Motivations over the years have changed. Have they changed because I have? Or have they changed because life in general morphed into something else as we grow? I've never been quite sure. When I was younger, the things that pushed me were so very different than what pushes me forward now. Do our motivations change because our dreams do? When one dream dies, does a new one bring a different inspiration? And I don't know. My parents were strict with us kids growing up. I know that I wanted to make them proud of me. I wanted them to look at me and believe that I had a bright future but it was their future for me that I thought I needed to aspire to. Then, I got older. I fought these ideals my parents had for me. I stood on my own two feet as the stubborn young girl I had become and said I would do it my own way in my own time. In a way, my motivation became doing everything in the exact opposite way they had planned just to prove that I could indeed stand on my two feet. What I didn't realize back then that the only thing my parents wanted for me was to be happy which I wasn't for a large chunk of my life. Was that their fault? Was it my fault? What I know now is that fault means nothing. Motivations sometimes are confusing. We got swept up in what we think we want and then when our fingers wrap around that most precious gift it all changes again. We change again. I've always had a tough resolve. My life, the environments I've found myself in, these little and big tragedies that I've made my way through have made me tough. For a time, they made me too tough to feel the softer side of me but I came back. We all come back. When I did, my motivations were again different. I wanted the world to see me as untouchable, invincible. If a kink in my armor showed itself, I was hell bent on covering it up because it was a sign of weakness. Tears were for pansies. Asking for help was never to be considered. Happiness was something I didn't think I deserved. That's what I thought. So I kept myself separate, apart from the world around me. My motivation? My motivation was to never be hurt again.
I sat down to write this and a song came on that reminded me of my father. I saw an image of my father smiling at me, shaking his head at me when I stomped my feet in a stubborn tantrum about how I could do this life all by myself. For a long time, I didn't have a choice. Then I thought it was because no one cared. And now? I realize I was all wrong. I was all wrong because in the construction of my walls, I didn't see the arms that would catch me. Now, 19 years after my life got detoured, 15 years after my daughter was born, 8 years after meeting my husband, almost 2 years after losing my father I see more clearly than I have before. When my daughter was born, I was a 21 year old kid just trying to figure out who I was. When I became her mother, that's who thought I was. I was someone's mother. I was her mother. My duty in life was to raise this tiny human into someone amazing. My responsibility was to provide for her, to love her, to catch her when she falls, and to applaud her when she stands. I poured myself into her, just trying to be the best role model I could, to be the best mother I could. My entire existence became her and all of my energy was directed into her growth. I made my father proud when I had her. It was one of the few times he ever looked at me and told me he was but I don't think he really knew how terrified I was. I did it alone for a long time because I was resilient. She was my motivation to be better than I ever could be. I learned strength from her in a way she will never truly understand. Chasing the monsters away became my responsibility both for her and me. Then my husband came along and I didn't have to chase our monsters away alone. As she grew, she hasn't needed me the same way but now I was someone's wife, a new identity. I wanted to make him happy, him proud, to give my daughter the family I failed to give her the first time around with this beautiful man. My motivation had become more than me. It became us. I realized how quickly I ran before. I understood that what I ran from was love. I was scared to death that I didn't deserve it.
