The bony creature that stares into the mirror and sees a fat girl looking back. The wounded soldier who continues to fight the battle and never realizes that he’s been hit. The red eyed, crying child that insists he isn’t tired. Call it denial. Call it ignorance. Call it whatever you’d like. We all believe things that the rest of the world mocks. Perhaps it is merely hope or aspiration or desperation. Maybe we have all gotten to the point of building our own realities because so much of the world is trying to steal our optimism. All I know is that I no longer believe everything I think. I can’t decide if this is liberating or debilitating. I have moved from a space of confident anticipation; challenging the world to prove me wrong, to standing in a puddle of numb awareness; demanding those I respect most to prove me right. I envy the ignorant with their pipe-dreams. For if ignorance is truly bliss, total awareness is indeed brutal. I can’t breathe. It is as if knowledge, or rather acknowledgment, has knocked the wind out of me and left me gasping for air. I long for my false hopes as one longs for the dead – wishing they were still with me to comfort me, but knowing they can never return. They are irreplaceable. They are just fading memories of happier days long past.
One of my dad’s favorite movies is The Never Ending Story. I’m not sure why. But I remember the part at the end when the imaginary world has all but disappeared and there is just a single spec left. The princess hands the granule to the little boy and tells him that it is all that is left of her world, that the rest has been devoured by the Nothing. She tells him that it is up to him to recreate it and make it bigger and better than it was before. Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by darkness; a dark so pitch that my eyes can never adjust. But it seems that even then, I have a single tiny pin-point of light. I can hear Norah Jones sing, “My heart is drenched in wine.” I see the profile of a man as he rips the filters off of cigarettes and inhales each one almost as quickly as it is lit. I dispense ketchup into a small, paper cup at Burger King and hand it to my child. He smiles with glee and asks, “Is that one of your many talents, Mama?” “Yes, it is, Scout,” I reply. Dozier puts his arm around my shoulder and pats my arm, almost like I am his child and not the other way around. I smile. I look down and notice that the pin-point of light has grown. Every day as the sun rises, the night is dispelled around me. Yet even as the sky turns orange and pink and bright, some days I still find myself surrounded by the dark. Yet I always seem to have that minuscule speck of light; that microscopic ray that allows the darkness to envelop me, but never engulf me. And I begin, once again, to create what my world will be, and I am given the opportunity to make it bigger and better than before.
It occurred to me at some point last night that I was really more concerned with someone else’s happiness than I was my own. I have to admit that was an odd thing. I don’t think I have ever felt like that about someone other than my kids. In a way, it was comforting to me. I didn’t allow myself to look at the clock. I knew the phone wasn’t going to ring. And that was o.k., too. This wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about me not being good enough. This wasn’t about there being anything wrong with me. I have realized that I am good enough. And you know what? There isn’t anything wrong with me. Sometimes people make decisions based on their abilities and not yours. Sometimes people just can’t get past their own insecurities or the demands of their life or whatever it is inside of them that makes them decide that the risk isn’t worth the reward. The future is uncertain. All we can do is prepare ourselves for what we think may be ahead and go along for the ride. Even a perpetual planner like me knows that there is no such thing as a sure thing. But I still hold true to the belief that I would rather regret things that I have done, than to regret things that I didn’t do. It makes me sad that there are people all around me that can never go back and do the things that they wish they had done. They go to sleep wondering “What if?” I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know that I am not going to miss opportunities because I was scared to be me. Scout crawled into bed with me early this morning and snuggled up next to me. He asked, “What’s going to happen today, Mama?” And instead of telling him all of the things that are planned for the day like I normally do, I simply responded, “I have no idea.” And we were both o.k. with that.
I was thinking about writing the story of my life, but I’m not sure if my life has really begun. I mean, I’m thirty-seven years old, have a good job, a nice house and two kids; but sometimes I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything that is really living. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the corner and cars and people and birds are just whizzing by me in fast forward while I am standing on pause. What am I really doing? What is the reason behind it all? You go to sleep so you can make it to morning. You get up and go to work so you can make it to quitting time. You go home and get everything ready for the next day. Where in all of the repetition is the life part?
Scout goes to bed every night holding my hand. That feels like life, but it is so fleeting. It is a split second of drifting between the waking giggles of an adoring child to a serene little mouth agape beneath the curtains of dreams. His grip loosens and I am left alone watching him sleep; merely covering his hand with mine. The connection is lost – the moment of sweetness now almost bitter.
Dozier will wrap his arms around me and I swear I melt into him. It is like our bodies blend into one big mushy blob of perfection. He kisses me with the rough tenderness of a ten year old and leaves a wet reminder on my cheek. But in a flash he is angered that I insist he go to bed, and his affections that were given so freely quickly turn to contempt.
My heart skips a beat when someone I care for makes me laugh. One of those laughs that I have to take a breath in the middle of. And when I do, I hear him laughing, too. Like two parts of a melody blending together to form the perfect harmony. But just as quickly the moment is gone, and as I drift into my own slumber the sound fades and can hardly be remembered.
Is life made up of these glimpses of contentment? Is there something that holds them together? Is there some paraffin that congeals all the indications of true happiness so that a person can feel completely whole? Everyone wants someone to love them and accept them. Everyone wants their Jerry McGuire to complete them. But the thing is – I am already complete. I don’t need anyone to make me who I am or make me better. I am the most perfect version of me that I could possibly be. Maybe we all just need someone to take us for who we are. Maybe we all just need someone who gets us. We need someone who is as endeared by our flaws as they are by our brief moments of splendor. Maybe I just need to stop listening to my Nora Jones CD.