When Amy was alive she always told me, “Be fearlessly you!” She was a woman who lived by her words and yet for all the years she told me this, I never grasped it. I lived constantly in my own self doubt. The shadows of all my mistakes and shortcomings over-rode any light I thought I might possibly have buried deep down somewhere. No matter what I tried to do, whether in career or relationships, it seemed like I was a vacuum sucking people dry because I hungered so much for validation. I never stood independent of how I thought others thought of me. So how could I change that? What could I do differently this year?
What could I do so that when I looked into my children’s faces I didn’t see all my regret that I could have done it better before they left home? What could I possibly change to see my husband take a sigh of relief that he no longer carried all my pain or purpose? My friendships, how could I operate in love in such a way that did not demand reciprocity? How could I possibly be independently fearless and stand in my truth that while I’m far from perfect, I’m a beautiful being with something to offer?
I think we all struggle with this at one time or other in our lives. We look around at those closest to us, those we’ve lost through filters through the years, and those we hope to become closer to in the future and we wonder … do I have what it takes? Am I good enough? Do I have value?
Fear. Fear of being wanted, loved, and liked. Fear of loss, fear of gain. Fear of failure and success. We become stagnant in our doubts, almost sometimes to the point of being frozen in it. We stop going out, we are isolated with work and friends. We shy away from socialization. Then the voices really start up, man, they can be harsh. See? I told you, no one cares. See? I told you, no one notices you.
How do we overcome that kind of fear? I went to my bedside one day and knelt, shaking, on my bedroom floor and I prayed, “Lord, my precious Father, you did not have this in mind when you created me, did you? With Amy gone now, I feel lost to courage and bravery. I feel lost to me. Help me to see myself as someone who can love as you love. Change my heart. Mature me. Please, give me opportunities to shower my world with faith and friendship and love and laughter and not do so with a selfish heart. Train me up to stand in the gap for those I love, rather than whine about being the gap myself. Let me be the light.”
After I was done praying I heard the word, “Act.” Then, from Scripture, “Do not be afraid.” In my mind I could hear the trumpets of Jericho. Bring the wall down. The wall of insecurity, fear, and doubt. Shake it to its core so it has no hold over you.
I heard Amy, “Be Fearlessly You!”
I’m determined that this will be a year of letting go of fear and falling fearlessly in love with my life, my family, friends, and the path I am so blessed to be able to be on.
I pray, for all who read this and can relate, that you have the courage to stand on your knees, be humble to God, and become an action person verses a reactive person! This is going to be a great year.
You took my best friend. This a year I will never want back, except maybe the parts when we laughed as she garnered the strength to get up and out of her bed and pretended to me, well, to most of us, that yes, she was fine. Just a little heartburn,she’d whisper in between smiles. The cancer never took her spirit. I remember telling my boss at the time when I needed to be back to work, “I can get another job, I can’t get another best friend.” Needless to say I have a new job. I still don’t have another best friend, not like Ames. Not ever. Irreplaceable. She is with me, I know this to be true. I still rely on her. As always. But F U 2016.. Not fair.
And thank you 2016 for my husband. The deployment two years ago and the one we face that lies ahead this year … can all go to h. e. double l. hockey sticks. This year though, this year I watched him drink his bailey’s and coffee while he opened up his nascar driving experience and shook his head, “NO WAY!” He exclaimed. Oh, that smile. That smile I love even more since the first of the 22 years I’ve been seeing it. Next year he won’t be here. Thank you 2016 for him this year.
I hate you. I love you. You gave me the worst and the best. You gave me a reality that I often detested but a truth that I couldn’t avoid. You taught me to stand strong, to be courageous, to fight for what I believe in, and to be forgiving and accepting of other’s in their fight as well. I have learned much, cried often, laughed hard, grieved more grief than I ever thought possible, and heard the whispers of a beautiful fighter angel. I hold my husband and my children close and pray prayers of gratitude because I am blessed. And I don’t deserve it.
As my father said to me after my bestie went on to Heaven ….
“It is what it is and will be what you make of it.”
Dear 2017 …. Here I come. And I’ve got an Angel at my back so watch out. 🙂
It was an early morning phone call and I didn’t expect to tell my younger brother how I was really feeling, but the truth came spilling out. A bad day turned into a few more bad days, a grieving, a loss, a sorrow … the building of things heavy for a heart to carry. When the light begins to fade. When putting one foot in front of the other becomes a mission. Everyone of us feels it. Then, that choice we make to reach out; to be real. To be authentic. What I didn’t expect was his heart in return. I had no idea he loved me enough to go there with me … and to allow it to be what it was. To sit with me in that quiet place and not require me to be anything but that. Then, the hope. That eventually, I would find the strength to stand back up again. To every brother out there with a sister who relies upon his wisdom, his unconditional love, his strength and above all – his raw honesty and love. We sisters need you more than you know. Thank you brother.
“Dad, don’t be mad,” I say to him several weeks after my 30th birthday.
He shakes his head, “What’d you do now?”
Turning slowly and lifting the back of my shirt, I show him the tattoo. Silence.
