I realized this week that when I switched jobs, I didn't necessarily go from one type of job to different type. I pretty much am doing the same thing minus being face to face with customers. Now I get to listen to their gripes over a phone and without serving them a beer. I admit. It's a nice to change to not have to hide my facial expressions when someone is being ridiculous to me. I mean I don't know how great I was at holding back my look of annoyance at a customer who was asking for 12 ramekins of ranch but whatever. At least now when they are yelling about at things I can't control I can roll my eyes freely. With the holiday season upon us and watching at least 4 Netflix originals this week, I started thinking about how much more horrible people can be during the holiday season. I know. You are thinking I am just being rude now but am I? I know people who have never worked a day in a restaurant or in a customer service based job think I'm just being, well, an asshole but hear me out. We all get so wrapped up in getting the perfect presents for our loved ones, in placing the best decorations in our neighborhoods, in baking the best fruit cake that we forget that the whole reason for the season is supposed to be celebrating each other. We get so angry at the hostess because she hasn't sat (our party of 15 that just walked in the door without a heads up) immediately. We get so angry at the person at the other side of that counter because they didn't give us a discount we didn't deserve (but feel entitled to it anyway). Guys, he doesn't have any control over it in the first place. We are so snappy to the person on the other side of the phone who is trying to help us (but think it's OK to yell at them for five minutes about a box UPS smashed). Guys, it's the holiday season, not open season to be nasty.
A word like holiday is a scary word for service industry people to hear. While most get a couple of paid days off to spend with their family, people who work in this industry? Yeah, that means they work a few extra days so that the family that you're enjoying get to come and sit at their table while missing time with their own. It means that while you are making your last minute trip to the grocery store a person is standing behind that register for you. It means that the person you call for customer service is sitting at a desk on a phone and not enjoying time sitting at a dinner table with their own. And I know it is the nature of the beast. I get it. I've worked in this industry in whatever form I found myself in for over two decades. I understand (like everybody who works in customer service gets) that we choose to be in this field... but it can be so much more unrewarding during the holidays. For every wonderful person who walks through those doors or every five people on the end of that line, there are the people who make you want to pull out your hair. Sure, they are always there but it is as if the holidays seem to amplify the nasty rather then mute it. I was at work the other day and a gentleman was on the other line. He spent five minutes literally telling me that it was my fault his product came the way it came, that it looked like it was packaged from K-Mart, that I should do something about the quality I personally was putting out there. Which made me have a flashback to standing behind that bar and listening to the woman scream at me that it was my fault her food was taking more than an hour and a half. I think when we get swept away in this "holiday spirit" we start to forget that the people standing in front of us really have very little control of your grievance. It is not my fault that UPS damaged a package or that some guy in production put the wrong sticker on your plastic. It is not my fault that the kitchen got backed up or that the place is so full that it's turned to a big ball of uncontrollable chaos. And honestly at the end of the day I want your dinner or your canvas or your grocery list to be perfect. I want your holiday to be the best holiday it can possibly be. If for nothing else, for people to not treat each other so harshly.
I wish I honestly didn't want to write this blog today. I wish we would just remember that we're all human, fighting our own battles, trying to figure our way through our own journeys. I wish I didn't have to remind people to treat each other with kindness especially during the holidays. And I wish people would understand that when a server or a cashier or customer service person on a phone get irritated that you are probably the millionth person that told them they sucked that day. It's not that we don't like people but it becomes a harder to pill to swallow every time we get the brunt of anger that really has nothing to do with us. There were times when I would be behind that bar and my hands would clench into fists under the counter because someone was angry at a price of a beer I didn't make and then demand that it was free. Why? Because it is so much easier to be cruel to the person in front of you whose job is deemed less important. I always find some comfort in that though. For the people who complain and turn nasty, the reality is they would never be able to do what you do, not one. I can take solace in my ability to tolerate, to rise above someone else's cruelty... but that doesn't mean it is justified. The point of the holidays is to honestly enjoy each other. It is to give someone else something as simple as a smile, to say thank you for being a part of this world, all of us. I understand you want the most perfect everything but is that perfection worth someone's tears? Just remember one thing this holiday season. One thing. The people who are helping you are people, too. Every one of them whether it be the server hustling to bring you drinks, the gentleman behind that register, that woman on the phone answering your question. Every one of them, all of us.
