I didn't realize how many changes were going to happen this year. I don't know if this is usually what happens when you start your forties but it's been a hell of a start to a decade. This blog is going to be kind of all over the place. There's been a lot that's going on. In so many ways, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I've gotten better with change over the years. There was a time in my life where it would have made me shut down completely. I don't know. The older I've gotten, the more I've wanted it. I've wanted to grow and evolve and make things better. My anxiety doesn't get triggered by my routine altering. It is more of not having a plan (or several) if things go wrong. I look back at the last few years and I just don't know where I went. I got wrapped up in these things about me that don't matter. I worked a job for a long time that I allowed the people around me to determine who I was. I went to another thinking that I would find some sort of direction. As much as I do not like my current position, it has made it very clear my direction. I don't want who I am to be determined by anyone else other than me. I don't want my worth to be measured by how many birthday wishes I do or don't get. My phone can stay silent and you know I'm OK with it. I'm in my forties now and there's a whole lot of life out there for me to live.
This week my daughter decided to move to Montana on a whim. I will tread lightly here because I've got a lot of mixed feelings about this. I've raised a hell of a kid, strong willed and sporadic and intelligent. She can do anything she wants when she puts her mind to it. To be very honest, not a huge fan of this current plan she has. I told her as much but here's the thing. I look at my parents. They were so very Catholic, so very Republican, so very clear on what they expected out of us. They gave us this amazing foundation to stand on as adults because they put those bricks, those sturdy bricks under our feet. When we fell, we got back up every time and that's attributed to a lot to them. So, I look at this kid of mine. The last few years have been rough, tiresome, frustrating for all parties involved. There were times I just didn't know who she was. I tried so hard to give her some sort of boundaries but every thing I tried just pushed us each other away more. And then she turned 18. I remember my parents at 18 and I remember my mother looking at me and telling me I was on my own. I was an adult and I was on my own. She never did my laundry again. I was never given a curfew or rules or punishments even when I was being obnoxious. They let me go to succeed, to fail, to merely exist on my own terms. I think maybe I resented them for a minute but not for long. Once I accepted this life was on my terms, I was OK. I figured it out. She's 18 now and I cannot tell her what to do. I won't tell her what to do. I won't agree with her decisions. I will always want her to maybe think about things a little bit more but I can't stop her. I laid those bricks down. At this point all I can do is hope they won't crack.
So, now I'm 40 and my kid has moved out. It's just me and my husband and my cats in an apartment that is too big for us. I get to experience this brand new era of my life where my responsibilities are fewer. I can sit and write a blog with all the time in the world. I can go have a drink on Thursday night if I want or go to bed at 6 pm if I like. I can focus my time on myself, on my writing and my art, on my husband, on our relationship as a married couple without a child to worry about in the mix. True, my daughter has been doing her own thing more and more since she's gotten older but not having to check to see if she'll be home at night or if she's eating dinner with us has been nice. I love my kid but it's been nice not walking on egg shells in my own house. This is going to sound corny and I hate to even do it but I feel like I'm starting my second life. This is the chance to do all the things I did not do before. And you know what the great thing about it is? I'm not a dumb 20 year old kid who doesn't know what the fuck she's doing when I'm doing those things. I understand more every day who I am and what demons I need to exercise. Honestly, over the last few years for as tough as they have been have taught me exactly who I am. Maybe it's been watching this kid struggle to find her feet that helped me find mine because every time I looked at her, I saw a little bit of me. The more she fought me, the more I finally understood these flaws I carried. The nice thing was realizing I could put them down. I didn't need to carry them because none of them matter. I'm a 40 year old woman and I don't have to be scared of me anymore.
I wrote my last blog out of hurt. I turned 40 and so many people didn't remember. I went back and read it. I went back to that girl who I keep in my little corner and we talked for awhile. I've spent the last 22 years keeping her there, protecting her from this world. I didn't want her to have to deal with the darkness that I carried. After all these years, I forgot she was not a different person, this other personality of me that I kept hidden. She was me, the truest, most beautiful and vulnerable me. I put her away a long time ago. I was mean for years and then I was too kind for many more and she was right there. I was just too scared to put her skin on because what if this world tore her apart again? So, I watch my kid and I sit at this table with this me and I laugh. What I see is me before the world taught me a few lessons. I read the blog about the birthday wishes and I think how silly because I realize I'm not a dumb kid in my twenties whose worth depends on how often my phone rings. My worth is what I decide it to be. I sat at that table in the corner with myself and I offered her my hand. I said it's about time we step out of this dark corner, isn't it? There's been so many changes this year. It's time I went back to my roots, to let that beautiful girl that I've hid away become a woman, too. I'm 40 years old and for the first time I feel the sun on my face.
I want to be honest before I start. I had a disappointing birthday where a lot of people let me down (but mad props to the amazing people who didn't). I have some aggravation that may lie in my undertones but I don't apologize for being honest. It's so easy to make friends when you're young. I mean you're stuck with the same people every day. You can't stray too far. For years, you go to school with these people. For years, your close quarters inspires kin ships but the test always come when our school days are over and we're all spit out into the world. Is that person who sat next to you at lunch still sitting at your table? Probably not (but if they are, appreciate each other). So, then you get a job and you become friends with the people who you work with because, again, these are the people you see every day. These are the people that you see sometimes more than your family. And then you make a career change and what happens? Most fade away.
