So very much has happened since the last time I sat down and tried to put my thoughts and feelings down in written form. So many life changes — old chapters closing and new ones opening. I want to sit and write about them individually because each of them deserve their own showcase but today, the story writes itself.
Today is February 23, a day that has had significant meaning to me for thirty-two years. It was on this day, all those years ago, that my first child was born. A big first baby, loud and opinionated from the moment he was born and perfect in every way. I was in awe of him but terrified at how my life might change. I had no idea the magnitude of change that child would bring to my world. Everything ceased to hold as much importance in comparison. His needs became my focus and becoming a mother was soon realized as my most important job ever.
He had a bit of a rough start, as he had surgery to correct a birth defect in his gut at only a month old. But once past that hurdle, he grew like wildfire and was a delightfully happy baby. I was in love like never before. Like most parents, I felt like he grew up way too fast — life seemed to go by in such a flash. Before I realized it, he was starting school and at age five, he had to share his momma with a new sibling. But this story isn’t about THEIR childhood, other than to say they were my greatest achievements and while I made plenty of mistakes, I can only pray that they can look back as adults and know they were loved deeply.
Last year, on his thirty-first birthday, my son was waiting for the biggest present he had ever gotten and while I’m in no way responsible for that gift, I am eternally grateful that I get to enjoy and share it with him. His gift? His daughter. Born two weeks earlier than expected but what an entrance she made. So this day, February 23.. so special to me for what it represented, was now just as important to my son for the very same reason. HIS child was born and would change his life just as emphatically as he had changed mine. She was just as perfect and she became his focus. And in a purely selfish manner.. she has changed my life as well.
And now, she turns one year old today. And while this day will always be HIS birthday first, she’s getting top billing this year. I’ll be honest, the focus now shines on her. Thank goodness, he’s just as enamored with her so he’s not pouting. Love has not only grown.. it has multiplied exponentially for the both of us!
I know, it seems sort of silly to give a present to your ex but in the spirit of Christmas, i’m going to do it anyway. Since I don’t have the monetary funds to give an actual gift, i’m sending this present in the form of a letter. I hope that it’s recognized for the sincere and true gift that it is.
I’m sure you think this letter will be full of hatred but that’s where you would be wrong. This letter is to thank you. I want to thank you for all the times you disregarded my feelings, discounted my thoughts, made me less than a priority in your life, told me how much of a disappointment I was and disrespected me in so many ways.
I spent an awful lot of time trying to get you to notice me but I know the competition was fierce for your attention. Money, your work, the countless obsessions, the fun times you seemed to feel cheated out of with me as your mate, the gambling, the porn and the long list of things that could go on and on but there is no need because we both know what they are.
But this letter is not to berate you of who you are and of what you held as important because it taught me a very valuable set of lessons. It taught me to stop giving others the right to tell me who I should be. It taught me to stop measuring myself with repeated “failures” in your eyes. It taught me the true meaning of respect because I had to learn it without needing to refer to a dictionary. It taught me that i’m flawed but beautiful nonetheless. And it taught me that I am capable of finding my voice and speaking my truths.
There was a time in which I wanted so badly to share my life with you and grow old together but life changes and we all have to adapt to those changes or else we will become bitter and stagnant. Funny thing, I did grow old but the idea to share that with you now seems so foreign. I’m sure it does to you as well.
Life. It goes on and in so many ways, it can leave one behind if there isn’t an ability to adapt. So I’m learning how to adapt and it is my sincere wish (here’s the present) that you can adapt as well. Let go of the bitterness. Let go of the blame. Let go of always having to be right. Let go of the past and find a way to be happy. I truly do wish you to find happiness because every human being deserves to feel validated, accepted, respected and loved. So Merry Christmas and I sincerely hope the new year will bring you peace.
The day I was born, my sense of security was immediately challenged. I was protected until that point, depending solely on the womb of my mother to nourish me — my mind, my heart and my very existence. Being born interrupted that security and as time ticked off days, then weeks, months, years and now decades, that sense of security has become less and less dependable. I know that doesn’t make me special, it makes me very ordinary and on level footing with every other person born into this world. So why are some capable of taking that unstable security and stepping over it to make a fulfilled life and yet others struggle?
Fear. We all have it but we all deal with it in different ways.
I’ve been using the avoidance mechanism to “deal” with mine only that’s not dealing with it at all. In order to truly deal with it, I have to face it. So how do I do that? How do I allow my fear to no longer control me? It’s as simple as standing on the precipice of what scares me and taking the step toward it anyway.
