Thursday, May 9, 2013

Clarity

Everyone always says that hindsight is 20/20, but I never quite feel like I’ve reached the end of anything, so it’s hard to look back.  Every time I feel like I’ve figured something out or am standing on solid ground, the earth inevitably shakes again and I find myself hopping from one foot to another and attempting to grasp something that seems to be anchored better than I am.  I know things have changed, though.  That much I’m sure of.  The past two years have rushed past me at a constant speed.  Not because the world was moving, but because I was running.  These days I find that my pace has slowed down considerably and I’m spending more time looking around me—side to side, peeking down the path ahead, and now cautiously looking back over my shoulder.  Today the sun warms my shoulders and I can feel the soft grass beneath my bare feet.  The soft breeze carries the twinkle of the ice cream truck over the next hill and each time my daughter tugs on my hand it jingles the quarters in my pocket that will buy us strawberry ice cream cones.  As I watch her auburn curls bounce each time she giggles and dances around me, I’m filled with thoughts of how I will explain our lives to her one day.  I will have to explain to her all of the things that I’ve been through and what I’ve found.  Dark, moonlit nights and faint stars with icy sleet and tornadoes that dissipated as fast as they touched down couldn’t have led to this, right?  But they did.  Two years ago I never would’ve believed that I’d open previous entries of my blog only to gasp and shut them because I didn’t want to remember what I was thinking or feeling a year ago.  I didn’t want to read about those who had hurt me or how I had hurt myself.  But bruised knees, bloody lips, and broken heels led me to this.  Maybe diamonds are hiding in the gutter and if you wash that white dress enough the mud really does come out and it will dry soft and clean in the sun again.  I found more truths in the past two years than I ever knew I was looking for.
I found peace.  My daughter came to me the other night and asked me where my mother is.  She wanted to know her name, what she looked like, and why we don’t see her.  I had no anger in my heart.  I quietly thanked God for not letting the tears run down my cheeks as I told her that my mother looked just like me with blond hair and blue eyes, but she lived very far away and didn’t want us to visit her.  It didn’t hurt when I heard my mother’s name on my daughter’s lips.  What did hurt was when I tried to explain that my own mother didn’t want to see me and watch my three year old struggle with the idea that there were moms out there that didn’t want their children.  I assured her that I would always want to see her and that while there were good moms and bad moms in the world, I was certainly a good mom.  As she sat in my lap and I slowly traced the jaw line that she shares with me and my mother with my fingertip, I knew for certain that what I was saying is true.  I will always, always want to be with her.  Where anger once dominated my heart, a calmness now resides.  That is one candle I will never mourn being extinguished.
I found gratitude.  I remember feeling such a sense of entitlement in my 20s.  I deserved a big house, money, vacations, designer jeans, and anything else I wanted.  I realized how much all of those things don’t matter in my life.  The material things I felt I needed were replaced by the things that you can’t measure or see: when a friend reaches out to me to make sure I’m ok, knowing I’m welcome at my sister’s house when I feel lost, the look of love and recognition in a baby’s eyes when they see you, and how much comfort I can bring my daughter when she’s sick.  Today I know the joy of little surprises given to you by those who love you and the emptiness of expensive gifts given to you by those who want to use you.  When I really sit back and think about all of the places that I’ve lived, it wasn’t the biggest or the most expensive that made me happiest.  It was the people I lived with that filled my heart with love and contentment.  In my youth, the happiest I’d been was living in a shitty two bedroom apartment in Huntington Beach with my sister where we had no money, but more laughs than I can count.  That apartment only comes in second to the condo I now rent for me and my daughter, where there is more love and closeness than I felt possible in my life.  Do you know how it feels to sleep in on Sunday mornings and watch cartoons snuggled in bed with your daughter before you wake up and bake muffins in matching aprons?  If not, I hope you do one day.  For me, there is no feeling better in the world.
