There are some people in this world that have trouble staying but me, I find it hard to walk away. Most times I let the moments pass that are meant to save you from yourself or even more importantly - from other people. I stay beyond the realization that I belong anywhere but where I am. I stay even when the moments of bliss that brought me to a place have all but expired. I endure pain as if it were my destiny. After years of therapy and countless nights spent running away from myself just to allow one more day of staying put, I thought that I'd changed. I stay in friendships that only weigh my wings down - not lift them up. I take rejection personal and then I work harder to be accepted. I cannot walk away from work not because I love the job but because I can't stand to let someone down that depends on me. As I sit here staring out the window I realize that for all my effort, I still have no idea how to put myself first. I want to learn but can I do that without feeling selfish? Sometimes what I really want is to walk away from myself. The self that thinks she can heal every wounded bird that lands on her front doorstep. The self that believes letting others down is a worse fate then letting herself down. The self that sits here tired and broken and wanting to move her feet in the direction of the door - but has no idea how to turn the handle once she gets there.
I always believed that if I stayed it would erase all those moments where I was the one being left behind. I was wrong. Staying doesn't rewrite history - it repeats it.
Have a great weekend.
You are lying there beside me and as I watch the gentle rise and fall of your chest, I feel only peace. The curve of your tiny nose, the dimple in your chin are all parts of me yet they belong to you. The way your eyelashes curl at the ends as they touch your cheek must be the most beautiful thing I could ever lay eyes upon. Although I've known you for over two years, there are still parts of you that seem new to me on a daily basis. So many times I am amazed that I had a role in creating you. I never believed I had the power to create something, someone, so utterly perfect. Before you, there were only brief moments where I had enough faith in myself to believe in anything worthwhile. And now you are the most worthwhile being I've ever dared to give myself to. I've faltered so many times before without regret, without conscience, and the moment you were born my conscience became the guiding light that I knew I had to follow. Every single day that I am allowed to know you, I become a better person.
Someday I'll tell you these things or maybe you will already know - but I'll tell you again anyway.
Sometimes I wonder if it's just inevitable that parents let their children down. When we're young we put our parents on pedestals to separate them from the rest of the mortals. They are our protectors, our heroes, our friends and we never think about them making mistakes because they are not like other humans - they're special.
Someone told me once that childhood is what you spend the rest of your life getting over. I wish I didn't believe that but when I look around at all the broken people it's pretty hard to deny it's validity. It would seem that even the best parents somehow screw up their kid without really knowing that their doing it. I think about this a lot because as much as I want to be a good parent, to not let the demons of my past affect my own ability to parent, I know that the chances are pretty great that someday Alice will look back at her childhood and think, "my parents really screwed me up." Maybe it's how we're programmed, to remember the negative moments over the positive ones. Generally we choose doubt over faith, lies over truth, the road more traveled than the one leading somewhere off into places unknown. I don't really think my parents taught me to be that way, in fact it was just the opposite. They wanted better things for me, better chances, more choices, but somewhere down the line I faltered. I know I'm ok now but when I think about all the pain I had to go through and how long it took me to get here, I fear that somehow I'll make the very mistakes my own parents did.
I want to believe that what happens in life is not inevitable. I want to pinch myself every day to make sure I stay conscious of my actions. When we become someone else's parent life becomes less about you and more about them so the mistakes we make turn them into the victims. I never want my children to be victims of my actions. I wish I could believe that being aware was enough. Sometimes we know exactly what we're doing, who it might hurt - but we do it anyway. Sometimes we forget that we're standing on that pedestal in front of our children and it's up to us - not them, to have a damn good grip so that we don't fall off.
Ten years ago today I got my very first tattoo. It took me forever to decide what I wanted because it had to be something feminine, something subtle, something you could only see - if I let you. Ten years ago I had just left my husband and had gotten involved with a verbally and physically abuse man. I suppose that in a way, I was punishing myself for not being able to love a 'good man' the way he deserved so I sought out a man that would treat me like the loser that I felt I was. My heart was in a million pieces and I had absolutely no hope that it would ever be whole again. Hell, I wasn't even sure it was ever whole to begin with. So as I pondered what sort of 'mark' I was going to brand my body with, there really was only one option that seemed appropriate - a heart. It's a plain, simple little red heart placed near my left hip at the top of my left butt cheek. I remember feeling foolish as I laid on my stomach with my bum exposed on that cold hard parlor table. The tattoo artist had beautiful tattoos covering most of his body and here I was feeling brave for enduring one tiny 'label'. He could see that I was nervous, that I was unsure, and he touched my arm and said, "at least you aren't wearing your heart on your sleeve." I had to laugh because he didn't realize how true that was; I'd never been able to let my guard down long enough to put my heart anywhere, let alone my sleeve. So I got my little heart branded on my bum and I hid it from everyone for a very long time. I'd occasionally look at it in the mirror and it became more of a reminder that I had a heart and less of a 'statement' of my individuality.
