take me a handful of times but if you know me? I will go to the ends of the earth for you. No questions ask. I just can’t do that for everyone. And if a perfect stranger doesn’t automatically get me, it’s OK. If they think maybe I’m a little rough around the edges, it’s all good. We don’t have to prove anything to each other. We just need to be kind.
I think there are different types of kindness in this world. I think we all express it differently. I find it beautiful the many ways we show each other respect. There is the very bubbly, high pitched, let-me-help-you type of kindness. It’s the kind that you want to hear when you are at a restaurant or at the post office or checking into a hotel. It’s the cheerleader kind who is so happy to be of service to you. There entire purpose is to be sure you are satisfied. Here’s the thing working so many years in customer service I understand that is forced for a lot of those people and those are the people that I have sympathy for. There’s another sort of kindness that is subtle, that doesn’t demand attention, that doesn’t brag, that maybe comes with a little bit of a bite but it is done with beautiful respect. It’s the kindness that treats you like a human and not a dummy. That’s more of the type of kindness that I show. I’m not a cheerleader. I’m not full of bubbles and I’m not going to stroke your ego just because you demand it. I will not apologize repeatedly for things that mean nothing at the end of the day but I will be kind about it. I get it. Life is full of disappointments from big ones to small ones but saying words just to say words don’t solve a problem. Did you get a damaged canvas? Yeah, that sucks but be an adult. Me apologizing for something completely out of my control isn’t going to fix that canvas but I can absolutely send you a new one. Isn’t that more effective then me saying words I don’t mean? And, sure, I get how that sounds like I’m being unsympathetic but put your life into perspective. Look at what goes on outside of yourself and understand your damaged canvas problem is a way better problem to have then what is going on outside your door.
We come from so many different places and come with so many different values. We don’t always understand those differences. I commend the people in this world that can shine so brightly and love to help the people around them with so much vigor. We need those kind of people. We need the cheerleaders and the soccer moms and the planners and all the shiny happy people because they bring something important to this very hard, dark place we call life… but we also need quiet kindness, too. We need the people who put a blanket on you when you fall asleep on the couch and then go on their way, the kind that does not want the recognition. There is something simple and lovely about being kind when no one sees it. I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I know that my patience for this world is really on a very short leash but please don’t confuse that with me not caring. It’s me wanting to show you respect, one human to another. I was taught we treat each other the way we want to be treated. I don’t want anyone to be anything but real to me so I don’t need the bubbles or the meaningless words or anything that is going to give me a false sense of myself. We need to learn to not judge each other so harshly, to understand that we give each other blankets in different ways and every way is beautiful as long as it comes from a place of kindness. So, do me a favor, next time you go to that coffee shop, give that kid behind the counter a break. If they don’t smile at you the way you want them to, don’t automatically think he is an asshole. Maybe he’s just not the cheerleader type and that subtle kindness is just as valuable.
Life is just a giant bowl of weird things that somehow find a way to work together. We soak up certain parts of our lives in different ways at different times of our lives. While in my teenage years, I thrived on conflict. As I got older, I picked those parts out and pushed them to the side. I often sit at my desk during the week, asking myself how in the world did I land here? But I know that most of my life has been about my kid, about making sure she had what she needed. Then, it became about my husband and being a good partner to him. And somehow all these other things started to find their way into their mix and I drowned myself out. It has been easier focusing on what I am missing more than what I have. That’s true for all of us. I’ve been so focused on all these things I lost over the last few years that I really haven’t sat down and seen what I have gained. I didn’t see that dash of self-discovery that I added. I was blind to that cup of love I finally allowed myself to feel. I get pushed into corners, so easily blinded by how suffocating this world feels to me that I keep out the light. I sit at that desk, surrounded in a hurricane of just unhappy and I hear this small voice whisper to me. Get up. It’s time to get out of the oven.
I texted my mother this morning. I wrote, “It’s nice to feel like myself again.” I wrote that sentence but it didn’t really sink in until after I hit send. When I look back a year ago, five years ago, hell ten years ago and realize I’ve been lost in the mix. And it’s cool. I mean I understand that is life. I accept all the things that hurt me, that I hurt, that held me back. They are all part of me at the end of the day. I remember the day I put me on that shelf. I remember closing the cupboard, telling her that she was safer there. There have been so many moments in my life that I haven’t felt enough, that no matter what I did it just didn’t make the cut. I remember anyone telling me that I was any good, I just laughed at them, distrusting their intentions. You may like me at first but you won’t after awhile. We all fade and, sure, I’ve become pretty skeptical of people… but the girl I put away? She still believes in all of you and it’s hard for me to deal with her disappointment. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I was protecting this hypothetical another person when in reality it’s just me. I learned to take my time with people, to trust my instincts, to only give them a little before giving them a full piece of me. And I’ve been burned and I will continue to get burned but for the first time in a long time, I’m not that concerned about anyone else. And for the first time in a long time, it feels like I slipped back into me. It’s been long overdue.
