It feels like I've had all this extra time lately but none of it has been spent sitting down and doing what I love to do. I get these bugs up my butt where I must clean everything, must set myself free from the stuff that accumulates that I ignore for a long time. Maybe it's because this year I've dealt with so much loss. Maybe it's my way of letting go of my father and my sweet puppy by ridding my house of all the stuff that I realize doesn't mean that much at the end of the day. What did matter was my father and the relationship I had with him while he was still here. What does matter is that I gave Sherra the best life I could. I realize my way of dealing with anything tragic is to clean, to purge myself, to keep myself insanely busy, to not sit down and write when it is too much to bare. I know the minute I sit down with pen in hand or fingers on keyboard all the feelings I wasn't allowing myself to feel will come pouring out. I've known this for awhile but things are catching up to me. Usually I'd be pretty pissed off at these feelings but I can't be angry and I'm tired of being sad. I gave myself projects this week, goals to reach to make my life run smoother and to make myself feel better. I realized this week that maybe it's time I just relax. For the first time in my life, I gave myself the OK to just sit down now and then.
When I was a kid, I watched my parents work and struggle and work some more. Every day they came home they were exhausted because they had so much on their plate. They had bills to pay and obligations to keep and four children always on their heels needing something. I watched as my father struggled to keep a job for a few years, to find a job in his later years. I watched my mother carry the burden of our family's well being on her aching back even when she had not the energy to keep going. I saw them stress to pay for a private school education for all of us even we told them they didn't have to do that. I can't tell you how many times I volunteered to go to public school. Now was that to benefit them? No, I was a kid who just didn't want to wear a dumb plaid skirt. But there were times when I saw my father sit down with a beer and fall asleep to a Cubs game. And I saw the joy in my mother's eyes when she was baking cookies just to bake cookies. I just never saw them relax very often. We grow up sometimes carrying with us more of our parents than we think. We don't know that as many of the amazing qualities our parents have, we also inherit so many of their bad behaviors as well. I procrastinate like my father. I need to take care of everyone like my mother. I need to move constantly some days and others? Well, others I make it to the bathroom and that's about it. I understand now life is more complicated than that. Being a grown up is not simple. It's not that hard. It's not that much fun sometimes. There is always something to do, to take care of, to worry about. Can't a girl catch a break? The answer will always be no.
Over the last few weeks, I've been observing life and the people around me more. With all this cleaning and putting my life in order, I have had more time to dissect the world around me. I enjoy watching people, the way they behave, the conclusions they come to. I like to figure out what makes people tick, what inspires them to be better, what pushes them to be worse. I want to optimize my life and sometimes that involves inspiring your surroundings. I think of my parents and their many jobs that they couldn't stand. I think of how they could never relax and just enjoy the moments when they were in them because of the amount of stress they endured. And I watch people around me who have to deal with far less run around frazzled like chickens without heads. I'm not judging. I've been there. I still have my moments when I still live there. Carrying the world on your shoulders regardless of what that world contains is still a bummer. I don't know the moment I decided that I was done stressing over the parts of life I cannot control. I know that when I stopped working a million hours a week I was able to see clearly the damage I was doing to myself. I know that when I allowed myself to sit down and look around my house I saw the disarray I had let my life become. It wasn't the stuff lying around. Life generally has little do with the stuff we leave lying around. I was my mother, working too hard and not once taking a moment for myself. I was my father, wanting so much for the world to approve of me and paralyzed at the thought of not being enough.
There are so many things in this life we cannot control. There will always be circumstances that are what they are. I get nasty tables sometimes (in both places because people are people). The way that people speak to me, treat me, interact with me can be pretty disgusting. It's unfortunately part of the job. Should I take it? No, but there is always a way to diffuse but I can't control their actions towards me. The only thing I can do is control the way I respond. Sometimes I am able to take the higher ground. Sometimes I am not. And other times I simply must walk away. The things that people get upset about are perplexing sometimes but, hey, we are who we are. When I was younger, my mother used to tell me that I was born in the wrong generation. I was a hippy child who believed in love and wanted peace and, hey man, let's just all get along. She's right. I probably belong more in that generation than I do in Generation X. We all should just get along. Yes, we should all look to love to find the answers before ever thinking about hate. Life took me away from that girl for awhile. I became bitter, angry, sarcastic, skeptical. The only thing I could see in front of me was everything that the world wanted out of me. Take care of the kid. Take care of the husband. Take care of the friends. Don't be a turd at work. Always say yes. Always say yes... and then I said no. I said no and I sat down and I sighed. I sighed at the sight I had become. I wasn't able to see me because I put as much clutter in front of me as possible. I sat down and gave myself permission to relax, to let it go, to let it all go. I realized this week that I wasn't the same girl I was a year ago. I think I had been scared to admit that because by admitting that it meant that I really had to accept his death. I said no and laughed because I realized all these tiny things that we stress about don't matter that much at the end of the day. I think of my father sitting up in heaven with my dog, both eating french fries. I think about how he's smiling and my pup's tail wagging, the joy in her little paws. I think that someday I will be with them both, telling my dad about all the life I lived after he passed on and playing peekaboo with Sherra like we used to when she was a puppy. And I realize however important stuff is right now, life is fleeting. The bills I can't pay won't matter. The weight I struggle to lose will be null and void. All these things that weigh heavy on my heart now will be lifted when I take my last breath.
