On relationships with parents as a 20-something.

“Oh God, I sound like my mother.”

A phrase women have said for probably forever, with the smallest hint of terror in their voices. That’s the first feeling, at least, followed by an overwhelming sense of comfort.

For me, at least.

My mother drives me crazy, as mothers often will, but she’s a kind woman who sacrificed a lot of things for me, and she means well with her advice — no matter how frustrating it can be.

In the past year, I’ve said the phrase less. The thing is, I realized I’m really not turning into my mother. Sometimes I wish I was.

A few months ago I woke up at 4 in the morning, loaded the dog in the car and drove a few hours away to go on a hike by myself. I called my mom later in the day to tell her how amazed I was at the sunrise I saw on a country road in the middle of nowhere, about my dog collapsing in protest at the top of the mountain and the detour I took through small towns when I turned off my GPS to see where I would up. I expected her to be horrified. I thought she would scold me for driving around in the middle of the night alone. I assumed she would tell me how dangerous it is to go on a hike by myself. I was waiting for her to tell me it’s odd for a young girl to stop at abandoned motels to take pictures of them.

But she didn’t. She told me I was adventurous and she didn’t think she would ever do anything like that alone.

And in that moment, I realized I’m not turning into my mom. Not at all. And there’s a part of me that’s very sad about that — honestly, when I think about the daydreams I had when I was five, these weren’t them. They were of my mom’s life — of the earliest view of normal I had.

I do love my life very much. The past year has exceeded every expectation I could have set for it. I am baffled by how blessed I’ve been and how much God has taken care of me.

But sometimes I struggle with what my life isn’t.

A month or so ago I was talking through an issue I was having during a phone call with her — to which my mom responded, “Well this is the life you chose.”

I immediately found a reason to hang up.

Because in some ways it is, but so much of my life hasn’t felt like a choice. It’s felt like a need. To prove something to myself, mostly.

In my head at that moment, it sounded to me like she was saying I actively chose not to have certain things — like someone walked up to me on the street, asked whether I’d like to do things the easy way or the hard way and I said, “Hey, yeah, being single sounds good. Companionship is for the birds. Kids? Who needs ’em. Give me that long way around! I can’t wait!”

It’s not ever been a choice. It’s just where my heart has ended up.

It took me awhile to realize, though, that’s not what she meant. She didn’t really mean anything negative — my mom’s just never lived this life. My life is as foreign to my mother as having a two-year-old is to me.

Neither is wrong. Just different.

And maybe one day I will turn into my mother.

 

 

A lot of words about dreams (also known as memories of last year)

I’ve been thinking of life in terms of dreams lately — not the big, ambiguous kind that fuel desires and achievements. An actual dream – a set of many details, capable of being forgotten in a second; in the time it takes to wake up.

I can remember the dreams I had last night — a horrifyingly nerdy tale of forgetting to do a menial task at work, one that I’ve remembered successfully every day.

I remember one from last week about a boy, but that one’s fairly common.

I occasionally remember nightmares from years past, as I assume everyone does — the terrifying kind where bad things happen and I’m just looking in on the whole thing, questioning why I’m still stuck in the dream and why I’m doing nothing to stop any of it. Unsure why my subconscious is doing this tonight.

I even remember the recurring dream I had when I was a kid, that a witch was going to sweep through my bedroom window and steal me. (This happened often enough that 20 years later, it’s still ingrained in my psyche).

But the color of the sky behind the witch is long gone from my memory. I remember that boy’s face, but not the color of the shirt he was wearing. I know the task I forgot last night, but not its importance in regards to my day. These details fade momentarily.

I like writing things down, but often don’t. Because what I have to say is less than exceptional; a thought we’ve all had a million times that won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. It certainly won’t change the world.

But life is a bit like a dream. I’ve forgotten many of the things I have to say that I didn’t bother to write down. And there’s a longing in the bottom of my heart to say each one of those things, long after I don’t remember any of them.

I didn’t write much down about 2015, because I felt like it didn’t matter much anyway. I said the things that did matter to people around me, and I thought as long as I’ve spoken it into the world, it happened and it will be remembered. That’s not the way it works, though, and I’ve been a bit sad about my decision to do so for most of the year.

I’ve taken many pictures. One for most of the days of last year. But the smiles, the laughs, the tears that happened in the course of the year aren’t remembered.

In 20 years, I may remember the joy I felt driving across Maine at 6 in the morning as the sun came up by looking at a picture I took during that trip, but maybe I won’t. It was the feeling of being alive in the most pure way possible – I spent the night before with my best friend, on a pitch-black coastal road in Maine that ended in a small fishing village. We spent the night with strangers in a beach house, laying across rocks and staring at the most beautiful stars I’ve ever laid eyes on. I talked about God with a guy I just met, who probably would have spent the entire speech contemplating how crazy I was if he had been a little more sober. Three hours later, driving through tiny towns as they woke for the day, I felt love. From God. From the universe. From anything that can possibly send love. It was one giant hug, a reminder that I’m doing okay.

