We keep so many things inside of us. Embarrassments and old hurts. Things that scared us and made us into the people we are. We're full of them, so much so that every single thing we do is either an effort to cover them up, or to exploit them or to show we have learned from them.
Thinking this way and seeking out the things I'm ashamed of inevitably leads me to talk about my childhood. About religion and my dad and growing up poor in a coal mining town. Those are the easy things, though. If I try harder, I come up with issues about my body, sex and shame over times I've been mean or horribly, obviously wrong. I don't like to be wrong.
I still think that those things are kind of easy, because they're all things that happened before. They play a part in the way I live my life now, but... there must be something hard to say about my life, in its current form. While I was living out my childhood and my teenaged years, I didn't know that I was barely scraping through a series of humiliations. Or, if I did, I didn't think about it. I just woke up in the morning and tried to get on with myself. It was hard to be me, but I didn't know that my youth would someday become a source of unending digging and wading and coming to terms with. I just thought that life was hard for everybody.
Maybe I still do think that.
When you're by yourself, are you happy with who you are? Where do your thoughts wander, when you have a chance to think for yourself. Do you think about all the good things you've done? Do you feel good enough?
I want to know. Are you full of things you're ashamed to admit? Is everybody?
If you were to ask me, I would tell you that I'm happy. But, when I'm left alone, I can't relax. I can't be still. If I'm still and relaxed, it will hit me all of a sudden that I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm dressing and feeding and caring for my daughters. I'm married and I cook and I garden and I write and write and write, and in the deepest, most embedded parts of myself, I feel totally inept. I feel like if I'm left to my own devices, the world will grow to one thousand times the size of itself and I'll drown in its shadow. But also, I don't feel that way.
In most ways, I've only been a person for a very short time. I never tried before. I have so many bills I can't pay.
An old friend from since we were Jr. High School kids came to visit me this week, and it was fun and nice, and totally, very very very much so challenging. I see this friend only once a year or so, and I feel like the whole time we're together, she's comparing me to myself. Saying things like, "Your house is so nice, not like how you used to live." Or, "You own jeans now? All you used to wear were ripped up dresses." It is almost like being with a stranger who has an idea about who I am that doesn't quite fit.
It is like being with somebody who decided who I was before I was finished growing.
None of it is her fault, because she is right. When she actively knew me and participated in my life, I didn't own jeans or a nice house. I didn't even own underwear and now, not only do I own them, but they're so big and full of coverage that they're touching my belly button, as we speak.
I also have babies now, and she doesn't. She's a New Yorker and an actress and I love all of it, for her. I love her and I love her braveness and her adventures and she's my friend. I just think that, on my side of the friendship, I am suddenly participating as a stranger. I suddenly don't have stories about fights with my significant other that turned into early morning sex and tears at sunrise. I don't have offhanded tales about a friend who decided to become attracted to me and how he was depressed to the point of falling down drunk in the streets over me. About bars and job interviews and impromptu trips to the ocean.
I don't really have anything to say at all that isn't infused with the way I love these two little girls and the man who is helping me to make them and love them and love them and love them. How we love them! My love is all that matters to me, and I honestly don't remember that everything else exists most of the time. If I'm being honest, I don't really care.
Maybe sometimes I feel like I'd like to get laid or figure out my thoughts. Maybe sometimes I think I'd like some new shoes, but it's kind of beside the point. My girl is sick and I'm sleeping on the floor next to her bed, using my bath robe from the hallway closet as a blanket. I'm worried that if I'm not with her, she might wake up and feel alone inside of her fever. That maybe she'd call for me in the night, and I might not hear her, and if she was scared for even a moment, I would die.
I'm coming off of a night like that, and I'm having a trendy mediterranean lunch with my old friend, and it's taking everything I've got to not mention my daughters and not mention the cute, sad things they do every day that break my heart. I'm trying to pretend like I still live in the world of boyfriends and bartending until five, of walking the dog on a wet city sidewalk and sleeping late. Of smoking, but only sometimes and defaulting to a midnight dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread at a diner and the ketchup bottles have lids that are stuck on with dried red scum. My friend, she is funny and engaging and full of things to say, and my head is spinning. My heart is skipping under the effort not to say,
"Louise was late to crawl, but now she's going every where, and eating every speck of dirt left behind by my ailing vaccuum. She does that, you know. She crawls around the house and finds little specks of dirt and I have to dive across the room to catch them before she plunks them right into her mouth. Sometimes I'll see that she's only found an old cheerio, so I just let her... eat it."
But everything is already ruined. My friend feels like she needs to make an excuse for not having children and I'm trying to come up with a story that doesn't have anything to do with organic fruits snacks or children's books or how the ocean of my love for my daughters is so giant that it's all there is. That I'm finished with being that old person, because now I have my girls and nothing is the same. They inform every thought in my mind. They direct my hands' every movement. They hang the sun on a branch in my mind in the morning, and bury it at night, where it glows, muted and warm in the soil of my heart. They push and pull on the slippery importance of my breathing. They are the reason I was born. The fact that they exist in the world means that I was wrong, all of those years. The world is good. People are good. I am good. My girls have eyes so pretty that I look at them, and everything else is flat and dead compared to their devastating sparkling. Nothing else exists but these tiny, amazing people and their charm and their brilliance.
None of this is relatable, is it? I've ruined lunch again, I'm afraid. Maybe when I try to talk about things I'm afraid to say, everything that I might hate about my life... my student loan notices that are turning yellow and then pink. The fact that I can grab handfuls of my stomach, that you can trace the pink lines of my stretch marks with your finger and feel the impression they've ripped into my skin. That there is a blue vein bulging on my calf. That I'm fully grown now, and I didn't make it to the moon, like I thought I would. I never impressed anybody. I never finished that story. It played out until it fizzled and I never left Pennsylvania. I wasn't a big deal, after all.
It's amazing how stupid it all is.
It's amazing how much I don't give a shit about what anybody thinks of my body, it's done godly things.
It's amazing that things that used to hurt me, don't anymore. Nothing I've ever done compares to the fact that I house the only perfect and honest love, that I grew two people out of a cell and they nestled inside the safety of all that I am, and I was enough.
I didn't make anything out of myself because I was the world's most devoted and in love mommy, I just hadn't met my purpose, yet.
I try and I try to dig past this, to get into the parts of me that sting when I probe them, but the fact of my life is this:
I am made up of my love. The world is big and full of things to discover and fear. Nothing compares to the beauty of my love.
There isn't anything else.