Over the last few weeks, I've had to have a serious sit down conversation with myself. I've had to address some things about myself that maybe I haven't always been comfortable with facing. It's hard to take a real look at your reflection and stare down your flaws. Sometimes your flaws aren't pretty or charming. We all have our quirks, those tiny little things about ourselves that make us who we are. I don't mind that the way my mind wanders or even the times I get overly focused on something but I've always had this problem with my own self worth. I've made the mistake time after time of putting what I'm worth in other people's hands. I think that if you like me, if you really like me, then I've made it but what does that like mean if I don't like myself? I don't mean to be callous but if I don't like who I am, what I do, the choices I make, then what you think of me means very little. I work hard. I have always worked hard for everything in my life. If I saw something needed to be done, I did it. I never wanted a parade but I needed some kind of recognition even if I didn't admit it. There was a time in my life where I needed you to see it though. I needed you to see all the things I sacrificed to make you happy but I have learned that is just as unhealthy. There are days when I feel like it's a struggle. I work hard and get little back for it. I go the extra mile and it almost feels like I get punished because of it. I find myself starting to dislike everyone around me, falling down this very dark rabbit hole that is ultimately pointless. I stood in front of that mirror the other day and I looked down that rabbit hole. I let myself get lost in those feelings, letting them wash over me and take me away... for awhile. For awhile I let myself be angry at the recognition I didn't get. For awhile I allowed myself to be engulfed by that anger because I knew the mask that I've been wearing otherwise is starting to wear thin. And when I was ready, I pulled myself out. You can't stay in the dark forever. It starts to destroy your complexion.
I have felt lately like I am stuck. I work but it doesn't go anywhere. I give my all but there are days when it just doesn't pay off. I still haven't sold as many books as I would like. I still only have one car for this family. I still live in very lived in apartment. I feel completely lost on how to be the right kind of mother for my teenage daughter. I try and try and I fail more often than I succeed but I know there is nothing in me that would ever allow me to give up. I keep writing but I don't know if I've really taken any steps forward. I left one part of my life only to land in a part just like it. I want to scream at all these things that I know I can do but just can't seem to make it happen. Then I realize that this is just one chapter of my life. It's the chapter where nothing happens, that one boring chapter that you just want to get through so you binge read it. You know after these empty, dull pages something wonderful is about to happen to that character. You know they are going to meet and then fall in love. You know that once this tedious chapter is over, there will be a break. You just have to put in the hard work to get through it. So I looked in that mirror, I told myself this is just my very tedious chapter. I told myself if I just keep turning the pages, I would find myself in a beautiful place. I just have to shake off that rabbit hole and keep pushing forward. We all give up so easily. Something doesn't quite go our way and we're out. It's so easy to give up then to keep trying. We convince ourselves of the worst and then go running away. It is so much easier to not try. I looked at my numbers for how many books I sold tonight. Was I disappointed? Yes, because I know those numbers need to be bigger. I know that once people read my words, love or hate, they will feel something. That's all I can ask for, right? Just for my work to evoke some kind of emotion. I won't stop writing no matter what. It's not something I do as a hobby. It' a part of me that will always want to fly.
I understand who I am. I completely accept the fact that I will always go above and beyond for even the dumbest of things because that is just the annoying part about me. I know that I will get that needy lady twelve ranches if she wants them even if I want to tell her to take a leap. I will always do more work than I should even though I work with grown adults who are more than capable of wiping their own asses. I know no matter how old my kids gets I will still go clean up the living room that she trashes over and over again even though she understands clearly how hard I work to provide a clean home. I can say that I don't need any recognition and, in general, I mean it but there are days when I am tired. I am just tired. I don't have the tolerance for that woman's ranch addiction. I feel like no matter how hard I work, no matter how much laundry I do, no matter how many tables I bus, how many buckets of ice I put in that bin, no matter how many socks I pick up from that floor there will always be more to do and I will never be thanked the way I wish I would. I said this to a girl the other day. I was having just a hard day. I looked at her and said, "It's all pointless." Am I right? No but it was how I felt in the moment. It was what I have been struggling with over the last few weeks. I know it's all worth it. I know making someone happy is always worth it. I guess sometimes I wish I didn't feel like I was the only trying. I get it. I've never expected a reward, just for people to play fair. That's the entire problem in a nutshell. I don't mind hard work. I just mind being the only mule pulling the weight.
This seems like a Debbie Downer sort of blog but I'm getting around to the point. I grew up watching my mother and father work so very hard to give us kids a great life. We certainly didn't have everything we wanted but we never went without the things that we needed. I mean, sure, I can remember a few Beanie-Weenie dinners that still make my stomach curl but I always had a roof over my head, shoes on my feet, a nice safe place to sleep. I saw them exhausted all for us. We didn't appreciate all those things they did for us when we were kids. We were kids, completely clueless what the real world demanded. Now though I can understand their plight. Their reward then was four bratty children asking for the latest Nintendo game or a new Cabbage Patch Kid. All my father had to do was go to that magic machine and get money. We didn't understand that he had to make that money. It was just there. And now I understand all too clearly how selfless they were, how much they gave up for us financially, physically, emotionally. I understand how defeated they must've felt at times when they couldn't give us what we wanted, when they couldn't give each other what they needed. I learned that working hard was just something you do as an adult by watching them work themselves to their bones. I understand that if there are things in this world that I want I must work for them. I understand that sometimes no matter how hard I work, too, that some things aren't meant to be, at least not on my own. It does feel like at times no matter how hard I push myself, how tired I make myself that the rabbit hole will just keep getting longer and darker. It does feel like sometimes that there are things that are a huge waste of my time but I know that I have to keep on because this is just one chapter of my life. I know that when a customer treats me like crap, I have to understand that it is not a direct reflection on me. I must remember when my daughter speaks to me in an ugly fashion, she just doesn't understand right now what I do for her but one day she will. I will continue to put my head down and grind out where I am but I understand what is truly waiting in my reflection. The next chapter is only a few pages away.