I guess this last week I've been thinking really hard about the relationships in my life, who is real and important and whose faded away. I've thought about who has made the effort and who disappeared when I blinked. When I was in school, I had a lot of friends. I really thought our friendships were going to last but 20 years later, I've got one from those days. She's amazing and I couldn't have made it through some very hard years without her. I hope she knows that when I think of what a true friend is, it's her face I will always see. And, listen, it's cool that I'm not friends with people back from my child age. That is not my point. My point is that friendships take work as adults. They take time and effort from both sides. I felt pretty hurt when I didn't hear from the people I thought I would. My husband told me that I should shrug it off and, as the week has gone on, I have a little more. By writing these words today, I'm letting it go. I'm letting a lot of things go.
Every day I find it harder and harder to tolerate so much of this world, so many pretend things. I look at so many relationships in my life and realize that most of them are empty. I realize how very few people reach out. And, I completely own that maybe I don't reach out as much as I should. It just feels like every time I try, I get shooed away like a fly.... and I'm tired. I don't want to be a friendship kept out of obligation. It wasn't that so many people remained silent last weekend that hurt. It was that the wizard was revealed from behind the curtain and I became so disappointed in what I saw. My daughter once told me that I was mean when she was younger and it always makes me laugh. I wasn't mean. I just stood up for myself far better than I do today. Even writing this blog, I'm terrified that I'm going to hurt someone's feelings. So much of me has been put to the side because I don't want to ruffle your feathers but it's cool if you want to pluck mine out. My feelings were hurt so badly because of people's forgotten birthday wishes that as I write that I feel silly. My husband says to me often that I need to say what I feel more. If someone makes me mad, tell them. If someone hurts my feelings, tell them. If someone tries to put this baby in the corner, throw rocks at them. Once upon a time, I did all of those things. It's not that I became soft. I just got tired. Funny how a simple forgotten something can make you remember you're strength. My journey continues and, somewhere in this skin, I am a star ready to shine without fear of how my light might hurt the world's eyes.
I am turning 40 on Saturday, this strange number that doesn't seem right. I feel like I haven't been in this world that long most days though there are days that have made me feel like I've been here forever. Life and time can be so relative but I don't want to write a blog today about my regrets. I've had plenty. I want to write a blog today about today. We don't always have to look backwards to learn our lessons. And we don't always have to look forward to give ourselves value. Sometimes we can stop, take a minute, and let today sink in. I left work early today because there wasn't a lot to do. I'm good with that. It allows me this time to myself while the husband and kid are at work to sit here, in this moment, listening to Simon and Garfunkel's "Flowers Never Bend". It allows me time to be still. So often we get all wound up when our birthdays come around. We start thinking about if this where we wanted to be. We become so hard on ourselves when we're not where we want to be at all. So, then we barrade ourselves into making all these plans, these promises of all the things we're going to change. But you know what? So often we're just blowing smoke up on our own ass (pardon my french). I don't mean to be crude. Birthdays are just like New Year's. We see all the things we need to change but forget to appreciate what we are right now. Right now is just as beautiful as yesterday and can be just as bright as tomorrow.
Let's break my right now down. I will be honest, as honest as I can be. I am not where I want to be. I don't have the job I want. I don't have the financial stability I want. I don't have a lot of things I want. I constantly have a feeling of boredom and wanting just more. I don't see my friends enough. I don't see my family enough. I am exhausted most of the time but not because I do anything that exciting. I'm exhausted because too much of my life hurts and feels like a struggle. The inner demons that bounce around my head kick my ass on a daily basis. Some days it takes everything I got to get out of bed. I mean everything. I wish my kid would clean up after herself. I wish my husband would get that full time. I wish my art work would sell. I feel like my life is an uphill battle. As soon as I conquer one rock slide, a mud slide comes right behind it. I feel like I am suffocating. I had some dental work done last week. For the last four years, I haven't smiled, not in a way I would allow you to see. I kept my mouth closed as tightly as I could and I trained my hands to cover my face when I laughed or cried or screamed and especially when I smiled. I was embarrassed by what was happening in there. And though people have been kind to tell me they did not notice, I did. I did so much. And for the last four years, I struggled to deal with it because I never want to be a bother. I never want my life to be a bother to anyone else and that is a hard burden to carry but I do and I will and I doubt that will ever change.
I didn't go down that rabbit hole because I want pity. I went down it because at 40 I am not where I want to be but it doesn't matter. Right now, right now in this moment, I am where I need to be. I remember sitting in that dentist chair after they had removed my cyst and asking in my numbed, groggy state if it was gone. And I remember I instantly cried because I was so happy (and then almost choked on the suck-age cup). In that moment, I knew I could smile again without shame and without fear that the person sitting next to me would judge. I am not a vain person but not being able to smile leaves a hole in your heart. I didn't know how much I missed it until it came back. And every moment since that day, I cherish the moments that have followed. I can look at my job and understand that it is just a pit stop. This moment won't last. I can appreciate the lessons we have learned dealing with a lower income, the ways we have learned to save and survive and appreciate each other. I can stop and look at my 18 year old daughter and love this time of her life because it will be gone before we both know it. My husband will become something even better than he is right now and one day I will make a living doing what I love. Those things are just not right now.
