Y’all. I’ve been doing a lot of counting lately. Hours of sleep my girl might get. If she’ll sleep until 10. Which she never does. Even though she’s stayed up way past her bedtime. And mine. Again. I’ve also been counting how many episodes I have left in my show. Chapters I have left in my book. The next five books I want to read. And shows I want to watch. How many insurance appeals I have to write. Pills I have to take. Purses I have to list on eBay. Because Marge and I have now have a market on eBay. And she has a lot of purses. And shoes. I’ve also been counting down the days until Oscar gets 15 more minutes of freedom. Because really. He’s the one who needs the break. Let’s just be honest. And then suddenly. Without even realizing it. I’ve started to panic. Because this week. In just a few days. I’m down to 19 hours closed. And holy shit. Have I even been listening at all? Shouldn’t I be wiser. Or stronger. Or less panicky. Or more like Jesus. Or something. This played out so differently in my head five months ago. Shouldn’t I be enlightened by now. But then I remember. This whole thing. This whole jacked up jaw mess. It all started because I was trying to be something more. Someone I wasn’t. Trying to be like the girl I envied in middle school. Trying to be anyone but me.
I’m going to try real hard not to beat up on me. Twelve year old me. She was awkward. And pimply. And didn’t have the best taste in clothing. Though my dad always said how proud he was of big sister and I. As we stood waiting for the bus. He always said we were the best dressed kids out there. With our Coca-Cola shirts. And Bermuda shorts. Scrunchies in our side ponys. I didn’t believe him then. I do now. I should have trusted him. Every single girl at Alice Drive Middle School was prettier than me. Smarter than me. More athletic than me. Better dressed than me. Cooler than me. And I thought. If I could just make the cheerleading team. You know. Become one of those popular girls. On the squad. With wavy hair. And clear skin. Long legs. And confidence. Those girls. The cheerleaders. If I could just be them. I would be okay.
So I put myself out there. Twelve year old me. Self-conscious me. And I found myself on a Monday afternoon. Smack dab in the middle of a football field. With 100 other wannabes. Vying for a shot at cool. Learning herkies. And splits. And cartwheels. And judging the shit out of myself. The entire time. Because I’m almost positive I fell on my ass. More than once. On day one. Definitely on my way to cool. Um, right. Now for those of you who know me. It’s not surprising. I’m not the athletic type at all. I can volley a tennis ball. Kind of. I’m one hell of a walker. And could probably run. If I didn’t pee all over myself. And I can do yoga. Like a kick ass child’s pose. But that’s about it.
And I’ll tell y’all. I’m a little shocked to recently learn of my child’s athletic ability. At basketball nonetheless. In an area. Where, once again. I tried like hell to be anyone but me. At basketball camp. And I came home with bruises on my forehead. Not dribbling skills. I think that’s what they call it. Dribbling. I don’t know. I sat next to my girl’s bonus mother during her debut game. A natural-born athlete. You know the type. Good at everything. And damn. If she wasn’t so freaking cool. And kind. And funny. And beautiful. I’d love to hate her. But I don’t. I kinda love her. A lot. She’s not technically her other mother. Not legally or anything. But when my girl isn’t staying at our house. She’s at her house. And she makes sure she has good food to eat. Activities to engage her. A family to tease her. And make her laugh. Dogs to play with. And love. Lots of love. Plus she’s teaching her to run. So that’s her other mother in my book. And I have a feeling she’s going to teach me a lot about basketball. Or at the very least. Let me sit next to her. So I can catch on to the lingo. Cheer when she cheers. Encourage our girl together. Using said lingo. We’ll see how that goes.
But back to the football field. Late 80s. Splits. Herkies. Cartwheels. Anyone but me. A cheerleader. And I remember the older cheerleaders. The ones off to Sumter High the next year. They told us that in order to make the team we had to practice at home. And I’ll be damned. That’s exactly what I was planning to do. And did. Until the last practice cartwheel. The one I was so desperately trying to improve. My friend cheering me on. “Straight legs. Just straighten your legs this time,” she exclaimed. And with that. My attempt. The glory shot. Or cartwheel. But sadly. It didn’t end with straight legs. Or in glory. It ended with my ass on a garage floor. A chipped tail bone. And teeth that slammed together so hard, the sound resonated like cymbals through my brain. So now. Not only was cheerleading out for me. And my chance to be that girl over. Now I was sitting on an inflatable donut in math class. Science class. Typing. Language arts. And social studies. Where I happened to sit behind the cutest boy in school. With my donut. Definitely not cool. And wishing. More than ever. To be anyone but me.
Little did I know. That fall. That attempt at the perfect cartwheel. That attempt at being anyone but me. With straight legs. And wavy hair. The cheerleader. Would stunt the growth of both of my temporomandibular joints. The left one significantly. Then leave room in the home of that joint. Just enough. So that after years and years of trying. The disc was finally able to slip right on in. Leaving the condyle to rub directly against the base of my skull (ouch). Blocking off blood supply to the joint. Forever. Or at least until its reparation. A reparation that’s landed me in financial disaster thirty years later. One I may never recover from. Unless I beat a system that’s completely broken. Anyone but me. That’s all I wanted. And you know. That’s what happens when you stop listening to Jesus. Or your gut if that’s how you prefer to see it. And wish away all the things He gives you. By focusing on the things or people or life you don’t have. Or want. Trying to be someone. Or something. You’re just not. You find yourself in trouble. Anyone but me. Not a good idea.
