I watched my talented daughter perform in her play this week. I couldn't have been more proud of this little person that I created. It's been tough raising a teenage daughter. I won't sugar coat it but it's also been lovely watching her grow into her own even though she tests me every step of the way. I think back when I was a teenage girl and I just laugh. While this kid has so much of me in her, she is definitely not the teenage girl I was. If I spoke to my mother the way she speaks to me, guaranteed I would be laid out on the floor. My mother may have been small but she was mighty. I sat in that audience and I teared up every time she walked out onto that stage even though I had forgotten my glasses. Call it a mother's intuition but I knew the minute those lights hit her beautiful face. I admit I have at least teared every play she has ever performed. I am one of those mothers (at least in that sense). I can be proud being proud of my kid and not be ashamed one bit. I've been working a lot lately. She's a teenage girl with a busy schedule. Our stars don't always align the way they used to see each other. I'm not home with her like I used to be and she doesn't want to be home with me like she once needed to be. I get it and I am working on being OK with my kid growing up. We were walking out of the show the other night. My husband was walking in the front because that's what he does. My daughter was walking behind him next to her boyfriend and another friend. I trailed behind because that's what I do, always a bit off from the rest of the world. I remember watching them and it made me smile, laugh a little bit because I remembered a time when that young woman walking in between those two boys used to be just mine, just mine. I didn't have to share her with the world and we were happy in our own little Utopia... but life changes.
Time happens. Time makes things grow. Time reminds us that moments don't last forever. Those precious moments seem like seconds now of life being just me and my kid flew before I realized they were gone. I never realized how much I would miss the snotty noses, the messy faces, the tantrums in the middle of the grocery store, the stinky poo that broke out of it's diaper and all over the car seat. I had no idea that years after she had outgrown all of those things I would find a kid being rotten (to a degree) kind of nostalgic because at the time those painful childhood moments seemed like they were going to last forever. Time gives you perspective. No, she doesn't poo herself any more. She doesn't need me to cut up her food or wipe her nose. She doesn't need me to tuck her into bed at night. She doesn't need me to do much now but I sometimes miss her needing me like that. I miss cuddling her when she's had a bad dream or hugging her when she's scraped a knee. I miss making her precooked bacon for goodness sake. In those moments when I thought she was going to drive me bananas, that little girl was all mine. I didn't have to share her with her friends or school or extra curricular activities. When she needed someone to talk to, it was me. When she needed someone to sit with, I sat. When she wanted to hear dumb songs about poopie diapers, I sang. And when I needed to find some strength to carry on, it was always with her. She was my world, the light that showed me how to be better whether she realized it or not. She was just a kid. There was no way she understood that. It was just me and her, against the world. I was her hero. She was my champion. The other night as they were walking in front of me I didn't see the young woman she's become. I saw my little girl on her journey away from me.
I saw her and I thought how bitter sweet it was to share her with the world, this perfect little person I created is now old enough to start figuring out her path. I think when we were knee deep in the infant and toddler years we don't think too much about the late teenage years. It seems like it is so far away. We've got plenty of time to worry about curfews and colleges, boyfriends and girlfriends. We think that those coloring books are going to be the only they are interested in for a long time. The reality is those young years we have with our small children are far shorter than we realize. We are only children for such a small part of our lives. We only have these babies for an even smaller amount of our time. My daughter makes fun of me every time I get sentimental about her growing up. She gets angry when I try to give her advice or annoyed when I attempt to set some boundaries for her. This is the time in her life when her sixteen years knows more than my million on this planet. I have learned to shrug her off, to roll my eyes right back, and now it seems like we've created a game with each other of who can roll their eyes further back. Hey, whatever it works to make my point these days, right? Because she no longer buys the "Because I said so" line much anymore. And don't get me wrong there are a million great things about her being older now, too. We can carry a serious conversation and just hang out with each other. She has her own social circle which gives me the freedom to have actual adult social life as well. When she is in a good mood, it is awesome, every second of it. And just like her infant years and her toddler years and her kid years, these teenage years will be gone just as quickly as those. When she's a grown woman with her own family or her own career or both or where ever her brilliance takes her, I will look back and remember these teenage years and laugh at how long they felt and start to miss the sound of slamming doors.
Sometimes we don't realize how much time goes by until it's too late. I see clearly her eyes when she was first born, feeling like time stood still. And I remember her first day of Kindergarten, the moment I had to start sharing her with the world. There are so many moments of her life that I hold onto while many have flown away. I could sketch what she looked like when she was sleeping next to me because she was too scared to sleep without me. It doesn't matter how much her face changes, her big brown eyes will always stay the same to me. I guess in a way I thought I could hold onto her a little bit longer. The other night as I walked behind her and her friends, I finally accepted I was the mother a teenage daughter and it was time to start letting go. When I sit back and think about it, she was just mine, only mine, for a moment, a second, for a blink of an eye.