Yeah, I know this took a sort of depressing twist but it's not like that. We all just need to relax. We need to look around us now and embrace the life that is right in front of us instead of worrying so much about all those things that we cannot control. Life is wonderful, a wonderful struggle bus that sometimes runs off the road. In these last few weeks, I saw the horizon for the first time in a long time. What I realized is that when you allow the detours in life to happen, you are able to see yourself in the most brilliant light. Relax. Life happens.
I'm a huge observer of people. I like to watch the way they move through their lives, the way they handle conflict, the way they celebrate their happiness. Human nature is an amazing phenomenon because while there are a million similarities between us all, there is also huge differences between us as well. We all understand joy and sorrow. We all feel loss and the beauty of the things we gain through out our lives. We understand the concept of kindness, how to treat each other with compassion, how to love the other for the fact that we are not the same. I had an interesting experience last night, one in which I never want to revisit again but I am a person of reflection. I do believe that there is a lesson in everything we experience. Sometimes you have to wade your way through the bullshit to find the message. Sometimes you have to look past yourself to see what the world is trying to tell you. I like to think that as people we are basically good but sometimes I admit I get very disgruntled and frustrated. I can't see clearly when I get distraught because someone did me wrong, not in the moment at least. I understand the way that I handle conflict is not the way everyone else does. I understand that I am naturally a peacemaker and not one to stir the pot, at least not anymore.
Last night I dealt with a situation where it made it very clear that no matter what I was doing, it was not going to be my night. And the situation made it very clear at the end of the night that I was fighting a losing battle because sometimes no matter what you do, you just won't walk away a winner. Sure, that sounds a bit defeatest, I understand that. But because of this situation, this morning I woke up and realized something out about myself. I don't like confrontation. That's nothing new. I've never really liked confrontation. I realized how differently I handle it now then when I did years ago when I was full of spit and vinegar. There are battles to fight and there are battles to walk away from. Last night was definitely a case of walking away because really what good would it have done to tell these people how disrespectful they were to me? None because they wouldn't get it and it's cool. You can't change a tiger's stripes. All I can do is take care of mine. The other option was to go find a corner and cry because really what else was there to do? And at the end of the day, while the tears would have released tension, it would not have changed the situation. So, this morning as I was at work doing my thing, I did a lot of thinking (because I never stop reflecting) and I started thinking about all the ways we handle confrontation when someone does us wrong. I took care of my tables and understood that people's actions are their own. My reaction was the only thing I could control.
My husband likes to solve a problem immediately. When he gets angry or when someone does him a disservice, he wants to sit down and talk about it right then. He wants to fix whatever it is that is broken. Last night he saw the tears in my eyes and wanted so desperately to wash them away but the only thing he could do was let me be because I am not like him. I can't fix what is wrong in the moment. I can't voice to you what is upsetting me in the moment it is upsetting me. I am at a loss of words. I know I must allow myself to feel the hurt, the anger in order for me to truly understand what I am upset about, how I am supposed to fix it. There are people in this world that want to call you out and work out the problem before they can move on exactly when it happens. And there are people that need to digest it, reflect upon it, really figure out what the best solution is. Sometimes the solution isn't always the obvious one. I can appreciate my husband's way of facing a problem head on. I can admire his passion. In a way, I wish that same sort of passion still burned inside of me. I don't know if it is just because the way that I am or if it is because there is a part of me that is afraid of confrontation. The thought of making someone else uncomfortable makes me anxious even if you did me wrong. I just have never been able to take myself out of a situation enough to approach someone in that way. I always put myself in their shoes. And while that is a commendable trait to have, it is also pretty detrimental at times. There have been people in my life that have hurt me that I've never confronted. There have been things that happened in my life that I've never had any resolution to. I used to get pretty angry about that. Not at them, at myself because why am I incapable of standing up for myself when I should? And while the answer is still not clear, this is what I have realized about myself. Sometimes nothing good comes out of beating your chest. And while there are times I probably should have said enough is enough, I have no regrets that my feet did the best they could and took me out of the situation.
Confrontation, this word that contains such a negative undertone to it at times, is the difference between us. While some are fearless, others take the quieter path. Both are fine, one not any worse than other. Some are extremes of the others. We all handle being hurt in our own way. We all handle anger in our own way. Is there a right way? No, this concept of being right is relative. I watch my husband stand up for the underdog. I love the way he roars when he thinks someone is being done wrong. In a way, he is all those things that I am not. And in that way, we compliment each other. I know that my softer ways have rubbed off on him. I want to embrace the world. I want to think that when you hurt me it's not because of me but because of something out there that hurt you. And, yes, that can be just as detrimental as pumping your chest up at a giant. Last night after it was all said and done, he looked at me and said, "Did you just want me to let you be mad?" Truth of it is, yes, I did. Not because I wanted to be mad but because it is the way I digest, it is the only way I know how to figure out what it was that really pissed me off. I apologized because I removed myself from the situation. I removed myself because I knew that remaining there would only push me further down that dark hole. I removed myself because I know myself well enough that I am not a confrontational person. I would rather walk away with two red cheeks then to throw my fists in the air. We all handle this world in our own way. I would like to think that we could hold each other accountable but sometimes it's not our battle to fight. And while some will, I understand I won't. Today after much introspection, I realized the message through the bullshit. It's not about what to fight. It's about when to fight.
