It takes us years to understand the inner workings of ourselves. It makes sense that the older you get, the more you reflect on. Is it because you have more things to reflect upon? Because you've lived that much more life? Isn't that relative though? We all live such different lives, experiencing different things, fighting different battles at different levels. Comparing one life to the other is apples and oranges. I work with a lot of younger people. Sometimes I have a tendency to try to teach them little things that could make their lives easier simply because I've already gone through it. Sometimes my unasked for advice is appreciated but I don't get angry when they look at me and dig their heels down deeper. I can look back at being that young and remember how I wanted to tell all those older people to save their breath. After all, I knew everything, right? Of course I knew nothing. In a way I sort of miss that kind of ignorance (but believe me not enough to relive my twenties). We watch the people around us, recognizing similar plights that we have faced. Instantly we want to try to shield someone else from the hardships that we went through and you can't. I tried to tell someone the other day how to do something easier and their response to me was a bit on the ugly side. I stepped back. I thought about my response. Then I just walked away, realizing how much I've changed over the years. The fiery, younger version of me would have spat back that they were ungrateful and nasty but this older version? I shrugged and wished them the best, knowing that some lessons in life we embrace at our own time in our own way. If I could say anything to that younger version of me? I would tell her to listen. There is a lot of wisdom in the words we are too stubborn to hear.
My natural tendency to mother people has often blinded me to my own needs. Over the last year, I have let myself explore parts of myself that I would run away from. I believe that as we get older, the more we need to embrace about ourselves. Hey, I'm not getting any younger and I still have a lot of things in this life I want to do but in order to do them I need to be honest with myself. I need to understand why the anxiety attacks when it does, the reasons behind the triggers. And once I understand them, I need to learn to let them go. I'm quick to let myself get overwhelmed at times but I know that's not really me. It's just over the last few years I've allowed other people to spark flames that should have never been embers. I get so concerned about what goes on around me that I forget to take a look at myself at what I'm doing. And I guess because there are so many younger people around me these days it's been sort of an eye opener. Its forced to me to evaluate my own behavior. I'm not saying that I am a bad person or that my behavior causes need for concern. These days I work my shift and go home to my family because honestly I'm not a twenty something anymore. Sure, I like a beer now and again. I enjoy having a good time but recently my priorities have become clearer. I have accepted that because my priorities have shifted where I put my energy has shifted as well. I want to help the people around me. If I can save someone from making the same mistakes I have made, absolutely I want to be a helping hand... but I get that words are only useful when someone wants to listen. It took me years to understand that. I still struggle but I understand the beauty in now more than ever.
I wish I didn't get so frustrated still but raising my daughter has given me the most important lessons in this life. Being someone's mother is such a gift. I never want to take this role for granted. She will be eighteen this year, flabbergasted that so many years went by so quickly. And if I really sit down and think about it, I understand why sometimes I fuss over the people around me. My nest will be empty soon. While I have my cats, that tiny baby girl will be out there in the world without me. So, I look at these kids around me and my motherly instincts go on high alert. I suppose, in a way, it stems from my daughter. As a parent, you learn to put your needs to the side. As a parent, you learn that you do what you need to do no matter what that entails because that child depends on you for everything. That need doesn't go away because they get older. That need just changes as they get older. I look back to my own mother who watched me fail and break and fail and break over and over again. How I must've broken her heart time and time again... but she never gave up on me. When I sit down and really look inside myself, I understand why so often I give people so many chances. I understand why I offer my hand even if I know that disappointment is what it will be filled with. I used to get angry about it. It used to break my heart. I would rather someone outright hurt me than disappointment me. I would try to help but it would just be met with such disdain and then I would be crushed. Raising a teenage daughter toughens you up. Over the last few years, she has helped me understand that sometimes we just have to let people fail. Sometimes it is the only way life is taught.
I am in my last year of my thirties. I once thought that it would be horrible to be so old. Now I just laugh. My thirties have been some of the best, most eye opening years of my life. I have lost in my thirties but there hasn't been much tragedy during this decade. So much happened in my late teens and twenties that I didn't have time to stop and think about what was really going on around me. I was learning what I was made of, what I wasn't made of, what kind of person I wanted to be. I was angry and sad and depressed and lost and just a giant mess. But my thirties? My thirties I started to understand that who I wanted to be was going to take work. Then I accepted that I may never become that person and that was OK. Whoever I became was going to be just as wonderful. You take all the newness of being an adult away and you are left with just you. You've learned how to pay your bills (mostly). You've learned what kind of people you want in your life and you know how to get rid of the toxic ones that try to stick around. You know what you stand for. You get up quicker when you get knocked down. The best lesson I have learned is that I will always be a work in progress. It's perfectly acceptable to reset, to readjust, to start over however many times I need to. And I get that it's time that taught me these lessons. My twenty year old self would have told me to bug off and I get it. I'm not mad about it. Words only have meaning if you allow yourself to hear them. Some words just become easier to hear the older you become.
Sometimes these blogs are born out of a couple of days of a sentence that pops in my head. I don't necessarily know where they are going to go from that seed but, over time, they start to come to fruition. Wednesday there was a Teacher's Rally (and they deserve every single thing they were rallying for). We were caught so very unprepared at work for the rush of red that came in on us like a tidal wave. We saw it coming and could do nothing to get out of its way. I think everyone lost their minds that day. In the middle of the worse chaos I have ever seen at that place, I fell right on my ass. I busted my elbow and my knee and hurt my hip and got right back up. We were getting the crap kicked out of us so hard I did not have time to figure out if anything was broken. I did not have a second to assess my own well being because people needed their beers for the love of green apples! So, I fell. The place got quiet. I bounced right back up and the room cheered for me... and thought to myself I will deal with the pain later. It was in that sentence that I learned something about myself that I guess I just didn't want to accept. When something hard happens in my life, that's exactly what I do. I get through the moment. I'll deal with the pain later because later will be easier, right? Not at all. I remember sitting on that bar floor, cried one tiny yelp, and told myself, "Get the bleep up, Jes." And I did. I did regardless that my elbow was on fire. I did knowing that I would be in more pain later that day. I did because it's just what I do.
