So, clearly, I like questions. This time of year, I tend to ask myself a lot of questions and seek out tools to build my self-knowledge so I can enter a new year with new insights and plan appropriately.
I’ve been sick as a dog for the last few days. Literally spent all weekend in bed and took today off. I got up a few minutes ago, and it was approaching 9 pm. Seriously. My liver actually aches. That’s how sick I am. Add to that, a cracked wisdom tooth that is making its presence abundantly know, and I could use some distraction.
I don’t remember how I found these questions, but they’re appropriate for the work I’m doing on myself this month–when I’m not sleeping or feeling like crap. (This may be an installment blog, depending on how tired I get).
1. Do you like who you are?
Yes. Finally, yes. It’s a little bit intimidating to admit that because I spent so long not really liking the person I was…eternally beating myself up. I think I’m a pretty awesome person, though. I’m interesting, resilient, smart, and funny. I fought for this life, and I like the person who evolved from it. Does that mean I stopped beating myself up? Not at all! Hah. I’m far from perfect and struggle, hard-core, with that some days. The past is still very painful for me at times, but I’m proud of how I constantly confront my own bullshit. That takes guts. I’d want to be my friend.
2. What would people say about you at your funeral?
Oh, God. I don’t know. I really hate even thinking about that, or giving it any kind of energy…partially because my own death sort of scares me. I think it’s the one thing left to be scared of for me. I still have at least 1/2 life to live, and I have so much to learn and do still. So, I don’t even want to answer that. But–if I died tomorrow–I’d be pretty sad just because I haven’t gotten to do a lot of the people sort of work I need to do. I haven’t found a life partner or had kids. I haven’t really found a tribe to call mine. I think, by and large, many people would say they never really knew me. Or people would say they thought I was one thing, but learned in our later interactions that I am so much more. I think I really surprise people. I think the people who have gotten to know me know my heart. They know how loyal I am and that I’m a very forgiving person who really always tried to do the right thing–even with limited tools.
3. What would you regret not doing in your life?
I actually have lots of regrets. I know people like to say they have no regrets. But I absolutely do. And I don’t think that means I don’t appreciate the life I have. I never would have chosen the paths I’ve taken, and thankfully, they led to great surprises and things I never would have expected.
But–yea–regrets. Um…I would have given my Daddy a break. I was a kid, I know, but man–I was hard on him. He was hard on me, too. We’re a lot alike. I’d also have been less concerned with being perfect or achieving…but, then, without that mindset–I’d be stuck in Westwood. I would have said goodbye to my mother on the morning of her surgery. I would have gotten therapy sooner. I would have leaned on people more. I would have taken more time to tell people exactly how I felt in moments–good, bad, indifferent. Especially people I loved. I wouldn’t have gotten so many undergrad degrees. I would have saved money sooner. I would have gotten out of bad jobs as soon as I felt they were bad. Oh, and I would have embraced boundaries. Hard core.
4. What’s the wisest thing you have ever heard someone say?
Maya Angelou said once, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Oh, man: preach.
5. What lessons in life did you learn to hard way?
Hahaha! I learned all my lessons the hard way. Let’s see…sometimes, it’s not about you. You can always be more patient and kind. We are all capable of absolutely anything. People are good, at their cores, but they are also imperfect. Actions say more than intentions. It’s easy to get caught up in your wishbone when you need a backbone. It’s better to be respected than loved, sometimes. I worry about shit that will never happen, most of the time. And the shit that does happen is never as bad, in reality, as it was in my head. But then, some things are EXACTLY what I think they’ll be. There is no escaping yourself.
6. How often do your biggest worries and fears come true?
Maybe 1% of the time, and then it’s so much worse than I could ever fathom. But the mind and the heart are resilient creatures.
7. If you had one year left to live, what would you try to achieve?
I think I’d do mostly the same things, but with more intensity. I try not to do things I don’t love, usually. Try being the operative word.
8. Do you serve money or does money serve you?
I serve money. Man, I hate it.
9. Are you afraid of being your true self around others? Why?
No. I’m absolutely me most of the time, even at work. I just have filters. Building walls is not worth it and limits your soul.
10. What are you grateful for?
Absolutely everything. Especially, often, all of the shit.
11. Have you done anything you are proud of lately?
I’ve chosen self-care nearly every day. A big accomplishment for me.
12. Have you made any recent acts of kindness?
Did dishes for roommates even though I had a fever.
13. If you knew that you would die tomorrow, what questions would you ask yourself?
How do you want to feel today? Who do you look forward to seeing? What kind of ice cream do you want tonight? Do you have clean underwear?
