I’m at a pivotal time in my life. Some would call this a crisis moment, a fork in the road so to speak. I see it simply as a time of frightening and exhilarating clarity of who I’ve been, and why. I see my entire life built upon the constantly changing foundation of what I thought was expected of me. I believed that what I taught myself to be because of that belief, was what gave me value. I lived my life as if my purpose as a human being was dependent upon my giving what was expected.
Now here I am, at 55 years old, holding the knowledge that I screwed myself, and everyone in my life, out of the real deal. I get it, it’s okay. I see and accept what I’ve done to myself, but goddammit if it doesn’t just piss me off at the moment. I’ve been a hot mess posing as someone who has it all together, let me be the first to say it here.
So let me tell you what I’ve learned, and you may do with it what you will.
I have learned that honest communication between us is imperative if we are to have any relationship worth having. I’ve learned that love is a living thing that can be grown to an unbelievable beauty or shoved into a closet for its inconvenience to slowly suffocate until it is no more. Love is a living thing that can thrive and strengthen the environment where it exists or suffer from the poisoning of neglect, thus destroying all that surrounds it with its misery as it dies.
I’ve learned that our lives are an example of what love is to us, and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t scare the hell out of me. The example I’ve set is that love requires constant sacrifice, and the lessening of self. I’ve lived as if it required that I didn’t matter, that I never say “no”, that I turned myself into a mat that it wiped its feet upon. I made myself matter so little to myself (and therefore others) that everyone was a priority before what I wanted was considered. Unfortunately by the time I asked myself what was important to me, I had no idea. None. At. All.
Here is all I know for sure right now.
I know that I want people around me that are brave enough to say when I’ve hurt them, and how. People that are willing to say I’m sorry when they’ve hurt me, and mean it. I want those strong enough to work through the hard shit because our friendship is worth it. I want those who are willing to work hard the same way I am willing to work hard, to build a relationship of value and not just one that skims the surface. I’m tired of the bullshit, the cheap seats and the easy way to nowhere. I’m not just tired of it, I don’t want it in my life at all.
I don’t have time to spend on those who have no courage to really love me.
To be honest, I don’t have time to spend on those I can’t truly love. Because they deserve better and so do I. It’s a ridiculous waste of time to live a half-hearted life in a mediocre way that fits into some la-la-la bullshit of normal. I don’t want normal, I want real. I’m willing to do the real and jump through the hoops that result in looking into the eyes of someone who will go the distance for me. Truly. Someone who deserves me to go the distance for them, and I will because they’ve done the work and matched my resolve and offered their heart. Straight up and without apology. Devil take it, come what may.
That’s the kind of relationship I’ll go to war to preserve.
I don’t want beige. I have no interest in tepid or vague or nerveless little gatherings of comradery. Give me the people who will put themselves on the line for me, start a riot, burn a building. Give me those people and I will give them every bit of that in return. Is that too much to ask?
And if it is, do you mind if I say step aside and let the real ones through?
If you do mind, step aside anyway. These words and this life aren’t for you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It took me half a century to figure it out.
No more excuses.
All too often we wake up and find ourselves surrounded by wreckage. We’ve been blind-sided by our choices in what to believe, when to give generously of ourselves, which direction to choose, or who to love.
We open our eyes in confusion at the madness, we can’t clearly recall the catalyst of the psychological and emotional train wreck, we only know that the parts of us that aren’t still numb are in agony.
There is no one to help us. We were the only passengers. So we remain still and breathe into the pain while we take a mental inventory of what we know.
Passers-by are oblivious to our internal carnage, our weakened hold on our ability to thrive, because we know how to keep our shit together.
We don’t release a single groan of despair. We’re strong enough to smile and wave them away while we slowly bleed out from a thousand tiny cuts sustained at the time of impact.
This is when shock sets in, and we know beyond all doubt that if we don’t act quickly most of what lights us will die.
