I've talked a lot lately about what I want out of this life, where I am going, where I want to go. This theme of uncertainty yet knowing exactly where I want to be and how frustrated I am that I can't quite seem to make it there. I put my dreams on hold for so long but I will make something very clear. I have no regrets with the choices I have made in my life. I would gladly walk the same path all over again for that man sitting outside on that deck, for that child downstairs singing Pat Benatar, even for those two kitties chasing each other right now in this moment. Would my life be different without them? Absolutely but it wouldn't be better. I spent a lot of my life taking care of other people, of putting other people first. I look back at all those faces that have come and gone, knowing that in the moment my heart touched them they were all taking care of me, too. I needed to feel needed, wanted because those feelings made me feel loved. And in that need, I willingly put aside the things that made my heart smile. I believed that if you smiled at me that was all that I needed... but at some point those smiles didn't seem enough. I know that sounds a little rude. I don't mean it that way. At some point I started to hear this voice inside me ask when was I going to take care of me? When was I going to water my own garden? And I guess I finally heard.
This week has sucked. Plain and simple sucked. Tuesday night I came home from work after a really hard day and had a full on anxiety attack. I haven't had one in awhile. It scared me because I thought I had gotten beyond that. I had thought I finally conquered this fear inside of me but life sneaks up on you. I was overwhelmed, angry, burnt completely out but what sent me over the edge was the disappointment I felt in myself, in the day I had, in where I had landed. I had spent my entire day being pulled in twenty different directions with things I didn't know how to do and no one seemed to care, realizing in the midst of all that chaos that I didn't even care about the job at hand. I didn't care about the people at the other end of the line, about their problems, about them because the whole thing was just a disappointment to me. I left a place because I wasn't happy and thought I was going to a place that was going to be the first steps towards my dreams finally coming true. Reality hit me on Tuesday. I am nowhere near where I want to be and the steps I thought I had taken actually took me two steps back. So, my head went into a spiral of questioning everything I had done in the last year. I finally had started to take care of myself only to put myself in a full blown anxiety battle, a war I thought I had won. I often think during the day about stuff I probably shouldn't because it only aggravates me. And having people bitch at me about things that really at the end of the day don't matter? Well, that only exasperates me more. That desire to make other people happy? Yeah, well, it just doesn't hold the same weight as it did before when I feel like I am suffocating.
Tuesday passed and the next day came. I woke up with my head clear, my heart full. I thought about my husband the night before. I laughed at what a saint he is to deal with these roller coasters that I sometimes find myself on. I couldn't be more grateful for his patience, his kindness, his understanding that when I get sucked into these downward spirals that I have to find my own way out. And I did. I woke up realizing that whatever lesson, whatever reason I found myself here has been learned. I needed to move on from one stage of my life and I wouldn't have if this opportunity hadn't shown itself to me. So, I tried on these shoes and, at first, I really did believe they fit well but after awhile the fit didn't feel quite right. That's OK. I understand the value of recognizing of when something is not right and when it's time to find something new that will be that better fit. What I can take away from this experience is that it has giving me a platform to truly explore my art, my writing, this talent that I just now admit I have. I know clearly my direction. I've spent my life taking care of other people because most of my life that is what I needed. I don't want to spend the rest of it not knowing what I am truly capable of. If something isn't right, I don't have to suffer in it. No one does. I may fail again. I may have another anxiety attack in five minutes but I don't want to live the rest of my life suffocating.
I try to be careful about what I write because I know people in my life sometimes read these things but I don't want to be scared being vulnerable either. I put the world ahead of myself to protect myself from anyone seeing me. It wasn't a selfless thing. It was out of self protection. Wednesday I woke up and I laughed, realizing that the amount of pressure I was putting on myself for a shoe that doesn't fit was absurd. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I draw my pictures, write these words, love my family, live my life. I don't have time anymore to get stuck on things that don't make me want to be better. Sometimes a job is just a job, a place is just a place, people are just people. If my life fell apart tomorrow, I would still be all right. If they told me to walk out that door, I would still be all right. I have these two feet and even at their weakest they've always managed to hold me up. Now it's time to start walking. I don't want to just stand anymore. And I can no longer afford to be scared of a misstep because so what if I do? I correct. I keep going.
