Saturday, February 21, 2015

You don't have that kind of time

I went in to open lab hours at school today to practice for an exam I have Monday. While holding a transverse cut of a human skull, my lab partner began quizzing me. "What is that?", she questioned, pointing to a small dual arched bone that makes up part of the nasal sinus. "It's the Vomer. I remember that one because it is the same shape as my birth control. Haha!" (Go ahead, I know you want to Google it. I'll wait. See? Doesn't it look like an IUD?) Her jaw dropped open. She was appalled, and did not find me funny... worse, I am pretty sure she thought I was a pig. She said, "Girl, that's disgusting. Don't talk about things like that!" In my defense, she immigrated from West Africa, and maybe they don't do that sort of stuff there. Girl talk and such. I simply shrugged my shoulders, and smiled serenely. Ten years ago I'd have been seething inside, irritated by her judginess - but that'd just be a pathetic cover for my crushing embarrassment over having put my foot in it. Again. As I so frequently seem to do.

That happens a lot when you are you. Like, really you - all the time. It is as if I have a constant audience of hecklers standing by waiting to tell me that I am not doing it right. I can't say this, or go there, or am being too vulnerable, or giving away too much power, too much of my heart, too much of me. It makes people uncomfortable, that level of honesty, but I can't figure out why. It's like we're afraid to disappear or something. What exactly should I be trying to preserve? And from whom am I keeping it safe?

I've been on an Anne Lamott kick lately because of her latest book, and this one story about her best friend and soul mate, Pammy, stands out. Pammy was a wife and mom of an enthusiastic 2 year old, that was dying of metastatic cancer. Anne had been backed into a corner by her male companion and challenged with wearing a dress on their next date. As horrifying as wearing one would be, she really liked him and conceded to suffer the humiliation (apparently, Saint Anne is uncomfortable in dresses). So Anne, along with Pammy (who was only weeks from her eventual death) in her wheelchair, and her toddler in tow, went dress shopping. After getting into the first contender that she feared showed off too much upper arm flesh, and acres of less than firm thigh, she says, "What do you think? Do my thighs look too big in this?" And Pammy replied, "Oh Anne. You don't have that kind of time."

Neither do you have it - time to worry about your proverbial thighs or hide your upper arms. Neither do I. But its not hard for me..it came pre-programmed into my hardware. As long as I can remember, I couldn't help being me. I never got it right, even when I really really tried. Like, when you aren't supposed to call the guy, but let him chase you...I'd call, despite how I'd coach myself to the contrary. I can't handle the games people play in relationships, the manipulations and struggle for control - I refuse to participate. I could never figure out why one of us needs to be "winning". Winning always felt more like losing to me. When we are told to not cry, or let them see you sweat, or smile too big, or sing too loud, or eat in front of people you're trying to impress, or admit that you are terrified - I would. And the older I got, and more painful experiences I had, the less I trusted people with my precious things. With good reason, believe me. Yet I trotted out my truth more than ever, taking it for walks in broad daylight, inviting it to sit down, making it a nice cup of tea - becoming friends. Learning to say "this is me, like it or lump it." Not scribbling in a diary and hiding it under my bed, mortified that anyone could have the power of knowing over me. Okay sure, sometimes people reject it. A lot of times, actually. Or ignore it. Or crush it. Or use it to harm me. But it's a compulsion - I keep telling me like I am. No one has ever had to guess what I was thinking, because I don't have that kind of time.

My biggest fear (Besides water...seriously, don't ever invite me on a cruise, because that is just stupid. What kind of lunatic wants to be THAT surrounded by water? I'll go in a canoe with you in a shallow pond, but don't play any pranks on me, and we gotta stay close enough to shore that I could swim it back in, okay?) are the thoughts that will get thunk on my deathbed. The terror that I might think: Did I withhold myself from the people I loved? Did I keep my gifts to myself because I was afraid of failing? Did I not go or not try or not speak up or sing out or dance til my feet hurt because it was too dangerous? And I might get laughed at? Rejected? Feel foolish? What a horrible waste that'd be. Because you know what else happens when you withhold? Your life lacks authenticity. Your relationships are shallow. Its impossible to feel deeply satisfied when your heart remains anonymous. You will never be truly KNOWN. I've marveled at the depth and commitment of many of my friendships, and am certain they have been forged, not because I deserved them, but because I was real and present...fully me. Luckily I have had the privilege of attracting the same broken and brave types of people to my side because I don't abide phonies. Nor do I have a phony bone in my own body. I guess God forgot to include that in my blueprints too.