Every morning as I'm dressing for work and Alice lays in my bed watching Dora, she jumps out of bed and races to my side, "Touch mommy's heart," she asks? She puts her tiny little finger right on top of my 'heart' and smiles. "It's a pretty heart," she says. "Yes it is," I reply and finally I actually believe it.
Someday I'm going to tell Alice how much it meant to me that she 'touched my heart' and how lucky I am that she came into this world to remind me that I had one.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Someone told me once that the only person who can control your life, is you. I've battled with this theory my whole life because most of my life I've blamed other people for the things that happened to me. I blamed my father for teaching me that trusting in people essentially meant letting yourself be hurt. I blamed my mother for teaching me that it was ok to a let a man treat you badly as long as they claimed to love you. I blamed people but I never blamed myself. I convinced myself that I had no control over how I turned out because circumstance makes you who you are and there's nothing you can do about it.
I can't remember exactly when I realized that I was in control of my own destiny. Maybe it was the moment I accepted that my self destruction was entirely of my own doing. I know things happen to us. Things that hurt us, damage us, scar us in ways that seem unrepairable, but what we choose to do with those things - is our choice. I've had many pity parties for myself and every time I've been the only guest. I've found that as much as people are drawn to tragedy, they are not drawn to misery. People can love you, support you, but even the best of friends refuse to stand on the sidelines and watch you self destruct. Once a very good friend told me she loved me and then walked out of my life. I hated her for a very long time because I thought she abandoned me when I needed her most. Years later when our paths crossed again I asked her why she left me behind. She replied, "I didn't leave you behind, I stepped out of the way so you could see your own reflection."
We often base our opinion of ourselves on what other people see in us. We measure the success of our lives by someone else's standards. We give control over the most important parts of ourselves to someone else because we're too afraid to grab hold of the reins and navigate our own path. We seek, we follow, we fall. And then we get up not because we're tired of laying on the ground, but because we're sick of the view from someone else's eyes.
Yesterday someone said, "this is how I see you...". My reply, "It's a good thing we're looking in different mirrors."
As my wise old grandfather always said, "If you don't like the view from where you are, turn around and look in a different direction."
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
Yesterday as I sat in my big fluffy recliner watching the rain pelt against the window and felt the gentle rhythm of Patrick's hiccups inside my belly, I felt at such peace. I've always loved rainstorms because it seems like God's way of giving us another chance. All the dirt and grime is washed away leaving a nice clean surface to start anew. I've always thought those storms that lasted days on end was His way of telling us that the dirt was pretty thick and it was going to take more than a simple shower to see the glisten again. When I was a kid I used to love to stand out in the rain, let it run down over me as if it really could wash away all the bad. Even though I know technically it takes a whole lot more than some drops of water to get a clean surface, I always felt better after I dried off. Have you ever done that...stood out in the rain and let it wash over you? Sometimes I think we let the water run over us but we hold on so tight to the grungy parts of ourselves that even a hurricane couldn't wash away the bad. It's all about letting go. Tipping our head to the side, letting the water run in and out of our ears to unclog the grime that's stopped us from listening to ourselves. Closing our eyes, letting the water drip from our eyelashes so that when we open them again, we see only hope. And while we're at it, lets open up our shirts and let the rain pour over our chest to wash away the layers we've let accumulate over our hearts that prevent us from loving the way we were meant to.
I walked outside yesterday and lifted up my shirt and let the rain wash over my pregnant belly. I was hoping to give Patrick a clean start when he decides to make his entrance. I'll leave you with my daughter's wise words..."the rain makes me pretty again." Sometimes we all need a good strong rain storm to make our skies sunny again.
P.S. an appropriate song for Musical Monday is by a very talented singer songwriter named Kasey Chambers and one of my favorite songs is "Am I not pretty enough". You can listen and download it from here. I also encourage you to listen to the song "The Captain" too.
Have a great Monday.
First I must apologize for being so incredibly busy at work that I have had little time to much else...including blogging. I'm going to catch up this weekend because I'm missed all of you dearly.
My niece started high school. Although high school was many many moons ago the experience remains in the forefront of my mind.
