When I was about ten years old, I had little girl, big dreams of one day modeling. One of the only girls near my age in the neighborhood who lived a few houses down from my parent’s told me that there’s no way I could ever model with all of the cuts, bruises, and scars I had all over my slender, tanned legs. She was blonde haired, blue-eyed, taller and skinnier than I – basically had the kind of looks my mother would deem Hitler’s wet dream. Mama had jokes.
This girl, who we’ll call Sara, and I spent quite a lot of time together but none of that time ever went by without her telling me how she was better than me in some way or how much of a crush she had on my brother. *rolls eyes* She already had an agent and if I wanted even a slim chance at modeling, I’d have to strive for unblemished, shaven legs like hers. She would remind me of this while running her manicured hand up and down her pale, smooth leg, even insisting I touch them once or twice. I don’t even think I was shaving yet.
“Uh huh, okay Sara,” I would repeat and nod my head, often trying to change the subject but nonetheless, feeling poorly about the many bicycle and skateboarding accidents that were visible upon my inferior limbs.
After my mother took me to a local modeling agency and I was told I was too short for anything aside from catalog, I decided dancing was more up my ally anyway and those slender legs were no more! From there, I became a cheerleader and practiced both for six years. To this day, I have scars from some of the more severe accidents I had as a child, playing outdoors, I have curves and strong muscles in places I never would have known existed had I not become a dancer, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about any of it. Okay, that’s not true, but my thigh cellulite is irrelevant to this story.
I have no idea what became of Sara – the only thing I know is that she became a mother at a very young age, but we had lost touch by then. I recall my mother often asking why I hung out with her. She probably smelled the bad news from five houses down whereas I know I smelled it but I just wanted to hang out with someone aside from the strange chick three houses down or Memo, Tebo, and Julie at that point.
Memo, Tebo, and Julie eventually became my best friends. Sure, I had actual, tangible friends – I wasn’t really a loner at school or in other social situations, but at home, I definitely was.
Between my mother’s understandable desire for “adult time” and my brother’s obvious disdain for his younger sister’s presence, Memo, Tebo, and Julie were really my only choice. Of course, there was also Barbie and Ken. The thing about Barbie, though, was that I had nothing in common with her, nor did I ever have some warped sense of “I need to look like her.” My mother was very good at making me feel good about my external beauty, as well as my internal, but even when the world and my peers were telling me there was something wrong with me, some sort of flaw or imperfection unfit for a fashion magazine or even a third grade yearbook photo, my mother was there assuring me otherwise. She was instilling the confidence I’d need to navigate a society that constantly tells an impressionable young woman what she should strive to attain in terms of outward beauty. Most of the time, these impositions are unrealistic.
In the third grade, the teacher placed our yearbook photos face up on our desks as I had gotten up to grab my belongings at the coat rack. As I spun around to return to my desk, a crowd of students had gathered around my desk, their stubby, little eight-year-old fingers pointing down at what was obviously my yearbook photo, their childish snickers audible from across the room. I reluctantly approached to see what the fuss was and there I was – buck-toothed and shut-eyed, smiling from ear to ear against a wicker backdrop, resembling a beaver more than ever before – the rodent my brother had likened me to at every chance he got.
The hot tears instantly reared their wet, ugly heads in the corners of my eyes as I pushed my way through the mean-spirited crowd, quickly flipping the photo over, and becoming angry with the teacher for placing them face up. My third-grade self needed someone to be angry with and I’d found the culprit as fast as the camera had found my Bugs Bunny smile.
My brother spent much of my single digit youth reminding me of the animal I most closely resembled and attempting to break me down. He was admittedly jealous of me his entire life and his deliberate insults were most likely a product of this complex emotion. At such an early age, though, I couldn’t piece those correlations together quite yet, so my brother’s affection and approval was continually sought even after he would chuck a basketball at my chest so hard, it would knock the wind out of me. His cute friend scolding him for throwing it so aggressively was a nice solace in a moment of such direct disapproval from someone I desperately looked up to.