Only it’s not so simple when you are riddled with thoughts of failure. But that fear of failure keeps me from being free. That fear of failure has kept me from being truly happy. That fear of failure has kept me from feeling secure and isn’t that what we all strive for? I know I need that sense of security in order to thrive. It is a core need for me and I suspect I’m not alone.
No one is exempt from failure. No one is exempt from life events that make us ponder the “fairness” of it. But there is no fairness in life, no fairness in love, no fairness in heartache and no fairness in joy. Because part of life means dealing with failure, heartache and hopefully joy along the way without allowing the fear of failure to inhibit us from being present in our own life.
I’ve learned that expecting things to be fair is a sure-fire way to set myself up for disappointment. I cannot control what others do and I’ve spent a lot of years reacting to the world instead of acting of my own accord. I have given my sense of self away for decades, hoping to find fairness instead of just accepting that life will never be that way.
And then came the moment of clarity.
That moment when the proverbial light bulb goes on and the realization that I have done myself a disservice by not believing in myself — instead, looking to others to provide me with a sense of validation in order to feed my deep-seated need for security. To have someone else measure my worth and tell me how to think, how to feel, what to do, how to define success and happiness. But the scary flip side of that is that all those years of allowing myself to be measured by another person’s yardstick, I sort of did that as well — not understanding why others didn’t approach life with the same core values that I believed to be honorable and worthy.
My family was my focus of importance but not everyone feels that way. I do find that a bit sad but I suppose someone else may look at me and find it sad that what motivated them had less importance to me. Such is life, I suppose. Not fair and with episodes of failure and heartache interspersed with times of joy and happiness.
I don’t have a lot of experience at being fully present in my life. I have lived for half a century being reactionary instead of stepping forward beyond the brink of fear. But what purpose did it serve? The only thing I can figure out is that perhaps it afforded my ‘failures’ with finite consequences.
But in the glow of my moment of clarity, I step into the precipice of fear and scream loudly (think Buzz Lightyear, okay?)..
.. to the infinity of fear and beyond.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of “home” but not necessarily the physical place where I putter round in the kitchen to prepare a meal, or put my head on the pillow at night to rest, or even sit and soak up the cool air conditioning with a solid roof above me. Please don’t misunderstand, I truly do appreciate those things.. especially since those things once taken for granted have taken on a greater sense of fragility over the last couple of years.
But that isn’t the spot where my thoughts have tended to land. Lately, they have skidded well beneath the surface of what most people see — below the scabs and scars that I wear because of the events in my life. I am not whining, I know we all are all broken in some way. We all have scabs and scars and we all have challenges that life deals to us all. I’m not seeking pity nor am I looking for a white knight on his trusty steed. I’ve just had to do a lot of soul-searching and these are some of my discoveries.
Okay, where were we? Oh yeah.. I was talking about home. That feeling behind the word. Those emotions stirred by the four letter word that we so often take for granted and use carelessly in conversation. Yanno what I mean?? Yeah, that’s it. Home.
Go ahead, say it. Hear it in your head. Give it a moment. Breathe it in and out. HOME.
For many years, I have felt “home”less. That is, not without a place to live, but a place to just feel safe and whole, respected and with a sense of belonging. And over those said years, I’ve done an awful lot of introspection. Chest deep in therapy and sometimes bogged down in the fog of my mind’s own questions — diligently seeking to better understand the dysfunctional side of me. Learning to accept my flaws as well as take pride in the good things about me. Trying to determine who I see when I look in the mirror and not just the projection of other people’s opinions. The combination of a young girl, an awkward teenager and a painfully insecure woman locked down deep inside. Inside my mind, my soul, my heart and my body probably since the day I was born. Looking for home in the eyes of the aging woman staring back at me. Home. Somewhere I’m not quite sure I’d ever been.
Not that it’s ever that simple but I believe my marriage failed because I settled for something that felt like what I imagined home to be. I convinced myself that it was home. However, it takes two people working hard together for a marriage to work and two people not working hard enough for it to fail. And so I questioned what home really meant when it fell irreparably apart. And after it fell apart, I wondered if I would ever come to know that sense of being at home with any certainty. But before I could ever have it, I had to truly understand it and so this is what came from the brainspin.
Home is comfort, trust, joy, passion and compassion. It is creativity, humor, tenderness, openness and affection. It is protection, friendship, honesty and respect. It is the sometimes shallow reflection as well as the deep pools of substance. It is having the ability to embrace the flaws instead of chasing unattainable perfection. Home is being okay with the scabs of the fresher wounds and accepting the scars from the wounds that have healed. But most importantly, home is where I feel safe and valued in spite of uncertainty and fear. And at long last, I can feel at home. Because home lives inside of me.