I’m still a work in progress. Every day I discover something new, annoying and wonderful about myself. I understand my anger and my frustration and my anxiety. I’m like a layer cake just figuring out my layers one at a time. I understand that I can deal with assholes better then I can deal with nice old ladies. I have learned that my lack of patience and my bursts of anger and my long sighs are just versions of my anxiety taking physical form but I’m not ashamed of them. I am in a position that causes me a lot of mental stress. It’s probably been the most damaging place I have ever been. It’s like someone put salt in my sweet tea and I’m having a hard time swallowing it. I thought this week about being an adult and how that has changed over the years. It used to be you worked a job you hated until you died because there really wasn’t any other choice. Eventually, you’ll have a heart attack and leave this world. I think about my parents, watching them as a kid, how they would both come home miserable. I think about my kid off in a beautiful state doing what she loves, living her life, discovering who she is. And then I listen to the old lady on the phone who wants to talk to me about her grand kids or that angry man on the phone who doesn’t believe I’m even a person and I know that there is something better for me out there in this world. This time around I’m not ashamed to say I deserve it, all of it , the entire cake.
The great thing about baking is that even if the outside ends up being not all that pretty, as long as it tastes good, you are golden. I’m rough. I have a lot of work to do. I’ve got some adjustments to make but I understand my ingredients. My kid needed some guidance this week. She’s young and learning, figuring out how the world sees her and how she sees herself. I remember feeling like how other people viewed me was super important. It wasn’t that long ago that I put my worth in other people’s clumsy hands but you learn from that. I told her that at the end of the day it was about how she viewed herself. It was about how she felt she was living her best life. If she felt like she wasn’t whatever enough, then she needed to do the work to see that she was. This silly little struggle of being enough is such a pointless battle but it has taken me 40 years to understand that. You will never be enough for everyone and it’s such an energy draining thing to keep trying. You figure out how to be enough for you, for the people who value you, and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. I’m at a point that I will no longer apologize for my struggle with anxiety. I’m done trying to hide when I get upset or sad or even happy. It wastes so much energy to be anything other than true to yourself. And over the last struggle bus of a year, I’ve slowly taken that girl out of the cupboard and put her back on. We’re still working some things out and I still have my days where I want to smash my head against concrete but I am so grateful for the courage that I soaked up in the giant bowl of my random life. I’ve just been marinating is all.
I spoke to my mother yesterday and the woman just makes me smile sometimes. Not just because she is my mother but because the older I get, the more I just appreciate her as a person. She was telling me a story about her day. In this story and the reactions she had and the things that were being said to her or about her aligned with the sort of week, I was having. Sometimes I think people misunderstand my humor, the way I deal with life. I feel like people often take my sometimes dark, grumpy nature that I am jaded or mean which is so far from who I really am that I find it funny. Listening to my mother, I realized that (not to quote NBC but to quote NBC) I learned it from you! I grew up with a strong mother, a woman who, while doing anything for you, made it very clear when she was angry, who without words expressed that she had had enough. She snapped sometimes but it was never out of malice. It was out of raising four annoying children and taking care of a dreamer of a husband. She was the rock and the world landed on her every time we fell apart. So I get it, now more than ever.
I was never a bubbly person, a cheerleader so to speak. I was never able to blow smoke up your ass or to pretend like I was something I am not even if I have bent over way too often over the last decade. The one thing that I have always been real but it’s been a weird balance. I am a kind person and that kindness goes far but I have my limits. That kindness takes a toll on me that I am happy to pay for a while but, like my mother, I have my limits. I will have that breaking point where I snap at you, where I want to throw a casserole dish at your head for a simple wrong sort of look. I don’t know how to look at a person and put a fake smile on my face without paying a heavy price. And, honestly, I am a pretty jaded person when it comes to humanity. I will roll my eyes at dumb. I will lose my patience for people who make excuses about why they can’t just be a decent human being. My voice will be sarcastic and my wit will be sharp and I will not fake liking you… because I can’t. It is not in my DNA to be something I am not. The older I get, the more I’m tired of fighting that. I work in a field where they want me to fluff people’s pillows and it takes so much out of me to fake concern for people who don’t even believe I’m a real person but I do it. I do it because it’s what I know. I do it because there are genuine people out there who are worth the price I pay.
