I wrote a poem a long time ago about a bucket. I was having a pretty hard time and felt like I had broken into a million pieces. I felt like I was just spending my life picking up the pieces, all these tiny pieces of me. So I did. I picked them all up and carried them around. Some I put back together but most I realized I gave away because I thought to give them to the world was what I was supposed to do to make a better person. So, I gave and I struggled and I thought I was doing all right. I took stock of my bucket this week and realized that it was empty because somehow I have managed to give away everything I was and now I’m just spent. My husband and I don’t fight very often. We seem to have a healthy understanding of each other, how we work, what ticks the other off, and how to avoid such things. There is an immense amount of love and respect between us. When I can only give 20 percent, he gives 80 and vice versa. It is just how we work. I’ve been running on fumes lately and he feels it. So, this weekend when something happened that I should have just been able to deal with and I crumbled, his frustration came out. I wasn’t mad at him. I got it. I understood it. I was just as irritated with myself.
So, I went and had coffee with myself today. I’m getting back to my journal, to getting back to the girl in the corner who seemed to be able to figure stuff out. She may have preferred to hide from the world but she was certainly capable of taking care of herself. I thought about this fight we had this weekend, how horrible it made me feel, how tired I am of this battle within myself, and I realized my bucket was empty. Sure, I got rid of some stuff over the years that were harmful to me but I also managed to give away the things that made me strong. One of these things is my confidence and I’m not sure at what point I let that go. I have always been hesitant with certain parts of life, sure. I’ve never backed away as I have recently though. I go back to these moments of my life, picking apart the lessons that I learned, rearranging them to figure out how I came to my conclusions. I really believe that I gave these things away because the more I gave to people, the more people seemed to come to me. I made a mistake though because I gave too much away. And, now, when I look around when I need a hand, there’s nobody here. So, that morning when my husband looked at me, the way he looked at me, made me realize how fragile I had become and it’s just not me. I look in my bucket and understand I have to start over, to take back these things of myself I gave away and to stop giving my power to these things that don’t deserve it.
I would love to say that I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning and have my shit together but this is a marathon, not a sprint. I try to figure out why I started down this downhill slide but there’s no real reason. I think that over the last two years, I’ve had so many things change. While I’m good with change, I need a minute to digest. I can say it’s because of the hard times I was having with my kid or that she has grown up and moved on. I can say that it’s because the role of my husband and I changed where he is the breadwinner now and I’m in the backseat. I can say that it’s my job, the lack of reward there, the dull routine of it, the feeling that I’m 40 and feel like I’m still fighting the same demons I was when I was 20. While all of these things contribute, none of them are to blame. I don’t think I ever really gave myself a chance. I dived headfirst into not dealing, into berrading myself with do-betters and faking you-got-this mantras that I stunted myself. Now, here I am, with an empty bucket and an empty tank and no idea how to cut myself a break. Staring at this woman in the mirror, telling her to get her shit together. I am tired of being tired.
I realize that I am standing on a cliff right now. I understand that I need to make a choice to leap or to step back. I let my house fall apart, allowed myself to run dry, and gave my power away because it was exhausting trying to hold onto it. I know my blogs seem to have the same theme lately but I am just trying to find my pieces again, to put them back together so I can get back to me because I’m here. I just misplaced her for a minute. I didn’t like the way my husband looked at me, didn’t like the taste of the tears that ran down my cheek but maybe it was what I needed to wake up. I am a person who has a shit ton of anxieties, a person who is burdened by an immense amount of sadness, who lives in a world where I feel every single emotion that it throws at me and it’s a tiring cross to bear. I find people to be taxing and exhausting and bothersome. I prefer to keep you at a distance but here I sit, writing these words, parts of me all over this screen. Because inside I am also an incredibly kind, loving person who would love to let you in, who wants to help and to listen and to love. The thing is I don’t know how to do that without giving you too much. I look into this hypothetical empty bucket that I carry around and understand that I need to pick up my pieces again. This time, though, they need to be the right ones. And, once I have filled my bucket again, then I will get back to me.
