I bought myself new furniture. For the first time in my single life. My own. Not something someone gave me when I had nothing and was starting over. Not something I chose with my husband. Not something handed down to me from family. No. Mine. Stuff I chose. Stuff that when I look at it I see me, my taste, my personality...and I am beside myself happy.
We've lived in this little apartment for almost three years now. And for three years I've kept my little life just so, terrified (if I'm honest) of making any real change - other than my job - that could potentially upset the fragile balance I've created. In this way I'm no different than many of the families I work with which makes me very empathetic to them and has also opened my eyes to the complete feeling of "stuck" I not only see them battling but have finally come to realize I battle as well. I finally admitted that I saw buying new furniture much like I see buying a house - I honestly don't think I ever thought I would be single this long and would ultimately do both with someone rather than alone...and I'm finally sick of sitting on the sidelines of my life simply because I'm waiting on someone to share it with. That probably sounds a little pretentious, but I don't mean for it to. It's not like I think I'm anything special, but I see it happen to people all the time - somehow they get divorced and are remarried almost instantly. Clearly that's not what was in my plan, and I'm okay with that. I just finally got honest with myself and realized I was sitting back, waiting for someone to come along and create a life with me rather than enjoy the one I already have. What a waste. I can see several ways I've done it - almost creating a safe little shell around myself, around us, that keeps me from stepping forward in many ways. I find myself committing to very little, keeping myself open, but for what? Almost like I think I might miss out on something, but I can't even put my finger on what that something is. In many ways I've retreated and give of myself to only a few people and things that really matter (matter meaning I've given them priority, deemed them "safe" enough that I feel in control of what could happen, or used them as a buffer to keep me from truly giving of myself to something that could ultimately be real...could ultimately hurt me) at this point, but in so doing have eliminated some very important ones along the way. My little life...our little life...is a good one. I share it with many wonderful people and have come to enjoy my independence. I am thankful for so much and realize some things I've let slide that I used to hold very dear. I am trying now to make a conscious effort to make some much needed changes. So...the furniture is symbolic. Like taking a step forward...accepting and appreciating where I am in my single life and embracing everything it holds right now in this moment. It came this morning and I felt...almost like the windows inside of me had been opened and fresh air was finally coming in....I felt proud that I had made this commitment to myself, to create a space I would love, not dependent on anyone else, not waiting on anyone else but simply living for me.
It's just a building. A big, white building. A series of uniquely colored hallways and specially themed elevators all leading to child-size rooms with specially trained doctors and nurses all committed to caring for and saving the lives of little people. Within these walls families face tragedy and believe in miracles. Within these walls our family has experienced both.
I haven't stepped foot in this building since I left it in an exhausted, broken, tearful haze eight years ago and this morning as I drove here to sit with my dear friend while her daughter has surgery, I found myself remembering so much about the last few difficult hours of that late May day...
I raced from Liberty trying desperately to remember the hurried directions I had been given simultaneously wanting more than anything to be there as fast as possible and never wanting to get there. I found myself feeling lost and frustrated as I navigated the hallways and elevators. I held my breath as I pulled open the door to the waiting room, not wanting to hear or see what was in front of me. It turns out the timing didn't matter. His little body had done all it could and no matter what measures they took, there would be no miracle there for us that night. I remember the faces...empty eyes mostly...eyes that could not unsee the things they, as families, never should have to see. Exhaustion that bore lines so deep even the youngest of mother aged 10 years simply from the worry and intensity that came from making life-saving decisions for her baby. I saw both again today. Waiting rooms full of the same lost, soulless expressions. But, I saw more than that...I saw hope too. Hope on the faces of the teams of people who make it their life's work to save these little people. Hope - no matter how small - on the faces of each parent when the door opened and a doctor walked in.
I found myself with tears running down my cheeks as I walked through those halls the first time today. Tears I honestly never expected. It's been eight years. Eight. But, it's funny what emotions a memory can cause. Funny how something so simple as a walk through a building can make you feel so much. I mean, it's just a building. He was barely even there. But, for me, it was much more than that. Those four walls, and the amazing people within them, also saved his mom - my sister - 26 years before. Our parents were the lucky ones - they got their miracle even if she ultimately did not. I realize much of this may not make sense to those of you reading this who do not actually know Carter's (and Sarah's) story...and while I thought of sharing more, I've changed my mind. I've written about it before...here, and here, and a bit about our miracle here...each of these says enough. I guess what matters is the memories...the moments - both haunting and treasured.