If you live big and loud and show off the pale imperfection of your upper arms...don't know the meaning of "put a lid on it"  either - celebrate it. If you are hiding yourself, and have made a commitment to being a hardass, I want to encourage you to let someone see you. Tell a stranger on the bus an embarrassing story. Tell a dear friend something that scares you. Look someone steady in the eye, and don't look away for a really long time. Take off your armor and stop protecting your silly little heart before its too late. Because you don't have that kind of time.

Godspeed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Love Wins

A sweet friend, who is having a really hard time lately (Okay, really hard time is an understatement. This kind of hard time is the kind when you question whether the sky above you can stand the weight of itself, and may just crash down and crush you with it. The kind of hard time you have in your  twenties when you don't have the perspective of surviving a decade or two of ugly shit and turmoil under your belt. The kind of hard time you have when you question if you can continue being alive.) asked me how I was. Me. How am I? What a brave thing to do - to care about someone else when your world has narrowed to a pinprick of pain.

I didn't really know how to answer her. I obviously have a lot going on - intense classes, divorce, motherhood, uncertain future, so many intersections and choices. Not necessarily in that order of importance - but maybe in that order of brain space. What I answered wasn't really much of an answer. But I found someway to answer it, in my circular non-answer way:

"It is not important how I am, just what I believe. What I believe is peace, victory, and choice. Love wins. That's what I believe. Life is unpredictable, painful, traumatic. But love wins."

It made me wonder. I believe that - but is that what is universally true? Sure, true in the truest sense - that in the Universe, the big G, the big Guy, the all loving and all knowing, wins. But in your life - in mine - does love win? And when will we know the score? At the end, just before our eyes close the final time? That hardly seems fair. To live with the uncertainty of the balance, and finally see the scales tip in favor of good at the last moment. Wouldn't it be better to know in advance? Or at least anticipate that the weight of your life added up to more love than not-love.


Some say that the only assurance in life, is death. And that's true. But I think there can be more. While we can't be sure to live gently to age 85 in good health, and die a king's death peacefully in our sleep, with loved ones gathered to capacity at our funeral. Or life long love. Or contentment and plenty. Or. Or. Or. We can be assured of what we choose to believe. Belief is a gift (for those who are lucky) but also a choice, for those who aren't. Which is most of us. So for those without the gift of faith - you get to choose. Does love win? Despite pain, and loss and tremendous difficulty, the focus of your attention and your life can be on one of two things: fear or love. Because, contrary to our first instinct - hate is not the opposite of love. Fear is. When we fear what we can't control, whom we can't know, what we haven't experienced ourselves, and all that we are afraid will harm us - we hate. So what then do you focus on - the fear, or the love?

There is choice each day. More than whether you should get the candy bar or the bag of pretzels on your lunch break, or whether to flip off the guy who nearly side-swiped you or give him a wave of understanding. You have the gift to decide each morning what you'll put into the world, and what you'll take in return. The sum of all those decisions is the answer to the question "does love win?" Every time you turn your focus to the good, the brave, the positive, the hopeful - love is winning.

Maybe you don't have romantic love. Maybe, as Anne Lamott is famous for saying , you are romantically loved by an Asshat. Maybe your children or parents have abandoned you, or never existed. Maybe you worked so hard at your career, you forgot to make the time to say hello in elevators, or go to church and shake hands, or smile at the nice person you always see at the dog park, and love feels as close to you as Jupiter is to Earth. And you'd be in good company. You can choose that definition for yourself - that you were maimed, or unlucky, and love is not for you. Not in this life. Or you can choose different. Because love is choice and freedom. Your heart can be full, if you'd take the lid off it.

