I spoke to my mother yesterday and the woman just makes me smile sometimes. Not just because she is my mother but because the older I get, the more I just appreciate her as a person. She was telling me a story about her day. In this story and the reactions she had and the things that were being said to her or about her aligned with the sort of week, I was having. Sometimes I think people misunderstand my humor, the way I deal with life. I feel like people often take my sometimes dark, grumpy nature that I am jaded or mean which is so far from who I really am that I find it funny. Listening to my mother, I realized that (not to quote NBC but to quote NBC) I learned it from you! I grew up with a strong mother, a woman who, while doing anything for you, made it very clear when she was angry, who without words expressed that she had had enough. She snapped sometimes but it was never out of malice. It was out of raising four annoying children and taking care of a dreamer of a husband. She was the rock and the world landed on her every time we fell apart. So I get it, now more than ever.
I was never a bubbly person, a cheerleader so to speak. I was never able to blow smoke up your ass or to pretend like I was something I am not even if I have bent over way too often over the last decade. The one thing that I have always been real but it’s been a weird balance. I am a kind person and that kindness goes far but I have my limits. That kindness takes a toll on me that I am happy to pay for a while but, like my mother, I have my limits. I will have that breaking point where I snap at you, where I want to throw a casserole dish at your head for a simple wrong sort of look. I don’t know how to look at a person and put a fake smile on my face without paying a heavy price. And, honestly, I am a pretty jaded person when it comes to humanity. I will roll my eyes at dumb. I will lose my patience for people who make excuses about why they can’t just be a decent human being. My voice will be sarcastic and my wit will be sharp and I will not fake liking you… because I can’t. It is not in my DNA to be something I am not. The older I get, the more I’m tired of fighting that. I work in a field where they want me to fluff people’s pillows and it takes so much out of me to fake concern for people who don’t even believe I’m a real person but I do it. I do it because it’s what I know. I do it because there are genuine people out there who are worth the price I pay.
I love the dark joke. I enjoy saying weird things, making me people look at me like I am a crazy person but a lot of times I got misunderstood because of it. My voice is not a high pitched one. It is slightly raspy from all the years of smoking. It breaks from how much I have to talk to people during the day. It doesn’t understand how to sound sympathetic when inside I want to straggle you. I think about my mom growing up, how you could always tell when she was pissed because her voice gave it away, how I hear those same tones in my own now. I listened to her story yesterday and it just makes me laugh. I’ve lived on this planet, endured so many different types of people, been through some life enough to earn that jagged edge. I’m not ashamed of it and I’m not trying to hide the fact that I’m scarred because of it. I don’t want to go through this life, pretending like life is good because it’s not. It never was. While we have moments of joy, we carry so much dark, too. That’s the beauty of us, of all of us. I don’t want to vomit rainbows at your feet if I don’t feel them. I don’t want to lie to you and give you fake apologies if I don’t mean them. I want to be honest and real and human with you, with all of you. I’m not sunshine. I’m an Eeyore and an Oscar and I love the inspiration that comes out of that part of me. A part of me is my mother and I am so glad I fully understand how lovely that part of me is. So, sure, I’m going to snap at you. I’m going to sigh heavily. I’m going to, at some point, throw something at your head… but I’m also going to show you love, kindness, quiet respect.
I sat in an office earlier this week, being told that I needed to be more positive. I said nothing in reply really because I understood there was no point to it. I understood who my audience was, old enough to know what battles are worth fighting and which are not. I walked out feeling slightly defeated, very annoyed, and honestly not very motivated. I know that I’m not always the easiest person to read, to get to know. I give you everything and give you nothing at the same time. And I know that I come off as negative at times. I used to want to change that part of me but I’m not very interested in that much anymore. Here’s the thing. I know who I am. I know that I hold my sunshine close to the chest because I’m terrified that the world is somehow going to take it away from me. It has happened so much in my life that it’s just a part of me and I’m OK to share that part of me with the people in my life who I feel comfortable with. I will always have a general distrust of people but I will never treat another person with anything but respect. My very first memory of my mom is her brushing her long, dark hair in a bathroom in a pink nightgown. I remember thinking that she was one of the most beautiful people in the world and, one day, I wanted to be just as pretty as she was. So, I took note of her strength growing up, the things she would tolerate and the things she wouldn’t. Listening to her story last night, I realized that all of that strength has been imprinted in me, in that very small little girl who watched her mother in such awe. I don’t want to apologize anymore for being a little dark, slightly strange, always a bit sad. I don’t want to apologize for being anxious or hesitant or weary of people. I love you all but maybe it’s the time I just throw the casserole dish and see where the crumbs fall.
