Have you ever noticed that Winter is the longest damn season of the year? I've always hated the cold because no matter how many layers I pile on to protect me from the harshness of it all, somehow I'm still freezing underneath. The past two days have been so beautiful, a whopping 65 yesterday and this morning it's already 55. I have to laugh every Spring when this weather comes around and we all think we're having a heat wave but in Fall when the temps drop to 60 we're freezing again. Yesterday I couldn't resist going for a walk on my lunch hour. I'm lucky enough to work downtown a few blocks from Lake Michigan so strolling along the beach is an easy task if I'm motivated. I walked out to Adler Planetarium and when I arrived I looked back at the city I work in. It seemed so far away as if I had stepped outside myself into an alternate universe. As I perched myself upon the rocks and watched the people go by I couldn't help but notice how happy everyone seemed. Children were running and laughing, grown ups dressed in business attire smiled as they let themselves be dazzled by their innocence, dogs wagged their tails as strangers scratched them behind their ears. People were at ease and honestly it's something I either rarely see or barely notice. Sitting out there in the warm sun with the wind blowing through my hair - life seemed simple. There were so many people sitting on the same shoreline, looking across the same body of water, forgetting the same realities that wait for them several blocks away. There were people who if only for a moment, or for a day - reveled in their existence at that precise point in time. You want to know the most amazing part of it all? Not one person was talking on their cell phones. It was almost as if they had carved out that space for their own personal use and no one was allowed to intrude. That's certainly how I felt as I purposely left my cell lay on my desk as I walked out the door. Sometimes we need life with no interruptions.
As I walked back from lunch that peace I'd discovered followed me back to my reality. Yesterday I walked the line between remembering life could be simple and realizing it was if I let it be.
It's simple really, life is only as complicated as you let it be.
when I walk through this life I often overlook your tiny bud pushing it's way up through the hardened earth.
so much strength, so much power - to exist in such a dangerous place.
yet you grow into something beautiful, and still - most days you go unnoticed.
I saw you this morning, stretching your tiny petals towards something warmer than the earth beneath you.
Capturing rays of sun, wrapping them inside of yourself, believing that if you held on tight enough - you too would be warm.
your hope is infectious and so I stopped to bask in your uniqueness.
you resemble someone I knew not so long ago.
I must remember you - tomorrow.
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
A friend of mine is going through kind of a rough patch with her significant other. As I sit listening to her talk about the pain her heart feels I wanted to reach through the phone and hold on to her, keep her safe - from the pain I've experienced resembling her own. I used to look back at all those painful moments and think, "how unlucky am I." But now, in times like these when someone needs my advice, I think, "I'm a stronger person, I have knowledge to offer, because - I've felt all that pain before." It's such a strange thing how when you are in the moment, in the pain, you see nothing else but that pain. Most times you convince yourself that nothing will ever feel any different than 'this' feels right now. When I think back to those times that I lost myself in someone else I wanted to scream, "how could you have been so stupid." In reality I know it wasn't stupidity at all, it was this thing I have called a heart. Those damn hearts can really get us in trouble can't they? Once, a therapist told me that I would always pick out people to be in my life that would take the most from me, people that would rarely give back even half of what they had received. I hated that statement, mostly because I knew it was true. People are givers or they are takers and rarely are they both. I picked out people who took things from me because deep down lost in the shadows of my pain, I believed I didn't deserve anything better. So many people that loved me would look at me and say, "why do you stay, why do you want to be with someone that takes so much from you." I could never answer them because I didn't understand it myself. I thought if someone treated me kindly even 25% of the time, that meant they really loved me. I believed it when they told me my fears were due to my insecurity. I believed I was the one with the problem - so I stayed because who else would want such a broken person? I repeated those patterns for years and no matter how hard I tried to break the chain, I'd always end up the person who sacrificed the most. I still remember the very moment that my life changed. This man who claimed to love me, a man who took so much from me including my self esteem, stood in front of me and told me, "you need to change or this won't work." I pondered those words over and over until finally I got it. I did need to change. I needed to love myself, I needed to believe in myself, I needed to give myself as much as I had given him. Those steps away from him was one of the hardest journeys I've taken in my life. That part of me that stayed - it was a part I gave back to myself.