My mother always told me I was too stubborn for my own good. I was going to do things my way and in my own time. I refused to take no for an answer. I would find a way to make whatever I want become a reality. I can't tell you how many times it got me into trouble or how many times I hurt people because of it. I can't tell you how many times I was completely oblivious to the damage my stubbornness was causing. I am a very proud person in my life, not particularly a fan of saying I'm wrong but I will when I am... at least now. There were plenty of times in my life I should have backed off and accepted the circumstances how I sat in them. There have been many moments in this life when I should have said Uncle and let it go. And, yes, there are plenty of occasions when I should have realized I was wrong. But with all that being said, I can say honestly that I am happy where I have landed, mistakes and all. All those times I did not give up have become a true testament to a strength I didn't realize I had for a long time. I wrote a blog recently about moving forward, seeing the green, becoming that over the hill you dream of. I posted it on Reddit. I am trying every avenue I can so that maybe this dream that motivates me will find its wings one day. I am stubborn and I am proud and I am hopeful. I posted See the Green and sat back, waiting to see what happened. I was trolled. I can't say that I was surprised. The comment I received stated that I was a mid thirty woman who clearly fucked up my life somewhere along the line. I laughed at it truthfully. True, I am a mid thirty year old woman. True, there are parts of my life that were truly messed up. However, nowhere in that blog or in any of my works do I say that my life is disheveled. In the same week, I was rejected for two different writing jobs. They told me that I was not proficient enough and that I did not qualify. I laughed. What do they know?
I struggle with being the best, my best at everything I do. I never want to lay my head down at night and feel like I didn't give something my all. It can be the simplest of tasks. It doesn't matter. I have a hard time knowing when to pull back, knowing what is really worth my time, knowing how much of myself to offer you before I give too much. I want the people around me to know that they have my full attention but sometimes in that process I lose sight of when enough is enough. When I write, I write with my entire heart. I understand too much of my soul lies within these lines. I get scared after I write something and I sit back and read it. Did I just tell you too much about myself? Are you going to understand what I'm trying to say? I want every sentence to be perfect. I want every syllable to resonate because nothing in me will allow anything else. There is always that chance that I will be rejected. I get it but I can't let it stop me. There have been so many times in my life, so many people in my life that have rejected me. That is not a poor me statement (for all those trolls out there). It is a statement that is true for all of us. Like you and him and her, I kept pushing forward. Being rejected or not qualifying or being turned away isn't a direct reflection on who we are as people. It took me years to understand that. I used to take it so personally. It would tear me apart if a friend didn't want to hang out with me. I would get so upset if I didn't get a job. I would sit there and obsess over what I did wrong to not succeed. I don't know at what point I started to realize sometimes it wasn't personal. I just didn't fit or it didn't fit or we just didn't fit together. There was nothing wrong with not being right. I realized that there was a beauty in being kicked in the teeth. You feel low and not good enough, questioning everything about yourself. You feel like you have to change parts of yourself to fit into this box to be what they want you to be. You doubt the loveliest parts of who you are because something didn't go your way. Then, something fascinating happens. If you can sit down with yourself and be completely honest, you start to understand those parts of you that someone else didn't want, someone out there will. You don't change who you are or what you are about. You embrace that rejection and find acceptance. If I had allowed what happened to me when I was eighteen determine my life, if I had allowed the rejection that I received from friends and family dictate my life, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. If I had allowed rejection to make me worthless, that beautiful kid would have never been born and I would have never found the love that I found in my husband. I was stubborn enough to not believe what I thought the world was trying to tell me. I am proud enough to never listen to those ghosts ever again.
My skin though pale is thick but I do admit that reading the Reddit comment irritated me. I can say that the two opportunities that I didn't qualify for bother me. I could sit here and say, hey, maybe I'm just not that good but that's such a waste of energy. It reminds me of when I first started trying to get published. I have been pecking at this wood for a long time. I started looking into getting Around The Bend published about seventeen years ago. I sent out a million queries and letters and samples. I looked up every publishing company and literary agent. I contacted local bookstores just for any kind of advice about how to break into this very elite world. Nothing. Crickets. No one would look at me. No one would read my work. The responses I got back all said they were not interested in my subject matter. Here's the thing. I understood that Around The Bend was a different topic, a harder subject matter. There aren't a lot of books out there that address the topic of rape from the survivor's point of view the way I did. I wasn't angry but there were parts of me that were hurt. In a way it felt like I was being rejected the same way I had been after that night, that no one would ever really hear me. I didn't write the book originally for anyone other than myself. I have no qualms with admitting that but I understood as the words started flowing those words were important. For seventeen years, not a single bite. It was radio silence for a girl with a dream. I never stopped writing though. I kept my journals, wrote my poems, and quietly sat in my corner still working towards my goal. I am stubborn and steady. I was patient because I knew. I knew that even if no one would ever look at me, I would be published one day. I didn't care how many people told me no. I shelved all those rejections, putting them in chronological order along side every other rejection in my life. With every rejection, my armor got a little bit stronger. And now? Well, now I can laugh at that troll on Reddit. It's perfectly fine if I am not your cup of tea. There are plenty of things out there that aren't mine.
