Sometimes I hear the underlying tones of a conversation and other times I miss the point completely. I was in a heated battle the other day with my teenage daughter about what I post on Facebook, what I blog about on this site, what I send people in private conversations with my own friends. What I heard her saying was that she was mad because I may have or may not have portrayed her in a positive light. What I realize she was saying a few days after the matter is that she was more concerned of how I was portraying myself. I remember when was small and I would be having coffee with a friend while she was with me how she would correct me if I told a story slightly askew. I remember how annoying I would find it to have this five year old child correct me over some small detail that I would embellish for the sake of good story telling that really didn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. To me, making a story bigger than what it was made it funny, more entertaining. As a writer, that's what I do. I tell stories. Some are simple. Some are grand. Some are just silly. And my stories are inspired by my life. It's how I know to relate to people. You write what you know. You write what you feel and so many of those feelings are inspired by our every days. My teenage daughter would hate this blog for the mere reason that I mentioned her but very rarely does she read something unless I point it out to her. That's OK because there are some things in this life even as someone's mother that are my own. I don't necessarily need to share every ounce of me with her because I am a woman, my own person just as much as I am someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's friend. It took me years to understand that these passions that I have solely for myself are just as important as the hopes and dreams I have for the people I love. When I was deep in the trenches of this argument with my child about the words that fell out of these fingers and asked her why it mattered? Her response took me by surprise and I didn't get it initially. It was the same reason why when she was small that she had to correct me. What she sees me as despite the fact that she's a teenager is what she has always seen me as. I have been the one force in her life that never walked away, the one she could count on to be true and right. So when I post something or say something that makes me sound silly or not as intelligent as she knows I am, she cares what people think of me even if she won't admit that. As teenagers, we were selfish and the only thing that we could only ever see was ourselves even if what we were feeling was about what was going around us. I would like to say that I'm good at slipping on her shoes but I don't fit those shoes anymore so I forget what it's like to be a teenage girl with so many emotions, with so many hang ups, with so many things in this life to be unsure of. And what she can't see yet is that beyond being her mother, I am my own person, too. What she can't quite grasp is the concept of not being concerned what other people think. When the day turns to nigh, I have to answer to myself.
We get so wrapped up with appearances, about what we should be for this person and who we have to be for that person. It is exhausting to bend so many ways for people that don't always matter. I can honestly say that when I was younger I cared very little about how the world viewed me. Before college, before tragedy, before life what people saw didn't change the decisions I made, didn't sway the way I behaved. I roared as loudly as I wanted and I didn't care all that much if I hurt your ears. Then life happened, tragedy struck and I was covered in someone else's shame. All I saw when you looked at me was that person did to me and I couldn't bear those looks. I couldn't stand what you saw. I didn't want the world to see me as broken as I felt but I convinced myself that's all I would ever be. But over time the shame fell off slowly and my shattered knees grew stronger. I found ways to hide the residue of that dirt, the mud still in the fingernails I couldn't quite get out. I covered myself in tattoos and changed what the world was seeing. People would see the tattoos and only see these pictures that I drew on myself and judge me on this first impression of a hellion, ignoring who I actually was. I hid behind these tattoos for years, finding it easier to fight that stereotype than to actually heal the demons inside. I had a child young and it was easier to be judged on being a single mother than who I actually was. The truth is I didn't have any idea who that was. We hide ourselves under all these superficial things because it is easier to defend this skull tattoo then to defend who I am. Too many years who I was had determined by circumstances. Too many of those circumstances put me in a box that I couldn't escape. And being trapped like that? It made me far too concerned with how that box was viewed. So, one day, I grew up. It's that simple. I grew up. I found my feet. I looked in the mirror and there I was. It felt great. It felt wonderful to not feel like the ground would crumble if I misstep. It felt freeing to not be afraid to be confident in so many parts of myself that I had been terrified of before. It no longer mattered what the world thought of me, what the people thought of me because I finally accepted that even the less desirable parts of me were just as beautiful. If I told a joke that wasn't funny, it didn't mean that I couldn't make people laugh. If I did something that didn't make you smile, it didn't mean that I was a horrible person. If I told a story that was bigger than it's reality, it didn't mean the lesson was any less important.
