I had a minute the other night and I decided to call my mother. I'm not one to talk on the phone. In fact, I hate talking on the phone. Please text me. It will be better for both of us. How time changes us. Once I was that teenage girl that loved being on the phone for hours even if we said nothing for five of those hours. The thought of that piece of metal/plastic against my ear makes me want to vomit. Nevertheless, I called my mother because she's still on a limited text messaging plan. And, you know, it's a nice thing to check in with your parents now and again. We talked about my kid, my jobs, my art, and my writing. We laughed about how hard it is raising a teenager, something she had to live through four times. I only have to do this once thankfully. I don't talk to my mother nearly enough but then again she is a woman with a busy life as am I. I was excited to tell her about the steps I've taken to make these creative dreams become a reality. I offhandedly said, "In my spare time..." to which her reply was, "What spare time?" She was right but you find the time when there is something you want to do. I watched this woman raise four kids, work a full time job, volunteer in all of our classes, chase her catering dreams my entire life. She never seemed to have a spare moment but she always seemed to find the time to get it all done. I've always believed that if I ever really wanted something, I would get it. A large part of that belief came from watching my parents even my father. He chased these pyramid schemes that never seemed to work but he never stopped trying. In those failures, I saw his success because he never gave up. I've been conditioned to put my head down and do the work because I know it's that dedication that is going to bring me to where i want to be. Maybe sometimes the end result isn't exactly as I thought it would be. Perhaps when I get there what I want readjusts itself but the point is I got there. The point is I never gave up.
Yesterday a very sweet, snarky young lady told me that she wanted to be like me one day because I had my life together. I laughed in response. Do I have my life together? I don't know. I think some days are better than others. I think some moments I have more clarity that I probably should. I also think that a lot of days I'm still kind of a mess. I've got this teenage kid who sometimes I don't know how to mother to her best advantage. I have a wonderful husband who loves me more than I have ever been loved before but sometimes I still feel like I will do something that will send him out that door. I've got a couple of jobs that I'm good at most days but they aren't what make my soul sing. Then, I got these words and those pictures but I'm often scared I'll lose my inspiration and have nothing to share with the world. My insecurities, these anxieties still haunt my otherwise solid confidence. I can be honest about them. There is no sense in kicking them under my proverbial bed. I spent too much of my life running from my flaws because they scared me. I am strong enough now that no matter how fast they make my heart beat, I'm not going to explode because of them. I was honored in a way when she said those words. I look back at my life, remembering all those dark hallways and embracing those moments when the sun touched my cheeks. My feet can still feel the crunch from the hard paths that I walked and that's good. To forget where we have been leads us astray from where we want to go. My life, this very particular balance of my family, my friends, my responsibilities, and myself, has become a sort of strange pieced together puzzle for me these days. Balancing my time takes a sort of strategy to keep it all together. I don't always succeed at it. I don't always succeed at a lot of things but I don't see that as failing. My mother the other night told me that I always did too much. She said I always cared too much, felt too much. I was her child, her sensitive and unusual child whose roar was always bigger than my bite. This young girl who looked up to me the other night reminded me of what my mother said. In a lot of ways, this young lady reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger. She is tough and kind and intelligent and so sarcastic it hurts. Her future is brilliant. So, yeah, I was honored when she said she wanted her life to be put together like mine. Regardless of how fuzzy my head can feel sometimes, apparently I am not doing all that bad. Really I've got a great kid, a wonderful husband, so many beautiful friendships, these words, and those pictures. This life has been an honor to live.
When you're a kid, people asked you what you wanted to be. Some would say a doctor or a lawyer or a race car driver. One kid said to me once that he wanted to be a dog farmer. Hey, whatever makes your heart sing, my friend. My kid has wanted to be several things. It was an actress for a long time. Then, it was a Veterinarian. Now, I think a Psychologist. Who knows? And it doesn't matter because what we say we want to be when we're younger has no reflection on what we actually become as adults. To me, it was never about my profession. Obviously I always wanted to create but in what capacity? I suppose in whatever way I could looking back on it today. I was twelve years old and a woman asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought for a minute and then very simply and seriously said, "I just want to be happy whatever that is." My life has always been about one simple thing regardless of how complicated it became over the years. I just want to be happy. I want to wake up in the morning looking forward to the new day. I want to laugh and smile and breathe freely. And, at night, I want to rest my eyes in peace because I did my best, gave my all. I realized the other night on the phone with my mother that I had (for the most part) reached that goal even if my time seemed to be stretched between too many things. It doesn't matter that sometimes I feel completely lost how to be the best for my daughter because I keep trying. I may not always be the best wife to my husband but my love for him will always drive me to give him all of me and accept all of him in return. And, hell, these jobs may leave my bones tired and my fists shaking but it is for the greater good, the greater good for my little family. I would walk the ends of the earth to make them happy. Over the last couple of years since losing my father, I've changed more than I thought I would. I didn't realize losing someone would affect me in the way that it did. In the last couple of years, the memory of his failures gave me this lovely courage to dream again. I wish I could understand why but I know the reasons don't really matter. I have learned to embrace these things that I don't understand. In his honor, I keep chasing these dreams even if they turn out to be pyramids. My mother reminded me of how much of him still lives inside of me. And that young girl? Well, she reminded me of how much of me still shines inside this skin. Is my life put together? Sometimes but I can at least tell that twelve year old me that we found our happy. I will never stop doing too much or trying to be everything to everyone. I will always give more of myself than I should, putting too much on myself for the greater good because I want everyone to reach happy. If it looks like I got it all figured out even when I don't? I'm probably doing better than I think. The most important thing about this life, my life is that I always keep trying even when I fail. Put your head down and do the work. Happy, whatever that is for you, comes in all forms.
