I was on my way to pick up some coffee before I went into work the other day when I saw this sign that said 'SOCIALIZE' on it. The poster showed four people. One person was on their phone. One person was on a tablet. The other two people were on their computers. It made me laugh to be honest. I didn't laugh in a positive way or an ironic way. I laughed at the definition of the word 'socialize' and what it used to mean. I can say things like "Back in my day" and "When I was a kid" now because things were literally different when I was younger. The first cell phone I ever saw was the phone Zach Morris used on Saved By The Bell and it was amazing. And just think about how incredibly cool it was for my friend in high school to pull out her dad's bag phone out of the car (that, of course, had to be plugged into the car to be used). I can say things like I remember when you had to dial up to get onto the internet and remember clearly how insanely mad I would make my parents when they would try to call in the middle afternoon only to get busy signal after busy signal because we were dicking around on AOL. I used to roll my eyes at my father when he used to tell me that he had to bike five miles in the snow on a bike with square wheels going up hill both ways when he was a kid because he was trying to tell me to appreciate how good we kids really had it. So, this sign that had this word meaning to interact with each other, to be involved with each other that depicted nothing of the sort made me laugh.
I work in an industry when I see people go out with each other all the time. A nice family comes in to have some dinner, to spend some quality time together after a long day or a long week. They order their beers, get the kids their lemonade, and start them off with a smile but do you know what I see more often than not when I walk away? I see all of them sitting at the table together, all seperately looking at their phones and not saying a word with each other. They have to check out their Facebook or reply to a text message or give the kids a video to look at because we as people have become slightly incapable of honest social interaction. It always makes me laugh when people ask me for crayons or whatever for their kids. You know because the kids need something to entertain them... what happened to being a parent and having human interactions with your own child? I remember when my daughter was young. I was a single mom on a low budget who literally could only provide the necessities for her. I didn't have a laptop or a fancy phone or a tablet. I had these two hands and an imagination to encourage her with. So what did I do without all those fancy gadgets that distract more than they engage? I pulled out my journal, found a blank piece of paper, and we drew pictures. I pulled out my journal, found a blank piece of paper, and we practiced her letters. I spoke to her face to face, giving her my full attention because going out to places with her she was still my responsibility. And before anyone starts pointing fingers at me, claiming that I am being judgmental, take a minute to really think about what I am saying. We are all different and by no means do we believe or behave in the same manner. I am merely making an observation of the state of the world as I see it. We become so lost in what the world is doing that we forget about what is happening right in front of us. We don't see that our friend across the table needs a helping hand because someone just posted about the amazing pizza they ate two weeks ago. We don't see our kids just wanting to play a game with us because we are so enamored with the picture that a friend of a friend of a friend that you knew twenty years ago just posted about their cat. Are any of these things that we saturate ourselves with on any social media worth the moments that we're missing with the people who are right in front of us?
I will be the first to say that I hate talking on the phone. My sister yells at me all the time for not calling. And to be very honest more often than not if you call me, I usually swipe ignore pretty quickly. Is it because I don't want to talk to you? No, not completely anyway. It's more so that I would rather sit down with you over a cup of coffee or go grab a bite with you rather than put this piece of plastic next to my face. I would rather you text me and tell me what you need quickly so I could respond just as swiftly. Cell phones have saved so many lives, have done such wonderful things for us but they have taken a bit of humanity out of all of us at the same time. There was a time in life that when you weren't home, you were unreachable. You could go out with your friend and enjoy that friend and focus only on those particular moments. You weren't distracted by the twelve other friends who wanted your attention at exactly the same time. I remember when I could go to a coffee shop and sit for hours and no one could reach me. I could truly be alone in the moment, really take a minute to understand where my feet stood. There have been times when I have turned my phone off completely for hours because sometimes I don't want the world to come in. I don't want to see that cat video. I don't want to know what you are eating. I just want to sit on my bed with my husband and shoot the shit. I just want to sit with my daughter and vent about our week. Do I want to talk to you? Absolutely but I want to see your face, not a tiny screen.
