Small Love

I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days.  Joe has class from 7-9:40 three days a week.  Even though he wasn’t going to get home until late, he offered to head to the pharmacy after class in order to get me some much needed medicine.

To some this might not seem like a big deal, but to me it means the world.  I know how long class is for him.  I know how much he just wants to get home afterwards.  But he offered to go out of his way to get me something I need…even though I very well could go out myself.  Let’s not even mention the fact that he’s the one who gets me out of bed to marathon train at 5 am most mornings.  That’s more than dedication.  That’s more than caring.  That’s love.  Plain and simple.

It’s the small tokens of love that are the most meaningful and important. These are the tokens that had been missing from my life for quite some time.

Had I been sick before it would have been met with contempt, almost as if my sickness was a major inconvenience that I contrived in order to make someone’s like more difficult.  Or I would be met with the fact that he was also sick…and even though I was working a full time job, along with being a full time wife and mother, I was still expected to take care of one more person.

I think about these small moments when I feel someone judging me for leaving.  They don’t know what it was like; to never feel like someone cared or to never feel “taken care of”. I think sometimes people forget that meanness and non-caring isn’t all about outward nastiness.  It’s not always name calling or a controlling nature.  Sometimes it really is the fact that you are overlooked and feel completely unimportant in everyday life.

Sometimes someone taking 15 minutes out of their day to show you small tokens of love is all you need to realize you’ve found “the one”.  It’s moments like these that make it all worth it.

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Second Place

Throughout their short lives I’ve tried to teach my kids that you don’t always have to be in first place.  Winning isn’t everything.  As long as you had fun, that’s all that matters.  As long as you really try, it was worth it.  These are wonderful sentiments when it comes to sports or grades, but in the world of relationships, it’s harder for them to find a place.  As children we rank ordered the people in our lives quite frequently.  There was usually nothing more devastating than finding out you were someones “second best friend”, especially if you considered them your “first best friend”.

Luckily, as adults, this isn’t a problem we frequently deal with.  It’s usually pretty easy to figure out where you stand in someone’s life.  When we were little we were verbal about it, having no problem shouting to anyone who would listen about our important list of people.  As adults, we tend to be more subtle, and actions, rather than words, show all we need to know.  When the words do come, they are not surprises.  We already could feel the love and understanding through each action, small or large.  Effort made.  Heart full.

There are those times, of course, that the words and actions don’t match up.  There is a disconnection, a breakdown in communication that makes us feel lost and confused.  What I’ve found most often is that the words are there but the effort is not. It can usually be broken down into two types of friendships.  One of them superficial, at best, and we know that it’s only a matter of time before these friendships are filtered out.  The second kind is far harder to break free from, usually because it causes a great hole in our lives that we are not sure we want.

The Superficials: We have the friends that are nice to our face, but tend to lie or tell half-truths (Past post about this) in some sort of effort to feel better about themselves or “seem cooler” to us (sorry for the middle school terminology).  While this is less than an ideal friendship, those types of people are easy to spot and even easier to let go when the time comes.  Eventually we get fed up being lied to and simply let the friendship dissolve until all we have left is the memories.  This is an end we see coming and usually, it’s one we’re ok with.

The Devastators: The other type of disconnect is more brittle and reaches the depths of our core a little more.  It’s the people who tell you exactly what they think you want to hear, but only because they’re truly nice people. They know all the right words and they say them at the right times, essentially causing us to believe everything they say.  And really, it’s because they just want to make us happy.  The trick, as always, is to look deeper, to see how much the actions match these words. In the best kinds of friends, you don’t have to look hard.  They match right up.  These are the people you want in your life.  These are the people you never let go.  And then there are the devastating times when they don’t.  You keep listening.  You keep wanting to believe.  You keep hoping the effort catches up to the words.  So many times, it doesn’t, no matter how much you want it to.

And when it doesn’t you have a decision to make.  Do you stay in that relationship, knowing you are essentially “second place”, a back-up plan only worth half?  Or do you simply break free?  Which pain do you endure?  The pain of staying or the pain of going?

Well?

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Small and Sound

Happiness is a tricky creature.  It’s something we’re taught since birth to want while we’re simultaneously taught that it’s unattainable.  We’re constantly being bombarded with messages stating that what we have is great buuuuuut…it could be so much better.  The whole idea of “the grass is always greener” has never been lost on me, making me constantly and haphazardly jump between “YOLO” and “be happy with what you have”.