So how do you help someone decide to always choose themselves over someone else? How do you show them that love isn't a give give thing...it's a give take thing? How do you take the memories of your own pain and hold them up to the light as if it were slideshow to teach someone else what not to do? I suppose part of that saying, 'learning the hard way' is true but does it really have to be that way? Can't something good come from someone else's pain? God I hope so.
Last night I watched Elizabethtown, ever heard of it? I highly recommend it and it's not a chick flick either. In the movie Kristen Dunst refers to herself as a substitute person, the person that people keep in their lives for every reason under the sun except love. As I lay in bed last night I kept turning that phrase over and over in my mind, "Substitute People." Had I ever been one? Had I ever had one in my life? What makes someone a substitute instead of the real thing? I remember many times when I used other people to take away the pain in my life. People to make me feel worth loving. People to make me feel less alone. People to make me feel - something. As I look back at those not so proud moments I realize that they were my 'substitute people'. Part of me feels guilty but part of me believes that while I was using them to fulfill my needs, they were doing the same to me in return. Every person is a substitute at one time or another, a substitute friend, a substitute lover, a substitute conscience. Does that make us bad when we use a substitute for the real thing? I don't think so. Sometimes we don't have the power,the will or the way to find the real 'thing'. Sometimes we need someone if only for a moment, for a day, for enough time so that we realize what it is we're substituting. The funny thing about 'substitutes' is that most times we can convince ourselves it's the real thing; real love, real friendship, real feelings. No one really likes substitutes - being one or using one. But sometimes the calories from the 'real thing' seem much more hazardous to our health. When we heal on the inside we realize that having the real friendship, the real love, the real conscience is the only thing really worth having. Eventually we learn that even substitutes have calories.
Well, my sig. other and I had our date Saturday night and although it didn't turn out quite like we planned I must say it was actually quite a bit of fun.
You know you are getting old when you make plans several weeks ahead of time to go on a date and when the time finally arrives you both look at each other and say...well, do you still want to go out? But we did, go out that is, despite our tiredness, despite the fact that we had to pay a babysitter $10 bucks an hour, we went - kicking and screaming. We headed up to the Riveria theatre about two hours before the concert thinking we'll grab dinner first and then stand in line waiting for the doors to open. So we drive past the theatre and there's a line of people stretched down the block and suddenly I feel like I'm 50 and about to crash a high school prom. We look a each other with the same skeptical frown pasted across our face. "Wow, we have to wait in that line," I asked? "We have to wait in that line if we want to get towards the front of the stage," he responds. It's GA - general admission and now I'm regretting my choice of musical talent to pay my homage too. Why couldn't I have picked a nice jazz concert where people actually get to sit down instead of standing in a large clearing, jumping up and down, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiny figurine on the stage? What the hell was I thinking, that I was eighteen? So anyway...we look for parking and much to my surprise we score a prime spot (free to boot) about a half block away. My spirits start to rise as we decide that we won't wait in that line, we'll wait for the doors to open and cram ourselves in the back where maybe we'll catch a glimpse of James Blunt himself. It all sounded good - in theory, forgetting of course that I'm a whopping 5'3 and the only thing I was likely to catch a glimpse of was the wide arse standing in front of me. This was becoming one of those times that I hated being short. My sig other is 6'3 so he has no trouble seeing over half the population so he really didn't understand my frustration. We park the car and start to walk towards the theatre and decide that we'll eat at the grungy little cafe nestled next to it instead. We have roughly 2 hours before the doors open so that's plenty of time to eat something completely unhealthy. Just as we are about to open the door to the cafe we see a sign