I don't know why the picture resignated with me so much. It was just a dumb advertisement to get people to come to their place of business. It was an advertisement showing people that they had the means to fulfill their social media fix. It just really made me miss a time in my life where there wasn't all this. It made me miss the time in my life where sticks were more than sticks. Sticks were light sabers and wands and my entertainment was purely inspired by the magic that was in my head. Jump ropes were Lassos of Truth and a sheet over my head made me an instant ghost. I miss showing my little girl the wonder of a caterpillar and telling her about how we all become butterflies rather than just showing her a YouTube video while I replied to a Facebook post. That poster, that very simple poster, just made me realize how simple it all used to be before electronics complicated by making life simpler. I wanted to find out who decided that poster was the best marketing solution and ask them if they knew what the word 'Socialize' meant before it meant through some sort of screen? And then I made myself laugh even more but this time not at this convoluted poster. It made me laugh that I was now the one hiking five miles through the snow on a bike with square wheels in a blizzard with no shoes on my feet :)
I watched Batman Vs Superman the other night with my husband. He had been waiting for this movie for so long even before it had even been a thing that was going to be real. And to my delight I saw that Wonder Woman was going to be a part of this movie though I was hesitant about her. I remember being a kid and watching the Linda Carter television show with my father, loving this beautiful, strong character and wanting to be just like her when I grew up. I suppose in a way I have always kept this image of her as my beacon of light. So, yeah, when they announced that Wonder Woman was going to get some proper attention? Absolutely I was excited... but could they pull her off with the respect that she deserved? That was really the question. Here is the thing about this character. She is both beautiful and strong, elegant and tough, refined and a warrior. Those things are hard to balance especially with a female character mostly because it is so easy to sexualize her. Wonder Woman was never invincible to being portrayed in that light and it always made me angry when they showed her in that way because she was never that sort of person, that kind of character. I remember in one part of the fight scene she got thrown back and landed pretty roughly. I thought "Oh no Wonder Woman!" but did she cry or give up? No, she smiled, wiped herself off, and went right back to kicking Doomsday's ass :)
When I was little, I had a Wonder Woman costume and I wore it until I couldn't wear it anymore but I never forgot the bracelets I wore on my arms, the red boots my mother made me. Honestly if I could wear that costume right now, I'd put it on in a heartbeat. Honestly once I get my body in the right kind of shape, I will purchase a kick ass Wonder Woman costume immediately (because, yes, I'm that kind of nerd). Watching the movie wasn't about the pure joy I got when she crossed her arms in battle or when she used her Lasso of Truth to destroy Doomsday. What I thought about while watching this character that I have loved since I could remember is who are the girls today looking up to in that same way? And if I'm being real, I'm kind of sad at the female role models that are out there today. Don't worry. I'm not going to get on a soapbox but I will step on a tiny stool for a second. I had characters like Wonder Woman, Jem, Sherra, Rainbow Brite. All of these characters were strong and witty and elegant and never questioned who they were. Take Jem for example. I was so angry at that movie that just came out because 1) they changed her back story completely and b) they changed her character dramatically. She never questioned who she was, never questioned who her friends were, never once questioned her purpose of being Jem. She knew she was Jerrica and she knew that she had to take care of the orphanage and all those people that she loved. She never got lost in the fame and forgot where she came from like that horrible movie suggested. Me as a little girl? Yeah, me as this young impressionable little girl saw this unyielding strength, this strength that refused to compromise who they were and I knew that was the kind of woman who I wanted to be. I wanted to slay the monster while still showing compassion because that is what these characters taught me.
I look at the role models that around today and it worries me. Listen let me say this before I go on here so that I'm not being attacked. Yes, there are wonderful role models out there who are showing our young ladies a wonderful example but I worry that the media is so saturated with people like the Kardashians that the good ones get overshadowed. Women have a tough time of it already, always climbing ladders that were made too steep and demanding equality from people who are stuck ten generations back. My daughter is a smart kid and she will be a brilliant woman and I want her to understand that she should never compromise who she is. People will ask that of her because people always do but she doesn't have to dumb herself down, doesn't have to pile on make up, doesn't have to show a little cleavage to become something wonderful in this life. I have had conversations with my daughter about people on television and their behavior. She sometimes thinks that I am being too old about people like the Kardashians but I just laugh. I grew up in a time when you had to do something to make something out of yourself. You had to put in the hard work and the time. I grew up on 80s television shows that had valid moral lessons and problems that were solved in thirty minutes. I grew up in a time when we weren't so inundated with social media that it skewed my moral compass. I understand that years ago this blog wouldn't exist and that's fine but it does now. I can write these words and hope people get something out of them. I can write these words and no one could read them but I would like to think I am a positive female figure.