I was sitting with my daughter tonight, having a nice dinner. I was looking at her in that mother way, full of pride and exasperation. Before my eyes, this child has gone from that tiny baby that once lived inside of me to a beautiful young lady on the brink of the start of her amazing journey. And then tonight as I sat here and worked on some older poems to put into my next great Poetry collection, I came across these poems that I wrote for her when she was just a toddler. I thought back to that time when she was so little, so small, comparing it to where she is now. I wondered to myself how did so much time pass? How did this darling girl grow up so fast? Life moves so quickly. Before I know it, my job as her caretaker will be over and off she will go into that big world where, right now, everything seems possible. I was reading a poem about how she thought I was amazing, how she wanted to grow up to be just like me. The thought of that is foreign to her now, wanting to be anything like me because that's what teenage girls think. What a terrible thought to grow up to be just like their mother's, right? She is no different. I thought the same thing but the older I got, the wiser I became, I understood how much I wanted to be like my mother. I wanted her strength, her kindness, her ability to smile even through the hardest of times.
When my daughter was small, it was easy to be a parent. Sure, it was exhausting because I was always the one to be in charge. I was the one who had to say no to that one more cookie but those were easy decisions to make. She was a good kid, one of the best. She was sweet and cuddly and full of smiles. I was her world and she followed my lead. It was us against the world. All we needed was each other and everything else was butter. She was a silly, little kid. She would be sad and all I would have to do to make her smile was to tell her to stick 'em up and then tickle those tiny arms. She would cry and all I would have to do was open my arms and she would come running, burying her head in the crook of my neck. There she was safe. There she didn't have to be scared of the monsters under her bed. We would sing silly songs about poopie diapers. We would jump in baths with our clothes on. We would turn the radio up real loud and drive down the street, belting our lungs on to the Lion King soundtrack. If she wanted cream cheese for dinner, well, that's what she got. If she wanted to eat a whole stick of butter for kicks, I certainly would allow it because she was a kid and I wanted her to enjoy every part of her childhood. She had a father who wasn't around for the first seven years of her life. I guess in many ways I was trying to make up that void by letting her do these tiny little things that would make her happy. Wasn't the world going to be hard enough on her later in life? I wanted her to have the fun childhood memories that I had growing up. I wanted her to look back at us and smile, knowing that she was loved. It was easy to be her mommy back then. I was a rock, her rock, and she never had to worry about anything outside of our doors because I had it. No matter what. I had it. And as life goes, I became more and more like my own mother. It was hard being a single parent, being everything to this one small person who depended solely on me but it was my pleasure. So, I laughed with her even though the bills were piling up. I smiled with her even though I was lonely. My life was perfect because I was her mother, the greatest role I've ever had to play.
Tonight, sitting across that table from her, I saw all the time that had passed. We don't jump into bathtubs any more with our clothes on. My poop jokes don't go over quite as well as they once did. I am met with eye rolls now more than smiles. And those arms that she once ran to for safety? Yeah, they are left hanging more often than not. Now what I say no to isn't about having another cookie or staying up to watch one more Hey! Arnold! Now it's about going out with friends, hanging out with boys, driving cars. Now these decisions are more complicated. She has an entire life that doesn't include me, that will continue to grow without me. I've often thought that I was a better mother to her when she was younger than I am now. I say that mostly joking but there is truth in it. I read a million parenting guides when she was younger (to which I then threw away immediately and did my own thing) but no one tells you how difficult raising a teenager is. They don't tell you how difficult it is to guide your teenagers without telling them what to do. My daughter asked me tonight how many boys I kissed and I laughed. Really, I have no idea. Don't judge. We all sow our oats. I told her what I did didn't matter because she was a completely different person than me. Not just because we are two different people but because she is really is a much different kid than I was. While I was more reserved, she is far more outgoing. I received an eye roll, of course. I told her that she needed to always carry herself with dignity and integrity. I told she should never compromise herself. As far as boys went, they need to do some work. It was a conversation I never had with my own mother. It made me happy that though she no longer laughed at my jokes any more we could have an open conversation about relationships, about friends, about life now and to come. I know she thinks I'm full of it right now and that's all right. I thought the same thing about my own parents. We all do. I guess in my head she was going to somehow stay that cream cheesed face little girl standing in my kitchen.
