I once thought that friendship meant something different. When I was younger, it was more about what someone could do for me. It was about them being there for me the moment they were needed regardless of what they had going on their lives. It was about the take more so than the give. I had my feelings, as much as I'd allow to share, and that was it. I demanded so much out of people without the understanding that people are people. Being human is this beautiful, vulnerable thing that takes a lot of understanding to truly appreciate. I guess that's how I raised my kid, too. I grew up with parents. They were amazing parents but there was a very clear line that they would not cross. I didn't become friends with my parents until I was an adult. I guess when I had my kid I wanted her to feel like she could talk to me in a way that I never thought I could talk to my own. So, there was a blurry line as she was growing up whether I was her mother or her friend. And I have felt the downfalls of that choice as she has gotten older but I have also formed this relationship with her that they choice created something beautiful, too. She can talk to me in a way I could not when I was younger. Have I saved her from the hardships I went through? No, absolutely not. Growing up still sucks. It is still one of the hardest things we go through but at least she didn't feel as alone as I did in a way. Looking back at the relationships I had when I was younger, I do realize these expectations I had bordered on the unreasonable side. It's not because that these people that were in my life could not meet them. It was because I would not allow them. I didn't understand that the frustration I was feeling was more about my inadequacies then their own. The older I get, the more refreshing it feels to correct my own self.
We learn history in school because it is important to know where we come from. It is important to know how we got to this point, to this moment in time, to truly appreciate the hardships others faced so that I could sit here and write these words. We take their mistakes and we learn from them so we do not repeat the same atrocities that the people before us had to face. I look at my life the same way. We are all these different versions of ourselves, always improving from the one before. Being as introverted as I am means that I think about the breaths I took before to see if there was a flaw in my execution. I reflect and dissect and decide if my actions caused any harm, inspired any brilliance, ignited any spark and then correct my path. I sat here today and had coffee with one of my most favorite people in the entire world. We talked about life, our loved ones, our past together, our present on our own journeys, and moving forward. We hadn't seen each other in a while. It hasn't been because we haven't tried. It's just as adults friendships work differently. Time becomes more taxing, more precious, more fleeting. Today we sat and it was nice talking to this person who I respect so much. Because it is in my nature, I started thinking about how friendships once were when I was younger, how I needed validation that they liked me. I needed words and actions and, most importantly, proof that this person was all in for me even if I couldn't give that same amount of effort back.
So, as I often do, I looked at my previous behaviors. I dissected my previous relationships. Sitting across from this beautiful soul, I understood how relationships should truly work. I can say in all honesty that I was a mean person back in my hay day. I can admit and own that I wanted, needed so much for that person to give to me before I would even think about giving even a sigh to them. It wasn't because they were shady people. It was because I was so unbelievably insecure in my own skin I just did not know how to trust anything around me. Sure, I had my issues with abandonment but I was so quick to throw someone else's sins on whoever happened to be standing in front of me. When I look back at it, there is a certain amount of guilt that I carry. I couldn't see then how many relationships I had sabotaged because of this weird self preservation I held onto so tightly. I thought in my own way I was protecting myself but from who? And in this ability to look back and dissect and decide, I realize that I was protecting myself from me. I was so terrified to let someone see me exactly how I was. At the end of the day, it would be my own fault I allowed that hurt if you disappointed me but I always made sure people disappointed me. Then I guaranteed I could wash my hands of them. It is a strange place to sit when you look back in that mirror, when you see all the things you do to yourself in order to protect yourself. It is a sort of relief once you realize how much of a hazard you create, too. I don't want my life to be in vain. I want to live each moment, breathe each breath with this complete understanding of why these fingers form these words, of why each line I draw curves in a direction. Sitting here today with my long time friend I understand as much as I tried to cut off the world around me through the years, it's been the relationships that helped inspire each version of me I become.
There was a time when I thought the number of friends we had meant that we made it in this world. This game of popularity was one that we should all strive to win. I thought that having the most amount of Facebook friends or the most likes on Instagram or the best liked Tweets meant that I was somebody but the reality of this life is these clicks all mean nothing. True, I know a lot of people. I have a full friends list and people like what I do but sometimes when I want to go grab a cup of coffee, my list isn't all that long. I look at the history of my relationships and I once formed friends just so I wouldn't have to be alone. I wanted to be able to call someone, anyone and have someone sit with me over a cup of Joe. That was a validation that I needed. And if people didn't answer my call? Screw them. Clearly they weren't my friends... but life tends to teach you lessons you don't realize you are learning. As time goes by and the pages of my history book grow longer, the more I realize what the word friendship truly means. It isn't a contest of who does how much for who or who buys the coffee or who texts who first. It's not about who can drop more to be there better. It's not a contest of who can give more, who can take more, who is there more. As I sat here today with this lovely lady, knowing I hadn't seen her in months, I realized how much more I value her friendship and the other friendships like this that I have. I don't go out very often. I don't see a lot of my friends even on a weekly basis, sometimes a monthly basis. I have more faith in the people I surround myself now than I ever did before. Life has taught me that there is more value in quality than quantity. We become adults and the long afternoons of free time fly away. We become adults and friendships become these beautiful moments of sighs, of relief, of reminders that we're all just trying to be better together. We are lessons for each other, lessons we don't know we're teaching the other. It's not about the number of chairs that are filled at your table. It's about who is filling those chairs that matter, the love and respect that fills the space between even if the time flies by more swiftly than it did before.
I often write from what my life is currently experiencing. I go through my week and I make my observations. I take my notes and figure out my conclusions. At the end of the week, I sit down here and I take all the thoughts I've had over the last week to write them out. I can't say 2018 has been a great year. There has been a lot of change. I feel like we're just now feeling the after shocks from all of it. I've watched my kid struggle and fail and do her best to figure it out. I've watched my husband finally find a place where he fits well. And me? Well, on a personal level, I feel like I've done a lot of growth but career wise still kind of flopping like a fish out of water. My kid turned eighteen and now it's this new journey on where do we go from here? She made some poor choices this year. And maybe, as parents, we didn't do such a great job helping her navigate. With both of those things and all these changes, we have found ourselves in a bit of a crossroads where I am sandwiched right in the middle with no real answers to give. I'd like to think that I know how to fix things. I'd like to think if you present me with a problem, that I will know how make 1 + 1 = 2. I also understand that life is a lot of grey. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no magic prayer that it going to put everything right. We have to take the bumps and bruises to see feel the reward of how good it feels when we heal. This week I've watched the people I love so much fight each other, hurt each other out of this silly thing we call pride. They just keep bruising each other and me along with them. I'm left trying to figure a middle road.
