Wednesday, November 30, 2016

She Used to Be Mine

"What does not kill me makes me stronger." So says Nietzsche. And Kelly Clarkson. And countless others. 

I don't know quite how I feel about that. The jury is still out.
What does not kill us makes us...something. Survivors, at least. 

Does it leave us unchanged? Certainly not. Stronger? Better? Sometimes. 
And sometimes sadder. And weaker. And emptier. 

But always different. Altered. Transformed. Never quite the same. 

All of us are changed every day by what we experience ourselves; by what we see others experience. It is impossible to get through this life without change. Without adjusting...adapting.

Sometimes change is good. It can mean growth and metamorphosis. Sometimes change is less positive: dark and confusing.
Almost never is change easy, though. 

And sometimes we long for the person we used to be. A person we remember. But is no longer who we are.

There are things about my old self that I miss. I have thought a lot about it lately. A friend sent me this song a few weeks ago and it perfectly sums up how I have been feeling.

I miss her. That girl who used to be mine. She had fortitude, and hope. Bravery, and determination. Strength. Steadiness. Tenacity. She looked forward with anticipation. Expected the future to bring good things.

She was confident. And proud. And believed in her ability to conquer the world. One day at a time. She could take a hit. And she always got back up.

She is not me. And maybe she's still in there somewhere. Maybe she's gathering strength. Maybe she's the phoenix waiting to rise from the ashes. Maybe.

Or maybe she's gone. Replaced by someone older, perhaps wiser. Or perhaps just tired and a little bit defeated. 

One thing is for sure. I do miss her. And maybe if I'm lucky, I'll get to meet her again. 

The fact that someone wrote these lyrics. And a friend who is struggling with her own difficulties thought of me when she heard me courage to keep going. To try to reclaim what I can. And to make the best of what remains.

Because I know that, even without the girl that I knew, I am still not alone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What if...

I won't lie. I am sad. And worried. Worried that hate and divisiveness are ruining our society, our nation. I am sad that intolerance is being ignored, accepted and-worst of all-embraced.

I am sad because I feel small. And helpless against forces so much stronger, larger and more widespread than my tiny sphere of influence. The momentum alone of these powerful forces makes them feel immutable. Unstoppable. 

I am weak. I cannot fight against them alone and hope to emerge victorious. My voice is tiny. Insignificant amidst a cacophony of fear and hate. My reach is inadequate. My ideas: modest. Uncultivated.

But I cannot live in fear. I refuse to live in antipathy. And I can't help but wonder what could be possible. What if.

What if we could be as critical with our own thoughts and beliefs as we are with those of others?

What if we could admit that biases and prejudices and discrimination exist? And seek to collapse the institutions that perpetrate them. But first to examine ourselves: our own thoughts and behaviors. And to break down our own misconceptions.

What if we had the difficult conversations that need to be had? About equality. And privilege. And wealth. And opportunities. 

What if we did it without getting defensive? Without blaming. Without evading accountability. With only a desire to mend and repair.

What if instead of building walls we built bridges? Of understanding. Of acceptance. Of cooperation. Of genuine unselfish concern.

What if we truly felt responsible for taking care of the people around us? All people. 

What if we showed them respect and validation and understanding?

What if we accepted that people have not lived our lives? Had our experiences. And we seek to understand them instead of insulting them based on our own limited observations.

What if each of in capacity and authority...irrelevant in the general scheme of things...what if we sought to make the world a better place? 

Not the whole world. It's too overwhelming to think of. 
Too tremendous a task to fathom.

No. Not the whole world. Just ours. The tiny one we inhabit. The few people we come in contact with. The limited circle we interact with.

What if we make the changes in ourselves that we want to see around us?

What if we loved? What if we cared?

Can we change the world? I don't know.

But what if we can.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Daughter Dearest

21 years ago today, everything changed for me. A beautiful, enchanting creature came into my life and I suddenly became responsible for someone other than myself.

I was only 21 at the time. I had no idea what I was doing. I still don't. 

I do know that there has been nothing more difficult, magnificent, complex, agonizing, rewarding, daunting or awe-inspiring than these years.

I know that I became the person I am through trying to navigate the often tumultuous, sometimes placid, always challenging waters of parenthood.

Half a lifetime ago, I became a person who learned to:

* Be a safe place at a time when I never felt more vulnerable

* Hold back my own choked sobs while desperately trying to soothe another  

* Put the needs of someone else so far ahead, that hers became mine

* Feign knowledge. And patience. And strength.