The hardest thing for me to learn sometimes is how to communicate with people. I can sit down at this computer or in front of a piece of paper. I can take a pen out and feel safe stating how I feel without hesitation about the message that I am about to put out there in the world. I can take my time like I do when I write a blog or a poem. Or I can just allow myself to move freely when I the mood hits me to do one of my doodles. I can see clearly in my head what I want to say, what I want to portray, what I want to give to the world. It's just not so easy for me to sit down in front of a person and truly get my point across. I have a tendency to think too much about what that person in front of me is going to think. Is what I am about to say going to hurt their feelings? What is their reaction to me going to be once I've released these words into the ether? As an adult, I understand that my feelings, my views, my actions (or reactions) are just as much of a factor as the person sitting in front of me. I write two different ways, draw in two different ways. I am more sensitive when I know that I'm putting a blog up or when I put a doodle out there for people to dissect. And then I am brutally honest if I know that these words, those lines will never go beyond these hands. Sometimes I don't always find the balance. Sometimes I write an entire blog and erase the whole thing because when I go back to read it, it feels too real for me to allow beyond this screen. And other times it is the only way I know how to tell someone how I feel. Honestly communication face to face is not my strong suit. I can own that.
For as practical as I am and as standoffish as I can be, I am an emotional person. This week has been trying because of, well, life. There have been choices I've had to make and some reactions I've had to keep in check because what was presented to me. I figure out a lot of stuff as I go but I always want to have an idea of what I am dealing with. I want to know the problems that might occur because this happened. I want to be able to sit down and talk about it but I'm not always the greatest at talking about something in the moment. I need time, time to digest what words just fell into my ears. I need time to truly understand how I feel about something before I can tell you. I react with emotion be it anger or sadness or joy. And there are times that those reactions make my head spin because they become so loud. They become so loud I can't hear in my head how it is I truly feel about something. That's why I've always kept a journal or found solace in some form of art. It has been a way to clear out the loudness and get down to why something made me feel so angry, so sad. I can't tell you in that moment why I am angry. I just am and I need to figure out a way of release on my own before I give it to you to understand yourself. I shut down when something becomes too much. It's not because I am afraid of exploding but because I know what happens if I allow myself to explode. I've never liked that part of myself, this rage that boils at times. I've worked so very hard on myself to be able to reel it in. I understand that those explosions solve nothing except more hurt feelings. I hold back because when I look at that person in front of me, whether I like them or not, what I see is myself in their shoes. I am truly an empathetic person. It drives me crazy sometimes which is why I shut down, why I pull away. Sometimes I don't know how to separate my feelings from theirs.
We have these expectations that hang around our necks given to us by so much around us. We live our lives always trying to live up to them because we are taught that is what we're supposed to do. I expect so many great things out of myself. The idea of me failing makes me react so emotionally. When my feelings are hurt, I don't know how to communicate that because I expect myself to brush it off quickly and move on. I expect myself to be stronger than something wicked someone said to me even though I know I should tell that person the hurt they caused. At the end of that conversation, I will end up apologizing and it's insane. As I've gotten older, I have gotten better but there is so much more in my journey. I understand more every day how my own insecurities manifest in the faces that look back at me. My husband and I don't really fight. There are a lot of different reasons for that. I don't like confrontation. I don't know how to do it without either seeing full on red or caving entirely. There is no in between. Most of the time we see eye to eye. He doesn't like a lot of fuss. I prefer to keep it nice and calm. We don't always agree. Our minds work differently. He can sit down with anyone and speak his peace when he has an issue. And me? I have to think about it for a minute. This week was one of those weeks that this difference was apparent. I have suffered with anxiety most of my life which makes some situations hard to deal with in a normal way. That's not the correct terminology but for this purpose I will go with it. When something happens, I think of worst case scenarios. I have to go through every bad thing that will probably never happen for me to come to the conclusion I am just overthinking it. And when I try to explain this mindset to this beautiful man whose mind functions in a different manor? I don't always explain it right. It's just the way this brain works out what I see around me, good or bad. I understand that the amount of pressure I put on myself to say the right words is, at times, debilitating.