When my husband came into our lives, my daughter was seven years old. I didn't have any real relationships before him because I wanted to be sure she felt like she was the most important thing in the world to me. She was. She still is. But I sacrificed that part of my life because I just didn't know how to balance this incredibly love and dedication I had for her and split it with the person I would find to be my one. It just seemed like a lot of drama. I just never liked the drama. It never seems to have a point and I just end up crying in a ball on my bathroom floor. So, when this gentle man came into my life, I was hesitant. I didn't know how to balance the two of them but I made it clear that she had to be the first priority. He came in with such open arms, with this beautiful unconditional love for her. How could I turn away from this man who I felt genuinely wanted to be a part of our story? It all seemed so seamless. There were a few power struggles but not what I expected. They seemed to sincerely love and accept each other. I waited and held my breath and thought that at any moment something terrible was going to happen, that I would have to choose between this beautiful little girl I brought into the world and the man I knew I was going to grow old with.... but that moment never came. Sure, I've felt over the years that I was kind of stuck in the middle but the moments were fleeting. We managed to work through those times because we were able to put aside our pride and understand that the love for each other was far stronger. Love and pride. These two amazing qualities to have, that make the other shine brighter, that destroy the other in a wink.
This week there's been a lot of anger in my house. There has been a lot of prideful declarations and stubborn statements. It started over the most trivial things. It was something that should have never been inspired such strife from anyone yet here I am, writing a blog about this family of mine that just can't seem to figure out how to put their pride aside and move forward. She turned eighteen this week and I look at her, not sure of all these years I have succeeded with raising this human being or failing horribly. And I get how that sounds. I'm not looking for pity or reassurance. Whatever I did wrong, I did wrong. I take that accountability. I am an adult who can honestly own the fact that I am imperfect, that I don't always make the right decisions, that there are a million things wrong with my parenting choices at times... but these children that we invest so much time become adults. They become adults with traits and qualities and flaws all their own. I've said this before. I was a much better mother to a little kid. These teenage years? I've pretty much been a fish out of water. And just like when she was a kid, I'm learning as I go. The problem is it takes more than a kiss on the knee and a Barbie band-aid to help her scare away the monster in the closet. The root of all of this is pride. I see it in his face, feel it in her glare. Every word spoken is just more egg shells on my floor that I have to avoid breaking. These arguments, this anger, this strange jealousy are the ones we should have had years ago. These are the arguments that held my breath when she was younger. It's so odd to be sitting here while she is on the brink of being on her own still questioning how this family works. By this point, it should be cake. We should be getting her ready for college. We should excitedly helping her get ready for a world that I know now is going to tear this one apart. And that's a terrifying statement for me to make. I know how it sounds but I worry. She likes the drama. He likes to play by the rules. And I worry. I sit here and look at these two people that carry my heart with them and I want to scream at them both but I know that pride has deafened them both.
I've never been a super prideful person. I want to be humble and grateful for the things that I have in my life. Have I always been that way? No, it took a lot of life kicking my ass to really understand that pride, if not kept in check, is a pretty ugly trait. I was a lot tougher with her when she was little because I had to be. I was unfortunately healing from some pretty hard times. My head was full of anger and my heart swelled with hurt. Maybe I shouldn't have shown such a hard exterior to the world back then. She was, after all, watching every single thing I was doing. I guess I thought I was making the right decision being so rough around the edges. This kid was going to grow up and nobody was going to mess with her. My soft side only came out with her and then with John because I just felt as if the world outside wanted to eat my spirit whole. I was proud, too proud and so broken at the same time. But then I met this gentle man and I started to change. I didn't have to be the only man on the front lines anymore. I didn't have to take the blunt of every stone thrown my way and there were plenty. Being a single, unwed mother isn't the rosiest path to go down. I could for the first time duck and cover, knowing that he would be there to take some of this weight off my shoulders. And for the first time in her life, she had to share me. Ten years ago, it was fine. We were fine, all of us. Now, ten years later, breathing easy I have to start holding my breath all over again, fearing that one of them is going to say choose. And I can't choose between this child that lived inside of me even if she causes me so much hurt right now and this man that I know in my soul is the one I was meant to grow old with. It's a lot of what about me's going on right now but really what about me? And, at the end of the day, it is their feelings I am more concerned about. I've watched this week play out. I've heard the complaints, the quarrels, the hurt and the anger. And honestly? It's not even a matter of pride. Someone said something to me this week that made a lot of sense. Anger is about someone not meeting your expectations. She is mad because he is not being who she wants him to be. And he's upset because she is behaving in a way that feels hurtful. What we expect out of each other is love and respect. Both of those things have been lost in the shuffle. It's not about pride. It's about remembering love. It's about understanding that love is unconditional, expectations or no expectations. It is about the love we give each other and remembering there are no strings attached. I changed over the years and I am proud of that change. It has made me a better person for her, for him, most importantly for me. I do not regret the sacrifices, the pride I had to swallow to get to this point today. I just understand more clearly that pride has to be balanced with love for you, for her, for him, and for me, too. It's not about being proud. It's about love and how we choose to share it.
I realize that Monday is Christmas but if I'm being honest? This year it has not felt like Christmas. Maybe it's the new job. Maybe I just haven't felt much like that Christmas spirit. I watch all these Hallmark movies, these Netflix Originals and they just make me all that much more skeptical. I guess I'm a bit of a Scrooge this year but it's been one hell of a year for me. I think one that I'm not all that sad to move beyond. You know usually when this time of year comes along, I become retrospective. I think about all those things that I experienced, all these things that made me smile. It's not that things didn't make me smile this year. It's just that there's been a lot of confusion for me, so much uncertainty that I am OK leaving behind. I always want to make the things around me better for my family, for my friends. Hell, for perfect strangers, too. I want to know how to look at something and know at least the direction to take to make it as painless as possible for all of us. I don't like conflict but I drown myself in everyone's worst case scenarios. I was having coffee with my almost grown daughter today. She will be turning eighteen on Thursday. I think back to those years when it was just the two of us. I remember the struggle of supporting us by myself. I can't tell you how I did it. I don't know. I just did. But I look back at those moments now? I feel like somehow I had it more together then which I know I was just as big of a mess.