I sat in that movie theater so excited to see my idol on that big screen in a way that she deserved, in a way that wasn't muddled with a man's sexual fantasy, in a way that made the little girl in me smile so bright. I think back to when my heart was still innocent, still so excited about life and it makes me so happy that even if I didn't quite become Wonder Woman the way I thought I would she still left an amazing imprint of who I am. There is such an amazing grace in that quiet strength, that tough elegance. I wish there were more characters like her out there today. I wish the female youth of today had more of that to look up to because it was so beneficial to me. Obviously Wonder Woman is a character, not a real person, but there is something to say to have that presence in the world. Who knows? Maybe this movie will highlight her and girls will be able to see what I saw when I was younger and what still keeps me going today. I know that I don't have the golden bracelets or the Lasso of Truth or the invisible jet but what I do have is the inspiration of her strength. What I do have is the ability to be graceful, to be kind and still kick the monster's ass at the same time. Good job, Gal Gadot, you made my Wonder Woman proud.
I think I've had about twelve different ideas for a blog in the last week without the means of sitting down and writing them out. I often put so much of myself to the side for the greater good and the one thing that has become very clear to me is that I get swept away in so many things that don't matter when my attention should be on what is really important. And is that really where I meant to take this today? Not at all but I will ride these words and let my thoughts flow. As a writer, that's what I do. I think we all get so focused on the tiniest matters, blowing them up to these giant proportions that really mean nothing in the end. I know what is important. I know it is that daughter of mine sitting upstairs. I know that it is that man who just left for work. I know that it is this woman sitting in this chair right now, following this passion. The rest? The rest is gravy, right? I come into contact every day with truly wonderful people and I run quickly past some pretty shitty ones, too... but when I allow myself to get swallowed by other people's negativity it is no longer their problem. It is mine, my problem and my fault for allowing that darkness to cloud my rainbow. We believe that all these tiny things in this life matter. We start to believe that what we do as a career is who we are, what car we drive determines our status, what kind of home we live in dictates the core of who we are. In reality it doesn't matter. None of it matters. What really matters is who we are as people, who we are to each other, who we are to ourselves at the end of the day.
I think we get caught up trying to prove something to everyone around us. It is so easy to get lost in the things that we don't have that others do. It is so easy to get wrapped up in someone else's insecurities because that's all they are at the end of the day. Insecurities, these dumb things that we put on ourselves and then project on everyone else because we are incapable sometimes to take a long look at ourselves. But why would we in a world where it is so easy to blame everything else? I spent a lot of my life blaming my own mistakes on other people, so much of my time blaming the things that I couldn't control on myself. And this is where I have landed at 36 years old. Who cares? Because at the end of the day you know what really matters? That girl sitting upstairs, that man at work, and this woman sitting in this chair on a Saturday afternoon in front of this computer. I don't tend to be selfish a lot. More often than not I will do everything for everyone else before I even think about giving myself a wink because the core of me does genuinely care about the people's happiness around me. When I must, however, I let myself get lost in my own revelry because it's the only way I keep my sanity, the only way I can stop being swept up in this tidal wave of trivial tides. It is so easy to forget the bigger picture, to get lost in the pixels, to be blind beyond the tip of your nose.
I have had a couple of hard weeks lately, exhausting weeks trying to balance my family and work and my writing and then just dealing with my own inner demons. I came to the realization yesterday that it was so easy to get wrapped up in these dumb little things that don't matter because the little irritations are easier to deal with than the bigger sorrows. I get angry at my job and I get angry at my kid and my husband and the people around me but I know at the end of the day I'm angry at myself for choices that I made, intentionally or not. I stand in front of a table who is talking to me in a horrible way and I get angry at them for not understanding that I am a human being with feelings, with a heartbeat. The rest of the day I get lost in that anger because in a way I have always understood that part of myself the clearest. I know in reality that the man who just spoke to me like I was an idiot doesn't really matter at the end of the day. I know that really that my job isn't always worth the frustration I put myself through but I do it anyway because it provides something for my family even if I feel like it is slowly draining me. I was at work yesterday. We were getting our asses kicked by all those lovely Good Friday Christians who came in all at once. Everyone was angry. Everyone was upset. Everyone was chaotic. And I felt like I was being suffocated, like the very light of me was being taken right out from underneath me. We were ugly towards each other and mean spirited and we couldn't see beyond the moment to understand that it would all pass. I felt so overwhelmed by the negative atmosphere, so beaten by the static air. And then I remembered something a very dear friend said to me in that moment. Don't let myself get wrapped in the long term, just focus on the end of the day. I felt myself relax, telling myself that really none of what was happening mattered that much. I am a Mother to one child, not to everyone around me. I am a Wife to one man, not to every man who crosses my path. And I am one woman who doesn't always have to carry the entire world on my shoulders.
