You are the source of
the happy glow on my face.
Am I in your thoughts?
If I had the opportunity to send a message to anyone, I’d talk to my younger self. I am just not sure if I would listen…or, if I should.
The younger me has made a number of mistakes. Some of these bad choices date back to my early teens and 20s while others were just as fresh as yesterday. I would tell myself to avoid the men who had bad intentions. “They will only break your heart.” I would recommend a more regular approach to health and fitness. “If you don’t take care of yourself now, you will struggle with your weight the rest of your life.” There would be a list of recommended books. “Read all that you can. There is so many amazing stories out there.” I would urge myself to be more confident over the years. “Hold your head high, speak with authority and walk with pride. You are more wonderful than you realize and will turn out just fine.” The younger me would know who to not lose contact with and who to avoid altogether. “Call her more often. She will be one of your closest allies. Avoid him. He will do nothing but crush your soul.” This message would also lay out all the missed opportunities to travel. “While you are living in Germany, you really must see more of Europe. You won’t have this chance later.” It would tell me to stay strong and never forget the true me. “You should not have to lose yourself to make him happy. He should love you for who you are, not who he wants you to be.”
If I could send myself this message, things could have been different. I would have avoided pain, heartbreak, struggle, evil and ignorance. Life would have been better. It very well, may have been pretty damn perfect.
The days pass like the wind at times though and it is hard to separate the paths I took from my journey. If I chose different paths in my younger years, would I be a different person today? Should I be a different person? That is a tough question. Since I cannot change the past by sending this message to my younger self, I have to assume this is how things were meant to be. No, I don’t believe I was meant to be punched in the face by a man and have my teeth broken. But, I truly believe that some of my bad choices have put me in situations where I should not have been. I took that wrong turn, learned from it, and then tried to find a new path, still leading to the same original destination. Some of my paths have been long detours that were so heart-wrenching I questioned life. While others were simply beautiful, unforgettable trails that I could have never dreamt of myself.
I imagine that is part of the appeal of life. You cannot have the ups without the downs. If we could, the ups would not be so passionate. They would just be another good day-average and expected. So as much as I want to tell my younger self to avoid so many things, my message will remain unsent. I cannot, and do not dare to change my journey. For without my journey, I just would not be me.
This post was from a prompt at The Daily Post:
You’ve been given the opportunity to send one message to one person you
wouldn’t normally have access to (for example the President. Kim Kardashian.
A coffee grower in Ethiopia). Who’s the person you choose, and what’s the
The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is universal and hard to argue with when you look at art, home décor or even couples. Truly, everyone has a different view on what they find attractive. What you like, I may not. If beauty can be praised in such a vast spectrum, happiness can be no different.
While reading blogs, I was pointed to The Center for Advanced Hindsight’s blog. (Thank you for the lead Berryduchess.) Their Meaning of Happiness Changes Over Time blog got me wondering, what makes people happy?
Obviously, when you look at people, you can see that all types of things give people joy. Some people find pleasure reading a book while others would just assume run a 13-mile mud obstacle course than turn a page. Even within the happy-reading-a-book group, there are subgroups that would not be caught dead reading a certain genre or author.
CAH’s blog discussed how a person’s gauge on happiness-inducing events changes with time. That makes perfect sense. In high school, I was all smiles at the sight of my first car. Regardless of the fact that it was a missing-a-muffler, hole-in-the-floor-board, bright lemon-yellow heap, it made me ecstatic as it represented independence. Now, if you asked me to drive such a contraption, I would speculate on its safety and not nearly be as gleeful. In fact, I would probably be unhappy about such a ridiculous request. How is that possible when it made me happy once? I was still the beholder of beauty…but my perception of that beauty has evidently changed.
The first song I learned in elementary school choir attempted to teach me this lesson.