Then there’s the fact that lately I feel like I have let my happiness be contingent on other people.  Words of affirmation and love, little moments of attention, things that made me feel like I was worthy of something; worthy of being, all simply because someone else is making he effort and believing that too.  But when those things fade, or don’t happen, or minds get changed, then what do you have?  I’m left feeling empty, bitter, alone, and blaming not myself, but that other person who let me down, when really it’s my fualt for putting so much power into their hands in the first place.

I love to make other people happy.  When I’m around happy people, I tend to be happier. Unfortunately, because I like to make people happy, I believe others are the same way. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t care about your happiness at all.  Sometimes they tell you what you want to hear, because they do want to make you happy, even if they don’t mean everything you’re saying.

And there in lies the conundrum.  I put my happiness into the hands of others instead of simply doing what I can to make myself happy.  Playing with the kids, watching a movie within someone I love, reading a book, talking to a friend, going to the gym.  All little variations of my happiness.  And all things that I need to focus on instead of sitting around and waiting for someone to make me happy.  I have the ability to make myself happy.  But it’s hard and sometimes I just feel like I CAN’T.

But not today.  Today was different.

It’s days like today where I really feel like everything is going to be ok.  Me writing outside enjoying the beginnings of a sunset and the early evening breeze rustling through the gazebo. The house is quiet.  The wine has been poured.  I feel put together, whole, complete just being in this moment.  It’s almost as if over night my entire world has begun to make sense.  Recently, I’ve felt like my life was a puzzle and as I’m trying to put it together there are just too many pieces.  Figuring out the ones that fit together and deciding which ones need to be discarded to make the most complete picture has been difficult.  So many times in my life I feel so lost and pulled apart, that when I get moments like this, it feels like heaven.  No anxiety about the future, just clarity and peace. I’m praying it is simply not the calm before the storm as it has been so many times before.  Unlike those other times though, I’m choosing to believe that things are headed in the right direction.

Everything up until now has been leading me to this moment.  I feel like my life is on the cusp of something big.  I have no idea what it is, but the best part is that the possibilities are endless.

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Complacency, Love, and the Weather

As is too often with these posts, I start by saying…it’s been too long since I have written anything new.  I could blame work, school, kids, life,  but really that would only be the icing on a cake too tall to tackle.  The real problem is myself and even that is not enough to explain what has happened to me over the past few months.  As is usually the case I am torn between being happy (complacent) with the life I have and wanting (needing) something more.

While I feel like I say it every year, this one, by far, has been the hardest one to navigate.  Between friendships found, and lost, and found, the bumpy and panic inducing ride that is 11 years of marriage, losing and finding myself over and over again, and simply finding time to breathe through it all, I feel like I’ve been broken and put back together so many times that I wonder if all my pieces have survived.

 

I wonder, sometimes, if my biggest problem is more simple than I realize.  That maybe my expectations for people and their behaviors are simply too high. Mostly, I feel that people will never meet mine and am forever doomed to sit and silence and ponder if it’s them or me.  And yet, why ponder?  I know it’s me. I simply assume everyone puts forth the same amount of everything I do: love, effort, understanding, movement, change.  And when they don’t I am undoubtably dissapointed.  “They” say expectation is the root of all heartache and this is something I wholeheartedly believe.  But do we give up, accept this, and work to assimilate to the “others”; the ones that we feel are disappointing us?  Decide to live in quiet complacency, knowing we could have it worse?  That maybe if we just let things go, decide to give up what we feel we need, that we could live an almost happy life?

Or do we simply wait?  Wait for the changes we are asking for.  Wait for love we know we need and deserve. Wait for a life we know we are not going to simply exist in…but actually live in.

The conundrum exists: do you hope for the hurricane or simply enjoy the calm and still air of almost?  Sometimes, the hurricane is worth it.  It’s beautiful and perfect in its power and destruction, changing the landscape of your life forever, tearing down the extraneous walls you’ve built up to keep things out (or in).  Other times it simply destroys everything, coming and going in meer moments, leaving an empty hole where something stable (maybe not profound or amazing), but stable used to be.

I’m watching people take these leaps and bounds in their lives and am becoming completely envious. Picking up and moving away.  Finding a new and meaningful job.  Leaving behind a mediocre life for a great one. For a while, it was hard to watch their journey because of the jealousy.  What luck to get exactly what you want; what you’ve been hoping for. They made it looked so easy.  But now, I know it is their bravery I covet.  The sheer courage to say “This is what I want and I’m going to go for it.”  They decided take some action instead of sitting around and talking, wondering, or even writing about it.  Taking the risk in the hurricane, even if it destroys everything.

