Refusing to grow into the person you are meant to be is like being the re-used rag that has soaked too long in a bucket of filthy water. You just keep swirling around in the warm, germy soup that breeds the same situations over and over again. You had a purpose in the beginning but now you are just stagnant and used up. But what if crawling out of the stagnation that you once were means the people that ‘get you’ start to hate you? Is it that they really just prefer the you that was dormant in the bucket of filthy water or have you turned into a colossal asshole in your journey? Is your concept of yourself just as distorted as your voice sounds when you finally hear yourself recorded? Significant changes are thrust upon us. The girl I once was couldn’t have handled the strength and determination and just plain stubbornness it takes to keep a marriage thriving. Becoming a parent then blows the remnants of who you were away all together and you either rise out of the ashes fiercely like a phoenix or your children limp along in the destruction you couldn’t shelter them from. There is no success or failure, there are many successes and failures and you will never again be the person you once were. Even if the people you once counted on no longer ‘get you.’ Two years ago I reconnected with a much beloved coach on Facebook. After being my cyber friend for a few months she commented on one of my posts that she didn’t remember me ever being funny in high school. I wasn’t. I’m not funny now. What I am, is very hard to embarrass. When I write, I take all the mistakes I’ve made, the embarrassing moments, the wrong turns, social gaffes, character flaws, bad decisions, narcissistic ramblings and write them down for everyone to see instead of hiding them away. I’m like my own 80s sitcom without the ratings or income. Or stunt doubles. I do all my own stunts. Carny gamesPutting my thoughts to paper is a stunt all in itself. It’s like I’m strapped to that giant pinwheel of death in the middle of the circus ring. Blindfolded and spreadeagled. Slowly turning topsy turvy while I’m waiting for the ringmaster to throw the knives. But it’s not just the ringmaster. It’s the faceless crowd that might not even find me worthy enough to attend the show. I haven’t yet decided if it is a strike to the heart when people are offended by my words or worse when they aren’t moved at all. Either way, it’s a blow to who I am. Because what I write isn’t amusement for me, it’s really sharing a piece of my soul. I’m unwrapping the pretty layers to show the core of me. Who I used to me, who I am now, who I want to be in the future. It’s not always pretty, witty or entertaining. It’s not always what you want to hear. It can be offensive. It can be boring. It can be uninteresting. Sometimes I manage funny. But it’s always me. tortureThey say that what you fear doing the most is usually what you most need to do. My translation of that feels like you have to sign up on the roster for torture. You start with dreams you were scared to birth and don’t know how to nurture, move into doubt and humiliation, throw in some debasing and suffering, and perhaps have loved ones dismiss and berate you for a spiffy finish. Going after your dream is not for the feint of heart. I’ve had two experiences lately that have comforted me in my moments of doubt and vulnerability. The first was attending a crafting weekend. I don’t consider myself crafty and my identity isn’t tied up around making a tangible piece of art. I just wanted to enjoy a kid free weekend with my friends in a pretty location. I brought my supplies to finish an embroidery I started for my children. When in Rome… It was a great weekend. I ate like I had never seen food before and re-addicted myself to sugar. I stayed up late whispering to my friends and I actually completed a few embroidery pieces that I’m proud to display. I can tell you that it wouldn’t have been a blip on my radar if I had ruined my art and had to feed it to the bonfire of disastrous experiences. But that’s because I’m not an artist. My art was not a physical representation of my identity. It was easy to pick out the true artists there based on how gently they discussed others ongoing work. It had nothing to do with how competent they were with their art. It wasn’t about the art, it was about the person baring their soul for others to share. The true artists understood that and tread softly. So softly. either way My second experience was a conversation I had with a celebrated artist. I had seen his work in a gallery, he has obtained many significant awards and milestones in his chosen field. When I looked at his work, it was obvious to me that he was extremely talented. It came as a surprise to me when he shared his insecurities with me. A critic had been particularly dismissive and nasty about the piece we were discussing. I was thinking to myself it would be easy for him to dismiss the people that criticized his art as it’s apparent he is talented and amazing. Surely he knows how amazing he is and could brush this off? Is it possible to brush it off regardless of your outward success? Maybe not, and this is somehow a comfort to me. bleedI think it’s less that I’ve turned into a colossal asshole and more so that I’ve become something that could resemble a rotten piece of fruit to those that no longer ‘get me.’ Because sometimes the growth is ugly. Career, marriage, parenting and life in general have hardened my outer core. It’s strong so it can support the weight of the burdens I carry. Fallen from the tree and my outer shell bruised and hardened by the sun and weather. But then soft and extra mushy on the inside like fruit going bad because finding my purpose and sharing it with the world has made me extra sensitive. It could be sour and rancid or maybe it will ferment and turn into wine. Maybe it is worth being hated for the real me I’ve worked hard to become. Having no one ‘get you’ because the real you isn’t as nice or pretty anymore. But it’s real. It’s real and it’s not stagnant. Writing funny blurbs on Facebook is leagues away from taking the thoughts in my head and displaying them in a real way. I am all that is happy, happy, joy, joy on Facebook. I don’t argue on Facebook, I don’t post anything negative on Facebook and I try my hardest not to cuss. no self Facebook is for funny and pretty and my blog is my soul. I just had no idea until AFTER I started my blog that it would be such a difference for me. I sat down and thought my blog would just be a longer version of a Facebook post. But my fingers take over and type out something real. You know what? People really prefer that pleasing outer shell. But it’s too late. I’ve already crawled out of the warm comfort of the stagnant water.
These days I feel like my mom is our family Titan, Atlas. Condemned to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. This seemingly endless season of her life has seen her carrying the weight of her own mothers death, the weight of being a mother again for two of her precious grandchildren when her own health is failing, providing endless financial assistance when she has pennies to give, unflagging loyalty to family members that have long since lost the support of the rest of the family, grace and friendship to an ex-husband that needed help when his own health spiraled him to the cusp of death. A strong shoulder for those that just couldn’t make it without the unflagging love and counseling, dogged determination to be a good grandmother to the children that don’t live in her vicinity, and a constant supply of good cheer for her daughter that can’t handle the thought of her mother being overwhelmed with the weight of this family. When she can’t supply actual good cheer, she fakes it for me so I don’t sit at home worrying about her. In addition to the weight of our family, she is now under the weight of medical issues of her own that need to be resolved quickly. But she can’t because my grandfather is in need. He is ill and has been in the hospital for over 100 days. Today she learned that my grandfather will never be going back to his home. He will never again walk into the home he built with his own two hands. Back into the home that holds his memories and his treasures. He is a man facing what is perhaps his biggest fear. The loss of his freedom, the loss of his home, the loss of life as he knows it. And my mom is there to help her father shoulder this impossible burden. Because she is a Titan. She needs someone to carry the load and pick up the burden. Someone to give her a helping hand and provide support. A respite so she can focus on her own health. But no one else in this family is a Titan.
If I had a nickel for every time my children made me hang my head in shame with the realization that I have taken my own mother for granted in a million different ways my entire life, I’d have a huge bag of nickels to swing around to give myself a black eye over the shame of it. Probably two big bags to swing in each hand to give myself an actual concussion. Okay, fine. We could fill a giant car wash up with huge bags of nickels attached to the machinery instead of brushes. Then I could run through it and come out the other end bruised and battered just like I’m sure my mothers heart felt when I’d take her for granted day after day. Year after year. My kids will never feel that particular crushing guilt as I explain in detail exactly what I’m doing for them. I’d make a pie chart and graph to use as visual examples if I thought it would help me make my point. Pack your bags kids, we are going on a guilt trip! politeEvery so often a topic will come up to make me call my mom to apologize profusely. My mom just laughs and tells me that she really wanted to spend every single weekend driving me to my academic and sporting commitments and never truly wanted a single moment or dollar to spend on herself instead of me. I can never tell if she is telling the truth or if her level of sarcasm is just that advanced. Guilt trips aside, I have a great relationship with my mother. If you took out all the years and relationship between us, we would still have enough in common to be friends. We have enough interests in common that if we were strangers that spent a weekend together, we would have a great time. When we talk on the phone, we can talk for hours. My dad and I love each other, but if you took out all the