I know a lot of my friends now who are just starting to have children. I see these young families where I work. I see the exhaustion in their faces because they are going on a mere hour of sleep because the baby is teething or the toddler refuses to sit in her high chair because she needs to move around. I see the frustration that I once felt when my daughter was younger. The kids won't listen. The parents have no time for themselves. Their house is crazy and there is always a million things to do. I recently read an article about a young family who went to the beach with their two young children. They were struggling because one kid was crying, afraid of the sand and refusing to go any further. The other was a baby being carried while the parents were both carrying the million things that people seem to think they need with children down this windy beach. A man stops the woman and says, "Those were the days." I remember when my girl was young. I couldn't afford the fancy toys, the snazzy playpens, the expensive diaper bag. I had my hip and an old purse that I had bought at Wal-Mart for twenty bucks. I carried an extra pacifier and one tiny stuffed animal that she clung to. And if she got upset because she needed something, I figured it out and used what was around me. I thought about that article and the memories I had of being a very young mother and he was right. Those were the days. I had very little money to my name, very little idea of what I was doing, felt like the entire world was riding on my shoulders but those were the days.
Sometimes I don't know the right thing to do as her mother. I'm not always quite sure if what I am telling her is the best thing to tell her. I've never known if the choices I've made have been what was best for in the long run but I've always known that the choices I have made were the best I could make at the time. I may have not been able to give her everything she always wanted. Honestly I'm glad I've never been able to give her everything she's ever wanted. It makes for a better person in the end. We have to know what wanting feels like, to know what it's like to not get what we want. It teaches us how to be humble, how to be down to earth. And sometimes I look at this kid when she does something that she should know not to do, wondering where I went wrong and understanding that I didn't. I know a part of being a parent is letting your kids fall down, allowing them to make mistakes even if I think she should know better. It will be the only way she will learn how to be a functional, kind adult. I don't get to do those fun little things that we used to do when she was little. I don't get to put something on my face and ask her if there is anything on my nose to make her giggle like I used to. I don't get to curl up with her at night on the couch and watch some silly show, both falling asleep like we used to. I don't get to be the hero that I once was to her. It's a hard to thing to accept as a mother, knowing that just pushing a piece of hair out of her face might cause the next world war. It's a hard thing to know that I can't make her smile the way I once did. When she was little, she would watch Gilmore Girls with me. My mother always told me that was how my daughter and I were going to be when she grew up. I always liked the thought of that. In a way, I guess that's the way I've always pictured us being as she got older. And now that she is about Rory's age when the show started, I think we're well on our way. On my birthday, my daughter sent me a text message. It said, "Thanks for being the Lora Lei to my Rory." And I thought maybe these are the days, too :)
I feel like lately the topic of change has been a very popular theme in my writing. I suppose that is fair because what is life if isn't change? Tomorrow is no different. Tomorrow will mark 37 years that I have been a member of this planet. I suppose it is fairly normal for one to be retrospective when this time of year comes along. We look back at when we were young, the beauty of our youth and the foolishness that we lived our lives by. We take stock of all those things that we learned as young adults, believing we had it all figured out but knowing that every time our lives fell apart all we wanted to do was to go running back to our parents. And then we reach our thirties, that age where as children we thought was ancient and we realize how wonderful it is to not feel so incredibly confused all the time. We understand that our parents now much older or, as my father, are no longer with us and we can't go running back to them when once again something comes along and shakes us at our core. We figure out how to stand on our own, how to fail gracefully, how to keep pushing forward with a quiet strength that suddenly we grew without knowing. Tomorrow marks a birthday, not a landmark, but a birthday just the same. In the same way it makes me look back at where I have been, good and bad. My life parades across these eyes that now have a cataract and a stigmatism. It creaks in my left knee like it has creaked since I was twelve because life, these lives that we live, stick with us.
Last night I was standing outside with my husband after work. There had been a bit of a disagreement between him and another person. He was trying to do something kind and the other person did not receive it the way he intended. It made me think of who I used to be, of that angry girl who thought the world owed me something, who carried so much anger that it pushed so many people away from me that just wanted to help. For a long time in my life, I lived my life as a victim, thinking that the world was just out to get to me. Look at the horrible place I had landed. Look whose fault it was. Just look at what I had become I would say to myself in the mirror. We grow so easily swayed by the dark. It's part of life. It's part of being human. Tonight I look back at that part of my life, accepting that was a lesson I was meant to learn. I needed to go through that very dark place in order to love my light for exactly how bright I was. There wasn't a certain thing that happened that made me understand that the world owed me anything. There wasn't this magical moment when I understood the difference between being a victim and becoming a survivor. As I grew, tiny pieces of my life came back together. As the days passed and I watched my daughter grow, I realized that me and the world were even. As she danced and giggled, I got it. For as much heart ache as the world threw at me, look at that beautiful ray of sunshine with the big brown eyes that smiled at me, too. It's all relative. It's all what you take from it. It's all what you make out of the puddles that can become lakes.