That sentence has been ringing through my head all week. So, I let it gestate. I let it bake. I analyzed myself, my past. My world fell apart when I was a teenager but I had to get back up and move on. I would deal all of it later. I got pregnant on purpose because I needed someone to love me though I had no idea how to do it. I would figure it out later. I married my first husband, a man who never once really respected me but I would deal that later. I lost my father and went back to work right away because I had to just get through those moments. I would deal with his loss later. I lost my dog but I just had to get through those first moments. I would miss her later. I let all of these things swirl around my head like tiny tornadoes and allowing the lessons that were presenting themselves to me do their reconstruction, letting them sink in. Yesterday was my birthday. Maybe that's why I allowed myself to finally see these things about myself. I turned 39 years old. I turned 39 years old and I'm still under construction. So often I push through things that I need to take the time to deal with. And I make up all these excuses of why what I'm feeling doesn't matter. He needs me. She wants me. That girl is going to die without her ranch. It's my own doing. Sometimes I just don't want to deal. Sometimes I just want to fall and stay there, to not fix the parts of me that I know are broken. I've picked up so many of my pieces over the years. I've got buckets hidden away like a hoarder with the ghosts that sit at the edge of my bed at night. I push through all of it because it is easier to skim a page than to figure out the real meaning of any of it.
These last few weeks I've had a lot on my mind. Where am I in this life? Where do I go in the next? What exactly is going to make me happy? Perhaps it is a mid life crisis. Who knows? I think I go through one every three years honestly. As much as all this self reflection hurts at times, I never want to live my life blindly. I want to understand and learn and reset as many times as I need to. Losing my father, changed me. I know that may sound a bit dramatic but losing him allowed me to see myself in a way that I couldn't before. When he passed, I saw, not just saw. I accepted that someone could have so much unconditional hope in me. I guess in a way I started to feel that way about myself. It was like losing him gave me permission to be brave in the ways I ran away from before. It gave me permission to truly learn who I was, not who I wanted people to think I was. There was this quote by Alexander Pope that has often been a theme I have lived by for years. "Act well your part: there all the honor lies." So I spent a lot of my life playing this part, not exactly who I knew I was because I thought that was what I supposed to do. I fall. I get back up. Time and time again I get back up. I don't have time to mourn or cry or fail. I get back up and deal with the pain on my own terms behind doors that no one can break through. Time and time again I hide because I've always felt like that's the part people wanted me to play. The older I get, the more I realize sometimes it would be nice to let myself break for a minute. It would be nice to deal with the hurt while I'm shattered because dealing with them after I've healed is like breaking a bone that's healed wrong. Writing this blog today makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and I'm tempted to erase the whole thing... but I always want to write from the most honest place I can. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve. Mine resides in these words. Part of growing and learning who we are is facing the parts of us that don't always work. I will always get back up but I am starting to learn that I am allowed to take a minute to heal, too.
I had this dream last night where I was super stressed out about something that didn't really matter anyway. I'm not a big believer that dreams mean anything but maybe there is something to it. Our brains are a wondrous beauty, full of so much that we don't use and don't understand. Why wouldn't our subconsciousness being try to tell our stubborn wake minds what's wrong? Yeah, I know, most times dreams are just dumb. I can't tell you how many nights I dream about not being able to find the tea urns at work or how my entire section disappears. They're dumb... but then last night's dream happened and maybe I should take a closer look. Putting it into some sort of context does make it seem like it could mean something but doesn't everything? I won't go into the details of it. Let's be honest. We all hate when someone is telling us about their dreams (not that we'll admit that). It really was me worrying about something that turned out didn't matter at all. I think about ranch and how I joke that this life is just a bunch of unnecessary ranch. Why waste our precious energy on this stuff? But sometimes we do. It's not wrong, it just doesn't get us anywhere. Yesterday I was standing behind my bar, watching the day play out, already knowing how it was going to roll (not great), and I just started chuckling to myself. I realized in that moment how hard I try for things that ultimately are just ranch. So, when the man got a little saucy with me, I just smiled, knowing that the three second wait that he had to endure for me to pour that beer wasn't going to determine my worth. It just doesn't. And I can run around all day, stressing myself out because there is no tea in the urn. I can throw racks across the back, making myself angry because I feel like I'm all alone on that floor. I can walk around in a sour mood all night, wallowing in the frustration, knowing it won't ever really change... but I'm so tired of feeling the weight of a world that will never appreciate it on my shoulders.
I remember in this dream last night I started to laugh at the people around me. Who they were? I don't know and it doesn't matter. They all looked at me, not understanding why I was laughing. I just kept laughing, stopping what I was doing, and started walking away. I guess my dream was, in a way, mimicking the thoughts I was having during the day. Maybe I'm finally having a mid life crisis. My birthday is a matter of days away. I suppose in a way I'm contemplating my plot in life. Is this where I want to be? Is that where I want to go? Do I really want to keep working for the tips? Or do I want to find a nice office job and slowly fade away? I don't know. I want to write and draw and laugh and just be happy. I want to get up in the morning not dreading what's to come, preparing myself to be treated like human walking poo. I don't mean to sound so melodramatic. My husband tells me every day that I have a spot with him if I want it. I just don't know if trading in one thing I settle for is worth another thing I would be settling for. These words "at my age" go through my head and I want to straggle them right out of me. I know that age doesn't matter. I know life doesn't work like that. So why does that statement haunt me so? Yesterday I was talking to one of my bar guests, a kind woman, the kind of customer that makes this industry worth it. It made me realize why I keep beating my head against this wall though I feel the bruises more distinctly these days. At my age, I have relationships and a family and I'm good at what I do, getting better at what I want to do. And I realize perhaps that dream last night was telling me just that. All this other stupid stuff I cloud my brain with is just that, clouds. Clouds pass.