No matter how much back and forth I do in these situations, deep down, I know what it is that I want.

And it’s time to go and buy an umbrella.

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We’ll all float on Ok.

I don’t seem to know who I am anymore.

Not so long ago I felt like I had it all figured out.  I’m a mom.  I’m a runner.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a friend.  Things were going well.  I had a wonderful new daughter, two amazing boys, and a fantastic support system of friends and family.  I literally had no complaints and was perfectly content any happy.

And then I broke…again.

This wasn’t like the first time I felt that I had broke, when my dad had died.  When that happened I feel apart all at once so it was almost easier to out myself back together.  The pieces were right there and easier to find, not scattered over space and time.

I wish I could say I knew the exact moment that it happened, but really it was a series of events that started small, each one separately almost microscopic in size, but together crumbled my world into a million pieces.

I cut back on my running and dropped out of the NYC marathon.

An old friend came back into my life just when I thought I was finally over our past.

I lost a person in my life who I thought was a good friend.

The separation began…and ended…and began…and changed so much that I don’t even know where we are at this point.

Most recently I’ve done things I probably shouldn’t have.  I’ve eaten things I probably shouldn’t have.  I’ve stopped running altogether.  With each passing day, the numbers on the scale keep inching closer to where I said I never wanted to be again.  And the worst part of it all is that I just don’t seem to care.  Not about being a bad person, or losing certain people from my life, or even losing everything I worked for.  None of it.

I feel like I’m on the roundabout on the playground spinning more and more out of control each day.  The sad part is that I know I’m the one that’s pushing it to go faster and faster.  I am in complete and utter control of this and I can’t seem to jump off and just stop. Because I know that when I do I’m going to break even more from the impact.  I know that I’m really going to have to work to find all the pieces and put myself back together again.  Not only in the “now” but in the past too.  The task seems daunting and so impossible that 99% of the time I don’t even have the desire to try.

But then, out of the blue, today happened.  The 1%.  The one glimmer of hope I had been hoping for.

We’re driving to the park and the library and all three kids are squeezed into the back seat.  Charlotte is singing along to Modest Mouse playing in the background while Oliver and Max argued about how many sheep are in an adjoining field.  The sun was shining in the blue sky as wispy clouds float by, my hand out the window rising and falling in the warm air.  I finally felt it.  What I had been longing to feel for so long lately.  A sense of peace and contentment.   A sense of placement.

This is where I was supposed to be.  Maybe not forever, but at least for right now.

And with that tiny feeling of hope, I know that pretty soon I’ll have enough courage to make the leap off the roundabout.  And maybe, just maybe, my feet will actually hit the ground and I’ll be able to pick myself up and begin to collect all the pieces.

I’m not me. But I will be soon.

I started the post awhile ago and then stopped.  There are so many truths within it that I just didn’t know if I was willing to face them.  By admitting these things, I feel like my life course, my life as I know it, essentially all that I am, will be different.  And I’m literally writing this after I had a mental breakdown on the side of the road at 5:30 in the morning.

I started running when my dad died.  Ok.  That’s not entirely accurate, but that’s the truth that I tend to tell people because it seems more acceptable than the real story.  More acceptable and less ugly. But really, what have I got to lose at this point?  Nothing.  They say the truth will set you free.  Well, maybe that’s just what I need.  Freedom from who I think I am so I can become the real me.

After my dad died I fell apart.  Which was odd to me because we hadn’t spoken in 5 years.  But I had often seen myself in him.  He was angry a lot and tended to push those who were closest to him away.  As I watched him die sick and alone I worried that this is what my life was destined for.  And I tried to run away from everything.  During that time I got caught up in a relationship that I shouldn’t have.  I thought it was healing me when in reality it was slowly dismantling me.  When it ended, leaving me heartbroken and empty, I had no idea how to handle two losses in such a short amount of time.  So I went for a run.  And it truly saved me. I had found something that could put me back together, slowly and piece by piece.

And it worked…for a time.

I loved being able to say I was a runner.  It helped me feel accomplished, like I could do anything.  It made me feel more confident and pretty bad ass. But it also gave me an escape from my life, the escape I thought I had needed before; a way to “run away” so to speak.  In reality, it didn’t save me from myself.  It simply gave me the outlet to gloss over my problems; to bury them deep down and save them for another day.