And then I watch my fifteen year old daughter, listen to her trials and celebrate her triumphs, bringing me back to those strange teenage years. I was tough, stubborn, full of shit. I had a clear direction of where my life was going to take me. I didn't take into account the pebbles that I would stumble upon along the way. Why would I? At that age we are clueless to the reality of the world. The thought of being bowled over, being pushed around, having to make actual hard choices were ridiculous thoughts. I was young, bright, and ready to take on a million armies. There was no failure. There was no such thing as failing. I have often imagined what it would be like to end up at coffee shop, sitting at a table, drinking coffee with the younger version of me. What would I tell her? What would I warn her about? What advice would I possibly give to her to help her avoid the painful parts of my life that I had lived through? Would she listen? And I know clearly enough that she wouldn't. She would look at me and laugh, telling me that she already knows she's the best and that nothing was ever going to take that away from her. It makes me smile to think of that scenario. It makes me proud of the confidence that once ran through these bones. I guess it makes me a little sad, too, that I don't stand quite as tall. I've come a long way from that willful girl. I've become a much softer, kinder person but I think that has always been in me. And in a way I am much braver than that young girl I once was because now I am not afraid to be vulnerable. I'm not afraid to be just a girl. I understand that I have nothing to prove.
Something happened when I hit my thirties. I know I've made that statement before. It's probably one of the most truthful statements I've ever written. At some point, the noise in my head didn't buzz quite as loudly. Somewhere along the way my hands stopped fidgeting as much, my eyes no longer darted so quickly. As I was standing outside with my husband last night, I realized as he rubbed my back that a large part of him saved a part of me that I had thought I had lost. He said to me that he was thankful that he could help me become the woman I was supposed to be. There were parts of my life that have left scars, constant reminders of who I had to become to survive. And though these scars will never go away, somehow this man found a way to make me shine brighter than them. I can look back at that bright, happy child that I used to be, the one who loved to draw and to sing songs about Care Bears, and remember the hope that my tiny hands held. I can remember that stubborn, intelligent, no nonsense teenage girl I once was and still feel her energy pulse through me the way it did when I stood up for every underdog that came my way, still feel her energy that was so determined to stand on her own feet. And as much as my tragedies still ache like a bad knee when it's about to rain, I can appreciate the humility of the lessons I learned. It's part of growing up. It's part of life because while life doesn't stay the same, neither do we. Tomorrow I will have been living in this skin for 37 years. My hair isn't quite as red. My eyes don't quite see as well. My hips probably will be replaced sooner than I thought. That's the point of life. We grow and we age and we learn. I know that every day of my last 37 years, good and bad, is still a part of me. I accept that my life, every breath I have taken will always stick with me. To me, it is the most brilliant inspiration I have.
Wednesday is my birthday. I will be turning 85 years old... or 37. So far my husband had gotten me 2 presents and I know there is at least 2 more coming. Plus he is taking me out for a night just the two of us. I couldn't be more appreciative. So, I was sitting here, watching some random movie and fighting a headache that I've been fighting all day, thinking about how lucky I really am. My husband tells me often how lucky he is to have a woman like who tolerates so much, who works so hard, who always gives so much of myself without ever asking for anything in return. He knows I don't particularly like being fawned over but also knows that every now and then I need a very low key pat on the back. We all do. Some need huge signs of appreciation, a parade in their honor. And others just need a smile as their putting the laundry in the dryer, just a little sign that they see what they do when no one is looking. Both are just fine and perfectly acceptable.
Mother's Day just happened. I know I was a little more aggressive than I intended to be but my point still stands. As a mother, we do so much stuff that we think goes unnoticed but then that one day a year comes and we are flooded with the thank yous and I have loved every single one of them. Father's Day is coming and we will do the same to our fathers and that's all good, too. I guess my point is sometimes I don't understand why we can't show more appreciation for each other every day. Why must we wait for one specific day to tell each other how much they make our life easier? I get it. We're busy. We all lead these lives that pull us in a million different directions. We take care of people and ourselves that require a lot of energy so it is easy to let the thank yous get lost in translation. It is easy to just assume that my husband will take the trash out or clean the litter box and not think anything of it because that's what he does but I should tell him thank you more. I should tell him that by him taking care of those things, it makes my life easier because it does.
I work in an industry that requires me to take care of other people. That's just the way it is and that's all right. It's hard work and, in it's own way, a very straight forward job. Someone wants a Sweet Tea so I get it. No fuss, no muss. Often I come across people who take a job like serving as a statement of my worth. Truth is some of the hardest working, kindest people I have ever met have been in this industry. They are not dumb or incapable. They are just better equipped to tolerate people in general and that, my friends, is an acquired skill. Often there is no thanks in a job like serving or behind a counter of some sort. So often people demand but don't understand how under appreciated that person handing you the hamburger at midnight really are. I'm not writing this blog as a call for action for the service industry by any means. Believe you me I've been through enough drive thrus with less than friendly attitudes but, hey, we're all human. My point is sometimes we often forget to say thank you for the smallest of actions. If we could just take a step back and take a look at people, we would see how much we really do for each other no matter what your job is. And sometimes it's that lack of appreciation that pushes people in a different direction. My life has taken some twists lately. I can be honest enough to say that part of the reason I decided to go left instead of right was because I was feeling under appreciated. I write these words with no malice. Sometimes it is what it is. I felt the appreciation from one person who matters a lot to me and I was grateful that she recognized but her appreciation wasn't going to change the way the other person was going to continuously take advantage. Sometimes in life you have to realize your own worth.