What is right now is me sitting here on a Thursday afternoon while the sun shines bright outside and Meatloaf sings to me that he would do anything for love. What I see right now are two napping kitties and Christmas lights that I refuse to take down in my living room. I am turning 40 and maybe parts of my life still feel a little off. I don't dress like I should. My sense of humor is too dark for some. And honestly life is just funny. We live our lives, striving for all these different things and never appreciating what is right in front of us. I hope that when my time to fly comes I will remember all of these moments sitting in a corner, writing or drawing, wondering when it will happen for me. I hope I will never forget how important it is to be humble and kind. It is so easy to get swept away. It is so easy to forget who we are because we change so often. And right now, maybe I'm not fond of all my surroundings. But right now? I am really loving this version of who I am. My twenties were a daze. My thirties have been a challenging pleasure. My forties? I'll figure that version out tomorrow.
I am an over thinker. I analyze everything no matter how big or small. If I find flaws in the world around me, I tend to find what I am doing wrong first rather then put the blame on someone else first even if it is clearly not of my doing. I've had to learn how to handle my life better especially as my daughter has gotten older. And as parents, we put so much of their mistakes on us. We think if we could have taught them better or helped more or done something differently, maybe we could have saved them some pain. Because let's be honest. We don't want our kids to make the same mistakes that we did. If we can help them avoid that hurt, why not help them navigate better then we did? So we take notes of every choice we made for them, take stock of every decision, and then hold it against ourselves as they grow. We find ways to blame ourselves for the bad choices they make because we don't want to let them fall as hard as we did. I watch my kid navigate her way through this brand new world and I hold my breath every time she walks out that door. I know the world that is out there and it still terrifies me to leave my house some days. I've had to learn to trust the foundation I gave her even if I think maybe I didn't make it sturdy enough. I've had to trust that if she falls, she'll figure out how to get back up just like I did, just like my parents trusted for me.
As kids, we hold our parents up to these unbelievably high standards. That pedastool is so high that maybe we set up our parents up for failure. As kids, we think they can do no wrong but when they do we don't have the capacity to understand they are humans just like us. At some point in their lives, they were kids, too, with hopes and dreams and goals. We don't understand that sometimes having kids changes our parents' lives so much that we alter their dreams, their hopes. We love our children. They are beautiful and amazing and bring so much joy to our lives but there is a reality that we also lose a little bit of ourselves when we choose to have them, too. It is not a bad thing. Please don't take this as any declaration of regret for having my own. I look at my mother, this amazing kind and wonderful person, and I watch her find who she is after she gave her life to us. I came from this strong woman that gave us so many years of her life without blinking, not once asking anything for herself. As I get older, the more of her I see in me where I thought I was always more like my father. I got the best of both worlds, I think. She's raised her kids. She has no more obligation to us other than to just continue to be a great Mom. And I look at my kid, now legally an adult. Where I was once scared of having an empty nest, I get more excited for my own journey.
I've spent pretty much my entire adult life as someone's mother. Again I am so happy that life decided that I would be the mother to this kid. She has been an inspiration to me, a form of strength I never knew I had, an avenue to become a better person. She has taught me so many things in this world that I wouldn't have known without her. The struggles, the tears, the not knowing what the hell I was doing was worth every second for that little girl to be in this world. But now a new chapter is starting. It's her time to go into this world and learn those lessons that I did so many years ago and I have to be OK when she falls down because she will, many times to come. I will forever blame myself for the mistakes I made with her. I will always worry that I didn't do enough for her, that I didn't work hard enough for her, that I wasn't there for her as well as I could have been. I will always think that I made these mistakes and that I somehow messed up her entire life. But here's the thing I think we, as parents, need to do. I think we just need to cut ourselves a break. Good parents are going to make mistakes. We're not always going to know what to do or how to fix things no matter how old our kids get. There will always be things that, as adults, our kids can blame us for. But, listen, it's healthy to take accountability for what we do wrong. We don't have to beat ourselves up so badly either. There have been two things I've wanted for my kid. I've wanted her to grow up to be a kind person and to just find her happiness. And I think at the end of the day, isn't that we want?
I had a good childhood because my parents loved us enough to provide that for us. We had shoes on our feet, food in our bellies, a place to lay our head at night. They provided us with a solid education and gave us opportunities even if we weren't smart enough to see some of them. I grew up with laughter and smiles and jokes about poop at the dinner table. It wasn't fancy. I wore hand me down clothes and I fought with my siblings and we moved a couple times but it was a good childhood. I can look back at it and appreciate all of those things they gave us. If I was missing anything, it was just me being a brat. And, sure, my parents made some mistakes but, as adults, we can let those go. I grew up strong and very much in my own way. My mother was smart enough to understand that was just how I was going to be, her stubborn and unusual child. I was going to find my own way through this life. And I remember during that very rough time in my life, I was angry at them, so angry. What I didn't, couldn't see is that they were two humans who just didn't know what to do for me. I pushed them away. They didn't abandon me. I guess I didn't really understand my parents until I became one myself. I wish I had a lot sooner in my life. I wish I had known all the sacrifices my mother made for us when I was younger and I wish I could have helped her more. And I hope my father knows up there in heaven that I love how he taught me to dream, how to believe that impossibles can happen even if these days my life feels like a struggle bus. Mother's Day is coming and maybe this blog is a few weeks early but we should tell our parents more often how grateful we are for them. My mother, this amazing woman who doesn't want the praise, deserves to know how beautiful her spirit truly is. I can only hope to be just like her one day.