A while back, I asked my friends on Facebook to give me one word answers as to what defined “LOVE” to them. These are their words. Yet when I wanted to describe what love meant to me, I had a hard time coming up with just one word. Unfortunately, i’ve never been that succinct!
But even if it could be defined in one word, the bigger question to me is how does one actually go about FINDING it? At times, finding love seems to be rather easy. Other times, it takes a second (or third) glance and occasionally, a very concerted effort is necessary to ferret it out. But it’s always there if we are open to find it. Love can be found in our family, in God and even in ourselves. It is everywhere, actually. Even in our pain.
It is unexplainable until experienced but then undeniable and unforgettable. I am thankful for all of these things because to find love is to be present and to live and in the overall scheme of things, that is more than enough.
As I sit here in the quiet stillness of my house, I can almost imagine the sounds of heaven’s angels singing, the laughter and the joy that bubbles over when the soul can feel no sadness or regret and that pain and worries are an unknown entity. The sounds that even heaven can’t contain — for heaven has had a year now to rejoice that my momma joined in their choir.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
My momma was a Christian and she lived her life in a way that let you know she was a Christian — a life of example. She read her Bible, she prayed and she lived a moralistic life that reflected God’s light. She was not perfect but in her humanity she strived to please her God by living the way the Bible instructed. In her humanity, she made her fair share of mistakes but she knew in her heart that if she was faithful, she would have the reward of heaven. And so because she believed it so strongly, I can believe that for her.
In that one year since she’s been gone, there hasn’t been a day go by that I haven’t missed her. Time has inched by yet flown past as well. So many twists and turns in my life in just one revolution around the sun that I want to tell her about. So many missed opportunities to hear the wisdom she had from her life experiences. Three hundred and sixty-five days without Momma.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
But more than anything, I wish I could let her know just how grateful I am for her life of faith. The way she lived her life left an indelible mark on me and I don’t recall if I ever even told her that. Her belief in God was so strong and she never wavered in that belief . Yet faith is a belief of something unseeable, unspeakable and without evidence. But she was certain. I am so grateful to her for that because there are so many times when I struggle to have faith in things that are very tangible, let alone the unknown. Yet somehow I am still standing and that would not have been possible had there not been something much larger than me in control.
So as August 30, 2015 begins, I am reminded that one year ago today, my mother crossed over into her reward of heaven. You do not have to believe but my momma certainly did so I am going to close my eyes and embrace the stillness — knowing she at peace.
I said a silly goodbye to her on the back porch of her house and then drove back to Florida that day with the knowledge that my mother and I would see each other again for Thanksgiving. I promised her that I would call her frequently to be certain she was managing okay during her chemo treatments. I told her I would run interference with her doctors and nurses to be sure she understood the foreign language they were speaking to her. I even instructed her to be on the lookout for flowers on her birthday just a weeks away in October. Only she never made it to Thanksgiving. She never made it to her birthday. She didn’t even make a full two weeks after I said “I’ll be back before you have time to miss me”.
She died shortly after midnight as August 30 rolled around. Those flowers I told her were coming weren’t supposed to have been for her casket. It was just so surreal. I wouldn’t have said a silly goodbye if I had known how little time she had. I would have hugged her longer and tighter had I known. I would have stayed with her had I only known what was about to unfold.
My brother had to tell me over the phone that Momma coded and died. My sister and I had shared a phone call just a few hours before and I could hear Momma’s breathing so ragged in the background. I didn’t know what to say to my sister but I knew she would be gone very soon. The anguish I felt after that was so strong. I felt so guilty for leaving my mother at her most vulnerable — for not staying longer and being there when she needed ALL of her kids. I worried that my sister sitting at Momma’s bedside would not be able to handle what my gut knew was imminent. My sister and brother were with her and for that I am eternally grateful — I just felt like I should have been there as well. Survivor’s guilt and the guilt of having moved away from home so many years before creeped in and threatened to consume me. The stark reality that my mother was never gonna tell me she loved me again with that nasal sounding voice of hers was painful. There was an empty hole that would never be able to be filled.