We make these decisions in our lives, never knowing really if they are right, but we make them with fingers crossed. Truth is none of know what we're doing. There is no real way to be sure that this direction, that turn will bring us to a better place until we get there. So, we put our heads down. We do the work. We land where we land. These last few weeks have been pretty hard on me. I'm so used to putting my head down, to doing the work, to trying to control where I land, that it has just become this part of me. I'll be the work horse that gets this shit done because I understand my plight in this life... but sometimes I feel like I've been fooled. Promises we throw at each other with so little meaning but we believe. We believe because I can't look at you and not at least give you the benefit of my doubt. I guess I get aggravated with myself because I just want to know how to live this life without feeling this boulder on my back. I wish I knew what the right decisions were, that this fear that hangs around my neck didn't mock the way it does. I made decisions this last year that I thought were going to make things better for myself, for my family. I thought that it was going to allow me to breathe easier, to not have to work so hard, to get a flipping break for once. I was tired of working fifteen hours a day, serving people who thought I was worthless because of the job I happen to work. I was tired of every bone in my body feeling like it was going to shatter with one bump into the couch. I was so very tired of feeling like the entire world was on my shoulders for a place that just took advantage of how much I was willing to carry. So, I left. I made the decision to leave, to better myself, to find a place that would help me finally shine the way I knew I could... but I was fooled. It was a means to get out of where I was but it didn't mean that the grass was greener. It was just different and, strangely, somehow the same.
I think that is the biggest illusion when we're young, this idea that the world will be a better place when we become adults. We just don't realize that it won't really be better because it will have these new trials and tribulations that we didn't see through our young, rose colored glasses. It will just be different. Instead of deciding which cartoon to watch. It's do I buy gas or dinner. Somehow the world becomes that much smaller and that much heavier, that much more difficult to maneuver. I see my girl, my beautiful and bright and amazing girl, on this brick of her life and I want to tell her to just live right now. I want to tell her to just enjoy these moments of uncertainty and freedom. The older we get, the less of it we have. I understand so much more now than I did when I was a eighteen year old kid. I kind of miss that ignorance but I would never go back to it. As much as trying to figure out how to adult, it's that uncertainty that terrified someone like me, too. She's brave, far braver than I ever was, and I honestly couldn't be more proud of the fearlessness she embodies in these moments of her life. I know she looks up to me. She always has. I've been so aware of that her entire life. I've always tried to show her how to have compassion for the world even at the world's worst but I won't lie. It has not been easy. What she sees is the courage that I seem to fake well but the reality of me is that everything scares the shit out of me. But, then, I remember who I am. I remember my plight. Keep my head down. Do the work. Just shut up and do it because who else will? I haven't conquered being an adult but I was never really great at being a kid either.
Tuesday is Christmas and it doesn't feel like that time of year at all. There is no tree in my house. My cat tore down all my lights. Presents aren't a thing we can afford for this year. There will be no Christmas parties for us or Eggnog toasts. I feel pretty down, kind of defeated, and literally just want to sleep my way through the rest of 2018. Will I? No, I won't because it's not part of my DNA. It's not in me to roll over and say whatever. I understand the demons in my head that I fight. I know that just because another year is coming that these things that weigh on me won't just disappear. I can sit here and say next year I will do this. I promise to do that. I will definitely be her. If I had to take one lesson from this last year, it would be that the color of the grass is relative. It sounds so dire, that no matter which direction I choose it will not be what I imagine but I don't see it that way. What I see is this beautiful understanding of what life really is, a matter of choice. I did not land in greener fields this year even though I tried. I landed in grass that just may need more work than I thought. Sometimes you just have to move to get where you're going because standing where you are thinking about it won't move you anywhere. I don't have the usual sentimental feelings that I usually get during the holidays. I feel more apathetic to it than anything. I guess I understand that holiday magic doesn't really exist but hope does. I have hope that this next year will be better but I own the fact that I am the one who has to make those choices to make it better. It's a number, just a number, but it's our lives that make those numbers mean anything. I won't sleep my way through the last of 2018. No, I will begin to let it go. I will start to let it all go, the choices that I thought I was making to better this life and the reality that I failed along the way. It's not a failure when you try. And, if nothing else, I will always try.
It seems like this year has moved so quickly by. When I sit back and look at it, I start to realize how many changes that happened. It all goes by so fast, so swiftly that you forget to really digest the changes as they are happening. And then you sit down, you take a breath, and you reflect for a moment from where you were a year ago to where you are now. I switched jobs. I've watched my teenage daughter figure out her path. I see my husband make these great strides to better his life and ours together. And then I look at myself, this new and wonderful and scary stage I've found myself. I sit at this table, writing these words, and understand that this year has been a discovery of myself, this struggle to figure out who I am on my own two feet. I look at that beautiful child I created and I understand that most of my life has been about her, about doing my best to keep her alive, about making up for all those things I failed her at. I feel almost stunted because from the moment I was a true adult, I was someone's mother. I kept my head down and did what I had to do to keep our heads above water. I sacrificed parts of myself willingly to give her what I have always had a hard time giving myself. I sit at this table with my coffee like I so often do when I write these words and feel both relieved and burdened by these new moments, these new discoveries, this new direction of my ever struggling journey to find this peace within myself that eludes me. You know when I really think about it, when I really brutally and honestly take a look at myself, there's still so much I don't know about myself even though I've sat in this skin for almost forty years now.
It's felt like a lot of struggle lately. I feel like no matter what I do or how hard I try or how much of me I give up, I still can't quite feel like I am moving forward. I got out of an industry that demanded so much of my physically because I no longer felt the reward of that hard work. I entered a field where I know it is right but I'm starting at the very bottom. I know it was the right decision. Every part of me knows it was the right decision but sometimes I just look at my life and wonder why I have to work so hard for the basics of happiness over and over again. I am a grown adult and I still live paycheck to paycheck. I have to think carefully before I buy myself that cup of coffee that I don't need... but I do. I do because I happily will buy nothing else for myself in order for my family to be happy. It's a battle though, this how much I do for everyone and what I do for myself. I've never really been a selfish person but if I'm being honest? Sometimes I want to scream what about me!? And then even the thought of that makes me feel incredibly guilty. Maybe it's because I became someone's mother so early in life. Maybe it's because I've always been so sensitive to other people's feelings. I had this thought the other day. I don't really care what people think about me but I do care very much about how I make other people feel. I don't know how to make sense out of that. Even if you looked at me and hated every part of me, I would still feel bad if I did you wrong. It's such a conflicting place to be. Sometimes it's pretty annoying.