There is a danger sometimes of being a person who feels. Someone once told me that I had a cold heart, that I hold back too often, that I don't put myself out there enough, that I didn't care enough about what was going around me. I was quiet and didn't say much about anything, that my general attitude was that of soft discontent. Were they right? Of course not. The problem with being a person who feels is that I often feel too much. I often get swept up in the things, the people, the emotion of what is going around me. If you are angry, I feel it, feel every ounce of that anger and it makes me angry. If you are sad, I feel every drop of your sadness and it makes me sad, too. So I must be careful with what I allow myself to take away from people sometimes because I am very susceptible to the negative vibes around me. I learned how to not let myself feed into what was going around me but I can't always block it. The creative person inside me, the nurturer can't help but to want to help you, to be inspired somehow by the rawness of feelings. Can I be cold? Absolutely but it was learned out of self preservation is all. So when everyone around me yesterday was caught in this tornado, I got caught up, too. I had a moment where I wanted to throw my apron off and walk right out those doors because I cared so much that I was having a hard time watching everything around me spin in so many destructive circles...
Here is the reality, however. Places are just places. Things are just things. Cars are just cars. And jobs are just jobs. What matters is who you are in those places, what you do with those things, where you go in those cars, what kind of good you can do in those jobs. The color of the walls don't matter or what kind of pictures you put on them. If you let yourself get wrapped in all of the things that people don't do, do those people really matter? What truly matters is what you do. I couldn't control the chaos that happened yesterday or any day that it happens there. I can't control anything except for myself. I think these last couple of weeks have been eye opening to me in a way. I haven't been able to sit down and write. I think, in a strange way, it has made me be more introspective, to really look at the way that I interact with the world. I don't want to be angry at things that don't deserve my energy. Do I really care that the person at A2 wants four ranches? No, who cares? Should I let myself get angry at stuff that happens all the time? It doesn't matter. I don't want to stop caring about the people around me. As much as humanity drives me crazy, I will always have a soft spot for the pain of the world, will always want to kiss the boo boo better. I just understand more clearly the line in the sand that I must draw. I shouldn't allow myself to get so wrapped up in these tiny, little irrelevant things, not when what really matters is that girl upstairs, that man at work, this Poet sitting in this chair.
I was driving to work the other day when the greatest blog never written captivated my brain. Of course I was in the car, unable to sit down in front of my trusty computer and write my heart out. So I jotted down the topic on my phone companion until I could come back around to it. It's been a pretty hectic last couple of weeks because of work, because of being a mother and a wife and a friend, because all sorts of things life likes to put in my way. And I have felt the itch to write, to free myself of all these thoughts that pile in my head, stacking themselves taller and taller, compounding into one big word vomit today. So what was this greatest blog never written? For the love of me I will not be able to recreate the magic that happened that day but perhaps I can just remold it into something better. It was something my husband said that triggered the thoughts. I started thinking about all the good things in life, the beautiful little moments that we all experience and how easy it was to look past all those lovely trinkets and rather focus on all the nasty things that happen to us, how easy it is to look at the worst of people than to believe in the good, how easy it is to cling to the negative than to hold on to the positive. I started thinking about easy it was to fall down that rabbit hole of skepticism and hate. Why do we fly to the darkness of light like bugs to a lamp?