that states, "Cash Only." What the hell kind of restaurant only takes cash? We realize we have about twenty bucks between us so we decided to run across the street to the ATM machine and grab some more cash. Jokingly I mention that we should just 'scalp' our tickets and head out to something more suitable for a couple of old timers. As I'm standing in front of the ATM trying desperately to remember my pin number I hear this voice behind me, "Got any tickets to sell." Huh, you talking to me? Well...as a matter of fact....ok, that's not right is it? We're supposed to be going to a concert right? We look at each other, nod in agreement, "Well I have two tickets to sell." "Yeah, how much," the nicely dressed hoodlum replies? Now my brain starts calculating, how much would be enough to erase the guilt I'll feel for selling our 'pre-planned' date? "175 bucks," I exclaim. "Whoa..that's a lot of dough," said hoodlum replies. "Well, if you want to see James the man you have to pay," I respond. "How about $150," he replies. "How about $170," I demand. I'm thinking to myself that this sort of activity is strictly prohibited and I'm breaking the law..then I remember I'm not a big fan of rules and I tend to like a bit of 'danger' so I continue with my banter. "How about $165," Mr. Hoodlum asks. "How about $175," I quickly respond. "Ok," he says as he pulls out the cash. As I'm taking it from his hand he realizes I've just screwed him royally. I actually paid $50 for those tickets on ebay but the concert is sold out and obviously he really wanted to get those tickets so he could sell them to some other unsuspecting sucker. On that day - I was no sucker, a criminal maybe...but definitely not a broke one. As I'm tucking the cash inside my back pocket I start to wonder if I've really pissed off sig. other...but he looks at me with and we both start laughing. "So now what," I ask. "How about dinner - at a real restaurant that takes credit cards and a couple of drinks at a local watering hole." "Sounds perfect," I exclaim. There happens to be a Borders Books across the street so we both decide to pop in there and buy a couple of new books for our daughter. As we're standing there trying to decide between Baby Einstein and Elmo this guy taps me on the shoulder, "excuse me, can you tell me what sort of book a 3-year old girl might like." As I begin to explain that girls prefer books with fairies and princesses I realize that I recognize this guys face. "Well....James, I say you should buy this My Little Pony book, any little girl would love it." "Hey thanks...my niece is really going to like this," he responds. My sig. other is dumbfounded at my ability to remain calm and collected and not even attempt to ask for an autograph. As we're standing in line waiting to pay James asks me if we'd like tickets to his concert...uh oh! "Well actually, we had tickets but now we don't." "We sort of sold them about ten minutes ago." He smiles and responds, "how much did you get?" "Enough," I reply. And as we're walking out the door I turn to look at the man I thought was going to make this night special and then I grabbed the hand of the man that already had.
P.S....we did have sex and wine...exactly in that order.
Sometimes it's so good to be old.
It's been so long since I've been on a date, the kind with romance, dinner, drinks. Tomorrow night my sig. other and I are going to see James Blunt and I'm really excited, not to see James but to be on a real honest to goodness date. I knew when we had a child that things would change but I guess I never thought that my 'dating' life would all but disappear. It's no one's fault really, most days we're so tired when we get home that's it's all we can do to go to guitar lessons, volleyball games, and manage to keep our 2-year old pacified. Sometimes Life just gets in the way doesn't it? When you have children your sex life is reduced to "How about sex tonight," and then you politely say, "I'm really too tired, how about tomorrow?" It's not that you don't want sex it's that you want sleep more. I never thought I'd be one of 'those' people but low and behold....I am. So anyway, tomorrow we're going on a date with dinner, a concert, and sex included. You know the main lesson I've learned over the past 2 years about relationships is that you really have to work at them if you want them to be good. Friendships, romantic relationships, co-worker relations, they all require you to sacrifice a bit of your time to make them worthwhile. Sometimes I think we forget that the only things worth having in this life are the things you have to work to obtain.
Happy Friday everyone.