I found comfort in loss of control.  Hey, you. You can’t control the world.  You can’t make things happen on your own timetable exactly when you want.  Do you want to know what happens when you force a decision you’re not ready to make?  You make things harder.  You make the situation worse.  For type A personalities like myself, the hardest thing you can do is sit still when all you want to do is fix everything.  Do you know what you need to fix?  Yourself.  There are things in this world that are beyond your control.  Some decisions are not for you to make and there are times when you must wait.  I learned to sit still. I learned to wait.  And I learned to do both with a still heart.  Make decisions you are able to make and learn to put down and walk away from those things that you cannot.  It seems impossible to think about anything else when the weight of the world is on your shoulders and there is more pressure than you can bear, but you must.  You are missing the beautiful day outside.  You are missing your children’s giggles and daily accomplishments.  You are spending time lost in anxiety that you could be enjoying a snack.  Sounds silly, doesn’t it?  But it’s the truth.  I could’ve had a nervous breakdown over the past couple of years with all the variables that I could not control.  Instead I decided to do yoga, walk away, and of course dance.  No matter what is happening in your life, for God’s sake, dance.
I found that other people matter as much as I do.  It’s easy to be selfish, isn’t it?  Ignore people who love you, need you, and want to spend time with you because you’re stressed or tired or mad at the world for what it has let happen to you.  That’s all self-entitled crap if you ask me.  I don’t think that the universe makes mistakes.  We all have things happen to us that are supposed to happen.  It’s your job to learn from all of it and take what you should from every experience.  Learn your lessons or you will continue to repeat the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences over and over again.  If every person comes into your life for a reason, then you came into theirs for one too.  What is it?  Every time someone needs my help, I carefully remember how many people I leaned on through my darkest hours and where I would be if they were too busy with their own lives to sit and talk to me for the countless hours that I needed them.  I have my own problems and my own struggles, but I will never be too busy to talk to you if you need me.  Afterall, you are just as important in the world as I am and we are all here for a reason—good or bad, I’m listening and I hope you’re listening to me too.
I found forgiveness.  There are no perfect people in this world.  I am a person who keeps no secrets.  I don’t judge anyone.  I realize that we are all damaged in our own ways and we all make decisions and mistakes based on that damage.  Look what a mess I made.  Look at it.  Please look for me because I don’t like to look back myself. It would be very easy to believe that I am not worth finding a person to love and marry me and have babies with because of some of the things I’ve done.  But I don’t believe that.  I don’t think that someone who is raped is dirty.  I wouldn’t call a woman who likes sex a whore or one who likes to talk about their feelings needy.  I want to believe that we are all on our paths to be the best versions of ourselves.  Certainly some move slower than others and we all make mistakes, but in motion or standing still, we stand on those yellow brick roads.  I love who I am.  If I had to go back to who I was three years ago, I would be so disappointed.  Look at what I’ve become because of my struggles and mistakes.  If beauty is attained through struggle, then lotus should be the international symbol of the heart because it represents pure beauty as it grows up through the mud.  So here you sit, atop your own pile of mud.  One more rain storm and you’ll be washed clean again.  Enjoy the dew drops in the morning light and blow the stars hello kisses with me tonight.  You’ve made it.  You’re fine.  And if you haven’t made it yet, then keep pushing towards the sunlight.  It’s there. I promise.
