I am holding back. I am holding things in. Lately, my hands are tied. It doesn’t matter why. It just matters that is what is. I do not do well in circumstances like that. I am struggling to keep myself I check, instead of rebelling against the bindings. My first instinct is to fight, even though I am not one who picks fights without reason. However, thinking about it, I am not sure what’s right. I am not sure how to approach certain things. I am unsure of what to disclose and what to hold back. So, it makes me stupid and silent – and a thousand other awkward things that I am, generally, not.
I think it was Sylvia Plath who said that when we are wanting everything, it’s because we are so dangerously close to wanting nothing. And I don’t buy that. I don’t think the line between yes and no is that thin, that easily crossed. I’m always emphatically on one side or the other, the line made of neon and hand grenades. I cross it deliberately when the reason is there. I’m not shy about it. I’m never uncertain in my loyalties or gestures. I don’t leave things up for debate.
And yet…there are so many things I have yet to say. So many truths I am keeping in. I tend to hold things in until I cannot, then I blurt. I’m looking for an opportunity to get things out, but it’s like searching for a light switch with a blindfold on: there’s no telling when it might be found. I just don’t know what to do with these words swimming dangerously underneath my skin.
I feel caged. That is always a dangerous feeling for me. The truth is that I do what everything. I want so many things. I do not how hard I am supposed to push. I do not know the balance there. It’s moments like this where I wish my mother were here. Because I feel like she’d know. She’d at least understand. I just…don’t. You see, for a Libra, I am supposed to be a creature of balance. Except I rarely am. I am never maybe. Once I decide, there’s rarely ever any turning back.
But lately, the mantra seems to be life is weird. Any time something odd has happened in the past few weeks, and it’s been OFTEN, my BFF and I look at each other and go, “Life is weird.” Because it is. Sometimes, there’s just no explanation for someone’s behavior. Sometimes, I am floored that I’m STILL surprised by human nature. I shouldn’t be.
Recently, it is the inconsistency that baffles me the most. The certainty, wrapped in confusion, lightly coated in maybe. It’s a world of paradoxes. And yes, maybe this would be easier if my mother was here, or maybe I would still be this confused. Perhaps I am complicating my own life.
I do not want maybe. I want the exact certainty I offer. I want yes. I want assurances. I want promises. I want a thousand things. Too often I am considering the other perspective, when maybe I need to be a little selfish. Something about that always feels wrong.
I do not know. I only know that I’d like the chance to straighten out the crooked bits. I’d like to be more honest than I’ve been, because I’m all heart and no sense. Because, at my core, I’m all love and no reason. Because I would rather dive in, instead of running. I do not run away, even when it might be easier. I only run if I’m running toward something.
Perhaps the difficult reality is this: the decision is not mine to make. Perhaps I am not the one in control and flailing about helps nothing. Perhaps I should step back and let the chips fall where they may.
I am done holding back. This is precisely why I don’t play poker: I cannot keep my cards close to my chest. It doesn’t matter if they’re aces or a crappy hand. Almost always, I throw them face up on the table. And I never bluff.
Imagine that you like someone in a big way. Your pulse won’t stop bouncing around. Your mouth goes dry. You feel like your heart is trying to extract itself from your chest. You smile when the other person is around. You try to be witty. Basically, this person makes you do the Happy. (Buffy-esque phrasing, for the win.)
You do this mad, bad tango flirting thing. You think it’s going somewhere, because it seems like it is. This other person matches you stride for stride, intention for intention, then at some point asks for your number. BAM! You feel like you hit the romantic lottery. You practically skip down the street, barely feeling your own feet. You grin like a moron. You sing uncontrollably. You’re totally done for, seduced by the total glee that is adoration and attraction. Awesome, right?
Now, imagine that you discover that this person you’re head-over-heels for is simply fucking with you. Imagine that it’s just a cruel joke caught somewhere between emotionally deficient toddler and emotionally stunted high school student.
