Sometimes there are things that happen in my life that I have to sit with for awhile. I have to mull them over and really get a clear idea of how to move forward. I have learned that the greatest lesson time gives you is perspective. What we think is so horrible in the moment turns out isn't so bad when we look back at it. We don't see the lessons that present themselves until they have been taught. I would like to say that I have learned all those lessons but I know I have not. I was once very hard on myself, thinking that I was on my own. I felt as if this delicate balance of life was kept by my shaking hands alone. So I made a lot of hard choices. I took a lot of hard roads. I ate a lot of dirt along the way. And I learned the power of my words, how to use them and when to hold them back. I've said things in my life that there is no excuse for and time has taught me words spewed in heat only burn, just burn. No resolution is ever really made by them. I've had a bit of a rough time lately, not knowing if the decisions I have made or was making were necessarily the right ones. I've been questioned by someone I thought better of and I took a big hit by some words were spoken. I've had to step back, think things over, and come to terms that maybe the great balance I thought I had was but a farce. And you know what? That is OK because I think for once I understand I'm content with shutting my mouth and listening to what the world is trying to teach me right now. I started to take note of how I once handled myself in the past, trying so hard to take care of everyone in my life while letting my own ambitions fall to the side. I guess the older I get, the more experiences I have backlogged, the more moments I have to take from. I see how hurtful I was there so I can adjust that behavior. I understand how dire something felt years ago but when I really look at it? It wasn't so bad.
You know when I was a kid I really thought I had it rough. I saw all the toys, gadgets, trips that my friends took. I walked into their giant houses with their 4 cars and bonus rooms and newest electronic devices. I compared all of that to my own humble house, my hand me down jeans, my used toys. I thought we were poor. I remember being in second grade and this little boy told me that Santa Claus wasn't real. I got so infuriated by him that I punched him. I honestly don't know why it made me as angry as it did but I sure was mad. I remember telling him that there was no way Santa was fake because my parents were poor and there is no way they could afford the gifts that me and my siblings got every year. And when I look back at those moments now? What I really see are two incredibly hard working people that loved their children enough to sacrifice their own dreams, goals, sometimes well being so that we had presents to open Christmas morning. What I remember are the home cooked meals my mother made 6 of us every night after working a full time job. What I see are the cookies that she stayed up all night making for our bake sales, the holes in our pants that spent sewing, her face sitting in that front row being our biggest fans. Perspective. It's such a funny thing. I don't know why we are so blind in the moment, why it takes us years to realize how much someone else suffered for our happiness. I look at my mother now in a completely different light and I hold my father's memory that much closer. Whatever faults they had as parents don't really matter because every single one of their decisions were made out of love. I get that now.
So I take all of those thoughts, the struggling thoughts I had with my parents growing up, and I try to give my own daughter the benefit of the doubt. Every time she goes on the attack, I try to say she doesn't have enough moments yet. She doesn't understand yet. She isn't old enough to appreciate the sacrifices that my husband and I have made to show us any compassion. Some words were said this week. Some really hurtful words. She talked about how horrible her childhood was and it stung. Sure, it wasn't all peaches and cream but looking back? I was a single mother doing the best I could. And if I compare it to other single parents' plights? Our road really wasn't that rough. I won't discount how difficult it was for me to keep all my ducks in a row but she never suffered any of that. We had a roof over our head. We had food in our bellies. She had a room full of toys that I couldn't afford. I put her first every time, every time. But, as teenagers do, this beautiful child of mine says words that she doesn't understand the meaning. And, if I am being honest, there was a lot of damage done. So, I'm trying to step back, mull it over, put the hurt aside and be her mother because no matter what I am her mother. And there is a lesson in here that one day I will look back and understand.