14. If your biggest fears came true, would it matter in five years from now?
Yes–because it all matters.
15. How would you describe yourself?
Sometimes enigmatic. My parents’ daughter. Restless. Seeking. INFP. Lifelong learner. writer. Oceans.
16. Do you take people’s advice?
Not really. I seek it out, often, but only so I can ramble my way through what I already know.
17. Do you get quickly offended?
Depends on if it’s a value. See also: INFP.
18. Do you consider yourself to be a likable person?
Superficially, yes. When you get to know me, I can be a terrible brat. But maybe that makes me more likable. Who knows?
19. ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give’ – What does this mean to you?
I think it speaks to a whole lot of martyrdom. I think life is about the give and take. Valuing one over the other is a recipe for burnout.
20. Are you enriching the lives of others?
I don’t know that I actually think about that. I feel like I almost always contribute something positive to anything I’m part of. I can be negative at times, but that’s usually a sign that I’m not getting what I need.
21. Are you living a meaningful life?
Yes. I seek meaning in absolutely everything I do.
22. What makes a meaningful life?
Intention + action, aka integrity.
23. Would you ever give up your life to save another?
Of course. In a heartbeat.
24. How much would you be willing to sacrifice for people in poverty?
I think that’s a kind of dumb question. Nothing I could monetarily sacrifice would really help “people” in poverty simply because I’m not far enough out of it to make that kind of impact–unless you’re talking social justice movements. I’ve protested, spoken out, marched in the streets, risked arrest. So, in those terms–quite a lot.
25. If you could live one day over and over again, what would you choose to do?
Oh, God no. I’d hate that. I have often said I’d like to go back to the day of my Mama’s surgery, just to say goodbye, but honestly–she knew.
26. Do you think you are important and worthy of affection and love?
I don’t know that I am any more important or worthy than anyone else. There are plenty of people who go without love and affection. I think the better question is–am I worthy of my own love? And that’s a yes.
27. What would make you feel more worthy? What do you believe needs to be different about you?
Oh, the worthy thing. Honestly, that’s the focus of therapy and isn’t something for this medium.
28. What brings you down the most often?
People. When they ignore me, forget me, are mean to others, act like bullies…don’t admit the truth. Avoid vulnerability. People routinely break my heart. Even those I loved and thought I knew often were nothing like they seemed.
29. Would you rather work less (and do the things you enjoy) and have less money?
I don’t make a lot now. I’d like to make more money and work a lot less.
30. Where do you find peace?
Water. Any kind of water, basically. Nature, at night, too.
31. What is the most important quality you look for in another person?
Sense of humor. You’ve got to laugh at this nonsense. Especially the dark stuff. A dark sense of humor wins me over, every time.
32. What is your biggest dream in life?
To have fun and be known.
33. What is your biggest fear?
Dying like my Mama.
34. How would the world be different if you had never been born?
I don’t think it would be very different on a large scale. I certainly don’t think my exes would have noticed. My cats would miss me, though. 🙂
35. What life lessons do you wish you knew 10 years ago?
You’ll be happy again. And it will be because you did the work. No one saved you.
36. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
You are stronger when you are weak. Say the shit in your head.
37. If your life was a movie, what would the title be?
Oh, I can’t share that. I’m writing it–so…
38. If your life was a movie, would you enjoy watching it?
Yes. I like the stuff I create, usually–though I wince when others read/watch it.
39. What does success mean to you?
Being me. Having enough.
40. If you could be a different person, who would you be?
No. I don’t like most other people. 🙂
41. What was the best day of your life? Why?
No best days. Still got too many left.
42. What do you look forward to most in life?
43. What bad habits do you want to ditch?
I don’t like to call any habits “bad” because it creates a meaning I don’t want. I’d like to isolate myself less. I’d like to eat less meat. Drink more water and less soda. Sleep better and more often.
44. Who do you look up to and why?
Paul Auster. I just love his work.
45. Do you know your partners love language?
I have no partner.
46. Do the people you love most know how much you love them?
Probably not. I don’t think you can ever fully know anyone or their heart. Expression always falls short. Our ability to say and their ability to receive.
47. Are you satisfied with the depth of your relationships?
No. But then, I like my relationships to be as deep as oceans. Most feel very superficial to me.
48. What do you owe yourself?
49. Based on your current day-to-day life, what do you expect to achieve in 5 years from now?
If I just did what I’m doing now, I could climb my company’s ladder. But I don’t want that.