I want my child to understand that when we put so much importance on what others think of us it can be detrimental. It can be toxic to allow so much of who you are be determined by the opinions of people that don't matter. I know that sounds sort of nasty but there is no malice intended there. It took me a long time to figure out whose opinions of me mattered and whose didn't. The people who love you truly and honestly, deeply and unconditionally. I'm not saying she should go out there and be a shitty person to everyone else. I am saying that she should always be true to whoever she turns out to be. What I have realized over the years is that at the core of me who I am is full of kindness and compassion. What I realize about myself is that sometimes I am a pushover and don't always make the stand I need to for myself but those parts of me are just as lovely. What I continue to learn is how to be the loving, compassionate person I am while still being able to stand my ground. I don't mind what people think of me. I may get grumpy sometimes. I may exaggerate a story just for kicks. I may not always make rational decisions. I often let my imagination runaway. Sometimes I do silly things that may make me look not as intelligent as I am and that's OK. I love the fact my daughter cares that much about how the world views me. I know if you asked her right now she would tell me that's not what she thinks at all and it's cool. I'm not saying definitely that's what she thinks but that is my perception. I hope she understands one day that I never intentionally tried to make her look bad or make myself any less relevant in this world. What I have tried to do is walk this path with as much integrity as I could. I will not be everyone's cup of tea. Not everyone is going to find my writing charming or my smile engaging. Some will find me offensive while others will insist that I should push the envelope further. I may come off as nonchalant or some may think I take this life too seriously. What I know today as a grown woman that regardless of what people think of me the only thing that matters is what I think. She will have her own revelations. One day she will understand why I sighed, why I laughed it off, why I turned the other cheek when I've been slapped down. She will understand that being able to look in the mirror proud of what stares back at you is ten thousand more times fulfilling than anything else. My life has humbled me and that modesty is something that I am very proud of. What I look in the mirror, I have to answer to myself. Was I kind enough today? Was I brave enough today? Did I do what was best for my family? Did I do what was best for me? What can I do better? What did I do right? It's always the last question that I struggle with. It's not the people around us who judge so harshly. No, it's that person who looks back at you. So, no, it doesn't matter if the world thinks I'm a little too tattooed, a little too silly or serious. It doesn't matter if they think I am living my life the right way. It only matters if I believe I am living my life right. At the end of the day, I just want to make the people around me smile. I just want to make myself proud of the love I am strong enough to live my life with.
When I think back at my life, I hope I am proud of more things than I am ashamed. I often think about the choices I made. Some I know were right. Some I don't. And some the choice was picking between two already rotten apples. I know that everything worked out for the best, for my best. All those bad decisions I made taught me more about myself than anything else could. I realize now in my late thirties I have the luxury of taking from all these experiences and finding the lesson in all of them to make better ones right now in my life. I don't always get it right. A lot of times I fail but because I am older I know that these failures are not my defeat. In twenty years I will look back at this time in my life. I will shake my head at how many hours I wasted working. I will be sad that I didn't spend enough time with my kid or my husband. I will feel regret that I didn't build the friendships that I should have. Time is hindsight, introspective, sometimes harsh. Often we don't realize the damage we do until it is already done. I sit down and write these words as a reminder to myself of all these things I need to work on. I need to do better. This morning I woke up. Sent the husband off to work. The kid off to her friend's. I laid in bed with my two cats and laughed to myself. I attempted to make coffee dates with a couple of friends who were busy. I laid there and realized how many people in this world care for me but how distant I keep myself. When I think back at my life, I realize that I've always kept myself distant from people. I love you and I will love you with everything I got but I also keep parts of me close to the chest. I don't always realize how much of a corner I live until I reach out and sometimes I'm left dangling. And that's all right. My inability to truly be a social butterfly lies solely within me because of a past I fought through. It seems like a flimsy excuse really. Somebody hurt me so everyone in my life pays for that sin from that day forward. I would like to say that's not true but some pieces of that statement will always be true. In this time in my life I clearly understand that there are pieces of me that will not change regardless of how much yoga I do.
