You would think that just working one job now that I would have time to sit down and work on my art more. Truth is I work just as much as I ever did but my focus has changed. I once thought that the only thing that made me a viable, productive person was the amount of hours I put in. I thought that if I racked up all these hours that it would measure how much I was worth. If I worked sixty hours a week, that meant that I was a useful member of society... but then I realized something so much more valuable. I realized that the status of my own worth was for me to determine. Let's face it. Waiting tables is not a job that is going to save or damn the world. What I do is provide a service, an entertainment of sorts for the masses that could just as easily get it from anywhere these days. The true value of my job? It's bringing a smile to those that I encounter. To get through a shift, sure, that has to be the one thing that I hold onto because some days I get one nasty table full of people after another. But, like any other job on this planet, you suck it up and you smile and eventually you will be sitting down with a nice cold beer enjoying the company of people you actually do want to be around. There was a point that I was scared to take days off. I thought it somehow made me look like I didn't care enough about the job, that people would look at me differently if I took some time just for myself or to be with my family. The expectations that I have for myself are utterly ridiculous because honestly there are many days I just cannot live up to what I expect me to be. My husband often tells me to give myself a break. I can't always be the answer to everyone problems. I should remember to eat more, to relax more, to sit the fudge down sometimes. He encourages me to step away, to get lost in my art, to explore all these beautiful and quirky parts of myself that he fell in love with more often. He's right. I should do all of those things. So that's what I've been trying to do though I still have some work to do.
I think as a mother I naturally want to kiss things and make all the boo-boos better around me. If you're having a rough day, I want to hold your hand and make you smile even though I should be doing a million other things to help my art career move forward. If there is tea to be made, I want to be the one to make that tea so you can go outside and take a break even though I haven't had one in hours. Over the last few months, I've realized that sometimes I can't always be the answer to someone's prayer. Not because I don't want to but I've got prayers that need to be answered, too. By stepping back and improving myself is not selfish or wrong as long as I am not doing at anyone else's expense. As a mother, I have learned to put others before me. It is a natural instinct for me to rub your neck if you pinched a nerve. I like helping others. I always have but sometimes that love for helping was at the expense of my own needs. My husband and I took a trip to Baltimore a week ago. It was the first time it had been just the two of us since our Honeymoon almost seven years ago. It was wonderful. I sat with this lovely man of mine and we talked for hours about our life. We talked about our dreams for us as a unit, for us as individuals. We made a map of all the places we wanted to go, of all the adventures we wanted to take, of all the demons we wanted to conquer. We talked about our kid and how strange it would be to become more of an observer in her life than such a vital part of it. We sat outside that haunted hotel with all the cars going by, with the constant honking in the background under the city stars, drunk on one too many cocktails and I took a picture of that moment in my mind. I placed it with all the other moments I will cherish because in that moment I had the realization that these moments are what really matter. These moments are the ones that measure my life, my worth. It's not about how many hours I work or how many loads of laundry I do. It's not about how many tables I can handle at one time or how many glasses I can carry on a tray without spilling them all. My worth is measured by the way he looks at me, the way you smile back at me, the love I live my life with.
I wish I had realized this earlier in my life. I wish I had figured out that being the best to everyone wasn't as necessarily as important as being the best version of me to myself. I would have accepted that I am not invincible so much easier. I would have learned the lessons my tears were trying to teach me much quicker. I would have enjoyed more moments in my life because I wouldn't have worried so much about what the people around me thought of me so much. I would have accepted the fact that not everyone has to like me and then I would have let them go without the guilt. I've had some extra time since I quit the other job, true. I've been a lot happier since I left that negativity behind me, too. Sometimes though I realize that the expectations I put on myself I often transfer to everything around me as well. I see now that it makes it tough not so much for me but for everyone around me. If I can't always be what I want to be, it is unfair to assume that everyone around me can either. Since I've left that other place, I have taken time to spend with my husband. I've taken time to spend with my daughter though she's a teenager and clearly Mom is not first on her priority list and that's OK, too. She knows I'm right here. I've spent time with friends and seen my family. For the first time in a long time, I've taken some time for me, too. I bought myself a desk and some new shoes. I've allowed myself to relax, to breathe, to give myself a break. I did not realize how important it was to just let myself be until now. I believed that making myself necessary meant that I made myself worth more. The reality of that mentality is that I just consistently burnt myself out for someone else's benefit, leaving me pretty empty at the end of the day. So when I would sit down to write or to draw or to create something that anger would vomit all over the paper, this anger that I would never admit that I felt. That's never who I wanted to be. I expect better out of myself because at the end of the day I want you to smile when you read my words, to love when you look at a picture I drew. But really if I am being honest? I want to smile when I read these words and I want to love when I look at something these hands create. In everything that I do, I want to be proud of the final outcome. In these last few months, I have taken the time to get back to myself, the way I have always been but sadly been sidetracked by circumstances I could not control. I had a table last night. The gentleman was being unnecessarily rude to me about drink specials. I realized the tone of this table and I knew I had a choice to make. I could either feed into his negative energy, allowing him to determine what I was worth. Or I could just let him be, answer his questions, provide good service with a smile on my face and let these feelings that he was trying to cause me go. I walked to the back and I started to laugh, telling my coworker about the interaction. I decided to laugh, realizing whatever tip he left me didn't matter because I was not going to allow him to tell me how much I was worth whether he left me nothing or twenty dollars. I could tell you what he left me (actually pretty good) but it doesn't matter. What matters is that I finally understand that I am the measuring cup of my own worth. Some days I'm not going to live up to the level I would like and other days I will surpass even my own expectations. As long as I try and keep on trying to be the best I can be, isn't that what matters? It's been nice living my life again. It's been lovely smelling the roses. It's been wonderful to get back to my basics, to not feel the weight so heavy on my shoulders, to allow sun to shine on every part of me.
When you're younger, you think about what it would be like to walk back into your high school twenty years later, right? You imagine that you will be one of the most successful people in the room. You believe that the life you have lived since the day you graduated will have been this amazing adventure full of travel and women/men and grandeur. You convince your youthful self that the sky is the limit. You can't wait until all those people that once doubted get a load of you now, right? I often think of the movie Gross Point Blank when I think of going to my reunion. I think I would actually enjoy telling people that I am a professional assassin though it would be the furtherest from the truth. I feel guilty when I accidentally step on an ant. The other day I got the invite to my twenty year old reunion. I knew it was coming, I suppose. After all, it was twenty years ago that I took my last steps from that high school that is now long demolished. My class graduated with 74 graduates. We all knew each other's names, birthdays, secrets. There was little to hide when you only had a few to gossip about. I have to admit I had some mixed feelings when I saw that notification. At what point does it matter what these people that you spent so little of your life with stop mattering? And why do we want to prove so much that we're better than the other years later? I admit. I struggle right now whether or not I'm going to attend. On one hand, I've kept little contact with them. I have few friends that I check in with now and then. On the other hand I am curious, just purely curious on how my fellow classmates turned out. There is no fear of seeing them again. Maybe it's just confirmation that we turned out all right.
