I would know. I used to be one. I could bullshit my way out of anything. I could morph into anyone you wanted me to be other than myself. Along with the lies came cheating, deception, manipulation and multiple personalities on any given day.
I had lies upon lies, excuses upon excuses, built high like tidal waves – top them off with a frothy crest of fake apologies, then crash them into anyone and everyone around me. I was the choppy, rough ocean waters in a bullshit storm. Eventually all the lies caught up to me, crushing me under their weight, a violent tsunami, sucking me into my own undercurrent of forgery and fictional existence.
See, I come from a long line of liars. That’s why it came so natural to me, it’s all I knew. I learned from the best. Lying to others but mostly to themselves, living their days with a constant denial of reality because their truths were unapproachable, downright frightening. The truth was frightening for me too.
Being honest with yourself means looking in the mirror to see – REALLY SEE – who you are and what kind of person you have become. Who wants to do that when you have become someone you hate or someone you swore you’d never be?
Like a liar. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A cheater. A drug addict. An alcoholic. A horrible mother. An insecure scaredy cat. A passive man who lost his set of balls. An out of control spender. A vengeful psycho. A self-loathing asshole. A body ravaged by a debilitating physical or mental illness. An emotional wreck. A partner who stays in a toxic relationship. A friend among bad company or maybe you’re the bad company for your friends. A significant other who turns a blind eye to infidelity. A person who cuts others down to make themselves feel better. A fake. An abuser. A miserable fuck who spreads more misery. A weakling. An arrogant show off. A nobody. A freak. A nerd. A coward. A lazy load. A closet full of skeletons. A past riddled with ghosts. A human stain. A family dysfunction. Or simply… just.. you. NORMAL, everyday, YOU.
Lies so we don’t see and they don’t see, so nobody sees… what’s underneath the facade. We see what we want to see. They see what they want to see. We let them see what we want them to see. The only thing that really ever matters though is the truth of it all. The truth you know is real. Your honest self. Your real life.
The truth means you have to take ownership. The truth means accepting things you think will destroy you, things you know might destroy others. Why face what you can avoid? It’s easier to sleep in a bed of lies than on an uncomfortable, lumpy couch with your truth. Sometimes, lies are easier to live with. Justify the intentional or unintentional things you do to hurt other people, make excuses for you selfishness or someone else’s, morph your tragedies into a reason to walk down a path of cold hearts and black souls where the bad luck never ends and you’re destined for a life less fortunate.
Lie once, lie twice, then lie some more. Each time, it only gets easier until it’s all you do, until it’s who you are. We lie because we’re afraid, because we fucked up, because we’re fuck ups, because we can, because we’re human. And each fib that survives makes the next one to come out of your mouth or into your mind that much easier until it’s second nature to spew bullshit like lava, hot and dangerous.
The truth about your life and the people in it, the truth about your actions, the truth about your feelings, your mistakes, your misfortunes, your dreams, your talents, your career, your blessings, your friends, your family, your lover, where you came from, where you’re going – – your past, your present, your future. EVERYTHING.
It’s better to start choking, right now, then rush to go give yourself the Heimlich maneuver by slamming your stomach into a table top, fall to the floor until you catch your breath again, dust that shit off, chug a big glass of ACCEPTANCE, get up, walk away and keep on keeping on.
Lying is so easy. Lie to others and they won’t hate you, they won’t leave you, they won’t get hurt, they won’t think you’re weird, they won’t judge you… right? WRONG. Some people won’t like you. Some people will leave. Sometimes you’ll do the leaving. You can still hurt people. People will hurt you. You might just be weird – – but who fucking cares?
Lie to yourself and it’s easier to accept the things you don’t like about your life or the people in it, what you were born into, who and what your family is, what you did or didn’t do because of this or that. It’s E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-N-G. Instead, get your hands dirty with your truth. Own it – – all of it. Change what you need to, what you want to, what you must. Or, grant yourself the capability to accept the things you cannot change and then endure them. Embrace them even.
Muddying the truth with lies, infinitesimal or catastrophic, only shelters you from the reality of all that is you and all that is your life. But lying won’t save you. It’s like a dead body that should have never washed ashore. The killer swore if he added enough weight, the body would sink to the bottom of the lake for all eternity. But you need a lot more weight than you think to bury something so heavy. And the lies can add up to something no amount of concrete mass could ever keep hidden. The truth always surfaces, one way or another.