You start by believing it. Even though you don't believe it, that is where the belief seed is planted - in the lie. "Love wins". You say it enough times, and it takes root, no matter how bitter you are. When you're convinced, action follows. Kindness, gentleness, empathy. Eyes facing outside you, instead of in. You can't force it, and you don't have to try - it just does. And pretty soon you might get some love back. Unless you don't. Not directly. Or it takes time. Or lessons need learning. You keep loving anyway, because you can't help it. Even when it isn't returned - love still wins.

Because it won you.

Godspeed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Mama, will you tell me a story..?"

For the last year or so, my nine year old has requested that I tell her a bedtime story. This exercise involves me making a fictional tale up on the spot, off the cuff, for her consumption. Sometimes it is the only thing that will relax her into sleep. Frequently if she has trouble drifting away and gets out of her bed multiple times to share her plight, we can trace the trouble back to a rushed bedtime...that included no story. Maya doesn't ask for stories, only Lily. Sometimes, to wriggle out of it, I ask Lily if she will tell me a story instead, or "perhaps we could collaborate"? Both suggestions are always met with whining. I despise authoring fiction. It is pretty much the only thing I don't write - struggling to suppress the fear of inadequacy, the creativity gets stifled in my throat. But she forces me to. I hate that she demands this of me, because it is bed time, and it has been a long day, and...reasons. But I love that she demands it of me, because it is something special just for us. And she likes me, and is still innocent enough to appreciate a story about a family of bunnies or a shelf fungus growing in the woods. My regret (besides all the nights I have tried to worm out of it or quickly dashed off a story about a ladybug who wanted to be friends with her), is that I have written now, probably a couple hundred stories, and cannot remember one of them. She can easily rattle off her favorites, or even tell me all about a series I created around a magical hat that grants wishes to the wearer. But to me they are lost. How many fairy tales or family yarns were told to each of us as children that we remember implicitly? They became part of us...the fabric of our childhood, creating strong images that we can revisit with ease, recalling the emotion of that time, the feeling of being small and full of wonder and simple. She will remember. I will not. I love that she is the repository of my stories, yet I hate that our only shared memory is of the two of us lying on her bed in the dark, while I cast my eyes about her room, praying for inspiration. I want to remember the stories too. Better, I wish I could experience them through her child sized consciousness.

I have been very busy with school work lately, and sadly she is aware of it, and trying to put her needs second. Thus she has started asking me for stories less often - a mixed point of jubilation and sadness, because I am certain that one day I will long for her desire to listen to me. Tonight, however, as I crawled into her bed she said those familiar words again: "Mama, will you tell me a story?". This isn't her only refrain though, because the same set of words always follows "The end". No matter how dismal my efforts, she always emits a contented sigh of, "I liked that story." How do I approach this bear of  task? My inspiration is taken from the animals on her bed sheet, a book title on the nearby shelf, an article of her clothing, or sometimes, our own real lives. The stories are not involved or eloquent. Sometimes there are life lessons. Frequently they feature animals, bugs, forests, and friendship. When I am rushed and desperate, they are silly and pointless. But no matter what, they are always hopeful, because that is something that my Lily and I have in common. So here, for posterity's sake, tonight's story. Perhaps if you tell it to your own child, he or she will find the magic in it. A magic so simple, it is lost on my adult brain.

