Our minds cling to the strangest memories. I barely remember my high school graduation, yet this day was as clear as yesterday. I am not sure of my age or of our destination, but I must have been younger than ten, traveling backseat of Mimi's old Lincoln with my mom and grandmother. I sat with wide and wild blue eyes, stammering aloud a multitude of ideas in hopes of fascinating an ever-more interesting group of grown-ups. During their conversations, I was constantly trying to contribute to adult topics in which I could and should not have been able to participate. During this trip, my eloquent and forever-composed grandmother turned in her seat and, with a wary eye to show annoyance at my constant interruptions, asked me to describe what I planned to do with my life. My mother glanced through the rear-view mirror, smiling with sweet hazel eyes. Without hesitation, I proudly boasted that I was to be the first female President of the United States of America. No laughter...only silence. Both replied, "Great!"
I always had some hair-brained idea of where I would end up. And at 13, dancing in my room to some mid-90's top 20, staring at the never-ending supply of Jonathan Brandis posters shamelessly taped to the wall above my bed, I still thought I was going to be something great. I was going to save the world, become something or someone that everyone would notice, all for only for the greater good. I was going to work for the CDC, eventually finding the secret to Ebola in some level 4 lab in the middle of Ghana. I would speak 10 languages and travel the smaller countries of the Earth, saving the lives of the hungry children I saw on infomercials on TV. I was going to work at MD Anderson and cure cancer. And I would do all of this while spending my life with a good, no…great man, having children, singing as a side career, writing a fascinating novel that people would actually read, proving all of my father's antics wrong, and ultimately becoming someone the world could and would fall in love with. Somewhere in there, I planned to learn how to cook, paint, dance every dance created, garden, be beautiful and remain so well into my 70s, how to drink 64 oz of water in a day without feeling bloated, have a British accent, grow a vineyard, and how to stay reasonably fit without doing 300 crunches in an evening. You can see that there might have always been a bit of complication in my world. And why my grandmother's ability to peer over her shoulder at me with such quiet disdain was a frequent occurrence. No one believed I would figure out how to combine all of my frivolous ideas into one lifetime, much less the lifetime of a young, naïve girl raised by a single, poor woman on the wrong side of town with a father whose abandonment would define, for years, the existence of the woman that was to become….well, me.
And here I am, writing you from my balcony, whereas I should be pacing the hallways of my currently overbooked liver practice, answering 15 ringing phones, signing prescriptions, faxing orders, responding repeatedly, "Yes, Ma'am, the jaundice is because he drinks a case a day," and dodging the interruptions of a zealous boss. So, why then, you're asking, am I writing you on a Tuesday afternoon when I should be saving lives, as I'd once so enthusiastically dreamt of doing? I've spent a lot of time sitting next to two constant companions and I thought I'd have a discussion about them with you today. Their names happen to be Depression and Loneliness. And last night, they showed up at my door uninvited and decided to crash the party I was having with myself and another friend…Chardonnay. The four of us sat conversing for many hours last night, until I bailed on the banter to take an 11 hour nap, awaking to find that my friends had thankfully snuck out the back door, as I was obviously a rude host. Instead of calling to apologize, I grabbed the latest book from my growing collection, and plopped in the sunlight of this porch with my cup of coffee to try and relieve myself of what could have been a great pity-ensued hangover. Instead, after now becoming engrossed in a different kind of party, I have met a new friend…Elizabeth Gilbert. One hundred and twelve pages into our chat, I have asked her to wait for me a while, as I step away to dive into my own thoughts for a bit, this time hopefully without the help of last night's guests.
I have stated that I am a generally happy person with unhappy tendencies. But, I have a confession…one that maybe I shouldn't be making via WWW for the world to see, but it seems somewhat appropriate, given that a confession is an act of repentance or changing oneself, turning around, allowing reconciliation, the opportunity to discuss our deepest problems and to be given advice, an examination of our faith and our lives, all in the effort to reinforce spirituality….and I tend to find spirituality when I write these blogs. So, for this Tuesday, you…whomever you may be…are my spiritual guide and I am your pupil. And whether you have some divine intervention to bestow upon me or if you are simply my confidant, I appreciate your being there to listen as I face those moments in my life where I can hardly write, as my hands are also held by two other confidants…Depression to the left, Loneliness to the right. I will leave Chardonnay to fend for herself tonight.
