It's after 1:00 am, and my house is so quiet I honestly had to think about who, if anyone was in it with me. Otis, yes. Shaun, yes. Beckham, yes...wait, no. Even after almost 3 years of being a "modern family" with 2 households, I never quite get used to the idea or the quiet of my son not being under my roof. Mothers aren't supposed to get used to not having their babies.
Anyway, it's quiet because everyone's sleeping, and, as is common for me, I work best- think and feel best- deep into the night. Sometimes I feel so explosively creative, I wish I could bang on a piano and quite literally stay awake making noise or doing something, both inside and outside of my body, until the sun woke up, but I thought writing would be a more productive (and less destructive) way to channel my burst of late night/early morning energy.
I was thinking tonight about the lie of laziness. I remember when I was young, someone I cared about and who was fundamentally important to me, in a moment of rage told me I was lazy. I was probably 11 or 12. And maybe once a week, I replay that moment, when tears stung my eyes and I wanted to vehemently deny that accusation....but I couldn't.
Not because I was lazy, but because at 11 or 12, who even knows who they are? Maybe I was lazy. Maybe my unkempt hair that my mother would spend hours with a comb and a bottle of conditioner detangling was because I was lazy. Or the floor of my room being covered in clothes- clean, or dirty, or both- was because...I was lazy. Maybe my weight, which yo yo-ed from forever, always drifting a decimal digit further up the scale, was a sure fire sign of my doomed, innate laziness. Maybe my procrastinations, my excuses and my failures were because...I was just.freaking.lazy.
So, why am I up tonight? Because I'm working. Lately, I'm always working, which, is kind of amazing. It's utterly exhausting, without doubt. But, work to me- the kind I'm lucky enough to get to do- building my businesses, writing music/blogs/stories, connecting to people, planning and scheming- is better than sleeping. When you feel like you have stories and life coursing through you, I can't believe it would be fair to the universe, or God, or MYSELF to insist on shutting down because it was the "right" time to.
Shaun often falls asleep (at completely reasonable times to fall asleep) and I keep working. And I realized tonight, that's always been the person I am. I've always worked hard. I've always been not lazy.
Which brings me to the lie of laziness.
There is a difference: Between working for the sake of busy-ness vs. working to be impactful. Between being stagnant and preventing your own success, vs. being still and directing a purposeful path for your success. There is a difference between a girl who does not want to waste time putting laundry away or brushing her hair because she's got more important, impactful things to do, and a girl who avoids responsibility in the name of sheer defiance and rebellion.
For me, it was not being lazy; it was being focused on something someone else couldn't see; It was prioritizing my need for mySELF above someone else's need for ME.
A couple weeks back, I went to a conversation with Glennon Doyle Melton- the author of "Love Warrior" and creator of the blog Momastery. There will be many lessons that surface and make their way into my blog, but at one point, she spoke of being a woman and (paraphrasing) said:
"We are taught that to be good women, we must make ourselves as small, and unheard, unseen and quiet as possible. We are taught that to be a good woman, we must be selfless...And I'd ask you, to think about that for a moment: To be a good woman, we must learn to be WITHOUT self. And be ok with that."
Which makes me think about the identity I was given when I was just a little girl with better things to do than what someone else wanted me to do. I was an excellent student. I was well-liked; straddling the line- sometimes gracefully, and often not- between being popular enough to have friends, but not popular enough to be the kind of girl the woman I am not would hate. I played sports. Made music. Was deathly afraid of getting in trouble, so, I rarely did.... and even then, not real trouble. And because I could not be all things that all people wanted me to be, I was given a label. Not because it was who I was, but because it was how they could best make sense of me. How they could best file me away and make me less troublesome. Less work. Less to "figure out".
Because it's easier, isn't it, to say someone's "a bitch", than it is to figure out why someone lashes out in anger? It's easier to say that someone is "depressed", rather than to recognize their isolation or disconnection. It's easier to assume that those who are "up" are happy, or those who are "beautiful" are healthy, or those who are "sad" are broken...but what if all those labels are really fucked up lies that, not only do other people give to us, but because we are taught to be without self we fully, 100% subscribe to?
If we're always taught that the best thing we can be for someone else is easy for them to understand, how do we ever understand ourselves?
Today, I met a friend with whom I'm working on an exciting project. This friend is light, and laughter and effervescence and love. And, so am I, a good majority of the time. Well...all of those things with a touch of brooding, blunt and mildly offensive (at least in the South) edge. We brainstormed an hour or so away in a not-so-quiet coffee shop before we stopped thinking, in favor of feeling.
"Enough of this, for now," said my friend. "How are you?"