The Little Bird
       Once there was a little bird who lived happily and peacefully in a gentle forest. Each day the little bird did the same things: flew to the same places, collected the food she liked best, and at evening time, took wing back home. Her nest was a very nice nest. It was warm and comfortable, perched high in a stable and safe tree. Her life was pleasant, and the little bird was content.
      One day as she was out flying her usual route, she came across a bird she had never seen before. This bird was the same size and type of bird as she, but his feathers were more colorful and there was something different about the way he swooped and twittered. Because the little bird was trusting and brave, she flew to him and they sang to each other. They easily became friends and he invited her to spend the day exploring with him. He took her to all of his favorite places, which were very far from the safe woods. She saw new sights and tasted new seeds she'd never had, and they flew through dangerous and exciting places as he led her to his tree so she could see where he lived. His nest was perched precariously on a high branch in a tree that was clinging to a cliff's ledge.When she landed on the branch, she gazed down into a chasm, that was frighteningly deep, with a rushing turquoise river at the bottom. In every direction she looked, she saw mountains and wild flowers and the most beautiful, exciting, terrifying things she could have imagined.
      After having a wonderful day, the friends bid each other a sad goodbye, and the little bird flew home. She loved her comfortable nest in her safe tree, but when she landed and snuggled in for the night, she felt somehow that she loved it a bit less. Now that she knew what else there was. Over the next weeks and months, the bird kept to her regular routine, but she grew restless with her familiar things. So one morning, after her usual quiet night of sleep, and after finishing the same breakfast she ate each day, she decided she'd had enough. She flew as fast as she could through the terrifying places to the edge of the cliff, to find her friend. When she arrived, he happily welcomed her, and the two of them set to work making her a new nest, and she spent the rest of her life having wonderful adventures. The end.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Here I am

I turned 35 years old yesterday. In my economy, time passing means the acquisition of wisdom gained through experience, as well as more wrinkles around my eyes. I choose to focus on the former, and spend less time bothering with the frustration of the latter. I like getting old. I know more stuff. And when I know more stuff, I am challenged to act on what I know, and then share it with anyone who has the wherewithal to listen. Because we are all in this together, and we could use some help, couldn't we? Working out the salvation of our souls with inner fear and outer trembling, no matter who or what we serve. We need each other because we are in reality nothing but ghosts, cocooned in surprisingly fragile houses. The fact that we can get up each morning and make toast and stumble through the shower and do the one foot in front of the other things that we do to get through our days, and not be dead or broken by nightfall, is a small miracle considering the risks. And the 100% death rate. But unfortunately, surviving is not enough for most of us. So we have to work out this thriving business.

I was thinking just now about life choices, and responsibility, and what drives in ourselves to honor when we have such a variety of opportunities, and a host of overwhelming impulses to contend with each day. I was thinking of a few things in particular, but particularly particular about one thing. I am tired from thinking about this thing so much that I lay my head down for a moment. Exhausted as I am from the rumpus that my friends and I raised last night, I began to drift away. Before I slipped fully into the ether I heard my small inner voice say, "It's hard, though...". And another small voice, with an edge of laughter respond, "Well, welcome. You're here." I snapped my eyes open. What a smartass my spirit guide is. Doesn't she get tired of being right all the time?

It reminded me of an evening I spent working at a local Hospice a few weeks ago. When it's quiet, I like to sneak upstairs and go into the chapel. It is a hodge podge of religiosity within - an altar and holy water, 2 Q'urans and a Hebrew prayer shawl. It is a gloomy little room, that largely goes unvisited. I come and sit with it so it doesn't get too lonely, with all the engaging business of dying being carried out below. I am drawn always to a crudely rendered set of stained glass windows that bring in the only natural light. It pours in as rainbows through a panel of fish, a heavenly hand reaching earthward, a dove. On the left panel the words "Here I am" are spelled in lead, on the right "Lord". I prefer the "Here I am" alone, as opposed to the supplication of the full verse. It is all we really need to know of God, that. "Here I am". He is there, and frankly - no matter what else we may want from Him, that has to be enough. But also the sentiment reminds me of the only way I know to live a life that doesn't have me constantly berating myself for not being further along, or because I can't play chess, or haven't read enough of the classics, and that I am not yet functionally or spiritually perfect at basically... anything. "Here I am". Here. This is where. Me.

To live life, the full experience of life, and not be constantly doped on substances, pounding boxes of cookies, engulfed in a hobby turned obsession, and without a prescription for at least one anti-psychotic drug, takes courage. Excuse me - a lot of fucking courage. To be present. And honest. To have the bravery to mess up, and tap the brakes on a bad situation before it becomes a worse situation. What are we doing here in this life, if not sharpening ourselves for the next? We are learning, people. And unfortunately to learn, we have to go through some shit. Ugly, uncomfortable shit that makes you want to get a box of Lucky Charms and climb in bed and hum to yourself while plowing through all the green clovers and yellow stars. But if you do face it. If you stay present in the painful moments, and you find the courage to say "Here I am", and lie down for a good cry or stand up for a good yell, and then embrace yourself and say "It's okay. You're doing your best". And mean it? Well, you are on your way. Welcome.