My friend asked me the other day what I wanted to do. I was working and I’ll be honest I’m in this weird place right now where I can’t quite pinpoint my direction. I mean I know what I wanted to do but being an adult with responsibilities doesn’t quite allow me to just do what I want to do. If I didn’t have such a drive, who knows? Maybe I would be that person who could just do whatever I wanted. I’m not though. I’ve never been because I don’t know how to how to balance life and myself very well. It’s you or me and, more often than not, I’ll do you before I even think about me but here’s the thing. The older I seem to get, I’m starting to understand how little pay off there has been to how giving my life has been and now I’m stuck. I’m stuck in this quicksand and some days it feels like too much to pull myself out. The question “what’s the point?” rings too often and far too loudly these days. I drive myself bananas. I like to control but I hate plans. I love routine but I hate how bored it makes me feel. I really hate being bored. There, my friends lie at the root of some of my current issues. And because of this boredom, my over-analyzing brain has decided to clean out some closets.
I think in my younger years I purposely overdid stuff, put too much on my plate because I didn’t like feeling stagnant. I hated that feeling of not having enough to do. And if I did stop for a second, well then, I was going to have to deal with things I’d rather not. So I raised this kid and I worked so very hard at whatever job I was working and I said, “Hey, world, I’m a go-getter.” Then I met this beautiful human being of a man who was the first person to ever make me feel like it was OK to not be everything all the time. He made me feel like it was fine to sit down for a minute, to not work myself to the bone, to not do so much for everyone and to learn how to breathe. So, I did. I sat down and it felt great. My body thanked me. My brain, though, sat down at the kitchen table and, like Sonny, took out its box of tools. And now? Now I’m having coffee with old ghosts that I put away a long time ago because, in my younger years, I was not strong enough to deal with. Am I now? I don’t know but I do know that I’m tired of carrying them around. My life is more than half over, that is the reality. I’m not being morbid. I’m being realistic and it’s fine. I’m not afraid of my time but I am afraid of living the rest of my life in the cage that I created.
So what do I do? How do I get to the place where I can just do what I want without sacrificing other parts of my life? I don’t know. I sit down in my newly created studio and I honestly want to scream because I don’t have the answers. I got very angry at a Bare Naked Ladies song this morning. Go ahead and laugh at that sentence. I got nothing but love for those Canadians! So, for me to get mad at this song, made me laugh. It was this dumb song about how you never had to work a day in retail or mow lawns or do a job you hate. I was like, “Bullshit, BNL!” Because I’m sorry unless you’re extremely lucky or born into a life of leisure, you can’t just sing songs about pre-wrapped sausages (but listen I love you, guys!). While I love the sentiment of the song and maybe found it humorous when I was younger, the very exhausted adult in me did not appreciate this message. And that’s the thing. It’s not that I’m just bored, I’m so very tired. I am so tired of putting my energies in things that just don’t matter. I’m tired of being triggered by things that have no real meaning. I’m so over this world that just feels so sad and lost and unsure of itself. I have worked retail and in restaurants and low-level jobs that break your spirit and I’m crispy, guys. Until I figure out what the hell I’m doing, it’s not going to get much better.
About an hour after the BNL song made me so mad, George Harrison came on in my playlist. It’s a song I’ve never heard before. I like him but you know not the first artist I go for. There was a line in this song that I thought was fitting for my current state of mind, “And if you don’t know where you’re going. Any road will take you there.” I thought, all right, let’s just go. Let’s just pick a road and see where it goes because I’ve lost any sense of direction at this point. I like to know what kind of people I am dealing with but you know what? At the end of the day, I’m over dealing with people. I can’t balance you and me. I will always choose you so I’m going to take you out of the equation for the moment and I’m just going to do me. In the last two years, I think it’s been about me giving myself permission to go back to that corner where I used to sit and say, OK me, let’s do this. Let’s clean out those closets, these dark corners where hid and let’s stop blaming ourselves for things, for all these things. Let’s set these ghosts free one by one and eventually we’ll get down to me. I’m tired but I’m trying. What do I want to do? I want to do whatever I want. While I don’t know exactly what that means right now, I do know that change is imminent. Whatever road I take, it will get me there.