relationship and family discussions, we don’t have that much in common. Not really. We both love to read, but that conversation can’t sustain an entire relationship. softballMy dad would be one of the loudest parents in the stands when I played any sport. Hell, he got kicked out of many, many of my softball games. I would be pitching and he would be standing behind the fence less than 2 feet from the umpire. The tantrums and profanity and seizure like fits he would throw when the umpire did not acknowledge the awesomeness that was his daughter would make my heart swell. I knew I had just pitched a ball, but I still liked it when my dad was rabid with disbelief that pitch wasn’t a perfect strike in the umpires mind. But the years pass and you grow up. You move away. You begin your own life as an adult. Your parents are no longer herding you to your various activities, watching you for hours, discussing your views and opinions for the 4 hour drive home. memoryI’m not a teenager living at home and my dad is very much homebound. I live far away and he cannot travel to see me. The things that bonded us together when I was a child are distant memories of what used to be. It’s not that we don’t talk, my father calls me more than any other person. He calls because he loves me and he loves my kids. I cherish each and every one of those calls but those calls last at most 15 minutes. Once we verify the weather and the health of everyone, we don’t have much to break down into lengthily conversations. Not because we don’t want to have those conversations, it’s because he stayed my parent and we never developed into friends. The love is there, but not the friendship. Maybe it’s harder for a daughter to become her fathers friend than her mothers friend. That is such a shame. I wish someone had told me that once I get past the growing up stage, finding common ground to continue an actual friendship with my parents was going to be important. I wish I had known that it was just as important for me to find interest in my father as it was for him to find interest in me. A Silver Alert of sorts. More like a salt and pepper, prematurely gray timeframe warning. A cautionary warning to not lose your parents in the shuffle. But life isn’t stagnant and amazing moments are always around the corner. Marriage books are full of advice on the importance of having hobbies and activities in common with your spouse. My husband is from Texas, he was raised on a ranch, and he was in the military. The man likes guns. He just does. I am not opposed or afraid of guns as I am also from Texas and my family is thick in both law enforcement and vague historical criminal escapades all up and down the family tree. Guns aren’t something new. I just never got excited about going to the gun range or hunting. A gun is just another tool. You don’t use a tool unless you know exactly how to operate it. In an effort to become proficient in the tools we own and to truly understand an activity that my husband enjoys, I attended a very informative, very detailed, very professional class to become familiar with my gun. Well…my gun in the sense that my husband handed it to me along with my protective eye and ear gear, my ammunition, my holster and some water to tide me over during class. I had no idea what he actually handed me. I was too busy making sure my new sassy gun range boots were coordinated with my new cammo top. 1911 45Basically he handed me a gun meant to take down a bear. And not just any bear. A raging Polar bear chasing me down on a frozen tundra with its only blood crazed thought to rend me limb from limb and chew my guts and bones like a tasty seal that was separated from it’s herd. He handed me a 1911 .45 ACP Sig Sauer. It’s the monster truck of guns. I didn’t notice the looks of consternation from the men standing alongside me at the gun range or the fact that my ammunition and my gun were a lot bigger than theirs. But they noticed. I did notice the looks and words of praise from the instructor when I demolished my target with accuracy and skill. I’m pretty sure I’d be a wet bloody spot on the snow if a Polar Bear attacked me, but that paper target was toast under my steely eyed, sassy new boots, cammo wearing determination. Which isn’t bad as lifting my gun was like hefting a bowling ball after a 5 hour class. I leave the class content with my new certificate, my newfound compatible interest with my husband and I had no idea I had just opened a new door of communication with my father. I called him that night thinking he would vaguely be interested to know that I had attended this class. Little did I know that I had just hit the relationship jackpot. I may have spoken to my father more in the past month than I had spoken with him in the past 3 years combined. Now when he calls, I have to make sure I have a block of time to actually have a conversation. I took the time to grow. I took the time to be interested in something new. I spent 5 hours to change my thoughts and it changed my world. I found my missing salt and pepper prematurely gray parent. When your parent can become your friend once you begin your journey as an adult, it makes the world a better place to live in.