50. Do you say ‘yes’ too often when you really want to say ‘no’? Why?
No. I am proud to say I say no a whole heckuva lot. I need to say yes more often, though.
51. What did you learn yesterday?
Meryl Streep can make me cry.
52. What do you like about yourself?
Eyes, hair, how flexible my body is, sense of humor, optimism, stubbornness.
53. Would you consider yourself to be a generous person?
Yes–at times, to a fault.
54. Do you really listen when people talk to you?
Yes. And I listen to all the things they don’t say too.
55. What is the number one change you need to make in your life this year?
Really putting my health first and working on the soul needs.
56. How many hours per week do you spend on the internet?
Fucking too much.
57. What are your most common negative thoughts? Are they logical?
It’s your fault. You’re crazy. You’re too lazy. Nope.
58. Do you think it’s too late to do certain things in your life? Why?
No. I’m delusional enough to think it’s never too late.
59. If you could be the most influential person in the world, what would you change?
People’s bullshit toward one another. Just stop with the nonsense.
60. How much time do you spend with your family and friends?
Depends on what “spending time” means to you. Depends on who is friend and who is family.
61. Where do you want to be in 5 years from now?
62. Is your life complicated by unnecessary things?
Sure, it is.
63. How can you simplify your life and focus on the most important things to you?
Well, if I knew that… I think being very self-aware, but also having a plan and several plan Bs.
64. What stresses you out?
Oh God, everything. Usually shit I can’t control.
65. What makes life easier?
When people get out of my way. 🙂
66. How often do you give without expecting anything in return?
Always. I never expect anything. The only time I really have pain is when I do. So I’ve learned to just never expect anything from anyone. It’s kind of sad, but a better way to live.
67. What is your greatest challenge?
Choosing vulnerability and connection. It is a daily choice. Sometimes a moment-by-moment choice for me. Mostly because my brain wants to shut all people out.
68. What is most important to you in life? Are you giving it the time it deserves?
Survival. I give it way too much time.
69. If you could send a message to the world, what would you say in 30 seconds?
Stop being assholes.
70. What do you most regret never telling someone?
Goodbye. We’ve been through this.
71. When was the last time you tried something new?
72. Are you afraid to speak your own opinion?
73. Do you give into others too often and feel resentful because of it?
74. Are you holding onto something that you need to put behind you?
Sure. But it’s not just mine.
75. How often do you let your fears hold you back?
76. Do the people in your life bring the best out of you?
Some of them. The rest, I’m trying to release.
77. How often do you make excuses?
We all make excuses. I usually own that they’re excuses though.
78. What is one mistake that you will never do again?
I can’t answer that. I will probably do it again.
79. Which is worse, failing or never giving it a shot?
Depends. It’s not black and white.
80. What has grown you the most as a person – your challenges and trials or the comfortable yet enjoyable moments in life?
Challenges. Specifically my mother’s death.
81. If you could choose to have no more challenges or obstacles in life, would you?
hahah. No. What fun would that be?
82. In one word, what is standing between you and your biggest goal?
83. How often do you go to bed feeling angry?
Never. I have a no anger at bedtime rule. Sometimes, that means I just don’t go to bed.
84. Would it be wrong to steal in order to feed a starving child?
85. If you paid more attention to the sad things in this world, would you feel more conflicted about it?
I pay a shit ton of attention to the sad things and believe me I have the appropriate amount of angst about it.
86. If we learn from our failures, then why is it so bad to fail?
Because Americans are dumb and think winning is some bragging right.
87. What could you pay more attention to in life?
Not being a hermit.
88. Why do we think of others the most when they’re no longer around?
I don’t. 🙂
89. What does it look like to make the most of your life?
I dunno. I never filmed myself making the most of my life.
90. What have you given up on?
Perfectionism. The idea that I will ever have any kind of friendship with exes. The idea that I will ever really fully know anyone. The idea that I control anyone or that what they do is some reflection of who I am.
91. How many people do you truly love and what are you doing for them?
Right now–not sure how to answer that based on the “truly love” qualifier.
92. Do you ask enough questions, or are you happy to settle for what you already know?
Clearly, I’ve been asking too many questions my whole life. And getting in trouble for that.
93. What were you doing when you last lost track of time?
94. Do you think you would be happy if you never had to work again?
I’d get bored.
95. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
People think I’m about 28. I feel about 28. So, 28.
96. If you could ask for one wish, what would it be?
Courage. And like go-go-gadget energy packs.