Yesterday I wrote a post about my belief in God and for awhile after I posted it a tiny fear came over me. A fear that somehow people would think differently about me after learning about my faith. The moment of fear soon passed not because I wasn't afraid anymore but because I was too busy at work to think about it. As my day went on I barely noticed how light I felt. Most days things seem heavy and it's become a feeling I'm accustomed to, so like all things we take for granted, it took me awhile to realize - the feeling had changed. As I started out the door, quick to end my work day and make it back to my child, I caught my reflection as I passed by a picture hanging on the wall. I wasn't smiling but my brow wasn't furrowed as it usually is at the end of a long hectic day. My eyes were not focused on the floor, they were looking above the endless trail of reality that follows me home each day. I felt - lighter. On my train ride home my sudden euphoria perplexed me. Nothing extraordinary had happened today, I completed several projects and acquired several more but being successful at my job has never really caused me to shed extra emotional layers...so what was it? And then I remembered how I started my day, I shared a very private part of myself with people I've come to know as my friends. I started thinking about how afraid I was of revealing those bits of my make-up that were virtually unknown before, how I feared that people might think of me differently, and then I realized I was the one that was thinking about myself differently. I made it home yesterday, played Barbie's with my sweet girl, made dinner, watched Lost, and headed down to bed for a few precious moments with a good book and as I lay there trying to concentrate on my reading I smiled because for the first time in a very long time - I liked myself. I liked the fact that sometimes I procrastinate so long that I'm forced to scramble things together to make things turn out the way they are supposed to do - and I'm successful. I like that I wake up every morning tired and wishing I could go back to sleep until I hear my daughter singing 'Row Row Row your boat' and instantly I have all the energy in the world. I like that sometimes I'm scared of things, the darkness, strangers, going places I've never been - it makes me feel normal. I like that I shared a piece of myself with virtual strangers and I contemplated their opinion of me, it makes me feel aware of my actions. I like that sometimes it takes me longer to stop loving someone only because I've loved them so much more than they loved me, it reminds me how much capacity my heart really has. So many of us never really think about whether we like ourselves or not. We take it for granted that liking yourself, is required. Today I challenge you to make a list, be it mental or physical, and remind yourself about the things you cherish about YOU. Other people only really like us because they are following our lead.
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
When I was a little girl I prayed every night. My parents would come in my room, we'd kneel in front of my bed and they would listen to me thank God for the blessings in my life. As I got older my parents stopped coming to my room to make sure I said my prayers but even without their supervision, I still wanted to talk to God before I slept. There are a lot of people that remember saying their prayers when they were little. There are a lot of people that grew out of that practice, but I'm not one of them. Although I don't kneel beside my bed anymore, I do still talk to God every single night before I sleep. I don't really consider myself a religious person. I go to church, I pray, but I'm not someone who preaches my beliefs to the choir because for me, religion is personal. It is not something I wish to convince the world to believe in, it is not something that makes me better than someone who has no religion, it is something that makes me feel less alone in this world. When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn't post about religion because it's not something I want to be debated. Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who is going through a hard time in her life. As I sat there listening my mind started to wander back to the moments in my own life when living seemed the most incredibly hard thing to accomplish. She asked me how I got through those times. Didn't I feel alone? Who did I talk to? Could anyone help me find hope to make through another day? I sat there briefly pondering her questions. I knew the answers but I was dangerously close to crossing the line I'd drawn. She needed me to answer - and so I did.
"When I was a little girl my parents told me that God was my friend. He was the ear that always listened. He had the arms that always held me. He had the mind that never judged. He had the heart that always forgave. He had the light that cleared my darkness. He had the coat that kept me warm. He had the answers when I was questioning. He had the hope when I was hopeless. He was my rock when I needed to lean. He was the hero when I needed saving. He was my map when I was lost. He was my mirror when I was vain. God was my friend." I told her about those times in my life where nothing seemed powerful enough to take away the pain. How I got down on my bare knees on a cold hardwood floor and sobbed until my chest hurt, begging God to save me. I told her that knowing and more importantly believing that there is some higher power holding you back from the edge, is the most rewarding belief you will ever put your faith in. She asked me how to start. "How to start what," I asked. "To start praying," she answered. "You start like this, talking from one friend to another." "And He'll listen," she asked. "He'll listen as long as you are willing to talk," I responded, "Friends are like that."
Life is about choice. Choices to leave. Choices to stay. The choice to run from something or the choice to face it head on. Some choices are made without foresight or contemplation. Some choices are pondered much too long and in your procrastination to make a choice, the choice is made by proxy. Some choices are full of regret, some cause us to be grateful. Some choices can change the course of many lives, some can ruin the life of one. A choice is not always yours by default, some never have a choice - to choose who their parents are, to choose who they love or who loves them, to choose safety over harm, to choose truth over lies. Some, take choice away from those most vulnerable, those too weak, those who rely on someone to love them enough to make the right choices.