You know what that equals? You, standing there in the middle of prom, doused in pig’s blood. Congratulations, asshats of the world, you’ve just taken someone’s heart – smashed it without mercy or provocation – and turned someone’s hopes into a special circle in hell. This kind of emotional manipulation is a supremely shitty level of craptastic. Now, you can argue that adults don’t behave like this, that after high school people mature. But the fun fact is that some don’t. Some people get their sadistic jollies by hurting others, by tossing hearts into blenders and unceremoniously hitting FRAPPE.
Twice in the past 24 hours I’ve heard stories like this. I’ve heard accounts, one from a very dear friend, of such ninny-headed cruelty that I would like to SMASH things. Because life and love are difficult enough, without idiots mucking up the already hard-to-decipher, challenging-to-navigate waters. Love and dating? They’re not easy. They’re not math equations with a right answer. And, you know, it’s not always easy to put yourself out there. In fact, it never is. Doing so is always an act of courage. It should be respected as such.
But screwing with someone’s heart for sport? Oh, sweetie, that’s cowardice and meanness in its rawest, most craven form. And anyone who dares to conduct themselves in such a manner is a troglodyte asshat of the lowest order of mortals. One that should be tossed into the Bog of Eternal stench, before being fed to the Great Pit of Carkoon.
You know what happens to someone who is dealt with so horribly? It hurts. It hurts beyond the telling of it. It undermines a person’s emotional strength. It makes them questions themselves, thinking “How could I have been so stupid? Was it me? Was it something I did?”
Right now, if that’s you? Let me answer: you are not the stupid one. It isn’t you. You opened yourself up, which is brave. It is a thing of hope. That other person doesn’t deserve you, because he/she is has the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone.
The best advice I can give is this: feel the pain, dance, sing, drink wine, and eat chocolate. Then go out there and let that person know they didn’t win. Smile big. Or tell them off. Whatever feels right. Because you are awesome. Because you care. Because you can care, whereas that other person’s heart is made of rocks and emptiness. At some point, that hollowness will be all that person has. But you? You’ll always be made of heart and strength. Remember that.
If all else fails, point me in the direction of the offending jerk, and I will promise to verbally eviscerate them for crimes against humanity.
The other day, I hung out with my BFF. At one point, she had some errands to run, and I went with her. We stopped at the pet food store and the liquor store (because CLEARLY those two errands go together). The liquor store in question was bigger than a mall. If you wandered down the wrong aisle, I’m quite certain one would lead to Narnia. Or the Goblin City. In which case: JAREEEEEEETH. *ahem* Moving on…
We found what she was looking for, laughing about some seriously ridiculous products. Alcoholic whipped cream? No, that’s totally NOT a sign you have a problem there, buddy. Not at all. Forget Marshmallow vodka – that’s just wrong. And you should’ve seen her face when I explained what a tequila worm is. “But WHY?” was a popular question.
Annnnyway, we went in search of a checkout line, only to find that there was no one around. The place looked like prime Zombie Apocalypse territory, until we found two random employees chatting. We stood there, waiting for a gap in the conversation. The continued chatting about their lives, while we stood there, pointedly starting at them. Finally, after Godot wandered by and Superman reversed the earth’s axial spinning, the woman turns and asks, “Can I help you?” Let it be known that her tone indicated she didn’t actually want to help, and she was annoyed that her chitchat was being interrupted by her actual JOB.
Me: We’re looking to check out.
Woman: What? What do you want?
Me: (holding up items, speaking louder) We are looking to pay for these.
Woman: Oh. There’s someone in aisle three.
Ladies and gentleman, there WAS indeed someone in aisle three, but she was blocked by a giant cardboard cutout of Captain freakin’ Morgan.
When we got out to the parking lot, I looked at my BFF, and we started to laugh. I may as well have shouted WE WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE THESE ITEMS at the top of my lungs. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why my BFF and I can go anywhere and amuse ourselves. Aside from the fact that I accidentally yelled BALLS! in the middle of the pet store. Oh, Victoria Dahl would be PROUD. I know.
Life lesson number #47: you really shouldn’t take me out in public, unless you are prepared for shenanigans and the silliness. Lucky for me, my BFF wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sometimes, things just don’t make sense. I’m not an everything-is-black-and-white person – so I get that. Things aren’t only good and bad, right or wrong, easy or hard. Life can be 47 different levels of weird and crazy, like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, but dipped in crack.