The last reunion I went to ten years ago I decided to go raging drunk. At the time I thought it would be hilarious to be wasted talking to all these people that I once knew. Now looking back at it? Looking back at it I was terrified. My life did not turn out the way I thought it would. I was supposed to walk back into my ten year reunion a published author with novels and novels on my resume. I was supposed to walk in there, proving that I was as bright as I was when I was voted Friendliest of my Senior Class. The reality of my life? I was a single mother who was struggling. I was a young woman who was incredibly angry, incredibly insecure, most certainly lost. I didn't want to tell them I was working at a coffee shop or that I was divorced or that I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't face the questions about what happened in college with our classmate sober. I had heard rumors of my whereabouts over the years. All of them made me laugh. What would I say to that? I chose to go along with it because it was easier to hide behind these absurdities than to truly admit how broken I was when I stepped through those doors. There was still this need to be something more than what I was to them even though I knew when I walked back out that door it would be another ten years before we saw each other again. And I guess in a way a small part of me hoped that there would be some closure. There would be some closure from those years that, in those moments, seemed so important. What I saw when I looked at the people across from me wasn't ten years later. What I saw was us ten years ago, bickering over these inconsequential events in our lives but in those moments, didn't they mean everything?
So how do I feel going into this twenty year reunion? It's been ten years since I've seen some of them. It's been twenty years since I've seen others. How does my life stack up now? I ran into a classmate yesterday actually. I was waiting for my daughter and there this girl was. It made me laugh. I thought what a small world. With our reunion looming, what a strange time to run into her? We started talking about high school. What humored me was that she barely remembered any of it. What I found curious is how slightly envious I was of that. I often over analyze everything about my life. This is no exception. I remember every face, every laugh, every joy, every wrong doing, every stupid fight that I ever experienced in those four silly years of my life. I catalog them in my mind, pull them out when certain feelings are required for my writing, my art. I believe that everything we go through is important even the little stuff that doesn't always matter. I laughed to myself after we left that she probably didn't even remember my name. I thought that was OK. So is it OK if I walk into that room and nobody remembers my name? I think I would prefer that. Not because I am ashamed of who I was back then but because I am so much prouder of who I am today. We were kids twenty years ago who knew nothing of who we were, what was out there, what we wanted to become. In the last twenty years, we've experienced life. We've felt all the pain, the joy, the grief, the hurt that life brings. That experience has either made who we were better or erased who we were at all. I realize that ten years ago the reason I needed to use alcohol as that crutch was because I had lost every part of who I was. Some of that loss I blamed on them so it didn't matter if the white lies I told hurt anyone. It didn't matter if any hurtful words came out of my life left a sting because I was still reeling from a pain I didn't know how to heal. I realize ten years later I don't have anything to hide. Am I where I want to be? No, not professionally at least, but I am where I want to be personally. Isn't that what matters?
To the question, am I going? I don't honestly know yet. If I don't go, it's not because I am ashamed of where I landed. It's not because I am terrified to stand in front of my peers. It will not because there are certain people I don't want to see. The relevance of high school in my life has long since passed. I mean that with no malice. It's just I am a grown woman in my late thirties with a teenage daughter, a husband who loves me, friends who I adore. My life is on a wonderful trajectory towards exactly where I want it to be. If I don't go, it won't be because I have anything to hide. In the same breath I also don't have anything that I need to show off. The proof of the goodness in my life, in the success of my life is in the child I have raised, the man who smiles back at me, in these creations that I make. And if I go? It's not to prove I am anything more than what I am. We get to a certain age in our lives and we realize that we have no desire to be that eighteen year old again. The romantic part of being that shiny penny has long gone because the loveliness of our lives becomes brighter. If I go, it won't be because I need closure from people who left my life years ago. I will go to see some old friends who I lost touch with. I will go to have some laughs about all those times we were dumb with nothing to lose. I will sit with these old familiars and bathe in our glory days... and then I will move on like we all must. I will come back to my teenage daughter, sit with my sweet husband, and curl up with these words. Perhaps I did not invent Post-Its. That's OK. What I did invent is the person I became today. She's been worth every step. And most importantly? That girl that I used to be is proud of how we turned out. When I walk into that twenty year reunion, it's her who will be waiting for me with open arms.
Sometimes I hear the underlying tones of a conversation and other times I miss the point completely. I was in a heated battle the other day with my teenage daughter about what I post on Facebook, what I blog about on this site, what I send people in private conversations with my own friends. What I heard her saying was that she was mad because I may have or may not have portrayed her in a positive light. What I realize she was saying a few days after the matter is that she was more concerned of how I was portraying myself. I remember when was small and I would be having coffee with a friend while she was with me how she would correct me if I told a story slightly askew. I remember how annoying I would find it to have this five year old child correct me over some small detail that I would embellish for the sake of good story telling that really didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. To me, making a story bigger than what it was made it funny, more entertaining. As a writer, that's what I do. I tell stories. Some are simple. Some are grand. Some are just silly. And my stories are inspired by my life. It's how I know to relate to people. You write what you know. You write what you feel and so many of those feelings are inspired by our every days. My teenage daughter would hate this blog for the mere reason that I mentioned her but very rarely does she read something unless I point it out to her. That's OK because there are some things in this life even as someone's mother that are my own. I don't necessarily need to share every ounce of me with her because I am a woman, my own person just as much as I am someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's friend. It took me years to understand that these passions that I have solely for myself are just as important as the hopes and dreams I have for the people I love. When I was deep in the trenches of this argument with my child about the words that fell out of these fingers and asked her why it mattered? Her response took me by surprise and I didn't get it initially. It was the same reason why when she was small that she had to correct me. What she sees me as despite the fact that she's a teenager is what she has always seen me as. I have been the one force in her life that never walked away, the one she could count on to be true and right. So when I post something or say something that makes me sound silly or not as intelligent as she knows I am, she cares what people think of me even if she won't admit that. As teenagers, we were selfish and the only thing that we could only ever see was ourselves even if what we were feeling was about what was going around us. I would like to say that I'm good at slipping on her shoes but I don't fit those shoes anymore so I forget what it's like to be a teenage girl with so many emotions, with so many hang ups, with so many things in this life to be unsure of. And what she can't see yet is that beyond being her mother, I am my own person, too. What she can't quite grasp is the concept of not being concerned what other people think. When the day turns to nigh, I have to answer to myself.