I played basketball when I was a kid. I loved it. Was I great at it? No but I was good at it. I could decently dribble. I could make it up and down the court, playing defense and offense. I could make a three point shot like a champ. I got shoved around and knocked down. I can't tell you how many times my knuckles got jammed. I even broke my knee cap in half and kept running. I kept practicing because I wasn't going to let that silly swelling knee stop me from doing something that I loved. I limped out of practice with my giant knee and my head held high, ignoring the throbbing pain and telling my mom that I was fine. No, I didn't need to go to the doctor. My knee healed on its own in the wrong way of course. To this day I can still feel where it split in two. To this day it hurts like hell after a twelve hour shift waiting tables. I have come to accept the pain however. I know how to disperse my weight when I walk to take off some of the stress on that knee. I don't give in to the pain. I learned how to move forward with it. Rejection piles up over time. We start taking count of all the things, of all the people that told us no. We sit outside with a cup of coffee and reflect on all those hurtful words that someone said to us. We think about all the could-have-beens for the things that we weren't picked for. We understand that if one thing had been a yes everything in our lives would be different. We have to look around us though. I used to believe that everything was random. I'm sure that's still true to a degree but I also believe that sometimes things happen the way they are supposed to. Sometimes being told no is the best thing that could have happen to you. Without all the hardships that I endured, I don't know if I would be as strong, as confident as I am today. I don't know if I could have read that Reddit comment and laughed at it the way that I did. I raise a teenage daughter and sometimes she says the most horrible things to me but over the years this skin has leathered. I don't know without being hurt by so many over my life if I would be able to not shatter every time she rolled her eyes at me. We don't always get the things that we want. Sometimes we don't get the things we need. There is always going to be someone out there who will try to tell you that you are not good enough, that you are not strong enough, that you are not pretty enough, that you are not qualified enough. There will always be obstacles thrown in your way to hold you back. There will be rejections that happen that might bring you to your knees, that will break your heart. Learn from them. Understand them. Accept them. Then get back up. Move on from them. What you will find is that your light will always shine brighter. Onto the next.
I saw this ad on Facebook the other day talking about anxiety, the way it effects people both who are suffering from it and the people who love them. It's hard to have to deal with anxiety and watch someone work their way through it. A lot of times it doesn't make sense why anxiety attacks the way it does. There's no real explanation, no real words to express to someone why you feel anxious. You just do and it just sucks. Sometimes there are triggers. You see someone who looks like someone who once hurt you and your palms start sweating even though you rationally know no harm will come to you. The phone rings and you instantly think that doom is waiting on the other end of the line with some tragedy when you rationally know everything is just fine. I never really struggled with anxiety when I was a kid or a teenager. It was a thing that I just didn't deal with much until after my experience at college happened. Sure, I worried as a kid but it was always something I could shake off. Then that night happened and the world started to suffocate me. Every bad thing that I thought could happen was going to happen even though somewhere inside of me I knew I was just fine. It wasn't an instantaneous thing. I didn't wake up the next morning and this overwhelming anxiety had taken over me like I was some sort of pod person. It slowly became a giant part of who I was. It doesn't take something terrible to happen to us either for anxiety to become a thing. Anxiety straggles for all sorts of different reasons. I don't know how to tell you that I feel like the ground beneath me is falling in the moment. All I know is that it is. I don't know how to tell you that I don't want to be around anyone without making you feel like it's a personal thing. It's not personal. I just sometimes find it hard to be around people, any person. I love my husband. I love my daughter. I love my family and my friends. Sometimes I just want to be left alone.
For a long period of my life I was on medication for my anxiety. I used to be ashamed of it. How dare I need a little help to steady my world, right? Why couldn't I just be all right by myself? Why couldn't I control the chemicals in my own brain? I thought that I was a failure for not being able to quiet my demons on my own. I felt as if I was weak for not being able to slow down my breathing or stop my hands from shaking. I believed it was my fault my heart pounded as heavy as it did. I did stupid stuff, a lot of stupid stuff to try to convince myself that I was just fine when in reality there was nothing I could do to make myself right. I've tried different medications over the years. Prozac was the first antidepressant I took. It was a test study for Duke University that my friend signed me up for because I needed help. It took a lot of convincing for me to accept the help but after one very bad night I knew I had no other choice. Did Prozac make me feel better? No, it did not. It made me feel nothing. It made me feel absolutely nothing. While it was nice for a moment to not feel the anxiety that suffocated me so feeling nothing was killing me just the same. So I went on Zoloft. I was on Zoloft for ten years of my life. It was low dosage because I didn't want to feel nothing. I just wanted to stop feeling everything. I hated the fact that I had to be on medication though. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to admit it but I knew that I had to have it. I knew that the struggles I was facing were emotionally too big for me to accept. I realized after being on it for awhile that it was nothing to be ashamed of. My pride has always been the thing that sometimes gets in my way. I had to accept that the best way for me to deal with the parts of my life, the parts of me that scared me was to take something that didn't make me so scary. It wasn't that Zoloft took away the pain, the anxiety, the fear. It didn't erase who I was or what I had gone through. It wan't a magic pill that gave me a clean slate. My life in all its glory and dirt still existed. I was still broken and it made those sharp edge broken parts of me not so hard to carry around. It made sitting in a crowd not so overwhelming. It made breathing not such a task. I remember having a really bad panic attack, my very first bad one, in the middle of work one day. I sat down at my desk and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. Nothing had happened. There was no trigger that I could pinpoint that made it start. I couldn't breathe. My chest hurt. My hands felt numb and I was scared. I called my doctor and I went in immediately. It was a terrifying feeling because I didn't know why or what or how it happened. Having that panic attack just created new anxiety for me and that frightened me even more. So I stayed on the medication because I didn't know how else to stop feeling as deeply as I did. I just knew that the medication made me feel steady.