It is hard to understand, to see something clearly but not exactly know how to get there. I always know what to do. I've never had that many doubts about the things I have to do in this life. I don't question what I want or second guess my destination. Where I seem to have the problem is allowing so many things get in my way. I focus on the in between when really I just need to keep my head forward. My feet will eventually follow. I don't want to write another blog about my life isn't quite working in the moment. Sure, I do not like my daily routine, the phone calls I have to answer, the feeling like I'm wasting so much time on all these things that don't really matter. They don't but me writing a blog week after week about how my current status is a drag isn't really going to change my seat. It feels like I'm in this game of musical chairs but no matter what seat I take it still won't be where I want to sit. Why? Because I don't want to sit any more. I want to stand and dance and laugh and live my life with this fire that I've been terrified of most my adult life. I want to live, not slowly fade or rot. What a perfectly good waste of a soul, right?
And I guess this week some stuff has happened to make me look at myself with some confusion. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I've carried these things with me most of my life and they are heavy, sure. Some mornings I want to lay in that bed and never get out of it. Some nights I lock myself in the bathroom and cry for a long time because this life hurts. It does and I'm not going to sugar coat that. It just hurts me a lot but I won't talk to you about it. I won't sit down and explore that with anyone because it is my battle, my war to win... and every day I get out of that bed, every night that I come out of that bathroom I win a little more. I know that I am not alone in this world. I know there are people who root for me and I love them dearly. I have so many in my corner, cheering me on, some not even knowing what they are cheering me on for. But this life is for me to figure out because I can't digest fully if you figure it out for me. That drive to stand on my own is what has kept me going this long. And though I understand the power of help, I only ask when necessary. Right now, I won't lie. I feel like I'm down on one knee but I won't stay here much longer.
This week like so many other weeks in this life struggle of mine has taught me some lessons. My husband was diagnosed with early Type 2 Diabetes. My brain does this thing where it thinks of the worst case scenarios. That is my first reaction. He tells me in the middle of the day while I'm at work and it was this downhill run from there. I thought that he was going to die, that I was going to lose him. I started thinking about insulin and needles and made him bed ridden. I started thinking about his funeral and just kept going down this very dark rabbit hole. That's what I do. You don't call me, I think you hate me. My kid doesn't text me back, she's in a ditch somewhere. My back hurts and I have cancer. I expect the worst because if it is not the worst, then we're OK... but it's silly. I make my own life so much more complicated. I get it. I am the one that leans into the dark, that allows myself to go down these paths when I don't really have to. He went to the doctor and the situation is not great and we're going to have to make a lot of life changes but I don't have to buy that coffin just yet. (Dark humor is how I deal. No malice intended).
And that's what this week has taught me. This darkness that I fight doesn't have to be my every day. I don't have to look at my husband and feel like we're on borrowed time. I don't have to answer those phones and allow that toxic vibe determine the joy in my life. It's OK that I don't want to get out of bed in the morning just as long as I get up. And I'm not ashamed that every now and then I lock myself in that bathroom and cry until my eyes hurt. My soul has a right to let it out. This world, this life will always hurt. I don't have to be afraid of that hurt. Because the silver lining in that hurt? I know how to love and I don't have to be scared of that either. Parts of my life are a drag but nothing I can't fix. I sat down at my desk after he texted me the news and I laughed. The phone rang and I remember thinking none of this matters. I am going to answer that phone and someone is going to complain to me about a something that means nothing but I will answer the phone. I will answer until life presents me with window (jumping out at the slightest of cracks). I'm on one knee right now but my head is starting to look up. It's only a matter of time. This blog isn't a woe is me thing. It's an about damn time declaration.
For most of my life, I have been terrified of dropping the ball, of making one mistake and screwing everything that comes after. I looked at my daughter when she was born, so scared of this tiny girl because of all the mistakes I saw myself already making. So much of my life has been wasted on not pushing myself in fear of letting myself down. It wasn't necessarily failure that scared me. It was this idea that the struggle would just keep going and I would have no reprieve. This cycle would just keep repeating itself. I will end up always hand to mouth, always with a dream just out of reach because I can't take a leap. Lately, I've found myself falling again, feeling like I'm going down this rabbit hole of feeling like no matter what I do, it will not get better. I feel myself swallowing myself again because it is easier to retreat into this darkness instead of clawing myself out once again. So much of this life is spent climbing mountains only to fall back down to get back up to fall down to get back...