97. What inspires you in life?
98. What can you not live without the most?
Cheese. Kitty face hugs.
99. What do you enjoy doing over and over again?
Eating cheese. Hugging my cats’ faces.
100. When did you last laugh so much it hurt?
It’s been a while. Been a really rough few months. It was something I did, though.
101. What is stopping you from living the life you want to live?
Nothing really. Just a matter of figuring it out.
So, I have a confession…I wrote half of a blog (which ended up being pretty long) and then never finished it or posted it. I meant to. But I didn’t. It was so long, I needed a break as I’ve been ill this week–like whoa, ill. And also dealing with a wisdom tooth that is not so nice. Did I mention I cracked my wisdom tooth and never got it fixed? I meant to, but the appointment got postponed. A few times. But don’t worry–I will fix it semi-soon. Of course, such things are not exactly one appointment fixes. So, we’ll see.
I was prattling on about a bunch of things…the health yuckies, how my new year went and how I’m not feeling good about this year…and then my anxiety about Fogg showed up, and I was in full PTSD trigger mode. When I came back to finish the entry, I realized it was a PTSD ramble, and I needed to let it stay where it was. So, I won’t be finishing that blog post, and if you’re curious about what it contained…ask.
So lots of stuff going down this week. Lots of intentioning for the new year too. And yes–I have a really terrible stomach bug that doesn’t want to go away. And yes, my face is a giant throbbing lump of hellface. Oh, and work is basically still crazy and might get worse soon. And oh, I have about four projects due this week, and a malfunctioning email. So, yep.
This weekend starts with a half day tomorrow. I’m also helping a friend with some writing stuff, looking into grad school requirements for that MFA, doing some practical work for planning out my life, and finally cooking. And lots of lazing, I’m sure.
I will write a blog post eventually on my intentions for this year. I really will. But I need to grab more clarity and start DOING things before I share what I’m doing. It’s a momentum thing. One of the things I will share is that I think I’m finally going to work more on a new blogging adventure that’s more health related. For me, health is about a lot of things. It’s not just physical or emotional. So, while that topic seems narrow, it’s actually not. I’ll share a lot of stuff I’m reading about, things I’m going through, but also recipes, different adventures, my photography, and lots of stuff related to spirituality and just living a good life. I am going to expand these things and kind of make it a one-stop shop for all things me, including my work and my interests–but for now–it will be my focus. Of course, I’m a perfectionist and busy–so it’ll be a while. I probably will still write here–but the bulk of it will be there, once I start it up. Don’t worry, I’ll share once it’s all ready.
A friend of mine recently sent out a short list of questions to a bunch of the female friends she admired who were over 35 and asked us to share our wisdom with her, since she’s been going through some life changes. It was an interesting surprise, though I don’t know if what I have to share is exactly wisdom. But–hey–I figured my ramblings might help others too–so I’m sharing them here with you as well. Feel free to do the same, if you so choose.
I think all of these things are important to varying degrees and all of these things define us to varying degrees, depending on our willingness to surrender to them. Sometimes, that can feel like a cage. As I grow older, I feel like I get better at realizing the cage is of my own creation.
All of these things, like anything, come with unique lessons, wounding events, and moments of joy. So, they’re all alike in that way–in that you kinda have to surrender to them–or they will cause you some damn pain. At the same time, I feel like all of these things help us be the people we were meant to be and all of these things feed the others.
I’ve mostly been single during my life. I identify strongly as a single girl, and I think it’s pretty healthy to be an independent person. I don’t need anyone, really. Which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. I think it’s very hard to be happy in relationship with other people if you can’t be happy on your own. I had a convo earlier this year with a near miss who, in retrospect, was just kind of a mess and not really in a good place to be with anyone. He was in a wounding pattern and definitely wounded me for a bit. Unfortunately, I kinda fell for him a little too quickly before I realized that, and he ended up dumping his immaturity on me during a not so great time in my life. I tried very hard to be his friend, but one convo with him really highlighted for me why I had dodged a real bullet and also sort of highlighted why we maybe couldn’t be friends.
We were talking about the dodgy situation related to a relationship he entered when he was still seeing me, and then we somehow got onto the topic of how he had never been single very long. He saw absolutely no problem with that and admitted he found singlehood to be the most painful thing in the world. That he basically jumped from a marriage to a relationship without any grieving period at all. And got his kids involved in the muck. It became clear to me that he had no idea who he was, and that his behavior with me came about because he couldn’t be alone–and I couldn’t guarantee he’d be in couplehood with me…so he found someone just as damaged to fill the void. He’s had three relationships in less than a year now, all of whom were involved in his kids’ lives–and we are decidedly not friends. And won’t ever be.