This week I did my first art installation at a local Coffee shop. I’ve been going to this place since I was 15 years old. That’s a lot of years and a lot of coffee we’ve shared together. So, for this to be the first place I come out so to speak is fitting. There’s a lot of anxiety with this but it’s not the kind that brings me to my knees. It’s an exciting sort of nervous, happy butterflies. For the last 7 months, I have been preparing and thinking, obsessing and dreaming, thinking of all the worst-case scenarios crossing my fingers for the best. Putting your work out there for people to see is always rough but to have it in front of live people makes me feel so vulnerable. I feel like posting it on a website or Instagram there is a certain amount of protection there. I look at those paintings on the wall right now and it feels like I am standing naked in front of you. Each of one of those paint strokes was born from these hands and came from a part of me that I can’t use words to explain. And in that, there is a rawness that I am giving to you.
There was a moment Thursday morning after everything was hung that I became scared. I wanted to pull everything down, say never mind, and hide all of my work away. It wasn’t that I was scared that people wouldn’t like it. There will be people who won’t and that’s all right. I get that my work is very feminine and maybe a more a specific taste. I just didn’t know if I was sure I wanted to show the world those parts of me. There is a certain amount of loneliness in my work, a sadness that I don’t mean to put in there but because those two things have been a part of me for so long they come out when I draw. And it was that sadness, that loneliness that I was scared to give to you. Here’s the thing. Those two things are mine and the source of so much of my strength that I was scared it was going to be taken away from me. My husband looked at me, saw the panic in my eyes, and asked me if I was all right. I was. I always am. At that moment though I had to roll with my anxiety, feel that fear, and realize that doing this was a new source of strength. It was about time I owned that part of me, too.
I have had many dreams about my Dad over the last few nights. I miss him so much but I always miss him. I sit here right now and I look at those pictures hanging on the wall and I think of him. I think of all the conversations we ever had, the good ones and the bad ones, the silly political debates and the dinner time conversations about bowel movements and I smile at all of them. I am not a super-spiritual person but I do believe that spirits exist. I don’t think my Dad is hanging around. I know he has found his peace but what I also know that he visits sometimes, too. And even it is just my mind dealing with his death by creating this fantasy, I’m OK with it. Last night he bought me ice cream and we sat together in a busy place and we laughed and we smiled. I don’t know what we talked about but I remember sitting with him, what I felt and knowing this was his way of letting me know how proud of me he is. He knew that someday I would find what he always saw and it was this strength to try.
I know this is just a coffee shop. I know this may not be the thing that rockets me to success. I have a healthy understanding that I may walk out with every one of those pieces 3 months from now… but for now, I am eating ice cream with my Dad and enjoying this moment.
I’m going to admit something here and I am not ashamed. I play the Sims. No, that’s not right. I love the Sims! And I get it. You are basically living the same life you are in real life on a screen but are you? Because I know that just for kicks I do a lot of stuff on Sims that I would never do in real life like try to murder my husband by feeding him beans from a magic bush for flirting with a townie. Nor would I voluntarily have 100 babies which is the current challenge going on right now I hear. Clearly, this silly, little fun game is giving you the ability to live outside yourself for a moment. It gives you this outlet where you can sleep with the entire town if you want or, in a very drastic turn, turn around and lock them in a room, taking away the door, and starving them to death. Yes, these are real things you can do and honestly, they are pretty tame compared to some of the cheats I’ve seen out there. My point is our real lives are full so much dumb stuff, some beautiful and most senseless, that it’s nice just to stomp your feet and scream sounds a the air when you don’t want to life.
