I often write from what my life is currently experiencing. I go through my week and I make my observations. I take my notes and figure out my conclusions. At the end of the week, I sit down here and I take all the thoughts I've had over the last week to write them out. I can't say 2018 has been a great year. There has been a lot of change. I feel like we're just now feeling the after shocks from all of it. I've watched my kid struggle and fail and do her best to figure it out. I've watched my husband finally find a place where he fits well. And me? Well, on a personal level, I feel like I've done a lot of growth but career wise still kind of flopping like a fish out of water. My kid turned eighteen and now it's this new journey on where do we go from here? She made some poor choices this year. And maybe, as parents, we didn't do such a great job helping her navigate. With both of those things and all these changes, we have found ourselves in a bit of a crossroads where I am sandwiched right in the middle with no real answers to give. I'd like to think that I know how to fix things. I'd like to think if you present me with a problem, that I will know how make 1 + 1 = 2. I also understand that life is a lot of grey. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no magic prayer that it going to put everything right. We have to take the bumps and bruises to see feel the reward of how good it feels when we heal. This week I've watched the people I love so much fight each other, hurt each other out of this silly thing we call pride. They just keep bruising each other and me along with them. I'm left trying to figure a middle road.
When my husband came into our lives, my daughter was seven years old. I didn't have any real relationships before him because I wanted to be sure she felt like she was the most important thing in the world to me. She was. She still is. But I sacrificed that part of my life because I just didn't know how to balance this incredibly love and dedication I had for her and split it with the person I would find to be my one. It just seemed like a lot of drama. I just never liked the drama. It never seems to have a point and I just end up crying in a ball on my bathroom floor. So, when this gentle man came into my life, I was hesitant. I didn't know how to balance the two of them but I made it clear that she had to be the first priority. He came in with such open arms, with this beautiful unconditional love for her. How could I turn away from this man who I felt genuinely wanted to be a part of our story? It all seemed so seamless. There were a few power struggles but not what I expected. They seemed to sincerely love and accept each other. I waited and held my breath and thought that at any moment something terrible was going to happen, that I would have to choose between this beautiful little girl I brought into the world and the man I knew I was going to grow old with.... but that moment never came. Sure, I've felt over the years that I was kind of stuck in the middle but the moments were fleeting. We managed to work through those times because we were able to put aside our pride and understand that the love for each other was far stronger. Love and pride. These two amazing qualities to have, that make the other shine brighter, that destroy the other in a wink.
This week there's been a lot of anger in my house. There has been a lot of prideful declarations and stubborn statements. It started over the most trivial things. It was something that should have never been inspired such strife from anyone yet here I am, writing a blog about this family of mine that just can't seem to figure out how to put their pride aside and move forward. She turned eighteen this week and I look at her, not sure of all these years I have succeeded with raising this human being or failing horribly. And I get how that sounds. I'm not looking for pity or reassurance. Whatever I did wrong, I did wrong. I take that accountability. I am an adult who can honestly own the fact that I am imperfect, that I don't always make the right decisions, that there are a million things wrong with my parenting choices at times... but these children that we invest so much time become adults. They become adults with traits and qualities and flaws all their own. I've said this before. I was a much better mother to a little kid. These teenage years? I've pretty much been a fish out of water. And just like when she was a kid, I'm learning as I go. The problem is it takes more than a kiss on the knee and a Barbie band-aid to help her scare away the monster in the closet. The root of all of this is pride. I see it in his face, feel it in her glare. Every word spoken is just more egg shells on my floor that I have to avoid breaking. These arguments, this anger, this strange jealousy are the ones we should have had years ago. These are the arguments that held my breath when she was younger. It's so odd to be sitting here while she is on the brink of being on her own still questioning how this family works. By this point, it should be cake. We should be getting her ready for college. We should excitedly helping her get ready for a world that I know now is going to tear this one apart. And that's a terrifying statement for me to make. I know how it sounds but I worry. She likes the drama. He likes to play by the rules. And I worry. I sit here and look at these two people that carry my heart with them and I want to scream at them both but I know that pride has deafened them both.