I stopped taking Zoloft about seven years ago. I realized at some point that I didn't need that support. I married a man who is good to me, who loves our daughter. I wasn't struggling as much to make ends meet. I wasn't fighting ghosts the way I used to. I wasn't scared of my own shadow the way I had been before. I realized that there were parts of me though scarred were no longer shattered in a million pieces. I could breathe without feeling like there was a bag over my head. I could stand without feeling like someone was going to instantly knock me down. I look back on those days and feel proud of myself because though I was broken I still had the courage to try to stand up. I don't think that it made me weak in any way. I understand the way I feel and sometimes my feelings become more intense than I can handle. In the state that I was in I see clearly now that I was in no shape to fight those demons without some extra armor. I'm not cured though by any means. I still struggle with my anxiety. I still do things that harm myself especially when the anxiety peaks. My husband yells at me. I pick at my face when I'm feeling anxious. It's not all the time, just sometimes. He knows though when he finds a scab like the one I have right now that I am feeling anxious. He does his best to stop me, to try to comfort me but anxiety unfortunately is just one of those things that I can't explain to him. I can't tell him why picking at my face or my nails calms me down because it makes no sense. I can't explain to him enough why going to sit by myself is the only way sometimes I can refocus. It's not that I don't want to be around him. It's just that I don't want to be around anyone and I know now that is OK. I know I don't have to explain why I need a second. I don't have to explain why sometimes I just need to cry. I don't feel ashamed of the things I need to do to take care of myself. I don't plan on going back on medication but if one day I wake up and the world feels like it's closing on me again I am perfectly fine to go back to it. I know now sometimes this life is too much and I know when it's just right.
We all have these things about us that make us who we are. We have these moments that we've gone through that cause us to break, help us to stand. Sometimes we can't make it through the breaks without a little help. It doesn't matter which way the help comes. We get scared and sometimes we don't know why or how to chase the monsters away. We cry and there are times it's for no reason at all. I still get anxious when I drive though there is no real reason for it. I still sometimes let my anxiety get the best of me and just assume the worst out of the people and the world around me. There's no reason for it. I sit down and write these words. I become terrified that it's all for nothing but I know that is just my anxiety getting the best of me. I know I can control it now but that doesn't mean I don't feel it. Anxiety effects us in all different ways. While I pick at my skin, others make themselves sick. They physically start reacting to these toxic thoughts in their heads and their stomach starts hurting. It's not wrong. It's just the way that it effects them. It's hard to explain why it effects people differently or why we have it in the first place. Loving someone who suffers from anxiety can be difficult because sometimes they just don't know what to do help them. I get swept away in a moment and my husband tries to talk me down but there are times when that just makes it worse. Sometimes it makes me better but I don't know which one to tell him is going to work. I don't want to calm down in that moment because I can't. The fact that I can't makes it worse. I have learned how to ride these feelings out. Let them take me over like a wave, feel every tide that it has, and then just let it go. I know if I don't let myself feel that anger, that fear, that overwhelming anxious feeling it will cling to me and paralyze me later on. There are no words to explain why anxiety does what it does to a soul. There is no right thing to do when you see someone going through it. I understand now that it another part of who I am and that's just fine. There are things about this life that will always make me nervous, make me scared for no reason, for no reason I can explain. And for the people in this life who love me I hope they understand it's nothing personal. Sometimes I just have to ride the wave to let it go.
I'm getting to that strange age in my life where I can reflect on all the steps I've taken and have some perspective about the lessons that they all taught me. That age where I can still look forward to all the things that are still to come and still be completely unsure of where I will be. This life is really all about perspective. It's about taking the storms that we have walked through, learning from all the puddles that have splashed us in beautiful ways, and holding tight to the things that mattered from them all. I sat with a dear friend the other day. She always brings a smile to my face. I can't explain why I connect with her so and it doesn't matter. All I know is that holding her hand made me feel ten times better than I have in a minute. Life is a struggle. We go from these inspirational moments on top of hills where we can see for miles and feel like the world is just waiting for us with open arms. Then we fall into this abyss where everything seems so far away, so unachievable and we feel like nothing good is to ever come of us. I've battled this war for so much of my life. 37 years later I just now feel like I'm able to shake some of it off. She said to me that I was so goal oriented and it kind of made me laugh. She was right. I am and have always been even when I fell deep down into that abyss. I always had these unspeakable things that pushed me forward even when I was staring down a bottle trying to drink them all away. I unintentionally filled my life with purpose. College destroyed me and I made myself believe that the curly head boy was my reason to keep going even when he had held a pillow over my spirit. I ended up in a horrible relationship and then I ended up with this kid, this wonderful kid. Even if I never got out of that abyss, I still kept going because of that tiny face. I spent a lot of my life looking back, regurgitating follies that I should have just expelled years ago. I think we get confused. I think we think by holding onto them then we never repeat these things we do. In reality we just keep reliving them over and over again.
I am glad to be in my thirties (even official late thirties). I do have a clarity now more than I ever had in my twenties. I understand the lessons I have learned more than I ever thought I would. I accept things about myself that I never imagined I could. I get why I cry when I'm happy. I love that I can now cry honestly when I am sad. I know that I am not invincible. I don't want to be invisible. And I don't want to hold onto someone I am no longer just as much as I never want to let go of the lovely I became because of her. I don't care about the dumb little things anymore because what's the point? Really who has the energy? I want to look forward and push myself further. I want to take chances and be reasonable. I want to stay in bed all day and hang out a coffee shop with a friend just the same because I understand now the importance of taking care of myself. I get wrapped up in where I am sometimes compared to where I want to be. I frustrate myself. I have always been the kind of person who just wants to do it on my own. It is easier and quicker if I just do it rather than watch you, a trait I learned from my mother. As kids, we never had chores because it was easier for her to just do it by herself. It was. Now I understand that and I can laugh about it. So when I can't just write for a living, I get frustrated because it is the only thing I've ever wanted to do but I know the only way I can do that is if you pick me up and read me. I can't do that by myself. To provide for my family, I wait tables and it drives me bananas. I walked around the other night angry almost but then I started to laugh. I just started to laugh at it because I know it doesn't matter how many tables I take. What matters is that I still come home and write. What matters is that I still open up my journal and write. What matters is that I still find a quiet corner in a coffee shop and open up this computer and write. What matters is that I stand on top of that mountain and not fall into the deep, dark abyss.