One day in the life of you or me is roughly made up of at least ten choices. The choice to be in a good mood when you wake up tired from the night before. The choice to ignore the co-worker who treats you with disrespect. The choice to take a walk on your lunch hour or the choice to stay chained to your desk oblivious of the outside world. The choice to notice that the sun is shining or the choice to see only the clouds. The choice to wish upon stars or the choice to never notice they exist. The choice to share bits of your life with anonymous friends or the choice to keep it all to yourself. Some choices seem insignificant, some seem insurmountable, some come quickly, some never come at all. In all your choices, the ones you've made, the ones that have been made for you, which ones do you remember the most? Why not remember them all? Why not make the choice to make each one significant? Remember those who never live long enough to make any choice.
This post is dedicated to the two little girls who died within the last two weeks from stray bullets on the Westside of Chicago - one as she celebrated her surprise birthday party, one as she got ready for school. Death has stolen their choice. Be grateful people - make your choices with your eyes wide open.
My father sent me this...they are not his words but they are words he carries with him and he wanted to share them with me. Now, I want to share them with you.
" To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and
the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a
garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has
breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded."
How many of you can honestly say you have succeeded in this life? I hope that number is plentiful.
For many years I dreaded this day even though it seems almost sacrilegious to hate a day that celebrates my Irish heritage. When I was growing up this day meant some sort of legalized excuse for my father to take the day off work and get blitzed. He's Irish, the real kind, home grown from Belfast. It was in his blood, the tendency to drink that is. The rest of the days he was inebriated I had right to resent him but not this day, everyone gets drunk on St. Paddy's Day. I remember one year that my friends and I went to the parade then out bar hopping. I was pretty intoxicated by noon and as pleased as I felt with myself, I wasn't prepared to see my reflection staring back at me. As I sat there laughing with my friends I spotted my father sitting across the bar from me. He hadn't seen me but I saw him in all his drunken glory. He looked ridiculous throwing his head back in laughter, women hanging on him, slamming those beers one after another. My father is an alcoholic not only on St. Paddy's day, but every day. As anger swelled inside of me sounds echoed in my head. It was the sound of my own drunken laughter. I was my father, he was me. There is nothing more sobering than a reflection of disgust mocking you from the other side of the room. I left that bar, I left that place. I'm not an alcoholic but I believe it's because I'm always aware of who I could become if I let that path choose me.
This year is the first St. Patrick's Day that I don't dread. My father came up to see me about a week ago and he, my daughter, and I attended our first Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade, together. As I stood there watching my dad hold my sweet girl, kiss her cheeks, laugh a sober laugh that filled my heart with ease, I realized that my dad was giving me what he could, a day in his life where I was more important than booze. I caught a glimpse of the man I knew before that disease tainted my memories. My dad is still an alcoholic, that's something you don't erase, but he drinks less and more importantly he doesn't drink around me or my child. I've learned that sometimes you have to take what you can get and cherish it for what it is.
The picture above is the Chicago river which was dyed green a week ago in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I'll leave you with my favorite Irish blessing:
May you have the hindsight to know where you've been
the foresight to know where you're going
and the insight to know when you're going too far.
sometimes I like to peer inside your windows
hoping to catch a glimpse of who you might become
will you be strong enough to survive this world
or will you run and hide the same as I
I see you so deep in thought and part of me wonders
are those thoughts of me
will you grow up knowing how much you've changed my life
will it comfort you on the days you feel alone
when your heart is breaking
will you let me hold the pieces in my hands
can I teach you to be kind and compassionate
will you remember it always
what are you thinking my dear child
maybe some day you'll tell me
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
I am not a good sick person. After nursing my daughter back to health after her bout with the flu over the weekend, it would seem she's passed it on to me. I guess children share everything when they are young, it's not until they are older that they start keeping things all to themselves. I spent most of the night tossing and turning because it felt as if I were going to lose my cookies at any moment. I made it through the night but wasn't so lucky this morning. I rarely take time for myself but today I'm in desperate need. What I really long to do is climb back in my bed, pull the covers up to my nose, and sleep until tomorrow. But as I said I'm a bad sick person because here I am sitting at work. I had too much to do, too many people relying on me, too many things...period. When I go home I'll have a little girl wanting me to play Barbies and make animals out of playdoh, I'll have a sig. other who has mysteriously made it through 34 years of life without learning to cook himself a meal. I'll have responsibilities that don't go away just because I'm sick. It's kind of unfair isn't it? Life should pause itself or at least go in slow motion when we're not feeling up to dealing with it. Maybe what I need to do is pick up life's darn remote control and push STOP. Why don't they invent TiVo for life? Hmmm, maybe I'll start working on that....see, there I go again, taking on more than I can handle.