I just erased an entire blog I wrote. I was almost done with it and then I realized it was not what I wanted to say at all. So, I deleted every last word. I don't like to plan things out really, outline what I'm trying to say. It feels forced that way. And the words I wrote felt false, fake, not authentic. I want to live my life as real as possible. I want to feel every word I write from each fingertip as if they are an extension of myself. I write to keep myself in check, to make sure that I am living the most honest way. We all get so lost in our lives, in the we-shoulds, in the expectations that mean nothing at the end of the day really. If I put everything aside that makes me unhappy, I wake up every morning so proud of where my life has landed though I have a ways to go. I have to give myself pep talks to get through the day but I know I have the power in me to my life better. Sometimes we take time to grow into who, what we really are. I wake up in the morning and I want to be better than I was the day before. I don't always win that battle but I try. Honestly that's all that is important. One day I'll be old and gray. I'll sit in my rocker with my white hair and I'll smile, knowing even if it took me years to figure out, look how happy I am now.
I had my kid young. I missed out on a lot of stuff. Basically I didn't really have my twenties. I had little idea of what I was doing, what I wanted. All I knew is that I had to grow up pretty fast so I did. I look back at it now and don't regret that life. I learned what strength meant. I learned what love, real love was. I learned compassion and honesty and what struggle really was. I paid my dues and whatever life owed me I understood what it felt like to be wrong. Those are quality lessons, lessons that led me to be where I am right now. I look at my mother now, this amazing strong woman. They say that when you have your own children you get a new understanding for your parents. And, it's true, I absolutely did when I had my daughter. The thing is I didn't really get it her completely until this year. She got married so young. She had babies so young. She gave her entire life to a man who couldn't keep his feet on the ground, to four kids who put her through so much. Not once did she complain. Not once did she make us feel like she gave up anything. Not once did she make us feel like her life was unwanted, like we were unwanted. She put her head down, found that strength, and pushed forward, carrying all of us on her back. Not once did she complain. She gave us her life, gave up her dreams, never got a chance to figure out who she was for us. And now that my kid is older and doesn't need me, I have a whole new life in front of me. I see my mother in a whole new light because I get it. We give everything we have to our kids, our husbands, putting ourselves to the side because they are more important in that moment.
My mother, this person I wish I had seen so much earlier in my life, is now learning and growing and experiencing all these things she never got a chance to do before. She no longer has this obligation to us. Her kids are grown with children of their own, with families of their own. She doesn't have to bake the cookies anymore. I love seeing how happy she is, how much she is able to do for herself now. She is an inspiration to me. I don't see her often as I should but I get it. She gave me so many years of being by side at a drop of a hat, she doesn't need to be there like that anymore. I know if I called, she would come running. I think about my own kid, this journey she is on and how our relationship is changing. It's different now that she's older and you know I'm fine with it. I thought perhaps I would have a hard time, this empty nest feeling that I wouldn't know how to fill. This is going to sound strange. There are some of us that are parents for life, that will hover over our children even as grown adults. And then there are some of us who are ok to let that bird fly and watch them as they go, always there but not always in eye sight.
The older I get, the more I see my mother in myself. You know what? That makes me happy. There's a lot of dreamer in me just like my father but I see her, too. It's this weird balance of living in the clouds with my feet on the ground. I get how tough it must have been for my mother to have this talent and not be able to do anything with it because her responsibility was to us. And I want to learn from her and figure out a way to be both, to honor them both. I know a lot of the reasons why I write these words today is because of losing my father, of the courage he gave me in his passing. I know when I look at my mother now, knowing that one day I will lose her as well, how much I want her to see all the great things I can do. She once told me when I was a 17 year old kid that she lived vicariously through her children. I've never forgot that statement and, seeing her now, I am so glad she no longer feels like she has to clip her wings for us. That, my friends, gives me so much hope for myself. I don't know exactly where I am going, what tomorrow will bring. I haven't quite figured it out and I'm really not upset by that. What I feel is hope again, a drive again, this fire in my belly to do all those things that I once thought I could never do. I don't want my life to be in vain over excuses that don't really mean anything. I want to be honest and real and try. I gave my kid half my life and I will always be her mother but, just like my own mother, it's time I do me and not feel bad about it. When you have children, you change but it doesn't mean you give up what makes you because one day those children will fly away. And what you will still have is you, this new and beautiful version of you.
You watch those movies where they talk about having a mid life crisis. You reach a point in your life where you realize that your youth is long gone and what lies ahead of you is just death. So, you freak out and start evaluating every choice, every decision you ever made. You wonder if you had gone left instead of right, would you be somewhere different? Would you have that mansion? Would you have that fancy husband or wife? Would your kids be in a better place? Would you even have kids? So many things happen in your life, your choice and life's direction, that conspire to lead where you are today. I have thought a lot about that lately. I am to turn 40 in a couple of months, a very strange feeling. I can honestly say twenty years ago I don't know if this is where I saw myself. But while some want to scratch their entire life and buy that new car, to trade in that tired family, I am perfectly content in my personal life. I married a man so perfectly matched to myself that traded him for a younger version would be such a silly choice. I have a kid who is an adult now. While I didn't always make the right choice as a parent, what I gave her an incredible amount of love that will never falter. But then, as we all do, I look at my career and realize that while this is not where I intended to land, I still have a choice in my trajectory.
