Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lessons from 42

It's a month until my 43rd birthday. I'm not dead yet.

If you've been reading my blog for a while you probably know that I was very afraid to turn 40. For many reasons, but mostly because when my mother was 40 years old she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was in high school at the time and it seems very big and very scary. She also seemed "old". Not grandma old, but mom old.

If you are a teenager reading this, I am here to tell you that forty is not old. Also, get off my lawn.

I turned forty and basically nothing happened (to my health anyway). Now I'm almost 43 and I'm...happy.

Happy.

My life is so far from perfect that the word happy almost seems like a farce sometimes. The last two years or so have brought some of the greatest challenges I've ever faced.  I've had to make some tough decisions. I've had to face some really painful, terrible things. Parenting adults is completely uncharted territory and I have felt more lost and alone at times than I ever have in my entire life. My dog Ginger, my sweet, precious Ginger, is not long for this world.

There is more, so much more, that does not need to be said. I have challenges. Everyone does.

I'm less afraid though. Recently I read a quote by Tina Fey:

"Say yes. You'll figure it out afterward".

That resonated with me, so deeply. I said yes to something the next day that I had been wavering about and my life has been changing in so many ways. It's different, but it's right for me. It's where I need to be.

One thing that I have continued to struggle with is shame. I have deep, almost all-encompassing shame sometimes about my past.

I have made so many mistakes in my life. I have made so many decisions that were detrimental to not only me, but other people around me. I have believed, been taught, and expressed things that were, frankly, horrendous.  I have said so many times that I am so thankful that the internet did not exist when I was younger. It did exist, but the proliferation of social media in the last few years has really changed how the world connects. I have Facebook. I have Instagram. I am on LinkedIn. People can look me up, including the stupid thoughts I had eight years ago. If the stupid thoughts I had twenty years ago were available for public consumption, many of you would not like me. I certainly would not like myself.

I'm working on letting go of this shame. When you know better, you do better. I didn't know  then, and I do know now. I have zero fear, ZERO, of saying, "I was wrong. I made a bad decision. I know better now. Please forgive me."

It's...freeing.

I recently had this conversation with my children in which I said I was sorry. That for so many, long years I was so angry and bitter and hurt and I know that shaped the way I parented them. They are full of grace, both of them, and immediately said I was a good mom...a great mom, and they understood. They get how my past shaped who I was. They knew I was doing my best. They were proud of me for getting my ass into therapy every week, even though it's hard, even though it hurts, even though it's so painful to own your own crap.

They are precious. They are worth owning my own crap.

I want to tell you, if you are reading this:

It is okay to say you were wrong.
It's okay to admit you didn't know.
It's okay to GROW.


I'm growing.

It feels amazing.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Love finds a way

Let it be known: I was not supposed to ever live in North Carolina.

It was early 1997 and my parents moved. That's not what is supposed to happen, right? The kids are supposed to grow up and move away and the parents are supposed to stay in the exact same spot for the rest of their lives and everyone comes and visits and grandma bakes cookies and all that noise. I was sure of it, because that's what I had always seen on television.

My parents moved though, to this little town in North Carolina. 

Which was, to be honest, really pretty when I visited. Different. The sky was so big and so blue (and, as my dad helpfully pointed out, really no bigger than the sky anywhere else, just not blocked by the mountains). Lord knows I could barely understand a word anyone said, but to be fair I'm sure "East Tennessee" isn't the easiest to understand either.  It didn't matter, North Carolina was not my home.

Until it was, through a series of really painful experiences that I currently have not the strength to rehash. Things had to change, for a lot of reasons, and part of that change was North Carolina.

Where, through a series of painful and sometimes hilarious experiences, I met Jason. 

Who I definitely was never going to marry.

Until I did. That was fifteen years ago,  today.


*Not a picture from the actual proposal, but so darn cute I had to share.

A lot of things have happened in the last fifteen years. Some really, really good and some really, really bad. That's life, of course. No one expects anything different. 

