Today I started a new job. It's a new beginning, something to start fresh and to leave old things behind. I gave my two weeks notice to a job that I had been at for three years, a job where I truly figured out what I was made of and what I wasn't. When I came into this old job, I was coming from a very toxic one. It was an office job that was filled with a horrible negative cloud and, because of the support of my husband, I was able to walk away from that one. Then, I found myself in a better place, working side by side with my husband in a place where they welcomed me with open arms. And it was nice to be an environment again where I felt supported, to feel like I could make a positive impact even if it was just one smile from one person because I put a little extra sugar in their tea. It was nice going to a place full of people who were a team, who worked hard for each other, who you knew had your back when you were so weeded you couldn't see the light at the end of that lunch hour. Yesterday a chapter of my life came to an end, a chapter that I didn't know how much I needed until I was there. I sat in the office and gave my two weeks and cried because I knew it was the best choice for me, for my family. It hurt. I can't lie because really the realization of the end of my time with this place came quicker than I thought. I walked out of that place last night at 2:30 in the morning, looking back at it before I got into my car, and I smiled. I smiled because while I knew I no longer belonged there, I also knew that all the smiles and laughter and tears taught me things about myself that I didn't know existed.
I struggle with change sometimes. I am comfortable with what I know, thrive in the familiar. And while I adjust quickly, sometimes change makes me very uncomfortable. Some would say that it's just part of being human or because I am a Taurus and both are probably legit. I know that was eating me up the last couple of months, just not knowing which way I was going, not sure if I wanted to stay or go. I'm not one to be brash, to just let the wind decide where my life goes. I don't necessarily believe in signs either but there was a moment, a very clear moment, when I knew my decision. I understood that this change was going to happen, that my life was about to start a new chapter. I made my decision with a heavy heart but there are times in life that no matter how hard it is to choose, it is a choice that must be made.
There are things about this place that I'm going to miss, people that I will always think fondly of. There are memories of the last three years that I will always carry with me. That's the thing about life, standing still or moving forward, just because you move on from a place or you move on from people, those memories that you made are the things that you take with you. I went down Hillsborough street the other day. It's full of all these new buildings with their fancy street fronts and their polished signs and trendy trimmings. I said to my husband that this certainly wasn't the Hillsborough Street that I grew up with but just because certain parts were changed or gone didn't mean that I lost those experiences. Just because the Bowling Alley is no longer there doesn't mean I didn't kiss that boy for the very first time by the pool tables. Just because the view from the Bell Tower changed doesn't erase the hours I spent sitting on that bench with my best friend late at night. And just because I am no longer employed with this place doesn't take away the moments when I drank a Suicide Beer or all the times we played Find The Pen. All of that stuff, the good stuff, will still be with me, with the people I shared it with. While life changes, what we take from life doesn't.
Yesterday while I was crying in that office, giving my two weeks, she smiled at me and told me life happened. She was right. Life happens. Sometimes we're not made to stay in the same place. Sometimes changing scenery is what is best. Sure, I'm going to another restaurant until this writing career takes off but that's all right. Sometimes we do what we got to do but I knew that remaining where I was starting to suffocate me. It is a hard place to work. It is not that I am leaving because I can't handle it but because it no longer fits in the direction I want my life to go. And that's life. Every now and then you have to step back and check in. You have to ask yourself is where I am now putting me in the direction I want to go? Am I still on the right track? Or have I meandered away from where I want to be? I guess at the end of the day I had fallen off track. I had gotten caught up in everyone else's happiness that I forgot why I left that office job in the first place. I went into this place feeling very alone and I am leaving this place feeling very much loved but I let myself get wrapped up sometimes in other people's smiles, forgetting about my own. I want to be the one people count on. I want to be the one that people never have to worry about regarding doing the right thing. I want people to say my name and never have to worry whether or not I need help... but I get lost sometimes and don't know exactly how to find myself.
I wish I could say that everything there was perfect and I am solely leaving because it is time to move on but, as everything is, it has problems. It has problems that won't ever be solved, giving me that very clear moment that no matter how hard I worked or how hard I tried the difference that I was so excited to make when I first walked through those doors had plateaued. We have moments in our lives when we realize that our job is done, that we've done all we can, when we understand that the lessons we needed to learn have all been taught. Leaving a place that you've been at for so long is like breaking up with a boyfriend. There is a sadness that you can't shake. There is an anger that you can't quite explain. You allow yourself to feel, to love, to grow emotionally attached to until the day you wake up and realize that what you once loved about that person or place is no longer there. What I did love though, what I did love about this place I will always carry with me. I am sad to go, sad to end this chapter of my life but what I want the people there to understand is that the sadness I feel is a true testament to how much they all meant to me. I want them to understand life happened, is all. And while there were things that drove me to my decision, things that would have never gotten better, those things that will never change can't take away all the good that was inspired inside of me because of them. I walked in feeling very much alone and I am walking away very much loved. Thank you for making me a kinder person, a better person. I will always carry a little Village with me.