This is how I figure it out, sitting down and allowing my fingers to fly across this keyboard. While I hold some thoughts back, all of these words come from this place within me that are able to shush the loudness that life causes. I wish I could just tell you simply how it is I feel but that has never been a thing for me. I can't sit down with someone over a cup of coffee and be completely honest because I know what is expected out of me. I am the one who listens and who takes care and offers a shoulder for the world to cry on. I am the one who thinks about the back stories and the options and the effects that every action is going to cause. I have always felt that my feelings, my wants, my desires have been something that I should deal with on my own. If I am scared of something, it is for me to find the courage on my own. If I am happy, I am terrified to talk about it because it may quickly be taken away. If I am angry, so many times in my life I have been scolded for feeling that way in the first place. So, I learned my greatest companion were words written on a piece of paper, lines drawn together that would not judge me for just being me whatever version that was at the time. Today I sit down and write these words not because I am trying to tell you anything. If I am being honest, writing a blog has been a challenge because I know the point is for people to read my work but I don't want to be like other writers and feed anyone who is reading this bullshit. What I write is honest and vulnerable. I never want it to become something diluted just to gain something undeserved. Life to me has always been this strange struggle of what I keep to myself and what I give to the world. Most the time this is the only place I can truly give the world anything. It's not because I don't feel it when I sit across from someone but because I feel too much of that someone when they sit across from me. Words fill my lines. I just don't always know how to say them. Sometimes it is that simple.
I find myself having the greatest moments of inspiration sitting in traffic on my way to work lately. Maybe it's because the part of my day where I am alone with just myself. Or maybe my thoughts are just a distraction from the crazy people who are driving too fast down a highway that is clogged. We're all going to get there, guys. This week I was thinking a lot about people, both present and gone, but not just people. I started thinking about my husband and my father and all the boys I've loved before. I thought how curious my journey with love has been and this idea of forgiveness started to take root. I started thinking about every relationship that I found myself in, the longs ones and the ones that lasted just a moment. I thought about the lessons each one taught me, the ones I kept and the ones I realized weren't to take with me along my way. Every person who comes into our lives has a purpose, not all good but a purpose just the same. I thought about the relationships my younger self found myself in compared to the relationships that I allowed as I got older and how vast the difference was, how toxic they once were versus the healthy of what they have become. When we're younger it's all so fast, so quick, so visceral. Everything about being young feels like fire and it's wonderful and exciting and, at times, harmful but lovely, too. I look at my husband and, as corny as this may sound, realize that I needed every one of those bad guys to truly accept someone like him. And I started to understand that maybe love isn't so much about love for someone else. It's more about loving yourself.
I will be honest. I have carried around a lot of fear of my life, of people walking out on me, of not being enough, of somehow not living up to my own expectations. I had this fake sense of courage that I wore because my biggest fear was for someone to see me as vulnerable. If you could see my weakness, then you would know exactly how to hurt me but I was always really good at doing that on my own. Boys just seemed cruel, something I needed to keep at arms length. So that's where I kept them for a long time even the ones I thought I loved. So I allowed myself to get into these bad relationships with bad people because that's what I thought I deserved. I thought that if they were less then I would be more, could feel like I was more. And I know that sounds twisted in its own way but I did not have enough faith in myself to realize I was more without them. I was full of self sabotage because it was easier to fail, easier to be with these people that didn't involve a lot of effort. What difference did it make if we didn't make it? I wasn't looking for forever. I was looking for that moment because when you're young it's only that moment that matters. I remember my father shaking his head at me, at these choices I was making, knowing what he was thinking, knowing that he knew I knew I deserved better and being frustrated that I kept picking these toads. I also knew that these toads were somehow important. Not because they meant something but because where they took me would someday mean so much more.
