Poetry, dates and coming home

I took myself on a date tonight. Make up, clean pants, brushed hair, favorite lipstick color and all.

It is part of my effort to be more comfortable doing things alone. Too often I skip out on things because I don’t have anyone to go with, and I don’t have anyone to drag begrudgingly along anymore.

I’m learning to enjoy my own company. It is uncomfortable don’t get me wrong, but I’m actually really glad I went out by myself tonight.

N.C. poet laureate Shelby Stephenson was speaking at the coffee shop downtown so I figured I would go listen to what he had to say and hear him read some of his poetry.

There is something magical about listening to a poet read their own work. He read with such enthusiasm and confidence. I hope one day to write things I am that proud of.

I’m not used to doing things alone so I assumed I would end up a wall flower among the gallery portraits in the crowded cafe. Attendees included groups of old friends, fellow writers and creative writing students from local university, obviously there out of a class obligation judging by their discussion of ‘the assignment’ on the evening.

Right before the event began, a table in the very center opened up. Quite the juxtaposition from the position I thought I would occupy. I sat down and was shortly joined by an older couple rushing to snag a table before Stephenson began to speak.

The husband was a fiction writer and an old friend of Stephenson’s. Ironically enough, my table mate wrote fiction because he couldn’t find his rhythm in poetry. I told him that I gravitated toward poetry because I couldn’t find my voice in fiction.

We chatted for just a few minutes, but it was nice. It was interesting having to define myself to a stranger. This person knew nothing about me, had simply sat down with me for lack of another option.

I didn’t quite know what to say when they asked even the most basic of questions. I have spent the past few months rebuilding and regaining my sense of self, but this might have been the first time I had to introduce myself to and make small talk with someone who had no background knowledge of me.

It was fun being able to tell them I write. Maybe if I say it enough times to enough people I will start to really believe it’s true. Lord knows I’ve been working hard at it, submitting all over the place and surely developing a case of carpal tunnel due to my incessant need to write everything by hand the first go round.

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The woods will always be my happy place. 

Stephenson started out talking about the idea of “home” or where you come from. He stumbled over his words as he tried to sum it up, and I couldn’t help but nod my head in response. How does one sum up where they come from in a meaningful way?

I have no idea. The concept of home is one I mull over quite often in my writing but don’t know if I share often.

I was struck by his words, or lack thereof, in that moment. All I really knew was that I felt a strong connection to this place. This tiny little town that we all couldn’t wait to leave, yet many of us returned to even after we spread our wings a little.

There is a force as strong as gravity that pulls us back. Maybe it’s toxic, and we are all just crazy, as one of my friends so often says. Or maybe there really is something magical about this place, something deeper than the surface that can’t quite be explained.

My heart hurt as I thought about leaving it. Hickory was the only place I wanted to come back to when I left Germany. I couldn’t imagine finding myself and rebuilding anywhere else. There was a pull to this place I couldn’t deny even though my family left years ago.

I’ve been back for a few months now, and despite the love I have for this strange place, I know it is time to go.

I rediscovered myself. I cut ties. I picked up the pieces of myself that I left here, and I claimed them as my own. I learned how to be defined by my values, strengths, weaknesses and interests rather than by my ties to another.

I cultivated friendships with people who were quick to remind me that I don’t need them. That while there is a lot of love, it isn’t a love of necessity. It is a love that is not conditional to my geographic location.

I needed to come back here to collect myself, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay.

Sophie and I are off to the next adventure in a few weeks. Packing up and moving and uprooting our lives yet again is terrifying, but it is the right thing to do. The sunshine state is calling us, and good things are coming.

I can feel it.

Happy birthday, baby goose

I guess I can’t call her “baby” goose anymore, now that she is just hours away from turning two years old.

It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was in the height of labor, waiting anxiously to meet my sweet girl.

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It is hard to believe she was so tiny. 

Everyone told me motherhood changes you. Everyone told me I would never be the same again, that I would never sleep again (not that I did anyways), that I would be different. While the statements were mildly annoying and definitely cliche, they rang true.

I am not who I was two years ago. Being your mother, sweet Sophie Elizabeth, has changed me in so many ways.

It has made me more stubborn. I am your mother, and I know what is best for you. God forbid anyone try to swoop in on mama bear’s territory. You are my baby, and I am your mom. No one can take that away.

It has taught me patience, sort of. I wish I remembered who told me they were so surprised to see how patient I was with you. It’s true, though. Patience has never been my strong suit. In fact, I am crowned queen of impatient land. Yet with you, all I want to do is slow time down. I want to make sure you enjoy every moment of your life you have to enjoy. I want to make sure that you don’t only get the short-tempered, fast-paced sides of me. I have my weak moments, but overall I want you to know that I am always here for you.