Girls are mean. In case you didn't know this I'll explain why I know this to be. When I was in 5th grade I decided to become a bully much the same way someone decides what their going to eat for lunch or which shoes to wear with which outfit. I was popular but not because I earned it, my father was on the school board, I was lucky enough to be blessed with decent looks, my family bought me things, I wasn't shy, I had a built-in pool in my back yard...all things which made it easier for me to be noticed and to be liked. Shallow reasons to befriend someone but when you are a kid you don't analyze the reasons people like you, you just accept it. I started off nice. I liked most everyone because my parents taught me to and I rarely ever questioned if someone was 'acceptable' to be my friend...until I met Ellen. Ellen took a liking to me, not in a sexual way since we were only in the 5th grade but rather in a 'look up to you' way. She followed me around the play ground, she listened in on my conversations, she was in an essence my shadow. I never much minded having Ellen around because sometimes it's rather nice to be admired even when you are too young to actually realize what real admiration is. And then one day Ellen wrote on her notebook "Ellen and NWC, Best friends forever." Sweet I know, but one of the 'mean girls' saw this and started teasing me that I hung out with losers. Ellen was small for her age, she wore thick glasses, she lived in a house that used to be a funeral home so instantly she was labeled 'weird'. As soon as my 'friends' started to tease me I lashed out, not at them, at Ellen. I called her 'weirdo', I told her to stop following me, I told her I'd never be her friend and amazingly enough - she listened. I continued on the path of 'meanness' by not becoming a follower but a leader. I led the campaign against little Ellen and in no time my popular friends thought I was cool again. Most of my 5th grade year and part of my 6th grade year were spent being 'mean' to Ellen and any other girl deemed unacceptable by the 'click' I belonged to. Eventually Ellen's family moved away and I changed schools and all those moments of meanness disappeared as if they'd never happened - at least for me.
Luckily after I changed schools I found the sweet girl I used to be and rather than become an enemy of the 'unacceptable' people, I became an advocate. Somehow I was always able to maintain my 'popular' status and make some very good friends with the people that nobody else deemed 'worthy'. Maybe it was because I cared little about what other people thought and more about what I deemed acceptable. When you stop worrying about measuring up to other people's expectations, the tables turn and you become the one people take measurements against. There's something appealing about a person who is secure enough with themselves to live their life the way they see fit. People stare, they wonder, they sometimes try to make you the strange one but when they realize their efforts go unnoticed, most times they accept you for what you are.
So, my niece started high school. Her very first day of school she fell off the bus when exiting, she got lost going to her classes and began to cry so her counselor had to walk her around to each classroom. In her second week her best friend decided that she needed to hang around more popular people and in a matter of days my niece went from being accepted to being an outcast. Her parents nag her about finding friends. They pressure her into finding 'just one friend' that she can ask to the football game. Without even realizing what they are doing, they have peeled the sticky label 'loser' off the wall and placed it firmly across her forehead. I know it's hard for parents. Parents want their kids to be liked but in reality who are we really wanting their popularity for? For us or for them?
Girls are mean. We can be emotionally cruel. We can throw insults out and forget them later. I'm not saying boys don't do this - but girls do it better. I wish I knew why this was true but I don't. I only know that I've been there and luckily enough my parents influence was strong enough that eventually I remembered who I was born to be.
A few years ago while visiting some old friends in my home town I ran into Ellen, the girl I bullied in 5th grade. Strangely enough she recognized me but she was far from the person I remember with big thick glasses. We sat and talked for awhile and as she explained her life, her accomplishments, her failures, all I could think about was how mean I was to her. When she got up to go I touched her arm and said, "I'm sorry." She knew exactly what I meant without me explaining. Her only reply was, "I always knew that underneath it all - you were, sorry."
I am worried about my niece. I worry that in her quest for acceptance she'll seek out the wrong types of people to be friends with. She'll allow herself to be manipulated by those who prey on the 'unaccepted'. I suppose part of me wants her to be mean back...at least to those who treat her with such little respect but the bigger part of me wants to march down to her high school and kick some freshman ass. Yes I know, real grownup of me right? I suppose what I will do is sit her down and drill it into her head that the very best friend you can ever have is the friend you find in yourself. It starts there you know? Acceptance.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Once I had a dream that I could fly. I climbed up on top of a mountain, firmly planted my feet squarely beneath my shoulders - and jumped. I had no fear of falling. No questions about whether someone would be there to catch me. I leapt before I looked, I spoke before I thought, I lived before contemplation of what may come. I was a child then, even though my years were many in number and technically designated me as an adult. I lived without regret not because I was brave; because I was afraid.
