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.
I used to make plans. I would think about these things that I needed to get done and I would do them. There would be no hesitation. I would just do them. And if I didn't know how to do something, I would figure it out. I guess I learned pretty early on that the only person I could depend on really was myself. It didn't take away from the people in my life that cared for me and wanted to help me but somehow I could never completely trust that either. I was never scared of asking for help. Hell, that was the easy part. What kept me from asking for help was the inadequacies I would then feel because you helped me. Sure, it was a very chaotic thought process for me because it did not make any sense. We are humans and often times cannot do this life completely on our own. Rationally I have understood that but realistically I couldn't accept that for a long time. I'm a Taurus. I am in every way one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet. I have no shame about it. In fact, it's one of the things that I do like about myself. Because while I am a pushover about many things, the core of me can not and will not be moved. So me admitting that I need help is a big deal and I don't take it lightly. There have been times in my life when I've had to ask. There have been times when I feel like it has been OK to ask. And there have been times when I have been made to feel like I couldn't manage on my own because of it. It has always been easier to figure it out on my own. The only person I can then blame is myself. The beauty of that? I have complete control over fixing myself, too.
I was pretty mad at myself earlier this week. It's been a struggle bus lately. I've felt like so much is out of my control. I gave up a job making decent money for a job that hasn't turned out to be what I thought it would be. I can't seem to catch up on my bills. My car needs work that I've had to help to get taken care of. I feel like my kid is struggling and I don't know if I'm any better off to help her. I feel like I am literally screaming at a world that just doesn't hear me but this feeling is not foreign to me. There's always been a part of me that no one hears. The older I get, I try to figure out if it is because I am the one muting myself or is that no one really hears me? I don't know. And honestly I don't think it's important either way. I have this new found drive to write beautiful words, to draw emotionally inspired pieces of art but I feel so overwhelmed by everything else I get lost even in my lines. Sometimes I don't always say what is bothering me especially with my husband. He is facing the same struggles because we're in this life together. He gets angry at me though, wanting me to tell him when I'm frustrated or sad or whatever I've rarely been able to do that. He wants to help and I love him for it but some battles are just for me. I am a stubborn woman who will figure this out in my own way and, after ten years, he still wants to shake me out of myself. I agree. I would love to shake me out, too, sometimes. I know how quickly I retreat.
I will sit in this struggle for a minute but eventually I will get annoyed and do something about it. I don't wallow necessarily but I do take my time to digest. For as much as I love chaos, there is a part of me that needs a clear direction. I need to sit down and plan out my way out of something I am facing. I am not making enough money right now so what do I do about that? I suck it up and try to start selling my art work. And while that boat is taking off, I get a second job and bank money. I get frustrated about my career? Well, then I look for options that are more like what I am looking for. I feel like sometimes I get stuck. I find comfort in the dark, understand this blindness but I need to be inspired, too. There is something so motivating about solving a problem. I want my art to sell? Well, I have to find the courage to put it out there and know my own value. I have spent so much of my life being so unsure, dipping my toe in the water, fearing it was going to swallow me up anyway. I've taken my time and thought about how to live my life the right way but I want to be honest here. I would love to just jump off that cliff and trust that I won't break myself in the process. It's never been just me though. My entire adult life has been as someone's mother. Every move I've made, I've had to think about before doing. I have this momentum within me right now. I feel it but I feel like I'm back to that point in my life where I've got nothing figured out.
So what does a girl do? I suck it up and figure it out. I often quote Stewart Smiley in the mornings before I leave for work. I say to myself, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And gosh darn it people like me." It's not because I doubt that I am any of those things really. It's because I know I need to push myself a little bit each day. The facts are I live a pretty boring life for a woman who has so much fire inside. So I often feel like exploding all over the place, knowing that I can't and I won't. The practical side of me gets the fact that I am a grown woman with responsibilities, obligations, and an empty wallet. But that confirmation that I am going to be just fine no matter what is something I need to tell myself. No matter what, I am always OK. My anxiety can bring me to my knees but I get back up. My battle with depression sometimes makes me cry in the shower some mornings but I dry off and push forward. My nervous nature will sometimes stop me from doing the things I really want to do but I hold tight to those dreams. And I drive my husband crazy with all of these things I struggle with but he knows the amount of strength I carry with me every day. My rose colored glasses shattered a long time ago and I see life for what it is. Sometimes I want to tell it to go suck an egg. And other times I can't get enough of it. There are times when it just wants to fight and I'm down for the war. Other times it wins and I don't get out bed all day. I figure it out. This moment won't last forever. I got plans to make, bills to pay, and a few cliffs to leap.