I love the dark joke. I enjoy saying weird things, making me people look at me like I am a crazy person but a lot of times I got misunderstood because of it. My voice is not a high pitched one. It is slightly raspy from all the years of smoking. It breaks from how much I have to talk to people during the day. It doesn’t understand how to sound sympathetic when inside I want to straggle you. I think about my mom growing up, how you could always tell when she was pissed because her voice gave it away, how I hear those same tones in my own now. I listened to her story yesterday and it just makes me laugh. I’ve lived on this planet, endured so many different types of people, been through some life enough to earn that jagged edge. I’m not ashamed of it and I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m scarred because of it. I don’t want to go through this life, pretending like life is good because it’s not. It never was. While we have moments of joy, we carry so much dark, too. That’s the beauty of us, of all of us. I don’t want to vomit rainbows at your feet if I don’t feel them. I don’t want to lie to you and give you fake apologies if I don’t mean them. I want to be honest and real and human with you, with all of you. I’m not sunshine. I’m an Eeyore and an Oscar and I love the inspiration that comes out of that part of me. A part of me is my mother and I am so glad I fully understand how lovely that part of me is. So, sure, I’m going to snap at you. I’m going to sigh heavily. I’m going to, at some point, throw something at your head… but I’m also going to show you love, kindness, quiet respect.
I sat in an office earlier this week, being told that I needed to be more positive. I said nothing in reply really because I understood there was no point to it. I understood who my audience was, old enough to know what battles are worth fighting and which are not. I walked out feeling slightly defeated, very annoyed, and honestly not very motivated. I know that I’m not always the easiest person to read, to get to know. I give you everything and give you nothing at the same time. And I know that I come off as negative at times. I used to want to change that part of me but I’m not very interested in that much anymore. Here’s the thing. I know who I am. I know that I hold my sunshine close to the chest because I’m terrified that the world is somehow going to take it away from me. It has happened so much in my life that it’s just a part of me and I’m OK to share that part of me with the people in my life who I feel comfortable with. I will always have a general distrust of people but I will never treat another person with anything but respect. My very first memory of my mom is her brushing her long, dark hair in a bathroom in a pink nightgown. I remember thinking that she was one of the most beautiful people in the world and, one day, I wanted to be just as pretty as she was. So, I took note of her strength growing up, the things she would tolerate and the things she wouldn’t. Listening to her story last night, I realized that all of that strength has been imprinted in me, in that very small little girl who watched her mother in such awe. I don’t want to apologize anymore for being a little dark, slightly strange, always a bit sad. I don’t want to apologize for being anxious or hesitant or weary of people. I love you all but maybe it’s the time I just throw the casserole dish and see where the crumbs fall.
This week I did my first art installation at a local Coffee shop. I’ve been going to this place since I was 15 years old. That’s a lot of years and a lot of coffee we’ve shared together. So, for this to be the first place I come out so to speak is fitting. There’s a lot of anxiety with this but it’s not the kind that brings me to my knees. It’s an exciting sort of nervous, happy butterflies. For the last 7 months, I have been preparing and thinking, obsessing and dreaming, thinking of all the worst-case scenarios crossing my fingers for the best. Putting your work out there for people to see is always rough but to have it in front of live people makes me feel so vulnerable. I feel like posting it on a website or Instagram there is a certain amount of protection there. I look at those paintings on the wall right now and it feels like I am standing naked in front of you. Each of one of those paint strokes was born from these hands and came from a part of me that I can’t use words to explain. And in that, there is a rawness that I am giving to you.
There was a moment Thursday morning after everything was hung that I became scared. I wanted to pull everything down, say never mind, and hide all of my work away. It wasn’t that I was scared that people wouldn’t like it. There will be people who won’t and that’s all right. I get that my work is very feminine and maybe a more a specific taste. I just didn’t know if I was sure I wanted to show the world those parts of me. There is a certain amount of loneliness in my work, a sadness that I don’t mean to put in there but because those two things have been a part of me for so long they come out when I draw. And it was that sadness, that loneliness that I was scared to give to you. Here’s the thing. Those two things are mine and the source of so much of my strength that I was scared it was going to be taken away from me. My husband looked at me, saw the panic in my eyes, and asked me if I was all right. I was. I always am. At that moment though I had to roll with my anxiety, feel that fear, and realize that doing this was a new source of strength. It was about time I owned that part of me, too.