I have wished so many times that Momma would come to me in my dreams so I could “feel” her again but so far, that hasn’t happened. But God works in mysterious ways and last week I had a friend of mine send me a message on Facebook that she had dreamed of my mother and wanted me to know. My friend had never met Momma — in fact, she and I have never met in person either — yet in her dream, she knew exactly who my mother was and felt so strongly about it that she sent me an email first thing that morning. My friend told me that Momma wore a tan dress that buttoned down the front and her hair was in a bun on her head. They had conversations about me, I suppose to confirm her identity. I literally FELT her dream so vividly that I could imagine it so easily as it played out in her mind. Ethereal, yet somehow tangible. Impossible, yet a reality. To read that email of my friend’s rendition to how all this unfolded in her dream brought chills down my spine and the tears flowed — the snot commencing down my lip soon followed. It didn’t matter that I was sitting in a bank branch waiting to see a representative about some legal papers.
MOMMA. WAS. THERE. WITH. ME.
I had been dealing with a particularly stressful couple of days prior to this and I was really missing my mother so to have this gift given to me was simply a blessing. To have had my mom for the years I did was God smiling favor on me and to know that from beyond her life on this earth, she is still beside me in hard times — well, that’s proof positive that love knows no boundaries. Simply put, Mommas are forever.
There are plenty of opinions about expectations and just as many quotes to support or negate those opinions. So since we all have an opinion (somebody open a window, will ya.. it stinks in here), I am going to put mine out there. You don’t have to agree with it. I respect your right to think for yourself, even when you’re wrong. 😉
I’ve had several conversations of late with several different people regarding this topic and it is my opinion that we all have expectations. Many deny having any expectations of others and I know they believe that to be true but I just can’t wrap my head around that and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve recently heard the quote below — even if it’s not an exact quote — I’d have at least enough to buy an iced latte! Wait, what? Did somebody say coffee?
While I agree with Ole Willie Shakes to a certain degree, I find expectations to be somewhat necessary because they formulate the boundaries of accepted behaviors from other folks. I think our expectations are the guidelines that we put in place so as to not have our moral standards trampled on. Now I don’t know about you but if somebody tramples on my moral standards, it’s a safe bet that my heart is prolly gonna hurt over it — regardless of what Shakespeare thinks about it.
My standards when it comes to interpersonal relationships are the boundaries I put into place for self-protection. Those boundaries allow me to be my authentic self and not have to compromise my integrity or values for the sake of someone else’s comfort level. If I do not set standards (i.e. expectations), I am simply saying that I willing to accept whatever someone else may decide to dump in my lap — silently telling them that “no matter what you do, I will just take it because I have no expectations of you”.
Human beings are not made to be islands so we have to learn to have INTERdependency and that requires an effort from all involved. Why would any of us allow another person to set our standards for us simply because they don’t have the ability or desire to respect a boundary? Why bother investing the time, the energy or a part of yourself if there is never any return? If you cannot expect a standard of respect from others, how do you cultivate trust in that person? How can you rely on them? Not to be redundant here but human beings are not made to be islands! Even Gilligan had the skipper and the professor!
Yes, having expectations can leave us open to disappointment but I think it’s a necessary risk in order to forge healthy relationships. So how does one develop a healthy relationship? Out of respect for other people’s boundaries and having that respect reciprocated. Boundaries are the unspoken statements that say ‘I respect myself enough not to have my values compromised by your behaviors’.
There is a huge difference between a boundary and an unrealistic expectations. It is unrealistic to expect others to never make mistakes. It is wrong to expect others to give more than we are willing to give of ourselves. It is unfair to expect others to think as we do or act as we would in every situation — that is what makes us individuals. As individuals, none of us are perfect. Recognizing that imperfection as a common thread means we will be more reasonable with our expectations in others. We accept the disappointments as long as they are not made with malice or disregard. To have someone say, “I made a mistake, i’m sorry and it won’t happen again” and then LIVE by that, means my trust is not misplaced. It means we are both flawed and that is okay. If I make a mistake and you tell me that it caused you pain.. it is up to me to say “I made a mistake, i’m sorry and it won’t happen again” and then LIVE by it. The same mistake made repeatedly is no longer a mistake, it has then become a choice.
What if it were something rather than someone? Would you expect your investment to never perform? If I decide I want to purchase a car and I want to spend $1000 — what kind of standard do I believe I will get in exchange for my investment? Can I depend on that $1000 car or do I need to adjust my expectations according to my investment? I think we all know the answer to that question. I fully expect my minimal investment to give me a minimal return. If I buy a car that cost me $50,000 I have a greater expectation of reliability and performance. I would have a greater disappointment if it rolled off the parking lot and then quit on me. I understand that a car does not have the ability to reason or to think like a human being but in my mind, I have a degree of expectation based on what I put into it. There is a standard of return that I need to get back in order to make my investment worthwhile or I will learn my valuable lesson and apply it in the future.
