I believe it was Buddha that said ” The trouble is, you think you have time.” Times passage is defined by what the moments mean to you. Just think about how different 30 seconds can feel. The rapid heart beat you feel 30 seconds before you stand up in front of a group and talk, the 30 seconds before you get a shot at the dentist-these are far different than the 30 seconds you spent in high school watching the boy of your dreams walk across the gym to ask you to dance or the last 30 seconds you waited for the doctor to hand you your new born baby-it’s all relative and personal. Time can be cherished, you can curse it, it can be cruel in giving you the test and then teaching you the lesson, but no matter how hard you try you can’t make more or get it back. The older I get and the more I experiences I have, the more I’m convinced that my concept of time will forever flow and change as much as I do.
At different times in our life we embark on the wild adventure of discovering who we are; the person we’ve grown into and out of. I don’t think it’s something we do once in our lifetime, and I don’t believe we have some great epiphany and all the answers present themselves and fall neatly into place. It takes an incredible amount of work to meet yourself for the first time again and again. I think this rediscovery happens the same way we build muscle. We have damaged areas within us caused by love gone wrong or love lost, by journeying down a path that led us nowhere and finding ourselves lost in the middle of our own lives and once we find those weakened spots, the rebuilding can begin. We figure out what we need, who we don’t need, and what will make the next day worth the effort- all those choices are like torn fibers and those reasons and actions start to fuse together and form something new and stronger.
I’ll never know if it was forceful circumstances or where I was in life that made getting reacquainted with myself so incredibly difficult and at times acutely miserable. Perhaps all that difficulty is a side effect of being a chronic thinker….an over thinker on most days. Or, maybe it has more to do with having nowhere to hide, no one to distract me from what I found. I’m the only one sifting through the messiness and the bright spots validating it all. When you’re sitting in a pile of raw emotion, I guess the only thing you can do is except it or drive yourself crazy trying to erase and rewrite your history. There isn’t one of us that wouldn’t like to rip a chapter out of our story or hide it so no one can read it. When I find myself feeling vulnerable about untouchable pockets of my life, I’m reminded by myself and others that my unique human experience is what keeps my edges rough, the pieces barely put together, and the story I have to tell that much more relatable.
Acknowledgement of strength has been a tough one for me. People make remarks about how strong I am and how they couldn’t do it. I usually shluff off those comments because I don’t see myself as being different from anyone else. In my minds eye, strong is someone that draws your attention when they enter a room because they simply have this thing that makes you curious and a little afraid. The way they move through life with a smooth confidence makes them appear to be the most alive people on the planet-you want to be around them in hopes that some of that magic will rub off on you. I don’t know that I feel any of that.
I think I’m just a survivor and my one foot in front of the other has been more literal than figurative for longer periods of time. I credit my spirit to move forward on people. There are some that saw me through when I couldn’t find the light within myself to find my way. On the other side of all that, in the middle of my self discovery, I realized that my intrinsic buckets are filled by being available to people-to encourage, to remind them of how wonderful they are, to let them know they are believed in, smart, and capable. If I’m not strong for others beyond my own quivering heart, then I feel like I’m not living. Maybe that is what strength is all about afterall….being a candle for others and burning yourself up so they can see how important they really are.
As my life transitioned from kids in my house to adults out in the world, and my world came to another stand still, I discovered I’ve always needed my children far more than they’ve ever needed me. They are two of the most magnificent creatures on this earth and they have anchored me and kept me looking forward. They are powerful beyond their realizations and I wish, oh how I wish, they could see how all those baby steps they made growing up have created a large footprint on the world just by being themselves. For as often as I’ve wanted to choke them (figuratively) and hide when they said mom for the 500th time in an hour (literally) I would give anything to keep them in my nest and under my wing. As I’m well aware, life goes on, and I’ll have to settle for soaring above them, looking ahead, and looking out for them as long as I have wind under my wings. When I get lost, I don’t have to look far to see myself in them. They truly are my greatest accomplishments.
Questioning my own mortality is something I’m not sure I liked exploring either. It’s natural to question the length of life when you lose someone who was young. Ken’s midlife point was 21-how is that even possible? So here I sit, getting ready to head past my 40’s, and I feel anxious. Not because the ticking clock is robbing me of my youth or looks but because I have so many dreams to chase, walks to take, concerts to dance at, gazes to catch, foreheads to kiss, words to write, love to give, sunrises to see through sleepy eyes, and breathlessly happy moments to live. I’m more afraid of my time running out before I get to do all the things that tug at my soul more than I’m afraid of actually exiting this life.
The lingering clouds of time, that hang over all of us, can’t be responsible for putting our spark out. It breaks my heart to see people who trod along on a treadmill with the same scenery, the same accepted behavior, the same patterns and don’t see all that’s out there for the taking. Maybe for them, a known bad is better than an unknown good because it requires no risk. I have a tattoo that says, “Fortune favors the brave” and I’d like to think I’m living proof of that. Even with a scarred heart, I’ve never stopped believing I’m worthy of good things in my life. It would be easy to never get attached to people because attachments lead to expectations and expectations lead to disappointments, but my God would I have missed out on some of the best, and often reckless, experiences life has to offer. I want to keep my spark; I want to keep the fire burning in my soul.
The best part about believing I deserve good things is that I started to see them in the small things and grew a great appreciation for people and situations even when they caused that disappointment and temporary hurt we’re conditioned to avoid. The opposite side of the coin even started to make sense. All the things that I am to some, I’m not to others and it’s actually all ok. With discovering a sense of peace in being the villain or the hero I also get to decide on three things- the rules, the stakes, and the quitting time. I don’t have to hang out and be the martyr because guilt has me tied to things not meant for me. I can give as much or as little of myself to someone as I want because I discovered my self worth isn’t found in another person’s perception of me, it’s found in the choices I make about what makes me feel alive and by how much room I leave in my heart for the unexpected and unimaginable.
On this continual journey of self discovery I’ve learned to see the stars as brighter on the darkest nights, to embrace serendipity, to never second guess what my soul is screaming, to keep hope, to be gracious, to say what I feel and mean it, to take pictures, tell people I love them -tell them I’m thinking of them. We are all just a car crash, a diagnosis, an unexpected phone call, a new found love, or a broken heart away from becoming a completely different person. So, I wake up every day knowing that now is the time to laugh, to embrace the shit out of my insanity, and to make my life the best story in the world.
My advice to you is to set sail to discover yourself. Brave the waves and face the wind because at the end of the day or when you take a moment to look back at the seas you’ve navigated, it won’t matter if you’re divorced, what people thought about you, or if there’s less money in your bank account….all that will matter are the chances you took, the souls you danced with, the hands and hearts you were trusted to hold, and how big you smiled…trust me.