What I didn't expect, I guess, is that I would love this man as much as I do.

That sounds weird, I guess, but honestly the day I married him I was so in love with him I could not imagine spending one second of my life without him. Now, fifteen years later I can fully acknowledge there have been moments during which I thought, "UGH. GET AWAY", and at the same time, I cannot imagine spending one second of my life without him EVEN HARDER. EXTRA. WITH CHEESE.

*14th anniversary. I promise Jason was not as alarmed as he looks.

I can't even explain it. Well, I could try to explain it, but I think I would probably fail.
*13th anniversary after a really sweaty hike to a waterfall. Why on EARTH did we not get married in November? Holy crap.

Love is weird, I guess. In good ways and bad ways. I've always steadfastly maintained that he is not my best friend, because best friend seems to denote someone you can be fully comfortable with. I am comfortable with him (very), but I always want to try for him. I want to look nice for him. I want to make effort for him. I never leave the bathroom door open when I pee. That might just be a personal thing though.
*12 anniversary at the waterfront in New Bern. After that we went to Pepsi museum and no I'm not kidding.
 

 At twenty-seven, I didn't really see the future. I mean, I did in some ways. I had a job and a house and whatnot, but I didn't think about aging and our health and our careers and the places life would take us. I swear I never thought about what it really means to have two kids in college at the same time, what would happen if one of us got sick. I still cannot think about what would happen if one of us died, what would be left behind. I can't. 

Not today anyway.

Today I will think about how I loved this man so much, I let him be my family. 








 
And how somehow a boy who grew up in Connecticut and a girl who grew up in East Tennessee just happened to be in North Carolina at the same time. Just happened to meet each other. Just happened to fall in love and just happened to decide, yeah. This is it. This is what love is supposed to feel like. This is what family is supposed to feel like. I really mean this. This man is the truth.





I don't know if we'll ever move away from North Carolina. Maybe away from this town, maybe to the cooler, more mountainous side of the state, but there is a certain something that draws us back here. Something, perhaps that drew us here in the first place. Fate? God? I don't know. 

All I know is I love. this. man.

Now, forever, no matter where we live, no matter where we move, no matter what illness happens, no matter how much medication costs, no matter what our job situation is, no matter what. 

It's him. It's me. It's us. It's not perfect, but it's exactly what it's supposed to be.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

This ordinary life

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.- Sigmund Freud

Looking in: things have been less than beautiful as of late.
Looking ahead: we will see it. Oh, we will.

Speaking to a friend the other day and she asked, sincerely, "How have you been?"
I told her, I'm okay. I'm better than I was the last time we spoke.
Her reply was sympathetic, "You've had a rough year so far."

My thought? 

Sister, you don't know the half of it. I haven't even shared some of the worst of it.

So many things are so hard. So painful.
So, so beautiful.

In the pain, I am clinging. Sometimes I feel like I'm just clinging to my sanity in general, but in reality I am clinging to my sweet husband and the beautiful, loving marriage and family we have built. I am clinging to my children, who I have grown even closer to it in the last few months. I have tremendous appreciation for my constant, most faithful companion, My Ginger, even as a I see her slide downward. The five of us are like a small gang, fiercely protecting one another from each and every storm.

I have grown closer to my sweet parents, who are always willing to share a meal and a conversation. It's such a blessing to be looked after, especially when you have to do so much looking after of others. It is so nice to have conversations that aren't laced with anger and/or pain.

I have the most amazing, precious group of female friends who know what I need even if I don't say a word. Who continually check in and look out. Who say, "I got you" when I don't even realize I need it. Who sustain me, who love me unconditionally, and who guide me with the most beautiful, blessed wisdom that only a group of women can provide. 

They are beautiful and our friendship is beautiful. They know the raw, ugly parts and they love me even still. 

There are blessings in the pain. In every hurt. 