I have had many dreams about my Dad over the last few nights. I miss him so much but I always miss him. I sit here right now and I look at those pictures hanging on the wall and I think of him. I think of all the conversations we ever had, the good ones and the bad ones, the silly political debates and the dinner time conversations about bowel movements and I smile at all of them. I am not a super-spiritual person but I do believe that spirits exist. I don’t think my Dad is hanging around. I know he has found his peace but what I also know that he visits sometimes, too. And even it is just my mind dealing with his death by creating this fantasy, I’m OK with it. Last night he bought me ice cream and we sat together in a busy place and we laughed and we smiled. I don’t know what we talked about but I remember sitting with him, what I felt and knowing this was his way of letting me know how proud of me he is. He knew that someday I would find what he always saw and it was this strength to try.
I know this is just a coffee shop. I know this may not be the thing that rockets me to success. I have a healthy understanding that I may walk out with every one of those pieces 3 months from now… but for now, I am eating ice cream with my Dad and enjoying this moment.
I’m going to admit something here and I am not ashamed. I play the Sims. No, that’s not right. I love the Sims! And I get it. You are basically living the same life you are in real life on a screen but are you? Because I know that just for kicks I do a lot of stuff on Sims that I would never do in real life like try to murder my husband by feeding him beans from a magic bush for flirting with a townie. Nor would I voluntarily have 100 babies which is the current challenge going on right now I hear. Clearly, this silly, little fun game is giving you the ability to live outside yourself for a moment. It gives you this outlet where you can sleep with the entire town if you want or, in a very drastic turn, turn around and lock them in a room, taking away the door, and starving them to death. Yes, these are real things you can do and honestly, they are pretty tame compared to some of the cheats I’ve seen out there. My point is our real lives are full so much dumb stuff, some beautiful and most senseless, that it’s nice just to stomp your feet and scream sounds a the air when you don’t want to life.
I’ve done a lot of self reflection lately. It’s healthy. It hurts. It’s real and I’m being as honest as I possibly can with myself and with you, too. I want to give this person who I know is in there the ability to speak but I’ve been scared to let her out. I’m tired of being scared. I’m tired of being quiet. I’m tired of stepping back into the shadows to make the world around me more comfortable. I want to let my inner Sims come out, stomp her feet, wave those glitch arms, and scream for a little while. I’ve been thinking that I’ve been sad lately. I’ve sat down with my anxiety and looked it straight in the face and realized it is not just sadness. It’s not just the feeling of being broken and paralyzed. There is a lot of anger, too, so much anger. I’ve allowed myself to be pushed into this corner and I have done nothing to stop it from happening over the last few years. I wasn’t always so tolerant but I confused being tolerant with just giving up. So, that anger really isn’t at the world at all. It’s at myself. So many don’t see me because I don’t see myself. And so many show no concern for me because for years I’ve shown myself even less. I locked myself in a room and took away the door. I am coming to realize I have been starving myself for years now.
Listen I know comparing actual life to The Sims is a humorous stretch. And this blog may not be taken seriously because of it. That’s all right. I’m not here to tell you how to feel. You can’t make a Sim enjoy cleaning a toilet if they don’t want to. I had some phone calls this week. And, sure, I am going to make some Sims of these nasty people on the phone and probably put them in a pool and take away the ladder because Sims… but I realized something in their nastiness. I get frustrated when people are assholes to put it simply. There was a moment in this phone call this week where I realized I had a choice. I could allow him to treat me badly or I could make it clear that was not going to happen. There’s a bitch inside me, guys. I just don’t let her play very often but she’s getting restless and I felt her at that moment. I let her come out and it felt great to not allow this person to determine what I was worth. I have allowed myself to be treated badly. I have allowed that. I can’t put all of the blame on the people who took advantage of that. They saw the opportunity and they took it because I did not stop it. I will now.
There’s a balance I realized I need to find, this balance between the very kind, compassionate, empathetic person that in my heart I know I am and this other me that is hard, almost cold but fair who doesn’t tolerate being bulldozed over. And I can achieve that character when playing Sims because there’s no real hard choice, no real consequences, no explanations. It is simple and pure and silly. Life is none of those things. It is complicated and circumstantial and unpredictable. It is full of doubt and questions and darkness. It can be wonderful and breathtaking, inspiring. You can wake up every morning vomiting rainbows. There’s always a price to pay and sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve paid until you’re all spent. Growing old is a lot of figuring out which versions of yourself you want to mesh together, which parts matter and which were just useless. I guess I’m finally seeing me, realizing the parts that have hurt me and the ones that kept me strong. I’m deciding who I want to be, not which me will be the most convenient for everyone else. It’s time I put the door back and let this girl free. If I don’t care about her, why should you?