I think any life stage can be intolerable if you are not fully committed to knowing yourself first and if your self-care button is off. Which leads me to ramble about couplehood.
I was always taught to take care of the people I love. But that sense of taking care of someone was kinda broken in that I had role models who were self-destructive, manipulative, self-sacrificing, and not very affectionate. I’ve had some really great relationships in the past, and I’ve known a lot of love. But the things I was taught as a kid have made me not feel very loved; made me unable to show love; and have allowed me to sacrifice in unfair ways that caused resentment. I recently had a BIG a-ha moment while reading a Brene Brown interview (can she be any smarter?) about who I have always been in relationships with and the pattern I’ve been involved in–that my mates were also involved in. She talked about how people try to hotwire connection. Oh, Lord. I am so, so, so guilty. And I actually took some pride in it. How passionate I was. It’s basically recognizing some glint of something shared with someone and racing to the finish line. Maybe because you’re too afraid to really look at it. Maybe because you’re afraid to lose it. Maybe because you’re worried it’s so ugly, it won’t last. All I know is that it makes for a love life that is magical in a lot of ways, but also destructive and uber painful. Where all the dysfunction comes out to play, and you have nothing to build on to redeem any of it. I’ve loved every man I’ve ever been with. Love wasn’t the problem. It was the foundation of that love. The actual relationship. Knowing that person has your back. Knowing that they won’t betray you. Knowing you know them.
I think I realized that–on a less deeper scale–a while ago when I started taking dating slow. And a funny thing happened? I was single a lot more because the unhealthy people I attracted didn’t have the patience for the work that is a relationship. They wanted the fairy tale and the adrenaline. Which can still be there. But that impatience told me I could wait a while longer. That I’d be better off alone than with them–no matter how good those moments felt.
I spend far too much time alone, and because of my introversion, I love it. But I am prone to always taking things too far and, for me, isolation is a big deal. I’m in a state of that, currently, and trying real hard to climb my way out of it. I’m too comfortable with myself and too content by myself. I love myself–which is amazing–and hard won. But I am so much better with other people. I push myself harder. I am more loving. I learn more. And even though I AM an introvert, I do love people. Just not crowds of them. I think you really have to be careful about things that feel too comfortable. Comfort is not always your friend.
I miss being in a relationship. I really really want to be married and have kids. But time is clicking away, and on one hand, that’s scary. On another hand, it’s not at all. It’s just adjusting to life and giving up our illusions of control…allowing ourselves to find the path we need rather than the one we think we want. Obviously, I can’t control if I’ll meet the man of my dreams or if I’ll be fertile enough to bear a kid. Or if I’ll even see 50. We make all these plans not knowing, really. At some point, you have to just make peace with that–keep chugging away on our dreams–but accept what comes with grace and humility. I’m an expert at making lemonade.
Regardless of if I find a guy or if I have a kid, I can have the things those things represent. But that may take a lot of facing the truth and a lot of being uncomfortable to get there. A lot of rethinking what’s okay for me. A lot of being in the moment I’m in. Not tomorrow or yesterday.
But–God–I so understand now why my Mama wanted me so much. I am so much her daughter, it aches.
As a person, it’s that my existence on this planet matters and that I am powerful–even if I often feel like a speck in the galaxy. I never ever can really understand my impact, so in a way, it’s pointless to manipulate that. You can only really be true to yourself and, if you do that, you will affect those who need to be affected by your existence.
As a woman, I have come to understand that I am a motherfucking warrior. I am far stronger than any man in all kinds of ways–but that doesn’t always make me superior. Just different. I’ve also learned to redefine what “warrior” means in feminine terms.
I get younger as I get older. Very few people believe I’m 38. I don’t look like it, and I don’t act like it. This is good and bad. I am more open-minded than I ever was, but I have to sort of fight that world weariness that comes with trauma and bullshit. I am loyal still and still hate myself for it–but I’m also oddly proud of that forgiving nature. I never really give up on people. Even when I want to. I have been pretty amazed by what my body and mind is capable of. A lot of my shit is fear and shame based. I am far less afraid than I used to be.
I guess the only thing I’d want to know earlier was that people loved me just so I could maximize that love and savor it. Or that people were going to be ill or that they would die–just so I could’ve been smarter about how I spent my time. When my mother died, I was so mad at myself for spending so much time with my ex-fiance who later treated me terribly and just was–and kinda still is–a total asshole. I wish I had spent that time with my mother–loving the Hell out of her–and making the most of that last year. But, of course, all those things made me who I am now–and now I can help others make better choices.
