I had a dream last night that I was on a trip or vacation of some sort with friends. However, I didn’t really feel like I belonged or was welcome. I felt tolerated and remember crying in the dream. I hadn’t felt wanted.
As I told this dream to my husband on our walk this morning, he pointed out that this was a recurring theme for me. At first, I disagreed with him. Then, he asked me to name the times in my life when I felt like I had belonged, or fit in. I struggled, as I parted the curtains of memory, to find the first instance where I felt like I belonged.
I thought back to my early childhood where I dreamed that my parents were bank robbers who had kidnapped me from my real parents. Clearly, I hadn’t felt like I belonged to them. Then I remembered reading a post yesterday by Katie Devine where she talked about her family gathering for her grandfather’s 94th birthday. I remembered getting teary eyed as I read her post as she described the connections and memories she shared with her relatives. She felt such an intense sense of acceptance and belonging with her family.
Clearly this was what had sparked my dream. I had never felt anything remotely close to what she described in her post. My mother, who’d gotten pregnant and had paid my dad to marry her, had all but isolated herself from her family after she married. Then, even after the divorce, she was really only close to my grandparents, relying on them financially.
Strangely enough, I felt more like I belonged with my husband’s family in Ecuador who didn’t even speak English, than with my own family. This was made painfully apparent to me recently when my mother neglected to tell me that my Aunt had passed away. I remembered visiting her in the hospital only a few months earlier after spending the holidays in Ecuador. I had learned that she was ill in Ecuador when I had seen a post from one of my cousins on Facebook and we had driven to the hospital straight from the airport.
Later, my husband remarked that my cousins had stared at me in the hospital room like they had seen a ghost. I guess that made sense. I hadn’t seen many of them in years, and we only lived a few hours away from each other.
I hadn’t realized until today that this feeling of not belonging was rooted in my childhood and with my family. So, today I forgive my mother for whatever role she played in my isolation from my family. And I forgive myself for the role that I played by not seeking to connect after becoming an adult.
I am also grateful to The Universe for sending me dear friends who have nourished my soul and made me feel loved. Sometimes the friends who enter our lives become our family, accepting us and making us feel wanted.
Sometimes blood is thicker than water, holding us together. But for some of us, the water is the thing that nourishes us and sustains us.
“I can’t do this! I just can’t do this,” I said from the narrow alcove leading onto Stage Right. This was the third night of our performance of The Real Inspector Hound and only a few feet away I could hear Brad, as Mrs. Drudge, speaking his lines bringing my cue closer and closer. My heart pounded in my chest like the speakers in an 18 year-old boy’s car. “What happens if I just can’t do this?” I asked the Universe. “You will leave your good friend in the lurch on stage with no one to try and pull a pair of flippers off,” came the hasty reply. (I was standing in the wings wearing diving flippers. Don’t ask. Unique interpretation of the play by our Director.) Knowing I just could not leave him out there alone was the only thought that thrust me from my tiny closet in the wings onto the stage.
Having been an Opera Singer, Hound was the first play I had been in, but not my first time on stage. This would be my last time though. I was done. I just didn’t have the nerve or the desire to be up there under the lights with thousands of eyes staring at me anymore.
I remember five years earlier when my Graduate Advisor at UT had asked me “Is there anything else you’ve ever enjoyed?” He was asking because after killing myself working a full time job and being a full time college student to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Music, I was now giving up after three semesters and two graduate programs on the Masters Degree in Music.
Music had always been my ticket. I had always been a singer. Everyone assumed that I would sing. But here I was now after all this time floundering. Truth is, I never really enjoyed singing Opera. But I had a very high voice, and since there was no music major track at the time in Rock and Roll, I studied Opera.
Now here I was, realizing for the first time that it was time to let this dream go. This dream I had had longer than any other, except the horse I had prayed for since I was five. The one thing that I knew deep down in my core was part of what made me, me. But I was also on my own, with no family to help me and it was time to get a degree in something for once that might actually put food on my table. So that day I closed the door and changed direction.
And because of that change of direction, I met my husband:-)
“I resign,” I exhaled, gasping for air. I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. For the last eleven years I’d been in quicksand and at that moment I was about to go under. For good. So the words tumbled out and I breathed.
I remember feeling like I was floating. This incredible sense of calm and my head expanding and numb and tingly all at the same time as I walked back to my office to begin packing. I felt free. Like someone had opened the doors to a cage I hadn’t realized I had been in and had set me free. I felt alive and something new. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time. Hope.
I remembered saying to a friend at a Midsummer’s Eve party just after I’d taken the job that I hoped that it wouldn’t change me. But it had. Of course it had. I had known that Midsummer’s Eve. My gut had told me. That still small voice in my head had said “Don’t’ do it,” but I hadn’t listened. When you are working two jobs and just scraping by, and someone offers you a full time job with benefits, sanity tells you to take it. But I had known. I just didn’t listen.