I hope what marks this (if I am lucky, or not so lucky, depending on your perspective) statistical second half of life, is this. The courage to accept where I am each day. And the courage to accept the people in my small universe for where they are. Because you mess up too, if it's news. A lot, actually. But it's ok. I promise to forgive you, if you forgive me. Let's just be here. Together and alone, all of our messes bleeding out of us and mixing together on the ground, making one giant mistake soup. And know that it is hard, but we can make it, if we stay awake and choose bravery. There you are. Here I am.

Godspeed.





Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Surfacing

One year ago today I wrote a post about the beauty I expected to emerge from a wretchedly bad 2013. What I was unable to tell you at the time is that in November I realized my marriage was effectively over. While I wrote about mysterious health problems, the death of my niece, and difficult personal challenges, I was mostly thinking about the realization that this thing I had fought for for over a decade, was never ever ever going to be healthy, normal, or fulfilling. Last New Years Eve, I felt that the ground had opened beneath my feet and I was plunging 1000 miles an hour into a pit of sorrow, fear, and shame. I knew what was ahead, though I couldn't foresee the terms or the means or how long it would take to pull the trigger - nor how I would ever get passed the dreams in my heart for a contented, connected, and close marriage in which to spend the rest of my days. A dream that I doggedly pursued since "I do", a dream I had now realized really never would come true.

I was broken. And plain terrified. I'd wake up in the night my heart racing, practically gasping for oxygen. Getting through every day without being crushed by the terror was a triumph. How would I take care of us? I was sick thinking that the close relationship I have with my daughters would be altered forever, worse - that because of us they would turn out to be little drug addicts and serial killers. Who would hold my hand in the doctor's office someday when the cancer diagnosis came in? And after a really abysmal track record, was I, in fact, destined to be alone forever? I longed to tell you then, so I was not so alone in my pain. But I needed us to pick a direction and move in it before doing so. I am shocked by how it has gone. In ways I didn't anticipate, far far worse. But in other ways, with much more grace and peace than either of us should be able to reasonably muster.

Somehow I found the courage to not just tell you I was hopeful for my future, but mean it. Though the destination ahead in unclear, I am no longer standing in wreckage paralyzed by fear and inaction. I am walking somewhere on a path that I chose. And everyone knows that when I start moving forward, there's no stopping me until I reach the finish line, no matter how ugly the march may be. I told you about the upside to forest fires and similar natural disasters, that wipe out flora in an area, giving rise to new plants that never would have survived or thrived there in normal circumstances. What is in my heart, in my life now, are these little seedlings - new dreams, that have grown strong roots and are on the cusp of surfacing.

Aging brings recognition that the experience of life is universally one of struggle -  we seem to merely travel from one crisis or tragedy to the next in life, with little reprieves in between. Sickness, financial crisis, death, relational pain - boom boom boom, these events pummel us like tidal waves again and again. To not drown in each fresh hell, I have discovered the necessity to viciously grasp a thread of hope. Even when hope seems stupid or impossible or useless, it isn't. Hope in something eternal - something immovable and constant. A God. Balance in the universe. The essential goodness of mankind. Last year, though it was barely in my heart to do so, I said the word hope, and by saying it and choosing it, it became real for me.
 Friends, there is always always hope. If this wasn't your year, tonight you can wipe the slate clean. You can skip all the BS about losing weight and taking more time to focus on personal development that we vow on January 1st, and instead just choose to believe. Believe it'll be okay in the end, and if it isn't okay yet - that's because it's not the end.

I sincerely want to thank again those who have supported me over the last year. It's been a long haul. It's not over yet. But I know it would have been 100 times harder if not for you. May 2015 bring each of you blessing, contentment, and yes - hope.