I have drawn ever closer to my Jesus. Every morning in my quiet reflection and prayer. He is my steering wheel, not just my spare tire. My gentle guidance, the hand on my shoulder. Twice in recent weeks I made decisions that I almost felt uneasy about. Like I was going to go somewhere and I felt so, so strongly that I shouldn't go. Hours later I realized that God was looking after me, keeping me safe. It was so scary and yet, it was so powerful. 

I forget sometimes that I am so loved. 

Even in the storms. I am so, so loved.


My whole life I wanted to be ordinary. I guess that sounds funny, right? My brain isn't ordinary though, and I always knew that. I always had something about me that made me weird. Then as an adult I was obese and my body was weird and people made fun of me (those people sucked). I had problems that I felt like made me really weird. I hadn't done everything I needed to do and that was all just weird and terrible and I was a freak.

I prayed for an ordinary life. A husband who loved me, children, a decent job, and pretty white house with black shutters and a red door. Well, actually, when the children were babies I prayed for a little  two-bedroom row house on a tiny piece of land because I thought that was all I could ever hope for. I didn't know then, I didn't even dare to dream it.

I got the husband. Last night we were listening to comedy on the radio (because, apparently, we are one thousand years old) and the comedian was telling the typical marriage jokes. If you listen to comedians I  guess you would think, "Why would anyone want to get married?". Jason said, "I laugh because it's funny, but I don't feel that way about you". I don't feel that way about him either. He became my husband and then he became my family. It didn't happen immediately, but when it did? It felt exactly like I always knew it was supposed to. 

In addition to the husband I got the kids. One boy, one girl. The dog with one pointy ear and one floppy ear. When I bought the house it was white with black shutters and I replaced the black door with a red one. My job, while sometimes soul-sucking and challenging, pays the bills. More than that it has brought so many wonderful, kind, hard-working, sweet friends into my life. When you're all going through Hell, you keep going...together. 

The Girl, my Megan, is graduating from community college in five days. My son, my Jon, has already graduated. She's been accepted at  her next school, he's already there. Soon, too soon, they won't be in my life every single day. Soon, too soon, Ginger will no longer be snoring at my feet. This house with it's beautiful red door already seems big...Jason and I have been looking at mountain houses with big windows and hiking trails. A simpler life. A quieter place. Maybe a life a little less ordinary.

We will see.

Right now from the outside everything seems pretty chaotic. You get bitter or you get better and I'm choosing better.




Two weeks ago on Saturday, Jason made sure I went outside. I don't have to say I'm struggling for him to know I am and when I am he leads me. In the woods, where I'm happiest, where I feel closest to God. We came across a little bench that was clearly made for three.

"One day we'll have a bench like this in our yard," he told me. "We will have a little grandchild and the three of us will sit together and say crazy things and laugh."

One day, Jason and I will sit together in our little bench and smile at each other over our grandchild's head. One day we'll snuggle up in bed and say, "Do you remember back in 2018 and all that crazy stuff?" We'll wonder, then, how did we survive? We'll say, "Man, that was so hard."

We'll talk about all the moments, all the little glimmers of love and hope and joy, that kept us together. That remind us that the hard stuff is so tough, but so are we. 


We'll be thankful, just so thankful it's an ordinary life. 

Just an ordinary, beautiful, precious life.




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Twenty

I don't know how it's possible, since I'm pretty sure I'm only twenty-seven or something, but today you are twenty years old.

We made it through infancy, the toddler years, the abject horror that is middle school, and now? We've made it through the teen years too.

We survived.

We thrived. Don't tell me otherwise.

Hopefully, you've forgiven me for being so young and stupid and reckless when I had you. I had nothing, absolutely nothing to give you. Nothing of any value. Just love, love, love. So much love. So many laughs. Just my big, silly heart.

You took it and you loved me. You loved me for exactly the stupid, crazy, insane fool I was. I am.

We all grew up together, the three of us. We're all still getting to where we need to be.

Now, in so many ways, the two of you are the guides.