I wore my father's flannel the other day to work. Sometimes I just like to wear it, to feel like he's still somehow here. He's been gone for four years and it's amazing the parts of him I understand so much clearly now than I did when he was alive. He was the first man I ever loved. I don't want that to come off as something strange. It's a beautiful thing, this love between a father and his daughter. When we're younger, he's the one who protects you, who teaches you, who shows you what respect truly means. He is what you should look for when you become older, not him exactly but these qualities that he exemplifies. And we don't necessarily understand that then. I know that I was lucky enough to have a father who loved his children, who would go to hell and back for his children, who wanted absolutely nothing but the best for his children. I become more grateful for that every day even though he is not physically with me in this world. I look back at all those boys that I surrounded myself as a young woman and I see how they were everything he was not. I see clearly how I intentionally dated the very opposite of him. I understood what kind of partner I should have but It did not mean that I thought I deserved it. And then I grew up. It's funny how quickly that happens. I blinked and I realized this search for love had nothing to do with anyone else. Somewhere in my life my father taught me that. I heard him loud and clear, just didn't want to listen until I met my husband. I know that sounds like I am contradicting myself but bare with me. There are things about my husband that remind me of my father. He has a kindness to him, this giant heart that exudes this amazing sort of love, the same kindness and love that my father had. To me, that is comforting but it's not that I need my husband to understand what I am worth. Somewhere along that highway this week I thought a lot about this road I was on, the passengers I have had along my way, and it sort of just hit me that all he ever tried to teach me was that I was the one in charge. It wasn't about who loved me or how they loved me or if they loved me at all. It was all relative and somewhat pointless.
I look at my husband and know how lucky I was to find a partner who accepts me for every crazy that I am. He doesn't always understand my chaos or why I feel frantic or how I see the world but he loves me enough to not try to change me either. I am who I am, every nutty part of me. I've worked really hard to become so comfortable in this skin (though the work is still in progress). I see my flaws and I accept them, finding a way to make them something beautiful, too. And I guess that's what my father was always trying to say but I wasn't able to hear him until I was able to love myself. I still battle. It's really annoying because I know that there is so much good in me but still it rages. I look at my husband, this person who I happily align myself with, knowing that he would have never had a chance in my life if I thought nothing of myself. And I am grateful. I had this strange thought about love this week, this love for other people and this love for myself, this simply complicated word. I allowed my mind to wander through my life, going through every relationship from my father, to my husband, and to the ones in between. I thought about how horrible some made me feel, the euphoria that some gave me, the swiftness of others, the safety that I finally found, the one relationship that still makes me fumble. I realized that I needed to forgive myself for all those bad choices, for all the good ones that I walked away from out of fear but I needed to forgive myself for myself, too. I realized that most of my bad choices, all that fear, so much of my own pain was caused for one reason and one reason alone. I wasn't brave enough to allow myself to love myself. And on my way to work wearing my Dad's old flannel, something finally clicked. It wasn't about who had come and gone through out my life. It was about the one person who has been with me the entire way. It was about me, the amount of love I gave to myself. It was about forgiveness. It was about finding the courage to be ourselves, completely and fully in our own skin. The only way to truly love anyone is loving ourselves in whatever form we are, broken or complete, flaws and all.
I was driving to work the other day and my head was creating the greatest blog that, again, I will never write because, well, life. Inspiration doesn't always choose the best times to hit and that's OK. I remember the gist of it. That's what is important. The night before I was texting with a friend. We were just talking about the last month, the changes that have happened, the directions we were going. Any time there has been some sort of change in my life before I have reacted the best to it. I am good but a little bit of time goes by and I start stepping backwards, thinking that maybe I should have not left that comfort zone as toxic as it might have been. In my thought process even something that was bad for me was acceptable because at least I knew what to expect out of it. There would be no surprises of the aggravation I was about to receive. It seems now, looking back at it, so self deprecating, almost self sabotaging. Why change when you can stay comfortable right where you are? The older I get I understand better why change is so imperative in becoming something better than what you are. I understand that certain parts of this life won't be what they are tomorrow what they are today and it is not a terrifying thing. Sure, adjustments will be needed but you adjust and keep moving.