Thanks to everyone for your well wishes yesterday. Although it was a hard day, it's done now and a new journey must begin. When my mom left the nursing home yesterday my step dad called her on her way home, "I don't belong here," he said, "these people are not like me." I thought about those words all of last night and I realized that seems to be the purpose of our lives, to belong somewhere. There are times in our lives when we feel alone. When we feel that we're the only stranger in a room full of people. Times when we try so hard to 'belong' that we end up not belonging to ourselves. Some of us travel miles on roads filled with heartaches and pain just to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We travel light leaving the parts of our identities that don't 'fit in' behind. And then one day when we're surrounded by those people we thought were like us, we realize that we've become a stranger to the one person we did belong to, ourselves.
I'll admit that most of my life I've wanted to be in a place where I thought I belonged, surrounded by people like me. I've hidden things about myself that others might not understand. I've pretended to be someone I'm not just so I could feel like someone they wanted me to be. In all those years of 'belonging' I realize now that I was always that stranger in the back of the room and no one noticed how out of place I really was. My life before, I didn't belong there. Those people that filled the rooms of my soul, they were not like me.
Before she hung up the phone she whispered the only words she could think of, "you belong in the hearts of all that love you and that's the only place worth being."
Belong somewhere - worth being.
As I walked out the front door this morning a warm fresh breeze danced across my face. It's been so cold here in Chicago that I'd almost forgotten how wonderful a warm breeze can feel. As the air filled my lungs I was hesitant to exhale, fearing that along with that breath the hope that came with it would disappear. I wanted to hold it in until my head swirled with euphoria casting a rose colored glow on the world that lay ahead of me. But my chest started to hurt and before I knew it I had to let it go. I took a deep breath trying to recapture some tiny bit of what I had before, but the moment had passed. Moments always pass don't they? But the memories of those moments lie somewhere between what is and what once was and if we're lucky enough, we can find more that resemble them.
Today my step father is going to his new home, the one filled with other people like him, people that try desperately to recapture the moments they are in much less the ones that have already passed. People that have a past yet can't remember it. People that are stuck between what is and what is tomorrow. My heart aches for him but I know this place is where he has to be. My hope is that when he walked out of his home today, a warm breeze caressed his face and he filled his lungs with moments. Moments of happiness, moments of love, moments when he was more whole than he is right now. Maybe tomorrow when he wakes up in a strange bed, a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, he'll find recognition when he exhales.
Some would say I'm lucky to have heard those words, "I love you," so many times in my life. Some would say I should feel special. I don't really. Maybe it's because most of the times I heard those words I rarely believed them to be true. People can tell you that they love you but really they are just words. They are nice to hear but if those words just hang in the air with nothing to hold them up, then they are meaningless. Some of us spend so much time trying to figure out if those words are meant or are real, the joy we should feel from them, disappears. I've had real love in my life, I think I have it now, but the knowing that it's real didn't come from hearing words; it came from the actions that came before and after them. There have been times that I relied on those words to protect me but as we all know words do not have that power. Words do not make things real. Actions do.
And then things change.
Last night as I was tucking my daughter into her bed she looked up at me with those eyes that reflect a perfect blend of her father and I. "I love you mommy." For the first time in my life words were enough. I never even had to ask if she meant it.