We get so wrapped up with appearances, about what we should be for this person and who we have to be for that person. It is exhausting to bend so many ways for people that don't always matter. I can honestly say that when I was younger I cared very little about how the world viewed me. Before college, before tragedy, before life what people saw didn't change the decisions I made, didn't sway the way I behaved. I roared as loudly as I wanted and I didn't care all that much if I hurt your ears. Then life happened, tragedy struck and I was covered in someone else's shame. All I saw when you looked at me was that person did to me and I couldn't bear those looks. I couldn't stand what you saw. I didn't want the world to see me as broken as I felt but I convinced myself that's all I would ever be. But over time the shame fell off slowly and my shattered knees grew stronger. I found ways to hide the residue of that dirt, the mud still in the fingernails I couldn't quite get out. I covered myself in tattoos and changed what the world was seeing. People would see the tattoos and only see these pictures that I drew on myself and judge me on this first impression of a hellion, ignoring who I actually was. I hid behind these tattoos for years, finding it easier to fight that stereotype than to actually heal the demons inside. I had a child young and it was easier to be judged on being a single mother than who I actually was. The truth is I didn't have any idea who that was. We hide ourselves under all these superficial things because it is easier to defend this skull tattoo then to defend who I am. Too many years who I was had determined by circumstances. Too many of those circumstances put me in a box that I couldn't escape. And being trapped like that? It made me far too concerned with how that box was viewed. So, one day, I grew up. It's that simple. I grew up. I found my feet. I looked in the mirror and there I was. It felt great. It felt wonderful to not feel like the ground would crumble if I misstep. It felt freeing to not be afraid to be confident in so many parts of myself that I had been terrified of before. It no longer mattered what the world thought of me, what the people thought of me because I finally accepted that even the less desirable parts of me were just as beautiful. If I told a joke that wasn't funny, it didn't mean that I couldn't make people laugh. If I did something that didn't make you smile, it didn't mean that I was a horrible person. If I told a story that was bigger than it's reality, it didn't mean the lesson was any less important.
I want my child to understand that when we put so much importance on what others think of us it can be detrimental. It can be toxic to allow so much of who you are be determined by the opinions of people that don't matter. I know that sounds sort of nasty but there is no malice intended there. It took me a long time to figure out whose opinions of me mattered and whose didn't. The people who love you truly and honestly, deeply and unconditionally. I'm not saying she should go out there and be a shitty person to everyone else. I am saying that she should always be true to whoever she turns out to be. What I have realized over the years is that at the core of me who I am is full of kindness and compassion. What I realize about myself is that sometimes I am a pushover and don't always make the stand I need to for myself but those parts of me are just as lovely. What I continue to learn is how to be the loving, compassionate person I am while still being able to stand my ground. I don't mind what people think of me. I may get grumpy sometimes. I may exaggerate a story just for kicks. I may not always make rational decisions. I often let my imagination runaway. Sometimes I do silly things that may make me look not as intelligent as I am and that's OK. I love the fact my daughter cares that much about how the world views me. I know if you asked her right now she would tell me that's not what she thinks at all and it's cool. I'm not saying definitely that's what she thinks but that is my perception. I hope she understands one day that I never intentionally tried to make her look bad or make myself any less relevant in this world. What I have tried to do is walk this path with as much integrity as I could. I will not be everyone's cup of tea. Not everyone is going to find my writing charming or my smile engaging. Some will find me offensive while others will insist that I should push the envelope further. I may come off as nonchalant or some may think I take this life too seriously. What I know today as a grown woman that regardless of what people think of me the only thing that matters is what I think. She will have her own revelations. One day she will understand why I sighed, why I laughed it off, why I turned the other cheek when I've been slapped down. She will understand that being able to look in the mirror proud of what stares back at you is ten thousand more times fulfilling than anything else. My life has humbled me and that modesty is something that I am very proud of. What I look in the mirror, I have to answer to myself. Was I kind enough today? Was I brave enough today? Did I do what was best for my family? Did I do what was best for me? What can I do better? What did I do right? It's always the last question that I struggle with. It's not the people around us who judge so harshly. No, it's that person who looks back at you. So, no, it doesn't matter if the world thinks I'm a little too tattooed, a little too silly or serious. It doesn't matter if they think I am living my life the right way. It only matters if I believe I am living my life right. At the end of the day, I just want to make the people around me smile. I just want to make myself proud of the love I am strong enough to live my life with.
When I think back at my life, I hope I am proud of more things than I am ashamed. I often think about the choices I made. Some I know were right. Some I don't. And some the choice was picking between two already rotten apples. I know that everything worked out for the best, for my best. All those bad decisions I made taught me more about myself than anything else could. I realize now in my late thirties I have the luxury of taking from all these experiences and finding the lesson in all of them to make better ones right now in my life. I don't always get it right. A lot of times I fail but because I am older I know that these failures are not my defeat. In twenty years I will look back at this time in my life. I will shake my head at how many hours I wasted working. I will be sad that I didn't spend enough time with my kid or my husband. I will feel regret that I didn't build the friendships that I should have. Time is hindsight, introspective, sometimes harsh. Often we don't realize the damage we do until it is already done. I sit down and write these words as a reminder to myself of all these things I need to work on. I need to do better. This morning I woke up. Sent the husband off to work. The kid off to her friend's. I laid in bed with my two cats and laughed to myself. I attempted to make coffee dates with a couple of friends who were busy. I laid there and realized how many people in this world care for me but how distant I keep myself. When I think back at my life, I realize that I've always kept myself distant from people. I love you and I will love you with everything I got but I also keep parts of me close to the chest. I don't always realize how much of a corner I live until I reach out and sometimes I'm left dangling. And that's all right. My inability to truly be a social butterfly lies solely within me because of a past I fought through. It seems like a flimsy excuse really. Somebody hurt me so everyone in my life pays for that sin from that day forward. I would like to say that's not true but some pieces of that statement will always be true. In this time in my life I clearly understand that there are pieces of me that will not change regardless of how much yoga I do.
I come across old works of mine often. I start to read them. I feel all that anger, that loneliness, that shame. I can close my eyes and remember which coffee shop I was sitting at, what shirt I was wearing. I can recall the noises that were happening around me. The emotion of whatever I was feeling in that moment rushes over me like a wave. All I can do is let it ride out. In these tiny tidal waves, for a moment that girl is sitting so clearly in front of me. I want so badly to have a conversation with her, to warn her about the retreat I know she's about to take but if she listened I don't know who would be sitting at this coffee shop right now. I don't know if I would know how lovely loneliness can be. I don't know if I would truly comprehend how beautiful compassion feels. These tiny tidal waves are just reminders of all the kindness I have learned. I was working yesterday and my coworker was weeded. I could have let him fail. I didn't. We were sitting around the table at the end of the shift, three of us dog tired because we had worked twelve hours yesterday on our feet. We sat there with our ice cold beers. I realized that as isolated as I may feel at times, these people sat beside me still. I didn't let him fail because I cared that he succeeded. I cared that at the end of the night we all felt like champions. It's just ranch, I know, but sometimes that ranch can make us smile, too. By living so much of my early life on my own, I have learned to appreciate the moments when I don't have to be. I sat there last night among these beautiful people, laughing at the drunk people that rolled off that party bus. I found some sort of solace that even if I was just a witness to it I was part of it. I enjoy time by myself. I don't have any qualms with taking an hour or two to be alone with my journal or this computer. I love closing my eyes and listening to music or drawing whatever pretty thing comes to my head. I need those moments so I can sit with you later on. I need to re-energize myself because sometimes I find people utterly exhausting. When I look back at my life, I want to be honored to have been a part of this world. I want the ones I leave behind to remember how much I love them. I want these words to echo long after I'm gone. I want everyone to know that even if I felt like I was far away, my arms were always there to catch you when you fell. When I look back at my life today, I understand I still have so much to learn but what I can be proud of is how much I already have. I may not always make the right choices. I will continue to flounder and fail but I know now that in these failures, the better I become.