There are times when I get so frustrated, I want to give up. I want to walk away and never turn around. I want to allow other people to break me, to succumb to someone else's standards and throw my hands in the air. I sit down and I cry and I ask myself why work so hard when I feel like I don't get anywhere? And then I see this image of my father sitting at his desk working on his next get rich quick scheme, the one that never worked out because they never worked out but this man kept trying. What I see now that I never saw before is how he never let the hard nos break him. What I can see clearly now is that his spine was just as tough as his gentle heart. I try to sit down and reflect on myself. That is a lot of writing is for me, a reflection. I allow myself the time to sit with myself, to check in and ask honestly am I doing what is right for me. Have I been kind enough? Have I been strong enough? Have I been true to who I am? Am I on the right path? Sometimes I get lost in a blur, forgetting what I am made of, of all the things I am made of. A lot of my motivation comes from other people, it's true. I want to be someone my daughter looks up to. I want to be someone my husband wants to brag about to each and every one of his tables. I want my family to be proud of how I turned out. I want my friends to know that we are kindred spirits. Sitting down today, I'm just checking in and what I see is a woman who for the first time in a long life has finally found her grounding. I published my first book after losing my father. It was in his loss that for the first time my life I did something solely for myself. Sure, in the long run when I can make a career out of these words, will benefit my family but for right now this is mine. I write these words sparked out of my own desire to be something, to be someone for myself. I work hard at that job for my family. I work hard even when I know no one is looking, even when I know that I will not get rewarded for myself. I do the right thing to do right by myself. I sit at this desk and write these words despite the hard nos because I understand how much I matter now. I understand that regardless of how many times I get knocked down or told no or passed by or left behind, this journey has a brighter destination.
Our motivations are always going to change. The things we push ourselves for will be different from day to the next. For as much as we stay the same, we change just as much. My motivation wasn't always going to be to make my parents' proud. However much their pride matters, it is not sustainable. My daughter will eventually grow up and she can't live her life living by my rules. I don't want her to. I want her to find her own feet, stand her own ground, figure out her own inspiration. My husband, my sweet husband, can't be the person I measure myself against because for as much as we have in common, we are two very different people. I realize now that the pride in myself is the one motivation that matters the most. We can't live our lives for our parents, our children, our spouses but they can be a big part of our lives just the same way. I've never felt more confident than I do right now. I sit down with these words, understanding how much of me I've let sit in a dusty journal. My motivation isn't to become the number one best seller (thought that would be real nice). My motivation is to be true to who I am. I am not just a mother. I am not just a wife. I am not just my father's daughter. And I most certainly am not just the server with the tattoos and red glasses. I am every hard time that fell on me and every sunrise that warmed my cheek. This life can't be what others' inspire only. This life must also be about what you inspire out of yourself. We will break but never do we shatter. Grab a cup of coffee. Sit down and get to know yourself. Underneath all that we do for the others, I bet you'll find so many reasons why you should do it for you, too.
Emotions can sometimes get the best of us, bring out the worst in us, inspire strength we didn't know we had. I have always battled with my feelings being valid. Aren't all our feelings valid? Is my anger justified? Does my annoyance come from a real place? Is this happiness that I feel real? Or are all these feelings that I have meaningless, created out of my imagination to entertain myself? If we feel too much, we are weak. If we feel nothing at all, we are cold. But isn't there somewhere in the middle? We go through something tragic, something hard and we have a choice. We face those feelings of loss, of anger or we run from them. It is easy to accept someone's happiness but it's not always easy to open your arms to someone who is in pain. Not because we are bad people but because you just don't know what to do for them. You want to be that band aid that's going to instantly fix something. You want to be that light that shines on their skin in the dark moments. And sometimes people are just going to feel things that you don't understand. They are going to be angry for no reason. They are going to be annoyed because it's Tuesday. They are going to cry because that may seem so incredibly stupid to you but to them? To them the tears need to be shed. Underneath these feelings that seem to come from nothing, there is always a deeper hurt, a deeper joy that even they don't quite understand. It's part of being human. We feel things sometimes for every valid reason in the world and other times for no reason at all. I have moments when I become sad. Nothing happened. A trigger wasn't pulled but I feel sad. When my husband asks me why, I can't explain. I just do. I know it drives him crazy because he's a fixer. He wants to fix those sad feelings, wash them away but there's nothing to wash away. I have to allow myself to go through it, to let myself feel it, and then I can come out of it. These feelings are there for a reason even if I don't always understand where they come from. It's the same for anger and joy. I must allow myself to feel these things, to let them run their course because shooing them away like a fly is not the answer. It's not weak to allow yourself humanity, a lesson it has taken me too long to learn.