Godspeed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Divorce

Jim and I are getting divorced.

If you are stunned, or in need of explanation, then I have admirably done what I determined to do. No, it was not to perpetuate a lie on you, but to always cling to what is hopeful and good. My earnest desire concerning our marriage has always been for success and redemption, and my dearest hope was that it would come to pass. I am certain that what you put into the world, and what you focus on, often dictates the course of events. And in that vain, I have presented to you what wasn't the most true, but what I so much wanted to be true. Nobody is more shocked than myself that God did not redeem this union. It didn't occur to me, in my deepest heart that it wouldn't all work out in the end. Yet it hasn't. So I will tell you now what I can, to the best of my capabilities, to satisfy curiosity or confusion while trying to respect our privacy. I trust that you will show it respect as well.

Firstly, so that we are clear about it, our decision has not come about lightly, on a whim, or because of a specific incident or crime against one another. We are, it is no secret, faith filled people, and you must believe me when I tell you that what stands between my husband and I is literally a mountain of unanswered prayer and an ocean of tears. You must understand how long, and how sincerely we fought for our marriage, which has exceeded it's expiration date.

There is nothing in this world I value as much as my commitment to God, except my commitment to our daughters. Our marriage has been difficult from the first moment, and the challenges these last 11 years never eased. While freely admitting that we are a bad match, I believe down to my toes that God meant for us to be married for this season of life. Chiefly, because we created brilliant, empathetic, charming human beings. But also, I suspect, as a catalyst toward change in our own respective lives. I can speak only for myself here by saying that I learn the best lessons by trying. And often failing. By marrying people who were so obviously wrong for ourselves, and attempting to make them fit into what we desired, we have each suffered an enormous amount of pain. Yet, I would have never known what is right, until I so palpably experienced what is wrong.

Because of our desire to give the girls a stability and consistency that we feel we missed out on as children, we walked this road for far too long. When it became apparent that we were merely hanging on until it was the right time for them, and that we could not avoid causing them pain, we decided it was better to end this sooner rather than later. As we are not "plate throwers", and have done a decent job of insulating the children, this has come as a painful shock. However, by modeling for them a marriage that was tense, cold, and lacking in functional friendship (and then unceremoniously ending it when they were emancipated), we set up the likely scenario that they would, like us, choose the wrong people for themselves and pay much more dire consequences. It is an utter horror to perpetrate this type of pain on your own children, the worst thing ever to know it cannot be avoided no matter what is done. If you pray, I would be blessed if you'd consider adding their adjustment to our new situation, to your daily ritual.

Jim and I traveled life together as a couple for thirteen years. This road has now reached it's end. I recognize that there are many victims of divorce, besides the couple and their children. All of you, our friends and family, will have adjustments to make - as you may have allegiances and family bonds to honor. Losing someone that you considered part of the family or even just one of the gang can be confusing and painful for anyone. Worse, if you are "couple" friends, the terrible task of perhaps "choosing sides" comes before you. I want you to know that I have valued and treasured Jim's family and the friendships that we created together. But I completely understand and accept the withdrawal process that needs to take place. And if you identify more closely as "his" friend than "mine", I honor that and accept that you need to do what is best for yourself.

It should be hard to think of blessing during such dark times. The day we told our children what was going to happen was absolutely the worst day of my life so far, as I am sure it was their's. Yet. Yet I can look around and easily call out thanks for so so much. Thank God that He loves us. Thank God that there are two parents here who adore and desire relationship with these kids. Thank God that there are resources available so that neither of us will have to struggle with putting food on the table. And mostly, thank God for the absolutely incredible, supportive, loving friends and family I have, who have been walking through this tough time with me. Never running away from my pain or the ugliness, but daily encouraging me, expressing belief in me, and hope for our future. I am so so humbled. I am awed every day by it, and feel as though I can't possibly deserve it. I know I am being taught an incredible lesson in humility, and what real relationship can be. Thank you to my dear ones, you know who you are.

