36 Candles

We all get a little introspective as our birthday approaches, right? Or maybe that’s just me. It’s just a day, after all. 24 hours. The sun rises and sets and we do what we do on any other day that isn’t reminiscent of the day we arrived.  Mad, confused, our warmth disturbed. A familiar place where we developed gone. Welcomed into the arms of those who created us.

It’s that day that it begins. We won’t know until much later how significant it is. What we’ve been handed in life. We plod our way through first steps; first day of school. That moment when we realize our complexities are growing; that our choices have rewards and consequences. The choices become more and more significant as we age.

Our personalities grow, some of us stumble. Make harmful choices. We realize how scary life is; the dangers the world hides. The fragility in our being becomes so painfully obvious. Hopefully we get to the point where we find the glimmers, the friends, simple beauty and what makes our heart swell in our chest. What gives us the warmth that overwhelms in all-encompassing moments and the giddiness in our souls. The pieces we use to keep us whole when we could easily break in our humanity.

I’ve spent parts of my life wondering what the hell I’m doing. Parts feeling every emotion feasible. Struggling, thriving, stumbling and just being. I’m old enough that perceptively and characteristically I should have it all in place. Yet I continue to find that I’m starting over. Making mistakes and taking a step backward all while leaping forward in strength. I’m a parent who doubts my child-rearing abilities. I’m a friend who consistently hopes I’m doing enough. A human who feels like I’m not sure my significance in the bigger picture, yet finding the moments when I can smile and feel okay for the time being.

I’m not old, but I’m starting to reach the point where I’m not technically “young.” I worry that I’ll never not feel selfish in doubting who I am, given that I’m here and for that I should be grateful. My intensity can be cloying, my weirdness puzzling, possible a deterrent. When I love, which is freely and often, I split open my heart and leave it on the table knowing it can be easily knocked aside. My company can be thrilling, intoxicating and also calming and kind. I fight my demons and satiate my vices. Sometimes clarity comes to me in the moments I eschew distractions and escapes and I realize I’m really just trying to be someone I’m proud of, yet I’m disappointed when I worry I’ve come too far to get there, or rather, maintain it.

We’re all the same, foundationally. Body parts, feelings, interactions, and our own choices to do with that bundle of person that was what came together as we grew in that one place where it was hardest to hurt us. Each of us has love to give, and in some cases sadly disregard in favor of toxicity and venom. We’re an unpredictable being with autonomy we can use or abuse.

I’ve reached the point where the little things have to matter. What are seemingly blips that can carry significance when we reflect. What made us smile; what inspired a gut laugh that carried over the room. When our hearts are touched unexpectedly and momentarily. Love lost is still love possessed even if it runs its course or ends bitterly. What was once there is what was supposed to be as we piece together the progression to our next mile marker. There are things that surprise us when we’re low that can be seemingly innocuous. The hug that healed; the anger that expressed turmoil and discontent, yet also healed at the same time. Who we have in our life, whether it’s groups of varying personalities or those few who know us and who are like us or are our complementary opposites. Those we’ve chosen to have in our life and reciprocally choose to remain. Who sees us through the dark days, delights in the bright, silly times. Those who can handle our intensity if we’ve been given that proclivity. The simple kindness of others that isn’t shown in grand gestures, but honest ways that define our presence to them. The forgiveness of children when they tell you they love you, moments after you feel as though you’ve failed. Still in the pure points of their life where the complications haven’t increased or become so affecting of them. Birthdays ahead and mountains to climb, to fall from, to stop mid-way out of breath.

I’m getting older, yet sometimes I still feel like I’m not an adult. Both in carefree and sometimes precarious ways. And honestly, while sometimes I second guess it, I also own it. When I seek perspective, I don’t want to regret my depression because it makes me really focus on what makes me happy. It makes me respect my strength and my tenacity to not just give up. I don’t want to negate previous loves, because they’ve given me pieces that have shown me joy, pain, confusion, and moments I never could have predicted, both good and bad. I don’t want to fear being alone because it’s how I know who I am and what will fulfill me in a positive way, should it ever come my way again. I want people to know I appreciate them, I want my friends and family to know I love them. I want my children to know they mean the world to me and I’ll do everything I can to express all of that openly. I hope to continue finding the smallest moments instead of seeking out the monumental occurrences. I hope to continue diminishing the insecurity that has eaten up so much of previous years and embrace what matters. I want people to know they’re important, and I want to make myself important to me.