It is not hard to say thank you when someone does something kind for you. It is not hard to take a moment and give someone a pat on the back for doing something well. I come across a lot of people during my day when I work. I meet all sorts of characters. It's one of the perks and downfalls of working in an industry where you have to deal with the public. It's not the people who are rude, who act as if they are entitled to that extra mayonnaise package that I remember. I remember the man at C2 who looked at me with an amazing kindness in his eyes, who genuinely thanked me that make working in a job like this matter. It's the nice couple who came in with their daughter who asked about my family that make a job like this worth it. It wasn't necessarily because they were kind really. It was because I could see how much they truly appreciated my service. I could see how much they honestly cared about me as a person because we all need to feel like we matter as people. Maybe we don't all need parades. Maybe some of us need more than just a nod. We should say thank you more. We should look at our friends and tell them how much we appreciate every time they are there for us, every time they talk us down or build us up. We should hug our spouses and tell them how much we appreciate the support we get when we have to make hard choices, when they clean schmaltz off our shirts, when they tuck hair behind our ears. We should look at our kids and hug them, tell them how much appreciate them even if we have to yell at them a million times to throw away the 5 water bottles that have been laying on the couch for a week. We should thank strangers for holding open doors for us, for picking up the paper that we dropped waiting in line at Target. These things, these tiny little things, that we think go unnoticed all pile up. My husband told me yesterday that all these little things I do for him, for her, for us, for everyone that are in our lives don't go unnoticed. I don't need to hear those words all the time but I couldn't appreciate them any more than I do. Sometimes a simple thank you goes a long way. Sometimes a nod is all we have to say.
This year has been trials and triumphs, celebrations and heartbreaks. I haven't much time to stop and think about these things, so focused I have been on moving forward that I couldn't see what was in front of me. And now here I am, starting over again because what was once good for me no longer offered the same sort of inspiration. How many times have I started over in my life? It's hard to count. How many more times will I leave something behind to start something fresh? One can never be sure but I do know that starting over sometimes is necessary. It's not because what was became inherently bad or because it just got boring. We get stuck. We get comfortable and we lose our drive to learn. This week I left that place that became my home for almost four years. Was it because I was unhappy? Was it because I needed something it could no longer give me? And there is no simple answer to those questions because it was a lot of different things. In this last year, I lost my father. In this last week, I lost my trusty companion of 16 years. In three years, my daughter will be all grown up. And here's the answer to those questions the best I can give them. I am heart broken, just simply heart broken.
Here are some inherent truths about the last four years. I learned that I am far tougher than I even thought before. I realized that my heart, for as closed off as I like to believe I keep it, is far too giant for me to hold back. I know that the amount of love I put out into the world I receive back, much more than I ever thought I would. The end of this chapter did not come because I couldn't find what I was looking for. It came because I needed to heal, needed to put back these broken pieces that losing my father left behind, needed to retreat back into myself to let go of the best friend I ever had. And though I was surrounded by an incredible amount of love and support, I know myself well enough that sometimes I need to step away and find a new path to allow myself to focus on myself. The truth of the matter is I don't know how to take care of me if I care too much about everyone else around me. I watched my mother as a young girl take care of everyone around her, giving little thought to herself. I learned how to be selfless because this woman who kissed my scrapes and kissed my forehead at night. I don't know if I meant to grow up to be like her. I don't know if it is just something that I unknowingly mimicked but I do know that I couldn't be prouder of this trait. My husband often tells me that my kindness, as wonderful as it is, is my Achilles's heel. He's right but I would rather be too kind then carelessly harsh.
So I said goodbye to another chapter of my life and started a new one. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last. I know that as much as I struggled with the decision to leave a place that welcomed me so openly it was the right decision to start over. I am naturally introverted. I naturally prefer to sit in my own company. Maybe it's because for years that was just what my life was, a very lonely one. Maybe I just got used to being by myself, working through my problems by myself. Maybe I'm just too damn stubborn and don't really know how to accept help. All of them could be very true or I'm just blowing smoke right now but it doesn't matter. I have a tendency to push away when I feel lost, when I feel like I'm not quite sure what to do, when I feel conflicted. I don't want you to have to bear the burden, my burden. So, no, I won't talk about my father very often. I probably won't talk about Sherra very openly for awhile now either. I will sit down at this computer and I will write it out. Maybe you will read it. Maybe you won't. Either way, this is where I leave it and move on, move on to another new beginning.
We start over because every now and then we need a reboot. Sometimes we start over because we have no other choice. I left a job because I had nothing else to give. I left a job because inside I'm not all right but I will be. I started a new place with new people to help let go of the residue, good and bad, away so I could rediscover those rainbows and butterflies that have been in hiding over the last year. One of the girls looked at me with tears in her eyes on Wednesday, telling me that there would be no more voice of reason there when I left. Through my tears, I gave her a hug and told her that with me gone, a new voice of reason would be heard. That's the way life is. Cycles we live and cycles we move on. I was just passing the baton. Starting over is frightening. Stepping into something brand new is nerve racking. Will I be fine? Will I fail? Will I regret leaving? Or will it make me happier than I've been in awhile? And I don't know the answer to any of those questions. Honestly, the answers don't much matter. What matters is what I do from here on out. What matters is that I allow myself to truly heal from these heart breaks that I've been running from for the last year. I know. To some it doesn't make sense but life doesn't make sense. We're all just kind of figuring it out as we go along regardless of how old or young we are. I know that a piece of every place I have been, a part of every person I have met will stay with me as I go along. They become a part of my foundation, both the rocky parts and the sunrises. I know in this new chapter of my life everything I have learned will still be with me. I know that in this new chapter as I take time to put my Humpty back together again, there will be pieces of them in there, too. We struggle but the beautiful part out of change is what we learn. Sometimes the outcome is something far more beautiful than we ever imagined.