For a long time in my life I swallowed my feelings. All the anger I felt, the sadness, the joy, the pride, my silliness... I swallowed them all. I saw the way people would look at me when I cried, when my fists shook, when my smile shined bright, when I laughed at the nonsensical joke someone told. After college, I distanced myself from everyone because I saw the rage I felt made everyone uncomfortable. I saw the way they looked at me when I broke down in tears, when I was scared and felt alone. I will never forget the people looked at me because they didn't know what to do, because they didn't believe me. I was told to talk about my feelings but no one ever wanted to listen. They fidgeted in their seats and just told me that everything was going to be OK. They were right. I am OK but it broke my heart every time someone patted me on the head, told me to take two pills, and don't talk about it in the morning. It isolated me even further and taught me that no one particularly cared how I felt... at least that's how it felt. And even if that was untrue, those feelings were absolutely still valid to have. I stopped telling people how I felt. I stopped letting my anger be seen. I refused to show people the turmoil that was truly inside because what did it matter? I was a fly on their sandwich. Time goes by. Time heals. I met my husband and for the first time in a long time I felt a safety there. I can't always explain to him what I am feeling. He can't always understand where it comes from. I can cry in front of him and not feel judged. I can laugh beside him and not feel alone. It has taken him a few years to understand how my emotions work because I'm not always honest with them, with him, with myself. I still struggle with sharing my feelings. I still have that fear that when I tell you, you will look at me like I am an idiot for feeling them. I still don't quite trust the world with these feelings that run deep like a river because I am terrified they won't be received. I know that seems peculiar considering I'm so vulnerable in my writing. I am aware of the amount of heart I put in between these lines. Words make me brave I guess but I lose that courage face to face. I don't want to hurt your feelings because I am terrified to hurt your feelings, a trait that does me more damage than good sometimes. The only time I want to inspire a tear is here, in these words, but never from these lips.
I understand more about myself the older I get. I understand the way my emotions work, what inspires me, what's going to drive me nuts. I have no confusions about my triggers that will send me into a tails spin. The concept of letting go is a work in progress but I've come far. I know that feeling emotions still isn't easy for me, communicating my emotions still causes anxiety. I get frustrated when I'm mad and someone tries to tell me to not be mad. I get annoyed when I'm angry and people tell me to calm down. I get my feelings hurt when people talk to me like I'm an idiot for being a nice person. I get tired of always taking it on the other cheek. I am exhausted from being the one that it all lands on. And I want to give up when someone looks at me and makes me feel that all these feelings don't matter. They do. They always have. When someone is mad, let them be mad. They will find their way out. When someone is sad, just hold their hand. They will start to shine soon enough. When someone is scared, allow them to face that fear on their own terms. Their feet will find their courage. When someone is happy, rejoice with them. Their heart deserves to sing. When someone laughs, laugh along with them. Our souls need to dance, too. My husband doesn't always understand but he is always there no matter what. He knows now that these feelings that I have he can't always be the one that fixes them. I'm not broken or without fault. I'm just real. I'm just a person. I want to feel the joy, the anger, the sadness, the stupid little annoyances because if I don't? If I don't allow myself all of these emotions, then I'm not really living this life right, am I? All of these raw parts, these lovely sensitive parts, make me stronger even if some might say it makes me weaker. I am at a point in my life where it doesn't matter the way someone looks at me when I cry, when I smile, when my forehead is pinched. What I have realized is that everything that I feel, justified or not, is valid. It has always been valid. In these words, I feel them. I own them. And then I let these emotions go. Regardless of the source, every emotion we feel means something. Our souls need to breathe. Our spirits need to fly. Our hearts need to sing. Allowing yourself, giving yourself permission to feel whatever emotion it is you are feeling is a gift. You are valid in every way, inside and out.