Then, what felt like a day, but was more like a span of several years, I stopped lying so much, especially to myself. I started to resent the fact that I could look at me and tell my reflection something completely different than my reality and believe it. Really and truly. I kept denying myself the possibility to own my truth and accept it.
For so long, I relied heavily on the fact that my words and thoughts had the power to bend the truth to make people believe what I wanted them to believe and see what I wanted them to see. What I wanted myself to believe and to see. Because in all seriousness, my actual truth, well, sucks (most of the time anyways). But the fact is, it’s MY truth. No one else’s. It only matters to me and to those who care about me. And if they care, they stick around, despite my truth. I made it a point to try to be as honest as I could with myself and with others. And it had awesome results.
I can and do create change in my life.
Change when I need it, when I want it, when I deserve it.
I have the ability to accept the things I cannot change.
Accept my past, accept my mistakes, accept people for who they are.
I can let go of toxic people.
I can be by myself and not feel lonely or afraid.
I do not need to pretend to be someone I’m not.
I can be myself.
And people still like me.
I like me.
In fact, I like me more.
And if you don’t like me, oh well, that’s okay too.
I can speak honestly without fear or hesitation.
Sometimes the truth that comes out hurts..
but one simple truth is appreciated and respected more than a mountain of lies.
I let go of my past.
I try to live in the present.
I hope for the future.
I AM ME AND I DO NOT GIVE A FUCK.
I accept who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.
I’m no longer bound by the lies that kept me a prisoner, chained to my guilt, regret, resentment, anger and a whole shitload of other shitty feelings. I am free to let go of it all if I choose. Change is hard. Acceptance is even harder. But it’s worth the fight.
I have been waiting to see Wild, the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best selling memoir. I have been waiting for months. I got to see it on Saturday. I knew it was going to be incredible. I still love the book more, but the movie portrayed every word, every feeling, every tragic and triumphant moment in Strayed’s life with accuracy and grace. Reese Witherspoon was brilliant.
But I walked out of the theater feeling something I didn’t see coming.
Because I’m still waiting for the ball to drop, every second of every minute of every hour of every day until weeks pass… then months… then years. I feel stranded on a island shaped like a plateau. I can’t go up and I can’t go down. I can’t go anywhere. I’m just stuck. I’m waiting for my AHA! moment, wishing it would whack me upside the head like a frying pan square to the face.
In the past, I thought slipping down into the rock bottom abyss was the worst it could get. Wrong. Not for me. It’s the standing still that kills. I know I don’t want to go back but I don’t know how to move forward. Watching Wild reminded me of the day I finished Strayed’s memoir for the first time. Back then, it gave me hope. Hope that I too could have a life altering experience that would propel me into the future, leaving all the dirt and the hate behind me.
I’m fucking pissed at myself and I have every right to be.
I’m not saying that I or anyone else needs to follow in Strayed’s footsteps and walk the PCT to find herself/himself and to find forgiveness. Not everyone has to spend months alone in the wilderness to come to terms with their life, their past, their mistakes, and their grief. But it is pretty bad ass isn’t it? Her story isn’t meant to make people feel small or incomparable. It’s meant to show what it took for her to heal in her own way. It was something she needed to do. And just the simple fact that it’s possible, provides hope for those still looking to get there.
I’m still looking to get there. I’m still trying to find my “Wild” experience.
But in order to do that, I have to let go.
So I’m on stranded this plateau. There are no valleys. There are no mountains. Okay. So what? Plateaus have edges. And it’s time to step to the edge, fling my arms out to my sides and dive off.
It’s the fear of flying without a security net. It’s the fear of substantial change. It’s the fear that the impossible can never be possible. That’s why so many people stay exactly where they are: in a job that they loathe, in relationships that lack love, support and communication, in a town that murders their soul, in miserable company of so-called friends, in a life that’s not really lived.
I’m sad because right now I am a coward.
I’m sad because I keep making excuses.
I’m sad because I identify with that girl who hiked her way back to life in 1995.
I was 10 years old then.
