Monday, May 19, 2014

Butterfly to Chrysalis

I have spent my entire life seeking. Seeking fame. Seeking fortune. Seeking beauty. Seeking love, acceptance, acknowledgement. I was a scrawny girl, a stick of a thing, with mousy brown hair and a soft apologetic voice. I lived to please, to entertain, to make my parents proud, to keep my ass out of trouble. School was my happy place, books my refuge. I learned that good grades brought smiles. A’s were love. It was easy enough to make those happen, and so I did. Often. I learned, too, that stories were road maps, blueprints, guidelines to better ways of living. I didn’t think myself unreasonable at the time. It was simple as far as I was concerned. I wanted nothing more from life than to be pretty, to have plenty of food, and to make people smile. I wanted to matter. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant yet, but I knew that I wanted it. Most importantly, I wanted peace. My childhood was filled with yelling and hitting and hiding, with biting nails and feeling sick to my stomach. I wanted to live in a place where everybody liked everybody and was always nice to each other. And so, at an early age, I packed my figurative bags and set out in search of this fairytale life.

As it happens, I am a good way finder.

I won’t say the path was easy, but it was mine for the taking. Much as one would follow a breadcrumb trail, I gathered clues along my journey that led me on my way. Good grades meant scholarships. Scholarships meant college. College meant letters after my name. Those letters meant status and respect and food on the table night after night after night. Those letters put a roof over my head and clothes on my back and bought vacations and freedom and warmth and choice. At some point along that breadcrumb trail I married into other letters. Security. Those degrees bought security, a security I had never known. The degrees bought highlights, highlights and pedicures and funky earrings crafted by local artists. They bought much. But they did not buy love.

I found my voice on that breadcrumb trail. I found that.

I learned to speak my mind. I learned that I had a mind. For too many years I tried really hard to be what I felt others felt I should be. I lived my life according to those family sitcoms I had grown up watching. I worked hard to create the loving family of the Brady Bunch, kids all around, mother smiling, doting, oblivious to any mischief or wrongdoing. I was Shirley Partridge, strong, sure, nearly single mother with a husband who was on the road more than he was not. I led my crew with head held high and a smile on my face. I tried really hard to be those wives of the fifties sitcoms, those wives who had dinner on the table, slippers and paper by the easy chair, and shirts pressed and waiting. I tried but I failed miserably as it is not in my nature to play subservient to a master. Fortunately for me, I married one who could exist on Cheerios alone for the rest of his life. I forgot something, however, in creating this television life. I forgot that television mothers and wives have nonexistent hearts. Nonexistent hearts and commercial breaks.

I forgot to laugh, to feel, to cry.

I have achieved much in my life. I have accomplished that which others thought I could not. I have created a life in which I have pretty things, plenty of food, and opportunity to make a difference, to matter, to make people smile. What I have forgotten is that A’s are nothing more than letters, books nothing more than words, and leading ladies, at the end of the show, go home to their normal, broken families. I have forgotten that money buys comfort, but it does not buy love, that real life is not a passage or a script to be memorized, and that, in the end, it is only myself and my God that I need to please. I have come far on this journey, but I have lived it from my head.

I am ready now to pack that bag and to go off in search of feeling, to go off in search of love and joy and life.

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