Anecdotally, my son has this trait where literally every time he’s using the bathroom, he tells me he loves me. This is my high strung, bundle of fire child who never stops moving. For some reason, when he’s in the moment of doing something we all do, and has to stop, his thoughts come to him and he expresses it. And as weird as that analogy is, it’s endearing. Humanity has those things we’ve all decided are taboo, what we don’t discuss, but we all know we do it. But those little things are what make us the same. I certainly don’t plan to yell to everyone in my life that I love them from the bathroom, but it’s the idea. When you slow down, let your thoughts come to you, express them. Take advantage of those chances you have to appreciate what you have, and by whom you’re surrounded.

Most of all, who you are and who you want to be, each time you blow out the candles.

 

Light My Fire

Life scurries by us like a child who has stolen a cookie; rushes by like traffic during our commute home. It passes us during the hours we count down through our daily life. We live in a flurry of responsibilities, obligations and sometimes just functioning to make it to the next day. As I dwell in a time of year that has sorrowful significance for me, as well as the positives gained from surviving, I wonder if I’m doing it right. But don’t we all. If you’re not questioning, you’re not acknowledging. There’s not always a need to over-think, but there is a need to embrace the here and now.

No one wants to get to their death bed, no matter the timing, and wonder if they did enough. If they loved enough. Asking for do-overs and second chances. Because it comes upon us in the cycle it should.

As does the rest of our life. We don’t realize it at the time; but every move is defining who we are and what we’ll leave behind. I fear not enough are cognizant of this; including myself when I’m simply trying to get to the next day. Because it’s incredibly hard to stop and acknowledge.

I realize my introspection can be cloying; I don’t write mildly. I don’t live complacently. I’ve held the world for those who need me to, while mine lies at my feet. Conversely, I’ve had help with mine. An extra hand to keep it propped up while I rally the strength to keep it there. Those are the times when I realize we don’t get through this alone. Every person has their purpose and they come into ours like oxygen fuels fire. Quietly, subtly but with flickering, blazing outcomes.

Life is fucking hard. Let’s face it. Its trials, tribulations, rewards and gains. Losses and changes. I realize I make it all so grandiose. As though I neglect the smaller details. These thoughts come to me during the smaller moments, as much as the big ones. As I parent alone; two little boys whose life I’m inevitably shaping. While I work a job that is challenging and requires complete diligence to every detail. At night as I come home to fix dinner, clean the house, decide activities, get my kids ready for bed. Go back and forth between helping one in the bathroom (details spared) and giving the other his allergy medication because he can’t breathe through his nose. Already past bedtime and still answering question and giving hugs. The nights when I’m without them. Occupying my time, finding ways to thrive and sometimes just sitting in quiet or cleaning the house. Again.

I realize this doesn’t make me special. It makes me human. I lie awake at night and wonder if I was on my phone too much and if my kids watched too many shows. If we’ll get to later years and I’ll realize I’ve missed so much in the flurry of life. That’s just something I don’t want. We’re all going to have regrets. But if you can see them ahead of time, accept their purpose, not their misinterpreted negativity. You probably learned something. Gained something. Potentially lost when you were supposed to.

As I ramble in my typical way, no pre-defined message, I’ll say this. If nothing else, be kind. If you love someone, tell them. If you like them, make sure they know. If you want to hug someone, do it (but as I tell my son, ask first). If you’re unhappy, don’t let it swallow you whole. Do everything you can to not only survive, but to revel in all of it. Leave a trail behind that lets the world know who you are and make sure it’s someone you want to be defined as. Sometimes when you’re someone’s sunshine when skies are gray, it’s you that you’re actually shining for and it’s them you’re supplying the glow for.

We live for ourselves, but we live life for the pieces we connect. Find yourself so you can be wholly present for all those who dance in and out of our life. Sometimes staying for a while, sometimes leaving a memorable light we bask in like the fire that’s been fueled by what it needed.

Life’s going to kick us in the proverbial balls sometimes, grab it back when you have the chance.

 

Queen of Hearts

cards

“Life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans.”

That’s a dandy little saying for those who don’t have life punch them in the face while they’re trying to make new plans to make up for the plans that got thrown off by that left hook. Sometimes I wonder if feeling like 35 years is my mid-life crisis dooms me to an early demise, but with the way I’ve lived at times, it’s possible.

But suddenly, surrounded by ups and downs (though the downs seem to be reigning when it comes to hash marks) I wonder the eternal question; why DOES your metabolism slow down one you hit 30?

I also wonder how much one person can take; where the reprieve comes in, or if I missed the boat on that one and my struggles are the sail on a choppy ocean.

