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.