So we hold on. We dig deeper. We know the cost of not living is too steep.
We decide we are worth saving. We decide to repair ourselves with the oft times painful needle of self-awareness, and the thread of determination. We don’t hope; we know.
We refuse to choke on regret as we do our work. We welcome the discomfort that comes with the tug and pull of every stitch we carefully place to keep out the finding of fault, negativity and self-neglect. We stop for a moment to drink gratitude from the cup of life, no longer noticing the spots on the glass that holds it.
We change our mind-set.
What was a tragedy, maybe even a crime, has become an achievement of possibilities. We pick a direction for ourselves and jump off the fence we were sitting on for too long. We leave worry behind us and become warriors.
We become born-again believers of our own value.
In the midst of the hot, smoking debris of our past we begin to build something beautiful. We carefully place every single wrong thought and action firmly and deeply into the ground to create a rock solid foundation upon which we will build our future.
And so it begins.
We can choose~
a world of darkness
or one wonderfully awash
with light and color…
A future of promise
or days given over to hopelessness
if it’s worth it
to remain open-hearted
or suffocate ourselves
Each day is a coin,
and either side
can be our truth…
we have the power
what our lives
will bring to others
and feel like to us…
We can choose.
This is not a fairy tale.
I’m going to tell you a true story.
My husband and I have been divorced for a little over a year now, and this is what I’ve learned…
We wanted the same things and didn’t know how to give them to ourselves and each other. We couldn’t figure out the right language or behavior to keep the love we had for each other strong and growing and fresh. We married too quickly after just a month and five days of dating.
Nobody knows if they’re suited for each other in that length of time. You can’t have the sight that quickly for any soul. We were two decent people who ended up not bringing out the best in each other, so we hurt each other instead. I used to joke and say that I wanted Romeo and Juliet and he wanted June and Ward Cleaver. The reality could and should have been somewhere in between, but we didn’t have the tools at the time to make that happen, or should I say we didn’t know there were tools and how to use them.
Then life happened, as it does to all of us. We raised a much loved little boy into a wonderful man and then he went out into the world…and we were lost in the silence of all we hadn’t built between us.
Then the “200 year flood” came and we lost our home of 20 years. We relocated and shortly after that the pension that was supposed to kick in for him/us was with-held and that financial blow crippled us even further.
Having dedicated his entire adult life to serving the community that he felt had now turned on him, he became a very angry man. He fought for it and eventually got what he was owed including all back pay, but the damage to his perception, attitude and to us as a couple was locked in.
Five years of anger and bitterness and resentment takes its toll on even the strongest people. Our brains are wired for our survival, not our happiness, and we both shut down in all the ways that matter. My spirit was as broken as his pride; I hid in my writing and he hid in his hobbies. We did not know how to be there for each other.
We did not know how to fix us. We were too busy pointing out what the other was to blame for that we avoided addressing our own issues that would have made the difference.
So here we are. He has dated a few women, and I haven’t dated at all. He has lost his father, and I have found my parents all over again. Our son is Switzerland, as he should be. I’ve been to therapy to discover the tools I can use to be, do and give more in my own life and he is learning his lessons as well.
We are each growing painfully in our own way, as we should.
This is life.
My experiences since our divorce have taught me that the Treasury Department has it right when they teach that the only way to spot a fake is to put endless effort into the study of what is genuine. That way, when the counterfeit is offered to you, you immediately know it is not the genuine article. He has learned this as well, I believe.
I see it all around me and I know. My ex-husband is a good man. I want him to be happy. We actually talk now. I’ve had him over for dinner, and am helping him with his new puppy which is giving him great joy. He knows he can call me if he needs help, and I know I can do the same.
You don’t quit loving, it just changes form.
It makes me happy that we can begin a friendship that should’ve started 30 years ago. It does us both good, I think.
We were hard on each other’s hearts and pride. We both did a lot of damage to the other. There were times, in our anger, that we were not there for each other when we should have been. We are truly flawed human beings. We needed the lessons we’ve learned.