Sometimes I hide. I run for cover when things get tough hoping that if I hide well enough, no one will see me. I feel safe when I hide, invisible to the everyone. And then...someone comes along, steps on my tail and I realize I wasn't as well hidden as I thought I was. Even when we think they can't see us, we're really still - half nekkid.
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
Sometimes what I need to say escapes me. The words are in my head, swirling around like oil in water. I can write them, that part comes easily. To speak the things that populate my mind, that requires more effort. Most days I'm too tired to put forth the effort. Most days I am a drifter, hiding beneath the comfort of things I can control, running from the ones I can't. It's amazing how fast you can run from something yet still be in the same place when you stop to rest. Life follows you. Behind every door, through every darkened hallway, at the end of every bottle of booze, it's there waiting for you to see it, to experience it, to acknowledge it. So I'm standing here looking at the life that surrounds me in this room and part of me is scared to see it for what it is. But I'm here, still. I know I need to tell you what's in my mind but I'm not good at leaps of faith. I'm weak like that. How do I know that when my words leave their safe haven that you'll be there to catch them? Or will they fall clumsily to the floor and be swept away with the dust and the dog hair? If only you could see inside to read the words scrawled upon my walls, this would be easier. But who am I kidding, we people rarely look past the steel door at the entrance. Maybe if I opened it just a little so you could peer inside you'd be able to see that I'm not as silent as I seem.
Some times my heart feels heavy. Some times it feels as if it just can't withstand any more pressure, it's stretched beyond capacity. You can love someone yet still feel like they are a complete stranger. Doesn't seem possible does it? You can want to be with someone and they can want to be with you but in reality wanting something and having something are completely different. I'm not naive enough to believe that love is enough to make a relationship work. I know that successful relationships survive in spite of love not because of it. I want my relationship with my sig. other to be as strong as I know it can be. But my heart is heavy, the weight of his financial problems lay over me. As much as I try to make him responsible, I can't. I am not his parent, I am not his conscience, I am not and never will be - his savior. There have been many failed rescue missions in my life and I have no desire to add to that number. It's not that I don't love him enough to try, I have tried, but how many times can I bail him out until it's too many? I'm tired of getting penalized because I make more money. I've worked damn hard to be successful at my career and just because he earns a lower salary, does that make it my job to pay more of of our living expenses. I sound bitter don't I? Maybe part of me is bitter because I feel taken for granted. I want to love him. I want love to be enough. I want love not to cost so much. Is that possible?
When I was young my father would pick me up from school each day. When I got into his pickup truck he'd ask me, "What did you learn today." It wasn't an option to say, "Nothin'." I tried using that answer...Once. I'd sit there picking my brain trying to come up with something I'd learned but sometimes...actually most times, I couldn't think of anything to say. I tried making stuff up but as soon as my dad figured out my full proof plan he'd ask me to elaborate on my new found knowledge. My father was an English professor which allowed him to spot a Tall Tale a mile away, he knew fiction when he heard it. More than remembering the pressure of how it felt to be put in the hot seat, I remember how awful it felt seeing the disappointment in my father's eyes. He told me once that a day without learning something new, is a day I've walked through the world with my eyes and ears closed. Eventually I actually started thinking about what my answer would be before I got in the truck and I made it a point to pay attention to life so I'd catch any lesson that was thrown my way. My life has been spent learning. Sometimes the lessons were not easy ones, sometimes they left me feeling more ignorant then when I started out. But after the haze clears...the mind and the heart, each lesson was invaluable. Sometimes I try to remember the most important thing that I've ever learned but it's hard because there have been so many turning points in my life. If I had to pick just one I suppose it would be the day that I learned how to forgive. It was a lesson that saved me from myself.
How often can you sit down at the end of your day and think about something new you've learned? How often do you walk through the world with your eyes and ears closed because you think you've seen it all, you've learned all the lessons this life has to teach? How often do you challenge yourself to open up your eyes, your ears, your heart, and learn something? Those days when I stumble through the passing moments...those days are the ones I've wasted. I hate wasting things...this I've learned.