It took me exactly thirty-two years to fully realize that behavior is more telling in matters of family than blood. And for thirty-two years, my brother’s behavior has told me that he doesn’t want me to be a part of his life. Perhaps the ultimate telling of this revelation was this past Christmas, my thirty-second birthday, when he failed to wish me a happy birthday. I was in Peru, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt as I’ve done so many times in the past, and thought I’d surely come home to a greeting card. I didn’t. My first thought was that for thirty-one years, he was always the first one to wish me a “Happy Birthday” in my immediate family. My second thought was that I should have realized the first time he called me beaver he wasn’t someone I should be looking up to.
A recurring theme in my life over the last month or so has been something I touched upon in my last blog of 2016, All about the Journey, and that’s the coming and going of people in our lives. No matter how long or short their stay, their presence is purposeful and enduring.
I’ve only been back from my weeklong birthday vacation to Peru for a little over a week and a handful of people have come and gone or stayed in such a short time, I have no choice but to examine the purpose. One of the lovely things I’ve discovered in considering these events is that I’ve let go of the damaging “what’s wrong with me” anxiety that sometimes accompanies others’ exit or their less than favorable role. Simply acknowledging there is a purpose, even if I have no idea what that purpose is yet, is enough. It also allows me to view that seemingly subpar character as beautiful, rather than with disgust, anger, and rejection.
I’ve learned that even in the deepest, muddiest waters, I won’t drown. I’ll learn how to swim to the other side. And if I’m paying attention, if my heart and mind are open, I might even see the beauty in how filthy I am by the time I get there. Sure, I might whine or flail my arms in blinding fits of rage on my way there, but with every lap, my gratitude will become stronger because even in our reactions, there is much to be learned.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as of late is to be gentler with myself. That means if I react in a perceivably negative manner, if I’m flailing my arms in blinding fits of rage, I will allow myself this temporary relief. I will acknowledge my heart’s need to bleed. But I’ll always keep swimming.
I listened to this song on repeat the entire time I was writing this.
Almost two years ago, I sat at my coffee table eating Christmas dinner, alone. Not only was it Christmas, but it was my thirtieth birthday and I vowed from that moment on, I would do something extra special each year even if it meant I’d be doing it alone. I had spent holidays with friends and in what essentially seemed a foreign place to be celebrating the holidays before but that particular Christmas was the fourth I was spending without my parents breathing somewhere thousands of miles away. This loss only added to the heaviness of being alone on my thirtieth birthday, on a holiday that is better spent with loved ones.
I tried driving to the movie theater with the intent of distracting myself from the solitude for a couple of hours. I only ended up making matters worse when I found myself surrounded by hordes of couples and families with similar intentions. I promised myself that day that I’d write a different story thereafter.
Last year, I explored, ate, and drank my way through California’s famed wine country and this year, I head to Peru to check off the bucket-list worthy Machu Picchu amongst many other adventures including learning how to make chocolate! Peru has always inexplicably beckoned to my wandering spirit even more so than more obvious tourist destinations like Paris or London.
2016 has had its ups and downs like every year – thankfully not as many downs as some previous years. Nonetheless, I’d like to reflect on the positive of this year and enter into 2017 with that gratitude in my heart and mind.
I began 2016 vigorously hunting for a new job only to be promoted at my current job and assume a management role with a team of Disney loving artists. I look at Mickey Mouse’s face all day – hard to complain about that. In May, I found myself on a beautiful, rural island in the Pacific Ocean, a Hawaiian Island by the name of Kauai. I found much deserved rest and relaxation there as well as a great affinity for island life. I watched the sunset and the sunrise over the crashing waves of the sea, collected sea glass on a beach covered in it with my mother in my heart, and I ate all types of seafood like it was my job, even experiencing a mild allergic reaction to butterfish when my mouth became itchy and my lips swelled up. Thank goodness it was only mild!
The month of June brought life changing decisions and a serious surgery that was followed up by an epic eight-hour round trip hike to the top of Kearsarge Pass, an 11,760-foot peak overlooking stunning Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Forest. This weekend of camping and hiking in good company led me to a newfound love – the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range! The “range of light” as John Muir so accurately described them, left me in awe of their vast beauty, chanting “emotional pain is worse than physical pain” during the grueling climb to the top of the pass, and perhaps masochistically pining for more.