I was lucky enough to spend the day with my beautiful teenage daughter. I joked with people that the best gift the kid could give me was for her not to roll her eyes at me today or talk back in any sort of way. And you know what? The kid delivered :) Not once did I get an eye roll or a disagreement. We didn't argue about the dumb little things that we usually argue about because, as her mother, I try to veer her away from the disastrous choices that I made as an youth even though I know she will do the exact same thing I did years ago. It's all a part of growing up, this twisted learning process of right and wrong, of wearing pants that she doesn't quite fit into yet but she will. I woke up this morning to a message from my mother to us four kids. It was a beautiful song about being a mother and watching your kids grow up and how in the moment there is chaos. Your life is consumed by these tiny creatures that somehow your body created and in the moment all you can see is the struggle of just simply keeping them alive... but then something happens and before you know it your babies aren't babies anymore. Those trips where you thought they would never stop singing the same song over and over again would never end finally ended, leaving you feeling lost. Though you couldn't wait for them to learn a new song, somehow when they do it's a lonely feeling. Today I got to spend the day with my girl, just her and me and a couple of coffees. We talked about life, what she's been doing and what I've been doing. We talked about the old days when it was just her and me and Sherra. We talked about tomorrow, her plans and my changes. I've always wished for more kids but I look at her and understand how incredibly fortunate I was to have her.
We had coffee and we had lunch and then we went and saw a movie. All of these things involved some quality people watching. My daughter started talking about who I used to be when she was a little girl. She said that she remembered me being head strong, not as patient as I am now. She said she remembered me just being a bit rougher around the edges and when my husband came along I became a nicer person. And she was absolutely right about it all. Before my husband, I was a single mother with limited time and limited emotions to share. My world was this kid, every part of my soul and my spirit and my heart was there to protect her. It never left me much to spare to the people around me. It wasn't because I didn't want to but taking care of another human being when you are both the mother and the father is gut wrenching. The conversation made me laugh honestly because it isn't like that sassy young woman that I once was is gone. She's just undercover as some like to say. So, me and my kid sat and we watched the other people around me and for kicks I let that sassy young woman I used to be out for a minute. I thought let's take us back to a time when I wasn't afraid to stand my ground for the one thing in the world that meant a damn. We watched people, their actions and their choices, laughing and shaking our heads.
And you would think I'd be writing a blog today on Mother's Day about mothers and I am but in my own way, in my own round about way. We watched women around us become entitled because today it was their day, because they birthed a child which means they could behave any way they want to. I've never understood that mentality. Maybe it's because I'm a person that doesn't particularly like the spot light. Maybe because I'm more of an introvert. Maybe it's because I just don't think all the fluff is necessary. I don't understand mistreating people in order to celebrate someone else. And, hey, to each their own. My daughter and I were the first one in the theater today. We picked the perfect seats. The movie theater started to fill up and people started to pile in around us. There was two seats to my left between us and another couple. A woman and her two companions come in and ask us to move down. The two chairs to my left were broken but I moved. Yes, I moved. The woman and her companions then began to talk smack about my daughter's phone. Granted, phone's are the worst but the lights were still up and the previews hadn't even started. She told she shouldn't have to deal with someone's phone when she was just trying to enjoy a movie with her mother on Mother's Day... and I shouldn't have had to sit in a broken seat on Mother's Day. I gave the woman a Mama Bear look, daring her to say something else, conjuring that young sassy woman to come back out and do what she did like when my daughter needed that kind of champion. The woman did not speak another word. Though the chair has now made my back ache, I had a lovely time with my kid. For a minute, I found a way to rewind the clock... if just for a minute.
I had a child when I was young. She was never an accident, an oops as some like to say. She was intended and the best choice I ever made. Now in this weird state of her being a teenager, there are times I don't know where I stand with her. There are times when I miss her little fingers so much it hurts but then I look at her, see this beautiful young woman that she is becoming, and I can't be sad about it really. I never had a child to put myself on a pedastool, to be someone's everything. If that is your reason for having a child, you should never have a child. I didn't have a child so once a year I can be celebrated because really the gift of being her mother is enough. No one else can say that. No one else can look at her and say that she came from them. Mother's Day, this strange day once a year when we tell our mother's that we love them, that we're thankful, that they are the strongest people we ever met. And the funny thing is as a mother this day has always been more of a celebration of her than of me. I don't want flowers or a card or candy. I want to see her smile. I want to hear her laugh. I want to sit at a coffee shop and listen to every exciting thing that is going on with her. That's all I've ever wanted to do, just watch my kid grow and love her along the way. Today is just another day that I was blessed to have with her. I think about the song my mother sent me this morning, playing it in my head. I wish life could slow down sometimes, wish she would just stay a kid forever but I know that with each Mother's Day that comes, she will continue to be older as will I. One day I won't wake up to her jumping on top of me, screaming Happy Mother's Day like she's done every year. One day I will wait by the phone, just waiting for her to call me like my own Mother now does. One day she will have her own life and her own family and I will be the fun grandma that comes over and feeds her children a massive amount of sugar (and then leave). One day a lot of things will happen but we had today. Today was the best Mother's Day gift I could have ever asked for.