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How perfect is that tiny yawn?!

It has shown me what is really important in life. You, my little love, are always the priority. You come first. Over work, over friends, over potential relationships, over hobbies or anything. Sometimes that makes things difficult, the past few weeks haven’t been easy, but it is the right thing. Nothing will ever be more important to me than this little girl. Ever.

It has taught me to slow down. On hikes, in museums, even in walks across parking lots to the car, you are always finding something to look at and explore. A lot of times you are met with a frustrated, “Sophie! Move your body, we have to go!” Yet, despite my frustration, it is nice to see what you are interested in. I love when you point out the colors of all the cars and find cool rocks on our wooded paths. You have taught me to appreciate everything, no matter how small. Mostly, though, I just appreciate being able to watch you grow and explore.

It has taught me to be the best version of myself. You deserve it, little goose. You deserve the best version of me. You deserve a me who is strong and patient and self assured and independent and caring. I want you to grow up with an excellent example of a strong, capable woman. I never want you to doubt how much you can accomplish. I never want you to second guess yourself. I’m sure you will, but I never want it to be because of me. I want to know I have given you everything I have to give. Being your mother has taught me more about the woman I want to be, and I thank you for causing me to be more introspective and thoughtful with my words and actions.

Motherhood is just the craziest experience. Watching her grow the past two years has been wild. There is nothing I love more than watching her little brain work –than seeing those wheels turn in her little head as she figures out how something works.

We spent the afternoon at the art museum today, and she was just simply amazed with the art work. She would squeal and get excited about some, and others you could see didn’t captivate her in the same way.

She is becoming more and more opinionated every day. While that comes with its own frustrations, it is also so exciting to see her blossom into her own person. She is smart and strong and brave and resilient and creative and all around incredible.

The past two years have not been without their challenges but having this little girl has made everything worth it. She is truly the apple of my eye, my little side kick and my mini me. I couldn’t be prouder to be her mommy.

Happy second birthday, sweet girl. Thank you, for everything.

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It is amazing what a difference two years makes. I love you, little love. 

A battle between head and heart

My mind is a muddled mess of opportunity.

I think I’ve written that line before. In fact, I’m sure I have. It isn’t the first time in my life I’ve found myself at a crossroads, and I doubt it will be the last.

I had this idea growing up that one day I would have it all figured out. That I would grow up, build a life and suddenly know what I’m doing or where I’m going. I had a map in my head. I didn’t quite know what was on it, but I assumed it would be as simple as following it and life would work itself out.

I’ve learned that it isn’t that cut and dry. If we’re being honest, most of us don’t have it figured out. I just have a hard time accepting that I may never really know what I’m doing or where life is going to take me.

I stand here with numerous opportunities open before me. The world is my oyster, as those in favor of cliches would say.

If there is a map, it leads to too many places. There are too many times where I have to choose which way to go. Isn’t it supposed to lead me? That’s what I always thought.

What do you do when you know there a million and one ways to be happy? When you can see numerous paths to fulfillment?

I’ve always been one to follow my heart. I wear it on my sleeve (there are those cliches again). I hand it out openly, I lead with it. I love big, and because of that, I fall on my face a lot. Because of that, I tend to crash and burn more often than my more cautious peers.

Caution isn’t in my vocabulary. I throw myself into things whole-heartedly and run with it until it doesn’t feel right.

I don’t mean to be so indecisive, but is there really any other way to figure out what is right for you? If you don’t try, will you ever know? Or will you live in a constant state of what ifs and wishful thinking?

I’ve rarely regretted throwing myself out there and bearing my heart for the world to see, even when it doesn’t work out in my favor.  You can say a lot about me, but you can never say I don’t try.

My point is, how do I know when an opportunity is worth it or if it is a big waste of energy –physical and emotional?

I tend to fall in love with possibility, with the idea of what things could be. I’m a dreamer and my head is in the clouds more often than it is present here on earth. But how beautiful would it be if I somehow made all those dreams swirling around in my head a reality?

My brain is muddled. My heart wants to leap, but my brain is a mess.

I’ve become sure of who I am lately. I’m sassy and loud and indecisive. I come on far too strong, and I’m a hopeless romantic that believes love will always in in the end. I feel stronger than I ever have, but it hasn’t made me any more sure about the specifics of what I want out of life.

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All I know is I want to be happy, and I want to do right by my little girl. What that means or what happiness looks like is a mystery to me.

I don’t know why all of this stresses me out so much. I don’t know why I can’t just make a decision, choose a path, and stick to it.