My daughter just recently got her first job. She is working where I work. It's been nice watching her develop her own work ethic. I try not to hover over her like a mama hen but it's hard sometimes. I know that if someone ever looks at her sideways I might just let Mama Bear out but I trust in her ability to stand on her own two feet just as well. She got a job because she wants a car. Unfortunately I'm not in a financial state to be able to go buy her a car. Even if I was making the money, I still don't think I would buy her that car because I do think it is important to work for the things that you want. She is a great kid, a beautiful young lady. I really couldn't be more proud of her. She has goals to do great things in this life. I watch her work hard on her school work. I smile at all the extracurricular clubs she gets involved with at school. I laugh at the amount of stress she puts on herself sometimes, too, but life will teach her the lessons I cannot. In her big brown eyes, I see so much of myself, so much of myself that I forgot was inside of me. I may not burn as brightly these days but her spark always keeps my embers warm. She sometimes doesn't understand why I write or the things that I write about. She gets mad at me sometimes when I tell her that I have to write rather than watch Bachelor in Paradise with her. I tell her that just like her I got goals, too. I may not get a report card. I may not be trying to get into an Ivy League college. In a way, I'm still working to buy that car that I was working for when I was fifteen. No matter how old we get we all still want things in life. As much as I have grown and have let go of who I used to be, I know the core of me never really changed. I still want. I still dream.
The truth is if we don't have something to look forward to then we will never move forward. I've had three things in this life that I've always wanted. I got the family I always dreamed of. I finally published words that I created. The last one may be decades away but I know that it will be the carrot that keeps me going. My husband and I were having a conversation the other day. He called me a commoner and it just made me laugh. It all stemmed from sometime silly. I wanted to find a laser pointer for my fur babies. There's an app for that, right? Well, no, actually. I looked it up and he thought it was the funniest thing in the world which led him to call me a commoner. Should I have been offended? Eh, I don't care because I know that I am capable of great things. This life is possible. Sometimes our feet land in some quick sand. We get stuck for years in places we don't want to be because of all sorts of different reasons. We make excuses of why we can't do this or why we shouldn't do that. At fifteen years old, I should have not worked 40 hours a week while going to school but I did and I got what I wanted. At 20 years old, I was not prepared to have a baby on my own but I did and I am a better person because of her. 36 years old should have not been the age that I decided to start chasing my dream but I did and I am finally on the path that I knew I always should have been. I have rough days. I have days when I miss my dad and my dog. I have days when I walk into work and want to throw ranch on every single person that asks me for something. I have days where I would rather just throw the laundry away and the dishes out the window rather than do any of it. We all have those days where we can't see the green of the grass over those hills, where it all looks pointless, where we staring down the bottom of that bottle, where we have a case of the fuck its. Those are just days, just moments that don't determine what we are made of. I am at a strange age in my life where I understand the value of both. I would like to think that one day I won't just be standing on that hill. I know one day I will be over that rainbow. The abyss doesn't scare me as much as it used to. It doesn't paralyze me as much as I let it before. I know I will fall and I know sometimes I may break but I will always have these wonderful things in my life that will push me forward. It's not about where I have been. This life, my life has always been about where I am going.
I was reading through some of these blogs and I realized that so many of them are so very serious. I don't know at what point in my life I started taking everything so seriously because really if you step away from your life it's not so serious. I've always had my quirks, my faults. I've never been one to shy away from them. I have, at times, been one to obsess over them way more than I should but I am human. Sometimes it hurts not being the perfect you think you are but what can you do? This morning I was dropping my husband off at work. I told him that I would stop and put gas in the car but I would do it on my way to the coffee shop because I don't like to take left turns. It's true. I really don't like left turns even protected ones. I can be honest about it. My husband, the darling he is, knows these silly things that I do or won't do. He laughs at the way I find a way to go right. He smiles at the way I can't say "Be careful" more than once when someone leaves (a thing I inherited from my mother). He will always pick on me for the way I freak out if anything or anyone goes near my belly button because if you do touch my belly button all my guts will fall out. Does that make any sense? No but these things, these stupid little things are the pieces that I can joke about, that I don't have to take so seriously. And like my mother did for me, I passed some of these dumb little things down to my own daughter. Instead of being ashamed of these silly little quirks, I own them because they are the pieces that make me who I am.
Life should be taken seriously. We should work hard and do our due diligence to make this world a better place. We should give each other a helping hand and pats on the back and high fives for being the awesome people we are. We should cry when we are sad, let our anger out when we are angry, call each other out when we are being stupid. We should also stop and smell the roses. We should cut ourselves a break and just exist for a minute or two. The bills have to get paid, true. Our kids have to go to school, absolutely. Our friends need a shoulder to lean on, yes. Within all these moments of being serious, we can find time to let our hair down and let our laughter out. I admit that sometimes I get all tangled up. I am unable to see the humor in certain situations. I am weeded and need help but I am surrounded by people who could care less. I am trying to clean the house but my daughter just keeps throwing trash on the floor just to get to me. I fixate on the empty cups on the tables and having the perfect house that I forget the cups will pass and no one really cares what my house looks like other then me. I have to take a step back and sigh, reminding myself that all this shall pass. It's not all that important in the long run. If I am busy, then good people at those tables will understand. Eventually my child will grow up and have messy little children of her own. I will be an old lady with my hippy dress and long hair smiling on that park bench laughing about all these things that I take so seriously now. I won't be waiting tables forever. My teenage daughter will grow up to be a woman. And, yes, I will be an old lady with my grumpy husband laughing myself away.
