Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This is (not) a fairy tale

Dear Little M,

Another year is in the books! There's no place on earth I'd rather be on NYE than sitting on the sofa in my sheep-print fat pants watching you sleep in the chair that I once refused to share and now will share only with you.

You're sleeping so peacefully--face down, butt-up and nestled into the cushions-and I'm marveling at how it's possible that you've grown so big and yet remain so you've become so brave but still so fragile. I hope that I will often look at you with this exact combination of awe, wonder and gratitude.  I suspect I just might.

As I watch you sleep, I'm kind of quietly reflecting on the year that was and the coming year that hopefully will be.  It's funny--for as much as I like to be out and adventuring and how appealing some of the offers to celebrate tonight truly were-- I felt some undeniable need to just sit inside my own head while being where you are.  Sometimes turtles just need to sit inside their own shell before they can inch forward.

*Yes.  Your mama's a turtle.  I'll probably always alternate between poking my head out and inching forward and hiding inside my shell.  It's about time you knew.  

** And yes.  The view's half decent from both inside and outside the shell.  I need both views to survive.  And while I'll never win any style points this way, I sort of recall a story about the tortoise prevailing over the hare, so I'm not terribly concerned.

It's impossible to summarize 2013 without delving into the immediate backstory.  A couple of years ago, on this very blog, I made the (public) decision to push beyond my natural comfort zone, to live more boldly and more out loud, and to live beyond the shell.  I would make that same decision again one hundred times out of one hundred chances.  It was the best decision I ever made.  I wouldn't trade the experiences, the challenges and the growth in the last two years for anything in this world.

In retrospect, the only tweak I should have made was respecting the shell more than I did.  Baby/bathwater and all of that.  Having that reflective, introspective time is part of what makes me me.  It's not going to make me the most interesting person at dinner parties (hell, it's not even going to get me invited  to dinner parties) and it's certainly not going to make me rich, but you know what?  That's cool.

This is a fancy way of me saying that 2013 kicked the shit out of me.  From the start to the wire, this year kicked the living shit out of me.  I'll be deliberately sparse on detail because some of these stories aren't my stories to tell---but I will say that I'm tired of hospitals.  And of waiting in hospitals.  And of rushing to hospitals.  And of the uncertainty of hospitals.  And that you're tired of visiting hospitals.  And (for fuck's sake), that you know what a DNR is.  And of feeling guilty when I can't be with you.  And for feeling guilty when I am with you and am not tackling something else on my to-do list.  And of transition.  And of uncertainty.  And of having the rug ripped out under me more times than I'd like to count.  And of the exhaustion of constantly  regaining my footing.  And of doing it all without the shelter of my shell.

The good news is that this year has 31 minutes left in it, so the odds are good that I will survive it.  SCORE.

At first, I was thinking that this year was just a kick in the pants (seriously, what else could I have expected from a year with the number "13" in it?).  Then I read my friend Keith's Facebook status:

2013 was a year of transition. 
2014 will be a year of establishment.  
Make next year exciting and full of energy. 
If you're not changing, you're falling behind!

2013 was a year of transition.
Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

Growing pains.  In retrospect, 2013 was all about growing pains.  At this point in my life, I'm grateful to simply have the continued opportunity to grow. I'm also grateful to have figured this out because of an assist from a friend that I've had since the first day of first grade. (Thanks, Keith!)

I'm changing.
I'm learning.
I'm transitioning.
I'm learning enough and changing enough to not fall behind.
(so what if I always have to do everything the hard way???)
I took the pain on this lesson, and now I'm ready to move forward.

This all leads me to my next point(s).

I took the pain on these particular lessons, but I am by no means done taking the pain.  (Take close note to this, sweet one, because this equally applies to you as well).

The only thing I've ever really wanted to do, my whole life, was to tell stories.  When I was not much older than you, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist.  I made up my own fake radio station with my friend Kim in my bedroom.  I created a news broadcast for a school project.  I never wanted to be the story, I wanted to observe and to tell the story.

At my core, I am a storyteller. 38 years later, I am finally finding an audience.

These days, I wait for you to crawl in my lap and say those magic words:  "Mommy, tell me one of your stories."

Next year, my (paid) job will change a bit, and I will actually get paid to tell a story.  (how freaking cool is that?!??!?)

I am a storyteller.  What I'm not (and never will be) is a fairy tale weaver.
Life is not a fairy tale.
On principle, I hate fairy tales.  I don't believe in them and I probably never will.
They're so....limiting.

My beef with fairy tales is that they end at the next beginning.  Sure, they're classic storytelling---there's a beginning, a conflict, and a resolution, all neatly wrapped in a 5 minute or a 2 hour package.   This is all fine and good...if you plan on living a 5 minute or a 2 hour life.  Not exactly my plan.

For the rest of us, this concept of "happily ever after" bears little resemblance to real life....and believing in it strictly inhibits our ability to truly be happy in most of our afters and grateful for those little moments that make our lives, and our most meaningful relationships, so damned special and treasurable.

Fairy tales are for the movies.  Life is (not) a fairy tale.  Life is one hell of a story.  Actually, life is one hell of a collection of stories----some with clear beginnings and ends--weaved together in ways that  occasionally make sense and hopefully push us toward the ones we love the most.

Fairy tales end before the next misunderstanding, the next fight, the next stepped-on lego, the next stressful situation, the next missed expectation, the next misplaced shoe on the middle of a step, the next time someone barfs in your friggin' hand.  One of the truest things about life that I can tell you is that there will always be a next thing, a next time, a next misstep.  This doesn't mean that you're doing it wrong or with the wrong people---it means that life's a pain in the ass sometimes.  That's all.  No more and no less.   A good kick in the ass will propel you forward.

Stories take those moments as the opportunity for the next beginning with the right people. While we're on the topic, let's also take a minute to acknowledge that we all yell at, hurt, and let down the people we love the most...the most.  Again, that's how life  is designed- that's where the stakes are highest and that's where the investments are the greatest.  The people who know and love you best have the most ammo to use against you:)  The next time I'm yelling at you and you scream that you hate me, please remember this.   To quote one of my favorite songs from last year (Capital Cities' "Safe and Sound"), even "in a tidal wave of mystery, you'll still be standing next to me...even if the sky is falling down, I know that we'll be safe and sound."

So, on to the all-important new year's resolutions.  I have it on good authority*** that the thing I need to most work on is that I need to "calm the fuck down."

***by "good authority", I mean just about anyone who's ever been close to me and whose opinion I value, about a million times, and as recently as yesterday.

I just wrote a pretty-ish paragraph about life always being about "the next thing", and the truth of the matter is that I full-on panic and spring to action over each next thing with such zealous neuroticism that I'm surprised I haven't driven everyone crazy and haven't ended up (a) with a substance abuse problem; (b) multiple ulcers; (c) pattern baldness;  or (d) in a hospital.  I have a purse that reads "N is for Neurotic" that was a gift, for crying out loud, and everyone laughs (at me) when I tell them about the purse.

It's time for me to have some faith that I've been too skittish to previously consider in any serious fashion---in the people and in the process.   Be patient with me.  It won't always be pretty, and it certainly won't be perfect.

I promise to tell you the story as I'm doing it.

(Oh, and I'm back on the daily good deeds.  I like 'em).

I raise a toast--to 2014, to building the next chapters in our great story, to the rest of the cast of characters, and to rising with (and not resisting) the next thing.

I love you to the moon and back, 712 times.  I will always, wholeheartedly and unconditionally, believe in you and your story.

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