Maybe because I like the idea that life is fluid and that we don’t have to be stuck with things we don’t want forever. That it is okay to decide something and realize that while it may have been the best thing at the time, it isn’t the best for forever.

Nothing is permanent, and that is both beautiful and terrifying.

Or honestly, maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to be wishy-washy. Maybe I’m just enjoying the feeling of being in complete control of where my life goes from here for the first time in my life that I’m getting power hungry.

I feel myself looking for some sort of permission. From who? I have no idea. I’m 22, it has been at least six years since I’ve listened to a thing my parents told me to do, as I’m sure they will tell you.

It is a constant battle between head and heart. Between letting fear win and letting love win.

I feel less like there is anything tying me to one specific place. Less like I need to be tied to one specific place.

I spent my whole life searching for the elusive “home,” and I’ve realized over the past few months that it is less a place and more a feeling. In a lot of ways, I’ve come to accept that part of loving so many people means that my heart will always be stretched across the globe, and there will always be parts of me that long to be elsewhere to be with them.

What is important is figuring out where I want to be.

I’ve never felt more okay feeling so rootless, feeling so much like I can do whatever I want.

If only I had any clue what that was –or how to discover it.

Maybe love only wins in the end if we have the courage to overcome our fears and let it.

Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?

A story about the time a silly question I asked to pass time on a long car ride made me question everything. 

“Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?”

I asked you this as we drove through the mountains in Greece last summer. We were going clear across the island to a beach I found on the internet that was supposed to be absolutely incredible (it was).

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Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece

We got a taste of a little bit of everything the island had to offer on that trip: the beach, the mountains the incredible canyon, the cliffs, the mountain goats and the roadside stands that were someone’s livelihood.

I remember looking closely at all the people we passed: they all seemed happy and content with their lives.

I remember feeling like I could be really happy here, too. Like maybe the Greeks had it all figured out and life isn’t about money or cars or all of the things we make important. Maybe life is about the simple things like having someone you love to share it with.

I was contemplating happiness a lot that summer. Mostly because it seemed to be an elusive presence in our lives, but also because the things that make others happy has always fascinated me. We were experiencing all of these cultures, and I wanted to take pieces of what made these people happy and apply them to my own life.

My wheels started turning, and I asked the question as it floated through my mind.

“Do you want to live in a dirt house with me?”

You thought for a second before answering with words that shattered the very basis of what I thought our relationship was.

“I could be happy that way if I didn’t have you and Sophie.”

I felt like I’d just been punched in the gut and hit in the chest all at the same time. I’d never felt more like a liability, more like someone you just needed to take care of rather than someone you really wanted to share a life with.

I wasn’t suggesting we pack up and move, but the fact that you didn’t think you could be happy with me there hurt any way.

I asked you what if it was what I really wanted? What if it was my ideal life?

You still said no, that you had to do more –to do better. That it simply wouldn’t be enough.

Tears welled up in my eyes, but I just said okay.

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I could’ve stayed here forever. 

You were rarely honest with me when I asked things like this so even though the answer I got wasn’t the one I wanted, I was happy you told me your truth.

I always knew we were different, that we often spoke different love languages and that we challenged each other. In this moment, though, my heart broke a little bit as I realized that we didn’t value the same things.

All I want out of a relationship is someone who will love me for me, not because of what I will offer them or what I can do for them. I want someone who will be happy with me no matter where we are or what our life circumstance is.

I want love, real, raw, true love. The kind of love that isn’t necessarily easy. I don’t want my partner to be naive to my flaws, but rather to love me so completely that they love them, too.

More than anything, I never want someone to feel like they need to take care of me. I never want them to feel like they can’t take risks because of me.

I cannot speak for you now, it would be unfair, but in that moment, it felt as though you cared more about fulfilling your role as a provider than you did about me and my hopes and dreams.

You thought I needed a fancy house and nice things and the world handed to me on a silver platter, but all I wanted was for you to want me, no matter what.

It’s been months since we had that conversation, the one where you told me you would feel like you failed if you didn’t give me the life that looks good on paper, but I still can’t shake it.

You didn’t want to live in a dirt house with me.

I wasn’t enough to be all you needed, and that hurt my heart more than any of the other things that led to our eventually downfall.

Or maybe it wasn’t that you needed more. Maybe it was that I made you feel like I did. I didn’t, though, for what it’s worth. Probably nothing, at this point, but my love for you was never based on what you could or could not give me.

Maybe I’m naive. If anything, I am certainly a hopeless romantic, but I’d like to believe a love like that exists. A love where nothing matters but two people loving each other deeply and openly regardless of what their life looks like.

I don’t need someone to give me anything but themselves. I don’t need money or a protector or a provider. I need love. We all need love.

I’ll wait for it.