Today I’m happy to say I want to be me. I actually kinda like myself. A lot. I like the way I look. Most days. Even with Oscar. I like my clothes. And hair. And jewelry. Because I have super snazzy and stylish friends who inspire me. And a kick ass hair stylist. More importantly. Less superficially. I actually like who I am. Inside. I enjoy my time alone. Something I surely didn’t enjoy two years ago. I like that I strive to see the positive. Even if I falter. I like that I have a kind heart. Even when I don’t act too kind. Or do kind things. I like that I work hard. To provide a good life for my girl. I like that I’m self-reflective. And learn from my mistakes. Most of them. I like that I try to instill bravery. And boldness. And kindness. And love. Into my girl. My greatest feat. I’m actually really proud of myself for that. You should be, too. For something great that you do. And another thing I like. No. That I love about me. I have a personal relationship with Jesus. He’s the reason I’m able to love myself. Even when I slip. And man, do I slip. Because no matter what. He loves me. So I love me, too.
Now. Let me be clear. Just because I love myself. Inside and out. I still have longings. For a partner to share adventure. And joy. And struggle. And love. For an opportunity to work less so I have more time to be a mommy. For the opportunity to write more. Paint more furniture. Read more books. Watch more shows. Cook better meals. Sleep in a little longer. Live closer to the ocean. But I choose to see the good stuff. Most days. The blessings I have. An amazing girl. A safe place to live. Good food to eat. Family and friends that love me. At least I think they do. All the good stuff. Instead of the desired stuff. Attitude. Or gratitude. That’s what I tell my girl when she gets cranky. That one choice changes everything. For everyone. So I choose gratitude. Or else I begin slipping away from myself. Ruminating. Trying to be anyone but me. And we know what happens then.
When I think back before all this jacked up jaw mess. During the time when I started to love me. Became my own friend. I still continually betrayed me. In ways that may not seem like betrayal. But they were. Just like I did to twelve year old me. Acting like a stay at home mom. Like my other mom friends. Which I’m not by the way. I work from home. Full time. And while it’s not much different than being a stay at home mom. They’re both hard jobs. Hard as shit. I do have a boss to answer to. Teammates to support. Projects with deadlines. A paycheck to earn. A family to financially support. On my own. But yet. I said yes. When I needed to say no. Booked play dates. When I needed to answer emails. Insisted on picking up my daughter from school. When I desperately needed the extra hour of work time. Even though Marge offered. Littlest sister offered. Because. Well. I just have to. Do it all. Be it all. Have it all. All. All. All. Just all of it.
And what an awful way to betray someone you love. Myself. Doing it all. Being it all. It meant working through dinner. Completely stressed. On the brink of totally losing my shit. Scrambling through bedtime stories. And prayers. So I could get back to the project needing attention. Calls and emails needing answering. Losing sleep. When my body needed rest the most. Bottom line. I sacrificed precious time with my daughter. Myself. And Jesus. Not trying to be anything but me. But trying to be the perfect version of me. To make everyone happy. As an employee. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A mom. Especially the perfect version of a mom. And let me tell you. I was failing at most of them. That’s betrayal at its finest. Betrayal of loving myself enough to say. Enough is enough.
School starts in a couple weeks. I’m not counting. Or trying not to. I go back to work a week or so later. Oscar will finally get enough rest in the day that I’ll be able to talk on the phone. And people will actually understand me. Kind of a pivotal role in my job description. The virtual one. And now that I think about it. The realization of this betrayal of mine. I actually have listened. Damn. I might be enlightened after all. Because you know what. I quit. Yep. That’s right. I quit. I’m now in recovery of betraying me. The person I love. The only person I want to be. And the person I need to take care of the most. So I’m saying no. Even if I want to say yes. And if I do say yes. I’m going to think hard about it. I’m going to start counting. Making sure I can afford the time. The money. The activity. The sacrifice. The opportunity cost. I might have failed freshman Econ with a 32%. But I know opportunity cost when I see it. And if it costs me myself. Or my daughter. Or my wallet. Or my time with Jesus. It’s a no. A big. Fat. Gigantic. No.
So bring it 2017-2018. This is my year. I’m going to be true to myself. No more betrayal. No more trying to be the cheerleader. And damnit. I’m going to let Marge pick up my girl from school. Because they both love it. And when littlest sister volunteers. I’ll let her, too. Because they also both love it. I think there’s candy or presents involved. And guess what that means. I can work. A little bit longer. Get the calls done. The emails answered. The projects finished. So that when my girl walks in the door. I can look directly into her eyes. Instead of a hurried and passing, “hey baby, how was school?” We can take a walk. Hold hands. Or play on the playground. Maybe even go fishing. As long as we don’t catch anything. Because I can’t deal with all that junk. Just something for the two of us. Before I do have to get back to work. Before I do have to answer those last emails. And calls.
So. I say no to trudging through homework and work work this year. With attitude. Both hers. And mine. Or putting on the TV. Because it’s easier. And mommy can make up for the time away from her computer. While she was out there in the community all betraying herself again. And imagine. Just for a moment. Dinner. Prepared by me. Or the Instant Pot. Whichever. No cell phone. No computer. No rushing. Just my girl. With a head full of questions. And a mama loving herself enough to say no to anything that takes this time away.
Y’all. I’m counting on that this year. And I’m counting on you to consider the same. Whatever that thing is that you’re tired of giving up. Or trying to be. For whatever reason. Just quit betrayal already. And join me in the recovery.