Two weeks ago I was having a rough night. I was tired, overly exhausted, spinning my wheels in twenty different directions for the betterment of myself and my family. I was burning my wick from both ends and landing with nothing left to give myself. My husband sat me down and told me to stop. He thanked me and loved me and said he couldn't appreciate the amount of dedication I had for our family than he already did but enough was enough. I was done. Despite my stubbornness, he was right. I was done. I have always had this problem with wanting to be everything to the people in this world that matter the most to me. And, sometimes, I want to be everything even to the people in this life that don't deserve it. I cried when he spoke those words. I always seem to cry when I'm overwhelmed but there was a sense of relief in those tears, in that permission he gave me to take care of myself this time around. I cried, too, because I was sad in a way, understanding that it would be the last time I work side by side with this man, this wonderful husband of mine. So often we get the question, "How do you work with your husband/wife? Don't you get tired of each other?" It always made us laugh. No, we never got tired of each other. Annoyed? Perhaps but the annoyance was fleeting. Working with him was comforting because I at least knew I had one person who had my back. I had one person who knew I was weeded out or upset or just plain tired. In a way it was a reminder of how lucky I have been in life to find such a partner who will know exactly when I need to be caught and who knows precisely when to kick me in the butt and who I know will never be more than a breath away whether we work together or not.
It took me so many years to accept that I deserved love, any kind of love. I was an island. No one was going to tell me any differently. I paid my own bills. I raised my own kid. I kept my own home. I laughed with my friends and joked with my family. When I reached my mid twenties, I had found a happy place with being my own island. The thought of a person to share my life with was, I guess, nice but not necessary. I would go on exactly as I was without any strange longings for anyone else. I had my kid and my dog and I was good. So when my husband, this man who I had known for a minute, came along and slowly took my breath away I can honestly say I wasn't quite sure what to do with him. He is a kind man with a gentle heart lined with these sometimes hard edges but in his blue eyes what I saw was someone safe who wasn't going to let me jump off these cliffs alone. He took his time. He was patient, allowing me to take the steps I needed to trust him. He held my hand and stroked my cheek. Eventually I didn't flinch at him. Eventually I could look him in his eyes and I didn't fidget away. We talked about marriage at the beginning but it was never that big of a deal. This is what I knew. I knew that he was my person. I knew that he would be good to my daughter because he was perfect to me. I knew that I wanted to wake up next to him when I was an old lady and see his wrinkled blue eyes. I knew that if I were to birth any more children, it was his smile that I wanted to see in them. I did not need a ring on my finger or a piece of paper that legally bound him to me. All I needed was his word that he would love me, love her, love us forever. All I needed was that comfort that he would be the one to catch me when I needed to fall down, the one to pull me back up when it is time to stand, the one to hold my hand as we move forward in this life. He gave me those things, all of these things every day since even when we get on each other's nerves. I married him because I knew he has always been my person. I married him not because I needed him to prove that he loved me by this grand gesture. I would have been with this man beyond my last breath either way. I married him because he was right, completely and utterly right. We built this life with our incredible strength together.
I once thought that life was meant to be lived on a timeline. By this age, I would have done this. At this point, I should have done that. Then you actually start living your life and you realize that timelines are bunch of jokes and you are always the pun. There is no right time to do anything or to have already done something because life isn't lived inside neat, little checklists. Did I think I was going to be a mother? Sure, maybe not at 21. Did I think I was going to get married? Yeah but not twice. Did I imagine that I would meet a man like my husband? Not someone that compliments me so beautifully, no, especially after my first marriage was a total disaster. One of the hardest lessons to learn in this life is that sometimes life has it's own plan for you. I'm not calling it Destiny because I do believe that we decide that for ourselves despite the circumstances that are thrown at us. What I am saying is that sometimes we can't control the path that our journey takes us on. I feel like finding my husband wasn't necessarily the way that I wish I would have found him but what is important was that I did. And when we did, I took my time to make sure that he was the one that could walk this path with me. There was no rush to tie him down, to run down that aisle. I had no doubts in my mind after a month of being with him that he was my forever but that did not mean that I should be that fool to rush in. If we were meant to be forever, we had all the time in the world. We weren't in our early twenties, easily influenced by the need for grand romantic idiocies. If he had done that, I would have run the other way and he always knew especially at the beginning that I needed more care than that. Once he found me, we both realized that time would be the one thing that made us strong. We could feel what it was like to be us instead of two adults who were taking care of other people in our lives. We could slowly settle into each other's laughter, get lost in each other's twinkling eyes. We could find out what made the other tick, what made the other hurt, what made the other glow. We learned how the other walked, how brave we were, how strong we could be at each other's side. We understood the other's struggles, how rocky their path was going to be, and how wonderful it would be to walk this path together. I didn't need to be the air that he breathed and I didn't want him to be the reason I existed. What I was before him is exactly who I am with him. Who he was before me is exactly who he is today. It was important to us to still be able to stand on our own feet, to not fall into that trap of completely being because of the other. It took time to figure it out. It took time but we got it. Sometimes I need to carry the burden of us. Sometimes he has to take the load. And that's what a relationship is, give and take. I needed to take my time because I needed to know without a doubt how strong his shoulders were. I needed to know that when things got rough because things always get rough that he wouldn't run off with his tail between his legs. From the beginning, he never gave me any reason to believe that he wasn't going to stick. I didn't need a ring on my finger for him to prove that to me. I just needed to look into those blue eyes to see how stuck we already were.
I hope that when my daughter starts to plot out her life she allows room for change. She may not get into the college she want or decide to not even go. The person she envisions she will marry may not even exist. She may not have those four children by the time she's 27. I hope she understands that paths twist and turn, are often very crooked, sometimes leading you to places that you never even knew you wanted to go. My husband wasn't necessarily my destination but I am grateful that he became part of my every day. I hope she understands that she can take her time, to truly know if something is right for her. Allowing yourself time is a beautiful gift that we take for granted. We think we have to go head first into these big decisions to prove something to someone. Really you owe it to yourself to make sure it is right for you because if it turns out wrong, you've hurt more than just you. I always have to be careful when I write these blogs because there is always some sort of back story to what I write that I won't completely share. Writing the way that I write can make me way too vulnerable. Sometimes I don't honestly know how open I am being until after I've written the last word. I have seen these words, my words been taken in a way that I did not intend and misconstrued in a way that they were never meant. I'm just being honest, as honest as I can be. These blogs always stem from what is going on in my life. Sometimes I can completely divulge the details. Other times I can't. Some parts of my life have to stay my own and not for the world to see but I also sometimes say the things I can't say in between these lines. But if you were take anything from this blog today, I hope you take this. I hope you take your time. I hope you close your eyes and breathe. I hope you get to know the path you truly want to take. And if it turns out to be the wrong path? Don't panic. Take your time. Whatever your destination, time will find you a way.