The truth of the matter is we're all perfectly imperfect works in progress that may never be complete. I may look in the mirror in five years and still be like, "what the hell, Jes?" and you know what? That will be all right. I think what is important is that we learn what things are important to fret about and what things are just ranch to toss in the trash. I had this customer the other day who ordered four ranches (yes four ranches) for herself. While I was annoyed to have to go get her four more ranches, I laughed at myself for that annoyance because who cares? The girl likes her ranch and, by god, she certainly enjoyed every single drop of that ranch, too. What I'm trying to say is that so much of our existence gets wrapped up in these dumb things that make us miserable. I don't want to be miserable any more. I don't want to spend my days worrying about what he's not doing or what she is doing or whatever because it doesn't matter. I get so wrapped up in what other people think of me when there was a time in my life I really didn't care all that much. I am kinder sometimes than I want to be. I shut my mouth too tightly when someone hurts my feelings. I turn the other cheek way more than I should. And I do too much for people who take advantage of it... and I get it.... and I'm tired... As I was talking to this customer the other day, she reminded me that I need to get back to me, this funny and smart and confident girl that I used to be, and (pardon my french) fuck the rest. When I go home at night, I have a husband who loves me and I have a daughter who will love me again (once we're past these teenage years). I have a hand full of friends that will be there the minute I call them. I have a strong, brave mother who believes in me and siblings that support me without question. I have my hopes and dreams and my compassion that pushes me forward. All this other stuff? Yeah, it's just ranch that gets thrown in the trash anyway. Over the last few weeks, I allowed things and events and people dictate my behavior because I thought it was the only thing that mattered. And this week what I realized in all those things that didn't matter, I forgot the one thing that does. I matter, too. At my age, I'm still learning that lesson.
Over the last week, this blog has been forming in my head, trying to figure out the best way to put these words together. The theme of my life for the last week with each passing day has become more and more evident. I have these two thoughts that seem like they are battling each other but when I sit down to think about it, I mean really dive deep into them, they are the same thing. The most constant thing about this life is that it always changes, people and places and things. Nothing stays the same because it can't. I watch these young kids stand up for change, to make this world better, to make the world safer for the generations to come. I see the pride in the adults eyes as we sit and watch our children stand. Why? Because things have to change. I look at my own life and I know that change is happening all around me. What was is no longer and what will be? Well, what will be starts with me and you and him and her. It has to stem from all of us. We all have to some sort of pride in what we're doing. Because if we don't? Then what is broken will never get put back together. I can't make you change. You can't make me shift. But we can find some sort of middle ground and find a solution together. It's people. It is you and me and him and her. And all of us are going to change and break and rise and fall and do it all over again. We may never be what we were but we can be better than what we are.
I have worked at this job for the last five years. I fell in love with this place, with the people, with the vibe the minute I walked through those doors. It was a family, one where everyone cared for each other and helped each other. I was welcomed so quickly and so openly that it instantly made my heart swell. I don't often allow myself to feel so much so swiftly but there was something about the way that everyone worked so well with each other that drew me in. I am not saying that it was perfect but it made me smile. It made all of us smile. We made each other smile. I can't quite pinpoint what made it work so well. It was one of those things where the formula just worked. It worked for years... until it didn't. I can admit it is not what it once was. The mentality seems to be collectively different. And when I sit down and really think about it, I mean really think about it, what it boils down to is respect and compassion. Instead of helping each other, we seem to be belittling the other. Instead of trying to figure out the problem, we just brush it off onto someone else's shoulders. I can sit outside that patio all day and list all the things that aren't working but at what point it is enough? The other day a coworker was upset. The weight of the world sat heavy on her shoulders, feeling like it was all up to her to fix it. Instead of trying to build her back up, to make her feel supported and figure out a positive way to come back from what is broken, this other person just told her that nothing was going to fix it. I realized in those words that what has really changed is the people, not the place. Where once there was this feeling of us together had become this darkness of this "me" mentality. I can sit here and tell you about all the things in my life that don't work right now. I can stew on them and water them and help them grow until I become so overwhelmed that I drown in my own anxiety. I can look at my daughter and tell her that her life won't amount to anything if she doesn't get her shit together. I can look at my husband and tell him that our financials suck and they will just continue to suck. I can sit here and look at myself and tell myself that I am the problem that I am not where I thought I would be at forty years old. I can sit down with my coworker and tell them everything they are doing wrong and give them nothing to make it better... but what does any of that change? Sure, I see the flaws and the weaknesses but that just means what we are doing now is not working anymore. Life changes. People change. The things that swirl around us in this universe change. We have a choice. We sit and pout and sulk that they did. Or we readjust our own trajectory. I can look at this place that I work at and see how it's not the same anymore. I can be sad about it. I can even be angry about it... but really that sadness, that anger is not the point. Sometimes in this life you have to accept that you are not what you were. You have to let go of all those things, good and bad, and find where your feet stand right now. I can't bring back the things, the people, the parts of me that I've lost along the way but I can figure out who I am now while still honoring everything that I used to be. Hey, I'm never going to be 105 pounds again. I'm never going to wake up again and not feel every bone crack when I stand up. I'm never going to be who I was again and all of this fine. Sometimes holding onto what we were holds us back to what we can become.
So, I sat a little bit longer, asking myself these questions about what can I do to readjust? What can I do to help the people around me understand that we just have to change course a bit? I realize that I cannot control your actions or your attitudes or your anything. I understand that I can't make you change any more than you can make me change. So, what can I do to make this life better? I think I've always accepted that if I ever wanted anything done in this world it was up to me to get it done. Blame it on my mother who I watched do everything by herself because she could get it done faster. Blame it on my stubborn need to kiss all the scraped knees better. I have and always will put the pressure on me to make the people around me feel better even if I want to knock them out at the same time. As I was sitting there with my sad friend and listening to the other throw shadow, it became very clear to me that it has to start with people. Respect is something so easy give if you break it down to its foundation. I respect you because you are another human being if nothing else. I show you compassion because I, too, carry so many heavy burdens on my shoulders. If you are having a bad day, I want to make your day easier, not worse. I feel like we throw each other away so easily these days. We go after the weak parts of each other while we blow the strong parts of ourselves out of proportion. So, I sit and I think about what I can do to help this change? What spark can I create that is going to ignite a fire to improve this life? I realize the only thing I can control is me. I can choose to be positive instead of negative. I can choose to find the solutions instead of creating more problems. I can give you respect and love and compassion and honesty. I can choose to live my life in every fashion with my best, even the things that make me want to scratch my eyes out. If I choose to face my life with kindness and empathy, then maybe others will follow suit, understanding that some probably won't. I can accept that I am not who I was and I can have faith that who I become will not forget where I have been.