I've never been a super prideful person. I want to be humble and grateful for the things that I have in my life. Have I always been that way? No, it took a lot of life kicking my ass to really understand that pride, if not kept in check, is a pretty ugly trait. I was a lot tougher with her when she was little because I had to be. I was unfortunately healing from some pretty hard times. My head was full of anger and my heart swelled with hurt. Maybe I shouldn't have shown such a hard exterior to the world back then. She was, after all, watching every single thing I was doing. I guess I thought I was making the right decision being so rough around the edges. This kid was going to grow up and nobody was going to mess with her. My soft side only came out with her and then with John because I just felt as if the world outside wanted to eat my spirit whole. I was proud, too proud and so broken at the same time. But then I met this gentle man and I started to change. I didn't have to be the only man on the front lines anymore. I didn't have to take the blunt of every stone thrown my way and there were plenty. Being a single, unwed mother isn't the rosiest path to go down. I could for the first time duck and cover, knowing that he would be there to take some of this weight off my shoulders. And for the first time in her life, she had to share me. Ten years ago, it was fine. We were fine, all of us. Now, ten years later, breathing easy I have to start holding my breath all over again, fearing that one of them is going to say choose. And I can't choose between this child that lived inside of me even if she causes me so much hurt right now and this man that I know in my soul is the one I was meant to grow old with. It's a lot of what about me's going on right now but really what about me? And, at the end of the day, it is their feelings I am more concerned about. I've watched this week play out. I've heard the complaints, the quarrels, the hurt and the anger. And honestly? It's not even a matter of pride. Someone said something to me this week that made a lot of sense. Anger is about someone not meeting your expectations. She is mad because he is not being who she wants him to be. And he's upset because she is behaving in a way that feels hurtful. What we expect out of each other is love and respect. Both of those things have been lost in the shuffle. It's not about pride. It's about remembering love. It's about understanding that love is unconditional, expectations or no expectations. It is about the love we give each other and remembering there are no strings attached. I changed over the years and I am proud of that change. It has made me a better person for her, for him, most importantly for me. I do not regret the sacrifices, the pride I had to swallow to get to this point today. I just understand more clearly that pride has to be balanced with love for you, for her, for him, and for me, too. It's not about being proud. It's about love and how we choose to share it.
I realize that Monday is Christmas but if I'm being honest? This year it has not felt like Christmas. Maybe it's the new job. Maybe I just haven't felt much like that Christmas spirit. I watch all these Hallmark movies, these Netflix Originals and they just make me all that much more skeptical. I guess I'm a bit of a Scrooge this year but it's been one hell of a year for me. I think one that I'm not all that sad to move beyond. You know usually when this time of year comes along, I become retrospective. I think about all those things that I experienced, all these things that made me smile. It's not that things didn't make me smile this year. It's just that there's been a lot of confusion for me, so much uncertainty that I am OK leaving behind. I always want to make the things around me better for my family, for my friends. Hell, for perfect strangers, too. I want to know how to look at something and know at least the direction to take to make it as painless as possible for all of us. I don't like conflict but I drown myself in everyone's worst case scenarios. I was having coffee with my almost grown daughter today. She will be turning eighteen on Thursday. I think back to those years when it was just the two of us. I remember the struggle of supporting us by myself. I can't tell you how I did it. I don't know. I just did. But I look back at those moments now? I feel like somehow I had it more together then which I know I was just as big of a mess.
We make these decisions in our lives, never knowing really if they are right, but we make them with fingers crossed. Truth is none of know what we're doing. There is no real way to be sure that this direction, that turn will bring us to a better place until we get there. So, we put our heads down. We do the work. We land where we land. These last few weeks have been pretty hard on me. I'm so used to putting my head down, to doing the work, to trying to control where I land, that it has just become this part of me. I'll be the work horse that gets this shit done because I understand my plight in this life... but sometimes I feel like I've been fooled. Promises we throw at each other with so little meaning but we believe. We believe because I can't look at you and not at least give you the benefit of my doubt. I guess I get aggravated with myself because I just want to know how to live this life without feeling this boulder on my back. I wish I knew what the right decisions were, that this fear that hangs around my neck didn't mock the way it does. I made decisions this last year that I thought were going to make things better for myself, for my family. I thought that it was going to allow me to breathe easier, to not have to work so hard, to get a flipping break for once. I was tired of working fifteen hours a day, serving people who thought I was worthless because of the job I happen to work. I was tired of every bone in my body feeling like it was going to shatter with one bump into the couch. I was so very tired of feeling like the entire world was on my shoulders for a place that just took advantage of how much I was willing to carry. So, I left. I made the decision to leave, to better myself, to find a place that would help me finally shine the way I knew I could... but I was fooled. It was a means to get out of where I was but it didn't mean that the grass was greener. It was just different and, strangely, somehow the same.