I’ve done a lot of self reflection lately. It’s healthy. It hurts. It’s real and I’m being as honest as I possibly can with myself and with you, too. I want to give this person who I know is in there the ability to speak but I’ve been scared to let her out. I’m tired of being scared. I’m tired of being quiet. I’m tired of stepping back into the shadows to make the world around me more comfortable. I want to let my inner Sims come out, stomp her feet, wave those glitch arms, and scream for a little while. I’ve been thinking that I’ve been sad lately. I’ve sat down with my anxiety and looked it straight in the face and realized it is not just sadness. It’s not just the feeling of being broken and paralyzed. There is a lot of anger, too, so much anger. I’ve allowed myself to be pushed into this corner and I have done nothing to stop it from happening over the last few years. I wasn’t always so tolerant but I confused being tolerant with just giving up. So, that anger really isn’t at the world at all. It’s at myself. So many don’t see me because I don’t see myself. And so many show no concern for me because for years I’ve shown myself even less. I locked myself in a room and took away the door. I am coming to realize I have been starving myself for years now.
Listen I know comparing actual life to The Sims is a humorous stretch. And this blog may not be taken seriously because of it. That’s all right. I’m not here to tell you how to feel. You can’t make a Sim enjoy cleaning a toilet if they don’t want to. I had some phone calls this week. And, sure, I am going to make some Sims of these nasty people on the phone and probably put them in a pool and take away the ladder because Sims… but I realized something in their nastiness. I get frustrated when people are assholes to put it simply. There was a moment in this phone call this week where I realized I had a choice. I could allow him to treat me badly or I could make it clear that was not going to happen. There’s a bitch inside me, guys. I just don’t let her play very often but she’s getting restless and I felt her at that moment. I let her come out and it felt great to not allow this person to determine what I was worth. I have allowed myself to be treated badly. I have allowed that. I can’t put all of the blame on the people who took advantage of that. They saw the opportunity and they took it because I did not stop it. I will now.
There’s a balance I realized I need to find, this balance between the very kind, compassionate, empathetic person that in my heart I know I am and this other me that is hard, almost cold but fair who doesn’t tolerate being bulldozed over. And I can achieve that character when playing Sims because there’s no real hard choice, no real consequences, no explanations. It is simple and pure and silly. Life is none of those things. It is complicated and circumstantial and unpredictable. It is full of doubt and questions and darkness. It can be wonderful and breathtaking, inspiring. You can wake up every morning vomiting rainbows. There’s always a price to pay and sometimes you don’t realize how much you’ve paid until you’re all spent. Growing old is a lot of figuring out which versions of yourself you want to mesh together, which parts matter and which were just useless. I guess I’m finally seeing me, realizing the parts that have hurt me and the ones that kept me strong. I’m deciding who I want to be, not which me will be the most convenient for everyone else. It’s time I put the door back and let this girl free. If I don’t care about her, why should you?
I have been trying to do small stuff to help myself feel better, function better. I try to do Yoga at least a few times a week and a cardio video (which really just turns into me dancing around circles flailing my arms). I even took a walk on my lunch break the other day. I looked in the mirror the other day and made myself look. I tend to not look at my reflection all that often. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I look like but I don’t feel great about some things either. I realized that the way I’m feeling on the inside is reflected on my outside. I’ve gained some weight since leaving the back-breaking restaurant life. I no longer stand on my feet for anywhere from 6 to 15 hours a day. I don’t get that workout, that physical adrenaline release. I don’t get that feeling, after all, is said and done of making it through the chaos. There is this feeling of release after you make it through a dinner rush in one piece. And I just don’t get that same feeling from sitting at a desk being verbally abused by adults. That negative, motionless, uninspiring desk may be literally killing me (yep, totally overdramatic, it’s cool).