I had the weekend off, not feeling well but still I didn't have to work. I suppose my head has cleared because I wasn't surrounded by the things that have been driving me crazy lately. I sat in my bedroom with two tiny kitties taking turns sleeping on me and I smiled. I smiled because I realized that lately I had just been chasing my tail. I left a job because I had gotten too involved and it was tearing me apart. I found a new job and what I realized as I stepped away from it was that I was just making the same mistakes all over again. I was getting too involved in a place that really doesn't want my input and I shouldn't be giving it either. I laughed at myself, letting myself truly get to the bottom of my insatiable need to be connected to something when I am not welcome. It's like dating a bad boy. You want to be the one to change them but sometimes people don't change no matter what you do. Reading through some of these blogs it is clear that I have been frustrated. It is clear that I need to take my own advice here and not take it so seriously. It is a job, not my career. While I will always do my best, maybe when I get frustrated at the laziness surrounds me, I should just let it go. A very wise man said to me yesterday "Culture doesn't change over night." He's right but I think I've finally come to terms that maybe it's not my place to be that change. Instead of getting angry, maybe it's just time to laugh at the absurdity and move it along. Life is funny, too, even in the darkest hours. Understanding the silver lining can be a tough thing but there is always a silver lining. There is always a reason to smile. Sometimes letting go is the only way to get that smile back.
I remember sitting on the hospital floor when my father died. Life wasn't very funny then. I was heart broken and scared and angry. I was confused, not understanding why the world was taking my father away. I remember sitting on that floor and answering my phone when my husband called to tell me that the car broke down and that feeling of complete emptiness. And I remember this moment where in my head I laughed and said to myself, "Of course the car is dead." In that moment it was oddly funny to me when it shouldn't have been funny at all. My father was dying in the next room and my car was dead down the street. I didn't have a back up car and I certainly don't have a back up father. I was screwed... but in that small moment when I had nothing it was funny. Maybe my sense of humor is a bit morbid, I know. Making dead dad jokes isn't kosher really but sometimes laughing about it is just as healing. I was working about a month after my father passed. I was at this table where the lady ordered ranch and her food didn't come out with ranch. No big deal, right? Well, this woman took her ranch so very seriously and yelled at me that her ranch didn't come out with her food even though obviously I ran back and got it. I remember standing there, listening to this dumb woman bitch about her ranch, and thinking "Well, yeah, my dad's dead." I walked away from that table with that thought in my head, imagining what it would have been like if I could have just screamed that back at that horrible woman, what would her face be like if I could have squashed her stupid ranch gripe with an actual heart breaking loss I was dealing with. It didn't make me mad. It made me laugh, knowing that my father would have appreciated it just the same. Ranch isn't that serious, folks. My husband lost his father about three years ago. I was there for him when he lost Pops. My husband was there when I lost my own Dad. So we can truly empathize with each other when the other is feeling a little bit low and missing our dads. In our twisted humor, we make some joke that is completely inappropriate and we feel better. It is a horrible feeling knowing I don't have a father on this earth but I can't change the fact that he died. However, he wouldn't want me to die along with him. He always knew I was a little bit strange. Death is serious just like life. And death can be funny just like life. What we can do is learn to not take our lives so seriously because (here's the morbid twist here) it doesn't last that long. All we got is right now and all we need is a little perspective. Being Sally Serious all the time is a real Debbie Downer. Learn to laugh at yourself. Learn to make fun of all those broken things about you. Learn to celebrate all those weird pieces of you because loving who you are means loving all of who you are. No, I won't take a left turn and I will never apologize for it. And when I am eighty years old, you still cannot touch my bellybutton. I prefer my guts inside my body.
I grew up Catholic, baptized and cleansed. For the first eighteen years of my life, I went to church. I went to Sunday School. I sat through a religion class every day. I attended ten years of my life in a private, Catholic school, two years in public that was very heavily Baptist influenced in a tiny town that didn't offer a Catholic school option. I was taught the Hail Mary, the Apostles Creed, the Our Father. I can recite them to this day. We said the blessing before we ate our dinner every night. I was taught that Jesus was the reason for the season and that the Ten Commandments were the only rules that I should live my life by. I was given Original Sin when I was born and reminded of it my entire woman life. For the first eighteen years of my life, I was a practicing Catholic but not by choice. I participated out of obligation to my parents. I was present out of a daughter's duty. But I was also the five year old girl who asked why I was going to hell when I didn't touch the apple. I was the ten year old girl who asked why we didn't love all people. I was the fifteen year old girl that kicked out of religion class after religion class over and over again, fighting with the ignorant boy next to me who thought that taking his son to a strip joint would cure his son of being gay. And each time I got kicked out of class it didn't make me change my thoughts. It didn't make me succumb to someone else's standards of what was kosher. I never wanted to go to Catholic school. I never thought church was important. I got it. I understood why I was there. I comprehended what people found comforting in church. I just never understood when this concept of Christianity became so political.