I married my husband back in October of 2011. It was the second happiest day of my life. The first, of course, being the day that I had my baby daughter in my arms. Not that children trump marriage or anything but really giving birth to a brand new life is and will always be one of the most amazing things that I have ever done. In every way, however, marrying this man brought an incredible amount of joy to my otherwise struggle bus life. And over the years there have been things about this man that surprise me even though we've been together for almost eight years now. Regardless of all the intimate details I know of this man, I never get tired of the sweet and lovely feeling I get when he smiles at me. I think about when we are old and gray, when the kid has moved on and found her own place in this world. I think about sitting next to him, wrinkled and arthritis ridden, and know that I will still get that sweet and lovely feeling when he smiles at me through his toothless mouth. He is the support system I thought I would never have. I think back to my life before this man came along. I had it, sure. I could take care of my kid and myself all on my own. I never had any qualms with it. After all, I pretty much knew from a kid that I was always going to have to take care of myself. Not griping, just stating and it's all sunshine and butterflies, folks... but I would often think that it would be nice if perhaps I had a steady hand now and again. My husband, this man that somehow fell into my life when I was ready to start a cat farm, came into my life without any hesitation, without any fear, without any shady motives. He didn't want to rescue me from what many thought was a dire situation. He didn't want an instant family, just add water and we make three. He didn't want just a drive by. He saw me in a way that no one else in this world has, in a way that I've never allowed anyone else to see me.
A support system, a healthy support system is something we all need. One of my favorite songs is (of course) by Simon and Garfunkel "I Am a Rock". We think that we can do it all by ourselves, that we don't need help from anyone because we have to prove to the world we are strong. We have to prove to each other how firmly our feet stand on the ground even if we know that the ground is shaking out from underneath us. I am no exception. My family will be the first to tell you that I was always a stubborn kid. I was the one that refused to ask for help and when I had to? It killed me inside. I never wanted to owe anyone anything. I never wanted to put someone out even if they wanted to help me. It was my life and I was going to do it my way even I had to bleed along the way. So, when my husband came along, I was resistant to his shoulder he always offered. One day we stopped to get gas. I got out to pump my gas because that's what I did. I pumped my own gas... except he got out, too. He got out and pumped my gas and I was taken back because I didn't understand how genuine his kindness was. It was at the start of our relationship. I admit that it took me quite some time to put my head on his shoulder without thinking he was going to pull it out from underneath me. Over the last eight years, he has shown me the importance of offering a helping hand to others, to accepting a kind smile from a complete stranger. We are all humans. We all struggle. We can all help each other.
And I guess I've been thinking a lot lately about my current situation, about what kind of environment I have found myself in. When you have a support system that doesn't encourage positivity, it drains you. When you have a support system that fosters discontent, it dulls the beautiful light that you are. When we say to each other horrible hateful things, we're not lifting anyone up. When we laugh at someone else's demise, what kind of people are we really? Today I was sitting with my kid. She was talking about one of her friends being mean to another one of her friends. She was telling me how she stood up and told the mean friend that it wasn't cool. I sat there in that Sunday afternoon sun with this kid that I grounded two days ago and I was so incredibly proud of the choices she was making. I was so proud that she understood that being mean, that tearing someone else down for the fun of it was not the right choice. Sometimes when we think these kids aren't listening they surprise you. My husband and I try to teach her to be kind, to be compassionate. We try to teach her that encouraging someone in a positive way will always be the better choice than inspiring in a negative way. I was a big LOST fan (for all of those people who don't know how much of a nerd I am). Sure, I repeat lines from shows and songs all the time but the one line often runs through my mind on a daily basis. It was Jack Shepherd who said it in front of a fire to everyone "Live together or die alone." Listen, we're not always going to get along with each other. I'm sure there will be days that I can thoroughly piss my husband off because we're not going to always agree. Here's the thing though the only way to make it through this life is if we help each other out. We are not rocks. And while being an introvert is a very beautiful poetic way to be, even I understand that I need help off my knees every now and again.
I don't realize how much my husband has taught me until someone does me wrong. While in my younger days I would have blown up like the firecracker I was, today I understand that these negative people don't matter all that much. It was him that brought back that fun loving, happy girl that I used to be before the parts that mattered too much became jaded. It was my daughter in her unknowing way that taught me that patience was the only choice to make. It took me some time in my life to understand that being a rock wasn't the best me I could be. It took me some time in my life to accept that people did genuinely want to help me. I don't regret being so headstrong. I wouldn't go back and change my choices of being so incredibly stubborn because unfortunately the only way for me to truly learn is to experience all spectrums of it. I sit at this computer right now and I feel good about where I am, about where I am going. I feel honored to be married to a man who has taught me that while I am invincible, I am also not alone. I feel so blessed to have given life to my daughter even though right now we are going through the horrible teenage years and I just keep asking myself where did my sweet little girl go? Because I know at the end of the day I can come home to them. I can cry and know that he will wipe my tears. I can laugh and know that she will be the first to lovingly roll her eyes at me because that's the way she tells me she loves me right now. I can pick up the phone and call those crazy friends of mine and vent my frustrations and know that being mad is fine, too. When you surround yourself with people who don't inspire the best out of you, those people don't deserve the best of you. We shouldn't tell each other it is acceptable to bring someone else down. We should never think that is the way to get the best out of someone. It is wicked and manipulative and it blooms from such a dark place. It took me some time to understand that being treated like that was not acceptable. We are people who breathe and feel and struggle. We all fight demons, carry baggage. Why would we make it harder on each other when we can help each other? There's no harm in being a ray of light. There's no shame in asking for help. We should lift each other up because there is enough other stuff in this world that brings us down.