He is not the evil king or dragon in my stories. Those are metaphors for the damaged hurting parts of those who only hurt us in their misery. He is a good man. And I am certainly no benevolent queen or sorceress that benefits all mankind. Those are only metaphors for the very best of us that we can call forth if we choose to do so.
So, just this once, please forgive the lack of drama and imagination as I write this offering to you.
We each contribute something to the burning or the building of our bridges.
We get to decide where to put our efforts, and our rewards or consequences will present themselves to us accordingly.
This is Life.
The silence comforts me
and scares me at the same time.
I feel the fragility of everyone around me
while I draw my strength from them.
It is a celebration and a mourning
this thing called life.
So much to experience
in something so shallowly lived
when you realize
the scope of it.
Moments easily overlooked
when they are the ones that matter most.
People put on hold
when you’re too tired
too wrapped up in things that mean nothing.
We all are are blinded
to some degree to what really makes
a difference to another soul,
because it hurts sometimes to let it be significant
and we just aren’t willing
to bear that kind of pain.
Maybe if we knew the number of our minutes
we would make sure
we used them to touch
the life of another.
I woke up ugly this morning.
Not on the outside although it wasn’t one of my better days, but my heart, my thoughts and my perception of things were on the hard side. I woke up gritting my teeth and knew it would be a struggle to contain the harshness from those who didn’t deserve it.
Which was everyone.
I usually don’t feel this way, and I don’t like it. I used to deny its existence or hide it from myself, missing every important lesson the meanness was trying to teach me.
I’m a slow learner but when I finally get it, it sticks.
Listening to the ugly parts of me is the only way to see where I’m being foolish in ways that injure my heart. Shaking hands with the side of me that wants to strike out helps me see where I’ve set myself up for failure. The “righteous” part of me that wants to cause equivalent pain in another is a 911 call for pulling my head out of my ass and taking a good look at where I’m standing…
And how fast I’m sinking.
I’m about chest high in bad attitude right now, cigarette in one hand and wine glass in the other, listening to the ugly. I don’t apologize for the contents of either hand or the content of my mind.
I’m sorting it out.
The more I listen the more it recedes, slowing my breath and easing the tightness in my jaw. My heart softens again and my mind settles. I see the adjustments I need to make to defuse my dilemma.
Fortunately, most will never meet the ugly I talk to from time to time, even though that side of me is an important part of who I am. If I don’t listen to the black-hearted, judgmental, vigilante part of me…
How will I ever grow?
I saw this piece posted today, and it was like a bolt of lightning illuminating the answers to the how and why questions I’ve been asking myself the past six months.
I realize now that there came a time when I let my hands fall helplessly to my sides in a silent gesture of defeat. I see clearly now that the moment I did so was the death of my hope.
I welcomed the numbness that slowly filtered through my heart and dimmed my belief in the joy to be found in life, as well as the pain of it. I was so tired of hurting.
I became a coward.
I had been, before that moment, one who would not comply when I disagreed with a directive. I was lion-hearted, and it roared through the silence of my deliberate actions, choice of words and the look in my eyes.
I knew how to get what I wanted. I made things happen. I got the jobs I chose for the advancements that would follow. I held the ones I decided to love for the time we were given. I faced losses and disappointments that took me to my knees and accepted the consequences of wrong choices without a single excuse. I was brave, foolish and proud.
Until love chose me, and I let it break me.
At that moment, I let go and accepted what I believed to be true. I loved too intensely, demanded too much in return, my personality was too strong as was the fire of my imagination. I was too much to be tolerated.
I pushed the mute button and settled for the “sanity” I saw in the world around me. That choice, that path, that life that everyone else had-seemed so appealing to me as I sat there quietly…
Letting my heart bleed out.
I’m no light weight. I tried. I gave every effort, tried every suggestion, tolerated every insult I brought upon myself. This spanned decades. It felt like an eternity.