Sometimes clarity only comes when you experience regret. When the mistakes of your past flutter carelessly around your existence until you notice them, acknowledge them, and place them in the archive of your memory. It is then and only then that you can classify yourself as an adult because living a life without forethought or consequence - is called 'childhood'.
In my life there have been many moments where regret has plagued my thoughts but if I'm honest with myself, in those moments there was little ownership of the actions that brought forth that regret. I've discovered that it's damn easy to regret something you've done and quite a harder task to take possession of it. Recently I was listening to someone apologize to me for the way they treated me and immediately following their apology they began to place the blame for their actions back onto me. As I stood there listening to how much control I apparently had over their actions, I remembered being in that place. A place where nothing was my fault and everything that had gone wrong in my life was because of someone else's actions. I remembered that as much comfort as I thought being unaccountable gave me, it also left me powerless to change my life into something better.
Once I had a dream that I could fly. I climbed up on top of a mountain, planted my feet squarely beneath my shoulders - and jumped. I had no fear of falling. No questions about whether someone would be there to catch me. I leapt before I looked, I spoke before I thought, I lived before contemplation of what may come. And then when I hit the ground and the only thing there to break my fall was my own self esteem - I stood up, brushed myself off, and realized only fools jump without a parachute.
Once upon a time I lived in a place where stars lit the night sky. I'd lay with my dad on a blanket out in the middle of our pasteur and search for constellations. I remember thinking that I could stare at those stars forever. And then I grew up and I gazed at the night sky less often. Stars were still beautiful but I appreciated them less because I took it for granted that I'd always be able to see them if I just looked 'up'.
Eight years ago I moved to a city where the night sky is filled with smog, reflections of bright lights, and airplane beacons. Sometimes we don't even realize what we're giving up to be somewhere else. Every once in a while either because of a black out, less pollution, or a slow air traffic control night - I can remind myself how beautiful stars can be. It's not as easy to spot the stars but if I look really hard, I can spy one far off in the distance. I never thought I'd miss them but that's usually what happens when we take something for granted and then suddenly - what was once assumed, now becomes what's wished for.
My daughter and I were out on our patio the other night looking up at the sky. It's so different than when I was a kid, star gazing with my dad. I always had hundreds of stars to wish upon and now if we find just one, we're actually pretty lucky. So there we were gazing up at the night sky and for whatever reason, the stars seemed more plentiful or brighter or maybe it was that we looked around the obstacles - but we saw them in all their glory. I taught Alice how to wish upon a star and as she sat on my lap chanting "Starlight, Starbright, I wish I may, I wish I might..." life seemed so uncomplicated. She closed her eyes and made her wish and I hugged her tight hoping that some of her innocence would rub off on me; I remember when I believed that wishes on stars actually came true. We sat there for awhile longer staring up at the stars I've promised never to take for granted again, and Alice points her chubby little finger towards the sky and says, "Look mommy, there's love in the sky." "Where," I asked? "Right there," she said stretching her arm even higher as if she could almost reach out and touch those stars. Even at the tender age of two I still have no doubt that she knows exactly what love is and that somewhere up there...she did see love. And you know what? As I sat there watching her believe in something, I didn't even have to strain my own eyes to see what she saw.
There's love in the sky. The same stars I see are the ones you gaze upon which makes the distance between us, less important. We are different people, we have different experiences, but in those moments we notice those tiny spots of wonder - we are the same.
This is a somber day which marks 5 years from the tragedy of 9/11 but maybe for one day, one night, we can search out those stars that have no boundaries, no dividing lines, no ownership. Maybe we can gaze up at the sky and see the love that Alice sees shining as brightly as her heart. Let that love carry you through. God Bless.
P.S. As a tribute to Musical Monday I've changed the music playing on my blog to one of my favorite artists Alice Peacock. The song is I'll Start With Me and it seemed fitting for today...have a listen.
I never get tired of looking into the eyes of my sweet Alice. It's not just because she's my child, it's because in her eyes I see the type of person she has the potential to be. I often wonder if my own parents looked into my eyes as a child and knew the kind of person I'd be when I grew up. Did they know that my heart would always stay tender even after picking up the broken pieces time after time? Did they know that babies and animals would always make me feel 'squishy' on the inside? Did they know I'd be strong enough to not only believe in my convictions but to practice them? I think they knew. When I look at Alice I know that after all the bumps and bruises she'll surely endure, the person that remains will be full of compassion and conviction. I know because every day that I still have a say...I'll teach her how important those things are. And even when she wanders off the path I hope she'll follow, those lessons will be there like a lighthouse in the storm, waiting her return.
