(this is super long!)
I always feel the need to explain myself. I think this stems from a need for me to analyze just about everything in my life, and explaining it to someone else helps me make more sense of it for myself. I've spent a lot of time in therapy sessions doing just that, talking myself into or out of things, and countless hours with close friends sifting through every idea that comes through my mind. I'm greatly interested in other people and humans in general and why we do what we do. In trying to understand others I also take a moment every so often to try and understand myself.
This morning I was able to sit and write and write and write without interruption, with only a soy chai latte keeping me company. I've been thinking for awhile about family and life and where I'm at right now, so I had a lot to get out onto paper. It's largely unedited and raw, but here you go:
I was driving down the autobahn today, too fast as I was late for an appointment, and my alarm went off in my head letting me know that driving that fast probably isn't safe and I should slow down. Whenever that happens my brain takes over and I get a whole barrage of images flooding my head of what will happen if I don't listen to my best interest... Car cuts me off... Guard rail becomes too close... Flipping into on-going traffic... Big rig takes me out. Yea, I can't say I'm always thrilled to have such a visual mind. But this morning, while I slowed to a safer pace, I let my mind wander past the threat- to my husband and friends getting the news of my untimely demise. Boy would they be sad. And my son! He's only two years old, he would never know his momma.
This is morbid, but it has a point.
I used to battle depression. I used to think of these things often. It used to be, "What would happen if I drove right off the road? Who would care? What would I be missing?" I'm actually thankful now, in my overactive imagination, my car leaves the road by someone else's fault other than my own. A semi-truck rather than my own turn of the wheel. It was a point of realization to me: I somehow, very slowly, have come out on the other side of depression. The thoughts of my friends' and family's sorrow if I should pass have kept me going for many years. I knew someone loved me no matter what I was feeling about my own life. I desperately grasped to that idea for a long time. I am still aware of that love but now it is a different feeling- one of satisfaction and happiness.
On coming through depression I have also come to terms with life and death; if something were to happen to me (and this is going to sound funny) I would be okay. I hope the people I know would know this about me. I've managed to find happiness and contentedness, and everyone I love knows I love them. There are a few I wish I could express that to a little more, but I am confident they feel it no matter how long we go between contact, as I feel their love strongly and consistently.
I don't want for anything any more. Getting to this point has been my key to surviving. Figuring out I always had my happiness is my greatest revelation. I don't know what an 'average' human existence looks like and I've never been one to look at life as 'happening to me'- it's just happening and I'm just here, a part of it all. Every person I miss, someone else misses them more. Every moment that changes my life also changes countless others. No situation is unique to me. I've always held things at a sort of arm's length because of that and I can't say whether it has helped or hindered my life. It has allowed me to have objectivity in a lot of situations but it has also caused my biggest regrets, which came into sharp focus several years ago after a succession of tragedies. People coming in and out of your life can cause you to become distant I imagine, and that has become my greatest regret.
I loath cryptic stories. If I'm going to tell you about myself I may as well save you the wondering. I also won't make it seem better or worse or more personal than it is. It's not just my story, I'm not alone in it.
After my dad had to leave when I was six my mom had a boyfriend who loved my sister and I like his own. I was young but I remember his smile. It was a difficult transition, as it would be for any kid and I don't remember much more, but I remember liking him. He helped us with our homework and made us dinners when mom was working or going to school. One night he carried me home from the baby sitter's house in the middle of the night. I pretended to be asleep but I remember the warm night air and his scratchy beard as I laid my head on his shoulder. His life was complicated and it wasn't easy, and he left sometime around the time I was in 3rd or 4th grade. He was good friends with my friend's dad so I saw him into my teen years until he died a heart complication. I never was able to tell him what his kindness meant to me as a small confused child.
My father also had a girlfriend at the time who loved us dearly, although we saw her a lot less often. I have spoken to her since they split, although not in the past year or so.
My first stepfather and stepmother came into our lives at the same time (my mom and dad both remarried within a month of each other when I was 12). My stepfather was a good man, but we never bonded. Perhaps I was too old at that point and weary of becoming attached to a new parent figure. But he had a son a year younger than me and I couldn't have been more excited about having a brother!
They were around for a few years and my sister, brother and I generally had a blast. After awhile it became much more difficult to blend as a family and they left when I was 16. Technically my mom, sister and I left, and our stepbrother moved across the country to live with his mom. My sister kept in touch with him but I never saw him again.