I didn’t intend to write anything today. At the end of every year, I take it as an opportunity to take stock of the year that was and plan for the year that could be. It’s a reflective, quiet time for me.
Each year, I tell myself I will legit celebrate it next year–but each year–I find myself at home…yelling happy new year out the window–laptop ready–writing.
2016. A doozy. One for the record books, certainly. On the last day, it still continued its crapitude–taking yet another person from a friend of mine–someone I knew since I was a little girl. Someone who deserved more than she got.
For the last day or two, I’ve been inundated by ideas for things to write–things to say and share here…all in the same vein of that other big idea I had earlier this year about where to go with this blog and with my writing life over the next few years.
And I have something big to announce…a decision I just made randomly last night–without any real discussion. But one that has tugged at me for years–especially this year.
From the time I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to write. But I was taught by the world that–to be a writer–I needed to make money at it. I needed to make it something it wasn’t–for me. I needed to count words and write within these guidelines–this way. So, part of me gave up on it. But I still wrote, in the ways I could, to stay sane. Writing has always been therapy for me, and it’s a big reason I decided to be an art therapist. To share that method of healing with other people.
This year, though–especially since the election–I’ve been moved to write more. Not just to share whatever babbling comes out here–but to get back to my roots–to the things that literally saved my life. Things I feel are desperately needed in the world–especially now. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an MFA in writing for a long time, but I never found schools I liked–where I could justify spending all that money. It never felt like I should give that to myself. Mostly because I was still operating under that ridiculous idea society handed me when I was 10. That writing wasn’t a real occupation and certainly not one for me.
I have stability in my life for the first time in a long time. I have built a successful career that I don’t feel ambivalent about–that, while not my forever career–will sustain me in making my life more mine than it’s ever been. I’ve always studied practical things–in hopes of creating careers–which never really worked. And part of me always has regretted not devoting myself to something I loved from the moment I started.
I think I’m going to apply to my alma mater’s MFA program. It’s new, but solid–and fits my life now. I don’t have to give up my entire life to devote myself to it. I can stay where I am and still do it. Bonus: it means going home 2 weeks a year–something that feels so necessary to my creative and spiritual peace right now.
There is no end goal here, really. I don’t want to quit my job and be a writer. That’s not what this is about. It’s about finding a community to write with. It’s about being the best I can be at what I do. It’s about recommitting myself to saying things others are too afraid to say. I could do this on my own, but I’ve learned over the years that I’ve done too much alone. So, I want support. I need support. This is a gift I’m giving to myself–one that will help me be a better me and a better therapist, eventually.
I will still pursue counseling as a profession when this is done. But I have lots of pre-reqs to take and lots of volunteering to do before I can apply to any program. This gives me time and incentive to take care of me with the tools that work best for me.
I hope y’all had a Merry Merry…whatever it is you celebrate, even if it’s nothing. If you were alone, I hope you found some joy in that. If you were surrounded by people, I hope you realized how lucky you were and found compassion where it was necessary.
My holiday started off really well. I was in such good spirits and was really encouraged by that. Usually, Christmas Eve itself is my rough day–as it’s the anniversary of the day my mother passed. In the past, I’ve spent the holidays in various degrees of fetal position or traveling and in fetal position–so to be home alone and not be in bed–hating life–was a good thing. That’s not to say I haven’t cooked in years past. For the last few years, I’ve cooked varying things to various degrees–sometimes coming close to what we did when I was little. But never the full meal we used to do–and I never had the fun of cooking it. Of course, when I shared my cooking forays this year, my roommate tried to take credit for all that past stuff…and I didn’t take the bait. I gracefully (as gracefully as you can in that situation) stuck up for myself. Because it wasn’t true, and it was actually pretty inappropriate.
But even that didn’t bother me. I was also not bothered by the fact that no one gave me gifts and that I gave no gifts. I wanted to, but Amazon back ordered till oblivion some of the things I wanted. I ended up canceling them. All in all, it was kind of refreshing to have a gift-free holiday. It made it far less awkward. Certain friendships have changed. Those I considered family before, I no longer really feel that connected to. So, giving some hollow gift would have felt weird. Besides, I really don’t need more things to unpack and find space for.