I went and saw Beauty and The Beast with my daughter last night. I was excited. After all, the Beauty and The Beast from my childhood was always one of my favorite Disney movies. I loved Belle because of her strength, of her determination. I loved that she wasn't a Princess coming into her story with every privilege in the world and still not happy with herself. She was perfectly content, absolutely confident in the person that she was. She loved herself and her father and words. Oh how she loved words! When I was younger, I was an adamant book reader. I would get lost in my books for hours, flying off to whatever great adventure those metaphors and similes laid out for me. I was Anne Shirley walking on a fence and falling off only to have Gilbert catch me. I was Cinderella, dusty and dirty, in a corner talking to mice. I was Emily, loving her runaway imagination. I was living in this dream world that when this character, Belle, came along I felt as if I finally found a girl I could relate to. My daughter thought I was funny last night when I said I always had a crush on the Beast. He, in fact, was my favorite Prince. I loved his rage but behind all of that rage was someone real and kind. It also didn't hurt that when he became a real boy that his hair was this magnificent blonde mane. I can admit I've always been a sucker for a long haired, blonde man. I found a part of myself in that Beast, too, though. There is a bit of the Beast in all of us. This is what I took away from this movie, this movie from my childhood that literally came alive on that screen. It was love. It was capturing moments of that little girl I used to be, that beautiful kindness that I think gets lost some days. It was a reminder that love sees the truest, most wonderful parts of who we are despite the beasts who roar.
There was a song in there called "How Does a Moment last forever". Maurice, her father, sang a bit of it in the movie while he was fixing his clocks but later Celine Dion sings a full version of it at the end of the movie. I cried at this song because, to me, it was breathtaking. The camera shots went around his shop looking at pictures he had drawn of her as a small child, pictures of her mother holding her as an infant, and it was one of the sweetest moments I can remember in a movie. I started thinking about my writing. I started thinking about my art. And then I started analyzing the reasons behind both in my head. I know that wasn't the point of that song but for some reason it triggered me to dig deeper into myself. I heard these words about how to capture a moment of love and I realized that's what I've always tried to do. I write to make something about my life, about the people I love last longer than that moment gives us. I draw to never have to let go of those moments that loved filled up my soul. I realized now that those doodles that I draw of my daughter and I when she was younger is my way of keeping those moments with us always. And in a strange sense, the doodles of the girl that seems to always show up is a way of holding onto a girl I no longer am but still resides in so much of me.
How do you capture that moment of love? Life can be cruel with how quickly time is swept out from under our feet. But in those fleeting moments, sweetness stays with us like honey that lingers on our lips long after we've eaten that nectar. I've never really delved too deeply into the reasons behind why I need to write or draw or create. It was something I understood that made me feel better, that made me feel even those feelings I did not want to but it always allowed my spirit to soar so much lighter after these hands created something. Somewhere in that song, I had a profound realization. It is love, this need to capture these moments of love in my life that will go by so very, very quickly. These words, these drawings allow me to be that free, wild spirited girl that I used to be. These words, these drawings help me hold onto my tiny, sweet daughter who has grown far too fast. These drawings, these words remind me that my husband still looks at me the same way he did when we first fell in love. How do I capture a moment of love? Love is in the words I write. Love is in the pictures I create. Love is in the long days I work, in the foot that hurts. Love fills this heart and then spills into this art I create for you, for me, for a moment that will always go by too quickly. In these words, in those pictures my love will be captured for years to come.