Earlier this week my very first baby nephew was born, reminding me that these beautiful little moments in life happen taking away whatever you are battling for a brief moment. My life, my lovely little life has been wonderful, has been awful, has been a true testament to what kind of person I have ended up being. Sometimes we get lost in the demons that we fight that we forget about that sweet fruit filling that our life really is. I can sit here at this desk next to the two cats cleaning each other, next to my old lady pup sleeping, down from the fifteen year old teenage daughter that I just grounded for the weekend, and I can see my life clearly for what it is. I remember that sunny Thursday afternoon driving down the road with my husband memorizing the feeling of the wind against my arm that I'm hanging out the window, taking a mental picture of the way he smiled at me when he turned his head, taken a mental picture of the way we are and put it into my ever growing shoe box of memories. Someone said something this week that reminded me of the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of world where he smiles at me from that car with the wind blowing at our backs. And what I realized in those words that person said is that the only way I can get to that field of sunflowers I am always running in somewhere in my head is if I create it.
We like to play with this idea of Destiny, that no matter what we do the world already has a plan for us. Some would even say that no matter what choice we make our destinations will always end in the same place. In that sense, sure, we're all some day going to meet our demise. Death does not escape any of us and that's all right. I'm not one running from it but you know I'd like to hang around for thirty more years at least. I remember sitting at my window sill as a young girl, dreaming about where the world was going to take me, asking those stars what my destiny was, pretending that there was some great adventure just waiting on the other side of that sidewalk... but there was no adventure to be had. And I remember sitting in that red car with that boy who I thought I was going to marry and pop out little blonde, blue eyed babies, so completely sure that he was the one I was destined for... but he wasn't. I remember sitting in that dorm room, broken and alone, cursing destiny if that's what it had in store for me... but it wasn't. I made choices to push myself forward. I've made choices to hold myself back. I've made choices that did nothing at all. I've never thought that my life was predestined for anything other than an occasional moment of brilliance now and again but I always knew that if I was going to reach those moments of brilliance it was always in my arms to reach, in my hands to grasp. Maybe it was because at a young age my parents instilled in me that if I wanted something, I had to work for it. I had to earn it, that nothing would come to me for free or out of luck. So when they told they weren't buying me a car, I wanted it and I got it. When I was a twenty years old and I saw that little blue line, I was the one who was going to provide for that now teenage grounded daughter upstairs. I've never taken the things in my life for granted because I have always realized how quickly they can be taken away just the same. Destiny is a nice idea but not a very practical way to live.
So these words that this person said reminded me that I don't have to live in a world that is not up to my standards. And, sure, I know there are always things, always people that will always factor into your environment. I understand that you can't always control your circumstances, not all of them at least, but you can control where you plant your feet. I looked around the room in that moment after those words were spoken, words that encouraged us to be mean to each other, words that allowed us to speak harshly to the other, words that made it OK to make each other feel bad... and I got it. I'm a quiet person really. I like peace and tranquility. I thrive in an environment that is reflective, that is considerate, that is encouraging in a positive light. And I wilt in a dark place where we tear each other apart. What's the point in that? I don't do well with confrontation, not like I used to. I don't need to club someone in the head in order for them to understand my point. I don't want to bark at someone because they don't agree with me. I don't want to slap anyone across the knuckles like I'm a nun from my middle school years when they don't do something the way I want them to. I want to look at you and smile. I want to hold your hand and figure out better way that works for all of us. I don't want to make another person cry just because I can because we all can. I think about that little girl that sat in front of that window sill, dreaming of all the wonderful things I was going to do when I grew up, and in that moment when those words was spoken, I knew that this was not the wonderful I was supposed to be doing. Is that destiny? No, it's where I am because of choices, good and bad, I have made in my life. No, I'm not good at standing up for myself, not like I used to be sometimes. I do turn the other cheek more often than I should, much more than I should. This week, however, it was like a light turned on and my feet started twitching. If where I was wasn't good anymore, then it is up to me to find a different field.
My nephew was born earlier this week, this brand new life about to start his own journey. He has a father who will lead him in the right direction, a mother who will always pick him up along the way, and one day he will have to figure out his own life. I think about this tiny life, the life I created upstairs, this lovely little life that I have led. I can't say that I ever did anything I was supposed to or admit that anything I ever did was completely wrong but I will always own my choices and where they have led me. The last few weeks I have been in a hazy state, not sure which way I wanted to go, holding onto things that really haven't been very healthy for me. I have had the weight of the world on my shoulders, some of those bricks placed upon me and some I put on myself. In the last few weeks, I have had to take a long, hard look at myself and ask myself what I often ask the people around me, "How does this make me feel?"... and the answer became clear. Those words of negativity were spoken and I had an answer to that question. And when I saw the faces of the people around me, listened to their reaction, it became very clear that it made me feel kinda gross. If my destiny was to be surrounded by such heavy darkness, it was time to change where I was standing. I wish in the moment I could have stood up and said something. I wish I could have expressed to everyone around me that it never has to be that way but I walked away, understanding that it was not my path to change someone else's direction in that moment. I have made my choice, a clear direction of where I will go next. I want to be in that car on a sunny Thursday afternoon with the wind blowing my hair, with him smiling at me. I want to be in that coffee shop on a stormy Tuesday afternoon, writing in that quiet corner my next great American novel. I want to be sitting on that windowsill, dreaming of all the wonderful adventures to come. Our lives are of our own making. Our lives are always of our own making.
