One day I walked to the shared mailboxes, turned my key, and retrieved a larger pile of mail than usual. Among the things I received that day was a booklet which was put together by the people who were planning my ten-year high school reunion.
The booklet wasn't a surprise. I had submitted my own information a few months prior. I honestly don't have any idea how the reunion committee found me. I lived almost 7 hours away from my hometown and thought about little else than my children, my job, this guy I was in love with, and surviving. I wasn't lost exactly, but I wasn't looking to be found either.
After my children were asleep I sat down in my recliner and started flipping through the book. I wish I could tell you how I felt as I turned each page, but I can't. I can't because I don't think I could ever describe the aching pit in my stomach which gaped larger and larger with every passing page.
Before that book arrived, I thought I was okay. I was working hard. I was twenty-seven years old...still a baby. There was still time for me to be something amazing. I was gainfully employed. Okay, so I had a marriage that hadn't quite worked out the way I hoped, but I had found the right guy and we were totally in love with each other. I didn't have a college degree, but I was working on it. I had bought a house completely by myself. Okay, a townhouse. But still. There was food in my fridge and my children had clothes and I seriously thought I was okay.
But I? I was a huge loser. The book proved it.
All these people were the same age as me, but they were doing amazing things. They were doctors and lawyers. They had college degrees and real houses and as many children as they wanted, and random things like farms. They had first husbands, only husbands. They were saving animals in Africa, saving lives in the emergency room. I was trying to save enough to buy some new towels for the upstairs bathroom.
When Jason came home and found me sitting in a puddle of my own tears, he took the book from me. He told me, as he always does, all the things I was doing right. I think he threw the booklet of shame away. I never saw it again, I know that. A few months later we were married in what I like to call the Worst Wedding Ceremony Ever, and if I recall correctly the class reunion happened while I was on my honeymoon. I sent my regrets.
It's been ten years. Ten extremely eventful years.
I can't really explain why my stomach felt icy when I opened the email detailing my 20th class reunion. All I know was that in two seconds, I was that girl from ten years ago again. Hell, I was that seventeen year old girl in that moment, with no hope beyond wanting my mom to live. No plans. I was suddenly every struggle I've ever had, every failure, every bad hair day.
I do get that this makes no sense. I do. For just that one moment though, I felt it. Bad.
I'm not that 17 year old girl anymore. I'm not the 27 year old woman either. I've come to realize that my first husband leaving me was the best thing that ever happened to me, for a myriad of reasons, not even the least of which being that it made me get up, get off my dead ass, and do things I never even imagined I could do. Things other people take for granted, like getting a college degree, or getting a job that can support your entire family, or feeling like you can do it all by yourself and don't need a man. I really don't care if someone I knew twenty years ago is skinnier than me, or has a nicer car or more children. A more comfortable or exciting life. I don't care that I've never saved anyone or anything and I've come to realize that I probably couldn't, even with appropriate training. I can't even keep houseplants alive most of the time and that's okay. The competition, so to speak, is not with anyone else.
It's with me. It's all with me.
I don't know what I have to do to make it all be enough.
Years ago I was in the Franklin Planner Cult and I made lists obsessively. I still make lists obsessively, but these were different. These lists were goals and dreams and what I was going to do with my life. Which is great in some ways, and complete cheese in others. I know this.
I found some of my lists when we moved here a year ago. The only things on the list that I haven't accomplished, hell exceeded, are the spiritual things. Sorry Jesus. I'm trying. Really.
Yet, it's not enough. It's never enough. It's not about how much money I make, it's not about the house, or the job (believe me, it's not glamorous). It's not about the kids. It's not about the husband (who, when listing my attributes says, "You have great kids and an okay husband"). It's not about how skinny or how fat I am. It's not about the book that I wrote a hundred million lifetimes ago. It's really not.
I just can't figure out what it's about.
I cannot figure out where the gaping hole in my heart comes from. I just can't.
I look good on paper now. I have the degree, the real house, the accomplishments. If there was another booklet, I probably wouldn't throw it away.
Even though I know it doesn't mean anything. Not until I figure the rest of this out.