So, I sat down at my kitchen table and, just like Sonny, I pulled out my box of tools to figure myself out. I wrote last week about my anxiety and how it is just getting out of control. I feel like partially it’s my fault. I know. It’s not really a matter of fault but it’s me that doesn’t know how to cut off negative energy in a healthy way. These are how I deal with life. I let it fester, boil over until I have had enough. Then I either do something about it or I say fuck it and just don’t care. I struggle with what to fight for. So much of my adult struggle has been about the fight I fight for others around me. It wasn’t really about me. I wanted it to be about me but I never allowed it to be because when I did? Well, getting shoved back down started to take its toll on me. I feel like I’ve come full circle, still fighting the same annoying battle of feeling empty. If I look at my life, this empty is completely absurd and so I get angry that I can’t just shut up already. I look at all that reflection and understand I got to the point of being so overwhelmed, angst-filled that I just didn’t care anymore. Who was paying attention to me anyway? I certainly wasn’t.
I changed over the last year and not all of it has been in a good way. I can accept my own responsibility for it. I allowed my environment to drown me when I should have had a life jacket on already. But I feel like because I’ve stopped so much physical activity, I have also lost that natural release. My head had lost its ability to push through something because my body is now just this blob that sits at a desk, listening all day to people who have nothing better to do than to say nasty things. So, I have been trying to add things to my day like the yoga, the Zumba videos, the occasional walk around a building. And, in a small way, it is helping but it is not the solution. It’s only a part of the solution. My artwork and my drawing is another part of the solution but still, I haven’t quite figured out the entire equation. I think it’s important for me to see the whole picture, to really take in exactly what I’m dealing with. My head feels full of unnecessary jumble and I need to clean house but some of this hoard has been in here for too long. I realize that I enjoyed the rush of the restaurant life because I didn’t have time to think, to feel, to really deal with me. And now? Well, now that reflection is staring me right in the face and it’s time I stare back.
I know a lot of my blogs lately have focused around this same theme. I feel like I’m going through this journey right now and this is how I find my best way. I don’t know how to talk to people but I know how to write. So, this is where I go. At the end of a sentence is where I find myself. This is one of the small things that help me find my center, my balance on these two wobbly feet. I once believed that I should keep all of these feelings inside a journal where no one can see. And, I’ll admit, I do have a journal full of secrets I will never tell but part of this journey for me is learning how to be vulnerable, to tell people how I feel. Do I wish I could sit down with you and just say the words? Sure, sometimes, but that will come in time. The Poem I wrote earlier was about being sincere and how I will run quickly away if I even smell a hint of someone being insincere but I’m still learning how to trust this world around me. I’m still learning on how to let go of the hoard that is in my head which includes a lot of disappointment. Maybe my wind will change this week. Maybe I’ll look at that reflection and won’t feel so broken. Maybe I’ll find the voice to speak these words but it’s all right if I don’t. This is my journey and I will find my shine in my own time. We all do.
My husband laughed at me yesterday morning. My alarm clock went off and I was so angry at this innocent alarm clock, I slammed the snooze button and cursed at it. His laughter made me laugh and, though I woke up annoyed at the fact I had to wake up, I started my day in relatively good spirits. But here’s the thing I get angry at that alarm clock every morning. It buzzes and I curse and I stumble out of my bed to feed hungry cats who meow at me and walk under my feet. And then I go to a job where I get yelled at most day because people are entitled and rude. Listen, I’ve worked a lot of Customer Service jobs in my life. I’ve dealt with a rainbow of different people, from the best to the worst. After years of constant pampering grown adults who should know how to behave, I’ve found that I don’t much like that alarm clock very much anymore. In fact, I would much prefer to just stay in my house. Is this starting to be a problem? Probably but I’ve already started this journey of making my life a better situation. This is just another part of me that is in progress.
Last Friday, I woke up in my usual angry fashion, not wanting to go to work and not feeling great but I got up. I fed those hungry baby kitties of mine and made my coffee and lunch and out the door, I went. Then, I killed a bunny (and before anyone gets upset by that nonchalant sentence, I still feel horrible about it). I cried the entire way to work and thought about that poor bunny the rest of the day. I left early that day. I just kept thinking that perhaps the world just didn’t want me to leave my house and it sacrificed that poor animal so I would stay home. I understand this mentality of not wanting to be a part of the world is a bit of a problem. I have complete comprehension that my already hermit tendency may be getting a little bit out of control. I also understand that what I do during the day doesn’t help motivate me to come out of my hole either. Dealing with people is tough and taxing and downright demoralizing sometimes. And I feel like people who work in this industry are just like that poor bunny. We’re just trying to live our lives and then we get run over by things we can’t avoid.
