So yesterday I said something that was so true and yet so surprising to write… I think my quote was “… I am happier in my own skin than I have been in years…” and while that might sound a bit surprising coming from me the truth in that statement is beyond truthiness. Continue reading
So yeah… the birthday has come and gone… and quite a birthday it was. Honestly this one, while not as glitzy and over the top as Vegas in ’15, was likely one of the best in a very long time. From the people who joined me to the places I visited to all of the amazing food and drink I enjoyed… I’m not sure I could have drawn a picture of a more perfect time if I had tried. And the best part? I didn’t have to try. That was the best part of this birthday in fact… I didn’t have to try because I wasn’t in charge. I was in fact told that I was not going to be told anything about any of the plans for me or given choices on any of them. Someone else did all the planning. All I had to deal with was being totally out of control.
Spoiler alert… I liked it. A lot.
And I know that over half of you just fell over in a faint at that. Yes, Ms Control Freak was not in charge. At all. In any way. And I’m the world’s official worst at controlling stuff. That’s what I do. That might be what I do best. But not this time. This time I handed it over… willingly… and had the best time I’ve had in a long time. And this year, although it might surprise you guys, the joy wasn’t in the gifts and the attention… nope. The joy was in the people who were there. The people who took time out of their lives on either Friday or Saturday nights to meet up and just spend time together.
What a wonderful thing.
There were several points over those two nights when I was just watching things unfold, various groups talking and laughing, and it dawned on me that there were many connections present that didn’t even exist a year ago. There’s people in my life today who’ve become a part of my fabric so effortlessly that I now feel like they must have been there forever, but they haven’t. And then I realized that the mix of people that were present were exactly typical of any event I plan myself… because my circle is so diverse that when I start inviting I just select people, regardless of whether they know each other or not, regardless of whether they have anything in common, because I love pitching people together and watching the interaction. So the planners had done exactly what I would have done. They planned absolutely perfectly for me. And that’s when I knew I’ve gotten incredibly lucky yet again with the people I’ve chosen to be in my life.
Make no mistake, I’ve built a village here that’s a lot like me… a village that I love… and I’m constantly adding to it… with no commonality other than liking each other and enjoying each other’s company. I love my village… I love being their idiot… and I’m reasonably sure this is the happiest I’ve been in my skin in a very long time. And even though I’m building another village these days, one that sits a bit further south, rest assured that I’m not leaving this one. This is the one I love, this is home. Lakeland is my home. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
Yes, you can go home again.
And this is where I thank you all for welcoming me back home. For being a part of my life. For celebrating with me… with us… together… and not just this weekend and this birthday but everything… the big moments and the small. Thanks. Such a small word but it says everything. Thanks.
Thanks for being in my life. Just thanks.
So it seems nothing has changed in our lives… except for all of the changes. I look back over almost 3 years and I can see ground zero very clearly. But honestly there were signs before that milestone that bespoke of a new reality. We knew there were things going on with life as we knew it but we had no idea the depth charge that was already armed and falling toward us.
It finally blew in December of 2014 and nothing has been the same since then.
Today, yes, things are very different. Where we used to live as a couple, today we live in two separate states. Where we used to share everything, today we text and talk on the phone but we only see each other every three or four months. One of us lives completely alone, the other lives with a shadow of someone he loves very much but who isn’t entirely there anymore. It’s hard kids. Very hard indeed. And we’re trying to figure out our path whilst doing what we have to in order to move forward with life.
This is not as easy as it looks.
And while we look okay and we seem like we’re handling all of this… most of the time we’re not. We’re married but we don’t have a partner nor a real marriage. So we’re trying to figure it out. We care a lot for each other… a very big lot… and we both want to be happy but we’re not sure what that looks like anymore. There’s complications. There’s challenges.
There’s a lot of stuff.