I never truly realized how difficult being a parent was going to be. Before I got pregnant, I saw fun walks in the park with my cute baby and naps on the couch and big baby laughs. I didn't think that years later she would be so mad at me for having her in the first place but that is where we are. I remember her being small, the joy that little girl brought me, how I couldn't wait to feel her tiny arms wrapped around my neck. It was the greatest feeling getting off work and picking her up from daycare where she would run to me and jump into my arms. I still hear her silly little songs that she would sing from her car seat. I still feel the way she looked at me like I was this strong, amazing champion who could do anything. I look back at that time in our lives and I don't see my struggle. I don't see the bills that piled up or the frozen chicken dinners or the nights crying on the kitchen floor with my only companion my sweet puppy Sherra. All I see is the young kid that I was making it with a baby on her hip and it wasn't so bad. But I look at the now. I see the way she flares, the way she accuses, the way she looks at me. I hear these words of how selfish I was to have her, how blind I was, how I have never sacrificed anything for her, how I am a failure because my life hasn't quite fused together completely. Words. Words that can't be taken back. Words that are now out there and I have to take a step back. I have to find a strength to turn my cheek once more because I know she doesn't see, doesn't understand. She doesn't have enough moments yet to look back at and grasp the gravity of her own actions.
Are any of these words true? I failed at times. I cannot deny that. What I can honestly say is that whatever decisions I made, I made out of love. And looking back, I know that was what life was trying to teach me. Love. So, I will take a second and catch my breath. I will let these new wounds turn to scars. And, as always, I will move forward with love. I am her mother. That will never change. She has always made me a better person even at her worst. I have always found this strength inside of me because of her. These teenage years have taught me certainly that much. I may have to approach things differently for a little while. I may not be so quick to kiss her scrapes and make it all better. Her scrapes are her own now. If these words speak anything now it is that there has to be a line between being her friend and being her mother, a line that has always been gray with us. I don't regret that though. We've had some truly sincere, beautiful conversations. If it did any damage, I guess I'll take the consequences. I was the adult. I was still learning how to be that. Yesterday wasn't perfect but it was a lovely experience, moments that I now have in my pocket to learn from. So, that's what I'll do. Learn. And maybe along the way, she'll pick a lesson or two as well.
All my life I have never been afraid to try something because of failure. It is more the fear of success. I have talents, true. I have plenty of dreams, yes. And I have so many excuses to not allow them to bloom. The thing is I understand disappointment. I get the sadness of it, the loneliness of it but I've always gotten back up to try again. I know my potential. I always have but the reality of me reaching it has been far more terrifying to me than anything else. Where does a dream go once you've caught it? It becomes something tangible, something real, and then there are no more butterflies to catch. So what pushes me forward? But if I am being very honest it has nothing to do with any of that. What I get scared of is that when they become real I now have even higher expectations to live up to. And even further into that, they become that much more real to fall apart. I understand how quickly things in this life go away. There have been so many wonderful moments that crumbled in my hands. As long as they are just a dream, they can't be destroyed. This journey has taught me all sorts of things but the greatest thing it has unfortunately taught me is how fickle the good can be. I don't know if I believe in destiny. I don't think we all have one path that we aren't to go in or one destination we are supposed to land at. I just know that each of the steps I have taken keep bringing me closer to achieving the dreams I have always wanted. It scares me.
We all self sabotage. We get so close to that light like bugs to a bulb and then so quickly we decide to fly right into that light because somehow it's easier to explode ourselves. As I get older, I become more dissatisfied with all these things that I never allowed myself to feel, to experience because what if they worked? The negative is far easier to cling to than the positive. I lived there for a long time but I'm starting to understand the vitality of my own life. I get that one day all these chances I let go by because I was so terrified that I could were wasted. I don't know what to do when someone gives me a compliment. I don't know what to say when someone says they like my work. I have no idea how to handle an opportunity when it presents itself to me other than to run from it. Why? Not because I might fail but because I may succeed and then where do I go? I know how much harder I will then have to push myself to go further then where I stand. I know how much harder I will have to fight not to prove to you that I can be better than the last line I drew but because I will have to prove it to myself. I am my own worst critic, my biggest nightmare, the cause of the majority of my own anxieties. I know what struggle feels like and I have become so comfortable in this state that it becomes toxic. I know it. Still, I hold back when I know my heart just wants to set itself free. I bite my tongue when I feel every word that these hands want to write, know each line this mind still has yet to create... but what happens when if I fall empty? The reality is I convince myself that if I give the world what I can truly offer, eventually the world will turn away. I will have been a success but how soon will it crumble?