I’m sure I’ve talked about this before but we’ll go down this rabbit hole a little bit (pun intended). I was on Zoloft for maybe ten years of my life. I had a lot of anxiety issues because of some life events that I experienced. I wasn’t able to function without it for a long time. I was young with a small child on my own and I mentally was a mess. So, I got help. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication that is going to help you live your life. It wasn’t a high dosage, just enough to kill the edge. The Doctor always asked me if I wanted to increase it but I always said no. I didn’t want to stop feeling my life. I just wanted to stop letting my feelings stopping me from living my life. So, for ten years, I was on it but then my life started to change. I met my husband. I switched jobs. I found some stability. I learned ways of dealing with my anxiety on my own without the aid of Zoloft. That was ten years ago. For a really long time, I’ve been OK as far as that goes. I know my triggers and I understand what I have to do when I start panicking. I worked at a restaurant, waiting tables and tending bar and it was chaotic, but I was still able to control my anxiety. I’ve been really proud of myself and I don’t say that very often.
I haven’t been doing too well controlling that anxiety in the last year. I’ve felt it come back. I’ve felt the moments of panic where I don’t feel like I can breathe, where I’m going to pass out, the buzzing in my head like I’m going to explode. And far too often lately, I’ve just wanted to hide from the world. So, I sit back and try to figure out what has changed so drastically that I feel like I need to go back on Zoloft. I want to make it something clear before I go on. I am not against having that sort of help again. I believe that help is there for us for a reason and, if we’re having a hard time, get the help you need to live your best life. My thing is I worked so hard to learn how to live without it. Maybe it’s a pride thing. I don’t know. I realized that it was what I was exposing myself during the day. There are all sorts of Customer Service jobs. Each has their plus and minuses. Each can be hell to work. But this what I realized in my current situation. All day all I was hearing was negative words with negative tones. I listen all day to grown, professional people bitch about things that shouldn’t cause so much angst. Let’s be real. You don’t call a Customer Service line to tell someone you think they are really cool. You call them because you’re pissed. And I get it, guys. I get that you received something that wasn’t right and you’re pissed but take a breath. You are not the bunny I ran over. If the ghost of that bunny called, it has every right to give me hell. I’m such an empath that every emotion you feel, I feel, too. And if I hear, if I feel nothing but anger and disappointment all day, that’s what is going to stick with me. The anxiety that I have had control over for so long now has fuel to it and I feel like lately, I’m losing control. My eyes are tearing right now writing these words because this feeling sucks.
I get so angry at the alarm clock every morning because I know what is in store for me. I know it will be nothing but unhappy people who can’t understand that an actual person is on the other line who has nothing to do with their problem. Everyone, please understand the people you deal with on the phone or serving your drinks or ringing up your shampoo have nothing to do with your personal problems or with company policies in any way. I just answer the phone, man. The other week I came home and cried every day. It was such a rotten week. It was because I felt out of control like there was this giant weight was on top of me, that I was in a constant panic attack. It is so hard to function when you feel like you’re constantly under water. I’ve realized this for a while now but something clicked in my head. This is not right. I’m on this journey right now of trying to make myself, my life better. In my younger years, I would’ve thought I would just have to suck it up and work like this but I’m tired of feeling like I have to sacrifice myself. I don’t want to be a martyr anymore. I have nothing to prove and my mental health is so much more important. I can’t be a good partner to my husband if I am miserable. I can’t be a good mother to my daughter if I’m a mess. I can’t be a good friend to you if I’m terrified to leave my house. If something is not making you the best you can be, find the thing that will. I hope that bunny forgives me and I hope one morning soon I will wake up without being so angry at the buzzing sound. Maybe I’ll have to go back on Zoloft for a little while or maybe my course will change soon to a better one. I may be a work in progress until the day I die and that’s OK. As long as I keep trying….
