I spoke to my mother yesterday and the woman just makes me smile sometimes. Not just because she is my mother but because the older I get, the more I just appreciate her as a person. She was telling me a story about her day. In this story and the reactions she had and the things that were being said to her or about her aligned with the sort of week, I was having. Sometimes I think people misunderstand my humor, the way I deal with life. I feel like people often take my sometimes dark, grumpy nature that I am jaded or mean which is so far from who I really am that I find it funny. Listening to my mother, I realized that (not to quote NBC but to quote NBC) I learned it from you! I grew up with a strong mother, a woman who, while doing anything for you, made it very clear when she was angry, who without words expressed that she had had enough. She snapped sometimes but it was never out of malice. It was out of raising four annoying children and taking care of a dreamer of a husband. She was the rock and the world landed on her every time we fell apart. So I get it, now more than ever.
I was never a bubbly person, a cheerleader so to speak. I was never able to blow smoke up your ass or to pretend like I was something I am not even if I have bent over way too often over the last decade. The one thing that I have always been real but it’s been a weird balance. I am a kind person and that kindness goes far but I have my limits. That kindness takes a toll on me that I am happy to pay for a while but, like my mother, I have my limits. I will have that breaking point where I snap at you, where I want to throw a casserole dish at your head for a simple wrong sort of look. I don’t know how to look at a person and put a fake smile on my face without paying a heavy price. And, honestly, I am a pretty jaded person when it comes to humanity. I will roll my eyes at dumb. I will lose my patience for people who make excuses about why they can’t just be a decent human being. My voice will be sarcastic and my wit will be sharp and I will not fake liking you… because I can’t. It is not in my DNA to be something I am not. The older I get, the more I’m tired of fighting that. I work in a field where they want me to fluff people’s pillows and it takes so much out of me to fake concern for people who don’t even believe I’m a real person but I do it. I do it because it’s what I know. I do it because there are genuine people out there who are worth the price I pay.
I love the dark joke. I enjoy saying weird things, making me people look at me like I am a crazy person but a lot of times I got misunderstood because of it. My voice is not a high pitched one. It is slightly raspy from all the years of smoking. It breaks from how much I have to talk to people during the day. It doesn’t understand how to sound sympathetic when inside I want to straggle you. I think about my mom growing up, how you could always tell when she was pissed because her voice gave it away, how I hear those same tones in my own now. I listened to her story yesterday and it just makes me laugh. I’ve lived on this planet, endured so many different types of people, been through some life enough to earn that jagged edge. I’m not ashamed of it and I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m scarred because of it. I don’t want to go through this life, pretending like life is good because it’s not. It never was. While we have moments of joy, we carry so much dark, too. That’s the beauty of us, of all of us. I don’t want to vomit rainbows at your feet if I don’t feel them. I don’t want to lie to you and give you fake apologies if I don’t mean them. I want to be honest and real and human with you, with all of you. I’m not sunshine. I’m an Eeyore and an Oscar and I love the inspiration that comes out of that part of me. A part of me is my mother and I am so glad I fully understand how lovely that part of me is. So, sure, I’m going to snap at you. I’m going to sigh heavily. I’m going to, at some point, throw something at your head… but I’m also going to show you love, kindness, quiet respect.
I sat in an office earlier this week, being told that I needed to be more positive. I said nothing in reply really because I understood there was no point to it. I understood who my audience was, old enough to know what battles are worth fighting and which are not. I walked out feeling slightly defeated, very annoyed, and honestly not very motivated. I know that I’m not always the easiest person to read, to get to know. I give you everything and give you nothing at the same time. And I know that I come off as negative at times. I used to want to change that part of me but I’m not very interested in that much anymore. Here’s the thing. I know who I am. I know that I hold my sunshine close to the chest because I’m terrified that the world is somehow going to take it away from me. It has happened so much in my life that it’s just a part of me and I’m OK to share that part of me with the people in my life who I feel comfortable with. I will always have a general distrust of people but I will never treat another person with anything but respect. My very first memory of my mom is her brushing her long, dark hair in a bathroom in a pink nightgown. I remember thinking that she was one of the most beautiful people in the world and, one day, I wanted to be just as pretty as she was. So, I took note of her strength growing up, the things she would tolerate and the things she wouldn’t. Listening to her story last night, I realized that all of that strength has been imprinted in me, in that very small little girl who watched her mother in such awe. I don’t want to apologize anymore for being a little dark, slightly strange, always a bit sad. I don’t want to apologize for being anxious or hesitant or weary of people. I love you all but maybe it’s the time I just throw the casserole dish and see where the crumbs fall.
This week I did my first art installation at a local Coffee shop. I’ve been going to this place since I was 15 years old. That’s a lot of years and a lot of coffee we’ve shared together. So, for this to be the first place I come out so to speak is fitting. There’s a lot of anxiety with this but it’s not the kind that brings me to my knees. It’s an exciting sort of nervous, happy butterflies. For the last 7 months, I have been preparing and thinking, obsessing and dreaming, thinking of all the worst-case scenarios crossing my fingers for the best. Putting your work out there for people to see is always rough but to have it in front of live people makes me feel so vulnerable. I feel like posting it on a website or Instagram there is a certain amount of protection there. I look at those paintings on the wall right now and it feels like I am standing naked in front of you. Each of one of those paint strokes was born from these hands and came from a part of me that I can’t use words to explain. And in that, there is a rawness that I am giving to you.
There was a moment Thursday morning after everything was hung that I became scared. I wanted to pull everything down, say never mind, and hide all of my work away. It wasn’t that I was scared that people wouldn’t like it. There will be people who won’t and that’s all right. I get that my work is very feminine and maybe a more a specific taste. I just didn’t know if I was sure I wanted to show the world those parts of me. There is a certain amount of loneliness in my work, a sadness that I don’t mean to put in there but because those two things have been a part of me for so long they come out when I draw. And it was that sadness, that loneliness that I was scared to give to you. Here’s the thing. Those two things are mine and the source of so much of my strength that I was scared it was going to be taken away from me. My husband looked at me, saw the panic in my eyes, and asked me if I was all right. I was. I always am. At that moment though I had to roll with my anxiety, feel that fear, and realize that doing this was a new source of strength. It was about time I owned that part of me, too.
I have had many dreams about my Dad over the last few nights. I miss him so much but I always miss him. I sit here right now and I look at those pictures hanging on the wall and I think of him. I think of all the conversations we ever had, the good ones and the bad ones, the silly political debates and the dinner time conversations about bowel movements and I smile at all of them. I am not a super-spiritual person but I do believe that spirits exist. I don’t think my Dad is hanging around. I know he has found his peace but what I also know that he visits sometimes, too. And even it is just my mind dealing with his death by creating this fantasy, I’m OK with it. Last night he bought me ice cream and we sat together in a busy place and we laughed and we smiled. I don’t know what we talked about but I remember sitting with him, what I felt and knowing this was his way of letting me know how proud of me he is. He knew that someday I would find what he always saw and it was this strength to try.
I know this is just a coffee shop. I know this may not be the thing that rockets me to success. I have a healthy understanding that I may walk out with every one of those pieces 3 months from now… but for now, I am eating ice cream with my Dad and enjoying this moment.