I felt myself dying.
I would wake up each morning with a sense of sorrow, whispering the question “why?”. Why was I still breathing? What was I here for? What was the point?
It frightened me that those thoughts didn’t frighten me.
Something, some survival instinct I suppose, flickered enough that I began to ask myself hard questions. When I did, I began to wish and want. As if lit by a match, a tiny feeling of hope sparked to a slow smoking spiral upwards.
I wasn’t dead yet, so I wasn’t done.
I began to dream, then plan. In an act of sheer bravery (or foolishness) I took a step, and then another. On my third unsteady stagger forward hope flared in me so brightly that I could see every possibility.
Every action I’ve taken since then is more gasoline feeding the flames of a hope that will burn you to ashes if you try to extinguish it.
Lack of action feeds hopelessness. Action creates it, feeds it, dances in the light of it.
If everything I dream of is not to be found in this lifetime… well then I will have lived a wonderfully adventurous life seeking it all …won’t I?
There have to be others out there stomped by life yet still determined to stand up with pieces torn and damaged, loving large anyway. I believe there are those who face being loved with equal parts joy and terror who still have the courage to open their arms wide and welcome what would overwhelm most. The spiritual samurais who won’t shrink back, the ones who have the superpower of huge emotional capacity, the junk yard dogs of loyalty.
I can feel you out there. I can hear the beating of your hearts. I will find you.
You are not alone.
It may seem to you that I am weak in my beliefs because I don’t scream them out at the top of my lungs in defiance of the world. You don’t see your roars and ravings blowing past me like a hot breeze through my hair as I stand quietly in the truths I know.
You think me shallow in my support of those I love because I don’t rant and belittle others in a public display in some kind of show of solidarity. Your eyes don’t see how I quietly remove their fractured foundations from beneath them to let them crumble into their own foolishness.
You see my kindness and compassion as a flaw of selfishness given out to the world to make myself look good, or feel better about who I am. You see my generosity of heart as a character flaw of pandering to my own ego; my desire to hold and love and heal the hurts where I can as nothing but a big show. You see my joy in giving as an attempt to purchase love where none is offered, my reaching out as a request for validation.
After all this time. You don’t know me, darling. You just wish you did.
Your words fall harmlessly away from my heart, causing me none of the damage you hoped to inflict. Your opinion of me is regretful, but not something to cause me a moment’s wavering from who I know I am. You are a damaged, deceitful mess. You are a legend in your own mind, playing out a story you’ve written where you are the star, and the rest of us merely supporting characters.
You do not see me. You never have. Any description you give of me would be met with blank stares and astonishment from those who love me and know me well. You are not one of those few. You are not capable of it. After all this time.
I will admit to stepping back, diminishing myself to make room for you, adjusting who I was to make you more comfortable. Therein lies my weakness. Neither one of us deserved that. If I had allowed myself to remain, what kind of person would you have become? That is my second regret. The first one is that I diminished myself at all. I made myself quiet and less and vague. I quit speaking freely. I stopped sharing who I was. I shut myself down due to lack of interest. The most important being my own.
This is not your story anymore, baby. This is mine. Feel free to go ride in your own rodeo, I’m not buying any tickets this time around. You’re so good at showing the world your war face. You thump your chest and shout and decree how the world should be. It’s quite a sight to see, especially from the front row.
Unfortunately for you my love, I’m no longer in the building.
I’m just a little busy shaking off the paralysis that comes from teaching myself not to give a shit about what’s happening around me. I’ve got a lot going on with this remembering how to breathe, speak and laugh freely whenever I choose. I’m really tied up right now with kicking my own ass for wasting so much of my time on someone who didn’t really want it anyway. The joke’s on me, and thank god I’m still alive to laugh about it. I will always laugh about it, because that’s the point where my vision clears and my heart beats strongly and my mind is wide open to possibility.
Thank god I didn’t lose my sense of humor when my common sense veered left of center.