I have been trying to do small stuff to help myself feel better, function better. I try to do Yoga at least a few times a week and a cardio video (which really just turns into me dancing around circles flailing my arms). I even took a walk on my lunch break the other day. I looked in the mirror the other day and made myself look. I tend to not look at my reflection all that often. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I look like but I don’t feel great about some things either. I realized that the way I’m feeling on the inside is reflected on my outside. I’ve gained some weight since leaving the back-breaking restaurant life. I no longer stand on my feet for anywhere from 6 to 15 hours a day. I don’t get that workout, that physical adrenaline release. I don’t get that feeling, after all, is said and done of making it through the chaos. There is this feeling of release after you make it through a dinner rush in one piece. And I just don’t get that same feeling from sitting at a desk being verbally abused by adults. That negative, motionless, uninspiring desk may be literally killing me (yep, totally overdramatic, it’s cool).
So, I sat down at my kitchen table and, just like Sonny, I pulled out my box of tools to figure myself out. I wrote last week about my anxiety and how it is just getting out of control. I feel like partially it’s my fault. I know. It’s not really a matter of fault but it’s me that doesn’t know how to cut off negative energy in a healthy way. These are how I deal with life. I let it fester, boil over until I have had enough. Then I either do something about it or I say fuck it and just don’t care. I struggle with what to fight for. So much of my adult struggle has been about the fight I fight for others around me. It wasn’t really about me. I wanted it to be about me but I never allowed it to be because when I did? Well, getting shoved back down started to take its toll on me. I feel like I’ve come full circle, still fighting the same annoying battle of feeling empty. If I look at my life, this empty is completely absurd and so I get angry that I can’t just shut up already. I look at all that reflection and understand I got to the point of being so overwhelmed, angst-filled that I just didn’t care anymore. Who was paying attention to me anyway? I certainly wasn’t.
I changed over the last year and not all of it has been in a good way. I can accept my own responsibility for it. I allowed my environment to drown me when I should have had a life jacket on already. But I feel like because I’ve stopped so much physical activity, I have also lost that natural release. My head had lost its ability to push through something because my body is now just this blob that sits at a desk, listening all day to people who have nothing better to do than to say nasty things. So, I have been trying to add things to my day like the yoga, the Zumba videos, the occasional walk around a building. And, in a small way, it is helping but it is not the solution. It’s only a part of the solution. My artwork and my drawing is another part of the solution but still, I haven’t quite figured out the entire equation. I think it’s important for me to see the whole picture, to really take in exactly what I’m dealing with. My head feels full of unnecessary jumble and I need to clean house but some of this hoard has been in here for too long. I realize that I enjoyed the rush of the restaurant life because I didn’t have time to think, to feel, to really deal with me. And now? Well, now that reflection is staring me right in the face and it’s time I stare back.
I know a lot of my blogs lately have focused around this same theme. I feel like I’m going through this journey right now and this is how I find my best way. I don’t know how to talk to people but I know how to write. So, this is where I go. At the end of a sentence is where I find myself. This is one of the small things that help me find my center, my balance on these two wobbly feet. I once believed that I should keep all of these feelings inside a journal where no one can see. And, I’ll admit, I do have a journal full of secrets I will never tell but part of this journey for me is learning how to be vulnerable, to tell people how I feel. Do I wish I could sit down with you and just say the words? Sure, sometimes, but that will come in time. The Poem I wrote earlier was about being sincere and how I will run quickly away if I even smell a hint of someone being insincere but I’m still learning how to trust this world around me. I’m still learning on how to let go of the hoard that is in my head which includes a lot of disappointment. Maybe my wind will change this week. Maybe I’ll look at that reflection and won’t feel so broken. Maybe I’ll find the voice to speak these words but it’s all right if I don’t. This is my journey and I will find my shine in my own time. We all do.
My husband laughed at me yesterday morning. My alarm clock went off and I was so angry at this innocent alarm clock, I slammed the snooze button and cursed at it. His laughter made me laugh and, though I woke up annoyed at the fact I had to wake up, I started my day in relatively good spirits. But here’s the thing I get angry at that alarm clock every morning. It buzzes and I curse and I stumble out of my bed to feed hungry cats who meow at me and walk under my feet. And then I go to a job where I get yelled at most day because people are entitled and rude. Listen, I’ve worked a lot of Customer Service jobs in my life. I’ve dealt with a rainbow of different people, from the best to the worst. After years of constant pampering grown adults who should know how to behave, I’ve found that I don’t much like that alarm clock very much anymore. In fact, I would much prefer to just stay in my house. Is this starting to be a problem? Probably but I’ve already started this journey of making my life a better situation. This is just another part of me that is in progress.