If I'm being brutally honest, I'm burnt out, completely and utterly burnt to a crisp. I have so much desire to make these words sing, to make my lines dance but I get so exhausted by all the other things that bang around this head. I go to work every day, listen to people yell at me for things that don't really matter, making money that barely pays the bills. I am so mentally drained at the end of the day, so empty where all I want to do is crawl into my bed under my covers and not come out. I feel all these warning signs that all the battles that I've won are all falling apart. This old feeling of constant dread, of never being able to catch my breath. I looked at an old picture of me the other day and I was smiling. I thought I wish I could feel that smile again, that I could feel her warmth and hope but I understand that the state of my mental health is up to me to care for. I understand my triggers, the things that make my fists clench. I wear a hair band around my wrist and I have had to flick it much more recently. In this understanding, I become more aware of myself.
So, over the last few weeks while I've been sitting in this brewing storm, I've had some revelations. One, because for my own mental state I've had to. And, two, because I literally cannot live with this much dread. I have been trying to teach myself how to let go and let god for lack of better words. I have a tendency to let myself get wrapped up in my job, in other people, in these things that do not matter. It is so much easier for me to deal with your baggage than to carry my own. And all these things that I don't like about myself, about my life are all things that I can fix. It's just it all feels like a struggle, such a struggle right now, but I have to stop only seeing the climb and accept more that I can succeed. Right now I don't want to get up to go do what I have to do. I want so desperately to just create and find my wings that doing anything else feels wrong. The more I write, the more I draw, I realize the more I let go of all these things I've carried with me, all these burdens that weren't my own to begin with. I'm not scared of failing. I'm scared that I will never really win.
My husband and I were sitting at breakfast this morning after we had done the laundry, the beautiful world of adulthood. As usual, we are struggling right now. We are good, kind people. We are doing all the right things and making all the right moves. Between the two of us, we spent 20+ years in the service industry, doing what we had to do provide for our family. We both just recently got out of it because we got older, because we didn't want to work nights, because we were burnt out from being constantly in people's faces. It's not an easy industry to work. So, we made the move and left. And, now, we've had to learn how to manage our lives in brand new way but right now it feels like a struggle. I see how stressed out he is and I feel my own self falling into the shadows. But when I look at him? I see hope and I feel his faith and I know he worries. I don't ever want him to feel like he has to worry that I will crumble even if right now it feels like a fight not to. I sat there this morning and I just looked at him. I thought about what I left over the last few years, knowing that even if it feels like maybe I made a mistake I have to trust that this climb will eventually lead to the top. I am tired. I will not lie but I know I will keep on. This war that rages in my head may never truly quiet but I will eventually win. Let go and let me and just keep climbing..
I've talked a lot lately about what I want out of this life, where I am going, where I want to go. This theme of uncertainty yet knowing exactly where I want to be and how frustrated I am that I can't quite seem to make it there. I put my dreams on hold for so long but I will make something very clear. I have no regrets with the choices I have made in my life. I would gladly walk the same path all over again for that man sitting outside on that deck, for that child downstairs singing Pat Benatar, even for those two kitties chasing each other right now in this moment. Would my life be different without them? Absolutely but it wouldn't be better. I spent a lot of my life taking care of other people, of putting other people first. I look back at all those faces that have come and gone, knowing that in the moment my heart touched them they were all taking care of me, too. I needed to feel needed, wanted because those feelings made me feel loved. And in that need, I willingly put aside the things that made my heart smile. I believed that if you smiled at me that was all that I needed... but at some point those smiles didn't seem enough. I know that sounds a little rude. I don't mean it that way. At some point I started to hear this voice inside me ask when was I going to take care of me? When was I going to water my own garden? And I guess I finally heard.
This week has sucked. Plain and simple sucked. Tuesday night I came home from work after a really hard day and had a full on anxiety attack. I haven't had one in awhile. It scared me because I thought I had gotten beyond that. I had thought I finally conquered this fear inside of me but life sneaks up on you. I was overwhelmed, angry, burnt completely out but what sent me over the edge was the disappointment I felt in myself, in the day I had, in where I had landed. I had spent my entire day being pulled in twenty different directions with things I didn't know how to do and no one seemed to care, realizing in the midst of all that chaos that I didn't even care about the job at hand. I didn't care about the people at the other end of the line, about their problems, about them because the whole thing was just a disappointment to me. I left a place because I wasn't happy and thought I was going to a place that was going to be the first steps towards my dreams finally coming true. Reality hit me on Tuesday. I am nowhere near where I want to be and the steps I thought I had taken actually took me two steps back. So, my head went into a spiral of questioning everything I had done in the last year. I finally had started to take care of myself only to put myself in a full blown anxiety battle, a war I thought I had won. I often think during the day about stuff I probably shouldn't because it only aggravates me. And having people bitch at me about things that really at the end of the day don't matter? Well, that only exasperates me more. That desire to make other people happy? Yeah, well, it just doesn't hold the same weight as it did before when I feel like I am suffocating.
Tuesday passed and the next day came. I woke up with my head clear, my heart full. I thought about my husband the night before. I laughed at what a saint he is to deal with these roller coasters that I sometimes find myself on. I couldn't be more grateful for his patience, his kindness, his understanding that when I get sucked into these downward spirals that I have to find my own way out. And I did. I woke up realizing that whatever lesson, whatever reason I found myself here has been learned. I needed to move on from one stage of my life and I wouldn't have if this opportunity hadn't shown itself to me. So, I tried on these shoes and, at first, I really did believe they fit well but after awhile the fit didn't feel quite right. That's OK. I understand the value of recognizing of when something is not right and when it's time to find something new that will be that better fit. What I can take away from this experience is that it has giving me a platform to truly explore my art, my writing, this talent that I just now admit I have. I know clearly my direction. I've spent my life taking care of other people because most of my life that is what I needed. I don't want to spend the rest of it not knowing what I am truly capable of. If something isn't right, I don't have to suffer in it. No one does. I may fail again. I may have another anxiety attack in five minutes but I don't want to live the rest of my life suffocating.