I think that is the biggest illusion when we're young, this idea that the world will be a better place when we become adults. We just don't realize that it won't really be better because it will have these new trials and tribulations that we didn't see through our young, rose colored glasses. It will just be different. Instead of deciding which cartoon to watch. It's do I buy gas or dinner. Somehow the world becomes that much smaller and that much heavier, that much more difficult to maneuver. I see my girl, my beautiful and bright and amazing girl, on this brick of her life and I want to tell her to just live right now. I want to tell her to just enjoy these moments of uncertainty and freedom. The older we get, the less of it we have. I understand so much more now than I did when I was a eighteen year old kid. I kind of miss that ignorance but I would never go back to it. As much as trying to figure out how to adult, it's that uncertainty that terrified someone like me, too. She's brave, far braver than I ever was, and I honestly couldn't be more proud of the fearlessness she embodies in these moments of her life. I know she looks up to me. She always has. I've been so aware of that her entire life. I've always tried to show her how to have compassion for the world even at the world's worst but I won't lie. It has not been easy. What she sees is the courage that I seem to fake well but the reality of me is that everything scares the shit out of me. But, then, I remember who I am. I remember my plight. Keep my head down. Do the work. Just shut up and do it because who else will? I haven't conquered being an adult but I was never really great at being a kid either.
Tuesday is Christmas and it doesn't feel like that time of year at all. There is no tree in my house. My cat tore down all my lights. Presents aren't a thing we can afford for this year. There will be no Christmas parties for us or Eggnog toasts. I feel pretty down, kind of defeated, and literally just want to sleep my way through the rest of 2018. Will I? No, I won't because it's not part of my DNA. It's not in me to roll over and say whatever. I understand the demons in my head that I fight. I know that just because another year is coming that these things that weigh on me won't just disappear. I can sit here and say next year I will do this. I promise to do that. I will definitely be her. If I had to take one lesson from this last year, it would be that the color of the grass is relative. It sounds so dire, that no matter which direction I choose it will not be what I imagine but I don't see it that way. What I see is this beautiful understanding of what life really is, a matter of choice. I did not land in greener fields this year even though I tried. I landed in grass that just may need more work than I thought. Sometimes you just have to move to get where you're going because standing where you are thinking about it won't move you anywhere. I don't have the usual sentimental feelings that I usually get during the holidays. I feel more apathetic to it than anything. I guess I understand that holiday magic doesn't really exist but hope does. I have hope that this next year will be better but I own the fact that I am the one who has to make those choices to make it better. It's a number, just a number, but it's our lives that make those numbers mean anything. I won't sleep my way through the last of 2018. No, I will begin to let it go. I will start to let it all go, the choices that I thought I was making to better this life and the reality that I failed along the way. It's not a failure when you try. And, if nothing else, I will always try.
It seems like this year has moved so quickly by. When I sit back and look at it, I start to realize how many changes that happened. It all goes by so fast, so swiftly that you forget to really digest the changes as they are happening. And then you sit down, you take a breath, and you reflect for a moment from where you were a year ago to where you are now. I switched jobs. I've watched my teenage daughter figure out her path. I see my husband make these great strides to better his life and ours together. And then I look at myself, this new and wonderful and scary stage I've found myself. I sit at this table, writing these words, and understand that this year has been a discovery of myself, this struggle to figure out who I am on my own two feet. I look at that beautiful child I created and I understand that most of my life has been about her, about doing my best to keep her alive, about making up for all those things I failed her at. I feel almost stunted because from the moment I was a true adult, I was someone's mother. I kept my head down and did what I had to do to keep our heads above water. I sacrificed parts of myself willingly to give her what I have always had a hard time giving myself. I sit at this table with my coffee like I so often do when I write these words and feel both relieved and burdened by these new moments, these new discoveries, this new direction of my ever struggling journey to find this peace within myself that eludes me. You know when I really think about it, when I really brutally and honestly take a look at myself, there's still so much I don't know about myself even though I've sat in this skin for almost forty years now.