I was at work the other day. I was walking around the floor doing what I always do, observing my surroundings. I watched the people eat with their families. I heard the pockets of coworkers socializing. I straightened out the condiments and the tables, realizing that I was again on the sidelines of the world going on around me. I kept my head down and I did my work. I stopped for a second, knowing that I fit in but realizing that there was a part of me that felt left out. I was confused on how I really felt about it. I was at this place where I have always felt welcomed but in that moment I realized for the fist time that I wasn't quite what I used to be. My mind goes down these paths where I start to analyze my life, over analyze at times sending me into a weird sort of tail spin. I started to question whether or not it was that things around me changed or was it just that I have changed. For a moment I let myself go down that rabbit hole. I allowed myself this luxury of letting my mind wander even to the parts I should have stayed away from. I looked over at the table full of college kids laughing with each other. I closed my eyes and listened to my coworkers jokingly tease each other. I let myself accept that I would always be somewhere off to the side in this life. I questioned the part of me that was sad that I didn't quite fit right, whether here or there. I told myself that for a second I would be sad about it, be mad about it... And then I let those feelings go. I chuckled to myself and moved on. I acknowledged these little tornadoes of doubt in my head and then I shooed them away like a fly in my coffee. As I stood there in the middle of that dining room with the world going around me I realized that I am OK with not fitting quite as I should. I have learned to finally embrace this part of me that has never wanted to be part of the crowd.
When I was younger, I was just like every other kid out there. I wanted to fit in. I thought if my hair was a little bit blonder or my eyes were blue instead of dark brown or if my waist was smaller everyone would instantly love me. I thought if that if I was just like everyone else then people would accept me and I would be part of this cool group that always had the most fun. I remember being ten years old, daydreaming about being that perfect Arian and thinking that I wouldn't have a problem in the world. The boys would all like me. The girls would all flock to me. I would be better than everyone else. Thankfully as I grew I threw away those ideals of perfection. I realized the color of my hair didn't mean a thing. I found beauty in the darkness of these eyes. When the boy told me once that he saw the Devil in them I found pleasure in that, making me proud of the wickedness that twinkled though I've never had a wicked bone in me. And the thin waist? I've learned that my body is lovely whatever the size of my waist. I have learned that someone else's standards of beauty don't mean a damn to me. As I got older I realized there were parts of me, so many beautiful parts of me, that just weren't meant to fit. I saw movies by myself. I wore clothes with too many holes. I got tattoos and piercings and had a kid and struggled through so much of my life but it was my life to live. I've struggled at times with being so introverted. I have felt the weight of not being noticed. I admit over the years I held so much anger for being brushed off, left behind, pushed to the side. I've wanted to scream at people to look at me, to just notice that I am around, to please take some care of what I do in the background. It is a demon that I still battle with to this day but I know the minute you look at me I will retreat. I will prefer the comfort of the sidelines and I will run away before you even remember I was there. I joke with my husband sometimes that I'm like a cat. I want you to pay attention to me but only on my terms.
When I came out of that rabbit hole the other day, I laughed at myself. When I had observed everything I could and analyzed as much as I allowed myself, I laughed. I thought about all these people I used to be and smiled at this woman I am now. I could accept being a little off. I can accept that I won't be everyone's piece of cake. I prefer to be off to the side, quietly doing what I do because that quiet girl is who I have always been. Right before my sophomore year in high school I decided to go my own direction. I stepped away from the friends I had made. I retreated to my room for months, losing myself in words and pictures. I sat for hours quietly by myself, contemplating on who I wanted to be, who I wanted to become. I wanted to figure out who I was truly, deeply. I wanted to accept my red hair and my deep, dark eyes, wanted to find the beauty in myself without what everyone else was telling me I should be. I didn't want to play their reindeer games anymore. I wanted to understand what being alone meant, how I could be enough for myself without any affirmation from the world outside me. And when I learned all that I could from that loneliness I stepped back into the world again but with a different view point. I learned how to stand next to you without being exactly like you. I learned that not fitting this mold was OK. I could be the person I wanted to be and still be a part of the world around me. The other day, standing in the middle of the dining room, separated from my surroundings, made me think of that girl who intentionally walked away and she made me smile. I don't care that I'm a little strange. I don't mind that my head wanders off too far sometimes. I don't worry about how other people see me because the people who do truly see me are the only ones that matter. I won't be what every man wants. I don't want to be that popular girl that everyone wants to drink Kool-Aid with at the cool table. I want the people in my life to be people that accept me despite my imperfections, that understand sometimes I need to find a corner, that sometimes I need my space. I need people in my life that understand I prefer the sidelines. Being exactly who I am has always been more important to me than being what someone wants me to be. I've been down that road and it only led me to unhappiness. If age has taught me anything, it has taught me that being comfortable in this soul is the only way to find happiness. I don't mind that I'm not a part of that table full of laughter. I don't mind that more often than not I'm lost on my own made up adventure, dreaming about all the wonderful places I could go. I am thankful that I am not scared of my own company, demons and all. I find comfort in being not quite right. I find comfort in these rabbit holes.
I am seven days away from turning another year older. I notice the wrinkles. I find the grays (that I hope will turn white). I feel the creaks in bones that once sprung. I find all of these things to be funny. I'm not scared of getting older. The list of the things that terrify me I don't think getting older was ever near the top. I'm scared of not being enough or not being able to help someone that I love. I get anxious at turning left or driving on the highway but I've never ran away from this idea of being older. I mean do I like that I am no longer the youngest kid on the block? Sometimes but age is not something that defines me either. I was talking to my daughter last night, this smart and mature kid of mine who will be twenty when I'm forty and that makes me smile. She's young, her whole life in front of her. Life will take her on an adventure and she will learn how to pivot much like I did. I had a plan, sure. I was going to marry that boy and we were going to make blonde haired, blue eyed children. I was going to become a well known author and he was going to be in the Major Leagues. Looking back at that fairy tale now just makes me giggle but I'm so thankful for that beautiful piece of fiction. We were talking about love and, yes, how terrifying love can be. I ran for years away from love because I didn't understand it. That fairy tale? No, I never told him because it was silly to me even then, even when I wanted it. I never gave him much while he was willing to hand himself over to me. Then, in my life, that fairy tale wasn't something real to me but today I understand how love is. In that fairy tale, I loved him and in my nightmare I lost him. I have no regrets. I needed that fear of love back then to truly embrace it later in my life. I needed to keep my distance and not speak my truth for all those years. While there is something poetically lovely about love, there is something just as breath taking in our fear. It is in fearing love that we are able to give ourselves completely to it.