This world that you are navigating is not the world I grew up in. People talk so much smack about the people your age (if I hear one more word about Tide Pods I'm going to scream, I swear), but I see you and your whole generation so differently. You all are so much more, in so many ways. So open-hearted, so generous, so kind, so accepting. You have so many ideas, and so, so many dreams. You and your friends are good people. You are examples for us all.

You are hope.

You are my hope.

You make me so proud, every day of my life. I can never tell you enough.

It's not perfect. None of it. It never will be and I would never trade one second of the life I've had with you. For anything, ever.


Happy Birthday, babies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

So this is love...

So this is love, hmm
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I'm all aglow, hmm
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings, hmm
And I can fly
I'll touch every star in the sky
So this is the miracle
That I've been dreaming of

That's really pretty, isn't it? It's from Cinderella. I'm not a Disney person, but I do love that song.

I was a weird kid (as probably evidenced by the fact that I'm also a weird adult). I never dreamed of a Prince Charming type fellow. I dreamed that I would marry a loud Italian man and we would live in a city in an apartment with a stoop. I would sit on the stoop and talk smack with all the other wives while drinking coffee.

I'm 100% serious about this, this was my goal in life between the ages of about 4-10 years old.

It's so funny to me because honestly I didn't know ANYONE who lived in an apartment (or a building as they sometimes called it on PBS) and it sounded super glamorous. Everyone I knew lived in a plain old house, or a trailer...none of this fancy "APARTMENT" stuff. Sharing walls? SIGN ME UP. I don't even know where I picked up the Italian guy stereotypes that I clearly had...we didn't know anyone who wasn't basically exactly like us: lower middle class, white, and lived in the country. I don't even know what it was within me that made me want something different...or even how I got in my little brain that something different EXISTED.

It's where I've always been, I guess. Somewhere different. Something more.

As I got older, my feelings changed. That happens to most of us. I was talking with my son last night about careers and what he'll do when he graduates and he just seems completely flummoxed by this. In his mind getting the degree is the challenge. What comes after is just perplexing.

"How do people know?" he asks me. I don't have a good answer. I told him I knew four different people who said from the time they were in High school that they wanted to be a veterinarian and they all ended up being a veterinarian, so maybe the key was saying you wanted to do that.

He wasn't amused, by the way. He rarely is anymore.

Some people just know. Most of us don't.

I think love is the same. You meet someone and it's all fireworks and stars and magic. This is love. The biggest, best love you can ever imagine. Everything is going to be perfect forever.

Except until it isn't.

Humans are very...human. Most of us are naturally selfish and maybe a bit of a dick. It's hard to live with someone else. It's hard to share space, money, decisions. It's hard not to just say, "Screw this, I'm quitting this horrible job!" because you are the one that carries the health insurance and everyone would be boned if you got your way this time.

It's hard to love someone when their breath stinks or when they snore and keep you up all night. When they get a speeding ticket or lose their temper. When they forget your birthday. Again.

It's easier to be selfish, really. It's much easier to hang onto the fantasy of the loud, Italian guy and sitting on the stoop smacktalking.

Love is not easy.

Love is sometimes illness, disability, or death. Love is talking things over when you just feel like crying. Love is accepting that this person won't always look the same, or act the same. Love is knowing that changes are part of growing together and that being stagnant is not good for anyone.

Love is for better or worse. Even when the worse goes on and on and on.  Love is being a friend, a supporter, and a partner even when you just want to go to bed and forget every awful thing in your life.


Love is a family, no matter what that looks like to you. You are allowed to decide.

Love is acceptance, kindness, and friendship even when you don't feel like it.


Love is patient.
Love is kind.

Love isn't roses and candy and flowery cards. Love is holding someone when they cry. Love is laughing at the same stupid crap over and over.  Love is private jokes and shared history. Love is forgiveness, even when you don't feel like it.

Love, real love, is worth it.


And I had a townhouse once and sharing walls was for the birds. I'm just saying.



Happy Valentine's Day.