The truth is we must learn from where we came from to not repeat the same mistakes that we did before. I look at my life now and understand all those wrong turns I took. I can own each and every one and then move forward by letting go. This life is going to change again on me and again I will have to readjust to what that will be. In a way, it's a beautiful thing, this reinvention of one's self. If we stay stagnant, what do we learn? And if we hold onto that stagnation, doesn't that just poison us in the end? I can't parent my teenage daughter the way I did when she was little. Taking away her desert doesn't quite have the same effect. She changed and I changed and our lives changed. We've had to figure out a new way of relating to each other, to speaking to each other, to listening to each other. It's been a hard journey. If I'm being honest, I haven't quite figured it out yet but I'm changing and readjusting and trying new solutions to this equation that life keeps changing. I know things will get better. I have to keep trying. I know things won't be like it was between us like it was when she was little but I can't hold onto that and be a good mother to her now. She will continue to fight me and I will continue to stand my ground but what we have in common is that we love each other. We love each other so much that sometimes we drive the other crazy... but we keep trying to find our best way to honor the other. I sit in this life of mine, trying to figure out how to make it all not feel so dizzy. I think about all pieces of my life that I've lost along the way, all those things that were, all these things that are no longer. I've reached this point in my life where I can let them go. Sometimes moving forward is letting go. Sometimes changing your part in the equation is the solution. And while life will change again, we will, too.
I started writing this blog in the shower this morning, knowing that all the wonderfully put together thoughts I had while washing my hair wouldn't last the body wash. It's OK because as I was driving to this lovely coffee shop of mine, I think my thoughts took a better turn. This last weekend my kid did some pretty amazing things that I didn't even know she was interested in doing. Sometimes I look at her and I shake my head. I see so much of myself in her but there is also this other person that she's figuring out that I get to know along the way. I know that I have done blogs about my kid a million times. As parents, we think that our kids are the (pardon my french) the shit. Everything they do is golden. Everyone should pay attention because every word they utter is genius. And she is a genius but she's also a young, teenage girl who has lot of learning to go. That's OK. I want her to take her time, to stand up and fall down, to get back up even if it just to fall down all over again though my heart is scarred with every skinned knee she's ever had. As children, they need to stretch and push and go beyond so as adults they understand their possibilities. She spoke at a huge public event this last weekend. This tiny little thing that used to kick me in the ribs stood in front of millions of people and spoke about something she believed in. She could have been talking about bowel movements and I would have been proud. The bravery that this kid of mine pulled out of her once shy tiny bones blew me away. I didn't get to be there and it broke my heart that I couldn't be in that crowd cheering her on but I saw the video and I wasn't any less proud than if I had been standing there. I was with her in spirit like I always am and she knew that. I'm never far away really. She stood tall. She smiled her brilliant smile and spoke her strong words and I saw for the first time the kind of woman I knew she was on her way to becoming.
I think there is a perspective on her kids that we have to hold onto. When she was born, I really had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I loved her and that everything I did from the moment she was conceived was about her. The decisions that I would make as a woman were effected by the kind of mother I wanted to be. They say we raise our kids but when I look back at those years with my kid, there was so much about me that I learned from her. In the way she looked at me, I understood what it meant to look up to someone unconditionally. In the way she snuggled with me at night, I understood the importance of letting other people into your life. And in her love, I learned to love back, not just her but other people in my life. She was the reason I was strong when I felt like I had nothing left to give. She has always been the reason I push myself as hard as I do even now in these teenage years. When she was little, it was easy. I felt like I could tell her something and she would just listen. I knew everything, right? The older she got, the harder it became for me to speak. And I know that it is natural. I'm sorry to my own mother for being as rotten as I was (though she has told me I wasn't the worst out of the four). I get it. She's just figuring out who she is, who she wants to be. She'll land somewhere in the middle and it's all completely normal. But, yeah, it was easy to show her the way when she was small. Now, I fumble, not knowing how much of my help she really wants or doesn't. It's almost like I have a third cat. She wants my attention when I'm preoccupied doing something else but very clearly wants me to go away when all my attention is aimed at her. Hey, it's cool. I think somewhere along the way I've learned to stay in my own lane unless she gives me the signal to come on over (Christina Aguilera) and my feelings don't get as hurt as they used to. I realized recently that when she really needs me, my little girl comes back home and puts her head in the little crook under my neck like she did before. And I get that she will continue to push me away for the next few years but I also know that one day she'll realize that I've never budged from being right where she left me either. I'm never far away.
This morning she was on the radio standing up for the same thing she took a stand for at the rally. Again, I am bursting with pride for this kid! I posted all of this on social media. One, I wanted her word to be spread because what she says, what all these kids are saying matter. As adults, we need to listen. But, also, because I want everyone to know around me how freaking awesome my kid is! Because as a parent, that's what we do. We brag about our children and we parade our children and we want the whole world to stop and look at our children. The reality? I know my kid is just another great kid in the great big ocean of great kids and it's all good that the world doesn't stop.... (but really she's the greatest kid in the world). I've been getting all these beautiful, supportive comments about what a wonderful kid I raised and how it was me. I appreciate every single one of them, love them in fact. As a parent, you always doubt every decision you ever made. Should I have cut her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches diagonal like that? Should I have maybe put a chastity belt on her young? (That's a joke, guys). Did I do enough to make her strong? I decided from the start that she was not an idiot. I looked at her and said, "OK, kiddo, you're just a small person and that's how we're going to do this." Never once did I imply that she wasn't capable of doing exactly what she intended... but I made plenty of mistakes along the way, too. You just never know which mistake you make as a parent is the one to really mess them up. You cross your fingers and hope for a smooth recovery. I was reading these comments full of love for my kid, for me and I was touched but what I realized is that who she is becoming has very little to do with me. I gave her a foundation like my parents gave to me and their parents gave to them. Everything after that is all her. I will never be as brave as her, at least not in that way. I will never be as poised or as put together as this child of mine. I look at her and see so much of me, yes. She got my stubborn nature and my ability to hide her feelings and my unfortunate battles with anxiety but the kid is something beyond me. We want out kids to be better than us. We want them to have better opportunities and to thrive and to succeed and to not have to face the same struggles that we had to go through. And we sacrifice everything sometimes to make that happen for them but it doesn't feel like you've sacrificed anything when they look at you with those smiles. Every struggle, every fight, every tear, every break down on the kitchen floor, every slammed door and "I hate yous" were all worth what they will become. I gave her a foundation but that young lady standing at the podium? Well, that was all her. She's just getting started.