It’s been a hot minute since I have had time to sit down and do a blog. This holiday season was bananas and not really in a good way. For the last two years, Christmas has not been a good time. While we were in a better place this year and I enjoyed the time with my husband, the other part of my life was hard. I honestly don’t know what happened this year. I mean people are nuts when the holidays come around anyway but it just seemed everybody got ticked off as soon as the turkey was cut. I am not exaggerating that I dealt with some truly miserable situations and it left a bad taste in my mouth for Christmas moving forward. I have a hard time dealing with humans but, man oh man, I was tested. So, obviously, my desire to interact with the world even on this level was pretty low. The holidays are over and I am back because this dream isn’t going to fly itself. My desire to just do this as a living grows by the day. No, that’s not right. My need to work for myself by myself becomes more of a necessity as the days go by. I’m not going through a mid-life crisis. I am just finally waking up and understanding that I need to make some changes for my own mental health.
I did not make any resolutions. I don’t believe in them. They are just a new way to put extra pressure on ourselves, another thing we fail at. Let’s be honest. Anything we really want is not instant anymore. I want to lose weight. January 1st doesn’t mean I will. I want to be a professional artist/ writer who does this for a living but I didn’t wake up New Year’s Day and it was here. No, I was the same grumpy, depressed, ridiculous person I was the night before because this life takes work. I’m going to fail a few more times until I don’t and it’s going to piss me off. I will sit down and eat a whole bag of chips even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m going to stare at the white and angrily draw squiggles when inspiration doesn’t hit. I may, in fact, do both of these things all year and it’s all right. Nothing is easy and this world doesn’t owe me anything. I know I’m the type to struggle. My life has taught me nothing if not that. I was never the girl that life just worked out for. Sure, it made me a pretty angry person for a long time. It was hard seeing the person next to me who did nothing win that lottery over and over again but I am tired of looking at them. I am tired of comparing myself and beating myself up over all these things I am not. Someday I will be more.
I have not been at the top of my game lately. There’s been a lot of negative thoughts swirling inside of me. And god knows I try to squash them but I’m on a struggle bus. It was another reason I didn’t want to set myself up with all these false things I was going to start doing. I know me well enough that the pressure I put on myself is ten thousand what you put on me. I just have to let myself be for a minute. I realized that I get angry so easily these days at everything around me and it is exhausting. When I sit down, I realize that maybe I need to shut the world out for a little while, to tuck myself in a corner and allow myself some time to reset, to reboot, to not allow things in. It’s been hard trying to figure out what I’m supposed to feel I guess. I was a hard-ass for so long. You couldn’t get me to flinch at you. And, then I didn’t have to be so hard anymore and I let the world in, people. I let people in and you know what? I was let down and I got hurt and now what? I find myself retreating once again, a form of self-protection that I thought I wouldn’t use again but I’m giving myself permission to step back. Because this year, while I do not have any resolutions, I am giving myself permission to heal, to grow, to let go, and to move on.
We all heal in our own ways. Some people need other people. Some people need to be alone. I realize in order for me to heal the way I need to, I need to do this on my own. I need to work through the feelings, the sadness, the anger the way I’ve always worked through these feelings. I don’t want to talk about it unless you are going to hear me but so often words fall onto deaf ears. Not because they don’t care but because they don’t understand and it’s not their fault. It’s not your fault. It is what it is. Here’s the thing. I want to work through this, to feel this, to understand it so when life becomes too much again (because it will), I know how to move beyond it. I’m full of a thousand insecurities, bloated with anxieties that I’ve picked up along my life, and I will always carry this bucket of sadness with me. I understand that. I own that. Those are the things that inspire how I write, the way I draw, the way I see this life. Without my chaos, there is none of my joy. I am not broken. I’m just rearranging my pieces again. And honestly whatever beautiful version of me comes from this? Well, I’m pretty excited to meet.