I’m an incredibly empathetic person, some might say an empath, but I know that’s a misperceived identifier, so let’s keep it simple. I have realized that I’ve inadvertently shut it all off, that I’m just managing. As I realize I’ve lost my joy; I am aware in a muted way of how hollow it really does feel. How exhilarating even the rough moments once were. Even in sadness it would swallow me whole and I’d sit in the underbelly, all neurons pinging. Happiness was a nearly manic state of bubbling effervescence I’d cling to; even if I had to supplement through man-made influences (take whatever meaning you want from that.) Anger would burn from inside, filling every blood vessel, every muscle until my cheeks would actually feel aflame and I’d unleash a fury my everlasting guilt and compassion would later make me feel terrible for. Apologies were rampant when I felt as though I’d upset the balance of nature with my toxic spewing of a momentary irritation.

I’ve always felt too loud, too expressive. I love games, but my face would make me the favorite of anyone I’d dare to play poker with. I thrived at acting in school and storytelling. I could wing a speech with flair and dynamics even if I had literally come up with the subject as I got into the classroom. The beauty of youth is that’s before you start to question the quirks and pieces you’re developing and you just simply live them. You don’t overanalyze your excitement; you don’t suppress your moodiness. You just are. As an adult my fear of the fact that I feel I overwhelm a room has always conflicted with my tendency to simply be that person regardless. Cringing as my laugh was too loud, but not being able to help how I felt in the delight of a hilarious moment. Feeling a connection to others that lightened the moment and gave us all levity.

Yet somewhere along the way, through grief, confusion, pain and disarray; I’ve lost the ability to revel in that. My laughter is halfway. My sadness is mellow and set in. My anger is simply a state of being at times that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth; but doesn’t stir enough in me to even enjoy that momentary fire. Due to situations and people and being an adult who adults hard without reprieve, I’ve lost my tenacity. At least to the degree I used to have. I’ve shielded myself from sensing others; from absorbing and examining their energy. I’ve blocked my tendency to read others to properly interact in a way that suits them.

And it sucks. That’s not eloquent, or well-stated or anything of the sort. It simply is and that’s simply me right now. I’m searching for what this part of my life should mean, but afraid of searching too hard inadvertently missing what I’ll realize was the meaning in two weeks; two months; two years. What lessons I’ll share with my kids when they’re asking why something is unfair or sharing joy in a new experience. I truly have no one to blame but myself, as much as I’d like to say life has done this to me; life has happened to me. While some of the moments I’ve been through would probably sound like fiction to some, I’ve stayed in them. I’ve tolerated them and I’ve allowed them to decimate pieces of me that I should have clung to. My strength required plenty of sacrifice; but I perhaps left behind a little too much. Confused ease of getting through a situation with who I was supposed to be. I’ve let too many in, too close and I don’t regret that, but I tend to forget how easy it is to allow moments to take me with them as opposed to keeping them with me. I wonder why in all of this; I’ve somehow still maintained the strength of my own self-doubt which has always been my crippling hindrance. What stops me from truly grabbing hold of me. I value others. Everyone, good or bad. I try to understand them if they seem cold or abrasive. I try to fix them if they seem broken. I thrive in the company of unadulterated jubilation in someone who just lives without giving a damn (even if deep down, I know they do). Being a friend is crucial to me. If I’m not being the one anyone can turn to, I’m not fulfilling what truly brings me happiness even when that emotion is quietly at half-mast.

I’m trying to find what makes me happy. Seeking what will re-ignite my soul; and bring easier smiles to my face and allow me to be the best I can be for anyone I come across, but mostly for myself. Which is the first time I’ve truly made that a priority, probably ever. And I feel guilty about it. I’m more than likely over thinking it all, but did I mention that’s something else that’s a key characteristic of mine?

I don’t need a dictionary entry of who I am. A Wikipedia page defining my character locks me in to too much. I’m mostly at a point where I want to find what I embrace and stand by that. To examine what I know I need to accept is a work in progress and simply gives meaning to moments and that maybe the bigger picture is too grand. Maybe it’s the blips on the radar. The joy I’m recently missing. It could possibly not be about the laugh that was too loud; but what made me laugh in the first place. What conversation with my kids made me feel at peace in the moment. How even if my successes are marred by frustration; it’s the drive to keep going and keep aiming for success as opposed to defeat. I’m looking for myself right now, and that might sound like heavy, dramatic commentary; it’s unpleasant that I had to be so far gone to realize I let it slip.

I still have to make plans; I’m a grown up. I still have to do what needs to be accomplished to survive in a way that makes me proud and not as though I’m just squeaking by. I’m trying to keep life in my peripheral along the way. Find my joy. Locate my fire. Be me, unabashedly.