So bring on your expectations of me and make your boundaries clear because when I respect your boundaries, that shows my respect for you. In return, I will demand reciprocity. I make no apologies for that because the investment of myself is worth a return.
As a Southern woman, I have a deep love for southern magnolia trees. They are symbolic of the region and there is no other tree that can compare to them. The blooms are quite large and they are typically the color of a wedding dress. The leaves have a glossy sheen to the outside and the underside is brown and feels a bit like a soft velvet. They are so much more than ‘just a tree’ and the scent from them is so lemony aromatic that it can be downright overpowering.
When I moved to Florida, I had to leave behind the enormous magnolia tree that was in my yard. There are plenty of magnolia trees in Florida but they are a different variety of magnolia called the sweetbay and they just aren’t the same. They aren’t as fragrant, they don’t grow as large nor are they covered in blooms all at one time like the ones back in Louisiana.
When I make trips to go back home, I love going in the spring the most. The weather wasn’t so hot and humid that your makeup slides off your face and the magnolias and the dogwoods were in bloom. My family notwithstanding, those magnolia trees make north Louisiana feel like “home” again. It’s the little things, huh?
After living in Florida for nearly two decades, I slowly built a life here. But the life I worked to make here has changed tremendously over the past few years. I have often said I am as allergic to change as I am to mornings but in spite of my allergies, they both seem to happen on a daily basis.
The only thing that is constant is change — Heraclitus
So as life moves on and constantly changes, so must we. Some things we have the ability to change ourselves, others we are at the mercy of God and the universe. No matter where the change originates, we have to adapt. A small pieces part of my adaptation was losing my dog, Romeo. I didn’t really “lose” him so much as he was taken from me but that’s a completely different story and one i’m not really prepared to tell just yet. Another time, perhaps.
If I back up several years and give you a little history, I could tell you about Lil’ Bit — a tiny little Shih Tzu that I found languishing at a local animal shelter when she was about 6 years old. She was a pitiful mess and to be honest, not very friendly to most. She must have had a pretty rough life before she landed in the shelter and her appearance told the story. She was a matted, twisted mess and she was soaked in her own urine. She didn’t trust anyone but seemed to be okay with me for some reason. I guess one wounded heart recognizes another and she just accepted immediately that I would not hurt her. I rescued her (or it may have been the other way around) from that place that made her shake violently and cower on the newspaper that was lined in her cage. I had her coat shaved down to the point where she looked like more like a rat than a dog but she was free of the tangles and the urine wasn’t burning her skin any more. I’m sure she felt like a princess after that and I did everything I could to make her feel like one thereafter. She was my constant shadow and she loved me like no other animal ever has. She lived out the last ten years of her life in my care and I held her in my lap when she crossed over the rainbow bridge to a life beyond.
My loss was profound and it took quite some time for me to entertain the idea of another dog but finally I felt ready <enter Romeo, stage left>. Romeo was with me the first four years of his life but now lives with my ex and I haven’t seen him in a long time. I have to believe that he is okay in spite of not really knowing. That’s the hardest part, the not knowing. I just pray he’s healthy and happy.
One evening I found myself thinking about Romeo so strongly that I landed on a local shelter’s website (ADD, much?). And there, in black and white was a picture of a girl dog they were calling “Buttons” that looked so much like Romeo that I even called the shelter to be SURE it wasn’t him. It was right at closing time so there was no answer and after a very restless night, I ventured up there the next morning to see for myself. I got there before most of the staff and poor “Buttons” was in a different building. They told me that I would need to come back after 11:00 when the facility was open to see her and that she had actually been slated for adoption but for some reason, it had fallen through.
I begged them to let me make sure it wasn’t my Romeo. Perhaps there had been a clerical error stating the sex of the dog or something else bizarre? It could happen, right? They allowed me to see the dog and at least I was assured that it really wasn’t Romeo even though they look a LOT alike. When I saw “Buttons”, she came running up to me, wagging her tail as if she had known me all her life. I picked her up and she did exactly what Lil’ Bit had done so many years ago — she melted into my chest and my heart melted into a puddle of instant love.
I could not resist even though I knew it would be a struggle to take on another responsibility. My heart won out over my head in this particular incidence because “Buttons” became Magnolia Blossom and her address became mine. Since then, she has reminded me in so many ways of Lil’ Bit — so much so that it’s like having Lil’ Bit back in my life again. Magnolia, AKA Maggie (it’s less of a mouthful to say most of the time) has been amazing. She may not smell as lemony as the blossoms on the actual tree and she does have a good bit of black on her ‘wedding dress’ but she blooms in my heart and life no matter the season.