Once upon my life, in a history from long long ago, I used to be a very closed off person. My heart was wide and open. I believed in the goodness, the kindness of people. I wanted the people I met to be as open, as kind, as heartfelt as I was but I learned from a young age that people didn't always live up to your expectations of them. I can say that it was that night in college that did it but really I had been closed off from people far before that. The older you get, the more you reflect and the more you accept about yourself. The more you can analyze your life in a more neutral fashion. Perhaps as we grow older, the sting doesn't hurt as much. Maybe the older we get we understand how to put ourselves in someone shoes because we've lost some of our youthful selfishness. We see that the world does not revolve around us. We accept that the world does not owe us a damn thing. I was having lunch with my husband today and we started talking about commitment issues. Our five year anniversary is on Saturday. He asked me what my longest relationship was before him. It was maybe three years, off and on with one curly haired boy from high school. I started thinking about why my husband was the first person I ever truly gave myself to. I wasn't scared of commitment before him. Commitment was an idea that I had nothing against but I ran from any kind of relationship for a long time in my life. Before college, I never really had anyone leave my life in a way that would make me permanently jaded but my big, loving heart broke so many times, too many times out of disappointment. In my life, I have always expected more out of people, out of the people around me, and so many times, too many times in my life I have been let down. I've never been afraid of commitment because of someone leaving. I've been terrified of commitment with the fear of being let down.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on my own. I would get lost in a book. I would draw for hours, write for days because in my own way I was making a world that I could control. If there was disappointment there, it was my own. If I didn't draw that line quite right, the only person I could get disappointed in was me. That was easier to deal with than looking at you and being let down. I was the middle child, the one that didn't get all that much attention. I don't think I really wanted it but looking back I can see how it affected me. I learned to not count on many people. Really at the end of the day, it was on me to write that perfect line. It was up to me to paint that smile. Then that night in college happened and I was alone, the most alone I had ever been in my life. I realized quickly that every time I reached out, no one could see me. I learned that with every cry of help, I was met with deaf ears. And I wasn't hurt because they didn't see me. I wasn't hurt that they left behind. I wasn't even hurt when I realized how many people just didn't believe me. I was hurt because I was disappointed. I shattered because the hope I put in the world around me was met with silence, with backs turned. So, I did what I always did. I got lost in books, got swept away in my words because there I knew these words would listen. I was never scared that people wouldn't stay. I was terrified that if they did, they would never really be what I wanted them to be. I stayed away from people for a long time in my life throughout my life. It was easier to keep my distance than to get close only to have them disappoint me but I never stopped looking for the good in people. I just knew that my patch worked heart was one break away from not coming back. We protect ourselves in our own ways. Looking back, my way was to run. When I look at the world around me, I want it to be the rainbows and butterflies I see in my head. Looking back, I know now that the heartbreak that fell upon me was by my own hands and that's OK. I can accept that now.
I wrote a poem the other day about my husband, this sweet soul of a man that I was lucky enough to find eight years ago. It was about the difference between his heart and mine, his view of the world versus mine. His soul is kind, sweet, honorable. There are so many reasons why I love this man. There are so many reasons I know that I am incredibly lucky. He is the first person in my life that I have every fully trusted. He is the first person in my life to truly show me what love really means but it wasn't instant. He knows it wasn't instant for me but not because of him. His intentions were always pure but I needed time to see that. I assumed for the first year of our relationship that he was going to leave though I never expressed that fear to him. I never saw the need to. There were no signs, no indications that he was going anywhere but that's how people seemed to work in my life. Looking back today, I know that I wasn't scared of him leaving. I knew how to handle that. What I was scared of was this lovely man not being who I wanted him to be, needed him to be because everything in my life before him had been a disappointment. Then one night there was a situation, a really tough situation that we had to face. He had a choice. He had a choice to stay or to go. I had already come to terms that he was going to leave, had already broken my heart so that when he shut that door behind him I wouldn't fall to pieces. I knew how to mend a broken heart. I had done it so many times before. This disappointment was to be no different than any of the others ones in my life. For the first time in my life, someone chose me. For the first time in my life, someone didn't disappoint. He was the first person to ever take my hand when I reached, to ever truly see me for all the broken, wonderful pieces I was. In his loving eyes, I realized for the first time that the disappointment I feared in him was never there.