This week I got a wonderful opportunity to share my art. It will be the first time my art will be more than a digital image on your computer screen. It will be something real, printed and hung on actual canvas for the world to see. The feeling I had when my work was accepted I cannot explain. It was the most excited I have been in a long time. It felt like a break, a real break. Someone looked at my art and liked it enough to hang it on the walls. I honestly lost my breath. I felt dizzy and elated and hopeful and overwhelmed all at the same time. This will be first time I showcase my work and I am sincerely so very excited about it. I'm that bug right now so close to that light and I am terrified that I am going to fly right into it, to sabotage myself. I don't know how to handle something wonderful. I don't know how to hold it in these hands and not crush it by accident. I am holding this beautiful bloom, me on the cusp of something that I don't understand and scared to death that I will somehow wilt away. Then I think about this journey, how hard I try and how many times I have gotten back up even if I know I will go straight back into that light. I think about the last ten years of this life, all the minutes that led up to this day. I look at my husband, this man that I never thought I would allow myself then and here he still sits. We have not crumbled. I think about my daughter and how scared I was holding her in my arms when she was so tiny. She has not crumbled. These two people in my life that, at times, I failed still did not turn into dust. I see clearly where I sit and understand how I don't have to fear this wonderful. I can enjoy this right now. I can allow myself this. Sometimes I don't have to hurt to know I am still real.
That's the thing. I think we sometimes choose pain over happiness because it is easier to digest. If someone takes away our pain, that's OK. If someone makes you smile when you are sad, that's good. It is good to lose that sadness but happiness is so much more precious. We work so hard for it and lose sight of it so quickly. Once we have it, how we cling. True happiness becomes those things of fairy tales. We know the story. We understand the concept but somehow we convince ourselves it's just a dream, an idea. It becomes something unreal. We convince ourselves that happiness only comes from other people, from our jobs, from friends, from our families when the reality is it will always come from within. The older I get, the more I understand that. And that part of our journey is the hardest one to take. Because when we start on that path, what do we see? We see all the things that came before standing in between us. We see all these things that we failed at and think why try at all? We hear the all the zaps, the doubts, the whispers of what we will never be. And we convince ourselves that those things are right. So, we intentionally make ourselves worse to hide our best. I was once 110 lbs soaking wet. I was a beautiful young lady with a smile that shined so very bright. I was once so excited about this world and then someone turned the lights out on me, hurt me in ways that have left scars. Instead of standing fearless in spite of that, I hid away. I gained over a hundred pounds so that the world wouldn't see my shine anymore. I did that to myself because I was terrified that if I became the great I knew I could be, it would all be torn away from me again and I've been doing that since.... until now. I can no longer hide in the dark. It's time to be my own light. Maybe this good thing will crumble but I'm tired of being afraid that it won't. Crumbs don't scare me. And this fear that I have of being seen is no longer useful, not when I've got dreams to catch.
I once thought that friendship meant something different. When I was younger, it was more about what someone could do for me. It was about them being there for me the moment they were needed regardless of what they had going on their lives. It was about the take more so than the give. I had my feelings, as much as I'd allow to share, and that was it. I demanded so much out of people without the understanding that people are people. Being human is this beautiful, vulnerable thing that takes a lot of understanding to truly appreciate. I guess that's how I raised my kid, too. I grew up with parents. They were amazing parents but there was a very clear line that they would not cross. I didn't become friends with my parents until I was an adult. I guess when I had my kid I wanted her to feel like she could talk to me in a way that I never thought I could talk to my own. So, there was a blurry line as she was growing up whether I was her mother or her friend. And I have felt the downfalls of that choice as she has gotten older but I have also formed this relationship with her that they choice created something beautiful, too. She can talk to me in a way I could not when I was younger. Have I saved her from the hardships I went through? No, absolutely not. Growing up still sucks. It is still one of the hardest things we go through but at least she didn't feel as alone as I did in a way. Looking back at the relationships I had when I was younger, I do realize these expectations I had bordered on the unreasonable side. It's not because that these people that were in my life could not meet them. It was because I would not allow them. I didn't understand that the frustration I was feeling was more about my inadequacies then their own. The older I get, the more refreshing it feels to correct my own self.