I hope to remember the ocean the day before. Standing in the middle of rocks so intricately carved, I don’t see how anyone can question the existence of God. I felt small, in the way that we all hope to feel small. In the way that reminded me things are bigger than I could ever imagine and any hurt in my heart is even more minuscule than I, so it must certainly disappear much sooner than I’ll cease to exist.

I hope I remember the moment a friend looked at me and said, “It turned out just like you planned, right?” His sarcasm in discussing the way my life is going filled me with nothing but happiness — this is certainly not what I ever envisioned, but I’m thankful to have people along the way who understand me.

There was a fleeting moment or two this year when I proved myself worthy — to myself. Some people don’t struggle with this, but I’ll never know what it’s like to be them. There were a few moments this year when I was fully and completely proud of myself, and that’s progress.

In less time than it takes to forget these things, I’ll have forgotten the bad about 2015 — the growing pains. Life is easier when we romanticize it; so much so that I can’t even bring myself to write any of the specifics down. That was my plan, with writing my favorite moments down. I’d also write down the bad, because that’s where the lessons come from — but I’d really rather I just remember the lessons. That’s what I’ve learned most about getting older — the general idea of the bad thing is a better memory than the details, and that’s the way it was all designed for a reason.

I do hope I remember the lessons I learned from those growing pains, though, because they hurt quite a bit. I’d like to remember to trust my intuition; to stay away from things that aren’t good for me; to take the long road if possible (not because of any virtuous reason, just because I’m stubborn and seem to like figuring out the answers on my own); and I hope I remember to be kind.

I also hope I’ll remember to write down the details more in 2016.

Saturday.

I’ve been trying to stay positive lately.

Positive isn’t always what I’m naturally inclined to feel. Sometimes negative seems easier. But I’ve really tried to stick with positive because negative is grating after awhile. It’s easier until it becomes constant, and then you’re stuck in this negative place you can’t get out of — and I didn’t want that, so I’ve been doing my best to avoid negative.

But I’m just going to give myself a few minutes to acknowledge it, because it seems necessary and it’s been hanging out in my heart for awhile and I’m ready for it to go away.

My life isn’t bad. It’s good. I have a place to live, a job that pays my bills, a car — or in this specific moment, at least an insurance company, and I have friends that love me.

But it’s just not great.

I love my job. It’s my dream. I couldn’t be happier in that specific area, so I have nothing to add to that area. I like where I live and I’ve never really been good at defining happiness by things in that respect, so that’s also fine. I’ve gotten in two car accidents in the past two weeks (neither of which my fault) and my car is currently not drivable, but I normally love it.

But people. I just feel like I keep getting punched in the stomach over my relationships with other people and I just want them to be easy. Or at least feel comfortable for a second.

I came home yesterday after my accident and realized I had no one to call. My roommate was out of town. If something had actually, I don’t know that anyone would know.

I have amazing friends. I do. But most of them live hours away. No one knows what I do from day to day and so I’m slowly falling out of regular contact with all of them. I’m not mad at anyone about it — moving was my choice. I just miss having friends who know me.

That’s not to say I don’t have friends here. I do, and I’m very thankful for all of them. But friendships take time and years and I just haven’t had that here — and everyone honestly already has their own lives. And sometimes that’s a bummer.

And I guess really this all comes down to being a little lonesome. Which happens, I guess. I just figured maybe acknowledging it would make it go away.

When I think about heaven.

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven lately.

Not in a morbid way or anything, I don’t think. In the way that I think it’s good to be prepared and I like to daydream kind of way, I guess.

I’m excited about the whole thing. Really I am. I think Jesus is going to be real cool. He came up with that whole salvation thing. And the angels are sure going to sound sweet. And God, well, am just so thrilled to experience that kind of love in person. Not in person, but in spirit? Not sure what the appropriate expression is there.

I sit here thinking about heaven at 4 a.m. A train is rolling by my window. It’s about a mile away but the window still shakes, I believe a product of it being the middle of the night and there not being much else around to compete in the way of making noise. I don’t always notice the train, but I try to — trains are one of my favorite joys in life. They make me think of my Pappaw. He collected ’em and so I always think they’re his way saying hello — so this train at 4 a.m. while I’m thinking about heaven sounds real nice.

I hope I get to remember people in heaven. I know I’ll probably be preoccupied, what with the angels singin’ and Jesus being cooler than cool and God being the actual definition of love and such. But I hope I get to see Pappaw and Granny again. I sure miss them, and a heaven where I never see their faces again or get one of those big hugs makes me want to cry. I suppose the idea of it actually is making me cry.