So bear with us both. We’re figuring this out. Our reality has changed both of us. While we tried to adapt to it. Like trying to reason with hurricane season. Short answer… you can’t. Life goes on… but what it looks like in the future isn’t clear. We’re still trying but we both need to draw a map forward. So be patient with us. This is hard. Being friends. Loving each other. Wanting what’s best for ourselves and for each other. And we don’t have any idea what that is or isn’t. So we’re making it up as we go.
Life isn’t always easy… and being honest is very painful. We go on though… we always go on.
RIP David… you were loved, by so many, for not nearly long enough and the world is dimmer at your passing. But truly, your death, for those of us left behind wrought so many other things that have flooded my brain, things that I’m still trying to sort out. Things that I cannot really find the words to speak about.
You were one of us. Too young. Taken. Gone. Yet in death you reunited us. The remains of our small tribe. Beaten, battered, scarred, yet still standing. And betrayed in a way at the loss of you. Because your loss means our own mortality is very much in our minds. If you can die then our own survival becomes a question. And our certainty about survival becomes less.
I hope you’re at peace. They say you’re not in pain anymore. I’m not sure. I cannot imagine a greater pain than being dead. Being gone. Being alone. I hope “they’re” right. I hope I’m wrong about where you are now.
But “they” also say that every death is accompanied by new life and seeing us three together, I hope “they’re” right. I hope our tribe is reuniting in old age, much like we were knitted together of miscast threads in our youth. Growing old is scary. Growing old alone is worse. Death divides and unites. Death brings death, and life. Life brings hope and fear and pain and joy. Death is hard, life is harder. Life together- with the people who know all of your secrets and pain, all of your oldest dreams and fears- is easier somehow, but it’s also more scary.
Much more scary.
It’s much easier to be someone else if the people who know the real you aren’t there to point out your subterfuge. Aren’t there to say “I’m pretty sure that you’ve got on no clothes”. Aren’t there to pull off your mask and make you be real. I’m not sure that I’m real anymore. Are you? Is anyone?
Are you sure?
Your death, a haven for you from any more feelings, has for us opened up a whole chapter of nothing but for those of us left behind. Your urn led us to a cemetary filled with the life we left when we moved into adulthood full of hubris and snarls and the belief that we could walk away from our wreckage and never deal with the horrible things we had wrought in the lives of the others we were attached to like siamese twins intent on doing each other harm. Your death made us acknowledge that life. That pain. That fear. The silence of words we never could say to each other but that we needed to shout to the world. These are the things we received along with the loss of you. The terror of finally telling the truth. Comparing our stories. Remembering the same things differently.
Oh so differently.
Interestingly, your death is filled with infinite peace for you but yet ripe with complexity for those of us left behind. Sorting through our reunion, figuring out how we fit now, remembering the passion, the anger, the disappointment, the love.
Yes, the love. That we thought was gone. That’s still with us today. A living breathing thing. That wrapped us in its wings and comforted us in our loss of you. Gave us peace. Peace like it gave you.
And truthfully I almost envy you for that peace. Somehow being dead is easier. No worries. About anything. Just dead. At peace. And I hope you are. At peace that is. We will be. I’m sure. Eventually. Now that we’re reattached. Like we were years ago. You had the power to unite and to divide. I think we’re together. I hope we stay that way. Even if it’s complicated. Even if it challenges us. Even if we struggle. As long as we hang onto each other. As long as we hang onto the thread of the rope that love threw us. I hope we will.
We love you David. We mourn your loss. We wish it wasn’t you to go. One of the youngest. One of the most alive. You should have lived. You were one of the good ones. But we didn’t get to choose. You were the one who went. And you gave us the gift of each other as you left us.
So peace little brother. Rest in peace. We wish you good journeys, fair winds and following seas. We salute you from the shore of a distant life and wish you everything that we can for the dead. We wish you love.
Love. Now, before, after, forever.
So, unless you’ve been out of the country doing something fun, you’re already well-aware that my 30th High School Reunion was this weekend. If you were out of the country, why exactly was it that you didn’t take me?