“Well? What do you think?” I ask, afraid.
“I never will understand why people do that to their bodies, but it’s your body, you do what you want with it I guess,” he speaks
with a purposed lack of emotion.
What he doesn’t know now, is that the large black bird inked on my back will forever more be the trigger we both use to remind him
of why he and I are who we are.
I was the new girl, again. Our nomadic life presented me with grand illusions of magical transformation, and each two years we moved I imagined who I would become this time. I embellished the idea that starting over could mean I could take all of the things I learned to be true about all of the popular girls from before and re-invent myself to their likeness.
Within months, I was just me again. No matter what I did to be someone other than myself, it seemed I couldn’t figure out just quite how to completely get rid of me. I’d become good enough at my gypsy nomad state of being to get onto the cheerleading team, befriend the most popular girl in school, and score a position on the basketball team; but the thing about keeping up with a false sense of self is that eventually you get tired.
I’d figured out how to sit on the edge of belonging, even the new home we’d purchased was the old Aldrich place, a renowned historic and quite wealthy family in town. Yet, as my father made my younger sister and I carry chopped wood from the shed down to the closet in the basement as winter hit that season I only heard the whispers of new friends, “The Aldrich’s house looked way better when they lived in it.”
After the hour it took to bring all the wood in, and the battle I’d forged in my head had beaten me down, I escaped finally into my room. Here, alone, I could finally breathe. Fresh, crisp empty white pages and a new pencil were old friends who would go with me inside of my head. Writing, in the insanity, was my Sanctuary.
My father’s loud voice flung wide the doors of my safe-keeping later that evening, “Courtney!” I grow still. Wondering what it is I’ve done wrong this time, and praying there is no more wood to bring inside, I don’t move to his call.
He is at my door, “Courtney, come out here.”
He is squatted in front of our old black cast iron stove in the basement living room, just beyond my bedroom door, crumpling pieces of old news and settling it to a pile. “Get me three logs, would you?” I move to the closet beneath the stairs and stack three into my arms. Three of the same fifty I’d just hours before stacked there.
I watch him then, in our quietness. My father tasked to create fire, and my imagining I can become invisible. It’s as if I’m watching him from the outside of things, and the only parts of me that are really there, in the room, is my longing to feel connected to it at all.
A deep orange fills the thick glass as he shuts the small door, presses down the latch, stands and wipes his hands on his dark jeans. “Grab one of those t.v pillows,” he says as he picks up the other one and moves it to the wall opposite the old stove. I follow suit.
As he sits on the floor and leans back onto the over-stuffed pillow, he taps the space next to him and wordlessly offers me the seat. The fire pops as I begin to settle in beside him.
From beside him, he lifts to his lap an old, dusty book. I know that it is old because the bindings are real thread and the casing is leather, and there is no title or picture on the front. His large hands smooth themselves out over the cover, like a handshake. I look up to his face, he is smiling. I can’t help but wonder if this is one of those times Mom told him to discipline me for something, but he can’t bring himself to do it so he pretends to lay me over the bed, but then he hits the mattress with the belt and winks at me.
The book then is in his grasp and he brings it up close to us, leans in just a bit, and slowly cracks it gently open. His fingers shift the pages like curtains in the wind, and I hear him open his lungs and breathe it all in. I taste the smell before my nose, and it suddenly overwhelms me. I forget my father for just a moment and take it in, and it’s like remembering something good.
The book settles down onto his lap, his hand lying between pages like a strong bookmark, “Courtney, I’m going to read you something.”
The way my father paused just then, as his eyes met those first written words, told me that I was about to be a part of something secret. His pause let loose, and I listened, “Once upon a midnight dreary …”
In those moments, Heaven opened wide its entrance and Hell bubbled up to meet it, in the great crashing of truths my father’s soul revealed. I watched and listened as Poe’s words that day reached into the deepest cavern’s of my father’s heart and gave permission to feel, out-loud. All of it. The rise of his voice to meet the fear, the bulging of his forehead vein and the spit flying from his tongue in the face of grief; I was, for the first time, meeting the man that was my father.
As the poem came to its end, that day, I knew its awakening to me marked the first grand moment of my determination to one day become a writer. I wanted to write words with the power to reach down into the guts of a man’s very soul so that he could find the courage to pull himself out. I loved my father more in that mysterious hour, as he presented himself to me, because he reminded me that I was not alone.
Like the devil himself had tried to take him in a fist-fight, my father fell back against the pillow and allowed the book its close with a heavy sigh of goodbye. Finally, he looked to me, “So, what do you think it means?”
I wanted to tell him that I knew the Raven, I had seen her countless times before. On the tip of my tongue was the desire to rage in my chamber, the familiar isolation with only madness. I believed The Raven was not at all about Lenore, but I did not tell him this. Instead, “It’s so powerful, it almost doesn’t want to be made sense of.”
He laughed then, letting loose of old chains and reached out for my hand, “That’s my girl.”
His advice was not with words that day, but in the revealing of himself. I would not be the same thirteen year old I was before he gave me his secret, and the advice would grow and morph into a thousand truths over all the years of my life.