I try to be careful about what I write because I know people in my life sometimes read these things but I don't want to be scared being vulnerable either. I put the world ahead of myself to protect myself from anyone seeing me. It wasn't a selfless thing. It was out of self protection. Wednesday I woke up and I laughed, realizing that the amount of pressure I was putting on myself for a shoe that doesn't fit was absurd. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I draw my pictures, write these words, love my family, live my life. I don't have time anymore to get stuck on things that don't make me want to be better. Sometimes a job is just a job, a place is just a place, people are just people. If my life fell apart tomorrow, I would still be all right. If they told me to walk out that door, I would still be all right. I have these two feet and even at their weakest they've always managed to hold me up. Now it's time to start walking. I don't want to just stand anymore. And I can no longer afford to be scared of a misstep because so what if I do? I correct. I keep going.
I just erased an entire blog I wrote. I was almost done with it and then I realized it was not what I wanted to say at all. So, I deleted every last word. I don't like to plan things out really, outline what I'm trying to say. It feels forced that way. And the words I wrote felt false, fake, not authentic. I want to live my life as real as possible. I want to feel every word I write from each fingertip as if they are an extension of myself. I write to keep myself in check, to make sure that I am living the most honest way. We all get so lost in our lives, in the we-shoulds, in the expectations that mean nothing at the end of the day really. If I put everything aside that makes me unhappy, I wake up every morning so proud of where my life has landed though I have a ways to go. I have to give myself pep talks to get through the day but I know I have the power in me to my life better. Sometimes we take time to grow into who, what we really are. I wake up in the morning and I want to be better than I was the day before. I don't always win that battle but I try. Honestly that's all that is important. One day I'll be old and gray. I'll sit in my rocker with my white hair and I'll smile, knowing even if it took me years to figure out, look how happy I am now.
I had my kid young. I missed out on a lot of stuff. Basically I didn't really have my twenties. I had little idea of what I was doing, what I wanted. All I knew is that I had to grow up pretty fast so I did. I look back at it now and don't regret that life. I learned what strength meant. I learned what love, real love was. I learned compassion and honesty and what struggle really was. I paid my dues and whatever life owed me I understood what it felt like to be wrong. Those are quality lessons, lessons that led me to be where I am right now. I look at my mother now, this amazing strong woman. They say that when you have your own children you get a new understanding for your parents. And, it's true, I absolutely did when I had my daughter. The thing is I didn't really get it her completely until this year. She got married so young. She had babies so young. She gave her entire life to a man who couldn't keep his feet on the ground, to four kids who put her through so much. Not once did she complain. Not once did she make us feel like she gave up anything. Not once did she make us feel like her life was unwanted, like we were unwanted. She put her head down, found that strength, and pushed forward, carrying all of us on her back. Not once did she complain. She gave us her life, gave up her dreams, never got a chance to figure out who she was for us. And now that my kid is older and doesn't need me, I have a whole new life in front of me. I see my mother in a whole new light because I get it. We give everything we have to our kids, our husbands, putting ourselves to the side because they are more important in that moment.
My mother, this person I wish I had seen so much earlier in my life, is now learning and growing and experiencing all these things she never got a chance to do before. She no longer has this obligation to us. Her kids are grown with children of their own, with families of their own. She doesn't have to bake the cookies anymore. I love seeing how happy she is, how much she is able to do for herself now. She is an inspiration to me. I don't see her often as I should but I get it. She gave me so many years of being by side at a drop of a hat, she doesn't need to be there like that anymore. I know if I called, she would come running. I think about my own kid, this journey she is on and how our relationship is changing. It's different now that she's older and you know I'm fine with it. I thought perhaps I would have a hard time, this empty nest feeling that I wouldn't know how to fill. This is going to sound strange. There are some of us that are parents for life, that will hover over our children even as grown adults. And then there are some of us who are ok to let that bird fly and watch them as they go, always there but not always in eye sight.
The older I get, the more I see my mother in myself. You know what? That makes me happy. There's a lot of dreamer in me just like my father but I see her, too. It's this weird balance of living in the clouds with my feet on the ground. I get how tough it must have been for my mother to have this talent and not be able to do anything with it because her responsibility was to us. And I want to learn from her and figure out a way to be both, to honor them both. I know a lot of the reasons why I write these words today is because of losing my father, of the courage he gave me in his passing. I know when I look at my mother now, knowing that one day I will lose her as well, how much I want her to see all the great things I can do. She once told me when I was a 17 year old kid that she lived vicariously through her children. I've never forgot that statement and, seeing her now, I am so glad she no longer feels like she has to clip her wings for us. That, my friends, gives me so much hope for myself. I don't know exactly where I am going, what tomorrow will bring. I haven't quite figured it out and I'm really not upset by that. What I feel is hope again, a drive again, this fire in my belly to do all those things that I once thought I could never do. I don't want my life to be in vain over excuses that don't really mean anything. I want to be honest and real and try. I gave my kid half my life and I will always be her mother but, just like my own mother, it's time I do me and not feel bad about it. When you have children, you change but it doesn't mean you give up what makes you because one day those children will fly away. And what you will still have is you, this new and beautiful version of you.