For a long time I was an angry person, a very angry person. I couldn't see past the hate that was blocking me, that was suffocating my light. I looked at people as if they were always going to do me wrong. I believed that everyone would inevitably hurt me. It was easier to assume the worst out of everything around me than to hope for the best of them. When I had that small light of hope, I found myself constantly getting disappointed. It was easier to make the wrong choice than to hold my head up and do the right thing. It was always easier to think only of myself, of only how something was going to effect me rather than the bigger picture of the world and people around me. I would hurt you before you could hurt me because it was easier for me to cause you pain than for me to have to deal with any more of my own. We use insecurity as the defense mechanism, as this reason to make it OK to be cruel to each other. Really our own insecurities are nothing but a farce we create for ourselves to make it easier only for ourselves. Do we intentionally choose wrong rather than right? No, not all the time at least but sometimes it's too much effort to do the right thing. I mean take something as small as putting things back in a store. You find a sweater and you really like it at first so you hold onto it. You keep shopping but the more you shop you realize that you don't like that sweater as much as you originally did. What do you do? Do you go back to where you originally found it and put it back in its appropriate place? Or do you just stick it on any old random rack and leave it for someone else to do? The right thing to do was to put it back where you found it. The wrong choice is obviously the easier one. So which do you do? And I have to admit. I have done both. Not throwing judgement here.
And then there is the way we look at people, the way we treat each other. I understand that when I throw shade on someone else it isn't always about the other person at all. I get that sometimes when parts of someone else bug me it isn't always those parts of those people by any means. Sometimes we see things in people that remind us of ourselves, the parts of us that we don't particularly care for. But do we realize that? Not all the time because it is easier to see the worst in everyone else, to assume the worst out of the people around us rather than take a moment to try to find their silver lining. By inflicting that anger on someone else, you have successfully taken it away from yourself. It is easier to assume that someone will cut me off in traffic. It is easier to believe that a table won't get bused because everyone will walk right past it. It is easier to assume that the people sitting at my tables will run me to death and leave me a real shitty tip than to believe that they will be kind and understanding and leave me an appropriate tip. So why is it so easy to see the ugliest parts of each other? Why is that our go to reaction to each other? Because it takes time to see someone's light sometimes. For as angry as I was and as dark as I felt, there were people in this world that never got fooled by that anger. There were people in this world that still saw my stardust because they always took the time to really look for it. We don't always have the time, do we? It is easy to accuse than to listen because for whatever reason we are creatures of ease and we will always find the straightest path to our destination even if the better path is a crooked line.
Sometimes I am tired and all I can feel is the 50 hours that I worked that week. All I can see is the 3 loads of laundry sitting in the basket, waiting to be folded. All I can think about is the dishes sitting in the sink to be washed. All I can hear is my kid asking, asking, asking for more, more, more. And all I know is that I've got a whole lot of world sitting on my shoulders because I am a caretaker, will always be a caretaker. I don't know how to sit on the sidelines, will always be my worst critic because in my way I have to feel like I am enough. So sometimes I don't always see the good things that are around me. I can't see how beautifully my words effect people until I get a text from a friend who tells me I brought her to happy tears. I can't see that the laundry in the basket means I've got clean clothes, that those dishes in the sink mean that my family is well fed. I forget that my kid for as needy as she is will never be without because the love I have for will always be greater. It is easier to see all the things I have done wrong, all the things I don't have, all the work I have yet to do. It will always be easier to see flaws in each other, in ourselves... but if we took the time? If we took the time to truly look, we would see we're all rainbows. We would understand that our tragedies inspire our greatest attributes. We would remember to celebrate the good, our good more often.
My mother has said to me in my life that if you ever wanted to make God laugh, you made plans because more often than not your grand plans for your future don't always work out. I was driving around this morning, going from one powerless coffee shop to another, and I was listening to the new Adele song. When we are younger, all we do is dream about being older. We imagine what we look like, what car we'll drive, what kind of job we will have. We create an image of the spouse we will marry, deciding what kind of car they will job and what kind of car they will drive. We will name our unborn children, planning on how many we will have and on what age we will have them. And then there's a shift. All of a sudden you are in your mid thirties and all those things that you imagined when you were 5, 10, 15 years old didn't exactly pan out. So instead of dreaming about the future, you get stuck nostalgic for the past. You look in the mirror and you see wrinkles that you never thought you would have. You see skin speckled with sun marks because you never took the time to wear the proper amount of sunscreen. Someone threw salt and pepper in your hair and it doesn't quite shine like it once did or bounce the way the wind once made it. You realize that you work a job that had nothing to do with the Super Hero you thought you were going to be or make the money that you always assumed you would make. Your car is a car, not a DeLorean that can take you back in time. Now, instead of looking towards something, you find yourself trying to figure how to get back to where your dreams were the carrots that you strive for. I understand how this blog is sounding today, pretty Debbie Downer but hang on. I always have an upswing in my pocket.