I've spent a lot time this week listening to artists like Alannis Morrisette. She was such a staple for the younger, angrier me but I was listening to an interview where someone asked her if she was still angry after all these years. She said yes and I felt her answer to be refreshing in a way. The difference, she said, was that she had a much healthier way of channeling that anger. I thought how beautifully honest. I thought about my early twenties, my mid twenties, hell my entire existence and I think about now. I asked myself the same question. Am I still angry? And the answer is yes. I am absolutely still angry but the way that I would handle it then is way different than I handle it now. I look at my kid, still at the beginning of her life. I feel her anger, understand it completely, and just hope that she figures a way to channel it, too. We do though. We all do. Alannis wrote one very angry song and it labeled her this angry woman but she was simply expressing what we all feel at that particular time. Anger can be poison but it can also be this lovely motivation. Like all powers, it comes with great responsibility.
We learn that as we grow and become who we are. There are days I would like to throw tables at people, curse their names, and say hateful things to make them feel like they make me feel. Younger me? Yeah, I would have done that in a heartbeat but I am so grateful that older me knows better. We all have this rage inside. The world is in such a bad place right now and people lack so much empathy for each other. We're all somehow stunted people who think of only themselves because, well, it's easier to be that way. And all of it stems from the things we do to each other. Someone somewhere at some point in our lives hurt us and now the entire human race has to pay for it. So, we put up these walls and we throw our grenades and we toss judgement around like confetti in a parade because that anger that we are putting out doesn't hurt us, right? It protects us... but it doesn't and we know it. We're all just too broken to admit it. So, we sing these songs of rage when we are young and it becomes an anthem of sorts, pure silly angst that soon we realize has no place in our lives. Yes, the people who hurt us ought to know but then we have to learn to let it go.
My anxiety and depression are a daily thing I battle. Many people over my life hurt me and I carry the effects of them with me still. It's OK because at this point they no longer control me. Still, I hear the "you aren't good enough's" and I feel the hands on my wrists and there is this deep part of me that still feels this unbelievable anger. I once thought this anger was all that I was. I was completely engulfed by pure rage and it was the entire worlds fault. I couldn't let them know enough. Sometimes I get so angry, so unbelievably angry. It's the boil in the bit of my stomach and my head feels fuzzy and I have a hard time breathing. The thing is this rage that wants to take over no longer has that power over me. I understand that these triggers are part of a big insecurity that have nothing to do with what is happening in that moment. That anger is still my soul trying to heal, trying to make sense of the things that hurt so deeply, and I have to allow myself to heal but that doesn't mean I have to let it ruin the beautiful things in my life right now.
Over the last few years, I've looked back at my life and I've understood so much more than I have before. I still don't know shit but it's OK. Am I still angry? Sure but I would much rather focus that energy, that power on making my life better. We can all look back at our younger years and wish we were where we thought we would be but it's dumb. We aren't who we were then, angry or not angry. Life happened the way it did. We can be angry about it, sure, but we also have the ability to adjust, to pivot, to choose to do the work. I will always love listening to Alannis but what people didn't hear was even in her angry song was this lovely vulnerability in her words. If we took to the time to stop being so angry, we would see that we're all just trying to survive. Be angry. There's nothing wrong with feeling these very real feelings. Just remember that behind that anger, it's just a hurt trying to heal. Use that energy to better yourself, not hurt the people around you. Who we are changes and what we thought doesn't always come to fruition but who we become is up to us.