I often try to figure out what really triggers me. What are these things that make me get so riled up? And why these particular things? Being a human is strange sometimes because often we don't make any sense, what triggers us versus what we let go. I think back to my young child days and nothing seemed to bother me. Well, everything except not being able to watch Kids Incorporated and Mickey Mouse Club. I threw a royal fit about those. Other than that? I was a pretty chill little kid, just kept to myself, played with my toys, and wrote books about cats. "Kittens are like cats. Just smaller." That is a direct quote. Then my teenage years came and I thought everything was an injustice. I can't smoke at that coffee shop? Strike! That bully is picking on that kid? Get him! I fought the fight for the underdogs everywhere. The way my blood boiled looking back in retrospect was comical though I do think there is something lovely about that fire that once burned... not that I want to burn that brightly any more. It was exhausting. And then came my twenties, on my own with a kid, and I was just angry at everything even the good stuff. You would look at me funny and I would imagine your head exploding. I felt as if the entire world was repulsive and owed me something. It was dumb. The world owes me nothing but it took me years to figure that out.
So, now here I am, almost forty. I'm beyond the childish games, past the teenage angst, left behind the confusing twenties, and almost done with probably the easiest emotional decade I have ever experienced. What boils my blood now? It's funny to look back and compare. Some of the things that made me so mad seem so ridiculous now. I think as we get older we're able to pick and choose what fights are important. I think that's a really important lesson to learn, probably one of the most important lessons I've absorbed. Maybe it's because I have a teenage daughter and in her journey, I have found my clarity. Sometimes even the outcome isn't worth the battle. I know that sounds strange because isn't every battle worth it if it does something good? It's relative in the end. That being said there is one thing that still sparks my older self much like it would the younger version of me. I encounter all types of different people during my day. With the industry that I make my living with, the spectrum of kind and rude is large. If you work or have ever worked in the service industry, you will understand this statement. You start to become numb to the disrespectful way you can be treated. It still makes you mad but it's almost as if you expect it. And when you have someone treat with you kindness? It makes you cry a little. The sad thing is that kindness should be the norm, not entitlement. That's not just for this particular job. It's for everyone everywhere. There is no reason we have to treat each other so harshly. There is no reason we need to yell at each other to get our point across. Sometimes people will listen and sometimes they won't but knocking them down doesn't win anything. It just starts another war.
Maybe there is still that young little kid in me that believes that we can make this world a better place simply by being better people to each other. Perhaps I am still a bit of fool and my kindness makes me see the world in blur. I just don't think yelling at each other, hurting each other in any fashion solves problems. If you have an issue, talk about it. Find a solution that doesn't involve tearing each other apart. Sometimes at work we get weeded so badly that we lose sight that we are there to help each other. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we say ugly things to each other because all we see is the twelve tables waiting on their food and the three new ones that just sat down and everything needs ice and we have no cups and that kid just spilled their milk all over the back of the booth. We get caught in these truly horrific, chaotic moments and we snap at each other. We're human. It's going to happen regardless. So what do we do? My younger self would have said suck it up. Deal with it. Stop being such a pansy. But me today? Talk about it. Deal with it, yes, but in a way that dissolves the tension in a healthy manner. Last week I had a moment and I snapped at a coworker. I felt horrible about it and a few days afterward I apologized to her. I was caught in a moment and unfortunately she was the one to catch my frustration. We talked about it and moved on from it. I don't want to leave that bad blood between me and her not just because we have to work together but because I adore her as a person. And as a person, she deserves my respect.
No one is perfect in this world. How boring would we all be if we were truly flawless? I realize in my older years that I tolerate so much more but in the same breath I tolerate so very little as well. I don't care about the dumb stuff but if I had to say what makes me red now? Well, it would have to be respect or the lack there of. We can all have our opinions. We can all lead our lives whichever way we choose. We can like the music we like and play the games we play. We can like and date and love and marry whomever we choose. That stuff is yours, not mine. I'm cool with it. But what I'm not cool with is when we start treating each other with disrespect whatever the reason. We all carry our hypothetical baggage. We're all just figuring out how to unpack it. Why make each other's lives that much harder? If I say something ugly to you, that's on me. And if I don't apologize for it, that's completely on me. I try to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Admittedly, sometimes I am better at it than others. If I mess up, I try to fix it. And I guess what gets me is when people don't. I think about how they would feel if it was done to them like that and I realize that some people just don't think like that. It's disappointing. I don't want a world where we're all perfect. I just want a world where our imperfections make us that much better. Maybe I get so upset because I can see that we can be great. We all have this amazing potential that we just don't use because of this or that. It's all so simple. Love each other. Be kind to each other. Respect each other. It's just that simple.
I have found that when everything in my life seems pretty OK I tend to not write as much. I don't know if I just need that angst to really write something that has that same kind of hit or I just don't push myself to sit down in front of this computer. I think I get scared that what I write won't be as good, as raw if I'm not feeling particularly emotional. I mean does the audience really care about how annoying getting ranch a million times a day is? I don't find it particularly entertaining on an intellectual level. Sarcastic? Sure but as usual, my mind wonders, strangely connecting dots. And for some reason, ranch led me to ponder about my lack of self confidence. I feel good about me, my words. I think my doodles, for as simple as some can be, capture those moments that reside in this head. I know at the end of the day what I do is good, amazing sometimes even but I still flounder. I still put an incredible amount of pressure on myself no matter what it is I am doing to be the best at. The thought of you reading this right now and saying to yourself that it could be better should terrify me enough to not write this at all but still I write. I had a hard day. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It was the usual grind. It was the usual restaurant life madness but today I allowed myself to get swept up in my own doubt. When things started to crack, I questioned my own ability and it sucked. I have gone through the darkest of nights without breaking a sweat but sometimes it is the dumb things that tend to break me. It infuriates me. I can shake it off most the time. I can tell myself that I'm just being too hard on myself and figure out a way to rise above it but still I doubt. The confidence that I have drains out of me slowly like someone punctured a hole in me, deflating a little more over time. I patch it and I move on but I know that hole is still there, yet another ding to carry around.