I like things to make sense. Or, at least, to be somewhat understandable. Because even if I don’t LIKE something, I handle it much better if there’s a clear picture. I think most people do.
But today, my heart hurts a little bit for all the things I just cannot wrap my head around. I have to remind myself that people aren’t math equations, which is a good thing (because math and I don’t get along). People are more like short stories: open to interpretation, with meaning to be found in snatches. Except, unlike a short story, people don’t have to make sense. There’s no set structure. There’s no rules. Basically, it’s we’re a human case study in Faulkner, circa The Sound and the Fury (ie the book that made my soul bleed and nearly stop reading FOREVER).
I always want to understand things. That is both good and bad. You cannot drag meaning from silence, any more than one can coax blood from a rock. And yet…that doesn’t always stop us from trying, does it?
Lately, I am in no mood for uncertainty. I am not entirely myself. I’m not as strong as I feel I should be, but I’m trying my best not to show it. I am like a cat in that respect: when wounded or hurting, I hide. Very few people see me otherwise. It isn’t always deliberate. It’s just another kind of armor, I suppose. But to the point: I am still the brave idiot most people are familiar with. Even now. I don’t think that personal pain is an excuse for radical personality changes, though I can see how it could affect people that way.
One thing I know is this: life is too damn short. It’s too damn short to be scared or to hold back. It’s too short to be dishonest or less than forthcoming. It’s too short not to love and laugh. It’s too short not to ask questions, reach out, or dance. It’s too short not to sing every chance we get. It’s too short not to be a little crazy and ridiculous. It’s too short not to try.
That’s the crux, the difference between being held by fear and moving beyond it: trying. Goodness knows, come hell, high water, or complete insanity – I never let that stop me. Don’t let it stop you, either. Because most of the time, the things we strive for, the brass rings and bright things, are exactly what we need. We just have to dare to believe it.
…the light of a single candle. ~St. Francis
Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned that I will let a stranger hug me if I’m upset enough. I know what it’s like to literally watch someone take their last breath. I know that life is hard, change is inevitable, and love is always the answer.
Since my mother passed away, people have done one of two things: reached out or said nothing. Now, depending on the relationship, this is normal. Some family members who I considered close have done or said nothing. Even something as simple as a facebook message. That is strange, because it takes two seconds to write a single sentence. That polite absence isn’t something to forget.
On the other hand, friends who I haven’t really spoken to in years have reached out. Cards have been received. And I’ve realized that I am lucky. Despite the few people who have (quite deliberately) remained silent, there are a wealth of folks who are wonderful.
It is a good feeling that, despite the horrible situation, someone calls at 6:30 am, because he/she heard and needed to call. It is a good feeling to have the solidity of such sweetness. It is a small light amid the darkness, gathering with the other small lights of words and gestures. I am lucky to be loved. I am lucky to love. And I am going to remember that, when the days get rough.
My best friend is a wonderful person. She didn’t leave my side for about a week. Then she distracted me with an old fashioned sleepover. My absolutely fantastic friend Liz and her fabulous sister Catie drove 7 hours both ways to attend my mother’s viewing. THAT’S FOURTEEN HOURS, people. That’s love, folks. Pure and simple.
When the dust settles, and things are less sad, the love is still there. I am reminded how that is all that really matters. T.S. Elliot once wrote about measuring out life in spoonfulls of coffee. While that is totally valid (because without the coffee, I stop doing the talking and the walking and the words putting into sentence doing – just like Lorelai Gilmore), measuring life is terms of love is much more important.
I am lucky in that department. Because love makes us strong. Love makes us brave. Love makes the dark and terrible moments a little more bearable. Love is hope, without strings. It’s a promise, without pretense. It’s everything, really. And because of all the love, I feel stronger than I otherwise would.
“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu
My heart is full of both strength and courage.
I’ve been trying to think of something to say.