Eight years later, we are still standing strong. Our love still makes people sick, something that will always make us smile. He has taught me so many wonderful things. He has helped me let go of so many more hurtful things. He has erased so many doubts that I carried for a long time. I still get scared of putting my trust into people. I'm still hesitant to open my arms to strangers. I don't always believe people are good but I have learned because of him that I can hope. In an ideal world, we would all freely give and share and love but this world isn't always kind. This utopia that we dream may never exist but we could get close. People won't always be what you think they, who you think they are, what you want them to be. They will act harshly. They will be cruel and callous and judge you for no real reason. They will leave you behind and slap the door shut behind them, leaving you in the dark out of spite... but not all of them. For every rotten table I serve, there is three good ones. For every rude person that cuts me off in traffic, there are two cars that will let me in. I may work hard my entire life and always get the raw end of the stick. Will I be disappointed in that asshole woman at the table that made me cry? Yes. Will I yell curse words out my window at the idiot that almost ran me off the road? Absolutely. Will I get frustrated at how tired I am at the end of the day because I just worked my ass off but have nothing to show for it? Always but I can't get disappointed at myself for having faith in the world around me. Sure, I still get lost in my words. I still prefer to make my own background but I've learned that other people's light doesn't always have to fall flat. We should still believe in the good of other people. We should always give them a chance to be better than what we thought. For every one disappointment we feel, there are plenty more brilliant moments to come.
The other day it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I am a sucker for order, for getting things done so when I set out on a mission, I expect results. Out of myself, out of the people around me, out of life, absolutely. I plan and prepare, hoping for the best possible scenarios. I have to admit something. I have to admit that I've been feeling pretty beat down. It's been a struggle at work to make the money I need to make to provide for my family. It's been a struggle to keep schedules straight so that we can all do what is important to us. I've felt unappreciated, let down, and without motivation because what's the point? I work hard. I try hard. I do everything in my power to make a good life and the world has seemed to laugh at me around every corner. I don't sell books and I feel deflated. My house is constantly a mess and I feel like I'm drowning. I work my hands to the bone and there is nothing positive to come of it. The other day when everything that seemed to go wrong went wrong I remember standing beside that car, my father's car that is now mine, with a flat tire. We have put so much into that car over the last couple of weeks, fixing the things that he did not and finally putting to rest the last of his estate. I stood there next to that flat tire, beaten and disappointed, throwing my hands in the air because I just didn't know how much more I could take, asking the question we all ask when things don't go our way, "What else?" I try to be a positive person, keeping on the bright side of life but it can be difficult when things seem so bleak. It's tough when you feel like the air you breathe is a struggle to take in. I want to see the best parts of people, the amazing part of every day. I stood by that car with my head hanging low, fighting tears. I was at a loss at what to do. I remember thinking I could use an angel right about now. And that angel came in the nice man who worked at the Dry Cleaners. I was answered by the lovely group of people the next night who left me a very generous tip. I was answered by the two lovely ladies with the bottle of wine last night. We go through our lives so focused on the struggles that we face that we forget to see the kindness around us.