I wonder what heaven feels like? In mine I really do get to sleep on clouds and float through the stars. Do we each get our own heaven? I know, heaven is more than my little human brain can handle. It really is — eternity is bigger that I can comprehend most days and spends a lot of time scaring me, really. But this little human brain of mine has always wanted to see a star up close and sit on a cloud and maybe hear angels sing gospel hymns and I have a hard time believing God would let me have that daydream is I wasn’t ever going to get to experience all those things.

I think about heaven in the way I know it’s coming. It’s something I’m excited about, most assuredly, but I get kind of sad when I see or hear people skipping out on their human lives while they think about heaven all the time.

I’m sure excited, too, but this little life and body I’ve been given sure is great, and I’d hate to miss out on it because I was too busy getting ahead of myself. I’m real good at that most of the time, but I try to watch out for it.

Because this little life of mine – as cliche as it sounds – sure is a lovely little gift, and gifts should be appreciated.

So I’m going to do my best to appreciate this lucky little hand I have. I suppose I feel like that’s the point of this whole thing — to feel loved and share as much as I can and say thanks when I remember, while knowing that’s never enough, but that’s okay anyway.

And I’ll keep thinking about heaven. But not too much.

I’m in a hurry and don’t know why…

It’s sometimes a bit baffling to me how our memories work, until a seemingly arbitrary memory hits me like a ton of bricks.

“Don’t change this song. I like it,” I said. Alabama’s “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” was playing I was seven or eight, and listening from the backseat. My mom and brother were in the front. My mom has never really liked country music and she wasn’t particularly thrilled about Alabama that night. Somehow I won, and they didn’t change the channel. I enjoyed my song all the way home. A song about being in such a hurry a person is forgetting to live. But as a kid, I loved it.

I tell this story fairly often, mostly because I’m sometimes told I’m a bit quirky and this illustrates that pretty well. But it also explains my personality pretty well – I’m constantly trying to find way to fit more things in my schedule and worrying about not getting it all done.

I’ve been in a hurry as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be older – I wanted a car and a job, then my own responsibilities and bills. After that, I craved adventure and the freedom of making my own decisions. Lately I often wonder when I get to have my own family and a stable job that I enjoy. I don’t ever feel like I’m particularly unhappy with what I have, I’m just excited about what’s next. Patience has never quite been my strength.

I thought about that story this afternoon while I did chores around the house. I started to feel anxious around five o’clock when I hadn’t started making dinner yet, clothes were still in the washing machine and I wondered whether I should make cookies – something I enjoy – because what if that meant I didn’t clean the bathroom counter or vacuum the ceiling fan. I suppose this sounds fairly arbitrary, and I suppose it all was, but it was a very real level of anxious. I began to mentally plan out the next five hours of my day – what needed to be done and the multitasking I would need to do so I could cross each item off my mental checklist for the day.

And then it hit me – or I could slow down and do the things I wanted. I could enjoy my afternoon. I could bake cookies and go on a longer walk with the dog and not frantically be scrubbing the bathtub while planning how to fold laundry and clean the bathroom mirror at the same time so I wouldn’t run out of time and not fit it all in.

So I did that. And I left some things unchecked. I still feel anxious about it, but the dog got to go a long walk and I ate cookies before and after dinner. The bathroom isn’t spotless and my closet isn’t organized. But the after- sunset sky looked amazing during our walk. I didn’t get any work done this weekend. But my soul feels ready for a Monday.

And I’m working in slowing down – and feeling okay about if.

I fall down sometimes, but I don’t ever give up.

I’ve been trying to run away from my life for most of my life, really. I can’t remember a time when my thoughts weren’t occupied by the deep creases of my imagination, wondering what life could be if it wasn’t this one I have. I don’t mean for that to imply that I dislike my life – I don’t really. I’ve just always been curious – what if it was different?

I’ve been trying to get away from Texas for as long as I can remember. Not because it’s bad, really. I’m just pretty restless. And there’s so much to see – why stay in one place? Life is so short, and there’s little time to spend places that don’t feel like joy.

All of that sounds wonderful, but the truth is – even the best places sometimes don’t feel like happiness. They aren’t bursting with joy. Some days my heart feels full of a dull ache – the kind that makes the rest of life feel uncomfortable. It seems to overflow with anxious energy, which fills my veins and makes life feel difficult.

So, what then? I’ve learned running away from my thoughts doesn’t work, as much as I wish it did. The uncomfortable energy that spills into each part of my consciousness doesn’t go away, no matter how many miles between any of the causes. And I guess the only answer I have is, that’s life. And running only allows more time to think.