You watch those movies where they talk about having a mid life crisis. You reach a point in your life where you realize that your youth is long gone and what lies ahead of you is just death. So, you freak out and start evaluating every choice, every decision you ever made. You wonder if you had gone left instead of right, would you be somewhere different? Would you have that mansion? Would you have that fancy husband or wife? Would your kids be in a better place? Would you even have kids? So many things happen in your life, your choice and life's direction, that conspire to lead where you are today. I have thought a lot about that lately. I am to turn 40 in a couple of months, a very strange feeling. I can honestly say twenty years ago I don't know if this is where I saw myself. But while some want to scratch their entire life and buy that new car, to trade in that tired family, I am perfectly content in my personal life. I married a man so perfectly matched to myself that traded him for a younger version would be such a silly choice. I have a kid who is an adult now. While I didn't always make the right choice as a parent, what I gave her an incredible amount of love that will never falter. But then, as we all do, I look at my career and realize that while this is not where I intended to land, I still have a choice in my trajectory.
My entire life I've worked jobs because I needed to pay the bills. I took opportunities that I was very qualified for but didn't have much of a future. Let's be honest. I didn't finish college. The opportunities that were laid out for me have been more in the moment jobs. Sure, I could manage a restaurant. I have more than enough experience and smarts to be successful at it but I no longer have the physical drive to do so. And, yeah, I could move up in an office environment but eventually that just leads me to retirement. The day to day grind has never excited me even before I started getting this "I'm-almost-40-what-am-I-doing" mentality. Even the excitement of being a bartender, of the never knowing who was going to sit down on my stool started to become old. And I realize more every day that it had nothing to do with where I was working or what kind of pay-the-bills job I was doing. It has more to do with what has always been inside of me, the chances I never gave myself. Was it out of fear of failure? I don't know. Maybe a little. I watch my kid not do things because she gets scared of failing. If there is a chance it might now work, why try? I wonder if I unintentionally taught her that. When I was 18, my art teacher told me I would never make it. I didn't have enough talent. No one would be interested in anything I drew or wrote or created. I just didn't have what it takes. I wish I could look at that 18 year old girl that I was and tell her how much horse shit that lady was. So, I didn't try because why would I when she just told me I would fail? If I could avoid that rejection, then I would. I sit at my desk and I listen to these people on the other end of that phone complain and yell and imply that I am the reason for their distraught. It starts to get to me after awhile. However, the more that toxic noise goes into my ear, the more I hear myself saying I can do better.
I sat in my car the other day for awhile. I was listening to music, just thinking as I stared off before I started my day. I started thinking about this mid life crisis theory and it made me laugh. If this is a mid life crisis, then it's not a bad one. I don't feel a need to self sabotage. I don't feel a need to completely uproot my life because I am not fulfilled. The thing is I am quite fulfilled in every way except in one. I feel like I am on this momentum. I am drawing more, writing more, allowing myself to feel more. I am taking my time to really figure out my life, all it's pieces and how I can make them work together. For some reason, this is where I am right now. Where I have been doesn't really make all that much of a difference except for the lessons that my life has taught me. I was talking to my mother the other day. I told her that the more I draw, the more I feel this energy trying to tell me something. The more I feel the direction I am supposed to go. With each line, with each word I get more clarity every day. I am not destined to work a job that just pays the bills. Maybe that's never really been my path but it's been a necessity and that's OK. Sometimes we take our own time. Today is the anniversary of losing my father. He's been gone for four years now and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about him. One of the things that always rings through my head was his belief in me, this pure and unrelenting love that he never failed to show me. I think about how I shrugged him off, thinking that he only believed in me because I was his daughter. The older I get though, I realize the reason he believed in me was because of me, not because of this obligatory blood connection. Maybe it's him whose trying to tell me in my lines to not be afraid to fail anymore. If I do, I do but what beautiful lessons it will teach me.
I started looking into going back to school. Maybe that is a mid life crisis thing but does it matter? Isn't the point that I make the effort to try? It's not about how proud I would make him or my mother or my husband or even my kid. It's about how proud would I be of myself, right? It would be 4 years in college. Sure, it's a little late in life but what the hell? Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see that 18 year old girl whose self confidence just got shattered by an adult who should've known better. I see how bright her eyes are, how hungry that drive still rages, and I think don't I owe it to her to at least try? We get older and we forget about who we used to be. It's so easy to think of who we were as cute before the world got a hold of us but there's something valid in that innocence that we can still live by. Listen I am not able to run marathons or work on my feet for 16 hours a day or stay up past 10 much anymore. What I can do? What I can do is try. Going back to school will be tough. I still have bills to pay, still have a family to take care of, still all of these adulting things that need to be done. My responsibilities won't go away because I'm choosing to add more to my journey. What will happen is that I will be able to have more opportunities to better myself, to provide more for my family, to let that 18 year old girl who wasn't given a chance to finally shine. I know this sounds like some romantic fancy, an idealistic view of this hard life but without hope life is bleak. Is this a mid life crisis? It may be. Or maybe it's just time I gave myself a chance.