Most the times my instincts are right on. I think about something logically, all the different paths it could take, five steps ahead of where I actually am, and land on an outcome but then I question. I feel like maybe my judgement is wrong or off or not well thought out. I try to do what is best for everyone around me and put myself out of the equation. I try to think of the big picture, not just what is in front of me in that moment. And maybe that's my downfall because when shit starts to hit the fan I don't trust my instincts. What I do isn't an important job but it makes people happy. I started tending bar a few weeks ago. I've never been a bartender but I've been a barista. The counts are the same but just the ingredients are change. They are both fast paced and similar while having just as many differences. I've been at this place long enough that the move made sense. I enjoy it. I'm not the best at it (yet) but I am learning new things every day. And the fact that I am not the best at it (yet) will drive me bananas until I do master it because that is the way that I am. It doesn't matter what feat is put in front of me, I will conquer that challenge. I just don't know how to live any other way. While my drive to become a master at this trade or any trade really is strong, my confidence is still quite shaky. It's not because I can't do it. It's not because I can't handle it. It's because I question how to get it done. I live my life by a very simple rule. Keep it simple. Try not to over complicate things but that doesn't always mean I do. Sometimes when a drink comes through, I freak out a little bit. Sometimes when three people sit down at my bar at once and I get a table and the well is blowing up and a keg blows, I get overwhelmed but still I try. The minute I don't I lose. I may look a bit nuts. I may run around like a chicken but that doesn't mean I will allow myself to fail, confident or not. I will not fail. We all have moments though when it feels like everything around is exploding. Sometimes it does. But you know what? For all those things that happen that are out of our control, we just need to remember to breathe and believe in ourselves to know that we get through it.
I'm still learning my way around a bar. I'm still figuring out how to make all these drinks and my rhythm, taking care of my customers while till taking care of the people's on the floor. I'm still trying to find my place next to people who have been doing it for years. I don't know everything yet. I won't know everything for a minute but still I don't stop. I know that part of the problem is my own confidence in myself. I know that I should tell myself to shut up when I start hearing these dumb whispers about I can't do something. That's not just about this new position. It's about everything in my life. It's about being a mother and a wife and a friend. It's about being true to myself. If I think someone looks at me in a way I can't do something, it hurts me but not as much as I hurt myself. Here is the thing. You could think I am a complete failure and, yeah, it would still bother me but I want you to know that I am ten times harder on myself than you. That's just the nature of my beast, a beast I'm still learning how to tame. A friend of mine just got a promotion. She gets scared that she won't be good enough, that she won't get it. The truth is the girl has already got it, she always has. I don't know if she knows how incredibly proud I am of her, of how much she has grown, of just her. I tell her that it's OK because she is still learning. She hasn't always done this sort of job. She's only been at it for a few weeks. There is a lot to learn, a lot to sink in. No one can be expected to be brilliant at something they've never done instantly. We all start somewhere. I tell her that she will have this incredible moment when everything just makes sense, when the stars align and the sun shines bright. It's funny because I listen to myself tell her these things, wondering why I can't practice what I preach. She's right. I've got this, too.
Last night I went to a party for my work. I have to admit I was about 90% sure that I was not going. Not because I don't enjoy my coworkers. Between you and me, they are some of the loveliest people I have ever met. So why then? I knew that I would have a good time. I knew they would make me smile. We would all laugh and carry on and let loose and blow off that steam that we can't whistle out when we're knee deep in the weeds. I know myself well enough to know that once I got there, it would be fine... but still the same silly anxiety that haunts me haunted me last night, too. I get weird around a lot of people. Not because I think anything is going to happen to me or to anyone really but because I feel invisible in large crowds. And I know. It doesn't make much sense but I feel like I fade away when there are too many people around me. Sometimes that is perfectly fine. Most the time I don't really want to be all that noticed. But sometimes becoming that invisible makes me feel so very lonely, too lonely. I start to lose touch with what is around me, with who is around me. My head feels dizzy and nothing seems very real. I understand now that is just the form my anxiety takes. I know exactly how to deal with it when the walls start to move in on me but it doesn't take away how devastating it can make me feel. So, yeah, sometimes I don't go to the parties that I'm invited to. Some days I don't leave my house. And a lot of times I would prefer a small number of good friends at my table then a large amount of them stuffed in a room. Not because I don't love the people in my life but because sometimes I just can't keep the walls from spinning.
I battled with the decision to go all day yesterday. The entire week I was all for it. I was excited about it but the reality of me is that my excitement for something doesn't always guarantee I will go through with it. I wasn't feeling very well yesterday. I spent most the day in bed sleeping, still not knowing for sure whether or not I was going to make an appearance. Then, one of my coworkers texted me and pretty much made it clear that I was going. I don't hang out very often. I don't drink very much. I'm always worried about all the grown up things that bog me down so I don't let loose very often either. This is my escape, these words and my doodles and my journal entries. All these things don't deal much with other people when they are being created. I just know that I am creating something. After I am done, you will do what you want with it. I guess that's the difference between being with people and being with myself. I can lay these words out and fade away but I can't always escape from a glance if you're standing in front of me. It makes my head just as dizzy. But I did make the decision to go but I brought my camera. I haven't had much chance to really figure it out. I thought what a great opportunity to try it out and, in a way, be with all these wonderful people without feeling that same old anxiety that always tugs at my ankles at these sort of things. I walked in with my camera in tow. I forgot how wonderful it felt, to be part of something without being completely in something. I could see these moments, capture these moments, and stay safely in my wallflower bubble. I got their smiles and their laughs, their joys and their tears all in these pictures from the way that I saw them in all of their beautiful glory. It has been years since I have picked up a camera of any sort other than the dumb pictures we take on our cell phones. It has been years since I allowed myself just to follow my eye, to let the world see the world as I do. It is invigorating, exciting. I had people ask to take my picture. Here is the thing. I am not a huge fan of getting my picture taken in the first place but that is not saying I run from a lens. I just got to be in the mood. Last night I wanted to be the camera, not in front of it. There doesn't need to be proof of my existence. The fact that these pictures now exist is proof enough. The fact that I was taking these pictures made me feel like I wasn't fading away in the crowd of many. Perhaps being invisible isn't all that terrifying.