I am not sure if I picked up the significance back then, but the Happiness Is lyrics paint varying pictures of bliss. The images of delight range from tying your shoes to being alone to walking hand in hand. Those are all very diverse kinds of happiness that suggest dissimilar ages. (Not that I am not happy to still have the ability to tie my own shoes, but it does not give me the same level of joy now as a bubble bath that is accompanied with a glass of wine.)
CAH’s blog elaborates more to state that young people tend to have more adventurous views on what makes them happy, while “older people tend to find happiness and define themselves in the ordinary experiences that comprise daily life.” (I guess that might explain the bubble bath and wine I enjoy so dearly.)
Their post also mentions how a particular study found that “bucket lists” tend not to be as dramatic as believed. “It’s worth noting that these findings greatly contrast the “bucket list” hypothesis, the idea that as people feel their days are running out, they are motivated to do the extraordinary. For instance, in the film The Bucket List, two aging men strive to have the most extraordinary experiences possible. Though these cases do exist in society, they may be the exception. In general, the rule is that as people feel like they are aging, they turn away from the extraordinary and, like my grandfather, focus on the everyday.”
This made me feel a little special, as I am the exception then. Well, I am partially an exception anyway. (You can just call it well balanced though.) After aging some, getting divorced and enduring three deployments, I feel like I need to have a bucket list. I must experience some extraordinary things to make up for the lost years and sadness. I should witness amazing wonders and yet, applaud the most basics of life. I recently discovered a great quote that explains the level of life I aspire to achieve. “I would rather die of passion than of boredom,” said Vincent Van Gogh.
For me, this means I want to be passionate about everything; I want to try all that life has to offer. From reading good books to white water rafting, it’s on the list. I want to feel the exhilaration of an enduring love. I have swung from a trapeze. I fantasize about horseback riding in Ireland. I have danced around my kitchen alone to inspiring music. I desire to experience the rush of sky diving. I have enjoyed baking a caramel apple pecan pie from scratch. Basically, I welcome adventure and savor the simple.
Recently, I picked up a paintbrush at one of those places that give you a rough sketch where you fill in the blanks. I have never been artistic by any means and cannot recall painting outside of a school art class, but I found myself really pouring my emotions onto the canvas. I was taking the rough outline and adding my own creativity…and to my surprise, my paintings are not utterly horrible. (I could at least provide some stiff competition to an average 5th grade art class student!)
I find that my days are filled with more things than I ever imagined. I am feeling more. I am taking more risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. I am really living in the moments to see every nuisance of brilliance. In this process, I am finding happiness within me. This new awareness is leading me on a journey-somewhere I think I should have been already. I do not know where the path is leading, but either way, I am determined to embrace it.
Selma Hayek stated, “People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
I am the beholder of what I find beautiful and what makes me happy, just as you are for you. And, like the song’s last line says, happiness is anyone and anything at all that is loved by you. All we need to do it open our eyes and hearts, happiness is out there and inside us all.
Back in elementary school, I wrote my first two “books.” The assignment for a young author’s day was to complete an illustrated book. I could not choose between topics, so I wrote two. One book was about a girl with telekinesis and the other was about a flying horse. Now, some 30-plus years later, I still do not have a flying horse, super powers or any published books, so I figured; I may as well start chasing my dreams and begin writing.
I am not sure how I could spell telekinesis back then or how I even heard of it, but it (and flying horses) inspired me to begin to write and dream. Through writing, I was free and alive.
As the years passed, I continued to write short stories, journals and poems, but writing was never a full-time affair. It was always pushed the side for things like homework, cheerleading practice, boys and social events.
I completed my journalism degree, but it was on the extended 10-year plan due to a full-time retail job, a hard marriage and wonderful kids. Therefore, yet again, writing took a back seat to life with bills, children and responsibilities.
The only time writing took any kind of lead, was in my decision to join the military. After completing my journalism degree, I could not afford to take an entry-level job. In 2000, my journalism job offers were about $12,000 less than my retail management position. Taking that big of pay cut just to do what I wanted, would have been selfish and irresponsible. Consequently, I signed the dotted line. The way I saw it, joining the Army Reserve was one way for me to actually do any form of journalism and still pay the bills.
