Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm Younger Than That Now

Sometimes I look back at what I write in here and it occurs to me that people think I am a gigantic phony baloney. I'm happy all the time, I'm grateful all the time, everyone in my life is awesome. And I probably wouldn't believe it either. But the truth is yeah, I'm happy most of the time, I try to remember to be grateful always, and I've been extremely, unfairly fortunate to have been born to--and to have in my life for whatever reason--the greatest, dearest people. It's a combination of natural disposition, luck, and growing up. Also, there's a lens between a reader and writer. There's always background, always nuance, and you only get to read what I want you to know.

We all have our good and bad days, and I'm no exception. Things piss me off, things get me down, and it just so happens that most of the time I gravitate away from dwelling on what's nagging at me. Writing has always, always been my go-to form of self-therapy (I have a huge stack of journals that I started writing in like it was my job from the time I was fourteen) and that's how I get out all my bad juju. But when I started writing with the idea that I had an audience, it became an exercise in perspective and focus. By the time I get to synthesizing my thoughts and hitting "publish," I tend to magnify the slightest kernel of positivity over any kvetching or sadness. It's not that I have a secretly bad life, like I said, I'm in a very good place and don't take it for granted. It just doesn't feel right to think it could be perceived as less than genuine. Nobody's a ray of sunshine all the time. And the bad times, they come for everyone.

That whole screed is not a preface to tell you anything's wrong. It's just my way of letting you know that I'm not oblivious to how I come across. That bit about growing up is really the essential ingredient for me. In some ways I guess I was a happy child, but in a lot of ways I wasn't. I was a champion worrier. I was self-conscious. I couldn't sleep. I wasn't quite the self I turned into, and I can tell you exactly why this is. Most of you know that my sister died of cancer when I was five and she was two. I hardly remember anything about that time, but I spent a lot of my life getting over it. It threw my whole family for a loop, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. Frankly I'm amazed my parents were able to get it together as well and quickly as they did. They had two other kids to parent at the time, so that didn't leave them much choice, and they had tons of family support but still, kids dying is a fucking fuck of a thing to ever happen. I know that going through such things is how people get close to god and find comfort in religion, but kids getting sick and dying is the #1 reason I do not. If there's bigger plan that requires such suffering, I don't want anything to do with it. But this isn't about religion or spirituality, and it is in no way an indictment of those things.

My sister dying was one of those things that is nobody's fault, and in the aftermath, everyone did the best they could. I can't imagine one single way that my parents or anyone in my family could have done a better job caring for and loving me. I just needed to grow up and find a way to get to my happiness. And eventually, I did. It wasn't a deliberate decision to search for happiness or just one day decide to be happy. I'm not even sure that I was fully aware that I wasn't. I just somehow, along the way, let go of my constant anxiety and it changed my outlook. I've had some truly wonderful and amazing things happen in my life, in every stage, but in no way would I want to go back, and that is why.

My current job, the one I never consciously sought but ended up in by a series of circumstances over 15 years ago, forces me to confront my family's past situation every day, which makes a strange kind of sense. I see the sickest of the sickest kids, and deal with families in various stages of holding it together and falling apart. They are all terrified and brave, frustrated and heartbroken. Frustrating and heartbreaking, too. I joke that the reason I don't dissolve into a puddle of grief every day is because so many of the adults I encounter deal with their situation by being entitled pains in the ass or totally cuckoo and that shifts the emphasis away from what's really going on. Everyone has a coping mechanism, including me, and it's in my professional and personal interest to not take on every sad burden. But I'm not immune, especially now that I have a child.

Kids and adults get sick. Everyone dies. Everyone's got their shit going on. It sucks, it's unavoidable. But today, I'm alive. And here is my truth, today. And I'm holding onto my happiness within that truth, as long as I can. At the very least, for today.

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