Life can be dumb. It's such a simple way of putting it. We are mistreated. We are neglected. We are forgotten, taken advantage of, left behind. We move through these moments holding on so tightly to the mishaps that we fumble on because it is easier to assume the worst than hope for the best. It has taken me such a long time to figure out why my first thought is always catastrophe. I get in the car to drive and all I see is a horrible car crash. I start a shift and all I expect is no business. I meet someone beautiful and I prepare myself for the moment they turn their back on me. I watch my kid go to school and all I can see is the day she will no longer be under my wings. I get a flat tire? I get a flat tire and I crumble because that flat tire is the summation of what parts of my life have felt like. This anxiety I carry has done enough damage to my psyche but it's a part of me I have learned to accept. I am older now, wiser now, stronger than I've ever been and I understand now how to control these worst case scenarios I tend to imagine. I know at the end of the day they have no real power over me. I know that flat tires and struggling to pay bills and my kid growing up are all parts of this inevitable life. If life were perfect, just think of how boring we would all be. You would apply for a job and instantly get it. You would do a sit up and immediately be at your goal weight. You need $300 to pay off your car taxes and in a blink of an eye you would have it. There would be nothing to work for. Without scars, you have no character. There is a movie called Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner I watched when I was younger. Sure, it was about a bunch of ghosts playing baseball but there was something more there. The line, "If you build it, they will come," sticks in my head. I haven't watched that movie in a good twenty years (more or less). I don't remember the small details about it but I do remember that line. I don't think I understood back then but I thought of this movie the other day standing next to my father's once car in my down trodden state and I got it. All the hard work I do in this life is worth it even if it feels like I'm fighting an uphill battle, a very losing uphill battle. I may never be exactly where I want to be but if I don't build it, none of my dreams will have a platform to stand.
I will be honest. These struggles have been a constant nag in the back of my head for longer than a couple of weeks. I know much of it stems from losing my father, from losing my dog. I can admit that I have changed since going through their loss, becoming more sentimental and, in an odd way, a lot harder on myself than I should be. I give more than I should and don't save enough me for myself. I get frustrated when I feel like I don't get the same in return and I know I don't really have any right to expect the same in return. People are people. Just like we focus on the bad things that happen in our lives, we tend to focus on the bad people that buzz around us as well. We forget about the people that hang out in the background doing the small things that need to be done without notice and focus on the ones standing in alcove with their arms crossed. Why? Because it is easier. It is always easier to point out the bad apple rather than praise the perfectly good ones all around it. I remember asking for that angel the other day, feeling hopeless and lost and so very unclear of how I was going to conquer this next obstacle that was thrown in my way that day. All I wanted to do was go have a coffee with a friend and the world laughed at me. My husband showed up, my hero. As we were trying to put that car up a very nice man came along and asked if we needed help. We did. We very much did. The only reason I believe we got the spare on was because of his kindness. There was something beautiful about this man, in the way that he got down on his knees for two perfect strangers without hesitation. As I was sitting on the side, watching these two men, one I loved and the other I didn't know his name, I realized how very tarnished I had become. I realized how much I had lost sight of all the kindness there was in the world. I had been focusing so much on the wrongs people had done me lately, how unfair life had felt over the last year, I forgot that love is a far brighter star. I asked for an angel and I got a reminder that they do exist.
Part of living in this world is learning how to accept things for exactly how they are. Sometimes things will work out in your favor and sometimes they won't. There will be times we get those big promotions and times we get looked over for someone less qualified. Lately I've had to accept that no matter how hard I work, how hard I try, no matter what I do I may not always get the winning end of the deal. I can be frustrated, sure. Or I can chalk it up to a learning experience and keep a smile on my face. Life is a struggle. Being a decent, positive human being is a struggle but that's what I want to be. I want to be just like that nice man who helped me with my tire. I want to be that customer that tips a generous amount to that hard working server. I remember the other night I laid the book down and just stared at it for a minute. I prepared myself for a very low tip even though I knew I worked my ass off. I steadied myself for disappointment even though I know I rocked that party. It was going to be easier to expect the worst than hope for the best because if I expect the worst, there is no disappointment. My breath caught when I saw that tip. My heart lifted and tears came into my eyes because I had found another angel. In the last few days, wonderful people have appeared in moments when I needed to feel that kind of love the most. I want to be positive even if it never pays off. At my best, that's who I am. I want to offer you a hand and I want to give you a smile. I want to give you a hug when you're sad and a rainbow when you storm. I may not always win. I may not even get close but I must never give up. Look around you. There are so many more angels out there than you think. Be kind. Be love. Be brilliant. Let your best shine brighter than the wrong that surrounds you. Angels come in all forms when your beaten heart needs them the most.