My entire life I've worked jobs because I needed to pay the bills. I took opportunities that I was very qualified for but didn't have much of a future. Let's be honest. I didn't finish college. The opportunities that were laid out for me have been more in the moment jobs. Sure, I could manage a restaurant. I have more than enough experience and smarts to be successful at it but I no longer have the physical drive to do so. And, yeah, I could move up in an office environment but eventually that just leads me to retirement. The day to day grind has never excited me even before I started getting this "I'm-almost-40-what-am-I-doing" mentality. Even the excitement of being a bartender, of the never knowing who was going to sit down on my stool started to become old. And I realize more every day that it had nothing to do with where I was working or what kind of pay-the-bills job I was doing. It has more to do with what has always been inside of me, the chances I never gave myself. Was it out of fear of failure? I don't know. Maybe a little. I watch my kid not do things because she gets scared of failing. If there is a chance it might now work, why try? I wonder if I unintentionally taught her that. When I was 18, my art teacher told me I would never make it. I didn't have enough talent. No one would be interested in anything I drew or wrote or created. I just didn't have what it takes. I wish I could look at that 18 year old girl that I was and tell her how much horse shit that lady was. So, I didn't try because why would I when she just told me I would fail? If I could avoid that rejection, then I would. I sit at my desk and I listen to these people on the other end of that phone complain and yell and imply that I am the reason for their distraught. It starts to get to me after awhile. However, the more that toxic noise goes into my ear, the more I hear myself saying I can do better.
I sat in my car the other day for awhile. I was listening to music, just thinking as I stared off before I started my day. I started thinking about this mid life crisis theory and it made me laugh. If this is a mid life crisis, then it's not a bad one. I don't feel a need to self sabotage. I don't feel a need to completely uproot my life because I am not fulfilled. The thing is I am quite fulfilled in every way except in one. I feel like I am on this momentum. I am drawing more, writing more, allowing myself to feel more. I am taking my time to really figure out my life, all it's pieces and how I can make them work together. For some reason, this is where I am right now. Where I have been doesn't really make all that much of a difference except for the lessons that my life has taught me. I was talking to my mother the other day. I told her that the more I draw, the more I feel this energy trying to tell me something. The more I feel the direction I am supposed to go. With each line, with each word I get more clarity every day. I am not destined to work a job that just pays the bills. Maybe that's never really been my path but it's been a necessity and that's OK. Sometimes we take our own time. Today is the anniversary of losing my father. He's been gone for four years now and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about him. One of the things that always rings through my head was his belief in me, this pure and unrelenting love that he never failed to show me. I think about how I shrugged him off, thinking that he only believed in me because I was his daughter. The older I get though, I realize the reason he believed in me was because of me, not because of this obligatory blood connection. Maybe it's him whose trying to tell me in my lines to not be afraid to fail anymore. If I do, I do but what beautiful lessons it will teach me.
I started looking into going back to school. Maybe that is a mid life crisis thing but does it matter? Isn't the point that I make the effort to try? It's not about how proud I would make him or my mother or my husband or even my kid. It's about how proud would I be of myself, right? It would be 4 years in college. Sure, it's a little late in life but what the hell? Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see that 18 year old girl whose self confidence just got shattered by an adult who should've known better. I see how bright her eyes are, how hungry that drive still rages, and I think don't I owe it to her to at least try? We get older and we forget about who we used to be. It's so easy to think of who we were as cute before the world got a hold of us but there's something valid in that innocence that we can still live by. Listen I am not able to run marathons or work on my feet for 16 hours a day or stay up past 10 much anymore. What I can do? What I can do is try. Going back to school will be tough. I still have bills to pay, still have a family to take care of, still all of these adulting things that need to be done. My responsibilities won't go away because I'm choosing to add more to my journey. What will happen is that I will be able to have more opportunities to better myself, to provide more for my family, to let that 18 year old girl who wasn't given a chance to finally shine. I know this sounds like some romantic fancy, an idealistic view of this hard life but without hope life is bleak. Is this a mid life crisis? It may be. Or maybe it's just time I gave myself a chance.