I found faith.  Such a simple concept that gets interpreted into so many forms.  Faith in God, faith in the universe, in people you love, and most of all yourself.  Over these months and years trying to figure out who I am and what I believe and what I can always put faith in, I realized the person I trust most is myself.  I trust myself to see the truth, to trust the right people, to cut those out of my life who want to hurt or use me, to stand strong when I must, and to cry when I need to.  I’m told so often that I’m the strongest person anyone has ever encountered.  They don’t know how I made it through or dealt with what I have.  I was able to do it through faith.  Even in my darkest hour, I knew that I could always take care of my daughter.  I knew I could carry on.  Whether I was looking forward a month, a week, the end of the day, or praying to survive the next hour, the voice in my head was always present.  Encouragement has to come from someone.  Someone must tell you that it’s going to be ok.  I’ll tell you until you believe it the way I’ve told myself over and over again.  Have faith in yourself to deal with any situation.  Know that you can handle it.  That people will be there to catch you.  That you will make the right decisions for your heart, your family, and in your life.  Trust yourself above all else and anyone else.  Meditate.  Pray.  Sleep.  Write.  Find yourself and what you believe and don’t ever let go of that.  Because through all of this, that is what I learned.  It’s what I came to at the end of all of this—the pain and suffering and love mixed with despair, hope, and darkness lit by the stars and planets above.  It was a faith that no misfortune could truly ever kill.  It was a candle that would never go out and will never go out.
I found myself.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

She'll always be Gemini twins

It's hard to figure out where you belong in the world.  We build these structures and absolutes around ourselves to protect us.  To insulate us from the world, but one day we have to realize that everything is temporary.  You can lose your job, your spouse can leave you, your parents die, and people you thought would be there forever leave you.  I feel like my whole life has been a lesson on reminding me not to depend on anyone or rely on anybody but myself.  I'm the only thing that's constant.  That mindset doesn't do much for my sense of belonging or family or finding my place in the world.  It only ensures that I'll be alone.  Competent and functional, but alone.  I think the hardest thing for someone like me is to not be in control of situations in all aspects of my life--family to work and my love life too.
I always say that there's no power struggle in me, but I've been thinking a lot about what that really means.  I'm a passionate person.  I have strong feelings and opinions on pretty much everything.  I like to joke that I don't have time in my life or space in my heart for hatred so I either love you or I nothing you.  I nothing a lot of people and things.  It's just a fancy way of saying that I don't care.  I know I can survive any situation. I know I can do it all on my own.  Does that mean I should not care about most people and situations because I can get away with it?  I'm thinking that's just another way that I protect myself from letting someone be part of my life and having people impact me.  If someone upsets me or disappoints me, I'm good at turning my emotions off.  I go dead inside and emotionally retreat.  I remind myself that I don't care and I move on.  But there are some people I can't deny that I care about and there are situations that are beyond my control that impact me whether I want them to or not.  I'm struggling with relearning how to deal with all of these emotions again.  It's ok for me to feel hurt, betrayed, helpless, panicky, desperate, and just sad. I'm sad.  I guess there are times when I see myself and have to acknowledge that no matter how much progress I've made, there is still a long way to go.  I will forever be a work in progress and that's ok. 
I don't think the universe makes mistakes.  I truly believe that you have to trust the world to help you fall into place.  When you get into a bad situation, the walls will crumble around you and they will keep crumbling until you find where you belong.  Doesn't everything always work out in the end?  I went through the hardest two years of my life, but I'm here on the other side happier than I had ever been.  That must be proof.  I'm also in a very different situation than I thought I would be in: I'm a single mom renting a condo with her kiddo.  I spend the nights that she's away from me miserable and wanting her.  I go in late to work to spend one more hour in the morning with her.  My happiest moments are the ones where I hear her voice and feel her hand near mine.  I have felt stronger love being a mother than I ever believed I was capable of.  That goes for my child and my sisters' children as well.  Speaking about my kids is the one trigger that will always bring me to life on an emotional level.  They are the one thing that truly matters and always will.  But they are not all mine--my sisters are their mothers and their lives are not governed by my choices.  It's a hard thing to know that I cannot always be there as a source of comfort to them as things change in their young lives.  It's a burden that should not weigh heavily on me, but it does.  I have the urge to protect their parents as much as I want to protect them.  It's the one place in my life that I cannot go dead inside.