I come from a Catholic upbringing. Even though I am no longer a practicing Catholic, the lessons that I learned along the way that were worth holding onto are a part of the foundation of me. I can say in my youth I didn't agree with all the teachings that the Catholic faith was trying to teach because, if I'm being honest, even back then I saw the hypocrisy of love everyone except for these people over here because they are different. And I just didn't understand why as a woman I was being punished for a theoretical sin that may or may have not happened from a book that may or may not be historically correct. So, at eighteen when I was free of my parents, I stopped going to church and I've never really looked back. I've never really believed that I needed a community to have faith. I've never needed someone else's validation to tell me that there is some power out there greater than me. Evolution makes sense. Creationism makes sense. I do believe that Science and Religion can coexist with the other. There doesn't always have to be a right answer. I'm not here today to talk about my faith, what I believe in and what I don't. The other night I realized something very clearly about myself, about the things that I have kept with me because of those constant religion classes in my youth. Two things, two of the greatest lessons that every human should learn will always stick with me no matter what. The other night I was faced with a situation. I was faced with a choice to fight a losing fight or just turn the other cheek.
When I was in my teenage years and in my early twenties, I was a firecracker. I would fight you for the fun of it because I was determined to never be a chump. I would never let anyone get the better of me because my pride, this giant chip called pride, sat so heavy upon me. It wasn't about you being right. It was always about me being right, about me knowing everything, about me putting you in your place. Someone would look at me funny and off I would fly because that fire that burned so bright for very little reason would never settle on being a quiet ember. I was done wrong and I would do whatever it took to make it right. I was full of spit and vinegar and proud of every toxic bone in my body. I was full of anger and rage and proud of every misguided thought in my head. I don't know if it is just a part of youth, part of being of adult age without the means of knowing what that means. I don't know but I am certainly glad I am beyond the erratic behavior, the constant turmoil that it brought. During those years, I was lost and confused and not quite sure who I was, where I was going. I was mad at this power that be (whatever it is) that my life had landed in such a distraught place so I lashed out. I lashed out and it never took much for me to strike. Could I pinpoint when I started to let all that fight go? I can say that the moment that my baby daughter was placed in my arms was the moment I finally understood what love was, what compassion meant, what being selfless truly meant.
I have come a long way from that angry girl. I no longer get so angry at people for the smallest of reasons. I no longer start throwing verbal punches when I get cut in line, when someone cuts me off in traffic, when someone talks over me in the middle of a conversation. I have done a lot of work on myself to be a better, kinder person. I have come such a long way from that girl walking around with petitions to this woman sitting in this chair. I think about those lessons that I learned long ago sitting in Sunday School or in all of those Religion classes. I think about the times I got thrown out of class disagreeing with the teacher because what she was teaching was something I didn't want to learn. That's who I was though. You would tell me to believe in something that I thought was wrong and I would come right back at you, telling you how absurd it was. I won't lie. I got kicked out of a lot of Religion classes but you know what? If I was to put in that spot today, I don't think that would change. And what I realize though out of the lessons that didn't matter at all, are the two lessons that absolutely did. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. And the other? The other sometimes I do too much. Turn the other cheek.
I am a woman in my mid-thirties, working a job that I have long past grown out of, trying to make this writing dream of mine come true. Lately I have found myself in a peculiar position, realizing more and more that I took an accidental detour. It became very clear to me the other night that I no longer have the patience for people that I once did. I won't go into great detail because it's really not necessary but I will say that the way I was treated was disgusting, disrespectful. From the way I was spoken to to the way these people handled it was mortifying. I wish grown adults could behave like grown adults. I wish that people would treat each other with respect. This job is hard and tedious. The older I get, the more I understand my limitations. But the other night, I stood there and I didn't fight back. I didn't retort. I didn't do anything but let these people mistreat me. It sounds horrible, doesn't it? I think back to that very angry, firecracker of a girl I used to be and I imagine what she would have done. She would have lost her mind and probably her job. She would have gone out kicking and screaming, berating these people the entire time about their lack of class... but I spoke calmly. I said my peace, stood my ground, and walked away. This lesson of turning the other cheek is not an easy one to put into practice. These people didn't even pay their entire bill, leaving me to eat $1.69. And I could have gone after them, demanding this money... but I walked away. It wasn't worth it to me to put myself into that very negative situation for so little but who I once was would've walked away with that money plus more because that's who I was.
Over the last couple of days, I've thought a lot about those people, about the way I handled it, about the way I once was. I stood in the office last night of my job and cried. I didn't cry because these people did me wrong. I would never give them that pleasure. I cried because I've realized that somewhere along the way I lost my footing and now turning the other cheek has become something that happens much too often. I say yes a lot. I give a lot. I bend over backwards for people a lot. And please don't misconstrue that to mean I am putting that on anyone but myself. Truth is I want to take care of the people around me but as I stood in that office last night something became very clear to me. I know I'm not very good at drawing lines when it comes to myself. I know that sometimes I will do something to make you happy even if it makes me miserable. I realized last night standing in that office that my cheeks hurt but not knowing anymore how to stand up, kicking and screaming. I realized last night standing in that office, missing my daughter's opening night in her first high school play that I have lost my way more than I thought.
