Friday, January 23, 2009

A Reflection Rejected

Did you ever look at everything you did not want to be and then realize it was exactly what you had become?

I just had the great (and I mean this) pleasure of reconnecting with some old friends on one of those social networking sites. These are friends I really adored and have kept in my thoughts all these years. I'm thrilled to bits that we've found each other, that they are well and have families and stories to tell.

The thing is, I just took stock of myself in anticipation of meeting up with any one or more of these friends. To do so, I had to rewind quite a ways, past children and marriage and homeownership. In one case I went back to the last time I saw a friend from work, just a few years ago. In the case of another, I landed in the mid-80s, tall hair, shoulder pads and black washers as bracelets galore. And for one friend, I had to dust off memories of who I was when I graduated from grammar school. And then I cried.

Up until now, and with great pleasure, I had mocked my friends who'd hit the magic number 40 and had various shades of crisis dealing with it. I had a great time getting to 40. Sure, I played it up a bit on the way there. Got some extra gifts from my mom and my husband that way. I'm not ashamed to say so. They get extra stuff from me all the time. But honestly, I was fine with it. I'm a very youthful 40 in the sense that I feel I'm very current in my interests and connection to popular culture. I'm considered a 'cool mom' at my kids' school. I am not wearing polyester pants and seasonal sweatshirts with 3-D prints. I know the words to some 50 cent songs. Friggin A dude. I'm SO not old.

The problem is, I'm also not who I was supposed to be. And I just figured that out. Today.

I had talked myself into believing (and to a degree I always will) that my purpose in life had already been fulfilled. If you've met my kids you know that I've already done the greatest thing I will ever do. They give me so much pleasure and fulfillment sometimes I think it seeps out of me in embarrassing oozes of gush and brag. It's nearly uncontainbale, my love for and pride in my babies.

But then, some of that belongs to them and some of it really doesn't. Today, for the very first time, I completely connected with the idea that I've been wearing my children as an identity so as to not need my own. I've just realized that I have allowed my pride in my children to give me an excuse not to take pride in myself personally. And so I cried.

It may be that some day I look back on this day, like the gals on Oprah who are all plasticked and veneered up and shiny, and say 'That's when I did it." But its more likely that my lethargy and inertia will overcome me and I'll stay exactly the same as I was a few years ago when I left that job or more than a few years ago when I left high school, or even further back than that when I left elementary school. I'm a person with a ton of potential. And that's it. I'm a 'Man, you could totally...' be a writer; be a politician; be a lawyer; be a teacher; be a fill-in-the-blank.

But what I have become is a 40-year-old, kind of fat, kind of pretty, kind of smart, kind of funny, mom, with a nice house and a nice car in a nice neighborhood. I volunteer and I crochet and I go out with my group of mom friends. I love my husband and he loves me. I cook with real butter and I bake cookies for holidays. I'm Roseanne Connor with a slightly better decorating sense and a less vulgar (not by much) mouth. And I figured that out today when I saw my old friends. And then I cried.

I want so much to tell myself and everyone else that I am strong enough and interested enough and empowered enough to be one of those things on that 'could be' list. But the truth is I am not. I am not. I may be a writer, as I've asserted on this page and in countless other venues. But I'm not much of one. Otherwise, I'd have done something about it. I may be perfect for politics. But the truth is I am not. If I was any kind of politician, I'd have an office and a staff and my name etched on a glass window somewhere. And I don't. If I were anything, I'd be something. And I am not.

That's why I have such a hard time filling out those 'about me' questions on all these damn websites. There's not much about me. There's about my family and my kids and my husband. But "about me" there's not much. And so I've been crying pretty much all day.

So I know that this is all very lopsided and I'm experiencing some kind of situational depression that will pass soon enough. I also know that I promised to stop blathering about my self-discovery journey on this page. So I'm a liar. (Again, perfect for politics?) I know all the blah blah blahs about what a good person I am and all that I've accomplished and if I'm not happy I should do something about it. Yakkity yak yak.

Today, I am mourning the loss of the person I saw myself becoming when I turned around and faced the congregation celebrating the most promising of moments in a 14-year old's life. With that little diploma book in hand, in that gorgeous yellow linen suit, with strappy shoes and polished fingers and toes, looking at my mother's beaming face, I was sunshine waiting to light up the world. I wasn't 'could be'. I was 'going to be'. And I am so sorry that I did not meet the expectations and dreams of that girl. She was lovely and wonderful and deserved my better attempts at a life that included all that I have now, plus some.

Today I am crying.

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