So I had spent the last eleven years trying to squeeze my round self into a square space. The whole time feeling, knowing deep down at my core, that no matter how I tried to contort or twist to fit in, it would never feel right. Like I belonged. But I stuck it out because I am nothing if not persistent, or maybe stubborn. My Volleyball coach had once told me “You try too hard.” “What?” I had asked. How do you try too hard? Isn’t that the whole point of trying?” I had wondered.
But on that hot August day something rose up inside me and took over and I had no choice but to listen as it screamed, “No more!” No more trying to fit in. No more trying to bloom where you are planted. It’s time to go out and be scared. It’s time to listen to what the universe is trying to tell you. Finally.
We fly into the city at sunset. The sun shimmers red on the inside of the planes’ silver engine outside my window. As we begin our descent, I see the highest mountaintops poking holes in the clouds, like a glacier sticking up out of the water. We sink, leaving the light and plunging through the clouds into the gloaming. The sun is setting behind the mountains in a watercolor canvas of red and orange brush strokes. I look down at the city sitting like a bowl surrounded by mountains, its arteries glowing red like an electric anthill with the the nighttime traffic. As we get closer to the ground the color changes. The city is huge and all around, hilltops and valleys glitter like diamonds beneath me. I catch my breath and think I have never seen a more beautiful sight.
So it’s 3 am. Actually now it’s 4 am because I debated for an hour whether it was better just to lie in bed and try and go back to sleep, or to just get up and jot down the thoughts that were keeping me awake. The thoughts finally won.
Last night my husband posed a question posted by Anita Moorjani on her blog to identify five things you love about yourself. At first I thought, ok. No problem. But after wracking my brain, I only came up with “Used To’s.” I used to love my skin- until last fall at a meeting when I had my reading glasses on I looked down and noticed wrinkles on my normally smooth forearm and hand. How long had those been there? Did I only just notice them because I usually don’t look at my forearm with my reading glasses on? I used to love my hair-Until I looked in the mirror the other day and noticed the strands looking dry and unruly instead of smooth and gleaming. I used to love my legs-until I noticed the cellulite I swore I would never get because, unlike my mother, I was an athlete. I remember a co-worker once popping into my office to ask a question, and looking down at my legs and saying, “are those your legs?” She thought I was wearing panty hose.
Ok. I’ve got one. I love the way sometimes I can push past my fear and do the thing I am most scared of doing. Like this past December when halfway from Quito to Esmeraldas and my father in law asked me to drive. Most of the time in Ecuador I sit in the backseat with my head between my legs I am so terrified of the anarchy they call driving. But Papi was tired and I couldn’t say no. I adjusted the seat and after a terrifying start of not being able to find reverse, I found first, and then second and then I was gone. Remembering that dance between the clutch and gas and shifting, I smiled a smile I usually only feel on my face when I am on the back of a horse. I hadn’t driven a straight in over ten years, but I rocked that car and loved every minute of it once I got over my initial fear of not being able to remember how. That’s one.
Two. I love the color of my eyes. They are green, but blue at the same time. They are always changing. I like that inconsistency.
Three. Wait. This is another “Used To.” I used to love the way my brain worked. The way just the right word or phrase would just pop into my head, like it had been waiting for me to call it up and play it like a record on a jukebox. Now sometimes I struggle to remember the last name of a friend or even common words. I fear getting Alzheimers like my grandfather.
And another “Used To.” I used to love my voice; my singing voice and my speaking voice. Once a friend used to say she loved to hear me talk. Recently I heard a recording of myself saying something and my stomach flipped over in disgust.
I did surprise myself last August when I sang in a cabin with a friend playing the guitar. Everyone had gone to bed and I was too tired to try to sing and then suddenly out of nowhere, this voice I have never heard just came out: a rich, throaty bluesy voice. I shocked myself. I loved that. I thought since I had given up singing after a failed career as an Opera singer years ago in the pursuit of a paying career as a teacher, that I had lost something that I had once been amazing at; something that had once been my secret, my little hedge against a bad day. I used to feel that no matter what happened, I had this gift. I could sing. I had a unique talent that made me special. Made me different. Made me able to take whatever the world threw at me and say, “Well yeah, but I can sing. So take that!” Ok. So maybe that is still in there somewhere waiting to be coaxed back into life. Maybe. I am going to count that as three.
Four. I love my toes. I think I still do? I have always felt I have pretty toes. Not the prettiest toes ever, but toes I don’t mind looking at even unpolished. Yes. I will count that as four.
Five. I love that I didn’t give up on Callie. She was my furry daughter and even when everyone said she was going to die, I said “No!” She will not die and I sat with her day in and day out for two months at UT Animal Hospital while struggling to finish graduate school and willed her to live and she did. She even walked again and had a joyous and happy 15 years after that horrific first year.
There. I have five things. Now I can go to bed.