Last Friday, I woke up in my usual angry fashion, not wanting to go to work and not feeling great but I got up. I fed those hungry baby kitties of mine and made my coffee and lunch and out the door, I went. Then, I killed a bunny (and before anyone gets upset by that nonchalant sentence, I still feel horrible about it). I cried the entire way to work and thought about that poor bunny the rest of the day. I left early that day. I just kept thinking that perhaps the world just didn’t want me to leave my house and it sacrificed that poor animal so I would stay home. I understand this mentality of not wanting to be a part of the world is a bit of a problem. I have complete comprehension that my already hermit tendency may be getting a little bit out of control. I also understand that what I do during the day doesn’t help motivate me to come out of my hole either. Dealing with people is tough and taxing and downright demoralizing sometimes. And I feel like people who work in this industry are just like that poor bunny. We’re just trying to live our lives and then we get run over by things we can’t avoid.
I’m sure I’ve talked about this before but we’ll go down this rabbit hole a little bit (pun intended). I was on Zoloft for maybe ten years of my life. I had a lot of anxiety issues because of some life events that I experienced. I wasn’t able to function without it for a long time. I was young with a small child on my own and I mentally was a mess. So, I got help. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication that is going to help you live your life. It wasn’t a high dosage, just enough to kill the edge. The Doctor always asked me if I wanted to increase it but I always said no. I didn’t want to stop feeling my life. I just wanted to stop letting my feelings stopping me from living my life. So, for ten years, I was on it but then my life started to change. I met my husband. I switched jobs. I found some stability. I learned ways of dealing with my anxiety on my own without the aid of Zoloft. That was ten years ago. For a really long time, I’ve been OK as far as that goes. I know my triggers and I understand what I have to do when I start panicking. I worked at a restaurant, waiting tables and tending bar and it was chaotic, but I was still able to control my anxiety. I’ve been really proud of myself and I don’t say that very often.
I haven’t been doing too well controlling that anxiety in the last year. I’ve felt it come back. I’ve felt the moments of panic where I don’t feel like I can breathe, where I’m going to pass out, the buzzing in my head like I’m going to explode. And far too often lately, I’ve just wanted to hide from the world. So, I sit back and try to figure out what has changed so drastically that I feel like I need to go back on Zoloft. I want to make it something clear before I go on. I am not against having that sort of help again. I believe that help is there for us for a reason and, if we’re having a hard time, get the help you need to live your best life. My thing is I worked so hard to learn how to live without it. Maybe it’s a pride thing. I don’t know. I realized that it was what I was exposing myself during the day. There are all sorts of Customer Service jobs. Each has their plus and minuses. Each can be hell to work. But this what I realized in my current situation. All day all I was hearing was negative words with negative tones. I listen all day to grown, professional people bitch about things that shouldn’t cause so much angst. Let’s be real. You don’t call a Customer Service line to tell someone you think they are really cool. You call them because you’re pissed. And I get it, guys. I get that you received something that wasn’t right and you’re pissed but take a breath. You are not the bunny I ran over. If the ghost of that bunny called, it has every right to give me hell. I’m such an empath that every emotion you feel, I feel, too. And if I hear, if I feel nothing but anger and disappointment all day, that’s what is going to stick with me. The anxiety that I have had control over for so long now has fuel to it and I feel like lately, I’m losing control. My eyes are tearing right now writing these words because this feeling sucks.
I get so angry at the alarm clock every morning because I know what is in store for me. I know it will be nothing but unhappy people who can’t understand that an actual person is on the other line who has nothing to do with their problem. Everyone, please understand the people you deal with on the phone or serving your drinks or ringing up your shampoo have nothing to do with your personal problems or with company policies in any way. I just answer the phone, man. The other week I came home and cried every day. It was such a rotten week. It was because I felt out of control like there was this giant weight was on top of me, that I was in a constant panic attack. It is so hard to function when you feel like you’re constantly under water. I’ve realized this for a while now but something clicked in my head. This is not right. I’m on this journey right now of trying to make myself, my life better. In my younger years, I would’ve thought I would just have to suck it up and work like this but I’m tired of feeling like I have to sacrifice myself. I don’t want to be a martyr anymore. I have nothing to prove and my mental health is so much more important. I can’t be a good partner to my husband if I am miserable. I can’t be a good mother to my daughter if I’m a mess. I can’t be a good friend to you if I’m terrified to leave my house. If something is not making you the best you can be, find the thing that will. I hope that bunny forgives me and I hope one morning soon I will wake up without being so angry at the buzzing sound. Maybe I’ll have to go back on Zoloft for a little while or maybe my course will change soon to a better one. I may be a work in progress until the day I die and that’s OK. As long as I keep trying….