It all sounds simple, right? Maybe I just need to play poker. Nothing makes me angrier than losing.

Deal me in.

Friends

I was going to write one of my long novel updates, which I know you all love… But then I had a point to make. Friends are the shit, you guys. If nothing else, having a support system of even one close friend can make you smile, save your life, and tell you that your shoes don’t match your outfit. Having a huge group rocks, too. Never take for granted how truly important and unconditionally caring friendships are. Sure, we all want love (for the most part). A companion with whom we’re in love. That person could be your best friend, but you still have to have those other ones.

Who you met in 3rd Grade, who you met last week at Starbucks or on an online dating site (weird, who does those anyway ) or at your best friend’s wedding three years ago. Friends are going to hold your hand after a death, smack you when you’re dumb (metaphorically, of course) and love that you said “that’s what she said” no less than 10 times in 20 minutes. Love your friends, you guys. And don’t forget, they’re there for you, but reciprocation is the greatest gift of friendship.

Listen as much as you talk. (Which means I listen A LOT.) Hug them randomly. If they’re cool with it. If they’re not, wait until they’re drunk. They’ll never know. If you can tell they’re feeling crappy, ask them why, or at the very least, do the “you got something on your shirt” trick. (Come on, who doesn’t laugh at that?) If they’re laughing, tell them you enjoy their laughter.

Romantic partner compliments are amazing, they’re loving, sassy, hopefully dirty and special. But friend compliments can be as simple as thanking your friend for replacing the toilet paper in your bathroom after dropping the kids off at the pool after a rough night of Taco Bell. Friend compliments mean that even though you know they’ll always be there, you have respect for that. You know you’d miss it if it was gone. Tell your friends you love them (genuinely). (A true master can do it sarcastically in way that almost seems insulting, but is actually amazing.)

Just saying. Love your friends. Because then they’ll love theirs. See where I’m going with this?

Peace. Rock out your Monday night. Tuesday could be a whole new bag of tricks.

Give Thanks

You’ve either wondered what I could possibly come up with to say on Thanksgiving, or you’ve got more to do than read Facebook today, and I’m sure some of you have just hidden my feed given my lengthy musings I share.

I’m writing this grumpily, while trying to define positivity. I sometimes hate complaining about this year. It’s not even over yet. There are others dealing with far more pain and anguish and fear. I suppose as long as I recognize that, I can convince myself that it’s okay to acknowledge my own experiences.

I tried to come up with an accurate description of this year so far. Like walking on ice and not sure what spots would break through. Those devices on movies or video games, where a character has to run through swinging pendulums in hopes of not getting hit by them. But ultimately, this year has no accurate description.

And I’m wading through to identify what I’m going to appreciate not only today, but new understanding of the past and going forwards. Friends. I love my friends. I have best friends, meaningful friends, casual friends, spiritually connected friends, fair weather friends (hey, we all have them!). Some of those I consider part of my family. Family doesn’t have to be blood related or have some other definitive marker. It’s knowing that they have a special place in your life and your heart. And I’m appreciative for each one of those friends. Some will stay, some will go and that’s as it’s meant to be. And I’ll appreciate the emotions that accompany those changes.

My kids are a given. Even if they thrown five minute tantrums because they suddenly forgot how to put their pants on or say they’re not my friend because I won’t buy them a specific kind of juice. I have one who gives out compliments left and right because he wants people happy and another who has grown into a little boy who can actually help me more and hold his brother’s hand when he needs it. Both who already express care and concern about others emotions. And I love that I’m raising children who have already learned how important feelings are.

Even in loss this year, one I had a chance to handle slowly and say my proper goodbyes. And I’m appreciative of that. And the other, while there will never be a true peace there, I know that I made someone else’s life good. I brought happiness to a sad place. I gave someone peace when they most needed it. Doesn’t make it any easier, but if that soul had to go, it needed my presence. And I was gifted with the ability through this realization that my strength is far better than I thought. That my motivation to do good can shine through and is a good thing when handled correctly. I’ve felt new emotions that I didn’t know existed and while they suck sometimes, they’ve given me perspective. I appreciate that perspective.

And you. Everyone. Whether you like me or you don’t. Whether you know me well or barely at all. We all still exist together. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say co-exist in some situations. But you’re there. Trying to make the same sense of different things. My appreciation of life is tainted, but also increased.

Hope you all have at least one thing to appreciate today, and if you aren’t sure, you’re looking too hard. It should be right there.

My New Year’s post is going to be epic……