Cut to me crying on the side of the road because I couldn’t run.  I have so much going on in my life that I had begun to use running as that escape again.  Now I have an injury and can’t run.  What am I supposed to do?  Without the running, I’m actually going to have to face the demons in my life.  I’m actually going to have to figure out what’s wrong and get to the root of my problems.

And I don’t know if I can do that.  I’ve been putting them in the background for so long that I don’t how to face my problems without running away.  I don’t know if I’m entirely ready to make these hard decisions that I know have to be made.  I don’t think I’m disciplined enough to make the changes that I need to make in order to actually survive.

But maybe that’s why this happened.  Maybe this injury is the universe’s way of telling me to grow a pair and handle my shit.  Because life is short.  And time is not guaranteed.

I need to say good-bye to running for awhile.  I need to learn how to cope without it. I need to learn how to love myself completely without the label of being a runner.  Once I’m whole again, we can start our journey all over, when running is something in my life and not the only thing.

Here goes nothing.

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Snow is serious business

The summer before I graduated from college (circa 2003) Mike and I drove across the country.  We visited 36 states in 3 weeks.  It was the most magical and fun trip I had ever taken.  And it’s this exact trip that convinced me that I could, in fact, get married.  I figured if we could basically live in a car together for 21 days and come out the other end alive, then we could pledge eternity to each other.

If knew me growing up, you’d know I never even thought about marriage.  Both my parents were on their second marriages before I came along.  I am also what caused their marriage (They were married in June.  I was born in January.  You do the math.).  Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least.  Fighting, screaming, throwing, cheating, drugs, alcohol, guilt, and insults were what I witnessed almost every day.  We would all beg for them to get divorced and my mom left a few times, always coming back in the end.  She would tell us it was for love, but we knew the real reason: loneliness and lack of money always won out in the end.  It wasn’t until I was 18 that they finally divorced and only because my mother had another person to help take care of her.

To say these experiences shaped the way I look at love and marriage would be an understatement.  From a very young age I had decided I didn’t want to be married.  Or have children.  I saw the strain they brought to things and having pretty much raised my younger siblings, I felt like my child rearing days were over.  Even when I would play with my dolls when I was younger, I never played house.  I always played orphanage.  That way I was still taking care of my “babies” but not having to be their mother. And I also wouldn’t be required to have a husband.

Sure, I had crushes.  Who didn’t?  But I never thought about them in the long term and I tended to flit from one person to another as my mood changed.  Finally, in college, I met Mike, we dated, and after our car trip I figured maybe I could do the marriage thing.  Maybe I wasn’t as broken as I actually thought I was.

Cut to the end of 2015/beginning of 2016.  14 years together.  Almost 11 years married. Three children.  And completely unsure of the future. Throughout this separation, I’ve spent my days convinced I am making the best decision for me and my family and my nights unsure.   Conflicted is an understatement.  Torn apart might be better analogy.

And then, lo and behold, a snow storm.  And not just any snow storm…the largest single snow storm in Baltimore history.  Not only would I be trapped in the house with my husband and kids, but I would be trapped in the house for DAYS.  How would we manage our hostility and hurt when there was no where to go?  It’s not even that I wouldn’t be leaving for work.  We literally could not leave the house. And I refused to simply use the children as a buffer as my parents had done so many times.

And maybe that’s where the real story begins.  Or, should I say, maybe that’s where a new story begins.  Maybe being trapped by this snowstorm was the best thing that could have happened to us.  Without a means to escape, we would have to face our problems head on and full force.  There was nowhere to hide.  And really no reason to.  Without being able to leave, we couldn’t lie to ourselves or each other anymore.  We would have to start being honest.  We would have to actually do some work.  Even if not to fix things, but to figure out a way to live in quiet harmony.

And you know what?  We did.  I’m not saying that everything is magically fixed.  It’s not. And it won’t be for a long time.  But without being able to escape I had to confront everything: my feelings, his feelings, the past, the present, the future.  And for the first time in a long time, I haven’t wanted to leave.  There’s a glimmer of something that I used to feel peeking up from behind the years of complacency and routine. Perhaps we need to see if this is anything worth saving.   Perhaps there’s a chance that it is actually worth working for.  Maybe it’s not…but maybe it is.

I feel a hope and a promise I haven’t felt for years.  Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally getting somewhere.