When I was a kid, I suppose you could say I was a bit of a dreamer. I watched all those movies where the heroic man came in and rescued the damsel in distress except I never pictured myself as the damsel in distress. I was the hero. I was the one saving the day and it never occurred to me that because I happened to be a female that it was an odd place for me to insert myself. I was Wonder Woman. I was going to spin real fast and then I was going to save the day. There was nothing else to it. As I grew, people would tell me I was not supposed to be the hero. I was supposed to be the girl in the corner, incapable of saving myself. That was my role and I just never really bought it. I don't know if it was necessarily because I was a strong willed child or young woman. I don't think my temperament had anything to do with it honestly. I think it was just in me to understand quickly that I was the writer of my own story and I could write me exactly the way that I was. Parts of that strong willed girl have calmed down but there is still so much hero in me that sometimes I aggravate myself. I was at work the other day. Something annoyed me and my husband jokingly said to me, "Suck it up." My reply? I am who I am and I won't suck her up anymore in this life. While parts of us change, there are some versions of ourselves that can't be altered. I am a woman in my late thirties who has seen so much life that I can't erase or ignore all that I have become to appease the world around me. I've muted myself for the people around me to not make a fuss, to make it easier for everyone else and it left me frustrated and unhappy. I may not physically have my cardboard bracelets that my mother once made me so I could pretend like I was Wonder Woman but that doesn't mean I am no longer that Hero that I always I imagined myself to be.
I enjoy being a woman. I like the power in it even if it feels like a struggle sometimes. I know the images the world puts out there for me to follow. I am supposed to be thin and perfect. I am supposed to be able to do everything all by myself yet make a man feel like he is absolutely needed for me to accomplish anything. I know I am supposed to be that damsel incapable of zipping up my own dress as he looks at me from behind like a piece of meat that he will later devour. And believe you me I have manipulated plenty using that image to my advantage, getting what I wanted in that way because sometimes I've had to play the game. I am not ashamed of it. Sometimes you play the cards you were dealt but I've also never fell to that traditional sort of woman either. I have tattoos. I've had piercings. I don't wear make up. Most of my jeans have holes in them. My hair is never perfectly quaffed and that's who I am, quietly imperfectly untamed. And despite the fact that I don't fit the fashion model status or even the power business woman profile, I am powerful in my own right. My daughter and I were talking the other day about an old high school boyfriend I had. She said to me that she didn't understand why I was with him because, to her, it sounded like I didn't even like him. Oh, no, I loved that boy in the only way I knew how. Then? Then I loved him so much that I intentionally treated him poorly. To me, being soft and letting him love me was weak, made me vulnerable. I was who I was and who I was had no interest in becoming his arm candy. In my head, I thought that if I showed him affection in any sort of way it would take away from the strength in me. I look back at that relationship and I think I should probably have some regrets. I think at one point in my life I did but today not so much. After I came back from college, me and this high school boyfriend got back together briefly. I was shattered and lost and I thought that he was the answer to put this egg back together again. When I finally gave him everything that he wanted, he no longer wanted anything about me. I became the damsel he wanted me to be and it didn't suit me. I tried to change who I was. I tried to be as soft as he wanted me to be, as needy as he thought he wanted me to be. I got down on my knees and gave all of me to a boy who didn't know what to do with me because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I loved him, absolutely. I think I just loved me more. That wasn't something I realized until much later on in my life. Regardless of how lost I was or how shattered I felt, there was a part of me that never let me forget the Hero that was inside.
These days I am a much softer person. I love being kind and open to people. I want everyone in my life to be as happy and content as they can possibly be. If there is anything that I can do to help you, all you have to do is ask. If there is anything I can do to make you smile, then I will figure out that one thing that will make you shine. I love it when my husband rubs my back, when he brings me coffee, when he does these small little things that I can absolutely do myself. I understand that him wanting to take care of me is a sign of love, not of insult. He doesn't think I am less capable because I don't have time to do the laundry between the two jobs and chasing these dreams. He doesn't judge me when I crawl into bed after a thirteen hour shift, smelling of a mixture of Balsamic and Ranch, and fall out. To him, I am the most amazing person he has ever met. I give to him freely because I want to, not because he demands it of me. He gives to me because he wants to, not because I need it. Most importantly though? I understand that me not being able to do everything is not weakness. I once thought that flowers were stupid, a sign of stupid girl neediness that I didn't want a part of, but it's nice to come home to a bouquet of roses on my dining room table. It's nice to have a door opened for me but I don't need it. I don't seek it. If he never brings me flowers or opens a door for me, that would be fine... but it's nice to sometimes to be taken care of, too.
I can't leap buildings. I can't see through walls or fly (much to my dismay). I can't be in five places at once (though I will never stop trying). There are things that I am physically incapable of doing. I got bad knees and creaky hips and my eyes don't see so well these days. I am getting older but I am also becoming wiser. There are things about this life that I understand more clearly now every day. I am not the same Hero I was when I was a kid. I'm not even the same Hero I was when I was a young woman but I am who I am and I am proud of who I have become. I work hard. I try hard. I give hard. Sometimes too hard. Sometimes I find myself filling a Tea and find myself angry at the place I have landed but it's a moment. Moments pass. After a long day, I can sit down with myself, knowing that all of this has a purpose even being treated poorly. I will always rise above it. I accept that I have a purpose. This version of Hero, this soft and tough version of good intentions, sits in this seat for a reason. I am a woman, this woman, and I don't want to be anyone else. Maybe I'll never be a size two again. Maybe I'll never learn how to fly. Who cares? I've still got my cardboard bracelets. At the end of the day, I'm still a dreamer. I'm still a Hero. I am who I am, indeed.