It's felt like a lot of struggle lately. I feel like no matter what I do or how hard I try or how much of me I give up, I still can't quite feel like I am moving forward. I got out of an industry that demanded so much of my physically because I no longer felt the reward of that hard work. I entered a field where I know it is right but I'm starting at the very bottom. I know it was the right decision. Every part of me knows it was the right decision but sometimes I just look at my life and wonder why I have to work so hard for the basics of happiness over and over again. I am a grown adult and I still live paycheck to paycheck. I have to think carefully before I buy myself that cup of coffee that I don't need... but I do. I do because I happily will buy nothing else for myself in order for my family to be happy. It's a battle though, this how much I do for everyone and what I do for myself. I've never really been a selfish person but if I'm being honest? Sometimes I want to scream what about me!? And then even the thought of that makes me feel incredibly guilty. Maybe it's because I became someone's mother so early in life. Maybe it's because I've always been so sensitive to other people's feelings. I had this thought the other day. I don't really care what people think about me but I do care very much about how I make other people feel. I don't know how to make sense out of that. Even if you looked at me and hated every part of me, I would still feel bad if I did you wrong. It's such a conflicting place to be. Sometimes it's pretty annoying.
Someone looked at me last night and asked me for the first time in awhile how I was doing. With all these changes and all these emotions that I don't quite know how make sense of, I don't know if I have asked myself that question. I'm a stubborn, stubborn girl. I don't really like people knowing how much of a struggle bus I am at times. This is really annoying, too. It's not because I am ashamed of being a human being but I don't want to bother other people with these anxieties that I carry so heavy. Why put that on anyone else but me? So how am I? The thing about me is I will always be OK. I can be down in a ditch, feeling like the world is suffocating me over and over again, like I am alone in this world with these dark moments that I can't explain to anyone... but I will always be OK. When she asked me that question last night though, I started to tear up. I did not mean to. I did not want to. I just couldn't help it. Sometimes I forget that I need someone to check in, to say hey friend. In this new stage of my mid life, I think I am learning how to relate to people in a different way. My early life was so shut off from the world. I did not know how to really relate to the people around me. Not because I didn't want to but because people were terrifying. Sure, I loved being that person that took care of everyone. Being someone's mother puts that in your DNA. Every face you see is the face of your child and all you want is for that face to be happy, to feel loved, to know they are not alone. Again I've had this strange struggle between keeping everyone at bay and allowing them in. The older I get, the more my journey changes, the more I understand my own faults have both held me back and somehow pushed me forward. The more I know I will always be OK even if I feel a little lost right now.
My husband and I were talking about where we are right now. I understand there are two different journeys happening in my life. There is the journey of us, in this life together, figuring out how to make ends meet, hoping that this coming year it will be about more than that. And then there is this journey of me, who am I beyond her mother, who I am as an artist and a writer and a poet, as a person. I want so much to wake up and feel at peace with this skin. I want so much to look in the mirror and see what I know I am instead of this doubt that mocks me. I want to get up and love every minute of my day. More than that I want to know that all of this struggle will be worth it, all of it. Rationally I understand it. I get it. I know when she smiles at me that those years of just the two of us were worth that smile she gave me today. I know when he holds my hand that all those years of loneliness were worth his gentle touch. And sometimes I see a reflection in that mirror that says, "Hey, you did it." I understand it is my plight in life to work for the things that I want. I've never expected a free ride. I've never wanted anything just given to me. I may clench my fists. I may want to scream and fall to my knees and demand to know why every day has to be so hard but I understand, I accept this is my journey. Every hill I've climbed, every mountain I have fallen off of, every cliff I didn't jump are just part of my journey. This new stage, this new time of discovery is a time of reflection, of giving myself permission to be a little selfish, to say, "Hey, you did all that. You can find yourself, too."