Sunday morning, I woke up sick as Hell–with stomach bug symptoms and a nasty head cold. I get sick every year. It’s a grief thing. I was determined to cook anyway, but before I could get started, an innocent comment from my cousin on FB opened up a whole can of worms for me, emotionally. (Yes, I am actually FB friends with 2 of my cousins…the Hell!). In that moment, I realized she and I had a completely different understanding of what happened in my family that basically had made me the outcast since I was a little girl. I don’t think she had any idea of what my grandmother did or the fact that I literally had zero relationship with her as a child. She really seemed to think I, too, had these fond memories of my grandmother–when–reality? She was a cold, meanhearted person who spent her entire life punishing my Papa, my mother, my father, and me. And she continues to torture me from the grave because of the wedge she put between all of us. And, in that moment, I had this devastating realization of how intentional it was on her part. That really fucking sucked. The fact that she was a decent human being to all her other grandchildren, but purposefully set out to ignore and hurt me every day of my life? For nothing I did ever? Well, it made me hate her a little bit. And them for being so oblivious to the shit she pulled. Accomplices to it–even now. She robbed me of the only family I’ve ever had–even if it sucks. And that’s kind of unforgivable. So, I had this dilemma yesterday–do I tell them what she did? That–no–I don’t have grandma’s recipe–and no–I don’t remember those things because she never cared enough to share it with me?
How do you redeem that? How do you undo what a bitchy, dead, old lady did years ago?
I decided to be the bigger person. To just say I didn’t have it and to mention how I make a good version of it–but that I don’t have a recipe because I eyeball everything. It made me mad to do that because it was dancing around the white elephant. But my cousin was a child too when this happened. Why hurt her? She has been the only one to be kind to me, all these years. It served no one to tear down her vision of a woman she clearly loved. And honestly, my healing over this won’t be fixed by her hating her. Or me for telling her.
So that cast a heaviness yesterday. A reminder of how unloved I’ve been, which made being alone hard because there’s a real part of me that will eternally feel unloved and will eternally feel like I’m alone because of how unlovable I am. But I carried on. Celebrating this year wasn’t about anything except my own happiness and healing.
For me, this year wasn’t about people. And it hasn’t been since my mother died. Mostly because I don’t really have a lot of close relationships these days. Part of that is just time and how people drift. But part of that has been intentional. I’ve taken stock of my friendships and have made tough decisions. I’ve placed boundaries, and when people run all over them, I take a few steps back. It’s been painful and lonely. But part of moving away from Colorado has been me letting go of the shit that doesn’t belong in my life–including people who treat me badly. It’ll be a while before I’m completely rid of them, but I have faith that letting them go is the right thing–even if it means feeling lonely and disconnected almost all the time.
This weekend was the first weekend that California felt like something that wasn’t awful. And I think it was mostly because I was finally free to do what I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about being too loud or offending someone or forgetting something. I could just go and do things. And honestly, I’ve realized that’s a big part of what I’ve been missing these last several months. The ability to be me and not have to apologize when people don’t understand or judge it. The ability to breathe and exist without someone trying to control it. The ability to leave when I want–to not perpetually clean up someone else’s mess–and have routines I can control. It made me realize how uncomfortable I’ve been in this living situation and how crucial it is that I change it.
Not having a car here is really inconvenient. It helps me choose isolation. Even though I have a zip car membership, I’ve yet to use it for fear of driving here in someone else’s vehicle. Plus it’s damn expensive. Work has been oppressive since I moved here–with much more BS to contend with. While I’m working my normal hours, it’s such a mental drain that I find myself holing up just to recover. And I haven’t found my tribe. Not that I really HAD a tribe in Denver. I isolated there, too, but there were people I could call if I wanted human interaction. I mostly didn’t, but I COULD. And those people, now, have kept me sane here–just as they always have.
I have people out here–a surprising number actually–but nearly all of them live 2 hours away by traffic. It feels like living in the suburbs (which I guess I am, sorta)–only not at all. I’ve not really been able to go anywhere because of the car thing–and let’s face it–no one makes that effort for me. I’ve always had to do the heavy lifting. I’m not saying that in some angry way. Just acknowledging what is. And I’ve got to say–knowing that–makes me know they’re not mine. So, why give them my time? And yes–that has made me isolate a lot more than I want to. But I also feel like part of me has been hibernating. Steeling myself up for whatever this next chapter is. As an introvert, I know I can’t isolate forever–so I have to be in a good place mentally to put myself out there again and again in what feels like a very unwelcoming city.