This was the song sung at his funeral and to this day I love the words, the meaning, the absolute surrender I felt when I heard it the first time and today, when I heard the simple music of the piano in the CMH hospital lobby, I couldn't help but remember it...
"Peace Maker" by Greg Ferguson
Peacemaker, Fear Taker, Soul Soother, Storm Smoother
Light Shiner, Lost Finder, Cloud Lifter, Deliverer,
Heart Toucher, Truth Lover,
Who other could be Fear Taker, Peacemaker to me,
Mind Clearer, Sigh Healer, Hand Holder, Consolor,
Wound Binder, Tear Dryer, Strength Giver, Provider,
Heart Healer, Kind Father,
Who other could be, My Savior, Peacemaker to me,
Let Your Peace Rule in my heart,
Let Your kindness fill my thoughts,
Let Your strength secure my soul,
Let Your peace take hold in me,
Let Your Wisdom guide my will,
Your compassion fill this place,
Let my anxious thoughts be still,
Let Your peace rule in my Heart
You have the ability to change your life. Stop letting others do it for you.
Your life is bigger than you imagine and smaller than you think. Make your mark. Search yourself, but don't get caught up in yourself. Find focus, but don't let it consume you. It's not important to be liked by everyone, but in my opinion being respected is much greater. Respect outlives us through the impact we make on others while popularity has a shelf life. Protect your soul but give your heart. Continually expand your mind, opening yourself to new thoughts and views. Remember where you came from, but don't let it stop you from going where you're meant to be. Somewhere within us lies the ability to see the person we were created to be. Don't be afraid to look for her but don't let it take so long you don't get to share that gift with everyone around you. Search for meaning. Question the things that don't add up. Protect the little guy and cheer for the underdog - you never know which position you'll be in next time. Look for the silver lining, but don't waste the lessons that come from the storms. Your greatest strengths aren't always what you've always thought. Look for the less visible ways you touch the world and don't shy away from sharing those things when needed. Take the long way home. Hold his hand. Really stop to smell the roses, or daisies, or lilacs, or just to watch the sunset or to stare at the rainbow. Shared or alone those moments will mean more than you might think if you let them. Never stop hoping - for whatever. Extend more grace than necessary. Be gentle and smile even when you don't feel like it - you will always be glad you did. Find something good in every day and give thanks for it. Be there when you are needed - even if you aren't actually asked. Your presence will speak louder than any words. Say what needs to be said - even if it's hard. Speak honestly but do so with empathy and understanding. Really listen. Let her know you heard her. Remind those you love that they matter. Figure out how to make peace with your past. Don't let it be the anchor that keeps you from enjoying the present. You never know what you might be missing out on by being stuck someplace you no longer belong. Chances are good you have outgrown whatever, or whoever, was there anyway. Realize that no one else can be responsible for your happiness. You can chase it forever and still end up miserable if you never figure out the simple fact that you make your own happiness so don't blame others when you find yourself coming up short. Change whatever needs to be changed. Don't wait for someone else to do it for you, and don't let the changes others need to make in search of their own happiness destroy yours. Live for the moment, but don't let any one moment define you or determine your worth. Greatness lies within each of us. Appreciate your talents, and appreciate compliments. Show genuine gratitude and give more than you take. Pay it forward and see how good it makes you feel. Live.
What would you say to someone if you knew it was the last time you would get the chance to tell them what you think...how you feel? And, I don't mean because of death...but simply because life sometimes works that way. Think about it. Things happen...how many times have you left someone and assumed you would have more time and for whatever reason, important words never get said. Would you hold back, or would you finally be totally honest? Would you allow yourself to open up fully, giving everything you've withheld, sharing every intimate detail of what that person means to you...or, would you let it all go thinking that it just doesn't matter or wouldn't make a difference to them?
I have no doubt those words matter - more than any of us can imagine or would even admit, I would venture to say. If you ask an older person if they regret anything, never do they say they wish they had worked more or spent more time on projects...no, the answer is almost always the same - they wish they had spent more time with those they loved, and had made it a point to tell them exactly how they feel even if those feelings aren't shared.
Time. We don't ever get it back. The clock can never be reset, the hands can never be rewound. A moment passes and it's simply gone. We are promised nothing...only death. Everything else is ours to cherish and treasure or waste and regret. And people come at the highest cost.