Someone looked at me last night and asked me for the first time in awhile how I was doing. With all these changes and all these emotions that I don't quite know how make sense of, I don't know if I have asked myself that question. I'm a stubborn, stubborn girl. I don't really like people knowing how much of a struggle bus I am at times. This is really annoying, too. It's not because I am ashamed of being a human being but I don't want to bother other people with these anxieties that I carry so heavy. Why put that on anyone else but me? So how am I? The thing about me is I will always be OK. I can be down in a ditch, feeling like the world is suffocating me over and over again, like I am alone in this world with these dark moments that I can't explain to anyone... but I will always be OK. When she asked me that question last night though, I started to tear up. I did not mean to. I did not want to. I just couldn't help it. Sometimes I forget that I need someone to check in, to say hey friend. In this new stage of my mid life, I think I am learning how to relate to people in a different way. My early life was so shut off from the world. I did not know how to really relate to the people around me. Not because I didn't want to but because people were terrifying. Sure, I loved being that person that took care of everyone. Being someone's mother puts that in your DNA. Every face you see is the face of your child and all you want is for that face to be happy, to feel loved, to know they are not alone. Again I've had this strange struggle between keeping everyone at bay and allowing them in. The older I get, the more my journey changes, the more I understand my own faults have both held me back and somehow pushed me forward. The more I know I will always be OK even if I feel a little lost right now.
My husband and I were talking about where we are right now. I understand there are two different journeys happening in my life. There is the journey of us, in this life together, figuring out how to make ends meet, hoping that this coming year it will be about more than that. And then there is this journey of me, who am I beyond her mother, who I am as an artist and a writer and a poet, as a person. I want so much to wake up and feel at peace with this skin. I want so much to look in the mirror and see what I know I am instead of this doubt that mocks me. I want to get up and love every minute of my day. More than that I want to know that all of this struggle will be worth it, all of it. Rationally I understand it. I get it. I know when she smiles at me that those years of just the two of us were worth that smile she gave me today. I know when he holds my hand that all those years of loneliness were worth his gentle touch. And sometimes I see a reflection in that mirror that says, "Hey, you did it." I understand it is my plight in life to work for the things that I want. I've never expected a free ride. I've never wanted anything just given to me. I may clench my fists. I may want to scream and fall to my knees and demand to know why every day has to be so hard but I understand, I accept this is my journey. Every hill I've climbed, every mountain I have fallen off of, every cliff I didn't jump are just part of my journey. This new stage, this new time of discovery is a time of reflection, of giving myself permission to be a little selfish, to say, "Hey, you did all that. You can find yourself, too."
I realized this week that when I switched jobs, I didn't necessarily go from one type of job to different type. I pretty much am doing the same thing minus being face to face with customers. Now I get to listen to their gripes over a phone and without serving them a beer. I admit. It's a nice to change to not have to hide my facial expressions when someone is being ridiculous to me. I mean I don't know how great I was at holding back my look of annoyance at a customer who was asking for 12 ramekins of ranch but whatever. At least now when they are yelling about at things I can't control I can roll my eyes freely. With the holiday season upon us and watching at least 4 Netflix originals this week, I started thinking about how much more horrible people can be during the holiday season. I know. You are thinking I am just being rude now but am I? I know people who have never worked a day in a restaurant or in a customer service based job think I'm just being, well, an asshole but hear me out. We all get so wrapped up in getting the perfect presents for our loved ones, in placing the best decorations in our neighborhoods, in baking the best fruit cake that we forget that the whole reason for the season is supposed to be celebrating each other. We get so angry at the hostess because she hasn't sat (our party of 15 that just walked in the door without a heads up) immediately. We get so angry at the person at the other side of that counter because they didn't give us a discount we didn't deserve (but feel entitled to it anyway). Guys, he doesn't have any control over it in the first place. We are so snappy to the person on the other side of the phone who is trying to help us (but think it's OK to yell at them for five minutes about a box UPS smashed). Guys, it's the holiday season, not open season to be nasty.
A word like holiday is a scary word for service industry people to hear. While most get a couple of paid days off to spend with their family, people who work in this industry? Yeah, that means they work a few extra days so that the family that you're enjoying get to come and sit at their table while missing time with their own. It means that while you are making your last minute trip to the grocery store a person is standing behind that register for you. It means that the person you call for customer service is sitting at a desk on a phone and not enjoying time sitting at a dinner table with their own. And I know it is the nature of the beast. I get it. I've worked in this industry in whatever form I found myself in for over two decades. I understand (like everybody who works in customer service gets) that we choose to be in this field... but it can be so much more unrewarding during the holidays. For every wonderful person who walks through those doors or every five people on the end of that line, there are the people who make you want to pull out your hair. Sure, they are always there but it is as if the holidays seem to amplify the nasty rather then mute it. I was at work the other day and a gentleman was on the other line. He spent five minutes literally telling me that it was my fault his product came the way it came, that it looked like it was packaged from K-Mart, that I should do something about the quality I personally was putting out there. Which made me have a flashback to standing behind that bar and listening to the woman scream at me that it was my fault her food was taking more than an hour and a half. I think when we get swept away in this "holiday spirit" we start to forget that the people standing in front of us really have very little control of your grievance. It is not my fault that UPS damaged a package or that some guy in production put the wrong sticker on your plastic. It is not my fault that the kitchen got backed up or that the place is so full that it's turned to a big ball of uncontrollable chaos. And honestly at the end of the day I want your dinner or your canvas or your grocery list to be perfect. I want your holiday to be the best holiday it can possibly be. If for nothing else, for people to not treat each other so harshly.