When I was sixteen years old was about the time I should have been confirmed into the Catholic faith. I received baptism. I received reconciliation. I was able to participate in Communion. My older sister was confirmed. My older brother was confirmed. My younger brother went through the same process. And me? Well, I was always the different kid that didn't follow the exact path my parents wanted me to. So, I decided I was not going to be confirmed into a faith that I saw a lot of holes in. I had nothing against this concept of God. I believed in some sort of higher power but I was still figuring things out for myself. I had been force fed these thoughts my entire life and I honestly just wanted to know what I believed, wanted to practice in the way that I chose. I disappointed my parents when I didn't get confirmed, I knew it. I just had to do what was best for me. I remembered being that five year old girl and not quite understanding why a God so loving would judge me for an apple that I never took. I thought about that ten year old girl that just didn't get why a God so forgiving would send someone to hell. I smiled at that fifteen year old me that caused so much trouble for poor Ms. Penny and knew that a God so accepting would never shun someone for loving what society deemed wrong. I just couldn't be part of a community that talked the talk but didn't always walk the walk. My father and I had so many talks about what religion meant. I always knew what it meant to him. In a way I felt sort of sad that it didn't mean the same thing to me but I know that I had become desensitized to these teachings in a way, too. My youth was surrounded by so much do as I say that I started to question the validity of that kind of life. And I understood the importance of church. It is a social affair more than it is anything. It is a chance for people to come together and worship. It is a time for us to sit next to each other, neighbor to neighbor, and put our best intentions forward. It is a time to say thank you for the life that we live by whatever god sacrificed for you. I get it and I don't have anything against it. I just never thought I needed a fancy building to be thankful for this breath I take.
There are so many people in this world that say they are Christians but I see so many people behave so poorly. When someone asks for help, they turn away. When someone is down, I see them kick them further. I may not believe in the Catholic faith or any particular religion but I do believe in kindness and being the words you speak. I believe in being good to each other, to not judging the other. I believe in working hard for the things you earn in this life. I believe in smiles and sunshine. I understand the pain and the sorrow that come along with them. There was one commandment that has always stuck with me through my life. Treat others as you would treat yourself. I have always tried, not always succeeded, in putting myself in someone else's shoes before I act. I think to myself how would that make me feel if someone did this? Stupid things that don't matter, too. I use the last of the water pitcher at work. Do I just leave the empty one on the station? But then I think how would I feel if I came around to use that pitcher and it was empty? Pretty irritated. Every small decision in my life is based on that one small sentence. It's not about a religion or being a Christian or a whatever you are. It's about being a human being with compassion and sympathy and honor. We fight over whose god is better when at the end of the day they are all the same thing. There is a common theme, a common ground that we can find. At the end of the day, these gods that we claim to be right are all just teaching one basic thing. Love. I am older now and I think a lot about my younger days growing up in a religion that often looked down on women. I understand why I grew up and became who I have. I have a tattoo on my leg of a snake with an apple in its mouth to always remind me of that five year old girl that questioned that Sunday School teacher and it makes me smile. And when I think of Jesus, this man that may or may not have existed, I think of him sitting on a hill like a hippy just spreading the love the only way he knew how. It's a nice story, the kind of religion I would follow, barefoot and loving each other.
We can fight forever about what religion is right but it never will matter. We can sit with each other and debate whether or not the Bible is something more than stories in a book. None of it matters. I always wanted to raise my daughter with an open mind. No, I didn't take her to church. I didn't read her the Bible. I wasn't a fan of her watching Veggie Tales but I never told her she couldn't. I allowed her to ask questions and we would find the answers together about any religion she wanted to know about. She went to church with my parents and I was fine with it because I wanted her to experience everything. I taught her to be kind, to be loving, to try not to judge, to interact with people with an open heart. I taught her to treat people with respect, with honor, with integrity. I taught her to treat people the way she wished to be treated, that what she put out into this world is what she would receive back. When she asked me if I believed in god, I told her this. I told her that I believed that it was comforting to feel like someone was watching out for us. When she asked me if I prayed, I told her yes but I never expected some imaginary force to ever fix my life. It was calming and sometimes the only way I knew how to let go of something. When she asked me why we didn't go to church like Grandma and Papa, I smiled and told her that we could love each other anywhere we were. People sometimes get lost in these titles like Christianity, Catholics, Methodist, Baptist, whatever. They get wrapped up in the fancy churches and the extravagant masses. They get lost in this material worship and forget that the message will never be found in a stained glass window. They get lost on being right, saying all these beautiful right things but don't follow through on the actions. I've had people look at me and smile, telling me that god loved me no matter what and then turn around and judge me just as quickly. I have tattoos. I had piercings. I was a woman who got pregnant when I wasn't married. I hung out with friends who were homosexual who were sadist, who drank too much and did drugs. I was promiscuous and in their eyes god would never love me... but that five year old little girl inside me knew they were wrong. It's not about what god you believe in. It's not about how often or if you ever go to a church. Life isn't about someone giving you something because you say words. It's not about how many stones you throw at people who don't deserve your judgement. We can call ourselves whatever we want however loud we want to. We can make signs and wear badges and sing as many hymns as our voices will allow but really this life is about how you live it. This concept of god gets muddled up and then it becomes a reason to judge each other when we don't have the right. You be a good person not because of the reward of the beyond. You be a good person because that's the right thing to do and it will never matter what kind of reward is out there waiting for you. If I look at you with hate, then that is what I am going to get back. I smile at you with love, I hope that is what I will receive back. When I offer you a hand, I hope you take it. We talk about being good people but we have to do more than talk. I may not have wanted to participate as a child in a religion that I found to be hypocritical but as an adult I peeled the onion. I realized what it was my parents were trying to teach me. It wasn't the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Rosary. They didn't really care I could sing Silent Night. What they wanted for me was a strong foundation of what being good, kind, decent really meant. What I took from it after many years of just pumping my fists against the ugliness that I saw was that underneath that onion was this simple, beautiful lesson. Treat others as you wish to be treated. I still don't believe in the Catholic faith and I still don't declare that I am any religion but what I do believe in this heavenly practice of kindness. I believe that we are all people and that we all deserve to live our lives surrounded by love in whatever fashion we choose to enjoy it. I don't believe in a man who may or may have not existed who sat on a hill and handed out fish but I believe in the act of kindness that this story told. While we don't have to believe in the same thing, we can still be a part of the message the story teaches.
