Over the course of the last couple of days, my confidence has plummeted. First, I read a blog that is very funny. Consistently, genuinely funny. Let me tell you a secret. I’ve always kind of wanted to be funny. I appreciate humor, when it’s clean, witty and not sarcastic. Unfortunately, however, I am not funny. In fact, I have to say, I’m very nearly the opposite of funny at least 99 3/4% of the time. To be frank with you, I don’t even know how one would go about being funny. So, while I laughed aloud while reading the newfound, much-respected blog, I sunk lower and lower into the pit of clumsy, awkward, entirely-too-serious me.
To make matters worse… I passed a mirror. Now, usually, I successfully keep my eyes away from such things b/c I know that no matter WHAT I do, the reflection I see in glass and I are not going to like one another. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky this time. Into the glass, I peeked. And cringed. I was in a clothing shop the other day and noticed the jewelry: colorful, big earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings. I don’t know what to do with jewelry. I mean, I have my “mother’s ring”, the ring I got after Breathe was born and added to when Alight came along, that hasn’t left my ring finger in seven years. Other than that staple, I don’t do jewelry well. As I glanced at it all, though, I thought of a lady who recently commented on a unique ring that I’d worn. She liked it so much she went out and brought herself one, and she felt compelled to tell me more than once how awesome it was, even though I shared with her the humiliating truth: the ring wasn’t mine. I didn’t buy it, and it wasn’t even a gift to me: I’d just borrowed it from my sister, who is the true fashion diva in the family that knows how to accessorize. Me, I just put it on, on impulse, so that I could at least half-way convince myself I was trying to be chic and pretty. Also, another useless way I fail as a “real woman”: I do know the first thing about make-up. True fact. Furthermore, frankly, I don’t really care. I wear foundation because it will cover up blemishes. If I did not have blemishes, I would not wear foundation. This is especially sad because I was not gifted with beautiful skin. I was created to make Casper look good.
I like to pretend I’m a good writer. On my good days, I can read what other people have written me and almost convince myself of it. The truth, though, is that I’m an emotional writer. There is a difference. You don’t necessarily have to have a lot of talent to write something that will make people cry because, most people, in their hearts, are sensitive souls who are capable of feeling compassion. Twenty minutes of watching the television news or reading the Sunday paper could give you plenty of sad writing material. But what do you do with a Kleenex? You throw it away, that’s what. Skilled writers, however, produce images that linger after the tears stop. I’m not altogether convinced I do that. What I do know is that I write at length about topics that don’t have a single funny bone in them. I’ve been called “intense,” “intimidating,” “heavy,” and “thoughtful” a lot. It all sounds quite profound. But when it comes right down to it, the truth is that I honestly think most people would prefer reading a shorter blog about happier topics. Which, in essence, makes me boring, challenging or even unmanageable. But, alas, I love writing. In fact, I love it so much that, frankly, I don’t really care if I’m not that good: that’s kind of secondary to the main point, which is that I love doing it.
The only thing, then, that I’m left with is that I’m a mother. I hope I’m a good one. I try really hard, and I genuinely am happiest when I’m with them. Ultimately, though, only Breathe and Alight will one day be able to judge whether or not I’ve been a “good mother.” And I’m afraid that some something I do or have done or will do will undermine whatever “creative” things I might have given them.
Ultimately, I try hard. That’s usually a good thing but, with me… I almost try too hard. I live each moment as though the next is going to be my last. But living for death puts a very heavy weight on my shoulders. People always tell me to “relax.” But I can’t because what if I relax, let loose, ‘have fun,’ and die in the next hour without writing the article that might have one day proved to my daughters that I loved them, or that they are strong and capable? What if I relaxed and put off a spontaneous trip to the park or the zoo because I was “tired”, then died the next day? What if I ‘let go’ of the past and chose not to say what I really want to say, then died without ever having re-built important bridges, renewed friendships that meant something.You see, in my head, I can’t relax because this minute is the only minute I’m going to have to make sure that when I’m dead, I don’t have any regrets. And there are always way more important thoughts/actions/conversations that have to be done today than there are minutes in twenty-four hours. And another thing—what gives me the right to relax, to play, to rest when, in my perfect neighborhood, somewhere, there’s a child hurting that, maybe, I could meet if I were really paying attention, or if I took the walk despite my abiding hatred for heat.
I know I can’t do it all. I’m not God. Moreover, I’m not even anyone ‘important.’ But Oprah said it best when she said that we each have a “circle of influence”, be it three people or three thousand. That’s true. We really do. And that weighs on my heart, makes me think about every action I take, makes me determined to choose the “right path” no matter what. I’m not a super hero but I do care, deeply, about the people around me. Sometimes I care so much that everything I do or say or think is hefty. It has to be, after all, if dying tomorrow is an actual possibility. Which, naturally, it is.
Sometimes it exhausts me, like it’s doing tonight, and the sheer exhaustion makes me want to just forget—everything: my past, the needs of those children I cannot save—and just be normal, whatever that is or means. I’m not really strong, I’m just good at pretending because pretending allows me to believe—believe that who I am is who I am for a reason, believe that things are okay and that doing my best is all that’s required. I’m not supposed to need anything. I’m not supposed to show weakness and I’m surely not supposed to admit to not always being the sunshiney, smiley bright, creative leader people see me as. It’s hard to admit that sometimes it’s hard to see whether or not all the thoughts in my head make any difference at all. It’s hard to see whether or not playing with my girls in the way that I do is what they need, or if I’m missing something important for them. It’s hard to admit that sometimes confidence is just an imaginary friend who kind of acts as a shield for me whenever I’m with other people: in other words, it isn’t always real.
Reading the funny blog made me sad.
As I am writing this, something my daughter says to me every night rings through my head. Just as the lights go out, she’ll smile and say, “you make me smile.”
I inhale deeply and slowly, allowing the air to completely fill my lungs. Outside my window, there are crickets chirping and neighbors walking their dogs. It helps slow my heart. So I’m not funny. Or beautiful. So I’m not the most skilled writer ever. So I’m a bit on the emotional, tense side.
But I make my daughter smile. And that’s more than enough.