And I'm not writing this blog today to place blame. I am a grown woman with a voice... that unfortunately I have forgotten how to use. Walking away from those ugly people the other night was the right choice because there was nothing to gain from that fight. That's what this life is really... battles that we choose to fight or to let go. I am proud of the person I have become. I love my quiet nature, my calm center. I wouldn't go back to the chaos that I once was. Tears didn't come because of those people. Tears came because I felt lost, felt aggravated, felt as if I was screaming inside and no one could hear. I was angry at myself for not being able to say no sometimes, for not being able to think of myself, for allowing what is really important to get lost in someone else's bigger picture. I realize the value in that fight that was once me and it made me feel sad that the fight that was once me has softened so much. There has to be a balance, some formula that tells you when to punch and when to throw in the towel. There has to be some sort of comfortable medium. I took this idea of turning the other cheek, this idea of treating the people you wish to be treated without keeping in mind that it can just as harmful as throwing grenades.
Today is National Sibling Day so I thought I would do my siblings the honor and dedicate an entire blog to them. These kids that I grew up beside, that I don't talk to nearly enough have helped me become who I am today. Now whether that was in a good way or a bad way I guess is still yet to be seen. I have countless memories of each of them. Some good and some bad and some just shared experiences. We had two parents who loved all four of us. We had two parents who made a conscience decision to bring four humans into the world and give us the foundation we needed to one day become the adults we are. While we all come from the same place, we all found our own very different paths to walk. We all struggled though the struggles weren't the same. We drove each other bananas as children and then drove each other bananas as adults. We didn't always agree with the other. I can name a thousand times my older brother shook his head at me. I can name a thousand more where I shook my head at my sister. And I can remember all the times my little brother did exactly what I told him to even when my demands were ridiculous. So, today I want to write about my siblings, these three people that I grew beside, that I love more than words could ever write.
My older sister and I didn't always have the greatest relationship. We shared a room until I was about fifteen years old and then off/on for a few more years after that. I remember being a little kid trying to hang out with her and her friends. I remember how much of an annoyance I was to her, too, because she just wanted to hang out with her friends. I just wanted to pal around with her. I would sit in our room with her and her friends. Her friends would braid my hair. I was just a little kid trying to be like her big sister. Then she became a teenager and then I became a teenager and somewhere along the way the inevitable happened. We couldn't find a common ground. She annoyed me and I annoyed her. I remember one afternoon I was sitting in my brothers' room playing Burger Time. She came in and wanted to play. I said no because I was playing. So she slapped me across the face, leaving a nice hand print on my cheek. I called her stupid and ran immediately to our mother. Who got in trouble? I did, having to write fifty times "I will not call my sister stupid". It's a funny memory now but not so funny to my pink cheek at the time. And then I remember being maybe ten years old and getting into a fight with her about something dumb. We disowned each other and I believe for a few days did not recognize each other as sisters. of course we eventually made up though I don't remember what brought us back around. We can laugh about all of this now. Time definitely gives you perspective. At the end of the day what was apparent was that we were two very different people. Our relationship has been rocky over the years, some years better than others, but here is what I can say about this sister of mine is that as much as I still shake my head at her sometimes, I love her very much. She is kind and caring and just wants to take care of everyone around her in her own way. That we will always have in common. I know that if I ever truly need anything, I can pick up the phone and call her. And even if I need nothing, I know she wants me to pick up that phone and call her anyway. She will continue to shake her head at me and my introverted, stubborn ways. These differences have always been and will always be the charm of our relationship.
For the first 11 years of my life, my older brother constantly harassed me. I followed him around like a puppy. I think he thought it was just to annoy him but I don't know if he knows today it was because of how much I looked up to him. Unlike my sister who was fun and a bit nuts, he was steady and smart and always had a good head on him. He was no nonsense kind of kid... but he was mean, real mean. I remember he would give me wedgies out of nowhere for no reason. He would tell me I had something on my back and give me the meanest underwear pull, one much worse than the next. I never understood why he was so mean to me but I remember the day it stopped. We had moved to Fayetteville. It had been a bad year for me. I didn't have any friends and was just generally in a real lonely place. It was the year that I started writing, the year I discovered that I had some sort of talent. We were at dinner one night and for whatever reason he started calling me a loser over and over again. Something clicked and I had enough. I stormed away from the table in tears and ran up to my room. Our mother came up a few minutes later to comfort me. Then, my brother a few minutes later. He apologized but I didn't take him very seriously, figuring our father had made him come up and do so. So for the next four years, I didn't have much to say to my older brother. I distanced myself from him on purpose because I was so hurt by this kid who I had looked up to for all those years. And then I turned sixteen and had gotten myself into some trouble that I didn't know how to handle. He was in college at that point. I was a Sophomore in high school. I didn't know who to turn to but he was the first person I thought of. And he was there in a heartbeat. He couldn't fix the situation but he helped in the only way he knew how to. From that day forward, he was back to being that big brother that I look up to. He was that big brother that I knew would protect me in a heartbeat. I remember when I went off and married my daughter's sperm donor, our mother told me that he was so disappointed. He shook my head at me, my crazy impulsive decisions. I know he didn't understand it but he never lectured me on it either. I guess as kids, my sister and I were a little jealous of him, too. He was the golden boy, the one who did nothing wrong but, looking back now, his struggles were as real as ours, just different. Now when I think of my big brother, I couldn't be more proud to be his sister. We don't see each other much but, again, I know if I called him like I have time and time again, he would be there in a heart beat. Since our father's death, he has become the patriarch as he should be. He's still that no nonsense kid who gets things done, itineraries and all. As much as my sister and I are different, there is a similarity between my older brother and I that I will always find solace in.