What I realize more clearly as I get older is that perspective is relative. What I thought so surely of when I was twenty now makes me laugh to myself. I was so sure that life was a series of unfortunate events. One bad event after another regardless of my good intentions to be something more than what I was. My life, this life I lead now, has become a series of beautiful moments. I see clearly now that with the all the heartache, the loss, the tragedies I've endured my outcome has always been poetry in motion. There was a reason I fell in love with Simon and Garfunkel at fifteen years old, a lovely simple reason, and it would set the mood for my next twenty years. I am a fighter indeed. I may shake my fists and stomp my feet. My face my redden and I may declare every day that I am done but the true testament of me is that my feet remain firmly grounded. Last week was a rough week with my daughter. We've officially entered the teenage years, these years where she wants to rebel against everything I ever taught her because she can. Because like all children, they do not want to grow up to be their parents. Right now she will stomp her feet at me, slam doors behind me, roll her eyes until I think they may in fact pop out of our her head. She will say to me that she hates me for the simple fact I exist, for the simple fact I am the one that gave her life. She will tell me that she wants to grow up to be nothing like me because, right now, the thought of being like me terrifies her. I sit back and remember those moments with my own mother. I did not want to grow up to be like her. I thought she let people run all over her. I always thought she was too kind, bent over far too easily so that others were happy. Perspective twenty years later and I see my mother clearly for the wonderful woman she really was and has been her whole life. I realized in the last couple of weeks that I inherited my mother's kindness, her people pleasing tendencies. I have accepted the door mat that sometimes I am. What I didn't see back then that I see now is the amount of strength it took for my mother to smile, just a simple smile. A smile given to us to reassure us that we were all right. In the crook of my smirk, there she lies. I just never saw what she gave me until now.
When I was twenty one years old, I had my daughter. I was on my own and terrified because I had no clue what I was doing. I was broke. I was with a man who cared very little about this little girl, about my sweet pup, about me but I was hell bent on raising this kid to the best of my ability no matter all the series of unfortunate circumstances stacked against me. My beautiful little girl had collick for the first seven months of her life. For seven months, she cried. She cried and cried and cried because her poor little tummy was upset every time she ate. I remember sitting in the middle of my one bedroom apartment with spit up all over me, with my sweet pup staring at me, with this little crying baby in my lap while I cried right along with her. I felt helpless. I felt like I was doomed to fail this child. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried I was never going to ease her pain. I picked up the phone and called my mother. I told her that I was sorry for all the years of pain I gave her. I told her that I loved her and hoped I had never done anything to make her feel like I didn't appreciate her. I had an epiphany through my screaming infant's eyes that maybe raising a child was going to be harder than I thought. As children, we don't see all the things our parents sacrifice for us. We don't know they are staying up late into the night trying to figure out how to pay for all the wonderful things we want or even just how to pay rent. We don't know what it takes to run a household. I had one child. My parents had four. I think back to the moment a lot lately. I close my eyes and remember what it felt like to not know what to do for my child to make her tears dry. In these teenage years, that same helpless feeling comes back. Does she need the same things she needed when she was a toddler? And if not, how do I adjust to be the parent that she needs? Do I come down hard on her with rules and boundaries to save her from failures I experienced? Or do I let her fall flat on her face? And if it is somewhere in the middle, what choices do I need to make to get there for her? I don't know but I reflect on what my own parents did. I try to look at things through their eyes now that I understand what loving another human being so selflessly means. What I see is their sacrifice and what I wish is that I would have been more understanding of the things they could not provide. But what does that mean for me as a parent? My kid has more than she needs superficially. She has a good home over her head, food in her belly, too many shoes to wear on her feet. She doesn't want for much even with the low income my husband and I provide... but she still struggles. I suppose that is just part of growing up. We all have our series of unfortunate events. I have learned, however, the degree of unfortunate is relative.
The last few weeks have been busy for me. I've had to deal with some really tough situations and I've walked back into some really wonderful ones, too. I've gotten a few new commissions for my art work. Managing my time between work and family and my own personal pursuits has been tricky. I've laughed with my husband and fought with my kid. I got reprimanded and praised. I've given comfort to friends in need and stood my ground when I was looked at the wrong way. I've reconnected with parts of my soul that I had let get dusty and I have put some anxieties to rest. In the last few weeks, I've tried to step back, to evaluate where exactly my trajectory is going. I've shifted my perspective to focus on the long haul instead of the right now. This is what I realized. One day that kid downstairs will be a grown woman just like I am today. She will fumble and fail just as much as she will conquer and succeed. I must trust that the foundation I have given her will hold when she crumbles just like the foundation my parents unknowingly gave to me. I have scraped a few good knees but I have always remained on my feet. Over the last few weeks, going in between jobs, trying to figure out how to make the best of my time, I have found a new perspective in this life. Right now things are tight and new while feeling like the same old thing over and over again but I have found a peace somewhere in the middle of my days. I realized that sometimes I can't fix what is broken. Sometimes I just have to let things play out. I will have to let my kid fail. I will have to let go of the things that anger me, understanding I can do nothing to make those things stop angering me. I realized the perspective I have in this moment, in these next few moments, is the clearest that I have felt in months. In the choices made and the sacrifices I have chosen to make, I found my value again. Through the fights with my daughter over the last few weeks, I am reminded of the spine she gave me, the reason I always persevered. I can start my day now with absolute acceptance of whatever comes to pass. I know how strong my feet are. I know how far my knees can bend. I am completely confident in this skin that I wear. I will no longer allow dirty windows skew my view.