You know I watch my teenage daughter flounder. I see her trying to find her feet and figure out where those feet want to take her. I remember being 17 and thinking that I had to have the world all figured out. In reality, I did not. And I wish someone would have looked at me and told me that but I felt so much pressure to know my plan, to know how to execute my plan, and how it was all going to work out. There was no way I could have predicted the actual trajectory my life would actually take. The idea of something not being exactly what I wanted it to be drove me bananas. For as easy going as I was, I did not like surprises. I wanted to know exactly what kind of people I would be dealing with, what environment I was going to find myself in, and what exactly was going to be asked of me. In some ways, that hasn't left me but I can pivot much better which I didn't necessarily understand what that meant back then. But here is what I have come to understand about this life, this beautiful journey I have found myself on. I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow and I have peace with that. I don't know exactly what I want to be, who I am as an artist or a writer, how I am going to achieve these dreams that still so brightly shine within me and it does not frighten me that I still flounder. One my favorite movies is Away We Go. It's just this simple, poignant movie about two adults who are about to have a baby trying things to figure out their path together and individually and as this new family. There is a scene where they are sitting on a couch and they realize that they are just two fuck ups (pardon the French). There is something so real, so touching about that to me. I guess it's part of my adulthood that I relate to the most. At almost 40 years old, I still don't know much more about myself then I did when I was 17. I thought maybe there was something wrong with that. Like I should know by now, right? Over the last few weeks, I realized that it doesn't really matter because I keep trying. I keep moving in whatever trajectory my life is currently pointing, knowing it will change and change again.
Since I left my job and started a new one, I have noticed so many changes about myself. It is beautiful the way one change can have such a positive affect on other parts of your life. I put down the cigarettes, this friend who was bad for me and had been for far too many years. I started eating better and going to bed at a decent hour. I wake up early and start my day with bones that no longer scream at me because I've mistreated them for hours straight the day before. I eat dinner with my husband every night and see my daughter more than just on a passing basis. I draw and write with a new found light within me. I generally don't mind people all that much (unless they are driving). Right before we left to go to Denver, I had this anxiety attack. I hadn't had one in awhile. I don't really know what triggered it. My day wasn't great and I was in an environment that I just haven't become familiar enough with yet. It was one of those attacks that once it started, I just had to let it roll out. There comes a point that you can't stop these things. You just close your eyes and hold on. It will pass. The thing was this change happened so quickly with the new job, I guess I just hadn't given myself enough time to digest it. Once I understood that, I was able to embrace this change completely. I was able to really sit in it and understand what I had just walked away from. I realized that this one change was the only way I was going to move forward. This one change was the only way I was going to give myself permission to really try doing what I loved. It's just so easy to sucked into vortexes that suffocate your true talent sometimes. And I know that sounds like I am throwing shade but no malice is intended. What it was is that I had somehow convinced myself that I had to compromise what was inside me because I happened to be good at something that paid the bills. I got too comfortable and I allowed doubt to be my voice of reason.
I was having a conversation with a new coworker yesterday. I had drawn a Doodle and he was looking at it. I don't get a chance to talk about my artwork with people very often so this was nice. It is eye opening to listen to what someone else sees in your work. Honestly when I draw, there's not a lot of thought. It's just what I am feeling in that moment or what I am allowing myself to feel in that moment at times. And his thoughts made me think. I draw differently than I write. When I put down a line, I just let that line lead me. So often it is the same girl but I have always understood who she is. Maybe I haven't always understood what she is trying to tell me but I have always known who she is. And when I write, it is more deliberate. My train of thought has a flow that sometimes I don't know where I am going until the end but I tend to have more discipline with it. This week is the first week that I have truly felt amazing about the choice I made to walk away from a place that I had planted roots. It's been such a learning experience to talk to people who have the same sort of artistic aspirations, who have a different way of looking at the world, who aren't so bitter honestly. There's no judgement there, guys. The service industry is not for the weak hearted and unfortunately it makes you a much harder person than you really are sometimes. It's been nice to breathe again, to just simply sit down and breathe. I guess at forty years old I finally found some peace in this head that sits in the clouds. It just took one change to help me let go, one change to set the girl within my lines free. One change changed the trajectory of this life, this beautiful journey I have found myself on. And I know that even if tomorrow throws another change at me, I will pivot. That one pivot can lead to something even more inspiring.