My confession is simply this. I don't know who I am. I am defined by those things I attain or achieve or wear or perceive that others see in me. When I look in the mirror, I don't know the woman who sits across from me. She looks vaguely familiar, in the sense that you look at someone walking past in a café and think "I have seen her before", but are not sure you could call her by name. She now has red hair. And although her eyes are now a bit more green than blue, she still has that wild look about her…the look of a girl who is simultaneously looking at the road behind her and ahead of her, tripping on her steps along the way, never learning simply to enjoy the stroll. She has the long, lean legs and the broad shoulders of her father. She has his stern glare and, at times, his temper. She has her grandfather's wit and charm, her uncle's passion for reading and writing and, in some photos, his nose. She has her aunt's insight and wisdom, coupled with the ability to speak for hours on end. She has her mother's waistline, bust, curled-up pinky toes, eyes, smile, all bound to the touch with the thin and slightly curved fingers of her grandmother, albeit a bit larger.
But with all the bits and pieces that have stuck together to form this woman in the mirror, I don't know who she is. My home doesn't define me, as it is literally a collage of family heirlooms, garage sale and off-the-sidewalk grabs, antique store finds, donations, spur of the moment splurges, and credit-card payments-to-be. My clothes don't seem to define me, as my style changes like the weather. I might one day dress in couture Italian silk and stilettos, the next day in torn blue jeans and barefoot, and the next in my mother's 30 year-old batik. Ten years ago, (I cringe to admit) you might have seen me in cutoff shorts waving a big Alabama flag, dancing about in a cowboy hat in a crowd of beer-guzzling Charlie Daniels fans. I wasn't a country girl then, nor will I ever be, but it was a brief sidestep along the trail of "Who the hell am I supposed to be?"
I have also stated that I can see my growth, my progression, in the types of men that I have dated, but who wants to review a long list of exes in order to define their own being? I have noticed, however, that I have shamelessly not held true to me during those relationships. I morphed into the female version of whomever I dated, appeasing the relationship, not making waves by leaving too many differences in personalities, thoughts, feelings, ideas, between us. And my latest failed relationship is likely due to my inability to take control of my own hand, leave my two companions stranded, and look in the mirror to introduce myself…to me. After my divorce, I thought I was free of the clingy, codependent, self-depricating woman who, from an outside perspective, might have glued together the worn down pieces of her past. I waved my little white flag and wrote my blogs with such an "Ah-ha! I've Made It!" fortitude. My reclaimed freedom, along with my great move across the state line of (da-ta-da!) Georgia, and my ability to fall madly in love with someone new was all that was needed to soften the blurred mirror image of you-know-who. Yet here I sit on a Tuesday afternoon, blogging away as my oh-so-wonderful job fends for itself, my too-expensive clothes hang in the closet, and the newfound "love of my life" sits a long, long ways away, telling me that he doesn't want any pressure, but that he's trying "us". Yeesh. I should quit while I'm ahead.
I don't know all of the things that make me truly happy, but seeing as the grass is always greener, I am forever seeking the next road that I plan to travel. I have yet to find happiness on this road. I notice when other people, friends around me, strangers, family, have found her. So why, in my world, has she been such an elusive travel guide? I have resorted to blame in the past…it must be something I did in a past life, a sort of punishment for not being smart enough or accomplished enough, the fate of my disturbed and dysfunctional family, a chemical imbalance, the road of a lonely artist trapped in the world of medicine, the fact that I am not overseas as I'd always planned to be, the fact that I'm single and alone…all must be the causes to my inability to find Happiness. I know that she cannot find me, as I am unabashedly admitting that I have yet to find myself either. I can define myself in words, but those words remain as empty and solitary as my own glance remains in the mirror. And so, at almost 26, I have no idea who I am.
And as sad as this is, there is hope. I still believe that whatever you put out into the world will eventually come back to you. In this, I was once asked to write 100 things that I want in my life, with the intent to fold up the piece of paper and lock it away, only revisiting it every 5 years to see what changes had occurred. Eventually, I was told, my dreams will be realized. So, while I have no idea who I am, I am going to give you…my elusive audience… 100 things that I want in my life. I have avoided this task for almost a year, but seeing as I am finally ready to open my eyes, I'm going to attempt this strange task. Bear with me. And, in the end, I hope to come to some spiritual conclusion that allows me to be ok with that girl in the mirror, whether she's in this apartment or not, saving the livers (or lives, whichever you prefer) of Georgians or giving it all up to chase the next wild idea, wearing designer shoes or consignment jeans, holding onto the love she finds within herself, regardless of whether a lifetime's efforts of trying bring love from the outside back into her life. Either way, I intend to free my hands of the despair of partying with Depression and Loneliness. And whether it takes one night or a hundred, I will eventually wake up and throw a party surrounded by my real friends, real loves, real family...with a special toast to each of you who had the patience to watch me paddle my little boat down the river, and toss over the rapids with so many miserable attempts to stay afloat, only to get back up again, take a deep breath, and smile at this wild ride known as life. At least I know that to swim, regardless of how turbulent the water, your hands have to be free to make it. And I will make it.