Tonight I got off work and I was sending some of these pictures to one of my coworkers from last night. I am extremely happy that so many of these wonderful people truly enjoyed the pictures I took. I was just playing around for the most part but many of them came out really well. So well that it has lit a fire inside me to go back to this once creative outlet that I loved so much but walked away from like I did so many other things in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am terrified of everything. I worry too much about my family, about my job, about my cats, about all these things that, sure, I should take care of. I put out these blogs and write these books and draw my doodles and I love them all but I forget that putting my heart out the way I do takes courage. I forget about that courage and convince myself that my fear gets the best of me. I stood behind that camera last night. I wasn't scared or worried to be in the middle of all that football chaos. I was a part of it even if my face not once appeared on that film. I forget sometimes how brave I once was and I fool myself into thinking that I lost it somewhere along the way. What I forget is that life changes. I don't understand the way it changes me sometimes. We lose things along the way and we carry around these holes that we try to fill, knowing that we won't ever really fill them. We forget that when we lose, we gain. I guess I think about how I used to be, this brave and bright and full of life sort of girl. I think about how going to a party never bothered me. I think that's the sort of courage I'm supposed to have because that's how I used to be, right? But that kind of courage never shared a word. That kind of courage never told the people around her how she really felt. That kind of courage made it impossible for me to be human, to be kind, to be vulnerable the way I am now. I sat at one of the booths last night looking at the pictures I took as the party went on around me. I remember looking up and smiling. I knew that it was time to go but for the first time in a long time I was glad that I had came. I look back at that moment tonight after a long day and I understand how I never lost my courage. It's just quieter now but a courage just the same.
Over the last couple of weeks I've had a lot of thoughts in my head. I've had a lot of things I wanted to say. I've had so many things that have made my hands squeeze into fists and words that have come close to being screamed but not one have I said, not one thing have I allowed my fists to unleash their fury. Instead I've sat on all these things, let them marinate and dissected them because that's what I do. I go over and over them within to figure out the root of the problem. 2017 went by in a blur. I did some things I guess. I had some laughs, sure. I shed some tears and I sat disillusioned by my own self but it wasn't a bad year. And as my fists left nail prints in my palms, I sat and thought about my year. My life just went on. Life always goes on even in fists that don't fly anywhere. I guess the biggest thing I felt was defeated. I've felt defeated but those are words I can't really share. These are feelings I don't know how to express unless I'm speaking to paper, an inanimate object that won't retort that I'm being silly. Look at my life and their right. I've got a pretty good damn life but it's hard fighting the same demons over and over again. It's frustrating to win and lose so often in this life of mine. I am fine until I'm not. I'm not until I am. There's no right answer and no wrong done. I just get lost standing completely still sometimes. I work too hard, worry too much, and sometimes annoy myself at all the breath I've let get away. I wish just as much as you to simply sit down. I wish just as much anyone that I didn't feel like this, all this wasn't on my shoulders. If I take a step to the right, what then happens to you? If I slide to the left, what will be the thing to unravel? And if I don't move at all, what does that say about me?
I pick at my nails. I don't bite them. I pick at them. I bit them for years when I was a kid. I don't think I really stopped until I hit my mid twenties. Something just clicked one day at how gross it was to stick my fingers in my mouth constantly. It was like when I stopped sucking my thumb. People told me all the time that it was nasty. They told me all about the germs that I was putting into my system, that I would get buck teeth, that it made me look dumb. I didn't give two birds what they said. All I knew was that it comforted me. It took my mind off whatever anxiety was ailing me at that time. And one day I just stopped. I just stopped sucking my thumb. One day I just stopped biting my nails. It wasn't anything that someone said to me or the looks of horror that people would throw at me. I just stopped. Something in my brain clicked and I tossed those habits away like they were nothing, like they hadn't helped me throughout the years. So why do I tear up my beautiful cuticles as my husband likes to say? It's the same reason my hands form into fists. It's the same reason I poke at my face. It's always been the same reason. I get aggravated, frustrated that I can't break out of my own shell. Behind all these angst filled words, there is a happy little girl inside of me but I hide her behind these torn up cuticles because I guess a part of me doesn't share that part of me with anyone. I become terrified at the thought that the concern I have for her won't be shown by anyone else. So I overcompensate and work too much and care too hard and get my feelings hurt way too often by things people don't even know that they are doing because I can't make myself take a stand. I get so frustrated that I can't just be who I know I am without so much weight on my shoulders. I thought that 2017 was going to be the year that I learned how to shake off all this extra weight, I did. I had high hopes that this was going to be the year that I would figure out the formula and just stop doing all these things that hurt me but it was just another year of excuses. It was just another year of me getting caught up in expectations that I stubbornly put on myself.
So, as I sit here on a the 5th day of January, the birthday of my long gone father, listening to Paul Simon after working most the day, knowing all the emotions that have been building for the last few weeks, I think about what I do want this coming year to be. There are some hard truths about myself that I acknowledge, mostly accept, and know that I can improve. I know there are bad habits like picking at my nails that I should just stop. At some point I have to realize how inconsequential parts of my life are, how much meaning I give to the things that really mean anything at all. It is in those meaningless things that cause my greatest anxieties. I should know better at this point in my life. Today I've thought about my father. He would have been 65. I would have called him at some point and I would have wished him a happy birthday. He would've told me a horrible, corny joke and made some morbid comment about getting closer to death because that was just him. He's gone now and all I could do was close my eyes this morning and hope he heard me whisper happy birthday as I got ready to go to work. I thought about him today and how he dreamed. I remember all his grand schemes he would plan to make his life better, him better. I remembered how frustrated he would be when life got in his way and I laughed to myself in that morbid way I do sometimes. I am my father's daughter. I continue to chase these dreams, my grand schemes, and life just seems to keep getting in my way.