My younger brother and I were always together as kids. There is only a little over two years difference between us. Naturally, my older sister and brother were paired off because of their closeness in age while my little brother and I were paired off just the same. My little brother will always be one of the most understanding, kindest people I will ever have the honor of ever knowing. He is calm, zen like almost with one of the most dry sense of humors I have ever come across. There were so many summer afternoons while our parents were at work that we were left to our own devices. We would watch the Spanish Channel and make up our own stories of what was happening. They always involved poop, always. I remember one in particular. It was a grandmother with these two kids. They kept going to the bathroom, making us laugh hysterically the entire afternoon. And if there wasn't anything interesting happening on the Spanish Channel or if it was too gross outside to go play basketball, we would get on AOL and find random people to talk to. Of course, our mother would get home and yell at us for taking up the phone line. And if that was boring? Well, we got on the Brother and wrote our own stories. We still have those stories. Who knows? Maybe one day I will actually self publish them and become a millionaire. I never thanked him enough for all those glasses of milk I made him get me. I never really apologized for the baseball I threw at his head for no other reason than I was bored. Yogurt could still bribe him today. And then I became a teenager, started doing my own thing and we weren't as close at that point and so did he. We fought but never like my older siblings and I. We're still the Pooks, him Pokey and I Pooky. At family gatherings, you will still find us more than likely standing beside each other, talking about poop... yes, because it's still funny :) He grew up to be a lot like our father with his gentle nature and his open heart. I will always feel protective over him, always look at him as my little brother regardless of how old we get.
I don't know what my youth would be like if I hadn't had these siblings of mine. I don't know if I would be as tough, as resilient, as giving as I am. Spending my youth with them taught me small pieces about life, tiny trinkets of who I was. Sure, I was the kid in the corner. Being a middle child does inspire certain complexes but they taught me how to observe what was happening around me. My sister taught me not to jump out of windows. My older brother taught me not to throw dead fish at Italians. My little brother taught me why you shouldn't write your name on an overpass but they taught me other things, too. My sister showed me that being kind was the braver choice. My older brother helped me find my courage. My little brother will always remind me that everything will always be just fine. I know I have been the more recluse one out of the four of us. I don't call much. I don't write very often. I stay in the background because that is where I will always prefer to be. I will always be the one to take the off road path but I will always be the one who will always be there when they reach. It's been a rough year for the four of us, for our mother. I know there's not a day for a single one of us that doesn't go by where we don't think about our dad but in us he remains. Sometimes we didn't get along as kids. Sometimes we won't get along as adults but we always be sisters and brothers. We all have a greatness about us that only us Lowell's can have... and poop will always be an appropriate dinner time conversation.
And if I don't say it enough, know that I love you all very much. Here's to all of our very bright futures <3
I am at a point in my life where some things are so very certain and others aren't quite clear, reminding me a bit of my early twenties when I felt as if the world was waiting for me to make a decision one way or the other but knowing which decision was the best. These are things that I know for sure. I know that I fall more in love with my husband every day even though sometimes we don't or won't see eye to eye. I know for sure that I have the greatest kid in the world even though sometimes she makes me want to call those gypsies I once threatened to sell her to when she was younger. I know absolutely that I have some of the most amazing friends backing me even though sometimes I don't always voice those words. And I know without a doubt who I am sitting in this chair and I think that is the most frustrating part. However much it is like when I was young and alone, it's not like that at all because I know very clearly the direction I want to go but it gets muddled. It gets muddled because of this or that, because of him or her, because where my feet have landed versus where they want to go. Back then I didn't know so maybe that made the confusion a little bit easier to grasp, a little bit easier to swallow because any direction I went was a chance taken. And now? Now knowing where I want to go without the ability to get there tears up my soul a bit more every day.
This life is nothing but one change after another, one small difference every day that alters my path. Sometimes I do believe these little alterations are for the better. There is always a silver lining in every reason something happens but sometimes it's hard to see when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have a problem, a real problem that many don't understand but slowly I am coming to the realization that I can't be everything to everyone. I just don't want to go back to being nothing to anyone. This constant battle with being an extrovert and an introvert is a hard battle to fight on a daily basis. As much as I want to sit with you and have a beer, there is the other part of me that would rather go find a corner in a coffee shop and be alone. Sometimes writing is my only form of solace. As much as these words are for the proverbial you out there, they have always been more so for me and me alone. I know that is why it took me so long to sit down and truly write for other people to read. If I am truly honest, I don't know if I ever put the audience as my first priority. It has always been an escape for me to get away from the bills I have to pay, away from the job that I work too hard at, away from the people I know depend on me. It's not because I don't love you but it's always been the one way I've loved myself. Is it selfish? Does it matter? Some people play golf. Some people knit. Some people join clubs and go to church. We have all these things that we do for ourselves, these things that make us happy where other people aren't a factor. That being said I will always be touched when my words touch, when my words make you feel, when my words make you think.