I’m sad because I know I have the strength in me. We all do. The lingering question is what am I waiting for? The frying pan to the face? Time stops for no one unless you’re dead. I’m not dead, but I might as well be.
People have the ability to accomplish amazing things. I want to be one of those people. As long as it’s amazing to me, I honestly don’t give a fuck what other people think. It took Strayed hiking the PCT. Maybe for me it’s something as small as taking the time to write every single day because it’s what I love most. Maybe it’s honing in my photography skills. Maybe it’s morphing both from separate hobbies to a profession. Maybe it’s moving clear across the country. Maybe it’s quitting my job and spending a year traveling. Whatever it is, at least I’m doing SOMETHING. A baby step or a giant leap, at least I’d be moving forward.
My mind makes up for what my body fails to do. It’s racing miles a minute.
It gushes philosophical questions that make my brain swell. Universe shit.
Who am I? How do I do this? When and What? Fuck.
These questions drown my heart.
I better get myself a tourniquet.
Tie it right, tie it tight.
Stop the bleeding.
On a day meant to honor all mothers and the special bond they create with their offspring, I can’t partake in the celebration. Instead, it’s just another day spent waiting. For many reasons, some I know, some I will never know, my mother has been a nonexistent entity in my life. The good and loving memories I have of her and of us, ceased twenty some years ago.
I have a picture though. It captures one memory, frozen in time, that bears witness to a moment we were together and she and I were happy. There was love there. I can see it in her eyes as she looks at me and it radiates from my smile.
We’re both standing in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. I’m elbow deep in ground beef and seasonings. She is teaching me to make meatballs, one of her own recipes. I’m wearing a white apron with a blue shirt. My hair was jet black then, shining like raven feathers. My smile is huge, displaying an array of mismatched teeth. I’m standing on a little wooden stool so that I’m tall enough to reach the counter. My mother is looking down at me, her hands covered in ground beef too. She’s smiling down at me.
This is what I remember.
We had food and a love for cooking. She read me Stephen King books at night even though I was too young for them. She taught me things about nature, about wolves, about Native Americans. She would show me things about crystals and stones, colors of candles and their meanings, of animals and their strengths, and celebrations different from the ones we recognized as Catholics. I was able to donate money every year to adopt a wolf to help their cause. I couldn’t wait to get the post card in the mail showing which wolf was chosen for us to sponsor. She traveled across the state to take me to Pow Wows. She knew how much I wanted to learn and to see about Native American culture first hand. She created and designed elaborate Halloween costumes because it was our favorite holiday. She would wake me up in the middle of the night if a thunder storm came rolling in. She’d wrap us both in a blanket and we’d sit on the porch to watch the lightning show.
I can’t tell you the day where it all disappeared. I don’t know when exactly. Addiction has a funny way of destroying things that once were great. It breaks down bonds like a chemical reaction. The makeup of a person: their physical being, the psychological state, their emotional response, it decomposes like a body until the person that once was, becomes unrecognizable.
It used to be a day filled with anger and resentment.
A day of longing for something that once was but might never be again.
The mourning of a mother still roaming this Earth.
A heartbreak for those daughters and sons who would give anything for just one more day with their mother when mine is alive but gone at the same time.
As you grow older, life happens. You learn a thing or two. One of those things is forgiveness. The other is truth. One not more important than the other.
John Marshall III writes in The Lakota Way, “Sometimes truth is like the wind. You can’t see it, but you can see the effect it has.”
He also said, “Truth consists of two parts: that which is given and that which is accepted. The truth is sometimes painful, but without it, there is only illusion.”
I have tried every which way to excuse, explain, justify, forget, accept, resolve, and hide my mother’s actions. To pretend to the outside world that our relationship was just like any other. I would drive myself insane trying to figure out what I could do to make her want to be a part of my life, desperate to decode exactly where I went wrong. What did I do? How can I fix it? I hate her. I hate myself. I spend countless days confused and broken down.
In attempts to try anything to make it work, I behaved in ways that were nothing more than a forced and unauthentic version of the mother-daughter dynamic that should happen naturally. Saying things I thought she wanted to hear. Doing things I thought would keep her coming back to me. Getting only glimpses of her, pieces of her, lingering long enough to keep me holding on for dear life only to have her cut the rope that tied us together, sudden and abrupt. She’d disappear again and I’d fall into the nothing.