We learn history in school because it is important to know where we come from. It is important to know how we got to this point, to this moment in time, to truly appreciate the hardships others faced so that I could sit here and write these words. We take their mistakes and we learn from them so we do not repeat the same atrocities that the people before us had to face. I look at my life the same way. We are all these different versions of ourselves, always improving from the one before. Being as introverted as I am means that I think about the breaths I took before to see if there was a flaw in my execution. I reflect and dissect and decide if my actions caused any harm, inspired any brilliance, ignited any spark and then correct my path. I sat here today and had coffee with one of my most favorite people in the entire world. We talked about life, our loved ones, our past together, our present on our own journeys, and moving forward. We hadn't seen each other in a while. It hasn't been because we haven't tried. It's just as adults friendships work differently. Time becomes more taxing, more precious, more fleeting. Today we sat and it was nice talking to this person who I respect so much. Because it is in my nature, I started thinking about how friendships once were when I was younger, how I needed validation that they liked me. I needed words and actions and, most importantly, proof that this person was all in for me even if I couldn't give that same amount of effort back.
So, as I often do, I looked at my previous behaviors. I dissected my previous relationships. Sitting across from this beautiful soul, I understood how relationships should truly work. I can say in all honesty that I was a mean person back in my hay day. I can admit and own that I wanted, needed so much for that person to give to me before I would even think about giving even a sigh to them. It wasn't because they were shady people. It was because I was so unbelievably insecure in my own skin I just did not know how to trust anything around me. Sure, I had my issues with abandonment but I was so quick to throw someone else's sins on whoever happened to be standing in front of me. When I look back at it, there is a certain amount of guilt that I carry. I couldn't see then how many relationships I had sabotaged because of this weird self preservation I held onto so tightly. I thought in my own way I was protecting myself but from who? And in this ability to look back and dissect and decide, I realize that I was protecting myself from me. I was so terrified to let someone see me exactly how I was. At the end of the day, it would be my own fault I allowed that hurt if you disappointed me but I always made sure people disappointed me. Then I guaranteed I could wash my hands of them. It is a strange place to sit when you look back in that mirror, when you see all the things you do to yourself in order to protect yourself. It is a sort of relief once you realize how much of a hazard you create, too. I don't want my life to be in vain. I want to live each moment, breathe each breath with this complete understanding of why these fingers form these words, of why each line I draw curves in a direction. Sitting here today with my long time friend I understand as much as I tried to cut off the world around me through the years, it's been the relationships that helped inspire each version of me I become.
There was a time when I thought the number of friends we had meant that we made it in this world. This game of popularity was one that we should all strive to win. I thought that having the most amount of Facebook friends or the most likes on Instagram or the best liked Tweets meant that I was somebody but the reality of this life is these clicks all mean nothing. True, I know a lot of people. I have a full friends list and people like what I do but sometimes when I want to go grab a cup of coffee, my list isn't all that long. I look at the history of my relationships and I once formed friends just so I wouldn't have to be alone. I wanted to be able to call someone, anyone and have someone sit with me over a cup of Joe. That was a validation that I needed. And if people didn't answer my call? Screw them. Clearly they weren't my friends... but life tends to teach you lessons you don't realize you are learning. As time goes by and the pages of my history book grow longer, the more I realize what the word friendship truly means. It isn't a contest of who does how much for who or who buys the coffee or who texts who first. It's not about who can drop more to be there better. It's not a contest of who can give more, who can take more, who is there more. As I sat here today with this lovely lady, knowing I hadn't seen her in months, I realized how much more I value her friendship and the other friendships like this that I have. I don't go out very often. I don't see a lot of my friends even on a weekly basis, sometimes a monthly basis. I have more faith in the people I surround myself now than I ever did before. Life has taught me that there is more value in quality than quantity. We become adults and the long afternoons of free time fly away. We become adults and friendships become these beautiful moments of sighs, of relief, of reminders that we're all just trying to be better together. We are lessons for each other, lessons we don't know we're teaching the other. It's not about the number of chairs that are filled at your table. It's about who is filling those chairs that matter, the love and respect that fills the space between even if the time flies by more swiftly than it did before.