I opened my mouth and inhaled, feeling the very instinctual "Good! Busy! But good!" roll off my tongue, and it wouldn't have been a lie. It just would have been...incomplete.
I stopped myself (yay me) before I spoke, and thought about something I've been preaching in honest conversations with good friends lately: Truth. No longer glossing over everything and making it all so goddam simple and pretty. Being real. Because...the truth is, THAT is the exhale someone else is waiting to watch you make so they can do it to. The release of the weight of your story.
"I'm...good." I said, settling into the words, that, as noted, were true.
"Married!" She exclaimed- and she had been there to celebrate with us last month.
"Yes-- married, which...is amazing." More truth. "The thing is..."
And I'm not sure what I said, but it resembled, or was meant to resemble this:
My life is unicorn kisses and rainbow butterflies freakin' magical. I mean that. I am happier than I have ever been, bar.freaking.none. And the other day, in my bi-monthly meeting with my therapist (and guys, get a therapist. Please. Nothing has to be wrong-- preventative maintenance is a *good* thing), I switched up our relationship.
Most the time when Therapist and I meet, we talk about lots of regular surface stuff: Work. Momming. Adulting. More recently, wife-ing. But, for whatever reason, I decided, with all the beautiful everything floating around in my world, it was time to make a God-forsaken mess. So, I came to Therapist and after our niceties, I dropped the bombs on her: Brokenness and bruises from decades ago, just all out in the open. Patterns and poison and angst and anger. Sadness and despair and joy and hope.
And then the guilt hit me: I'm such an ungrateful bitch for getting the life of my dreams, with the man of my dreams, the kid of my dreams, in the house of my dreams, and making a mess- dragging out boxes of old, put-away emotional crap I'd banished to my internal basement with no intention of ever cross examining. But Therapist said: "No. The place you're in- the one where you're happy, and you're good, and things are 'ok'...that's when you have the strength and the reservoir to look underneath."
I started thinking maybe our lives are like houses. When our house is messy, the only focus is on finding a place for things, or a path to walk through. Nevermind what's happening in the proverbial attic. Just. Survive. Get things in order- at least enough to allow company in. But...once the house projects are done, the last of your things have found their place, and things look beautiful...that's when you start digging through boxes labeled "Storage" or "Old Stuff" or "Memories".
So, I looked at my friend and said all these things, in so many words, and finally answered her question by finishing with, "So. I'm ok. Truly. And not ok at the same time....and learning to be ok with that dichotomy."
And it felt so good. It felt like an exhale. And she exhaled her truths too.
The lies of our lives become the things we're told we are- maybe repeatedly, but sometimes just once. They become the badges on our collars, or the grip of our handshake. They become the clothes we wear, and the narrative we tell people, and the thing we most "are". But...they're not real.
So...what is real? Who are we REALLY if we're not what someone says we are? How do we find our self-worth, when our worth is hinged on the false identities that are made for us every time someone says "You- YOU are <fill in the blank>."? If our self worth is hinged on having confidence in ourselves and who we are, what comes first? The pursuit of our value, or the recognition of it?
I mulled this over with my incredibly wise husband, who uses far fewer words than I, and says much, much more. And, in my best "petulant child" character of myself, said;
"But how will I even GET there, or know when I do?"
He wrapped me up in his arms while I reconciled if my tears were because I felt so loved, or so unloveable in that moment, and said, "Babe...the problem is that you think there IS a 'there'."
And in that moment, I thanked God quietly that he was mine, and that I could feel so much like "his" and still so much like "my own" and how that is the kind of love everyone should seek in their lifetime.
It turns out, there's no there, I suppose. Shaun knows that, but I'm still learning it, which is not surprising, since I'm always running toward some arbitrary finish line. But what I know is, a lot of us are walking around with a whole bunch of lies that steal from our own truths. Imagine if all these years, I had known I wasn't lazy (and, for the record...even working deep into the night at 31 with no tangles or clothes on my floor, I still don't fully grasp that 'lazy' isn't one of MY titles...it was my assignment). What would my life have been like if I had believed for 2 decades, that I was devoted to my path and even when that took me off someone else's, that was NOT a crime.
I don't know what those years would have looked like. But, as my love pointed out, as I cried over so much time wasted loving myself less for the woman I believed I wasn't; Now is quite as a good a time as any to journey on. Because there is not a finish line, even if (and though) I often wish there were--and the gift of life being a delicious, tedious mess of ups and downs- is that anything can change, anytime.
And I believe in the end, that with a little truth, a little mess-making, and a few breaths before answering "how are you?", the person you've always believed you are, can become the person you've always, honestly, been.