For now we know almost nothing. Where we will each reside and the division of our children's time remains to be sorted out with the assistance of the courts. But there is one thing I do know - one day, this will all be okay. One day, the pain will fade until it is merely a small scar; we will all be adjusted to our new lives and moving forward once again. More plainly put, what I tell myself is this: "Someday, I am going to be awesome. And my kids will feel awesome again." And with any luck, this will merely be remembered as a sad chapter in a very long and satisfying life story for each of us.





Thursday, March 27, 2014

Going Somewhere

Insert trite saying here, such as "life is a winding road" or "the only constant is change" blah blah. I got some news, that I was loathe to tell anyone because, obviously, then everyone will know. And judge, cheer or jeer. And of course there is the huge barnacle that all perfectionists carry - what if I FAIL? and everyone knows it. But I am going to share this because there are a lot of folks who think, in regards to making big changes, something like: "it's too late" or "I'm too old" or "that's too scary". But, it is the example of some lovely women I know that have made those big leaps and sacrficies that inspired me to do the same. So, in the spirit of encouragement here ya go: I am going to college.

Let me back up and revisit the moment, at our big HS senior party when I won some sort of drawing. On the entry ticket you were required to write your name, and where you were attending college. After spending 12 years in the Catholic education system, not going to college was unthinkable. Even the slower kids and slackers were going somewhere. They drew my name. "Shelley Anderson!, " he read. "Shelley is uh.....going nowhere." A cheer went up in the crowd. I felt for a moment like a hero - brave enough to make a decision that quite a few wanted to make, but didn't have the courage to because of family pressure. But I wasn't a hero, just a kid who knew herself. The reason I didn't go? I am a practical gal - I simply didn't have a dream. (sort of like the anti MLK Jr. "I don't have a dream..." ) Why waste money and time, just because I was "supposed to"? I never liked doing what I was supposed to, so I didn't. And I don't. I rarely regretted the decision. Perhaps only in those odd moments when groups of strangers were trotting out their credentials. And I had none of my own.

But this isn't entirely honest. 90% of the reason I didn't attend college after High School was because I couldn't think of anything I specifically wanted to pursue, that would lead to a decent career. The other 10% was fear based. I graduated in the top 20% of a pretty smart bunch, but deep down - I didn't think I could hack it. The truth is that, besides a natural propensity for language, I kind of felt like I was ...well - dumb.

But things change. I've had 17 years out of school and 9 years out of the workforce, to look after my gals. And a lot of time to think. I've been some amazing places, and done some confidence building and worthwhile things in the last decade. Staying home to raise a family is admirable and worth doing. But I find in myself, that my contentment is inextricably linked with advancement and achievement. I am satisfied most in life, when I make progress. I want to work. I want to gain knowledge. I think I kind of NEED to.

So a few months ago, when I felt a call in my heart to pursue a particular profession, I had to make a decision. Keep on doing...not much. Running my non-profit, writing for a little extra cash, hanging with my kids in the summer. Or do the really poop in your pants terrifying thing of go to college so I can have...wait for it - a CAREER. That is insane to even think of, for a girl who has had more low end jobs in 8 years than most would have in their lives. College.With a bunch of kids. And face down the algebra demons, and the chem lab ghosts. And the field I've chosen, it couldn't get much worse, really. I HAD to pick the thing that was like insanely HARD to do. I've had several admissions reps tell me it's difficult to get into this program. Pile on the stress!

But though they made me tear up a little and get down for a moment, I had made up my mind. This is what I am going to do. If I can't go in the front door, I'll go in the back door. I will get into this program - I am determined, because I want a better life for me and my family. I am 34 years old. I have not sat in a classroom and taken notes in 17 years. But, as my buddy Josh says: I have to take my life to the Next Level. I am not going to stagnate here. I want more. Everything I've done up until this point has been a stepping stone to the thing I fear most - taking a risk and possibly finding out, for real this time, that I am not good enough. I hope I will find the opposite. But my willingness to TRY is a huge win for high anxiety self doubting perfectionists everywhere. If it isn't too late for me - then it's not too late for you either. We only get one shot in life...blah blah etc etc. DO something.

Godspeed.