You think yourself a great warrior. A veteran of life’s battles. A person of integrity in a sea of wasted humanity. I see you. You hate it that I do. That’s very sad for both of us.
But I can own my shit, recalibrate and live an amazing life.
I thank you for the lessons learned. I would not have appreciated what I have now, and expect to have in the future, if not for each and every moment of sorrow I chose until I learned enough to choose differently. The smile in my eyes and the laughter in my heart?
That is my war paint. See it and weep.
The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.
~Attributed to multiple sources
If you are very lucky, as I have been, you will meet someone who changes your life just by the experience of knowing them. There are some whose paths you may cross, as I have experienced, that create a pivotal point in your life. You may then choose to become, as I have done, a force to be reckoned with in your own life based on the wisdom gained from opening your mind to the life of someone uniquely special to you.
This is a time in my life like none other that has come before. I have been gifted with a friendship of unequalled value to me that has changed the way I see everything. Everything. In a very short time, I have accepted the truth of the frailty of life. The fleetingness of the time I have here is highlighted in technicolor. The importance of every relationship I have carries a greater weight than ever before, and the heaviness of those I matter little to is simply a burden to be laid aside on the road to honest living.
I have learned many things this past year. Each lesson is a painful treasure to me and I refuse to hoard any of them, thereby lessening their value. Each one thus far is a game-changer for me, but we are all different so do with them as you will.
I know that I have to live in such a way as to breathe freely and be myself. I have to be able to laugh as frequently and as loudly as I wish. I will not stop myself from stepping outside and opening my arms wide and letting all the joy shine out of me. I’ll dance and sing when I want to no matter how badly I suck at it. I will cry over things that hurt my heart, although I’ve learned it’s self-serving to do so at the expense of another’s need to be strong.
I’ve learned I can honor another’s strength better at times by respecting it, saving my personal need to grieve for when it does no disservice to their courage.
I have learned that my heart feels safe when I can trust that someone will be honest with me. When someone respects me enough to tell me when I’ve hurt them, and by god what they expect me to do about it. I trust the heart that will body slam my ego to the floor and let me know that they love me, but my bullshit is just not working. I trust those who don’t walk when things get ugly because their commitment is stronger than the monsters life can sometimes bring to my door.
I’ve learned to do things that I’m afraid of because each action makes me stronger. I’ve learned to say I love you, I forgive you and I’m grateful for all the parts of you that you bring to the table. I’ve learned to embrace new things, to learn new things and by doing so I become something new and beautiful myself.
This is my ever-evolving story. I swear to you I learn something new every day, and it’s magnificent to me no matter how trivial the wisdom gleaned from the knowledge. I’ll admit that sometimes I get tired of the learning and want to whine just a little for the rainbows and butterflies world I tried to see around me before I felt the gut impact of what a raw and real life feels like.
I’ve learned that any form of abuse is powerless against my knowledge of myself. That as long as I hold myself with grace under such fire, I am total teflon. It thrills me to feel the utter lack of impact another’s opinion has on me when I know my own heart. No one can talk down to me, belittle me or insult me when I just don’t accept it, and may it be returned to them times three.
No one can make me feel small when my heart is larger than their tiny minds. No one can put me down when I refuse to stay there. No one can take from me what I gained by being afraid and acting anyway. Even pointing out my mistakes with gleeful viciousness means nothing when I know how to rock every one of them into making me a better person than just a moment ago.
People are precious. Some are downright gifts from the universe itself, you just have to be clear-sighted and open-hearted to know when they stand before you. I am. I know. I value those who guard my heart when I’m too foolish to do so. Sometimes I still wander into rainbow and butterfly land where all is pretty, but not for long.
Give me the foundation of truth to build a life worth living no matter how long or short the time given. The very first lesson I truly learned from such a friend was that I would rather live a short time living a life with my heart lifted than a long time with a spirit broken.
But I speak only for myself.