It's tough being a teenager. I remember not really knowing what was going around me. I was supposed to know exactly what I wanted and where I was going at an age where life hadn't taught me anything. I loved my parents and my siblings and my friends. I went to school. I had a boyfriend... but all of these things made me feel some sort of strange expectations that I didn't want. I was supposed to figure out who I was but be exactly who people told me to be. So, I learned how to run away from all of them. I didn't want to listen to them. I didn't want to love them. I didn't want to fail them and that was where the fear came in. I didn't understand then that in their expectations for me lied their love and their hope that I would become successful. I couldn't understand this overwhelming feeling came from a place of love. As I sit here today, seven days away from another year gone and find myself stuck in these memories, I smile at the stubbornness of who I once was and how she still very much with me, how I see that same stubborn girl in the child I created. She is so very loved but I see the same struggle within her, too. Love chases her and I hope she can be caught much quicker than I was. I told her as best as I could that allowing yourself to love, to truly love, is one of the scariest things you can ever do but do it. Look at that person and love them with everything you got. Let yourself be swept up in that fairy tale, embrace the magic even if just for a moment of that euphoria. I could see in her eyes the fear of that thought. What if it doesn't work? What if that person doesn't love you back? What if you plan this life and it doesn't work? All these questions I asked myself and my answer was to run as far away as I could for as long as I could... until the day love in its truest form was placed on my chest, bloody and covered in mucus, in the form of my tiny crying baby girl, the one who now sits so tall in front of me. Love comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, in a million different ways. Sometimes it is covered in rose petals and other times it hides itself in our deepest fears. So I told her if it doesn't work out, you hold tight to the smiles it did give you. I told her if they don't love you back, there was beauty in the way her heart did. I told her if it doesn't work out, there was still joy in the moments that did.
She asked me last night why that fairy tale boy and I didn't work out, assuming that I never really cared for him to begin with. I suppose that's fair because I've always shrugged this boy off when I've talked about him. So, last night when she asked, I was honest. I did believe in that fairy tale with all my heart. Him and I had so many conversations about our future but it was him that did all of the talking. I just sat back and dreamed them up for us. He was my first love, the first time I ever had feelings for someone that strongly. He scared the shit out of me for lack of better of words. He would smile and I would swoon which would make me put up another wall. He would kiss me and I would fall and I hated the way he made my knees shake... because I loved him and I hated the fact that I loved him. I was terrified if he knew that I loved him, he would walk out that door and I would be left devastated. All I could see was the end of us. I never let us begin. She asked me last night why we didn't make it. I spent too many years trying to figure out why we ended the way we did, why life had to go so terribly wrong for us. The older I get, the more perspective I gain. What I now understand is that we never had a chance and it no longer makes me sad. There was a strength that we both needed to stand together and we were never going to be strong together. When I came home from college, he no longer saw me and I could not stand the way he felt. We were never going to be strong enough to get over that hate, that fear. All of these things I know now, understand now. What that fear taught me then was how to love now. If life had worked out differently, if me and this fairy tale boy had managed to pull it out, then my precious daughter would have not been sitting across that table from me. Sure, I might have those blue eyed, blonde haired children right now but they wouldn't be her. I smiled at her and told I would trade a million fairy tale hims for her every time. She taught me how to love without being scared of it. Because of her, I was able to find my husband, to truly allow myself to love a man without fearing that he was going to leave or hurt me. Perhaps, my mother was right. Maybe that fairy tale boy was the one that got away but looking at where I am, I'm glad I let him go.
Love didn't have to be this frightening thing but for me it was for a long time. I understand my kid's battle with it. I get why it's so hard to allow yourself to be that open with people. I was that closed off, blocked off girl for a long time in my life especially when my kid was younger. I had to be. I wasn't just protecting myself. I was protecting her tiny little heart, too. I remember when my husband and I first started dating. I asked him what he wanted out of me. What was his goal in whatever we were doing? He told me he was all in, kid and dog and all. It was at that point I started taking the walls down with him. I saw the way he acted towards her and it warmed my heart. I felt the way he looked at me and I started to fall. It took a minute and he definitely had his struggles with me letting him in but once I did, it was a magical moment. I had never allowed myself to feel that way for anyone even the fairy tale boy though I loved him just as much. With my husband, I was able to tell him and show him and give to him parts of me that I never gave to anyone before. I was able to open up my heart and be honest with the way that I felt instead of telling him just what he wanted to hear. When I met my husband, I was a grown woman with a small child who had been taking care of herself for years. He was a man who had been on his own taking care of his father for a long time. We were two grown adults who knew exactly who we were, not two teenage kids with a world of expectations on our shoulders. Our love was steady and strong, at our own pace and flowing without restraints. The way he loves me has given me permission to love without guilt, without fear. He makes me want to love and she inspires me to give this love to everyone around me. I understand now why that fairy tale boy was so special. It was never because he was supposed to be my reality. The broken heart he left me with taught me the lovely parts of pain. In fear, there is beauty. In loss, there is a lesson. And in those both, there is always love there to embrace us. The older I get I understand more clearly the path that I have walked. And while some moments in my life have been too painful to think about, it is in those moments that I truly learned what love really is. When I accepted love as the only way to live my life, I became that fairy tale. I just changed the characters.
I watched my talented daughter perform in her play this week. I couldn't have been more proud of this little person that I created. It's been tough raising a teenage daughter. I won't sugar coat it but it's also been lovely watching her grow into her own even though she tests me every step of the way. I think back when I was a teenage girl and I just laugh. While this kid has so much of me in her, she is definitely not the teenage girl I was. If I spoke to my mother the way she speaks to me, guaranteed I would be laid out on the floor. My mother may have been small but she was mighty. I sat in that audience and I teared up every time she walked out onto that stage even though I had forgotten my glasses. Call it a mother's intuition but I knew the minute those lights hit her beautiful face. I admit I have at least teared every play she has ever performed. I am one of those mothers (at least in that sense). I can be proud being proud of my kid and not be ashamed one bit. I've been working a lot lately. She's a teenage girl with a busy schedule. Our stars don't always align the way they used to see each other. I'm not home with her like I used to be and she doesn't want to be home with me like she once needed to be. I get it and I am working on being OK with my kid growing up. We were walking out of the show the other night. My husband was walking in the front because that's what he does. My daughter was walking behind him next to her boyfriend and another friend. I trailed behind because that's what I do, always a bit off from the rest of the world. I remember watching them and it made me smile, laugh a little bit because I remembered a time when that young woman walking in between those two boys used to be just mine, just mine. I didn't have to share her with the world and we were happy in our own little Utopia... but life changes.