When I was younger, I said no to a lot of things. I drew a lot of lines. I set a lot of boundaries. If I didn't want to do something, you couldn't make me even give it a side look. I wore a stern face a lot. Was it that I knew who I was? No, I had no idea. Was it that I knew what I wanted? Not in the least but I did know what I did not. I observed life around me, what it expected, what I could get away with. I had this strange confidence about me that seems almost like an alien at this point in my life. I haven't felt that sure of myself for such a long time. Don't worry. This isn't a look-back-at-how-much-better-I-was-then blog. It's more of a train of thought currently so just come along with me. We'll reach my point soon. My words always find their way. I was in the shower this morning. So often I experience the best moments of revelations in the shower. I get this weird understanding. I'm stripped down to nothing and I allow myself to take a look, to check in, to figure out some sort of balance in this raging war that I seem to be battling lately. I don't have that confidence any more but I don't think I want it back either.
The one concept I think I have lost over the years is this one of self care. There used to be this girl full of spirit and light and determination. A mountain wouldn't move her and it wasn't always a great thing to be that stubborn. It caused it's own damage. I said no to the people that tried to climb it even ones who just wanted to be my friend. I put up barricades and waged wars and threw flaming arrows to keep them at bay. I knew who I was in a way only a young, naive girl could and I wasn't allowing anyone to change that. And then someone threw a stick of dynamite at me that I didn't want and I came crumbling down. I crashed so hard. I became this landslide that I think I'm stilling cleaning up all these years later. So, instead of setting my boundaries and keeping a firm line, I just let myself go. I didn't say no to anything because what was the point? If someone wanted something, they were going to take it anyway. I ended up surrounded in this darkness where I no longer understood this concept that I was still a person. I just said yes because what did it matter anymore? So, then I was the yes person, the one who always saved the day even if it hurt myself. You need to pick up that shift? Of course. I haven't had a day off in weeks but I got you. You need me to work on the weekend? I got you. No worries. I will help you and I won't expect anything back. I learned quickly that the hand you offer is so often not returned. As long as you don't bitch about it? You're good. You're all good. It wasn't just a work environment. It was my home life. It was everything about my life. I would just let people take what they wanted because I was tired of being bulldozed, because I felt like when I tried to stand I was pushed back down anyway.
Something in me has started to change over the last few years. I feel like when I lost my father, there was a switch that was flipped. I feel like over the last four years I've been sort of drowning but I see that I am so close to breaking free from these rip tides that keep pulling me under. I am fighting this strange battle. Some days I lose more than I win but I feel like the landslide that has been me for so long is starting to build itself back up again. I never got to tell my Dad some things I needed to tell him and that's on me but in his death this regret somehow woke me up. The scars of the footprints that had walked on me started to become irritated. I made myself a tiny hill at first and I watched the world around me. I heard myself say yes and then I felt the damage that it was doing to me. So, I started to say no again. I started to stand up for myself again. I started seeing the value of standing on solid ground. I didn't want to be everyone's Yes Girl anymore. I just wanted to be me, who ever that is right now. The world started to change with me. The people that once stood there when I so easily said yes I don't see a lot of them anymore. When I drew a line, they fell off my mountain but I didn't push them off this time. I let them fall away. While I've struggled with the loss of some, I understand how important it is to let the negative I've kept with me fall away, too.
We see these memes that say, "Say Yes," more but I feel like it is taken out of context. Sure, say yes to trying that chocolate covered cricket or say yes to zip lining while you're on vacation. Say yes to as much as you want as long as it doesn't hurt you. When I was younger, I did what I wanted and I didn't much think about how anybody felt about it. Then, life taught me a lesson, knocked that chip straight off these shoulders, and I became that landslide. I went from saying no to everything (unless it my idea) to saying yes to anything. Both were so incredibly harmful to me but I couldn't see it. I liked being the king of my own kingdom but then when my crown was knocked off, I just became this sad, pathetic peasant that somehow needed the world's approval. I've been shut down for a long time. I married my husband, this beautiful gem of a man, because for whatever reason he was the one person who was able to swim through that landslide and find me. To this day, I feel like he's the only one who really sees me because most days I just feel like a ghost to the rest of the world. But I want to change that and I'm working on it. I want to say yes because I want to say yes, not because there will be repercussions if I don't. And I want to say no because what you're asking is not good for me and I need to draw that line of what I will tolerate. We don't have to be afraid of being good to ourselves. I can love you and I can love me. I just wish I would've figured that out a long time ago.