I wish I honestly didn't want to write this blog today. I wish we would just remember that we're all human, fighting our own battles, trying to figure our way through our own journeys. I wish I didn't have to remind people to treat each other with kindness especially during the holidays. And I wish people would understand that when a server or a cashier or customer service person on a phone get irritated that you are probably the millionth person that told them they sucked that day. It's not that we don't like people but it becomes a harder to pill to swallow every time we get the brunt of anger that really has nothing to do with us. There were times when I would be behind that bar and my hands would clench into fists under the counter because someone was angry at a price of a beer I didn't make and then demand that it was free. Why? Because it is so much easier to be cruel to the person in front of you whose job is deemed less important. I always find some comfort in that though. For the people who complain and turn nasty, the reality is they would never be able to do what you do, not one. I can take solace in my ability to tolerate, to rise above someone else's cruelty... but that doesn't mean it is justified. The point of the holidays is to honestly enjoy each other. It is to give someone else something as simple as a smile, to say thank you for being a part of this world, all of us. I understand you want the most perfect everything but is that perfection worth someone's tears? Just remember one thing this holiday season. One thing. The people who are helping you are people, too. Every one of them whether it be the server hustling to bring you drinks, the gentleman behind that register, that woman on the phone answering your question. Every one of them, all of us.
The hardest thing for me to learn sometimes is how to communicate with people. I can sit down at this computer or in front of a piece of paper. I can take a pen out and feel safe stating how I feel without hesitation about the message that I am about to put out there in the world. I can take my time like I do when I write a blog or a poem. Or I can just allow myself to move freely when I the mood hits me to do one of my doodles. I can see clearly in my head what I want to say, what I want to portray, what I want to give to the world. It's just not so easy for me to sit down in front of a person and truly get my point across. I have a tendency to think too much about what that person in front of me is going to think. Is what I am about to say going to hurt their feelings? What is their reaction to me going to be once I've released these words into the ether? As an adult, I understand that my feelings, my views, my actions (or reactions) are just as much of a factor as the person sitting in front of me. I write two different ways, draw in two different ways. I am more sensitive when I know that I'm putting a blog up or when I put a doodle out there for people to dissect. And then I am brutally honest if I know that these words, those lines will never go beyond these hands. Sometimes I don't always find the balance. Sometimes I write an entire blog and erase the whole thing because when I go back to read it, it feels too real for me to allow beyond this screen. And other times it is the only way I know how to tell someone how I feel. Honestly communication face to face is not my strong suit. I can own that.
For as practical as I am and as standoffish as I can be, I am an emotional person. This week has been trying because of, well, life. There have been choices I've had to make and some reactions I've had to keep in check because what was presented to me. I figure out a lot of stuff as I go but I always want to have an idea of what I am dealing with. I want to know the problems that might occur because this happened. I want to be able to sit down and talk about it but I'm not always the greatest at talking about something in the moment. I need time, time to digest what words just fell into my ears. I need time to truly understand how I feel about something before I can tell you. I react with emotion be it anger or sadness or joy. And there are times that those reactions make my head spin because they become so loud. They become so loud I can't hear in my head how it is I truly feel about something. That's why I've always kept a journal or found solace in some form of art. It has been a way to clear out the loudness and get down to why something made me feel so angry, so sad. I can't tell you in that moment why I am angry. I just am and I need to figure out a way of release on my own before I give it to you to understand yourself. I shut down when something becomes too much. It's not because I am afraid of exploding but because I know what happens if I allow myself to explode. I've never liked that part of myself, this rage that boils at times. I've worked so very hard on myself to be able to reel it in. I understand that those explosions solve nothing except more hurt feelings. I hold back because when I look at that person in front of me, whether I like them or not, what I see is myself in their shoes. I am truly an empathetic person. It drives me crazy sometimes which is why I shut down, why I pull away. Sometimes I don't know how to separate my feelings from theirs.
We have these expectations that hang around our necks given to us by so much around us. We live our lives always trying to live up to them because we are taught that is what we're supposed to do. I expect so many great things out of myself. The idea of me failing makes me react so emotionally. When my feelings are hurt, I don't know how to communicate that because I expect myself to brush it off quickly and move on. I expect myself to be stronger than something wicked someone said to me even though I know I should tell that person the hurt they caused. At the end of that conversation, I will end up apologizing and it's insane. As I've gotten older, I have gotten better but there is so much more in my journey. I understand more every day how my own insecurities manifest in the faces that look back at me. My husband and I don't really fight. There are a lot of different reasons for that. I don't like confrontation. I don't know how to do it without either seeing full on red or caving entirely. There is no in between. Most of the time we see eye to eye. He doesn't like a lot of fuss. I prefer to keep it nice and calm. We don't always agree. Our minds work differently. He can sit down with anyone and speak his peace when he has an issue. And me? I have to think about it for a minute. This week was one of those weeks that this difference was apparent. I have suffered with anxiety most of my life which makes some situations hard to deal with in a normal way. That's not the correct terminology but for this purpose I will go with it. When something happens, I think of worst case scenarios. I have to go through every bad thing that will probably never happen for me to come to the conclusion I am just overthinking it. And when I try to explain this mindset to this beautiful man whose mind functions in a different manor? I don't always explain it right. It's just the way this brain works out what I see around me, good or bad. I understand that the amount of pressure I put on myself to say the right words is, at times, debilitating.
This is how I figure it out, sitting down and allowing my fingers to fly across this keyboard. While I hold some thoughts back, all of these words come from this place within me that are able to shush the loudness that life causes. I wish I could just tell you simply how it is I feel but that has never been a thing for me. I can't sit down with someone over a cup of coffee and be completely honest because I know what is expected out of me. I am the one who listens and who takes care and offers a shoulder for the world to cry on. I am the one who thinks about the back stories and the options and the effects that every action is going to cause. I have always felt that my feelings, my wants, my desires have been something that I should deal with on my own. If I am scared of something, it is for me to find the courage on my own. If I am happy, I am terrified to talk about it because it may quickly be taken away. If I am angry, so many times in my life I have been scolded for feeling that way in the first place. So, I learned my greatest companion were words written on a piece of paper, lines drawn together that would not judge me for just being me whatever version that was at the time. Today I sit down and write these words not because I am trying to tell you anything. If I am being honest, writing a blog has been a challenge because I know the point is for people to read my work but I don't want to be like other writers and feed anyone who is reading this bullshit. What I write is honest and vulnerable. I never want it to become something diluted just to gain something undeserved. Life to me has always been this strange struggle of what I keep to myself and what I give to the world. Most the time this is the only place I can truly give the world anything. It's not because I don't feel it when I sit across from someone but because I feel too much of that someone when they sit across from me. Words fill my lines. I just don't always know how to say them. Sometimes it is that simple.