Which brings me to this–I know my time here is limited. The first weekend I was here, I texted my great friend and told him I was moving home as soon as I could save the money. He laughed at me, having talked me down from many ledges in the past, and told me he felt the same way about Denver when he moved there from St. Louis.
But I don’t see myself ever identifying this place as home. It’s a pit stop for me, and I know I won’t be staying here long-term. I have been heartened by the rain and the extended autumn. I’ve been surprised by how cold it gets here. But the people feel wrong to me. While I like my apartment a lot, it triggered some major self-worth issues in me–which I feel like I’ve dealt with pretty well. Mostly, this place feels like a place to endure, not exhale. So, that’s part of the reason too for my self-imposed isolation. It feels like a lot of work to connect to anyone here. And my friends who have lived here feel different in ways I can’t stand. More superficial, less connected to the world, less real/vulnerable, more obsessed with things. And I just can’t relate. But maybe that’s all a good thing–and what I need for RIGHT now. Because I’ve always felt this disconnect with people. Here? It’s just magnified to intolerable degrees. And it’s time to clean that up.
I know there HAS to be people here I can connect to. But I’m not going to find it in some upscale apartment complex or in some cute Japanese strip mall. I’ve been wanting to volunteer here–to go to events and just get out of this neighborhood. And that’s part of a big plan I have to stop feeling like an exile here. I came here to confront my issues with people–so it’s time to confront them–and have fun doing it. So, I’m working on that. On unpacking all the BS and truly clearing out what is not supportive of that. I’m not going to lie–it sucks.
For now, though, by big focus is on making myself as good as I can be–for myself. Working on the shit keeping me stuck. Setting up good habits. Dealing with my issues. Really nourishing myself. Doing all the things I was taught to do in therapy. Doing things I know fill my cup. Because I have to, just to stay sane here. I never really understood why my ex hated California so much when he lived near LA. When I visited, I always liked it enough–but when you live here–it’s much different–especially when you’re from a different kind of place. I’m hating it less and less, but it’s not mine.
Well, all of that apparently needed to be said. I’d intended to review something–so I guess that will wait for some other day. Haha. I’m off to cook some more.
Though I was always surrounded by music as a little girl, I never really “discovered” music until 1987, when I was nine years old and Mama got me my first cassette tape player. It was a big deal to spend any money at all on something that wasn’t essential–like clothes or food–but she did. I can’t remember if it was for an occasion or if it was just a random gift to make me happy, but it completely changed my life.
Up until then, I was surrounded by music–as we all are–but none of it was of my choosing. The neighborhood I grew up with was full of international music, R&B, and hip hop. Mexican music predominated, but sometimes, you’d hear Somali music or the lilting, ever exotic cast of Vietnamese music. As a white child, I didn’t quite appreciate it–but it nonetheless became part of my life’s soundtrack, and I’m sure it’s partially responsible for my love of lilting voices and harmony. My mother was big on Elvis and all the old country singers. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn often found their way onto the 8 track and the record player. My appreciation for strong voices and lyrical stories surely can be traced there. And then there was the music I found on TV by default, when nothing was on in the summertime. The Monkees and Motown. I would dance in my living room, belting out all the words to these old school favorites.
The cassette player was the first thing that was really mine–that I could control–where my preferences mattered–except for books. Music became very personal to me. I was a kid who existed in a low-tech world. There were no computers. Usually, no cable. In the long, hot Denver summers, I’d get bored. And that was just unacceptable, so I learned to keep myself occupied. I’d do things like make celebrity birthday calendars off of information gleaned from Entertainment Tonight, using posters from the Big Bopper and Jane. But the biggest thing I did, besides that, writing, and playing outside, was collect music–which I mostly recorded off the radio. Casey’s Top 40 was my Sunday morning appointment. Before I moved, I had all the cassettes of all the things I recorded during that time.
For me, until cassettes were replaced by CDs in my world (which was probably much later than everyone else), it was an era of Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, George Michael, and Milli Vanilli.
I still know all the words–particularly to George Michael’s stuff. Mostly because I walked everywhere, singing it out loud, my walkman humming along with me.
9 year old me was pretty devastated when she heard the news today that her forever crush, George Michael, had passed on. To this day, his original album is my go-to happy music pick along with Kiss by Prince and Beck’s Hell Yes. I once watched a series of interviews with him, detailing all the dark things that happened to him during what was such an innocent time for me–and all I could be was grateful. Because I was a sad little girl for such a long time, and that music made me dance and sing as loud as I could. It still does.
Thank you, George, for holding my hand in the darkness. You are loved.
(And damnit, 2016, stop being an asshole).