I was standing in a coffee shop the other day. It's not my coffee shop of choice but I was out of creamer and the one I prefer is not on my way to work. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the things we love, right? I was standing there, patiently waiting for my coffee while the twelve people behind the counter bustled around. There was an older gentleman standing in front of the barista. I usually pay no attention to the world around me. One of the reasons I don't wear my glasses when I should but I prefer to live in a blur. I couldn't help but to listen to this older man talk to this very young barista. I instantly became very protective of this girl. Maybe it's because I'm a mother and anyone who is younger than me I instinctively put my daughter's face on but this man woke up my maternal instincts. He stood there in front of her, berating her on how to make his coffee properly and then threatening her that he was going to send it back if she did not make it to his standards. My face was contorting. My heart started to beat quickly. And I said louder than I should have, "You pretentious f*ck*". I burned holes in the back of this man's head because I realized he was everything about humanity that I could no longer tolerate. Why do we have to be such dicks to each other? Why do we have to be so entitled and treat others so gross? This gentleman is why I do not like to leave my house.
I realize that I am about halfway through my life. My body does not work the way it once did. My mind tends to wander more than it should. And, quite honestly, napping on the couch sounds like the best time ever. I'm at this strange point in my life where I am shaking my head at these kids being crazy people and looking at these older grumps with my eyes rolling out of my head. I get to remember what it was like to be a dumb 20 year old and tell myself that I will never become that jerk of an old man when I'm super old. In my rage, I stared at that man and I wondered how many people enabled this person to believe that behavior is acceptable? I wanted so badly to make a scene, to tell this man to sit down... but I also understood that it was wasted energy. His behavior wasn't going to change because a stranger told him to cut it out. So, I took note and I left thinking that the entire human race needed a reboot. This man was just one of many.
Maybe it's because I have worked in customer service so long, I am exceptionally sensitive to how people treat other people especially someone behind a counter. Maybe I have experienced so many ugly people in my life that i have finally reached my tolerance level. Any sight of mistreatment makes me go crazy. I have no interest in interacting with the world most days but I have a huge amount of compassion for the world around me. I know it doesn't make any sense but here's the thing. I tend to stay away from people not because I believe they are going to hurt me. They just disappoint so often and I hate being disappointed more than I hate being hurt. So, watching this man, this older man who should know better, treat another person with such belittlement was a disappointment. He should know better. He should know better than to be so unkind to a kid basically whose probably just working this job part time while she goes to school. He should know better and that's what drove me crazy. Part of the reason I dislike customer service so much is because the people you are trying to help tend to treat you like you are nothing, an annoyance to their day, a fly in their coffee. I guess I'm too old to be astonished by this behavior but I feel like I still expect more out of humans. While I have changed and grown and become into my own, my standards for the world have not changed. They are still too high and I guess that's my fault.
I do not wish that gentleman any malice. I hope that one day he wakes up and realizes that he doesn't have to behave that way to find his happiness. And that's the thing. People who behave this way, who yell at baristas or at cashiers or servers, are just angry people. It's just that baristas, cashiers, servers are easy targets. You don't know them. You don't care about them. They mean nothing in the grand scheme of your life... except they mean something to someone and we should remember no matter how old we are that everyone means something. I watched that barista's face and I thought she is somebody's kid, somebody's something. No matter how she makes our coffee, whether perfect or awful, she deserves the same amount of respect you do. And for the love of green apples, dude, if you hate the way this place makes your coffee, stay home!
One day, I will legit be an old lady with a cane. I will sit on my porch and yell at those damn kids to get off my lawn and I will laugh every time I do it, hoping the kids will come back so I can do it all over again. But you know what I'm not going to do? Start treating people like they owe me something. The only thing I managed to do was to not die. I'm not even going to apologize for how morbid that sounds because that's the reality of it. I grew old and that's a beautiful thing and I will be lucky to have lived so much life but that does not give me the right to lose my humanity. We will all grow old one day and instead of becoming nasty to the people around us, let's be an example and be kind. It's not that hard.