There is so much of our lives that are just, to put it simply, confusing. My birthday is coming in April. It's a pretty significant one. I think about my current life state and wonder if this is my mid life crisis? I feel bored, frustrated, completely over the monotony of what is happening but I lived so long being unstable this is OK. I didn't know my schedule from week to week. My income depended solely on people's moods. I worked late hours and drank afterwards for two more. I've lived that midlife crisis life honestly way before I came even close to this age. Still, I look behind me and I see all these years that now line my pages, understanding that the number of blank ones in front of me are a question mark. And what a morbid thought to write, right? But understand that I do not fear what comes after this life. Whatever it is, I gave my best while I was here and that's all we can do. And still I look for a deeper purpose every day. There has to be more than this haunts me some times. I look at this life, this beautiful mess of a life I live, and I can't help to wonder how much harder I can work, how much more I can push myself, how many more steps can I take to finally feel like I can breathe. I don't care that I'm turning 40 this year. It's a number. It's this thing we create to mark our success. I'm not where I want to be but who is? There is some solace in knowing that so many of us are clueless.
I saw this silly meme the other day. Those things are brain eaters let's be honest but they are entertaining. Sometimes you just need a little nonsense to get through the day. It was saying something about if she had her life together, she wouldn't be sleeping next to unfolded laundry. Usually I read those things, give a small chuckle, and then move on with my life. They are not meant for too much deep thought. For whatever reason, that one kind of stuck in my head all day. We measure our lives by the things we've accomplished even the most minuscule of tasks. That laundry next to her somehow represented every failure in her life. How ridiculous (1) that I put that much thought into it and (2) that is how we judge what of people we are. If someone walked into my house right now, they would see a floor that needs to be swept, bookshelves that need to be dusted, two baskets of laundry that needs to be done, and a very stinky litter box that needs to be changed. I understand we are judged by what people see on the outside but let's be honest. What we are on the outside is nothing but a show, an illusion of what we want people to see. My house is a little messy and I understand that if you walked in, you would probably have thoughts just like I would if I walked into yours. It's human nature. I am by no means throwing shade. My point (however I seem to get there) is that we are so much more than dirty laundry or folded and put away clothes. There is a beautiful middle, a lovely simple middle.
When we are young, we are told that by a certain age we should be a certain way. We should be married with children and a career, a beautiful house with a well manicured lawn and a dog running around the backyard. Our lives should be well synchronized, well orchestrated. We grow our children and then we happily age into retirement. No fuss. No muss. And then we grow up and we realize that all that is a cereal box image that doesn't really exist for most of us. What we find is that we have to work two, three jobs just to provide the basics sometimes. What we find is that dating is really miserable and not fun. What we understand is that whatever our lives are going to be, they are not going to be easy. You learn to do what you have to do to get things done even if you have to sacrifice the things you love to get there. I am turning 40 this year, this age that I should have my shit together. I should be a well oiled machine at this point. And, in some ways, I am. I know who I am, what I am made of, the potential more than I ever have in my life. I have a husband who I adore and who adores me. I've got this almost adult kid who despite the recent battles is amazing. I have my talent, this ability to write these words and create pictures that touch people, that I just started to explore and allow to bloom. In so many more ways then I ever thought I would, I feel the poetry in this skin.
At almost 40, I know looking at my life maybe leaves people wondering, asking what is this lady doing? I work a job that is not a career. Honestly anybody who knows how to talk to people could do my job. I am not being challenged (just tried if I'm being honest). I get up in the morning, go to work, come home, go to sleep. This mundane, routine life that drives me stir crazy. I don't own a washer or dryer. I still rent an apartment. I live beyond my means, struggling to make ends meet. Retirement is just a funny joke to me at this point though it's something that I do legit have to start thinking about. I can't help my kid with her future because the right now struggle is hard enough to work through. I will forever be sleeping next to that pile of unfolded laundry it seems. And then I take a step back. I give myself a good kick in the ass and remind myself of what all these almost 40 years have taught me. There have been very few steps in my life that have been light and airy. Most of them feel like I have a ton in my shoe. Just one more step, kid, just one more step. It was about the next step and the constant worry of 20 steps from now. My chest has been heavy my entire life but I don't stop. When I can't walk, I crawl. And if I can't crawl, I roll. Whatever I have to do, just one more step. Maybe one day I'll be where I am supposed to be at the appropriate age but it doesn't matter. I could never fold my laundry and have my shit together. We can be a little of both, a perfectly put together mess. What is important is that I feel I have my insides together. What other people see is not really all that important if we have every confidence in ourselves.. Our lives have a tendency to work themselves out. Just keep moving, kid. Keep growing.
Sometimes there are things that happen in my life that I have to sit with for awhile. I have to mull them over and really get a clear idea of how to move forward. I have learned that the greatest lesson time gives you is perspective. What we think is so horrible in the moment turns out isn't so bad when we look back at it. We don't see the lessons that present themselves until they have been taught. I would like to say that I have learned all those lessons but I know I have not. I was once very hard on myself, thinking that I was on my own. I felt as if this delicate balance of life was kept by my shaking hands alone. So I made a lot of hard choices. I took a lot of hard roads. I ate a lot of dirt along the way. And I learned the power of my words, how to use them and when to hold them back. I've said things in my life that there is no excuse for and time has taught me words spewed in heat only burn, just burn. No resolution is ever really made by them. I've had a bit of a rough time lately, not knowing if the decisions I have made or was making were necessarily the right ones. I've been questioned by someone I thought better of and I took a big hit by some words were spoken. I've had to step back, think things over, and come to terms that maybe the great balance I thought I had was but a farce. And you know what? That is OK because I think for once I understand I'm content with shutting my mouth and listening to what the world is trying to teach me right now. I started to take note of how I once handled myself in the past, trying so hard to take care of everyone in my life while letting my own ambitions fall to the side. I guess the older I get, the more experiences I have backlogged, the more moments I have to take from. I see how hurtful I was there so I can adjust that behavior. I understand how dire something felt years ago but when I really look at it? It wasn't so bad.