There has been so many changes in my life in the last year. I think about where I was a year ago and it's seems so far away. In some ways, I feel like I've found my bearings a little better. In another, I feel completely off center. I'm navigating my way through a world where my role has changed. My kid left about two weeks ago. She packed up her bags and ran off to Montana for adventure. It was such an 18 year old thing to do. I was not a fan of this but I understand it. I understand that need to get out, to experience, to try. I made the choice to not do that when I was young I guess in a way there is a part of me that is jealous of her, of her bravery, of her let's just do this attitude. That used to be a long time ago but somewhere along this life I decided to slip back into the shadows, to hide. When you have kids, it's so easy to forget you're a person, too. It's so easy to put everyone in front of you. Somehow keeping a clean house becomes your top priority. Somewhere between packing lunches and reading bed time stories and picking up toys left behind from the day consumes any energy you have for yourself. So, I became someone's mother and that was that.
A year ago, I had a kid who was about to start her senior year. I was working as a bartender, not really struggling for money at least not the way we are now. I was trying to figure out my life, the next best step, realizing my kid was about to find her wings and fly away. This idea that I would no longer have a kid under my roof was becoming more than something that would happen years from now. It was about to be now. So what then for me? So, I quit my job as a bartender and I got a job that I thought was going project me into the greatest of heights. One year later and I cry more often than I have in a long time. One year later and my nest is empty. One year later I am a 40 year old woman while sure of everything she is not, is having a real hard time figuring out who I am. Life happens in the strangest of ways sometimes. While I feel like my ground is a little bit rocky right now, I know that every step has had it's purpose. I was not supposed to stay behind that bar and I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be sitting behind a desk either. I am meant to be her mother but I was also meant to let whoever is sitting here stand up, too.
I feel like most of my life I've been hiding so much of myself. This idea is one of the blogs that didn't get written earlier this week. This idea that I have had to hide both my dark, depressive side and the hope that has been this light that keeps me going. I feel like people have always tried to put me in this place, fit me into the corner that they want me to sit. I've always preferred my own so that's where I've been, hiding and being whatever fit the situation because it was easier. There is a sadness that I carry around, that I have always carried around. It didn't form because the assault that happened when I was 18. That just amplified the darkness that was already there. Sometimes sadness doesn't come from an event that happened. Sometimes you just have it. I learned, however, that this sad, lonely side of me wasn't one that people wanted to be around but showing my hopeful, euphoric side almost felt too fake. Why? Because people couldn't deal with the fact that I was both. For most of my life, I've hid what I felt, never said a word about it. I sighed heavily and walked away. It just was too much work to try to explain both. As my life has gone by, I've realized that not many people want to take the time to listen anyway.
One year ago, I felt like I was a bit more stable but I was unhappy. One year later, my foundation has been rocked but I feel like I am so close to figuring out how to balance myself. My child has found her wings and is currently in flight, leaving me here on the ground to watch her soar. It is a fact of life. Children leave their parents behind but I don't have to be left behind. I can fly, too. I don't have to put her in front of me anymore because she doesn't need me to. I don't have to sacrifice my time, my energy. I need me now and, for the first time in my life, I don't feel guilty writing those words. I'm done hiding, done placating to everyone around me. One year ago, I gave so much of myself to so many things that, looking back now, didn't really value me at all. That's on me. I should have drawn that line. I should have made it very clear that I was worth more or even as much as you. I'm at this job now where they ask a lot and I get it. It is the nature of the job, of any job really. Last week I came home and cried every night. I looked in the mirror with my red eyes and had an epiphany. I was done. I wiped my tears, gave myself a hug, told myself that allowing myself to feel this was OK. This was healthy to allow myself to feel, to digest, to let it out. I am done hiding. One year ago, I still felt like I had to. I guess I'm doing better than I thought, right? I will always be lonely and sad but it makes the hope, the love in me shine that much brighter. We are all light and we are all dark. Without the other, we just exist and life has to be about more than merely existing.