* Calm fears with a serenity I seldom felt

* Feel every heartache, every victory, every anguish of someone else more keenly than I felt my own

* Long for the right words to say, but make due with all the wrong ones

* Know that giving up was never an option, even when it's all I wanted to do

And because of it all my life is richer. Fuller. More miraculous and amazing than I ever imagined was possible.

I got someone who loves me for my insufficiencies, my weaknesses, my failings. Who believes in me as much as I believe in her.

Happy birthday, Fantasia. Happy birthday to the girl who changed my world. 

No gift I could offer could compare to what you have given to me. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Those Who Love

Life is fleeting. Death, a certainty. Each of us is but a single one of hundreds of billions who have lived, are living, or will someday live on Earth. 

Knowing this, then, is there anything we can really do to leave the world a better place? 

To make it greater than it would have been without us? 

To truly have an influence that makes a difference? 

I believe we can. And I think we do it through the way we love. Through a commitment to care. To nurture. To comfort. To provide rescue, relief and reprieve. To serve without judging. To give freely and generously with no expectation of return. 

This alone, like the flapping of a butterfly's wings or a stone dropped in a pond, creates the breath of a breeze; ripples that reverberate beyond what we can measure. 

This is how the world is changed.

My oldest daughter lost her beautiful Gramma 'Rina last month. It was too soon. She was far too young. Her time on Earth cut tragically short. There was surely more she had to give. To do. To be. People left to touch. Journeys left to travel.

But while she lived, she loved with her whole heart. With a ferocity far greater than her tiny stature. With a zeal and a power that almost overwhelmed. She loved and she gave. She brought laughter and light to all who knew her. 

She inspired. She elevated. She transformed.

She left behind family and friends who are shocked and shaken, despaired and anguished. Sisters, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and more who will feel the void she left each and every day. 

My daughter is one of those people. I am one of those people.

But I will take comfort in the fact that Marina made a difference. In my life and in the lives of countless others.

She lived. She loved. And the world was changed.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

That Excited/Scared Feeling

That glimmer up ahead? It's the light. The kind of light they all talk about. No, not the go-into-the-light-Carol-Anne creepy kind. The good kind. The kind that makes you think that maybe you ARE actually in a tunnel, albeit a long one, and it's not a cave after all. That kind of light. 

The kind that, even though it is just a glimmer, feels brighter and sweeter and warmer than you ever thought possible. 

The kind that appears after the storm of life-changing fears. And challenges. And monumental failures. And successes that still felt like failures. And learning things about yourself that you would have been perfectly content to never know. 
Some things that amazed you. And some that were so ugly they made you shudder. 

The kind that twinkles after dark, sleepless nights and anxiety ridden days. After knowing you cannot possibly get through another year of making dinner and mortgage payments out of nothing at all.

After you forever bid a heartbreaking farewell to the dream of one day being a stay-at-home part-time author/part-time Pilates instructor/cookie baking/immaculate-house-having wonder woman. And delve into the nightmare where the burden of supporting your children financially and helping them with homework and getting them where they need to go and still having the energy to be their mommy becomes just a little too onerous to carry. 

The kind of light that sparkles after you spent so much time second, third, and fifteenth-guessing yourself. And thinking maybe you should have just sucked it up and taken 18 credits this summer and graduated in August. Even while acknowledging that it probably would have {literally} killed you dead. And may not have even made a difference.

The kind that beams brilliantly when you land the perfect job. After a two and a half month long application process. Which gave you plenty of time to go from confidence to humility to certainty to self-doubt to worry to complacency a million times over. After two nerve-wracking interviews almost a month apart. {The second one, in front of a panel, being the one where you may or may not have compared yourself to the Karate Kid.}

That kind of light. 

Where your future, which is unquestionably still fuzzy, becomes just a little less blurry. A little more defined. 

And for a minute you get to take a deep breath. Knowing that while you're not quite sure working full-time in the summer while your children run lord-of-the-flies-style wild at home is going to be at least know that you won't run out of milk, and toilet paper, and laundry detergent. 

Knowing that this job, teaching a student success course, will be challenging and different. But also awesome and rewarding. And that because of the things {both marvelous and unattractive} that you have learned about yourself in your life thus far, you know that you can pull it off. And maybe even be great.

Which leaves you feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and super enthusiastic and maybe a tiny bit anxious. 

Which was articulated brilliantly by Oscar Choi (played by the always fabulous Own Wilson) in the immortal film Armageddon:

  I got that "excited/scared" feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared.
 Or maybe it's more - It could be two - it could be 98% scared, 2% excited but that's what makes it so intense, it's so - confused. I can't really figure it out. 

I can't quite figure it out either. But whichever it is...3, 2, 1...liftoff.