I find myself having the greatest moments of inspiration sitting in traffic on my way to work lately. Maybe it's because the part of my day where I am alone with just myself. Or maybe my thoughts are just a distraction from the crazy people who are driving too fast down a highway that is clogged. We're all going to get there, guys. This week I was thinking a lot about people, both present and gone, but not just people. I started thinking about my husband and my father and all the boys I've loved before. I thought how curious my journey with love has been and this idea of forgiveness started to take root. I started thinking about every relationship that I found myself in, the longs ones and the ones that lasted just a moment. I thought about the lessons each one taught me, the ones I kept and the ones I realized weren't to take with me along my way. Every person who comes into our lives has a purpose, not all good but a purpose just the same. I thought about the relationships my younger self found myself in compared to the relationships that I allowed as I got older and how vast the difference was, how toxic they once were versus the healthy of what they have become. When we're younger it's all so fast, so quick, so visceral. Everything about being young feels like fire and it's wonderful and exciting and, at times, harmful but lovely, too. I look at my husband and, as corny as this may sound, realize that I needed every one of those bad guys to truly accept someone like him. And I started to understand that maybe love isn't so much about love for someone else. It's more about loving yourself.
I will be honest. I have carried around a lot of fear of my life, of people walking out on me, of not being enough, of somehow not living up to my own expectations. I had this fake sense of courage that I wore because my biggest fear was for someone to see me as vulnerable. If you could see my weakness, then you would know exactly how to hurt me but I was always really good at doing that on my own. Boys just seemed cruel, something I needed to keep at arms length. So that's where I kept them for a long time even the ones I thought I loved. So I allowed myself to get into these bad relationships with bad people because that's what I thought I deserved. I thought that if they were less then I would be more, could feel like I was more. And I know that sounds twisted in its own way but I did not have enough faith in myself to realize I was more without them. I was full of self sabotage because it was easier to fail, easier to be with these people that didn't involve a lot of effort. What difference did it make if we didn't make it? I wasn't looking for forever. I was looking for that moment because when you're young it's only that moment that matters. I remember my father shaking his head at me, at these choices I was making, knowing what he was thinking, knowing that he knew I knew I deserved better and being frustrated that I kept picking these toads. I also knew that these toads were somehow important. Not because they meant something but because where they took me would someday mean so much more.
I wore my father's flannel the other day to work. Sometimes I just like to wear it, to feel like he's still somehow here. He's been gone for four years and it's amazing the parts of him I understand so much clearly now than I did when he was alive. He was the first man I ever loved. I don't want that to come off as something strange. It's a beautiful thing, this love between a father and his daughter. When we're younger, he's the one who protects you, who teaches you, who shows you what respect truly means. He is what you should look for when you become older, not him exactly but these qualities that he exemplifies. And we don't necessarily understand that then. I know that I was lucky enough to have a father who loved his children, who would go to hell and back for his children, who wanted absolutely nothing but the best for his children. I become more grateful for that every day even though he is not physically with me in this world. I look back at all those boys that I surrounded myself as a young woman and I see how they were everything he was not. I see clearly how I intentionally dated the very opposite of him. I understood what kind of partner I should have but It did not mean that I thought I deserved it. And then I grew up. It's funny how quickly that happens. I blinked and I realized this search for love had nothing to do with anyone else. Somewhere in my life my father taught me that. I heard him loud and clear, just didn't want to listen until I met my husband. I know that sounds like I am contradicting myself but bare with me. There are things about my husband that remind me of my father. He has a kindness to him, this giant heart that exudes this amazing sort of love, the same kindness and love that my father had. To me, that is comforting but it's not that I need my husband to understand what I am worth. Somewhere along that highway this week I thought a lot about this road I was on, the passengers I have had along my way, and it sort of just hit me that all he ever tried to teach me was that I was the one in charge. It wasn't about who loved me or how they loved me or if they loved me at all. It was all relative and somewhat pointless.
I look at my husband and know how lucky I was to find a partner who accepts me for every crazy that I am. He doesn't always understand my chaos or why I feel frantic or how I see the world but he loves me enough to not try to change me either. I am who I am, every nutty part of me. I've worked really hard to become so comfortable in this skin (though the work is still in progress). I see my flaws and I accept them, finding a way to make them something beautiful, too. And I guess that's what my father was always trying to say but I wasn't able to hear him until I was able to love myself. I still battle. It's really annoying because I know that there is so much good in me but still it rages. I look at my husband, this person who I happily align myself with, knowing that he would have never had a chance in my life if I thought nothing of myself. And I am grateful. I had this strange thought about love this week, this love for other people and this love for myself, this simply complicated word. I allowed my mind to wander through my life, going through every relationship from my father, to my husband, and to the ones in between. I thought about how horrible some made me feel, the euphoria that some gave me, the swiftness of others, the safety that I finally found, the one relationship that still makes me fumble. I realized that I needed to forgive myself for all those bad choices, for all the good ones that I walked away from out of fear but I needed to forgive myself for myself, too. I realized that most of my bad choices, all that fear, so much of my own pain was caused for one reason and one reason alone. I wasn't brave enough to allow myself to love myself. And on my way to work wearing my Dad's old flannel, something finally clicked. It wasn't about who had come and gone through out my life. It was about the one person who has been with me the entire way. It was about me, the amount of love I gave to myself. It was about forgiveness. It was about finding the courage to be ourselves, completely and fully in our own skin. The only way to truly love anyone is loving ourselves in whatever form we are, broken or complete, flaws and all.