I come across old works of mine often. I start to read them. I feel all that anger, that loneliness, that shame. I can close my eyes and remember which coffee shop I was sitting at, what shirt I was wearing. I can recall the noises that were happening around me. The emotion of whatever I was feeling in that moment rushes over me like a wave. All I can do is let it ride out. In these tiny tidal waves, for a moment that girl is sitting so clearly in front of me. I want so badly to have a conversation with her, to warn her about the retreat I know she's about to take but if she listened I don't know who would be sitting at this coffee shop right now. I don't know if I would know how lovely loneliness can be. I don't know if I would truly comprehend how beautiful compassion feels. These tiny tidal waves are just reminders of all the kindness I have learned. I was working yesterday and my coworker was weeded. I could have let him fail. I didn't. We were sitting around the table at the end of the shift, three of us dog tired because we had worked twelve hours yesterday on our feet. We sat there with our ice cold beers. I realized that as isolated as I may feel at times, these people sat beside me still. I didn't let him fail because I cared that he succeeded. I cared that at the end of the night we all felt like champions. It's just ranch, I know, but sometimes that ranch can make us smile, too. By living so much of my early life on my own, I have learned to appreciate the moments when I don't have to be. I sat there last night among these beautiful people, laughing at the drunk people that rolled off that party bus. I found some sort of solace that even if I was just a witness to it I was part of it. I enjoy time by myself. I don't have any qualms with taking an hour or two to be alone with my journal or this computer. I love closing my eyes and listening to music or drawing whatever pretty thing comes to my head. I need those moments so I can sit with you later on. I need to re-energize myself because sometimes I find people utterly exhausting. When I look back at my life, I want to be honored to have been a part of this world. I want the ones I leave behind to remember how much I love them. I want these words to echo long after I'm gone. I want everyone to know that even if I felt like I was far away, my arms were always there to catch you when you fell. When I look back at my life today, I understand I still have so much to learn but what I can be proud of is how much I already have. I may not always make the right choices. I will continue to flounder and fail but I know now that in these failures, the better I become.
Two weeks ago I was having a rough night. I was tired, overly exhausted, spinning my wheels in twenty different directions for the betterment of myself and my family. I was burning my wick from both ends and landing with nothing left to give myself. My husband sat me down and told me to stop. He thanked me and loved me and said he couldn't appreciate the amount of dedication I had for our family than he already did but enough was enough. I was done. Despite my stubbornness, he was right. I was done. I have always had this problem with wanting to be everything to the people in this world that matter the most to me. And, sometimes, I want to be everything even to the people in this life that don't deserve it. I cried when he spoke those words. I always seem to cry when I'm overwhelmed but there was a sense of relief in those tears, in that permission he gave me to take care of myself this time around. I cried, too, because I was sad in a way, understanding that it would be the last time I work side by side with this man, this wonderful husband of mine. So often we get the question, "How do you work with your husband/wife? Don't you get tired of each other?" It always made us laugh. No, we never got tired of each other. Annoyed? Perhaps but the annoyance was fleeting. Working with him was comforting because I at least knew I had one person who had my back. I had one person who knew I was weeded out or upset or just plain tired. In a way it was a reminder of how lucky I have been in life to find such a partner who will know exactly when I need to be caught and who knows precisely when to kick me in the butt and who I know will never be more than a breath away whether we work together or not.
It took me so many years to accept that I deserved love, any kind of love. I was an island. No one was going to tell me any differently. I paid my own bills. I raised my own kid. I kept my own home. I laughed with my friends and joked with my family. When I reached my mid twenties, I had found a happy place with being my own island. The thought of a person to share my life with was, I guess, nice but not necessary. I would go on exactly as I was without any strange longings for anyone else. I had my kid and my dog and I was good. So when my husband, this man who I had known for a minute, came along and slowly took my breath away I can honestly say I wasn't quite sure what to do with him. He is a kind man with a gentle heart lined with these sometimes hard edges but in his blue eyes what I saw was someone safe who wasn't going to let me jump off these cliffs alone. He took his time. He was patient, allowing me to take the steps I needed to trust him. He held my hand and stroked my cheek. Eventually I didn't flinch at him. Eventually I could look him in his eyes and I didn't fidget away. We talked about marriage at the beginning but it was never that big of a deal. This is what I knew. I knew that he was my person. I knew that he would be good to my daughter because he was perfect to me. I knew that I wanted to wake up next to him when I was an old lady and see his wrinkled blue eyes. I knew that if I were to birth any more children, it was his smile that I wanted to see in them. I did not need a ring on my finger or a piece of paper that legally bound him to me. All I needed was his word that he would love me, love her, love us forever. All I needed was that comfort that he would be the one to catch me when I needed to fall down, the one to pull me back up when it is time to stand, the one to hold my hand as we move forward in this life. He gave me those things, all of these things every day since even when we get on each other's nerves. I married him because I knew he has always been my person. I married him not because I needed him to prove that he loved me by this grand gesture. I would have been with this man beyond my last breath either way. I married him because he was right, completely and utterly right. We built this life with our incredible strength together.