It's been three days since I gave up clutter for Lent. I have to admit that I'm not much of a material clutter kind of person. I hate having things strewn all over the counter tops, I can't stand misc. items like shoes, socks, underwear - littering the floor. I was brought up to believe that everything has it's place and the sooner you put something back where it belongs the easier you'll be able to focus on what's important. I know those lessons were actually about the kind of clutter you have in closets or the back seat of your car not the 'emotional clutter' that I'm working on cleaning up. But as I look back on all those times when my mother lectured me about how an organized closet could lead to an organized mind, I actually have to agree with her. As much of a clean freak as I am I tend to shove things into the crevices where no one can see them. My counters are clean, my bedroom spotless, but if you open the hall closet you will see all the things I couldn't find a place for, useless things. Every day I walk by this closet I avoid having to open it. When I see what's inside my heart starts to race, my breathing quickens, I feel - out of control. I hate clutter...I said that right? But as much as I can't stand seeing clutter out in the open, I've somehow come to believe it's ok if it exists in places no one looks. There are very few people in this world that will make an effort to open that hall closet door and look inside. It's not convenient, they don't really 'need' anything from inside so they pass by and look the other way and pretend - there is no clutter, there are only shiny surfaces that are pleasing to the eye. I suppose it all goes back to that old theory, out of sight out of mind. The thing about that hall closet is that eventually you will need something from inside. You will stand in front of the door and pause before you turn the handle. You will close your eyes because you are afraid of what might fall on top of you, things that may be so heavy the weight of them might crush you. As the door opens, nothing falls out. You turn the light on. For the first time you see that the things you hid behind that door are not nearly as useless as you thought they were. Everything has it's place, even clutter.
So much of my life has been spent looking in from the outside into a world that seemed foreign to me. I'd read how families were supposed to be - whole and peaceful but it was never part of my reality so I was skeptical that it could actually exist. Sometimes my friends would talk about their family outings, the ones with a mom and a dad and I remember being so jealous. I was like a peeping Tom, standing under the bushes outside a window hoping to catch a glimpse of this life I had no part of. The laughing, the love, the trust they had in each other would leave me feeling more like an outsider than I care to remember. Although both of my parents loved me, they were not together and they spent so much time fighting over me that sometimes I think they actually forgot what prize they were both trying to win. When I look back I think I became an independent person because I never wanted to rely on someone else to love me to make me feel whole. It took me years to realize that someone loving you isn't what makes you whole, it's knowing that you are worthy of that love that completes you.
My life is so different now and for the first time in a very long time I don't feel like that kid on the outside with her nose pressed against the glass looking into a life she thought she'd never have. Every now and then I still step outside myself, outside of my life, to get a better view of how much love I'm actually worthy of. I've come out from under those bushes, I've opened the door and stepped into my life. I never have to be on the outside looking in...ever again.
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
Today is the first day of Lent. Do you know what that means? Well it probably means diddly if you are not Catholic or Orthodox. Some of you probably celebrated Mardi Gras yesterday and I bet most of you didn't know the real reason that celebration originated. Fat Tuesday falls on the Tuesday before Lent. It's a day to 'live it up' before Ash Wednesday which marks the day you are supposed to start your 40 day journey of soul searching and repentance. I used to find it strange that although lent is supposed to be about finding some higher moral ground, the most common practice during Lent is to sacrifice something you really love or find hard to live without. I'm not sure why giving something up that you love, like sex or chocolate equates to soul searching. Unless maybe people find it hard to really see themselves or do any sort of repentance unless they are horny and devoid of sugar. I guess I can relate to that. There have been times in my life that sex overshadowed many truths. Like the times that I thought having sex with someone meant that they actually cared about me. Times that I thought having sex would actually fix problems that seemed unsolvable. Times that I thought having sex without emotion was just as pleasurable as when my heart was involved. I was wrong each and every single time. Maybe that's why we do it, give up something we think we can't live without, to prove to ourselves that clarity rarely comes without sacrifice. And the repentance part, I think that's about accepting what we find when that 40 day journey ends.
Today I'm starting my journey and for the next 40 days I'm going to sacrifice something I've been trying to get rid of for thirty some years. Clutter. I'm laying that load I've been carrying on my shoulders down by the roadside. I'm learning that it's hard to travel with so much baggage. Sometimes we hang on to so much junk.