Nearly 14 years later, I am still a Soldier, a mom, and happily NOT working in retail nor in an unhappy marriage. Everything in life seems to be pulling me back to where I should have been long ago. I am finding the me that I lost in my 20s when I was trying to hold on to everything that was wrong for me. I suppose stubborn naive youth made me keep clinging to stuff that was slowly killing me (miserable jobs, despondent marriage, unhealthy habits, limited ‘me’ time).
Now older and wiser, I realize that life is short. I need to hurry up and do the things I want to do before I run out of time. I must stop making excuses to live because in doing so I am not really living anyway. I have to release the thoughts in my head as they never cease in bombarding my waking moments. I want to express the passion I feel and yet still crave to find. I should at least attempt the items on that unwritten bucket list so I have no regrets. I am obliged to show my kids that life will not wait for your situation to be perfect.
So ready or not, here I am, on a blog. Blogging is my path to find that little author inside of me. By writing more often, I hope to find my stories, and myself. Frankly, my topics on here will vary. I will write about whatever is on my mind. It may be a story from my past, a make-believe adventure in my head, or vent about a pet peeve. Along the way, I may entertain people or bore them into a blissful nap, but either way, I will not continue to be afraid to start nor make excuses on why I cannot. I will take each day to chase those dreams, and ultimately, find my life.
*This was my first assignment for Blogging 101. It seemed to be a bit harder to write on an assigned topic, but yet, made me realize why I chose the name for my blog in the first place. There’s irony for you.
So far this week, my closet collapsed into a heaping mess, I wept like a dramatic teenage girl, and I had an epiphany as I lay on my bathroom floor. It has been a busy week…and it is only Tuesday morning.
It started out simple enough while I was putting away clothes on Sunday night. I reached up to place a couple of shirts on the stack, and everything came crashing down. Since I was completely unaware of the stress my closet had been under, this mangled mess of clothes, hangers, shoes and wire shelving was somewhat of a shock. Apparently, I had hit the load bearing weight limit. As I stood there looking at what appeared to be a scene from a Hoarding: Buried Alive episode, I thought, “Well shit. It’s time for a beer.”
After a beer or three, I decided to text a friend about how much I missed him. This friend is a fellow veteran. A few months before we had started to text and call each other, and it became an everyday staple for me. We laughed. We flirted. We became friends. We talked about nearly everything under the sun. He wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to write books. We both did photography. We planned a couple of visits and had two of the most memorable weekends of my life. We stayed up half the night talking about our pasts, pain, and dreams. We hiked on a trail and in a canyon while photographing every nuance of nature we saw. We drove around singing songs on the radio together. We held hands and kissed. When I looked into his eyes, I really SAW him. I could see his spirit and the man he was and wanted to be. I was absolutely comfortable in his presence. There were no pretenses or masks – it was honest and true.
Due to living a few hours away from each other, most of our time was on the phone though. As the weeks passed, life became an obstacle. He started a new job. He was under a lot of stress. I left for a month on military duty. I was getting busy at both of my jobs. We still chatted but they were becoming less frequent. I was starting to ask if there was something wrong. I was starting to get sad. We had never really agreed on a relationship status due to the long-distance issue, but clearly some sort of one had formed and I was starting to feel the pain of its absence.
So, in true girl form, I started to act weird. I started creeping on his Facebook page. I posted sad messages about loneliness. Why is he online but not replying to me? I replayed sappy love songs. (See song below.) Why didn’t he invite me to see him last weekend when we were both available? I wrote depressing poems. What did I do that made him stop caring? I lay around staring at nothing. Did he even mean all that he said before? You know, the entire litany of questions that lonesome unloved souls chant went through my head. I was embarrassing.
(This is the video that became my theme song during his silence, and every time I hear it, I will remember the passion and pain.)