I once thought that life was meant to be lived on a timeline. By this age, I would have done this. At this point, I should have done that. Then you actually start living your life and you realize that timelines are bunch of jokes and you are always the pun. There is no right time to do anything or to have already done something because life isn't lived inside neat, little checklists. Did I think I was going to be a mother? Sure, maybe not at 21. Did I think I was going to get married? Yeah but not twice. Did I imagine that I would meet a man like my husband? Not someone that compliments me so beautifully, no, especially after my first marriage was a total disaster. One of the hardest lessons to learn in this life is that sometimes life has it's own plan for you. I'm not calling it Destiny because I do believe that we decide that for ourselves despite the circumstances that are thrown at us. What I am saying is that sometimes we can't control the path that our journey takes us on. I feel like finding my husband wasn't necessarily the way that I wish I would have found him but what is important was that I did. And when we did, I took my time to make sure that he was the one that could walk this path with me. There was no rush to tie him down, to run down that aisle. I had no doubts in my mind after a month of being with him that he was my forever but that did not mean that I should be that fool to rush in. If we were meant to be forever, we had all the time in the world. We weren't in our early twenties, easily influenced by the need for grand romantic idiocies. If he had done that, I would have run the other way and he always knew especially at the beginning that I needed more care than that. Once he found me, we both realized that time would be the one thing that made us strong. We could feel what it was like to be us instead of two adults who were taking care of other people in our lives. We could slowly settle into each other's laughter, get lost in each other's twinkling eyes. We could find out what made the other tick, what made the other hurt, what made the other glow. We learned how the other walked, how brave we were, how strong we could be at each other's side. We understood the other's struggles, how rocky their path was going to be, and how wonderful it would be to walk this path together. I didn't need to be the air that he breathed and I didn't want him to be the reason I existed. What I was before him is exactly who I am with him. Who he was before me is exactly who he is today. It was important to us to still be able to stand on our own feet, to not fall into that trap of completely being because of the other. It took time to figure it out. It took time but we got it. Sometimes I need to carry the burden of us. Sometimes he has to take the load. And that's what a relationship is, give and take. I needed to take my time because I needed to know without a doubt how strong his shoulders were. I needed to know that when things got rough because things always get rough that he wouldn't run off with his tail between his legs. From the beginning, he never gave me any reason to believe that he wasn't going to stick. I didn't need a ring on my finger for him to prove that to me. I just needed to look into those blue eyes to see how stuck we already were.
I hope that when my daughter starts to plot out her life she allows room for change. She may not get into the college she want or decide to not even go. The person she envisions she will marry may not even exist. She may not have those four children by the time she's 27. I hope she understands that paths twist and turn, are often very crooked, sometimes leading you to places that you never even knew you wanted to go. My husband wasn't necessarily my destination but I am grateful that he became part of my every day. I hope she understands that she can take her time, to truly know if something is right for her. Allowing yourself time is a beautiful gift that we take for granted. We think we have to go head first into these big decisions to prove something to someone. Really you owe it to yourself to make sure it is right for you because if it turns out wrong, you've hurt more than just you. I always have to be careful when I write these blogs because there is always some sort of back story to what I write that I won't completely share. Writing the way that I write can make me way too vulnerable. Sometimes I don't honestly know how open I am being until after I've written the last word. I have seen these words, my words been taken in a way that I did not intend and misconstrued in a way that they were never meant. I'm just being honest, as honest as I can be. These blogs always stem from what is going on in my life. Sometimes I can completely divulge the details. Other times I can't. Some parts of my life have to stay my own and not for the world to see but I also sometimes say the things I can't say in between these lines. But if you were take anything from this blog today, I hope you take this. I hope you take your time. I hope you close your eyes and breathe. I hope you get to know the path you truly want to take. And if it turns out to be the wrong path? Don't panic. Take your time. Whatever your destination, time will find you a way.