While July brought loss, leaving me grieving in its aftermath, it also brought me back to the Sierra Nevadas. I took off for a solo weekend getaway one Saturday morning, ate breakfast on the banks of a pristine lake, and eagerly visited the wonder that is Mono Lake and its tufas. The following morning, I got lost on my way to a trailhead of an intended hike and when all was said and done, it didn’t feel like I had ever truly been lost. In fact, I think I was going the right way the entire time when the beautiful deer pranced out in front of my car, briefly paused, and then disappeared into the dense, dark forest.
Thanksgiving found me surprising my family in Kansas City for the holiday and what a nice treat that was to spend so much quality time with everyone, especially my eighty-six year old grandma. From listening to Elvis Presley Pandora, my grandmother’s favorite, to assembling her Christmas tree with my aunt and cousin, I was reminded just how important the family we don’t get to choose is. Happily finding a jazz lounge and touring a distillery with my best friend of eighteen years was time well spent and will certainly be a part of the memory books of our minds for years to come.
People have come and gone and I am reminded that no matter how long each person was a part of my life, be it for years or for a moment, they were all equally as important and purposeful. It’s most certainly about the journey and not the destination, nothing is an accident, there are no coincidences, people are rarely ever “joking,” and the Universe always has messages for those of us looking for them.
And here I am, one week away from a trip that I have looked forward to for so long! I am proud of my hard work, my candor, my strength, and my drive – I am proud of the loving, bold, and compassionate woman I have always been and I am unashamed of the endless hopefulness that burns brightly inside me. But you’ve seen so many disappointments in this short life, says that child’s voice inside of me that’s always seeking to protect, and to her, I respond, but my dear, without hope, we wouldn’t put one foot in front of the other, we wouldn’t look forward to or get excited about another day and all of its possibilities. Therefore, I shall always have hope.
I am looking forward to the Peruvian journey and to thirty-two! Cheers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, set your life on fire, seek those who fan the flames, and a Happy New Year to all of you!
My head and my heart are in what feels like constant war, as in opposing magnets on opposite sides of a spectrum, consistently contradicting one another to the near point of absolute insanity. This could also be known as anxiety but I wanted to be descriptive in order to drive the point home, to paint the picture of anatomical organs jousting to a bitter end. This battle usually takes place within my stomach thus ensuing relentless stomach pains and strange physical ailments without any tangible explanation. Sometimes the battle takes place in my shoulders or back, too, but nine times out of ten, my gut will take the brunt of the attack.
Early on, I learned that it is my responsibility to ensure everyone is happy, that par for the course I give until I have nothing left to give and even then, I can’t stop. My brain is so angered by this selflessness, understanding that such action leaves me vulnerable and open to being taken advantage of. Thus, I am left feeling utterly drained. My heart explains that it’s my duty to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to whomever is in need of it even if said person is not going to believe the truth. In the case of denial of the truth, I must not give up my duty in making said person understand. Again, my brain becomes enraged because cognitively, the idea that I have to deliver truth like I’m a part of the fucking truth crusade when that truth is being repeatedly rejected is insanity in and of itself!
All of my heart’s irrationalities are centered on this idea of never feeling like I am enough. You didn’t try hard enough. That person believes something false so you must be a terrible person for allowing that to happen. If you loved hard enough then this person would never believe such a fabricated narrative. This person is hurting so it must be your fault. If you had tried harder then said person wouldn’t be hurting.
Lest you fickle fucking heart forget about your own fucking feelings, shouts my brain from the rooftops!
But one of the people who gave me life, who made my heart beat, hated his life so I must not be good enough, replies my heart.
Well, then, what’s the point in even fucking trying, my dismayed brain, seemingly defeated, asks.
It’s fucking madness!
Amongst the battle, I am diligently working to change this narrative, so not to be a product of such conflicting, untrue, and unproductive thoughts and emotions. I am working to break the cycle so to speak. For the sake of my well-being, I can no longer be host to this war zone. Sometimes, my brain has valid points and sometimes, my heart does. I need both my brain and my heart to work together, to dwell in harmony, and compliment one another. I’m not sure how to get to said harmony but I know I’m on my way and at the end of the day, I believe it’s more about the journey than it is the destination.