I was driving to work the other day and my head was creating the greatest blog that, again, I will never write because, well, life. Inspiration doesn't always choose the best times to hit and that's OK. I remember the gist of it. That's what is important. The night before I was texting with a friend. We were just talking about the last month, the changes that have happened, the directions we were going. Any time there has been some sort of change in my life before I have reacted the best to it. I am good but a little bit of time goes by and I start stepping backwards, thinking that maybe I should have not left that comfort zone as toxic as it might have been. In my thought process even something that was bad for me was acceptable because at least I knew what to expect out of it. There would be no surprises of the aggravation I was about to receive. It seems now, looking back at it, so self deprecating, almost self sabotaging. Why change when you can stay comfortable right where you are? The older I get I understand better why change is so imperative in becoming something better than what you are. I understand that certain parts of this life won't be what they are tomorrow what they are today and it is not a terrifying thing. Sure, adjustments will be needed but you adjust and keep moving.
You know I watch my teenage daughter flounder. I see her trying to find her feet and figure out where those feet want to take her. I remember being 17 and thinking that I had to have the world all figured out. In reality, I did not. And I wish someone would have looked at me and told me that but I felt so much pressure to know my plan, to know how to execute my plan, and how it was all going to work out. There was no way I could have predicted the actual trajectory my life would actually take. The idea of something not being exactly what I wanted it to be drove me bananas. For as easy going as I was, I did not like surprises. I wanted to know exactly what kind of people I would be dealing with, what environment I was going to find myself in, and what exactly was going to be asked of me. In some ways, that hasn't left me but I can pivot much better which I didn't necessarily understand what that meant back then. But here is what I have come to understand about this life, this beautiful journey I have found myself on. I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow and I have peace with that. I don't know exactly what I want to be, who I am as an artist or a writer, how I am going to achieve these dreams that still so brightly shine within me and it does not frighten me that I still flounder. One my favorite movies is Away We Go. It's just this simple, poignant movie about two adults who are about to have a baby trying things to figure out their path together and individually and as this new family. There is a scene where they are sitting on a couch and they realize that they are just two fuck ups (pardon the French). There is something so real, so touching about that to me. I guess it's part of my adulthood that I relate to the most. At almost 40 years old, I still don't know much more about myself then I did when I was 17. I thought maybe there was something wrong with that. Like I should know by now, right? Over the last few weeks, I realized that it doesn't really matter because I keep trying. I keep moving in whatever trajectory my life is currently pointing, knowing it will change and change again.
Since I left my job and started a new one, I have noticed so many changes about myself. It is beautiful the way one change can have such a positive affect on other parts of your life. I put down the cigarettes, this friend who was bad for me and had been for far too many years. I started eating better and going to bed at a decent hour. I wake up early and start my day with bones that no longer scream at me because I've mistreated them for hours straight the day before. I eat dinner with my husband every night and see my daughter more than just on a passing basis. I draw and write with a new found light within me. I generally don't mind people all that much (unless they are driving). Right before we left to go to Denver, I had this anxiety attack. I hadn't had one in awhile. I don't really know what triggered it. My day wasn't great and I was in an environment that I just haven't become familiar enough with yet. It was one of those attacks that once it started, I just had to let it roll out. There comes a point that you can't stop these things. You just close your eyes and hold on. It will pass. The thing was this change happened so quickly with the new job, I guess I just hadn't given myself enough time to digest it. Once I understood that, I was able to embrace this change completely. I was able to really sit in it and understand what I had just walked away from. I realized that this one change was the only way I was going to move forward. This one change was the only way I was going to give myself permission to really try doing what I loved. It's just so easy to sucked into vortexes that suffocate your true talent sometimes. And I know that sounds like I am throwing shade but no malice is intended. What it was is that I had somehow convinced myself that I had to compromise what was inside me because I happened to be good at something that paid the bills. I got too comfortable and I allowed doubt to be my voice of reason.
I was having a conversation with a new coworker yesterday. I had drawn a Doodle and he was looking at it. I don't get a chance to talk about my artwork with people very often so this was nice. It is eye opening to listen to what someone else sees in your work. Honestly when I draw, there's not a lot of thought. It's just what I am feeling in that moment or what I am allowing myself to feel in that moment at times. And his thoughts made me think. I draw differently than I write. When I put down a line, I just let that line lead me. So often it is the same girl but I have always understood who she is. Maybe I haven't always understood what she is trying to tell me but I have always known who she is. And when I write, it is more deliberate. My train of thought has a flow that sometimes I don't know where I am going until the end but I tend to have more discipline with it. This week is the first week that I have truly felt amazing about the choice I made to walk away from a place that I had planted roots. It's been such a learning experience to talk to people who have the same sort of artistic aspirations, who have a different way of looking at the world, who aren't so bitter honestly. There's no judgement there, guys. The service industry is not for the weak hearted and unfortunately it makes you a much harder person than you really are sometimes. It's been nice to breathe again, to just simply sit down and breathe. I guess at forty years old I finally found some peace in this head that sits in the clouds. It just took one change to help me let go, one change to set the girl within my lines free. One change changed the trajectory of this life, this beautiful journey I have found myself on. And I know that even if tomorrow throws another change at me, I will pivot. That one pivot can lead to something even more inspiring.
My husband and I just went to Denver for our ten year anniversary. We realized that we had not taken a trip, just the two of us, since our Honeymoon. Life just seemed to get in the way. This needs to be done first. We need to take care of that instead. It seemed like something always came up that needed our immediate attention. Isn't that life though? So, for the first time in ten years, we sat down together. We slept in and we laughed and we talked and we caught up. It has been busy for us over the last ten years. We work so hard to provide the best life for our family. We often sacrifice ourselves so that the other can be comfortable and not worry. There have been times when I have been so exhausted that he has had to pick up the slack, where he has had to be the one keeping us together. And times where I see that he needs to sit down for a minute, to catch his breath so I put the weight of us on my shoulders until he heals because, to us, that is what a relationship, our marriage has always been.
I remember when we first got together. He was this guy that would walk by my coffee shop every day with a grumpy look on his face. I was the girl who came sat at his bar with my bitch face on. He was an adult with the world of his father on his shoulders. I was a single mother just trying to scrape by... but we were both adults. Sometimes people ask me why him and I work so well together. We were both a little older when we met. Neither of us were interested in playing the usual stupid dating games. I didn't really have time to mess around. I had this tiny girl staring up at me, expecting me to protect her. I very rarely mixed my romantic life and my child together unless I thought there was a potential for something wonderful not just for me but for her as well. And then this man came along and took me by surprise. I knew the moment he was for real. It's just a silly moment but, for me, it said so much. We were driving somewhere and I needed to get gas. Before I could get out, he was pumping my gas for me. Yes, such a trivial gesture, but the thing is the only other man in my life who did anything like that was my father. And the general type of men I had been dealing with were not of that caliber. Most men wanted to save me or they wanted an instant family. They had no real interest in me but the man who pumped my gas wanted me, all of me just as I was, just as I am.