It's the duality of this situation that strikes me.  How can I love some people so much and separate from others?  Maybe nobody can separate completely from the world.  Maybe we all have our soft spots for people that we can't shut out.  If I was going to make any exceptions, certainly family would be one of the best ones.  But your family is not always blood related, is it?  There comes a time when you decide to pick a spouse and share your life with them.  There's a tremendous amount of trust associated with that, especially with my child involved.  There's also the compulsion on my part to retreat from emotion and operate on the plane of logic that I seem to take so much comfort in.  That behavior is not conducive to a healthy relationship and I know it.  I'm struggling with so many variables trying to date someone seriously as a single mom.  You don't just get me.  You get my kid, her dad, my parents and sisters, my nephew and nieces, the best friends, the ex boyfriends, my coworkers, even my cat.  I make the decision that this person is worthy and I introduce him into my network.  I'm acutely aware that if he betrays me, he fails everyone I know, including my daughter.  Clearly my protectiveness of my family, especially the children, makes it extremely difficult for me to let someone in.  I shouldn't nothing men that I date and bring home to my little girl.
So what happens when you feel like someone you've given a chance fails you or disappoints you?  I remember why I wanted to be single for so long.  I think about how simple my life is without a partner.  I make a mental list of everything they contribute to my life.  Then I sigh.  I wonder if I really believe in true love and I wonder if the damage that has been done to me will be too much to overcome--it'll cause me to nothing you and allow you to stay near me, but not really allow myself to have an emotional connection again.  Seems like such a pathetic failure of an experiment to me.  Everyone seems to want their relationships to appear perfect.  We don't want to admit to mistakes or shortcomings.  The people we love should appear perfect, even though they hurt us or act stupidly or selfishly.  I started disliking the institution of marriage just because I felt like I had to hide my ex's behavior.  I worried what everyone would think of me for staying with him after the things he did or said to me when I felt that I'd done nothing to deserve them.  I don't ever want to be in that situation again, but there's a part of me that understands that it's inevitable.  People disappoint you and you don't want to talk badly about your spouse, so it ends up a secret.  I'm not sure how to resolve that.  The idea of it just makes me sad.
Maybe I've been single long enough to forget what it's really like to be in a relationship.  Maybe I've come to lean on people in my life so much that I don't know how to function without the idea of them being with me.  I think I'm just sad tonight and I haven't felt this way in a few weeks and maybe that's why I haven't written until now.  I can tell you that I've traveled this country and thought really hard about who I am and where I belong over the past two years and I do believe that I'm a California girl.  I belong at the beach.  I've lived here for 14 years and I love my friends, family, and coworkers dearly. I couldn't imagine leaving and I feel justified in my decision to stay.  I wish I owned a home so I felt more permanent, but I can't do anything about that just yet.  My house I own with my ex is on the market and I pray daily for it to sell and that final string to be cut.  I need that burden to be lifted from my chest because I don't know how much longer I can support it without suffocating.  I feel so empty these days. So detached.  Like I've been dancing in the clouds and I can look back and see my footprints in the pink fairy dust, but one gust of wind and they're gone.  I still don't have anything concrete to rest my head on, except my own hands or my daughter's head when she's finding solace in the sound of my heartbeat.  I suppose I'm finding comfort in the sound of hers as well.
Maybe I just expect too much of myself.  Maybe I give too much of myself away to my friends and family who need me.  I still sit alone and cry my selfish tears.  I wish someone loved me enough to put my feelings and needs first sometimes.  I would love to feel that one day.  I try so hard to give myself and love everyone as hard as I can so they know what it feels like to be respected and valued and supported.  Today I'm feeling drained.  Used up.  Take a picture of my footprints in the fairy dust.  Maybe catch some in a pendent and hang it around my neck.  I'm afraid whispers in the dark won't do any longer and neither will prayers.  I need some proof.  If things are not falling into place as they should and always do in the end, then I guess it's not the end yet.  I just hope it comes soon.  For now, sleep with have to do.