This week has been one of my better weeks. My anxiety was very manageable and I didn't feel so stuck in my sadness. I even had moments where I felt like dancing again. I was grateful because it means that I'm figuring the emotional wreck that is me out again. I know it can all fall apart. I'll swing back and forth but as long as I continue to learn how to manage who I am right now, I'm going to be OK.
So, today I didn't want to write about the depression I battle or the anxiety that weighs me down. I wanted to write about how those lights made me feel last night. I feel like we get lost, me especially, in all the things in our lives that are wrong. We hate our jobs. Bills are for the birds. Adulting is overrated. I wanted to take a minute today and tell you what in my life makes me happy. It's a journey and I'm working really hard to figure me out.
I'm thankful that I wake up every morning with the chance to keep learning, to keep improving, to doing the work that will make this life better.
I'm thankful that I was given the chance to be someone's mother though I stumbled along the way. I was granted a love that is so incredibly special and precious.
I'm thankful that I go to sleep every night with my best friend and wake up next to him every morning.
I'm thankful that I have a husband who knows that when I'm sitting in sadness, lets me be and doesn't try to fix it. He may not get it but he understands enough to know this head of mine is not his to fix and it's something I have to work through on my own.
I'm thankful that this same husband understands when I just can't with the world and brings me coffee in bed, not expecting me to leave the confines of our bedroom and is OK with that.
I'm thankful that I have a person in him that lets me be as strange and weird and silly as I want be. He is safe and loving and smiles at me, knowing it's a side of me that I only give him.
I'm thankful for the struggle, for the hardships, for every heartbreak I have had to endure because it has made me strong and will continue to make me strong.
I'm thankful for the people in my life, the ones that have gone and the ones who are here. While I have some mixed emotions lately about this, I understand the lessons they brought and I can embrace the pieces they gave me.
I'm thankful for the two small furry cats that cuddle with me every night and walk on my head in the morning because they are hungry. Their love is pure and honest and warms my heart. Their innocence is a wonderful reminder of how good this world can be.
I'm thankful that I can feel both incredible sadness and joy because these emotions keep me real, keep me honest, and keep these words as true as they can be.
I'm thankful for the gifts that I have been granted and the courage that I have found to share them.
Most of all, I'm thankful that though this world gets me down more than it should some days, I still get back up and keep going.
No matter how many times I have been knocked down, I seem to always keep going. I do what I have to do. For so long, it's been for the people around me. Maybe that's why I've always felt like a stranger to myself but I feel this changing inside me. I still feel like I'm screaming and no one is listening to me but for a long time I couldn't even hear me. I'm tired of screaming so I hear me. I hear me now. I don't have to scream anymore. I can give myself permission to be thankful and I can allow myself to breathe. I don't have to be everything. I can just be me. And, one day, I'll know who that is but I will enjoy this journey along the way and be thankful for every step.
I come home some nights and I feel bummed out. My husband will ask me if I’m OK and I’ll say yes because really I am all right. If I take a step back and look, I am all right. I just get lost in funks sometimes because the reality of parts of my life frustrates me. They talk about turning 40 and going through a mid-life crisis but this I’ve been battling for a long time. I think I busied myself before so I didn’t have to think about it. I buried myself in my kid, in my husband. I worked an excessive amount of hours convincing myself it was because my family needed me, too, but in retrospect? We would have survived if I hadn’t been so hard on myself. I convinced myself that I needed to do all these things for other people, absolutely certain that they would be there at the end of the day. Look at everything I did for everyone? But then things changed. I quit that job that took so much time from my family, from me. I got a new job that didn’t require as much as out of me, time-wise, but it has killed me in other ways that I thought I had conquered. My kid grows up out of nowhere and moves away. All those friends I thought I had faded away. I stopped doing so much for other people and they all fell away. And now when once everything in my life buzzed, I am forced to sit with myself in this silence. I’m not scared of it. It’s just been a while.
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.