The trouble is that I want to say everything and nothing. The trouble is I am all emotions and no vowels. The trouble is not the silence so much as it is the absence. I can’t quite wrap my head around the sudden hole in the world, the sudden dearth. It’s an emotional sinkhole.
The truth is that my mother was the best person I’ve ever known. Not just the best mother. The best person. Goodness knows, she had to be to tolerate me. But in all seriousness, she was ALWAYS there. It didn’t matter what was going on, or what the problem was, she would listen or fix it. Often times, both. In a lot of ways, I suppose that was like living life with a safety net. That isn’t meant to reduce her to a human problem solver. But words are failing me at the moment.
I know that this will suck for a while. Then, it will suck less. It will never not suck. But I also know that it is important to honor my mother’s memory. The only way to do that is to be strong. To carry on traditions. To be completely myself, no matter what – because she would be the first person to smack me upside the head for not being to who I am.
This is loss is a horrible one. It’s also a humbling one. I’m not the one who needs people, most of the time. I’m the one that people need. (I am my mother’s daughter.) I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help or just to reach out. And I’m so damn grateful for every single person who is there when I do, from my family to my friends, and to those who qualify as both. (You know who you are.) I am blessed to have such a wonderful support system, and I know that will make all the difference.
Anyone who knew my mother knew this one simple fact: she was amazing. She would do anything for anyone. She never hesitated to laugh at herself – which happened quite often. And while she couldn’t say a tongue twister without hilarious errors, that never stopped her from trying. That actually explains much of her outlook on life and approach to hard times. She never gave up. She never backed down. She found a way to laugh about things.
I will probably be fumbling with all this for a good while. I am acknowledging that, because I can’t see any way around it. If it were easy, if I was unaffected, I’d be a sociopath. But I know that I have people. You all may not be my mother (and god knows, no one EVER can replace her – because that woman knew EVERYTHING), but you are still my people. And for that, I want to thank you. The difference between an absolutely shitty day and a decent day can be as simple as a smile.
Things feel strange. Heavy, like a fog. That will slowly burn away, but right now, my coping mechanisms are people, music, phone calls, and trying to get things done. I’m better when I’m doing things. I’m better when I’m not still. But that’s how I’ve always been. Truthfully, I am more sad than angry. My mother put up one hell of a fight, as only she could do. When she was first diagnosed, the doctors gave her three months. She fought like hell for 2 years and seven months. So, those doctors? Didn’t know their asses from a hole in the wall. Mom’s fight, her tenacity and spirit, is a testament to who she was. She always gave things her all, even when a lesser person might’ve walked away, washed their hands, and just gave up. Giving up was never an option for her. And I suppose that is a major thing she imparted to me at an early age: go after the things you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a battle. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. There is strength in believing. There is strength in hope. There is power in possibility.
I could sit here for three years and tell you about all of the things my mother taught me. My fingers would probably be bleeding from overuse. But trust me when I say this: if your mother is still around, go hug her. Or call her. Tell her you love her. If she is not, remember and honor her. Because if she’s anything like my mom, that’s exactly what she’d want: for you to live to your life in the fullest way possible. As Camus once said, “Live to the point of tears.”
- Between the words spoken and the words held back, kept in a place of shadows and secrets.
- In parking lots and indrawn breaths, after hello and just before goodbye.
- Soft-spoken promises and late night phone calls, whispers that travel beyond the moment, lodging themselves underneath ribs, stealing into blood and bone.
- From moment-to-moment, without looking back or forward, grasping the thorned rose without hesitation.
- Through kisses and imagination, where one cannot exist without the other. The only instance of frailty is fear, cowardice, and holding back.
- On a street corner, wearing yesterday’s lipstick and a smile.
- With words that cling to action, like the wind clings to the leaves on trees. Some may fall, but the touch remains the same.
- Without any words at all. Draw the curtains. Shut the phone. Revel in the silence.
- Lingering between absence and presence, hope hinting around corners, a vague silhouette that offers change. There are no assurances.
- With perfect trust, divorced from doubt. This is red lipstick, coffee cups, and dancing in the street at three am.
- Eyes closed, hands out.
- Fully, with your whole heart. No questions asked. No expectations, except to love.