Sometimes your blessings smell like cow sh*t. Life is big in Texas. The roots run deep and so do the highways. If you are blessed enough to travel the great state, at some point you are going to be in the car and you are going to pass a working ranch or a feedlot. The car will fill up with a rank odor that is biting and distinctive. It can pull up your gag reflex or spring your tearducts into motion. Closed vents can’t repel it and the slow moving tractor on the one lane highway in front of you will ensure you will linger in the area long enough to absorb it deep into your lungs. For most people, the entire situation is nauseating. For a specific few, that is the smell of their blessing. “Smells like Money!” We all think we can recognize a good thing when we see it, but that is a sweet, sweet lie. Bless your heart. What we like is something different in a compelling package. Too bad the people with the most beautiful souls and the original thoughts don’t come in a compelling package. More often than not, they have a lot of aspects that nobody claps for. Our language tells the tale; anti-social, non-conformists, rebels, rejects, the odd ducks, black sheep, the loners. We want to be seen as unique but we place negative monikers on others. We don’t see that value because it’s not in a package that we like. bethatgirl We’ve all seen some version of quotes telling us to be original. The the kid using the ballet bare like a jungle gym. Be that girl. Hmmm. Be the kid on the bar, but in truth…someone has captured a snapshot that frames the ‘odd duck’ in a positive light that allows you to focus in on the brilliance of this child. It’s a brilliant package. It is probably even accurate. But you didn’t see it. Someone showed it to you. But I would argue that what most of us would have a hard time separating the chaff from the wheat to see the brilliance. What if what you see is your child goofing off in a class you just paid a ton of money for? You took off work to pick her up and drive her across town to make this inconveniently timed class, she’s ripping a hole in her ONLY pair of pink tights, and the instructor is giving you the fish eye from the side because she’s breaking the barre from the wall and disrupting the class. crazyI have a child that daydreams in the middle of the soccer field while the entire game happens around her. When she focuses on the game she does just fine. Then she gets that look in her eyes and she does something along the lines of putting her arms out and flies in circles, or she puts her hands up to her chest and hops like a bunny, or she has entire conversations with an imaginary person on the other side of the field, or she dances to a tune that only she can hear. I’m fairly certain that for her the world blurs out and becomes as mystical as wonderland. Which is amazing if you are not her mom standing on the sidelines of the soccer game. To be honest, I have a hard time seeing the brilliance of that moment. You would think that I would be able to smile from the sidelines with peace in my heart. The calm peace of a dreamer that has experienced life through the similar blur of wonderland. A protective bubble of being one degree off normal. But I don’t because this isn’t just some soccer game on a field full of wildflowers. Call me crazy, but I see it as a metaphor for her entire life. I love my little dreamer and I wouldn’t change her a bit. Her heart and spirit and imagination are going to fuel her life experiences and color her world with flavor and texture and wonder. It’s just that I already know some of the obstacles ahead and they are intense. castleBeing ‘that kid’ doesn’t necessarily mean her life is going to be easy and fun and full of happiness. It might mean she is going to struggle more because of it. A lot more. She is on a field full of flowers in wonderland and I am on the sidelines watching her team, her coach, and the crowd scream and yell at her in anger and judgement. They don’t see a black and white snapshot with a motivational caption to be ‘that kid.’ They see a teammate that just let the other team score a goal. Again. No one is clapping. Being a beautiful dreamer means that during key moments when people may be depending on you, you may not be doing what you are supposed to be doing. It’s going to tick people off and it’s going to get you into trouble. It’s going to have consequences and it might smell like cow sh*t to people that don’t know any better. The crowd is not going to recognize the good thing when they see it. It’s a good thing you are already starting to learn how to take the bad experiences in with the good to add flavor to your wonderland. trickyOriginals are not just original when it’s lovely and convenient. They are not just original when they swoop in to save the day with their brilliance or creativity. They will be original whenever they feel like it. Pretty much every hour of every day. Because while you think they see two roads and travel the path less traveled, they don’t even see two roads. They might not even see one road. They just push forward the only way they know how. Easy or hard. Hero or reject. Save the day or crash and burn. Maybe even decades of hard and brutal consequenses before your dream and originality morphs into something beautiful. The process of becoming something wondrous isn’t always a snapshot for a motivational poster. Don’t ask her to be herself and then punish her for it. I will support you and rejoice as you dance madly on the lip of the volcano. I will love the parts of you that no one claps for. It’s just hard to watch from the sidelines.