My daughter recently started her first job. As a mother, I couldn't be more proud at her motivation to earn money to get the things that she wants without depending on her father and I to provide it for her. I was fifteen when I got my first job just like she is today. Do I enjoy the fact that I've been working for the last twenty-two years? Of course we all wish we could live in a world where we didn't need money, where we could just have all those things that we want without much effort... but that's not the world we live in. I don't mind working. I mean I may not like what I do all the time but I like being responsible for my own self. I enjoy the benefits that come from working as long as I have. Since I started working at fifteen, I developed a strong work ethic. I understood what the word responsibility truly meant. The reality of being held accountable for my own actions finally set in. If I didn't get up and go to work, then I didn't have a job. Without that job, I didn't have any money. No money meant I couldn't pay for my car. The legacy that I leave behind at one job would follow me to the next. Believe you me there have been jobs that I honestly couldn't stand. I once got a job at a sex shop. I lasted about two days. Sure, I'm a very open minded person. I am covered in tattoos and have had quite a few piercings in my day... but there was something about standing in that store that made me feel kind of gross, not quite me. The funny part was this place that sold sex toys is that they were adamant I covered up my tattoos. When I asked why, they said that they didn't want people to get the wrong idea about me. It still tickles to me to this day. Did I just not show up again? No, I still went in and spoke to them like an adult. I told them it just wasn't the right fit for me and we parted ways on good terms. There have been jobs that made me want to rip my eyes out that I stayed at for years because I wasn't in a good place to leave. One job they laid me off and then asked if I wanted to stay on to be the Receptionist, a position I had been promoted from three years prior. I took the severance and figured the rest out. Because while sometimes you can walk away with your pride still intact, other times you have to wait it out. Then there are those times when walking away is the only decision you can make.
My parents didn't force me to get a job. They didn't say you must go or else. They simply said if I wanted a car, then I needed to pay for it myself. So, I did. I learned how important it was to not only just get the bare minimum done but to push myself a little bit. I realized that the standards I hold for myself will always be higher than the standards others have for me. If I didn't do something right and you don't notice, I will. I always will. If you leave something undone even though it's not my responsibility to do it, I will do it because it needs to be done. It's not about who does what or how good someone does that. It's about getting a job done. It's about doing the task at hand, the task you are making a living doing. I've worked in places where the people could care less. I've worked in places where we were all brilliant. I've worked in places where we brought smiles to each other's faces and places where we would instantly roll our eyes at each other the minute we saw the other. The last office job I worked in was the cattiest place I had ever been. People constantly back stabbing the other, trying to make everyone else look bad when they were the ones that made the mistakes in the first place. The job wasn't about getting something done. It was about who you could step on along the way. I never partook in their reindeer games. Potlucks would happen and I would eat lunch alone in my cubicle because I couldn't stomach the idea of faking it with people who would rather throw poo on my face. I left that job to go back to waiting tables so I could chase what I really wanted to do and write. What I found is that though the jobs are very different, the games didn't necessarily change. I found my place though among those Village people. I learned that there are good, hardworking people out there just like me. I learned that there are turds out there, too. Without the bad, we would never appreciate the good.
There are days when I leave work and I am frustrated. No, waiting tables is not my dream job but I am good at it. It pays my bills. And no matter what the job, I know that I will always do my best even if I'm weeded three sheets to the wind. I will never say no to a table. I will never tell you I can't help you out. I may get annoyed but I will never not help. I watch the people around me. Some are awesome. Some are not. I start to wonder why some people develop this amazing sense of responsibility and others just assume someone else will do their job. Maybe it's because I've been on my own as soon as I could leave the house. Maybe it's because at 21 I was raising a child basically on my own, knowing I was the only one she really had. Maybe it's because I watched my parents work themselves to the bones but I don't understand how you don't give your best or at least a valiant effort. There are times at work when it gets bananas and you feel like you are drowning but I still have duties to perform. I could have twelve tables but that ice isn't going to fill itself. That food isn't going to walk itself out to a table. That silverware doesn't quite roll itself into those napkins. Even though I am running around, trying to make sure everything is good, I still observe people. I notice who is running and who is not, noting the levels of stress of the people around me. I grow frustrated when I'm giving it my all and the person next to me is barely raising a finger. I think that's true for all of us at any kind of job. It's not just a service industry thing. It's an office thing. It's a people thing. There are the doers and there are the ones that will always catch a ride on someone coat tails. I know that I have my own faults but I also know that I will never skirt away from them either. If I didn't fail, I would never succeed.
I want my kid to grow up and know the value of hard work. I want her to understand that beautiful feeling of accomplishing something. There is something wonderful about completing a task even if it is just sitting someone at a table. When she gets that first paycheck, I hope she feels proud of the work she did to earn that money. I didn't give it to her. My husband didn't hand her any. She showed up at a job and earned that money. I watch the people around me, not just in my every day life, but the people on the television, in the news, on the radio all try to pass the buck. People just don't take responsibility for themselves anymore. Yesterday someone dumped balsamic all over the dressing cooler and then walked away. They didn't bother to clean it up. They didn't say they were sorry but they'd be right back. They left it and other people had to clean it up. They couldn't be bothered to clean up their own mess, obviously correctly assuming someone else would do it. It's things like that drive me crazy. These small, dumb things that people can't seem to be bothered with. It happens everywhere when if we all just did our part, if we all just cleaned up our own messes, if we all just put our differences aside we could all be better. It's so easy to pass the blame. It's so easy to put someone else down. It's so easy to wipe your hands clean. It's so easy to not take responsibility for yourself when you can blame everyone around you, when you can blame this world you live in. We are responsible for our own actions. We are responsible for what kind of people we become. We are responsible for the kind of life we want to live. Life is going to present us with obstacles. It is going to surround us with people who will try to drag us down. At the end of the day it is our responsibility to make each breath we take better than the next.