It was a mockery.
It was a fantasy.
I was only creating my illusion, void of any truth.
To move on, one must accept the truth. It is the only way to begin walking the path of forgiveness and enlightenment. The truth is, my mother stopped mothering long ago. She does not wish to know me, the real me, because she is afraid. I am the carrier of truth. She holds tight to the illusion. It is what keeps her safe. It is what numbs the pain. If she ever acknowledged the truth, it might crush her in ways unimaginable. She cannot fathom the thought that I accept the truth and with it, forgiveness. I forgive you mom. Whether it was circumstances beyond your control, or those you had all control over, or even an accumulation of the two, I still love you. I always have.
The truth doesn’t have to be damning. It can set you free. It allows you to accept that which was and move on to what could be. But your illusion keeps you trapped down in your rabbit hole. You are Alice stuck in a realm that doesn’t exist. You don’t want to wake up.
A long time ago, there was a mother who taught her daughter to make meatballs.
She had a light that shone brighter than the lightning forged in night skies.
She danced to Native American songs.
She protected her children like a wolf to her pups.
I am here waiting for you. I am always waiting.
Are there deadlines that one must meet in life? You come of age at a certain time, you become a legal adult at a certain time, you ability to drink alcohol legally occurs at a certain time, and you are deemed a senior citizen at a certain time (even if you don’t feel like one).
But what about..
an education, a career, a marriage, a house, a baby, many babies?
It seems as though society “expects” certain things. Timelines. Deadlines. Acquisitions. Quotas. It puts a lot of pressure on you. Society doesn’t have to be the collective. It could be your parents, your friends, or your peers. It could be your significant other. Or it could just be that voice inside your head.
So by 30 years old, do you need all of the above to be considered “on track” with your life? I hope not. Otherwise, I’m one serious rebel. I deviate so far from the track that my life train has derailed full speed without a brake system.
Expecting things and making deadlines to reach in your life means you might set yourself up for failure. Leave the deadlines at your job. It is awesome to set goals for yourself, meet them, and sometimes exceed them. That’s great! I’m not saying live life like a free-spirited gypsy soul wandering aimlessly and living life with reckless abandon. No. Everyone needs to strive for what they want.
But it can really dampen your spirit if you happen to not meet certain life deadlines when you want to. Everyone you know is either engaged or married, has children, maybe five of them, at least lives together in an apartment or might even own their own home by now, has forged a successful career after completing their college education.. I could go on.
And here you are, attending graduate school with people that are still practically teenagers (thanks to those five year accelerated degree programs that didn’t exist when you were fresh out of high school), living in a dilapidated bungalow the size of a shanty with no insulation that’s propped up on cement block stilts, no wedding band, no babies (besides your fur kids), and no career to speak of. You still make under $25,000 a year.
Maybe it’s not kids or a house or marriage that you expect. Maybe it’s finishing that novel of yours and getting it published, maybe it’s a travel adventure you want to take, maybe it’s a cross country move, or even just the ability to live financially independent and secure. Whatever it is, just keep striving for it. The time and the date and those years are all merely numbers to give us structure to our days, not to inform us that we are too late for life.
If I held grand expectations for my life that fit into the perfect puzzle of time, I’d be diving into the great depression right about now wondering where I’ve gone wrong in life, drowning in a sea of failure. But I’m not.
I’ve decided to live expectation free.
I am not you. I am not them.
I will not compare my life to the lives of those around me. And neither should you. Even despite all they will say, can say, do say. In fact, it’s none of their business how you live your life. To be honest, if they’re not in your life to support you, you should shed the heavy weight they throw down on your shoulders with their judgments, opinions, and those damn expectations I’ve been talking about.
As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Everyone is fighting their own battles, try not to be a cunt.”
It’s the truth dammit.
There is nothing set in stone somewhere with the rules of life for all to follow. And for those who don’t succeed in meeting them means you have failed. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you thought would be today. What battles have you overcome? What ones are you still fighting? As long as you are moving forward, that is all that matters.
Just like Dory says in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”
Love the person you are because you fought to become her or him.