When things tend to go well for me, I have a tendency to not trust it. I feel like if I give into this good, then the bad is just around the corner, waiting to take it from me. My life, this confusing and wonderful life, has taught me to never be too comfortable when things are quiet. Over the last couple of years, I just feel like it has been a struggle bus. No matter where I was or what I was doing or how hard I worked, there was always something mocking me from the corner, my own personal demon. Call it whatever you want but feeling like I have my shit together? It is a frightening thought. The moment I do, it all crumbles any way. I get it. That's a real Debbie Downer way to look at the world. I'm not a brooding teenager anymore. Those feelings have over excited dread should have left me years ago but still they stick. Here's the thing. I know exactly how to handle disappointment, failure. I am comfortable in that skin. It's like slipping on a robe at the end of the day and settling in on the couch to a nice movie. I know the waves of anxiety that will happen, the way they roll in quietly like thunder, knowing that once they start to roar, I can do nothing but ride it out. I snap my hair band at my wrist, close my eyes, and hang on. It's why I don't like roller coasters because that's what my anxiety feels like if that makes any sense... but I understand that chaos. I know exactly how it will go. I will panic. I will breathe. I will get up.
When things go right? What is that? I drove my car for the last few months with a muffler that I thought might fall off at any moment. I envisioned it. I figured out all the scenarios if it broke down on the highway or in town. I told myself how much panic I would allow and then how I would do what I had to do to fix it. I imagined the worst case scenario every time I got in the car to drive to work, to the store, to my coffee shop, fully expecting to not make it my destination. I told myself that it would take millions of dollars to have her fixed because I prepare myself for the worst at all times. But you know what? I always got to where I was going. The explosions that my runaway imagination created never happened. And to get her fixed was far less then a million dollars. This behavior isn't a new thing for me. I think even when I was a kid I always thought the worst. I understand in my adult hood where this mentality came from but I have never understood why I was always such a nervous kid. As an adult, that's all my life has been, one struggle after another, one anxiety inspired panic attack after another, because the demon in the corner mocking me has always been there. So many things in my life have been taken away from me, I guess I just got used to things not staying. I started to assume that everything was a passing thought and those thoughts became comfortable. Don't become too attached. They may feel good right now but it all turns sour eventually.
If you knew me, I don't know if you would necessarily see any of that. I try not to put that out there in the world but the older I become, the more honest I want to be. I believe in love, in goodness, in kindness but I have a very clear view of all those things as well. Human nature inspires all sorts of behaviors, not all good even if intentions are in the right place. We could be best friends today but I know eventually life will present different paths. And I feel like it took me a long time to get that, to forgive that. Here we give our hearts to each other, bare our secrets but when life presents itself we are going to follow our own stars. I took so personally at times, thinking that it was me they just didn't like any more. Why bother getting attached to people who will never return it to you? For a long time, I didn't. I kept myself at a distance, safe from the abandonment that I knew was inevitably coming. The people around me would at some point become those car explosions my head created. I look back at all the people that I once knew, the good and the bad, the ones that hurt and the ones that lifted me up. I think about my father and how he's been gone for so long, how my mother is getting older. I smile at my husband, so thankful that this man taught me that this anxiety won't kill me unless I let it. And then my kid, this beautiful little teenage monster that I created. I look at her and worry and see the worst case scenarios all around her. I look at her and snap my hair band around my wrist and let myself worry but I know that once the thunder goes by, that kid is going to be just fine. She will leave me but it's not because I have done something wrong. She will leave me because she's got stars to chase and I want her to catch all of them.
Someone asked me the other day how were my things? I laughed. If I'm being honest, right now they are fine. My car is fixed. My kid is finding her footing. I've found a new focus in my art and writing. We're finally making some headway out of this financial hole we fell in. As I write these words, my head is already bracing for it all to fall apart. How dark, right? Why can't I just take a moment and enjoy this? Because the reality of me is this. The demon that hangs out in my corner, mocking me, will always mock me but I don't know if it is really a bad thing. For every great thing in my life, I feel so incredibly grateful. For every kind word that someone gives, I cherish completely. I love these moments when it feels calm, sitting on a porch on a breezy summer afternoon. You close your eyes and just feel that breeze brush against your cheek. I hold onto these moments so tightly because the reality of this life? Well, the reality is that soft wind can turn at any moment. Life is fleeting and cruel and incredibly unpredictable but in that chaos there is beauty. I know that this way of thinking, about sitting in the dark and feeling comfortable in the doom sounds like a horrible way to live but there is a balance. I can take the struggles that I internally face and string together words. I can take that pain, that loneliness that sometimes paralyzes me and create an emotionally charged drawing. Life will not go the way we expect it, good or bad. There will be explosions and rainbows and showers in the middle of a sunny day. I am not ashamed of my anxiety, of worst case scenario thoughts any more in this life. In a way, it has been the best way to keep my anxiety under control. Think it, feel it, and let it go. The demon in my head he's not as scary as he used to be.