When I was younger, I said no to a lot of things. I drew a lot of lines. I set a lot of boundaries. If I didn't want to do something, you couldn't make me even give it a side look. I wore a stern face a lot. Was it that I knew who I was? No, I had no idea. Was it that I knew what I wanted? Not in the least but I did know what I did not. I observed life around me, what it expected, what I could get away with. I had this strange confidence about me that seems almost like an alien at this point in my life. I haven't felt that sure of myself for such a long time. Don't worry. This isn't a look-back-at-how-much-better-I-was-then blog. It's more of a train of thought currently so just come along with me. We'll reach my point soon. My words always find their way. I was in the shower this morning. So often I experience the best moments of revelations in the shower. I get this weird understanding. I'm stripped down to nothing and I allow myself to take a look, to check in, to figure out some sort of balance in this raging war that I seem to be battling lately. I don't have that confidence any more but I don't think I want it back either.
The one concept I think I have lost over the years is this one of self care. There used to be this girl full of spirit and light and determination. A mountain wouldn't move her and it wasn't always a great thing to be that stubborn. It caused it's own damage. I said no to the people that tried to climb it even ones who just wanted to be my friend. I put up barricades and waged wars and threw flaming arrows to keep them at bay. I knew who I was in a way only a young, naive girl could and I wasn't allowing anyone to change that. And then someone threw a stick of dynamite at me that I didn't want and I came crumbling down. I crashed so hard. I became this landslide that I think I'm stilling cleaning up all these years later. So, instead of setting my boundaries and keeping a firm line, I just let myself go. I didn't say no to anything because what was the point? If someone wanted something, they were going to take it anyway. I ended up surrounded in this darkness where I no longer understood this concept that I was still a person. I just said yes because what did it matter anymore? So, then I was the yes person, the one who always saved the day even if it hurt myself. You need to pick up that shift? Of course. I haven't had a day off in weeks but I got you. You need me to work on the weekend? I got you. No worries. I will help you and I won't expect anything back. I learned quickly that the hand you offer is so often not returned. As long as you don't bitch about it? You're good. You're all good. It wasn't just a work environment. It was my home life. It was everything about my life. I would just let people take what they wanted because I was tired of being bulldozed, because I felt like when I tried to stand I was pushed back down anyway.
Something in me has started to change over the last few years. I feel like when I lost my father, there was a switch that was flipped. I feel like over the last four years I've been sort of drowning but I see that I am so close to breaking free from these rip tides that keep pulling me under. I am fighting this strange battle. Some days I lose more than I win but I feel like the landslide that has been me for so long is starting to build itself back up again. I never got to tell my Dad some things I needed to tell him and that's on me but in his death this regret somehow woke me up. The scars of the footprints that had walked on me started to become irritated. I made myself a tiny hill at first and I watched the world around me. I heard myself say yes and then I felt the damage that it was doing to me. So, I started to say no again. I started to stand up for myself again. I started seeing the value of standing on solid ground. I didn't want to be everyone's Yes Girl anymore. I just wanted to be me, who ever that is right now. The world started to change with me. The people that once stood there when I so easily said yes I don't see a lot of them anymore. When I drew a line, they fell off my mountain but I didn't push them off this time. I let them fall away. While I've struggled with the loss of some, I understand how important it is to let the negative I've kept with me fall away, too.
We see these memes that say, "Say Yes," more but I feel like it is taken out of context. Sure, say yes to trying that chocolate covered cricket or say yes to zip lining while you're on vacation. Say yes to as much as you want as long as it doesn't hurt you. When I was younger, I did what I wanted and I didn't much think about how anybody felt about it. Then, life taught me a lesson, knocked that chip straight off these shoulders, and I became that landslide. I went from saying no to everything (unless it my idea) to saying yes to anything. Both were so incredibly harmful to me but I couldn't see it. I liked being the king of my own kingdom but then when my crown was knocked off, I just became this sad, pathetic peasant that somehow needed the world's approval. I've been shut down for a long time. I married my husband, this beautiful gem of a man, because for whatever reason he was the one person who was able to swim through that landslide and find me. To this day, I feel like he's the only one who really sees me because most days I just feel like a ghost to the rest of the world. But I want to change that and I'm working on it. I want to say yes because I want to say yes, not because there will be repercussions if I don't. And I want to say no because what you're asking is not good for me and I need to draw that line of what I will tolerate. We don't have to be afraid of being good to ourselves. I can love you and I can love me. I just wish I would've figured that out a long time ago.