I get why I've been so frustrated the last few weeks. It's not the bills or the job or the fact that my daughter can't seem to put a plate in the sink. It's not the hours I work or the fact that when I'm not working I feel exhausted. It's not the laundry basket that's been sitting there for two days without being folded and put away. Sure, these things are annoying. I wish I could snap my fingers and instantly have a clean house and a comfortable amount of money in my bank account. I wish I could say the things I needed to say when I needed to say them to the people I wish would hear them. I would love to just be able to relax without feeling guilty over it or feel like I have to do five extra things to earn that moment. I wish sometimes someone would just understand me but I've been on this planet long enough to get it. I'm too strong for my own good and too proud to show you anything else. Over the last few weeks I guess I've let the fact that I'm not altogether where I want to be bother me. I feel as if I've lost some of momentum, my drive. I feel disappointed in myself and that's a hard pill to swallow. People disappoint me all the time. I feel as if that is just a part of life, part of being a human. We put the expectations of ourselves on other people and they'll never live up to our hype. We set ourselves up for that kind of disappoint and maybe that's just a rotten way to look at the world. I don't know. What I do know is that I can do better than what I am doing right now but I feel stuck. I feel stuck and I can't quite figure out how to shake it off. So, I think about my father. I think about all the times he started, all the times he failed. I don't want to keep failing. So, maybe 2017 wasn't what I wanted it to be. I somehow lost my inertia somewhere along the way. I didn't necessarily fail but I can't say I'm as far along as I'd like to be. I've marinated long enough. It's time to start again. Just start again.
I woke up this morning and stared at my closet for a few minutes. It's always a battle trying to figure out what to wear. And believe you me I'm not one of those people that stresses about what to wear because I'm concerned about what people might think of me. Ask my kid. She rolls her eyes at just about everything I wear (probably because everything I wear contains a hole or two). My usual daily attire is my work shirt and a pair of jeans so when I have the day off sometimes I just get lost in these options that hang in front of me. My eyes fell on an old flannel. It was my father's, the only piece of clothing that I kept. I don't remember him ever wearing it. I have no actual sentimental memory of sitting with him while he was sporting it. It was just one of those things that when we were cleaning out his closet I gravitated towards. Over the last few days he's been on my mind a lot. Was it because Thanksgiving, our third Thanksgiving without him just came and went? Perhaps but he's never too far away from me if I'm being honest. I grabbed this blue flannel and out of habit smelled it, just to see if his scent was still there. I've worn it a few times over these last three years. There he was, faint now but I could still smell him if I closed my eyes. As I sit here and write these words, the one thing he always encouraged me to do, I wear his old shirt and I laugh at myself at how sentimental that old man has made me in his death. I finished getting dressed, kissed my naughty kitties goodbye, and head towards the coffee shop to write the next great big thing. The first song that comes on my Spotify mix? That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine by Simon and Garfunkel. I looked down at my radio and smiled as I felt my eyes water, knowing that for whatever reason he felt how much I have missed him and how sometimes on certain days his loss still sits heavy on my heart.
A friend and I got stuck in a conversation last night that sort of triggered this blog. She also lost her father and we could empathize with each other about how that loss feels. It gets easier and it doesn't at the same time. I am fine and then somebody will mention the Cubs and then my heart hurts a bit. I am fine and then its Thanksgiving and I remember all the dumb jokes he would tell and my heart hurts a bit more. I am fine and then I see a man who looks like him and my mind gets tossed in this confusion, knowing that's not him but wanting it to be him so badly. It gets easier to live my life every day, to live one day at a time. It gets easier to remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did and to hold onto the memory of him calling me Red, of him falling asleep in the middle of our conversation. It gets easier but I still don't know how to rectify the fact that I can't just pick up the phone and call him. In the conversation the other night what became clear to me was that everything wonderful he ever was, everything wonderful her father ever was is carried on through us. So, I can wear this flannel and feel his blood run through these veins and look at my reflection and see him any time I want. I cannot physically hug him. I cannot punch him on the shoulder when he makes an inappropriate comment. I cannot sit in front of him and torture him with the things I would say on purpose just to make his blood boil ever again... but I will carry his memory with me. I will tell my grandchildren and, if I'm lucky enough, my great grandchildren about the flawed, beautiful man that was my father.
Sometimes it's easy to doubt the people we are. It's easy to look at our parents and say, "Well, it's all your fault that I'm messed up so bad." And perhaps for a time I said those exact words because in my youth I was incapable of taking responsibility of my own wrongs. Then life happens. Then you see your father laying in a hospital, struggling to hold onto any sort of life, and something beautiful happens in that moment. Were my struggles my parents fault? No. Most were on me and a few just were what they were. We have a choice when we become adults to become who we want to be, to behave the way want to behave, to bloom into something lovely or to fall into misery. When that song played this morning, this song that always makes me cry, I thought about those last moments that I saw him, knowing he wasn't really there anymore. In those moments, I forgave my father and my mother even though she was standing right there next to me. I forgave him for all the times he didn't know how to help me. I forgave him for all the times he pushed me too hard. I apologized for all the things I couldn't do for him, for me when he needed me the most. I apologized for not seeing in me what he always knew was there. And I thanked him for being the best father he knew how to be. It wasn't until he was gone that I started to understand him as a person. It wasn't until he was gone that I truly appreciated how much love he had for all of us. Every time I make a right decision now, I think of him. I ask myself would this make him proud? And then I laugh at myself because how happy would he have been if I had behaved this way when he was still here? I guess I understand finally what him and my mother were always trying to teach me. I don't think they ever really cared if we had amazing jobs or high class spouses or perfect children. I think all they ever wanted for any of us was to be happy whatever that happiness was. They just wanted us to be kind, be grateful, to show compassion to the world around us even when we didn't get it in return. So, I'll wear his flannel and I'll keep singing along to his music and I'll always be someone we can both be proud of. Because for 35 years that was the only lesson he ever really wanted us to learn.
Thanks, Dad. I finally heard you.