Happy Half Nekkid Thursday
A little bit of humor for today...I'm standing on the El Platform waiting for the train and I notice this guy in a tight black shirt. His man boobs were easily detected and as grossed out as I was, I couldn't look away. I guess I was curious as to whether or not he knew he had man boobs and didn't care that the whole world now knew too, or that he really was oblivious. I'm not really making fun of him, maybe he can't help the extra little 'somethin somethin' he carries up top there. But, couldn't he be like a woman an cover it up with a loose shirt, a jacket, or at least not wear a skin tight shirt?
It got me thinking about what people think looks good, and what we know - doesn't. I could name a few....but then you'd think me bad and shallow and...well something less desirable than I really am. So I'll pose the question to you. What sort of fashion faux pas really make you do a double-take and shake your head in wonder?
I hope everyone had a nice long weekend to relax. I spent part of my weekend attending my 20 year high school reunion. At first I was reluctant to go because what could I possibly gain from going back to a place where so much pain was endured? It's not that the actual experience of high school was painful, it's the moments that went along with it. Some would look at my high school year book and think I had it good...there are pictures of me on the cheerleading squad, pictures of me at prom, pictures of me with my 'football player' boyfriend - but as we all know looks can be deceiving. Sure I had a lot of friends, I had boys that liked me or thought I was hot, but I also had an alcoholic father, a mother that had to travel for her job so she was absent for most of the important moments, a brother that tried to escape our reality by joining the Navy. I was for the most part - alone. But despite all the painful memories, I decided to go back to the place where so many moments defined who I was going to be for the rest of my life. Back to be with the people that stood there beside me sometimes noticing the sadness behind my smile but most times looking past it.
As I walked into the reunion my heart began to race. I clutched my husband's hand tighter and leaned in towards his shoulder. I needed him to hold me up in case I fell, he knows that sometimes I'm not the 'wonder woman' I play on tv. As we stood in line waiting to check-in I noticed a few familiar faces, faces that had aged just as mine had, faces that carried the wait of their own realities in the laugh lines around their mouths. They handed me a nametag with my senior picture printed on it. My husband laughed at my 80's hairdo and I had to remind him that back then, I was considered 'in style'. As we started to wander around the room I started to feel more comfortable when I noticed a few of the most popular girls and guys now were sporting bellies and receding hairlines. I know it seems kind of cruel to celebrate someone else's misfortune of losing their hair or gaining weight, but there was a sweet justice to it all that I couldn't ignore. Back then, those people thought they were untouchable but time had proved them wrong. We all stand within the reach of time don't we?
I mingled with a few of my old cheerleader buddies and just like back then, I felt out of place. I was always the one to stand out of the crowd, to make friends with the 'outcasts', the unpopular, the kids that no one else noticed. Some of the people I knew back then, were still the same. The same sour expressions still decorated their faces and I could tell that they hadn't figured it out yet - none of us are more special than anyone else. Part of me was relieved that I wasn't the same, I've traveled miles past that scared mixed up teenager that adorned those hallways. But part of me wishes that something remained, something that still resembled innocence, but life has a way of beating that out of you.
After making the rounds I finally saw the one person I'd actually come to this reunion for, my best friend. We'd lost touch many years ago when I moved to Chicago and part of her held resentment towards me for leaving her. But as we stood there looking at each other all that remained was the love we'd once felt. She was the sister I'd never had, I was the friend she always needed. She was one of those outcasts, the people no one noticed - but I noticed her. We talked for hours and I know that I will try my damnedest never to lose touch again.
As my husband and I got up to leave someone grabbed my arm, spun me around and kissed me on the cheek. As I looked up I saw the very first boy I'd ever kissed; I was in the 2nd grade. I'm amazed I can still remember hanging upside down from the monkey bars, grabbing a hold of his arms, and demanding he kiss me. He obeyed of course after all I was still wonder woman back then. We laughed as we reminisced about old times and he told me something I'll never forget. He said, "you're eyes are still the same, full of sadness yet softened by their hope for change." At first I wasn't sure what he meant and then I remembered he was the one and only classmate that ever saw my father intoxicated. My father came to pick me up from a school function 2 hours late and Joey waited with me on the playground until my father finally showed up. As my dad stumbled from the truck I remember my face burning with shame at the thought of someone else discovering my secret. Joey grabbed my hand as my father called out to me, "I'll never tell," he said. You know what? He never did tell and neither did I.
20 years out of high school is a long time but I discovered that no matter how many years pass between what was and what is, there are some things that remain the same. I never used to be grateful for that.