Some of my friends had been telling me to stop being upset. We had not known each other very long. He wasn’t in a place for a relationship. He was not ready. He was too young. (He is 13 years younger than I am. Yes, I a may be a cougar.) These things may all be true, but I knew what I felt. I heard his voice. I felt his kindness. I saw his heart. I know what we had. No matter how short, it was real. It was passionate. He was sincere.
With all of that replaying in my head and after beer four, l looked over at the contents of my wardrobe in a massive pile and started to cry. Clearly, he never even cared about me. (As I write this I realize, the connection of these two situations are a bit thin, but in the beer-induced frenzy, it made perfect sense at the time.) My mind kept playing questions (see above) over and over…and over in my head. I could not stop wondering what he was doing. I was looking to see his online status. I would speculate if the girl who liked his post was prettier. Was time with her the cause of his less frequent chats with me? Yet, in the back of my head, I knew I was acting crazy and dramatic and was creeping myself out. So in efforts to remove myself from the temptation and torture of cyber stalking him – I unfriended him. With a click of a button, that was it. Our friendship was over.
Of course, real lives do not react as immediate as they appear on social media. I was still hurt and upset. He was confused and pissed that I just deleted him. I tried to pretend that it did not matter and by the next afternoon, I was on my bathroom floor weeping.
It was the teenage girl kind of weeping that shook your entire body and soul. It was heart wrenching and pathetic. I was in pain of lost love. I beat myself up mentally. Clearly, there was something wrong with me. I was unlovable. No wonder why he stopped talking to me, I was crazy. Why did I have to take a chance? I was ridiculous for even thinking I could carry on a long-distance relationship, especially with someone so young. It was a horrible conversation that would have made for a great Hallmark movie.
However, as I lay there in a puddle on my bathroom floor, I had an epiphany. He was the last straw. He was those last few shirts to surpass the weight limit. Losing him, whether self induced or not, was more than I could bear. I collapsed just as my closet did.
For years, I have been running around taking care of things and people. I have had to deploy and still take care of things at home. I had to finally deal with a divorce that had been pending for over 10 years. I had to find a new place to live after deployment. I had to start a brand new civilian job immediately upon redeploying and moving into that new-to-me house. Shortly thereafter, I started a command job in the Reserves (or wet cat herding as I like to call it). I had to help the kids cope with the adjustment phase of bouncing back and forth from my house to dads now that I was back home. I had to take over caring for my daughter’s dog since she started college and was busy with her job and sorority. I had to be the strong one for my sisters who were going through horrible times. I had to assist dad move into my house after mom died. I had to start the plans to replace my car that had 215,000 miles on it. I had …. I had… I had. The list just went on and on, and I soldiered up and did it all. Suck up and drive on is what we always say in the Army. I was driving all right but the path was sucking the life right out of me. Each battle was taking a chunk out of my armor.
With all of this going on in my life, my friend had quickly served as a beacon of light for me. He was comfort and safety. He made me laugh and feel joy. He became my north and grounded me from the insanity of my demands. Hearing his voice washed away my stress. Seeing his smile soothed my soul. If he was in my corner, I could make it. I wanted to make it. I had hope.
Therefore, when I felt him slipping away, it was all I could take. I felt lost and alone. I suddenly became as frantic as a trapped wild animal. In my moments of fear and self-doubt, I interpreted his moments of silence as personal attacks and rejection. I took his distance as some sign that he must have lied. I was ridiculous.
With the hindsight that an epiphany brings, it all makes sense. It’s no wonder I was absurd. I felt like I was losing my support system. Like my closet, he was becoming my rails, my strength. Without him in my corner, I could not bear any more weight.
As I dig through the pile of clothes and pain, I know I need to rebuild. I must clean out my closet, literally and figuratively. It will not happen overnight, and I am not exactly sure where the support will come from. However, I do know it cannot rely on one person. That is not fair to them or me. One rail cannot support an entire closet of pain, resentment and stress. Step by step I will rebuild a more elaborate support system and pick myself up off the ground.
Julie's garden ramblings ...
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