The place that we stayed at in Denver was the most adorable little house. We had our own private entrance and this sweet little patio that we could sit together, enjoying the Fall weather and each other's company. I remember sitting across from him and thinking that ten years and he is still sitting there when I only thought my table would only ever be filled with ghosts. I remember thinking that it feels like he has been with me a lifetime and just yesterday he was filling my sanitizer bottle. It's lovely how someone becomes such a sweet part of you. I sat with him and we talked about our right now, our tomorrow. We reflected on how far we had come together, as two separate individuals. Here is the thing. I know at the end of the day if he got up and walked out that door, I would be just fine. It would tear me up but I would be fine. And if I decided that I wanted to walk away, he would be just as fine if not torn up. We both realize that we have to be comfortable with who we are as individuals to be the best we can be together. I am a strong woman who will light this world on fire. And he is the most courageous, kind hearted man I have ever met that could charm a toilet if need be to make it in this world. No matter what life throws at us we figure it out. It's just what we do.
Our trip was simple, not very extravagant. We didn't go to many places. We didn't see a lot of places. We spent most of our time tucked cozy in our little rented house. We ordered our food in and drank our drinks, let ourselves breathe for a few days. I had gone from one job to another with only a day in between. I will be honest my anxiety was starting to take control because I hadn't allowed myself to digest all the changes that were happening. Sometimes I look at my sweet husband and I get taken with such emotion because I know that he has to deal with my demons. I know how unfair that is to him especially when he gets frustrated because he can't defeat them for me. It's not his job to fix me. That's all mine but his presence makes this journey a lot easier. For ten years he has been here with me and honestly I don't know how I got so lucky. Sitting with him this last weekend, spending this precious time with him brought my focus back, reminding me that this foundation we created is unbreakable as long as the love we have for the other is strong. It just seems like with every passing year, we just keep getting better. We talked about the things standing in our way right now of where we want to be. And the most comforting part about that conversation was that even if it falls to pieces, we know that we will figure this all out. We know that no matter what life throws our way, good or bad or indifferent, we will figure this out together. I don't know what is in store for us tomorrow but I am grateful for my every day with this man. He is my favorite human, the man who will fight for my honor, my best friend.
Happy Anniversary, you idiot <3
This week I started a new job, a new chapter in my life. I wasn't necessarily unhappy where I was. I just knew that it was time for me to move on. I came home feeling more frustrated than fulfilled. To me, that was a sign that I needed to change something in my life. And let;s be real right now, I'm not getting any younger. The restaurant industry is a young person's game if you're not interested in managing or owning a place. I joked that I was going to be hobbling behind that bar with a cane. The image makes me smile but there is a reality that it was time for me to go. One of the girls said that I was like a mom to them. She's right. I was for a long time but years have gone by and I've watched all of them grow, bloom, figure out their path. I realized over the last year that they didn't need me like that anymore. It's been a strange journey watching my own daughter at the beginning of her journey and these beautiful people around me taking flight on their own. I suppose I liked being needed like that and it's probably why I held on to that place as long as I did. It was for these bright faces that looked to me when they needed me and I won't lie. I loved that feeling of being needed, of being important but we outgrow the things we lean on after awhile. We realize we have our own two feet and those two feet can take us anywhere. No cane needed.
I started this new job this week. I left the place that I had been for five years with people I had grown to love, to respect, to adore to start something new. I can sit here all day and say those wonderful people needed me and that's why I held on but it wouldn't be the full truth. I needed them, too. There was a beauty about the relationships that bloomed. There was this support, this unyielding support for each other. I guess I was afraid out of sight, out of mind. That we would somehow lose the connections that we made because I wasn't right there in front of them. And let's be very real I'm a homebody. I tend not to go out very often. I hide in coffee shop corners behind these words and that's just me. Somewhere in this last year, I started to feel my feet twitch. I started feeling restless. I wanted more, more for me. I didn't want to just sit in the corner anymore and pick up other people's crumbs off the floor. I ran into a guy I went to high school at my new job. Out of 74 people in my graduating class, I work with a classmate. Considering how small my high school was? Yeah, that's pretty bananas. I remember driving home after that first day and thinking about the me of back then and wondered if I turned out how he thought I would but then I laughed. I didn't turn out the way I thought I would. In the twitching of my feet, somehow I woke up that girl. I felt her in the words that I started writing again, in the lines I started drawing again, in the dreams I let myself dream again. I realized this new chapter wasn't because I was angry where I was or frustrated where I am or even sad about the places I will never go. It wasn't for my husband or my daughter or anyone else. This new chapter is for that girl I used to be, the one in the corner with ink stained fingers.
I haven't talked much about my new job. In a way I guess I thought it would somehow be pulled out from underneath me and then what? So, I kept it to only a few friends until it was time to share it, allowing myself time to digest all these changes. I know my blogs in the past have talked about how rough the restaurant industry is and believe you me I am not exaggerating. People can be horrible but as horrible as they can be, they can be the kindest, too. While I will miss a good number of customers, I can honestly say that it's been nice this week being away from it, too. You know I didn't get this job because I was angry. I went after this opportunity because it was time I grew up. If I am being honest, it was time I finally did the work to do what I really wanted to do, who I really wanted to be. I was damn good at serving and bar tending but it was not my destiny. I just let it be enough for too long. I realized over the last year that I could tell myself over and over again that I would just do my writing and art on the side, that it would be good enough to just dabble but when I really took a look? I understood if I didn't take a leap, I was never going to jump. I wanted a career, a career that fulfilled me and provided others joy. I wanted my work to be shared with the world, big or small. I wanted to be more than just that girl with the tattoos behind the bar, hiding the girl forever sitting in the corner. I've become someone in between those two and it's time I give me a chance. This week has been wonderful and terrifying and enlightening. I've had my moments of maybe I can't do this. I've had my triumphs of I got this. I've laid my head down at night with a peace that I haven't felt in years. I won't be needing that cane. These two feet will do just fine.