When I was 4 years old, I knew that I was going to grow up to be Wonder Woman. When I was 10, I thought I might want to be a Lawyer. By the time I was 15, I decided that when I grew up I was going to be an Artist. When I was 17 years old, I was in love with a boy who I thought I was going to spend my life with and I did, in fact, name our children. I planned out how many we were going to have and when we were going to have them. We made a plan that after we got married, we would move into a neighborhood with all of our friends and we would all be neighbors. We would all still be together after we were all done growing up. I remember sitting in my teenage room, doodling these fictional children's names, dreaming about the day I would be on my own with my own family and my own career. I remember the feeling of not being able to wait to be out there in the world, making my own decisions. Oh the places I would go for sure! The other side of that green hill, everything that I had planned was waiting. And the harsh reality? While I may the spirit of Wonder Woman, I am by no means a super hero. While I could be an amazing Lawyer, I wait tables. That boy that I thought would take me off into the sunset jumped on that horse without me. We never made those babies or walked down that aisle or even made it past the first year of college... but here's the upswing. I am completely fine, absolutely thrilled that all those things of my youth that I thought would come true did not. If they did, I wouldn't have that young lady who is my daughter. If they did, I wouldn't be married to an amazing man. If they did, I wouldn't be the woman sitting behind this computer. So now what? You get older and you remember all those things about your youth that somehow seem more brilliant than they were. Really, if you really look back at being that awkward kid, was it all that much better? Because if you compare your life then and now, where would you rather be? I know this seat is feeling just fine.
So I started thinking about what my mother said and listening to Adele, thinking about dreaming about being younger and I kind of just laughed at myself. I don't know at what point in our lives we stop dreaming. I don't know at what age we start to believe that imagining tomorrow isn't still necessary. Granted, the innocence of what could be is gone. We're adults now and we understand that just because we dream it, doesn't mean it will magically happen. We understand that if we really want something, there is a certain amount of work that needs to be done. We understand that life doesn't just give you something because you want it. And does the reality of that reality take a little bit of wind out from underneath us? Sure. If I'm being honest, absolutely. But why must we give up on tomorrow and so hold tightly to yesterday? There is nothing about yesterday that we can change. We never got that DeLorean, right? But we can change our futures with a little bit of elbow grease. I haven't given up on the ability to fly. I just understand that maybe it won't be in the way that I thought. I let go of the fantasy of those child dreams and I understand that I've outgrown many others. I just don't want to sit and look behind me the rest of my life, not when what is in front of me is even more lovely. So make your plans and dream those dreams and if you make God (or whoever) laugh, that's all right. We could all use a good laugh :)
I recently read an article the other day. It was more of a letter that someone wrote to their father who wasn't in their lives any more and about all the things that their father had missed since he had been gone. Yesterday was the year anniversary of my father's death. On this day last year I was groping with the idea that I no longer had a father in this realm and I'm still struggling with this concept that I can't go to my father when something happens good or bad. I can't call him on the phone and tell him about my daughter's first boyfriend or tell him about all these books that I've sold over the last year or talk to him about the good things my husband and I have been doing to create a better life for my family. I no longer have that privilege... but I have these words and, in my own way, I can still tell him about my life, about my family's lives. Does it make easier after we lose someone to just say the words out loud and hope the wind takes them to where ever he may be now? I don't know. Some days I know he is listening, feel that he is still here. And others I feel very alone. I guess that's normal. Grief comes in waves just as much as joy. But this article that I was reading was so very touching and it made me think about my own father obviously. I want to write tonight about this man from the beautiful memories he left with me, not from the sad place that he left behind.