At 21 he shot himself, and I don't even know why. He has no idea what he meant to me as a brother.
Eight months later his father was killed sitting at a stop light on his motorcycle when a driver ran a light. Fortunately he and my mother had made amends after the death of his son.
So as not to leave anything out, I'll mention my sister moved to live with our father and stepmother at about the same time our mom split with her husband. I adored my stepmother, and it used to drive my mom crazy, but she was fun and sweet and very doting. She had an amazing open-armed extended family that my sister and I became very close with very quickly. And, although I parted with her on very bad terms and she has moved on, I managed to keep in touch with much of her family, but I only contacted them several years later after I cam to the conclusion that I couldn't let anyone else go without at least letting them know what they have meant to me.
So, at 22 I was newly married without a clue, away from my family, reeling from the sudden death of someone I had once been very lucky to call a brother, noticing large gaps in my 'family' history and feeling very, very depressed and lost. I felt like I had been searching so long for something, possibly the same as my step brother, but he had given up. I couldn't give up. I realized life was fleeting, relationships temporary. No one can predict what the hell will happen, the only thing we have control over is our own voice. Even through difficult relationships people have something to offer and we should appreciate and cherish what they have to give, because they are giving pieces of themselves, however small. We need to tell them we are thankful for them so there is no doubt that they are loved. We also need to allow people into our lives, no matter how fleeting the encounters may become.
This idea has allowed me to cultivate some very unexpected, rich relationships, to mend old damaged ones, and to renew lasting ones with people who have always been behind the scenes or right here beside me. These people and this love has always been here, my happiness has always been here. It's up to me to note and reciprocate, indefinitely and unabashedly.
Now I lead a life I am very proud of. I wouldn't be who I am without loss, I don't think I would treasure the people that I know now without losing the ones previous. I know current friend and loved ones will not always be here, but rather than that making me sad it only makes me more determined to love them now. It may be selfish in the long run, after all, all I want is to be happy.
What I've come to notice recently is, the longer I live with this thought (a'la the Beatles, "All I need is love!") I'm in need of less and less to survive. I'm becoming much less attached to material things and appreciate more what I do have. The same goes for food. I eat what I need and not much else. I think this is all directly related to me 'finding' my happiness, as I don't need to fill my time or life with external things.
The biggest shift has been how I view my friendships. In a military community people come and go often, you make friends and they move on- not something anyone is fond of. As friends have left over the past few years I have felt the whole spectrum of emotions, from anger and panic to sadness, to delight in their happiness over moving onto something new. But, while I still certainly miss the company sometimes, the void that I used to feel when missing a friend is no longer there. Now it's simply...
What it is.
It's another transition, Nothing is changing except the location of a heart. We keep in touch as best as we can, but it's okay if we don't talk for awhile. The important thing is they know how I feel about them and I know how they feel about me (and don't worry, I know!). Nothing is hidden or unsaid. Because of this I am able to take whatever and whoever life hands to me, whenever it it does.
Because of loss I count every day I wake up and don't get driven off the road a miracle. Nothing keeps me going more than the idea that it can all end tomorrow, or even today. It forces me to share my love, to live with every other living being in my mind at all times (or strive to, at the very least). I want my last thought to be a good one, my last action a loving one.
This is an interesting balance because I am not a yes (wo)man. I live my life for myself and do only the things I want to do. I never feel walked on or taken advantage of. I sometimes feel misunderstood but that is rare because I try to communicate openly and honestly with everyone I come into contact with. If you don't 'get' me, it's okay. I often don't get others but I do my best to be empathetic and kind to everyone. To be very Buddhist about it; Everyone has something to teach everyone else. If I want others to give me a chance I first need to give them a chance.
My dad, my mom, my sister and brother, my stepfather, stepmother and their families, people who have come and gone, my own family, friends and my loves- all have shaped me. Loss and love, wanting and waiting, creating life and watching it pass by, all of these things play a role in who I am. Deep in my heart I know how perfect my life is, and also how fragile. I feel deeply for those who struggle and feel pain and it never slips my mind that I could be in their shoes in an instant. I'm thankful for every second of the day in this life that I call my own, and for every single person who has added to it.
I am only 29 years old and far from perfect, I have a lot to learn and a whole lifetime ahead of me- and I'm looking forward to each and every unknown minute.
This is a sort of thank you, to all of you, all over the world, living and passed. Thank you for being you and making me- me.