Time happens. Time makes things grow. Time reminds us that moments don't last forever. Those precious moments seem like seconds now of life being just me and my kid flew before I realized they were gone. I never realized how much I would miss the snotty noses, the messy faces, the tantrums in the middle of the grocery store, the stinky poo that broke out of it's diaper and all over the car seat. I had no idea that years after she had outgrown all of those things I would find a kid being rotten (to a degree) kind of nostalgic because at the time those painful childhood moments seemed like they were going to last forever. Time gives you perspective. No, she doesn't poo herself any more. She doesn't need me to cut up her food or wipe her nose. She doesn't need me to tuck her into bed at night. She doesn't need me to do much now but I sometimes miss her needing me like that. I miss cuddling her when she's had a bad dream or hugging her when she's scraped a knee. I miss making her precooked bacon for goodness sake. In those moments when I thought she was going to drive me bananas, that little girl was all mine. I didn't have to share her with her friends or school or extra curricular activities. When she needed someone to talk to, it was me. When she needed someone to sit with, I sat. When she wanted to hear dumb songs about poopie diapers, I sang. And when I needed to find some strength to carry on, it was always with her. She was my world, the light that showed me how to be better whether she realized it or not. She was just a kid. There was no way she understood that. It was just me and her, against the world. I was her hero. She was my champion. The other night as they were walking in front of me I didn't see the young woman she's become. I saw my little girl on her journey away from me.
I saw her and I thought how bitter sweet it was to share her with the world, this perfect little person I created is now old enough to start figuring out her path. I think when we were knee deep in the infant and toddler years we don't think too much about the late teenage years. It seems like it is so far away. We've got plenty of time to worry about curfews and colleges, boyfriends and girlfriends. We think that those coloring books are going to be the only they are interested in for a long time. The reality is those young years we have with our small children are far shorter than we realize. We are only children for such a small part of our lives. We only have these babies for an even smaller amount of our time. My daughter makes fun of me every time I get sentimental about her growing up. She gets angry when I try to give her advice or annoyed when I attempt to set some boundaries for her. This is the time in her life when her sixteen years knows more than my million on this planet. I have learned to shrug her off, to roll my eyes right back, and now it seems like we've created a game with each other of who can roll their eyes further back. Hey, whatever it works to make my point these days, right? Because she no longer buys the "Because I said so" line much anymore. And don't get me wrong there are a million great things about her being older now, too. We can carry a serious conversation and just hang out with each other. She has her own social circle which gives me the freedom to have actual adult social life as well. When she is in a good mood, it is awesome, every second of it. And just like her infant years and her toddler years and her kid years, these teenage years will be gone just as quickly as those. When she's a grown woman with her own family or her own career or both or where ever her brilliance takes her, I will look back and remember these teenage years and laugh at how long they felt and start to miss the sound of slamming doors.
Sometimes we don't realize how much time goes by until it's too late. I see clearly her eyes when she was first born, feeling like time stood still. And I remember her first day of Kindergarten, the moment I had to start sharing her with the world. There are so many moments of her life that I hold onto while many have flown away. I could sketch what she looked like when she was sleeping next to me because she was too scared to sleep without me. It doesn't matter how much her face changes, her big brown eyes will always stay the same to me. I guess in a way I thought I could hold onto her a little bit longer. The other night as I walked behind her and her friends, I finally accepted I was the mother a teenage daughter and it was time to start letting go. When I sit back and think about it, she was just mine, only mine, for a moment, a second, for a blink of an eye.
When I was a kid, I suppose you could say I was a bit of a dreamer. I watched all those movies where the heroic man came in and rescued the damsel in distress except I never pictured myself as the damsel in distress. I was the hero. I was the one saving the day and it never occurred to me that because I happened to be a female that it was an odd place for me to insert myself. I was Wonder Woman. I was going to spin real fast and then I was going to save the day. There was nothing else to it. As I grew, people would tell me I was not supposed to be the hero. I was supposed to be the girl in the corner, incapable of saving myself. That was my role and I just never really bought it. I don't know if it was necessarily because I was a strong willed child or young woman. I don't think my temperament had anything to do with it honestly. I think it was just in me to understand quickly that I was the writer of my own story and I could write me exactly the way that I was. Parts of that strong willed girl have calmed down but there is still so much hero in me that sometimes I aggravate myself. I was at work the other day. Something annoyed me and my husband jokingly said to me, "Suck it up." My reply? I am who I am and I won't suck her up anymore in this life. While parts of us change, there are some versions of ourselves that can't be altered. I am a woman in my late thirties who has seen so much life that I can't erase or ignore all that I have become to appease the world around me. I've muted myself for the people around me to not make a fuss, to make it easier for everyone else and it left me frustrated and unhappy. I may not physically have my cardboard bracelets that my mother once made me so I could pretend like I was Wonder Woman but that doesn't mean I am no longer that Hero that I always I imagined myself to be.
I enjoy being a woman. I like the power in it even if it feels like a struggle sometimes. I know the images the world puts out there for me to follow. I am supposed to be thin and perfect. I am supposed to be able to do everything all by myself yet make a man feel like he is absolutely needed for me to accomplish anything. I know I am supposed to be that damsel incapable of zipping up my own dress as he looks at me from behind like a piece of meat that he will later devour. And believe you me I have manipulated plenty using that image to my advantage, getting what I wanted in that way because sometimes I've had to play the game. I am not ashamed of it. Sometimes you play the cards you were dealt but I've also never fell to that traditional sort of woman either. I have tattoos. I've had piercings. I don't wear make up. Most of my jeans have holes in them. My hair is never perfectly quaffed and that's who I am, quietly imperfectly untamed. And despite the fact that I don't fit the fashion model status or even the power business woman profile, I am powerful in my own right. My daughter and I were talking the other day about an old high school boyfriend I had. She said to me that she didn't understand why I was with him because, to her, it sounded like I didn't even like him. Oh, no, I loved that boy in the only way I knew how. Then? Then I loved him so much that I intentionally treated him poorly. To me, being soft and letting him love me was weak, made me vulnerable. I was who I was and who I was had no interest in becoming his arm candy. In my head, I thought that if I showed him affection in any sort of way it would take away from the strength in me. I look back at that relationship and I think I should probably have some regrets. I think at one point in my life I did but today not so much. After I came back from college, me and this high school boyfriend got back together briefly. I was shattered and lost and I thought that he was the answer to put this egg back together again. When I finally gave him everything that he wanted, he no longer wanted anything about me. I became the damsel he wanted me to be and it didn't suit me. I tried to change who I was. I tried to be as soft as he wanted me to be, as needy as he thought he wanted me to be. I got down on my knees and gave all of me to a boy who didn't know what to do with me because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I loved him, absolutely. I think I just loved me more. That wasn't something I realized until much later on in my life. Regardless of how lost I was or how shattered I felt, there was a part of me that never let me forget the Hero that was inside.