Sometimes the idea for a blog comes from something I dream about or an experience that I have during my daily life. It isn't always initially clear what the point is but I sit on it for awhile. I let it roll around my brain, mull it over for a bit. I allow myself to look at this life from all angles. I dissect other people's actions, try to figure out their intentions. And then? Yes, and then I take a long, hard look at myself. The other night I had a dream where someone was scolding a younger, much more bitter version of myself. I was this younger version of me while still being someone watching the scene unfold. I instantly became protective of that younger me, yelling at this person to let her be. These words still ring in my ears as if I actually spoke them. I said to that nasty person, "Leave her alone. There is value even in the worst parts of us." I woke up that morning with those words on my lips, swimming around in my head. I let them be, allowed them to find their own meaning, and then turned them on myself. It's what introverts do. We over analyze the simplest of statements. I started thinking about that younger, much more bitter version of myself, questioned why I was so angry, knowing quite clearly the answer to that but not having any regrets with the means I took to protect myself. That morning I got up and went to an old familiar and had a cup of coffee with myself, still with that dream very much on my mind. I looked around me, felt the memories take a seat at my table one by one. I smiled at the girl in the Catholic school girl uniform with her shirt untucked and hair a mess because she refused to follow the dress code. And I embraced the broken young woman who hesitantly took a seat beside me without a word. Then I held the hand of that bitter version of me, telling her that her anger was valid because I knew no one else ever would. Finally I touched my face, older now, and I whispered to myself that there was value in me, too, just the way that I am. That morning, sitting at that table alone yet surrounded by all these versions of who I was, I finally understood what I've always known but wouldn't allow myself to accept.
There are things in this world that make us question who we are. They make us second guess what we are about. We fight these battles that we think are about one thing when what they end up being about is nothing at all. There was a time in my life when I wanted to make everyone happy regardless of the cost to myself. And, to be fair, there was a time in my life when I just didn't give a shit about anyone's happiness, not even my own. I thought that if I made you smile, then my pain would be eased. I assumed that if I bent over backwards for you, then I would be rewarded. I naively thought that somehow the cosmos were going to take care of me but when I wasn't? When I wasn't, I stopped wanting anyone to be happy. There was a time in my life where I sat in my room in the dark and never wanted to see anyone's light ever again because I thought I wasn't worth it. I allowed the world around me to make me feel as if I wasn't worth it. I fell silent and buried myself in journals. I lost myself in a way that I didn't know if I could find my way back. When people looked at me, I knew they did not see me. What they saw was my flaws, my weakness, how dirty I felt inside. My value was based on what others thought of me or what I thought they thought of me. Today I still fight those same battles. That girl that wants to run to a dark room and never come out is still very much a part of me. It's why I have a tough time in a crowd. It's why I find it difficult to be around people even for a long period of time. It's why I still cringe at a touch. It's why I grow angry when people come at me in a way that makes me feel threatened. I know how to quiet her now. I have love in my life now that soothes those feelings but I didn't always... but what I can understand is that there is value in that part of me, too. Sometimes I don't always know how to say no. I still want to make everyone around me happy. I want to fix your problem, ease your pain, make you smile. Sometimes I don't know how to accept that I'm not always the answer to the world's problems. So, when I realize I'm putting myself too far out there on a limb that won't hold me, the girl who wants to run for shelter is the part of me that always pulls me back to safety. In her worst, her best is what kept me standing.
In my life, I have been surrounded by many and among no one. I have felt the best of people and been at the wrong of end of the worst. I have succeeded and failed, rejoiced and felt forsaken. I have allowed people to walk all over me just as much as I have withstood being trampled. In all of these, I have learned valuable lessons about who I want to be. It made me remind myself that I am just as valuable today as I ever was before. I am not perfect and I make mistakes, plenty of them. I can own the darker parts of me with love, understanding that those dark spots are like wrinkles, reminders of this life I have lived. One day I will be an old woman with liver spots, hopefully with glorious, long white hair. I will sit in my rocker, talking nonsense about the good old days as my husband hands me my teeth because I'm scaring the grandchildren. I will tell them about the time I fell off my friend's car because I was being stupid. I will tell them how I broke my knee cap in half and never went to the doctor because I was too stubborn. I will giggle to them about the city my brother and I made up that was in the toilet when we were kids. And, yes, I will tell the times I didn't always do the right thing, how I failed and how I hurt other people. I will own the doors I slammed and I will regret the hearts I broke. Yes, I will tell them in all my honesty that my life was a patchwork of good intentions that were sometimes soured with wrongdoings. And I will be proud because my value will be in every stitch of the life I will have led. I am not perfect. No matter who I was, I have never been perfect. What I forget sometimes is that I am just as valuable as everyone else even at my worst. In that dream the other night, I think I was trying to tell myself that. It just took me sitting down with some old ghosts to remember.