I'm no different. There are times I've let slip by...words I've held back...people who may not know what they mean to me...and I hate that. And, sometimes, I say exactly what I feel and end up feeling...foolish...especially when I hear crickets instead of a wished for response. But...I've decided it's better to feel...maybe even to be seen as...foolish, or that I care, or feel, too much if it means someone knows they matter, that they are loved. I can't think of a single time I've said what I'm feeling that I regret, but can name many where I held back and wished more than anything that I hadn't.
I read something earlier that said "people who hide their feelings usually feel the most". As someone who is typically very guarded, I can attest to that...while I find it easy to feel, I actually have a really hard time expressing that which I'm feeling. Why? Well, for the same reasons everyone else does I'm sure. I don't want to be seen as weak or foolish and it's hard to admit to feeling something that isn't reciprocated. I'm trying to be more honest with my feelings...to be as genuine with those around me as possible. The hard part is when you realize you aren't getting the same in return. So, I'm challenging you to do just that...to be open to those you truly care about. Invest in them. Give them what they deserve from you. Be honest with yourself, and with them. Don't hold back out of fear because ultimately you will be the one left with regret and disappointment when they finally walk away after not getting what they need simply because you were too afraid to give it to them. Today is one less day we have. Make sure you don't waste it on something so stupid as fear.
I woke early this morning...6:05 early...on a Saturday...the day I had hoped to sleep in a little, but my mind and body had different things in mind it seems. I laid there for a bit, next to the little blonde who had slept next to me after a long, exhausting day...I tried to fall back to sleep and finally gave up. I reached for the book I've been falling asleep with nightly for the past couple weeks and read the final few pages, and there I found these words:
"What chance do we have, a couple like us?"
"We have a chance. It's all any of us gets."
"We could get hurt."
"We've survived it before...And maybe we could fall in love."
It's a book, I know. It's not real life, but for someone like me who puts more stock in words than most people, those words were like magic to me...whispering at first, then almost screaming at me to hear what they had to say. My favorite line? "We have a chance. It's all any of us gets." But why? I think it's because I love thinking that there is something to the unplanned amazingness that comes from taking a chance...that sometimes we meet someone and no matter what might stand in the way, we are able to do just that - take a chance. The most honest line? "We could get hurt." Yep, we sure could. And, realistically, the odds are we will because in a relationship there are two humans; each ridiculously, beautifully flawed with individual hopes, dreams, fears and desires. We will each screw up, hopefully always on accident but sometimes our selfishness gets in the way and we make really poor choices that are a bit more on purpose than on accident. But, we get a chance...a chance to make someone else happy...a chance to make ourselves happy.
Someone asked me the other day if I think I need someone to make me happy. Here's the thing...I buy into a mix of "we need to be good with ourselves before we can be good for anyone else" and the equally cheesy and cliche' "you complete me" line of thinking. I do think we need to be emotionally healthy (as clinical and non-romantic as that sounds) as an individual before we can give the best of ourselves to someone else, but...I also think there is something to finding someone who adds so much to your life that they fill the gaps, the empty spaces not necessarily left by others, but simply makes you a better person. I used to believe there was one person for each of us...yes, a little girl's fairy tale. I was sure of it. Then life happened and as I've gotten older, experienced more, met more people, had different types of connections with different people, fell in love, got my heart broke (lather, rinse, repeat)...and, maybe most importantly, got to know myself and what I want/don't want better; I've come to realize it's just not that simple. Okay, maybe for some people, but clearly not for me. I now think there are many people we could be happy with. I very much believe there are people we are destined to be connected to throughout our lives - I have a tiny, delicate red ribbon on the inside of my left wrist to remind me of this - people who serve very specific purposes within our life, and us in theirs, as friends, lovers, business partners, whatever. I just have a really hard time letting go when it's clear we've gotten all we can from each other. And...the hopeless romantic in me wants to believe in something less practical...something akin to being swept off my feet, head over heels, can't hardly breathe because I am so in love sorta thing. Does that exist? Oh, I'm sure it does, but I think there's more to be said for the ever-practical relationship that's built over time, often starting as friends with mutual interests and trust as the underlining foundation - at least at this point in my life. So...what I've decided is this...I want to write my own fairy tale...well, more specifically, write it with someone...a fairy tale full of trust, and respect, and laughter, and shared values, and the ability to share everything, even the hard stuff, and true forgiveness for our shortcomings, and absolute understanding and acceptance of who we are separately and together, and (let's be honest) can't take your hands off of me passion, and unconditional love that doesn't diminish but grows with time and gray hair and slowed steps... Is that too much? Maybe. But, that's the fairy tale I wanna write and I'm not giving up on it because..."We have a chance. That's all any of us gets."