Some of the choices that I've had to make in my life haven't always brought me down this path. I once thought being the best at everything was who I was. I used to think that if I was the top dog, then that respect would make me a better person. So I made choices to work harder than the person next to me. I remember when I was in 8th grade I played basketball. I was all right, not great but all right. I had played since 6th grade and earned my starting position. A girl joined the team and within a month or so took my starting position. It made me angry, oh so very angry because what about all my hard work? What about all that time I took to make the coach see I was an asset? So one day I went to practice and I said to myself, "You know what I'm going to work harder than her. I'm going to have more heart than her. I'm going to be better than her no matter what." So that's what I did. I worked so very hard, gave so much heart that I shattered my knee cap. I remember sitting on that floor with my knee on fire, not sure if I could bend it or stand up. I remember pursing my lips so very tightly. I remember standing up. I stood up and kept running those suicides. I stood up and kept shooting those hoops. I stood up and kept going regardless of the damage I knew I was doing to myself because I was going to be the best. My knee by the end of practice was swollen and in so much pain but I never cried. I limped all the way out the door and never once complained to my mother (though she asked repeatedly). I went home, put some ice on my knee, and went back to practice the next day. I started that next game in my old position because I refused to be defeated. I feel my old knee injury every time it rains and at the end of a fourteen hour shift. I feel my old knee injury when I have to bend down or lift something. And I feel my old knee injury every time the need to be the best comes rushing back in. I have made the choice over and over to be stronger than I am. I don't think I will ever make a different choice. And sometimes that need to be the best at everything takes me away from just doing something that I love solely for me.
When I started working at my current job, it was supposed to be a fun part time thing so I could spend the rest of my time on my writing. When I started working my current job, I had finally figured out the path I truly wanted to take. I had finally found the courage to put myself out into the world. I wanted to see my words in print but I knew where I had been was never going to lead me in the right direction. So when my husband said quit, I did. I got a job that was just supposed to supplement our bank account enough but something happened along the way that changed my direction. I found myself in that same old boat, competing really at the end of the day with myself. Could I conquer this, too? And I did. I did and kept going though that old knee injury throbbed. I kept going though I knew the part of myself that I just started to shed light on was being put on the back burner again because I couldn't look at these faces around me and not try to be someone they could count on. I couldn't let my husband down by not being good enough to stand next to him. I got the job because I was his wife but I didn't want to keep the job because I was his wife. And, sure, I knew that was the reason and it's all right. Sometimes we take the doors that are open instead of banging on the locked ones. My point is I had to be the disco ball on the dance floor, the one everyone looked up to even though I have always been more comfortable as the wallflower on the side. I had to be MVP even if I shattered my knee cap in a million pieces because I will always refuse defeat.
So then I think about writing and how terrifying it is that it won't work out and how that fear has always been the one thing that scared me away from this path. As much as I believe in my words, there will always be that looming doubt that no one else will get it. And even if they get it, no one will buy it. So even though I have this wonderful audience, no income to keep it going. As a writer, I understand that sometimes the audience won't reciprocate the love that I fill in between the lines. There is always a chance someone will read this and post about how horrible it is. I can be as vulnerable as I want but I am honest enough with myself that the vulnerability I so lovingly put here might be taken the wrong way. In the short time this blog has been up, I've already seen it. Someone thinks I'm talking about one thing in particular when I'm really just being general and that's all right, too. I can't spoon feed you what I'm trying to say. Writing is like all art. It has different meanings to different people. When I quit my office job to pursue this, I didn't know how or what to do really. I just knew I had a lot of stuff to say, unsure if anyone was going to listen. I had to accept that maybe no one would and be all right with that. Sometimes we take these paths not knowing if they will lead anywhere. A dead end could always be around the next corner but if I never took the corner how would I ever know? But I know that I want to write and I know what I want to say and I know that I will conquer this, too, because it's what I do. I have always been my worst critic but I've also always been my biggest competitor. Both haven't always been a positive force but force enough to never keep me down for very long.
And, right now in this moment, this life is not clear. I don't know where exactly I fit, exactly how I'm going to get where I want to be but I do know that not even a shattered knee cap will stop me from getting there. Life, one unexpected change after another, will always have its reasons for putting you in certain situations. There is always a lesson to find along the way. I would like to think that all these little alterations will accumulate to something clever in the end that I can inspire with. I like to think that all these broken bones and torn up hearts have some bigger purpose than to leave scars that hurt when it rains. Maybe one day I will stop pushing and just exist, be content where I sit but maybe that's never been my path at all. And maybe one day my words will take flight and my wings will have finally come in. There is a beauty in uncertainty as much as there is loveliness in clarity. And I have found myself somewhere in the middle.