I posted about my sweet pup a year ago. A year ago was when she started to go downhill, when we had to start having conversations about her quality of life. It was when we realized that this stubborn, sweet pup wasn't going to live forever. It didn't matter that I named her after an immortal character. I was going to lose the first thing I ever did right as an adult. This morning we took her to the Vet where we made the heart breaking decision to let her go because it was time, because her struggle had gotten too much for her to bare, for us to watch. I had accepted this decision months ago, accepting the fact that this tiny puppy that I brought home 16 years ago was no longer that tiny puppy that fit into my lap. She could barely walk, could barely eat but I always just saw that high spirited girl that I had always had standing right beside me. The thing is regardless of how accepting I was of the decision to give her peace, I was not prepared for the way my heart is shattering right now. I sit here in this room with the two kittens attacking each other on their tower, while my husband whose heart is breaking takes a nap, while that teenage daughter that my sweet pup used to follow around as a baby celebrates her Driver's Permit upstairs, and I am filled with both gratitude and an incredible amount of loss. I feel like if I turn around she will be sleeping in the ball I have come accustomed to finding her in beside me... but she's not there anymore, not physically anyway.
We were standing there as my daughter was getting her Driver's Permit. It was a surreal moment for me. Sherra came to me as a puppy of 10 weeks old. She was no bigger than this little boy cat sitting on my lap right now. And two weeks later I found out I was pregnant. I stood there and I laughed to myself, thinking how ironic life was. I sent my first baby onto heaven this morning and in the afternoon I was sending my other baby on her first steps to adulthood. I laughed because life can be so twisted at times. I know this might not make sense but it was in that moment where she was smiling and I was crying inside that I understood my babies, these two babies that I put so much of my life into, so much of my adulthood into were moving on. While I couldn't have been prouder of my kid's smile or more grateful for the 16 years I had with my pup, I wanted to hit rewind. I wanted to go back when she had little girl giggles, where she could run up and down the stairs like a maniac. I wanted to come home to a mess because Sherra ate the trash can again. I wanted to find crayon on the wall even though I was bone tired. I just wanted to go back before Sherra got too old to move, back to where the kid still thought I was Wonder Woman. And then I looked at my husband, this amazing man that by some miracle came into my life. He had tears in his eyes just the same. He came into my life with arms wide open not just to me but to my little girl and to my sweet Sherra. He stepped up and gathered them both up and gave them both his incredible heart without a flinch. I hope he realizes how much Sherra loved him. I could see it in her big brown eyes when he got home, feel it in the way her tail would wag every time he sang her a song. I knew in a way that losing her and then letting the other one start her own journey he was feeling the same way. In every way he is my daughter's father and he will always be our sweet Sherra's Daddy.
This last year has been tough, tougher than I've had to deal with in a bit. I wish I could say that I have triumphed over the hurdles but I am still making my way through. There is so much change happening right now that I feel like my head is spinning. Some changes I made a conscience choice about. Others I had no control over. I made the choice to change jobs for myself to be happier, to not feel so stressed, to stand up for myself. I made the choice in the direction I wanted my life to go but I couldn't control losing my father or losing Sherra or my kid getting older. I can't control time moving on, making us get older, moving us along. I wish I could say that the parts of me that were heart broken from my father are back together but they are not. What I can say is that I felt him today sitting in that Vet's office sending my sweet pup off into her final slumber. It brought me back to when I lost my cat when I was 15 and my dad was right there to hold me tight. Maybe he wasn't physically there today like he was then but I felt him in that room with us. I know that he was standing there and smiling, waiting to guide my Sherra onto heaven. I know Sherra will be in good hands and together they will eat a million french fries together because french fries were always her favorite. And this life that I live will go on without her and him. My daughter will grow up. These cats will get bigger. My husband and I will grow white hair. Regardless of all these things and no matter how many times I want to push the rewind button, I understand that this is life the way it should be. My heart may break over and over again. I will lose people along my way and I will cry for them all but I will have loved them all, too. I know today we gave Sherra the gift of peace after a long, beautiful journey. I know today I will always look back on with a heavy heart. And I knew the first time I ever saw her that I was going to love her with everything I had. She was my dog and so much more. She was my best friend, my only companion for so many years. I know I will never truly be without her because I know that her stubborn, little spirit will always be watching over this family. I know that when she took her last sweet breath she was surrounded by love.