These days I am a much softer person. I love being kind and open to people. I want everyone in my life to be as happy and content as they can possibly be. If there is anything that I can do to help you, all you have to do is ask. If there is anything I can do to make you smile, then I will figure out that one thing that will make you shine. I love it when my husband rubs my back, when he brings me coffee, when he does these small little things that I can absolutely do myself. I understand that him wanting to take care of me is a sign of love, not of insult. He doesn't think I am less capable because I don't have time to do the laundry between the two jobs and chasing these dreams. He doesn't judge me when I crawl into bed after a thirteen hour shift, smelling of a mixture of Balsamic and Ranch, and fall out. To him, I am the most amazing person he has ever met. I give to him freely because I want to, not because he demands it of me. He gives to me because he wants to, not because I need it. Most importantly though? I understand that me not being able to do everything is not weakness. I once thought that flowers were stupid, a sign of stupid girl neediness that I didn't want a part of, but it's nice to come home to a bouquet of roses on my dining room table. It's nice to have a door opened for me but I don't need it. I don't seek it. If he never brings me flowers or opens a door for me, that would be fine... but it's nice to sometimes to be taken care of, too.
I can't leap buildings. I can't see through walls or fly (much to my dismay). I can't be in five places at once (though I will never stop trying). There are things that I am physically incapable of doing. I got bad knees and creaky hips and my eyes don't see so well these days. I am getting older but I am also becoming wiser. There are things about this life that I understand more clearly now every day. I am not the same Hero I was when I was a kid. I'm not even the same Hero I was when I was a young woman but I am who I am and I am proud of who I have become. I work hard. I try hard. I give hard. Sometimes too hard. Sometimes I find myself filling a Tea and find myself angry at the place I have landed but it's a moment. Moments pass. After a long day, I can sit down with myself, knowing that all of this has a purpose even being treated poorly. I will always rise above it. I accept that I have a purpose. This version of Hero, this soft and tough version of good intentions, sits in this seat for a reason. I am a woman, this woman, and I don't want to be anyone else. Maybe I'll never be a size two again. Maybe I'll never learn how to fly. Who cares? I've still got my cardboard bracelets. At the end of the day, I'm still a dreamer. I'm still a Hero. I am who I am, indeed.
Sometimes the idea for a blog comes from something I dream about or an experience that I have during my daily life. It isn't always initially clear what the point is but I sit on it for awhile. I let it roll around my brain, mull it over for a bit. I allow myself to look at this life from all angles. I dissect other people's actions, try to figure out their intentions. And then? Yes, and then I take a long, hard look at myself. The other night I had a dream where someone was scolding a younger, much more bitter version of myself. I was this younger version of me while still being someone watching the scene unfold. I instantly became protective of that younger me, yelling at this person to let her be. These words still ring in my ears as if I actually spoke them. I said to that nasty person, "Leave her alone. There is value even in the worst parts of us." I woke up that morning with those words on my lips, swimming around in my head. I let them be, allowed them to find their own meaning, and then turned them on myself. It's what introverts do. We over analyze the simplest of statements. I started thinking about that younger, much more bitter version of myself, questioned why I was so angry, knowing quite clearly the answer to that but not having any regrets with the means I took to protect myself. That morning I got up and went to an old familiar and had a cup of coffee with myself, still with that dream very much on my mind. I looked around me, felt the memories take a seat at my table one by one. I smiled at the girl in the Catholic school girl uniform with her shirt untucked and hair a mess because she refused to follow the dress code. And I embraced the broken young woman who hesitantly took a seat beside me without a word. Then I held the hand of that bitter version of me, telling her that her anger was valid because I knew no one else ever would. Finally I touched my face, older now, and I whispered to myself that there was value in me, too, just the way that I am. That morning, sitting at that table alone yet surrounded by all these versions of who I was, I finally understood what I've always known but wouldn't allow myself to accept.
There are things in this world that make us question who we are. They make us second guess what we are about. We fight these battles that we think are about one thing when what they end up being about is nothing at all. There was a time in my life when I wanted to make everyone happy regardless of the cost to myself. And, to be fair, there was a time in my life when I just didn't give a shit about anyone's happiness, not even my own. I thought that if I made you smile, then my pain would be eased. I assumed that if I bent over backwards for you, then I would be rewarded. I naively thought that somehow the cosmos were going to take care of me but when I wasn't? When I wasn't, I stopped wanting anyone to be happy. There was a time in my life where I sat in my room in the dark and never wanted to see anyone's light ever again because I thought I wasn't worth it. I allowed the world around me to make me feel as if I wasn't worth it. I fell silent and buried myself in journals. I lost myself in a way that I didn't know if I could find my way back. When people looked at me, I knew they did not see me. What they saw was my flaws, my weakness, how dirty I felt inside. My value was based on what others thought of me or what I thought they thought of me. Today I still fight those same battles. That girl that wants to run to a dark room and never come out is still very much a part of me. It's why I have a tough time in a crowd. It's why I find it difficult to be around people even for a long period of time. It's why I still cringe at a touch. It's why I grow angry when people come at me in a way that makes me feel threatened. I know how to quiet her now. I have love in my life now that soothes those feelings but I didn't always... but what I can understand is that there is value in that part of me, too. Sometimes I don't always know how to say no. I still want to make everyone around me happy. I want to fix your problem, ease your pain, make you smile. Sometimes I don't know how to accept that I'm not always the answer to the world's problems. So, when I realize I'm putting myself too far out there on a limb that won't hold me, the girl who wants to run for shelter is the part of me that always pulls me back to safety. In her worst, her best is what kept me standing.
In my life, I have been surrounded by many and among no one. I have felt the best of people and been at the wrong of end of the worst. I have succeeded and failed, rejoiced and felt forsaken. I have allowed people to walk all over me just as much as I have withstood being trampled. In all of these, I have learned valuable lessons about who I want to be. It made me remind myself that I am just as valuable today as I ever was before. I am not perfect and I make mistakes, plenty of them. I can own the darker parts of me with love, understanding that those dark spots are like wrinkles, reminders of this life I have lived. One day I will be an old woman with liver spots, hopefully with glorious, long white hair. I will sit in my rocker, talking nonsense about the good old days as my husband hands me my teeth because I'm scaring the grandchildren. I will tell them about the time I fell off my friend's car because I was being stupid. I will tell them how I broke my knee cap in half and never went to the doctor because I was too stubborn. I will giggle to them about the city my brother and I made up that was in the toilet when we were kids. And, yes, I will tell the times I didn't always do the right thing, how I failed and how I hurt other people. I will own the doors I slammed and I will regret the hearts I broke. Yes, I will tell them in all my honesty that my life was a patchwork of good intentions that were sometimes soured with wrongdoings. And I will be proud because my value will be in every stitch of the life I will have led. I am not perfect. No matter who I was, I have never been perfect. What I forget sometimes is that I am just as valuable as everyone else even at my worst. In that dream the other night, I think I was trying to tell myself that. It just took me sitting down with some old ghosts to remember.