Never rush things. All things worth having are worth waiting for.
Too much of our time can be wasted comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we even wish we were someone else. Or had a life other than our own.
Please stop that. Um.. right now.
If you can accept who you are and who you aren’t, what you have and what you don’t, and that all great things reveal themselves as they should, it will simplify life. Time has a way of working things out. Don’t rush it. When you expect less, life gives you so much more.
One of my greatest freedoms is not caring what anyone else thinks. It’s hard to do, it took a long time to get here, but the struggle was worth it.
When I told you earlier that I have yet to meet those “life deadlines” I failed to mention it doesn’t bother me in the least. It used to, for quite some time before now. I won’t lie to you. But life and all it has brought me thus far, has given me the ability to let the expectations go – along with the opinions of my peers, the lives of my friends, and that nagging bitch of a voice inside my head.
I say – good for them. Whether they worked hard for all of it or had it handed to them on a sliver platter, or even just got lucky, it is theirs to have.
And what is mine, is mine. Therefore I embrace it all in the glory of everything that is opposite, different, out-of-the-box, and upside down from the “norm.”
True bliss is defined by the individual. That means you can create happiness out of anything or anyone – so live unguarded – don’t be left wanting. Some of the best days of your life haven’t happened yet.
Believe in yourself and the path you walk down no matter how off-beaten it might be.
I served him lunch in the basement of a church in a fancy section of Manhattan.
Part of my volunteer job for that day was to clean up the tables and remove the leftover food that our guests didn’t take with them. I had been told by the staff that because the food had been put out and possibly touched by human hands, I needed to throw what remained in the garbage regardless of its condition.
This man overheard my instructions.
He said in a quiet and kind voice, “Excuse me miss, are you really going to throw all that bread away?” I told him I guess I had to. “Well shit, I just don’t understand that. You’re here feeding the hungry, and whatever is leftover, even if it’s perfectly good food, goes straight into the garbage.” He didn’t say it in a nasty way. He didn’t hold it against me or the church. He understood the sanitary side of the request. He just sounded sad.
Before he left the room he stopped and turned around. “Can you do something for me miss?” I smiled and nodded.
I didn’t answer right away so he kept talking. “It’s just that.. we’re not the only ones who are hungry. It’s cold out there and they struggle to find food just as much as we are. Not only the birds, but all of the animals. I know they’ll appreciate it. That’s got to be better than throwing it all away. It’s a shame that’s all.” And he walked away.
He was right. It was a shame. A shame that the instructions were given without hesitation in front of people who had nothing to eat but the meal we served and nowhere to go after they left the church. A shame that I’m about to toss a huge basket of edible and most likely untouched bread straight into a billowing black plastic bag headed straight to the landfill to rot. I got the reason behind throwing it away. I did. But I still felt like an asshole. I thought..
This story is just one of many small moments I took home with me. I just got back from an alternative spring break service trip sponsored through my university. Each day, our team volunteered at a different food pantry or soup kitchen all throughout NYC.
I’ve been home for over a week and I can’t get that man’s face or his words out of my head. “Please feed it to the birds.”
It made me more conscious of how wasteful our society can be. We throw good food in the dumpster at the end of the day if it doesn’t sell, not just there, but everywhere. We keep religiously to expiration dates, buying more than we need at the time and throwing it out because package tells us it is time to. We toss clothes and household items that could be donated and reused straight to the curb for the garbage man to take off our hands. We might not recycle.
We might buy more than we need of anything at all just because we have the money to. And sometimes we buy more than we need even when we don’t have the money, just because we feel we have to. We believe we need much more than we actually do and the “want” inside all of us takes over. Sometimes the “want” runs wild.
I’m not saying become a pack rat and hoard everything you come in contact with right down to the toothpick you picked the spinach out of your front tooth with last week. That’ll just get you featured on that show Hoarders once it all starts to accumulate.
I’m also not saying to spray your lawn with your leftover taco fajitas so the squirrels can have a fiesta by moonlight. That’s just an invitation for creatures of all kinds to form a conga line in your back yard and creep on the down low near your back door. I didn’t say build a wildlife soup kitchen through your doggie door.
Become more aware. Ask questions about yourself and about our society. It will challenge all you knew. It will make room for what you know now.