So what would I tell my father if he was sitting in that red recliner upstairs? If I had to sum up all this life that I have lived since he's been gone, what would I say? I would tell him that I'm just as stubborn, that I still fight the good fight. I would tell him that I finally listened to him after all these years and did something with the potential that he always saw in me. I finally found the courage to put my words, this beautiful talent that I always kept to myself, out there into the world. I would tell him that I'm not scared like I used to be to fail at it either because I learned from him to keep on trying regardless of how impossible a dream might be. I learned from him that even if nothing comes from these elephant dreams, you just get a bigger net. And if I never catch a single one, I'd tell him that I finally understood why he never stopped trying (even if some of them were clearly scams). I would tell him that his car is just fine and we call her Angelique in honor of him, the granddaughter none of us would ever name our little girls. I would tell him about how close the Cubs came to winning and even though I care very little for baseball, I was cheering for his boys to bring home that win for him. In a year, life has gone on and I have gone on and my siblings have gone on and our mother has gone on but not one of us ever stopped missing him. I would tell him about the grandchildren that are on the way and I can imagine the proud smile on my Daddy's face knowing that his first grandson is on the way. I would tell him that I was a lesbian and then tell him I was joking after a minute just to mess with him (because I miss messing with him). I would tell him about my daughter's first boyfriend, how well she is doing in school, how proud I am of this young lady. And I would cry remembering the night my dad took me out to dinner after I told my parents I was pregnant at 20 years old, just a baby myself. I would tell him I will always remember him thanking me for this grandchild, the sincerity and tears in his eyes when he said it because he was going to be a Grandpa. What would I say to this man today after a year of not seeing him? I would tell him that I'm still trying to do him proud, still working too hard, still doing it my way. I can see him clearly shaking his head at me because he would know that I will always do things my way.
I have yet to go to my father's grave by myself. Is it out of fear? Is it out of sadness? And I think it is a little of a lot of things. I know standing on that plot won't change anything. I know he isn't coming back. I know that his passing was the best thing for him because he finally found peace. And, right now, as I listen to the Beatles play in my earphones, I can hear him singing every other word wrong and it makes me smile. I think that's how I want to remember him, not as a tombstone. Should I go there? Should I say things that I wish I would have said while he was still around to this block of cement? I guess I should and then I don't know if those words would really matter anymore. I have this cinematic picture in my head of me standing there on a gloomy, rainy day with the wind blowing my hair around and a heavy silence in the air. For as many words as I have for paper, I've never been able to speak many of them... but maybe I don't need to say anything. In this movie moment, maybe he will just be standing from a distance and I will look up and we will smile at each other, put our hands up in a slow wave, and off he'll walk, disappearing as he gets further and further away. In that moment, he'd be gone forever. And maybe that's really the root of me having not gone yet.
The night my father died one year ago yesterday, I sat outside his hospital room, not being able to grasp what was happening but I remember the moment I knew he was going to pass. I remember the moment so clearly when I felt his hand on my shoulder even though he was lying in that room that I couldn't go in. It was this sweet moment of calm, this quiet moment when he told me in the only way I knew to understand that it was his time. There were no words, just a moment of me and him... him and I... when I knew to let him go. If I could tell him anything tonight, I would tell him I am sorry I wasn't always very good at telling him how I felt. I would tell him I was sorry that I never allowed him to help me the way I know he always wanted, that I couldn't always be there for him the way he needed me to be. And I would tell him that no matter how hard I fought him or how much I pushed not just him but everyone away, I am sorry I made him feel that I was so out of reach. For as many words as I have, there will never be enough words to tell him how much having a father like him meant.
He wasn't a perfect father and we weren't perfect kids and he didn't have a perfect marriage. What he had was a good, flawed, quality life. I am the proof of his kindness, his love as are my siblings, as is the love he had for our mother. We are the proof of life well lived by a man who didn't always have his shit together. And honestly maybe that's the best lesson he inadvertently left behind. If he was sitting here right now, I would make a joke and we would drink our coffee and in five seconds he would be snoring because that was my Dad, that he will always be my Dad.
I was thinking today about something someone said to me the other day. They had a moment of clarity, this moment when they knew the time to move onto something else had come. Did they mean that right then they were going to throw their apron off and walk out the door? Of course not. We live in an adult world where when that moment of clarity hits, it doesn't mean it is an instant change. I remember being a kid and a teenager, making those rash decisions without thinking about the long run, and ending up screwing myself because I didn't take the proper steps to make that moment of clarity become a reality. Life is mundane. We often do the same things day in and day out because having routines becomes the things we do. You are comfortable in what you know. You know that the dishes have to be washed so you wash them. You know the laundry has to be done so you do it. You know you have to get up and go to work so you do it over and over and over again because that is your life. You have a family to feed or bills to pay or vacations you want to take. And all of these things require funds that you must make in whatever career you choose... but what happens when you have the moment when you realize what you are doing, while it pays for all these wonderful things, does not satisfy you? When you have that moment when you just don't want to do it anymore?