Hmmmmm? (cue side-eye, and irritating eyebrow raise)
Yeah, 30 years. Wow. Hard to believe. When I graduated from High School Ronald Reagan was only 2 years into his first term, and presumably still in control of most of his faculties. Or so we think. And we all were wearing “a younger man’s (and woman’s) clothes.”
Some of us, BTW, still are, and they need to stop that shit… just sayin’.
But anyway, 30 years since I collected that diploma and since I had avoided both of the previous Reunions I hadn’t seen most of those people since… well… since June 6, 1982, my last compulsory day of attendance at Lakeland Senior High. And to be clear, that was by choice. Because I hated high school. Hated everything about it. Hated feeling awkward, ill-fitting, not a part of anything, nervous, scared, unliked… oh, did I mention awkward? Yeah that, twice, with feeling.
Yes, I really felt all that, all of the time, and I hated it. High school was where I really learned to hate cliques and social strata, because I wanted to belong so badly… but I didn’t. No way, no how.
I just didn’t.
So the angst in the roll-up to this event was unbelievable. I wouldn’t commit to buying the tickets until less than a month ago. Then after I bought them, instant regret set in. I know, WTH? But yeah, I started freaking out. Big time. All over the place. Because I’m “fluffy” today, not 100 lbs dripping wet any more. Because I’m still just as awkward at times as I was back then. Because I still don’t “belong”. Because, because, because… lather, rinse, repeat. So I freaked. Filling my Facebook feed with non-stop angst and drama over all things Reunion – little and big. Despite the fact that this event was being filed under “not that important in the grand scheme of things” for most of my classmates. For me? It was big. Nervewrackingly, annoyingly, ridiculously big.
Because I’m an idiot like that, catastrophisizing the heck out of everything. And yes, according to Bob that is a real word… his Therapist used it one time… apparently we trust PhD’s to know the Englishes better than us. Who knew? But yeah, to be blunt, I freaked. Right up until the night of the first event, still flapping and carrying on, paralyzed by fear and unable to leave the house. Yeah, really, so scared I could not get out the door. Because inside of me is still that girl who just really wants to be liked, but who doesn’t truly believe anybody will or does. Sad, right? Ridiculous, no? I mean, I am so well and truly blessed with some of the best friends a woman could hope for, and the best family in the world, and still I think people won’t like me. Maybe I’ve just found the 6 to 10 (hundred) who like weird and off-beat?
Yep, that’s it.
But I did finally leave the house, did finally get to the Football Game, did finally get to the first Reunion event, and… I had fun. Wow. How anticlimactic is that? We went to the game, then the after-party, and I didn’t get home until 1:15am. Really. That much fun. Who knew? And the next night was more of the same… more fun… with people I never connected with in the past, but I enjoyed talking and laughing with in the now. People just like me, who’ve changed and grown, and lived lives just like mine. People who have made it to the other side of adulthood with me… scarred and a little worse-for-wear, traumas big and large survived, lives lived well and badly… the Class of ’82.
The events were fun, but better was the dropping of barriers, the feeling that I could talk to anybody there, and connect with anyone. And learning that all of us had traumas and self-doubt back then, and some of us have had a really hard life since then, and none of us was immune to life handing us more than we can handle, and handling it the best we could. Yeah, sure, some of us were still trapped in the glory days, stuck in the past, a little too full of ourselves perhaps. But those were the ones I felt sort of sorry for… because after all, if the best years of your life were in high school then you’ve really had a crappy life since then and you should be pitied.
But I had fun. Despite my dire predictions to the contrary. Right up until Sunday afternoon, when I went up and joined the last group of “Diehards” and had one last drink. A toast to our collective pasts for me. We were all in it together, way back when, and all of us survived to celebrate 30 years later. That means something. Something far more important than any shallow bullshit like who was cool and who was not. Who belonged and who didn’t. We are all the Class of ’82 – we all belonged back then and we still do today.
So, if you get the chance, put aside the angst and go to your Reunion. You might not learn anything new about those people you knew way back when, and you might not make any friends that you didn’t already have, but you might learn something about yourself. And you just might have fun.