Is it something that you need or just something that you want?
That question can be posed in a thousand different ways for all different types of scenarios throughout your whole life. It’s not just about waste.
I bet you’ll find there are a shit ton more wants than needs. Life doesn’t always need to be complicated. Some things are meant to be simple. Less is more. And when there is less, you naturally stop wasting, even if it’s just stopping you from wasting your money.
Even the smallest moments in time, less than a minute of an interaction with someone or something, can teach you a lesson or challenge you to think differently than you might have before this moment happened.
For me, that moment meant so much more than a small request from a homeless man pleading for me not to be wasteful in the basement of a Manhattan church serving lunch to the hungry every Tuesday.
I will carry his words with me in my heart.
And whenever there is bread leftover in my life..
I will feed it to the birds.
“What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.”
It’s easy to lose yourself in a world full of unjust judgments and unrealistic expectations. Being anything outside of what the societal masses deem “normal” could mean facing rejection, maybe every day. Everyone wants to fit in, everyone wants acceptance, even to a small degree. It’s our nature.
That is why you need to remember that there are people out there in this big ‘ol world who will love you for exactly who you are. So take off the mask and find those people. They are the ones who bring out the very best version of your original self. And they want the real you.
Copies are boring. Conformity kills the creative. Average is just.. well.. average. Average doesn’t get noticed. You can’t influence the world by blending into it. Stand out and make your presence known.
Once you figure it out, being yourself becomes effortless. It’s keeping up with the chameleon versions that get difficult to manage. Trust me, I know from personal experience.
You shouldn’t strive to be one of many in the sheep herd, getting lost in the shuffle of white fluff, uniform and unrecognizable, bleating your monotony through grass-stained teeth.
I say: MAKE ME A LION.
You were created under the pretense that there will be only one you. Don’t waste that God given right by morphing and shape shifting into a copycat version of someone else. Authenticity is a dying art.
Everyone is going to judge you in some way, shape, or form. It’s going to happen all of your life. Better to be judged for who you really are, then to not even recognize your own self in the mirror, or worse, be recognized by anyone at all.
Stop giving a shit about what others think about you.
Let them judge.
It’s a long fall from atop their high horse. I hope they tuck and roll.
The person I am today would kill to throat punch the girl I was once was. Back then, that girl should have just worn a jester hat, maybe even a red frilly vest. Hell, throw that bitch a mini accordion. Dance monkey, dance.
Your identity resonates with you for your whole life. It encompasses all that you are within your social life, your family life, and even your professional life. Stay true to you. It means everything. The sooner you find yourself, keep him or her around. You will realize that you are happier and that you stay happy longer, without trying. You and those who love you, the real you, will thank you for it.
If I could go back to Stephanie in the past, I would tell her all that hard work to fake herself: the façade, the theatrics, the circus side show in its entirety, meant nothing. A full-time job of unpaid and strenuous work just to get everyone and anyone to like you.
I cannot believe that as an introvert, I tried so desperately to be a full blown extrovert. This social butterfly who said and did all the right things to avoid being different, to cloak my quirks and my awkwardness, to avoid judgment, to avoid missing out on the party when all along I was missing out on my own life. I couldn’t have been more unhappy.
The same held true for molding myself to fit into career paths I would never love, just to make money, or gain status, or get the approval of others who thought they knew what was best for me, those who couldn’t accept me for who I really was inside and what I really loved to do.
Complete and utter shit show.
Hammering a square peg into a round hole.
An express jet flight to Fakeville.
If they aren’t people out there who dislike you, or don’t understand you, or challenge you, or question your motives, or who have an opinion about your lifestyle, then you’re doing something wrong.
You’re not here to please everyone.
This is why I choose to stay true to who I am, even if it means somebody doesn’t like it. Maybe I won’t make a friend because of it, maybe I won’t land a job because of it, maybe I’ll piss people off temporarily or permanently, maybe I’ll get obvious judgments disguised in hushed whispers about my choices, my clothing, my alternative lifestyle. But remember, I am a lion.
And a lion doesn’t concern herself with the opinion of sheep.
So I want to know what makes you different my readers. Tell me something about yourself that makes you stand out, something you’re proud to roar out loud.