I remember when I was a teenager I had started working at this pizza place. It was owned by a horrible, grumpy man who didn't like anybody that worked with him, didn't like any of the customers who came in. I don't even think he liked his wife or kids to be honest. I was younger than without a world riding on my shoulders. I had only me to worry about, not a kid to raise or a husband to support or even a place of my own to pay for. One day I went into that nasty little pizza place. I walked in the doors, looked around me, and had a moment where I said to myself, "You know what? I don't want to do this anymore." So I walked right out that door. I didn't give notice or quit or acknowledge the nasty old man who was standing behind the counter. I walked out because I knew in that moment there was nothing there for me. There wasn't a future and I didn't particularly have any loyalties towards this man who was nothing but horrible to all of us. Did I have a job lined up? Nope. I just knew I had to walk away. Sometimes you have to follow that gut instinct that something isn't for you. Sometimes you have to take that jump and figure out your landing later.
Jobs, these funny little things that we all must have to provide, are just that jobs. Someone once told me when I was younger that you got a job out of necessity and that a job that you enjoy didn't exist. For a long time I believed that. So I worked my jobs over the years. I worked as a cashier at a grocery store for my very fist job. I've worked at a handful of restaurants over the years. I've done the whole corporate office thing. And I knew I had to because at 21 years old I had a kid to raise on my own. It didn't bother me to work these jobs that I didn't particularly enjoy because I knew it was for the greater good. I just always knew, too, that they were just that; jobs. Don't get me wrong. I've had jobs in my life that I loved. I loved my coffee shop but I wouldn't go back to it today. I love most of where I work now but I understand it won't last forever. It isn't because I've had the moment of clarity that waiting tables isn't my life goal. I know it's not and there has never been a foolish thought that waiting tables is the only thing I am capable of. I am good at it. I am competent at it... but I have always known what I've wanted to do with my life.
The other day when I saw that moment across my dear friend's face I understood it completely. When I was younger, I was told I needed to figure out my life by the time I was 18 years old. I never understood that need to have it all figured out so early. We're on this planet for such a long time. 18 years is not even scratching the surface of who you are let alone what career you want to have. It's a silly concept to push so many kids into this way of thinking, a huge waste of youth to make them know so early. Did I know at 18 what I wanted to do? I mean I knew I wanted to write but I didn't understand in what capacity. Why should I have? There was no rush for me to lay down that foundation, not when I didn't even know who I was as a person. This dear friend is at a stage in her life when it's time to start thinking about where she wants to go but even now there is no rush. Figuring out who you are, where you want to be takes time and we should all be granted that luxury. I don't think I was clear on so many parts of me until I was at least 26 years old. By that point I had a 5 year old kid. And at 26 I had just started scratching the surface of who I was but I never doubted that where ever my life took me, I was going to be just fine.
So, you have your moment of clarity when you understand very clearly that where you are is no longer where you want to be. So what do you do as an adult rather than the child you once were? You take stock of what you have. You make note of where your feet currently stand and then you look ahead of you and really figure out where you want your feet to take you. It doesn't have to be instant. The first step is always making that realization that change is needed. What you change sometimes it isn't always clear but it will be. There are only two things in this life that truly matter: Happiness and Love. Both are attainable, some in easier ways than others but absolutely attainable. When I was working these jobs that I couldn't stand, I knew they weren't my end game. Did I know what was? Not always but when I said to myself that being happy and loving my life were the priorities, the steps to those two things became a little bit clearer. It's not always going to be easy but it's not always going to be hard either. We don't have to work jobs we hate. We don't have to do things that make us unhappy. Suffering for the sake of suffering is absurd. Being miserable for the sake of being miserable is a huge waste of who we are. When that moment of clarity happens, when you truly realize that what you are doing no longer makes you happy, find your courage and take that first step towards your best you. Move along. Your happiness is waiting.