Lately I have been dealing with a lot like all of us do. And like so many of us I put the world on my shoulders and tell myself I am the little engine that could and keep on my tracks regardless of how exhausted I may be, regardless of the fact that sometimes I am incapable of really carrying as much weight as I do. I try to think back to when this need to be everything to everyone got so integrated to who I am. I remember a time when I wasn't anything to anyone, a time when I wanted to be something to someone, and a time when the very idea of me being of any importance was a truly frightening thought. I think back to when I was a young girl. I would watch my mother raise us four kids and go to work and come home and fix us dinner. I would watch her scrub the bathrooms and fold the laundry. I would see her at all the PTA meetings, see her with the cookies she made for every bake sale. And I think something about everything that she was became ingrained into the kind of woman I wanted to be. So, here I am. I am not a PTA mother or a soccer mom. The very idea of me baking any sort of cookie for anyone is pretty hilarious and my kid does her own laundry. I don't have dinner on the table at 6 p.m. sharp or lunches neatly packed up in a brown bag for her to grab as she walks out the door to school. I am by no means my mother and yet I carry the world on my shoulders just the same. I often have conflicting feelings between being selfless and selfish. I wonder where that line is? Are selfless people truly doing kind acts out of the pure joy of it? Because isn't the joy that you get from doing something kind selfish in it's own right?
This post isn't meant to be a downer or a comment on how kind people have malicious intentions. It is more a self reflection as many of my blogs are. I don't know how to write without looking at myself first. And I guess I struggle sometimes with being selfless and selfish, with putting too much pressure on myself and then making myself a kind of martyr when really sometimes I just don't know how to say no. At the end of the day that is my fault and no one else's. So I do the laundry and I feed these cats. I take the dog out and I go to work for a million hours a week. I put my writing aside to make sure that the world around me is fine, is content. More often than not I don't sit down and ask myself how I am feeling until it's too late and I feel myself stuck in this philosophical conversation once again. I start to think about all these things that I do for the people in my life. I start to worry it's not enough. I start to worry it's not noticed. I start to worry that I will never get the same kind of love in return... and there it is... the selfless intentions that mutate into selfishness. I would like to think that I am better than the darkest parts of me, that I can keep the bitter and jaded girl I used to be at bay, that I can keep that angry young woman who thought she deserved something tucked deeply in my back pocket but I'm not always successful. Sometimes after a long day when I've given every ounce of me to the world and everything about me is drained, when I don't have a word to write or a smile to give, I get frustrated because I didn't feel like the world gave me the same effort back.... I'd never ask for it.
This battle to give or to not give, never knowing what you will get back in return goes on and on. I will buy you a cup of coffee every day and never expect to get one back. I will give you the sweater off my back in the freezing cold and never think twice if you walk away with it. I will always do whatever I can to make the world a more comfortable, a happier place for the people in my life that matter... but I am human. I understand that if I am cold and you don't offer me your sweater, a part of me will be hurt. I understand that if I would take the trash out so you don't have to but the next morning you leave it for me, I will be angry because I wouldn't have left it for you. I am kind and patient and compassionate but I understand these selfless parts of me can do a lot of damage, too. I am tough and strong and sometimes too much of a rock and I have always known these very cold parts of me are the only things that balance out my gentle heart, my very sensitive spirit. I know myself well enough to know that if I am in a good place, I will never lash out with that dumb question that I've always had in the back of my head, "What about me?" because that question has never really made a difference. Call it middle child syndrome. Call it being a brat. Call it whatever you want but know it's a question that I've never known how to answer my entire life.
I think back when I was a young girl, remembering my own mother when she was 36 years old with four kids, a full time job, a full time family, and trying to still figure who she was and I compare her to where I am now. I would like to think that my mother was fulfilled, that her selflessness for our greater good kept her happy at night but I understand now more than ever that being selfless is a lonely place sometimes. I understand that being selfless sometimes means you have to be selfish. I want everyone to be happy and I will always put your happiness on my shoulders because if there is anything I can do to make you smile, I will do it. If there is anything I can do to make your life easier, you don't have to ask twice... but I also understand when I don't get the same in return, I will always be hurt no matter how much that doesn't make sense. I don't do anything for something in return, at least not intentionally. I don't think many of us do. I think our intentions are genuine but there is a fine line sometimes.
So what about me? My husband tells me that I am amazing and every time this man makes me tear up because after a long week of trying to be everything to everyone it's all the recognition this simple girl needs. That is what I have learned from my life, from all these things that I carry for everyone else, from my mother in her own way. This idea of being selfless will always be littered with small pieces of selfish needs and that is all right. I don't broadcast that I got ice five times in one shift for the greater good but it's nice when someone says thank you. I don't talk about the things I restock or the work I did on the side when no one was looking but it is nice to hear when someone appreciates it. That appreciation will never be the reason I write these words or wash my husband's laundry or clean the toilet when it's the one thing I literally hate doing. I don't need a parade or presents or to buy myself something pretty. As a young girl watching my mother do it all, I wanted to do it all, too. I guess I just never truly understood what that meant and I couldn't appreciate her selflessness more than I do today. I hope that in my father's life he was able to tell her the way my husband tells me. I hope that she was able to hear him the way I hear mine. I think I've come to the understanding that no one is truly selfless because there is always a benefit when you do a kind act. It's that feeling that you get when you see someone even if it is a perfect stranger smile that you get when it spreads across their face. It's that feeling that you gave someone happiness even if you got nothing in return because really what about you? I don't need recognition when I pick up someone's tab just because or I buy that guy a shot because it is his birthday. In that act of selflessness, I did get something in return even if that guy gave me nothing in return. And in the rare moments that someone looks at me or sends me a text message or just smiles at me with appreciation, that's enough. No matter if I get beat down or pushed around because I offer more kindness than I should sometimes, I will never be unfulfilled. I will never be left unrewarded. Me? Somehow I've always been rewarded.