You know when I was a kid I really thought I had it rough. I saw all the toys, gadgets, trips that my friends took. I walked into their giant houses with their 4 cars and bonus rooms and newest electronic devices. I compared all of that to my own humble house, my hand me down jeans, my used toys. I thought we were poor. I remember being in second grade and this little boy told me that Santa Claus wasn't real. I got so infuriated by him that I punched him. I honestly don't know why it made me as angry as it did but I sure was mad. I remember telling him that there was no way Santa was fake because my parents were poor and there is no way they could afford the gifts that me and my siblings got every year. And when I look back at those moments now? What I really see are two incredibly hard working people that loved their children enough to sacrifice their own dreams, goals, sometimes well being so that we had presents to open Christmas morning. What I remember are the home cooked meals my mother made 6 of us every night after working a full time job. What I see are the cookies that she stayed up all night making for our bake sales, the holes in our pants that spent sewing, her face sitting in that front row being our biggest fans. Perspective. It's such a funny thing. I don't know why we are so blind in the moment, why it takes us years to realize how much someone else suffered for our happiness. I look at my mother now in a completely different light and I hold my father's memory that much closer. Whatever faults they had as parents don't really matter because every single one of their decisions were made out of love. I get that now.
So I take all of those thoughts, the struggling thoughts I had with my parents growing up, and I try to give my own daughter the benefit of the doubt. Every time she goes on the attack, I try to say she doesn't have enough moments yet. She doesn't understand yet. She isn't old enough to appreciate the sacrifices that my husband and I have made to show us any compassion. Some words were said this week. Some really hurtful words. She talked about how horrible her childhood was and it stung. Sure, it wasn't all peaches and cream but looking back? I was a single mother doing the best I could. And if I compare it to other single parents' plights? Our road really wasn't that rough. I won't discount how difficult it was for me to keep all my ducks in a row but she never suffered any of that. We had a roof over our head. We had food in our bellies. She had a room full of toys that I couldn't afford. I put her first every time, every time. But, as teenagers do, this beautiful child of mine says words that she doesn't understand the meaning. And, if I am being honest, there was a lot of damage done. So, I'm trying to step back, mull it over, put the hurt aside and be her mother because no matter what I am her mother. And there is a lesson in here that one day I will look back and understand.
I never truly realized how difficult being a parent was going to be. Before I got pregnant, I saw fun walks in the park with my cute baby and naps on the couch and big baby laughs. I didn't think that years later she would be so mad at me for having her in the first place but that is where we are. I remember her being small, the joy that little girl brought me, how I couldn't wait to feel her tiny arms wrapped around my neck. It was the greatest feeling getting off work and picking her up from daycare where she would run to me and jump into my arms. I still hear her silly little songs that she would sing from her car seat. I still feel the way she looked at me like I was this strong, amazing champion who could do anything. I look back at that time in our lives and I don't see my struggle. I don't see the bills that piled up or the frozen chicken dinners or the nights crying on the kitchen floor with my only companion my sweet puppy Sherra. All I see is the young kid that I was making it with a baby on her hip and it wasn't so bad. But I look at the now. I see the way she flares, the way she accuses, the way she looks at me. I hear these words of how selfish I was to have her, how blind I was, how I have never sacrificed anything for her, how I am a failure because my life hasn't quite fused together completely. Words. Words that can't be taken back. Words that are now out there and I have to take a step back. I have to find a strength to turn my cheek once more because I know she doesn't see, doesn't understand. She doesn't have enough moments yet to look back at and grasp the gravity of her own actions.
Are any of these words true? I failed at times. I cannot deny that. What I can honestly say is that whatever decisions I made, I made out of love. And looking back, I know that was what life was trying to teach me. Love. So, I will take a second and catch my breath. I will let these new wounds turn to scars. And, as always, I will move forward with love. I am her mother. That will never change. She has always made me a better person even at her worst. I have always found this strength inside of me because of her. These teenage years have taught me certainly that much. I may have to approach things differently for a little while. I may not be so quick to kiss her scrapes and make it all better. Her scrapes are her own now. If these words speak anything now it is that there has to be a line between being her friend and being her mother, a line that has always been gray with us. I don't regret that though. We've had some truly sincere, beautiful conversations. If it did any damage, I guess I'll take the consequences. I was the adult. I was still learning how to be that. Yesterday wasn't perfect but it was a lovely experience, moments that I now have in my pocket to learn from. So, that's what I'll do. Learn. And maybe along the way, she'll pick a lesson or two as well.