There has been so many changes in my life in the last year. I think about where I was a year ago and it's seems so far away. In some ways, I feel like I've found my bearings a little better. In another, I feel completely off center. I'm navigating my way through a world where my role has changed. My kid left about two weeks ago. She packed up her bags and ran off to Montana for adventure. It was such an 18 year old thing to do. I was not a fan of this but I understand it. I understand that need to get out, to experience, to try. I made the choice to not do that when I was young I guess in a way there is a part of me that is jealous of her, of her bravery, of her let's just do this attitude. That used to be a long time ago but somewhere along this life I decided to slip back into the shadows, to hide. When you have kids, it's so easy to forget you're a person, too. It's so easy to put everyone in front of you. Somehow keeping a clean house becomes your top priority. Somewhere between packing lunches and reading bed time stories and picking up toys left behind from the day consumes any energy you have for yourself. So, I became someone's mother and that was that.
A year ago, I had a kid who was about to start her senior year. I was working as a bartender, not really struggling for money at least not the way we are now. I was trying to figure out my life, the next best step, realizing my kid was about to find her wings and fly away. This idea that I would no longer have a kid under my roof was becoming more than something that would happen years from now. It was about to be now. So what then for me? So, I quit my job as a bartender and I got a job that I thought was going project me into the greatest of heights. One year later and I cry more often than I have in a long time. One year later and my nest is empty. One year later I am a 40 year old woman while sure of everything she is not, is having a real hard time figuring out who I am. Life happens in the strangest of ways sometimes. While I feel like my ground is a little bit rocky right now, I know that every step has had it's purpose. I was not supposed to stay behind that bar and I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be sitting behind a desk either. I am meant to be her mother but I was also meant to let whoever is sitting here stand up, too.
I feel like most of my life I've been hiding so much of myself. This idea is one of the blogs that didn't get written earlier this week. This idea that I have had to hide both my dark, depressive side and the hope that has been this light that keeps me going. I feel like people have always tried to put me in this place, fit me into the corner that they want me to sit. I've always preferred my own so that's where I've been, hiding and being whatever fit the situation because it was easier. There is a sadness that I carry around, that I have always carried around. It didn't form because the assault that happened when I was 18. That just amplified the darkness that was already there. Sometimes sadness doesn't come from an event that happened. Sometimes you just have it. I learned, however, that this sad, lonely side of me wasn't one that people wanted to be around but showing my hopeful, euphoric side almost felt too fake. Why? Because people couldn't deal with the fact that I was both. For most of my life, I've hid what I felt, never said a word about it. I sighed heavily and walked away. It just was too much work to try to explain both. As my life has gone by, I've realized that not many people want to take the time to listen anyway.
One year ago, I felt like I was a bit more stable but I was unhappy. One year later, my foundation has been rocked but I feel like I am so close to figuring out how to balance myself. My child has found her wings and is currently in flight, leaving me here on the ground to watch her soar. It is a fact of life. Children leave their parents behind but I don't have to be left behind. I can fly, too. I don't have to put her in front of me anymore because she doesn't need me to. I don't have to sacrifice my time, my energy. I need me now and, for the first time in my life, I don't feel guilty writing those words. I'm done hiding, done placating to everyone around me. One year ago, I gave so much of myself to so many things that, looking back now, didn't really value me at all. That's on me. I should have drawn that line. I should have made it very clear that I was worth more or even as much as you. I'm at this job now where they ask a lot and I get it. It is the nature of the job, of any job really. Last week I came home and cried every night. I looked in the mirror with my red eyes and had an epiphany. I was done. I wiped my tears, gave myself a hug, told myself that allowing myself to feel this was OK. This was healthy to allow myself to feel, to digest, to let it out. I am done hiding. One year ago, I still felt like I had to. I guess I'm doing better than I thought, right? I will always be lonely and sad but it makes the hope, the love in me shine that much brighter. We are all light and we are all dark. Without the other, we just exist and life has to be about more than merely existing.
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.