Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted

This was my writer's response topic for my classes last week.

I gave it to them on the day I was assigning them to new seats and new teams. This is always a day filled with gnashing of teeth, lamenting wails, and other various expressions of teenage angst meant to drive adults so insane that they wind up giving in.

But I am no mere mortal adult, and I do not give in. I am well-versed in the art of guilt and inspirational quoting. This also happens to be one of my favorite expressions -- one that I tend to remind myself of when life takes a turn that makes me unhappy or overwhelmed.

My kids did fairly well at deciphering the meaning of the quote and VERY well at my intentions behind it. A new semester, new start... all of that. The angst level never rose above DEFCON 3, and for a week now, stability and *gasp* improvement have been the norm.

I felt pretty proud for about 6 hours. Then, I got in my car, looked in the mirror, and realized that everything I had just preached at my kids hasn't really been practiced by me lately.

I've been absent from this little space of the internet for a while now -- over a month by date alone, longer if you start looking closely at effort. I didn't stop writing; I still try to do that every day. My goal, after all, was to find a place to spill and drop the stress and worry and anxiety I found building up. My goal was to find something that made me happier and freer. I don't always accomplish that every day. Never have, never will.

The holidays were hard. I knew they would be because they are every year. By November, I am exhausted physically and mentally from work which has been exceptionally difficult this year.  And the brightness and light and commercial drain slapping me in the face each time I take a walk through Target tends to exhaust me spiritually as well. This Christmas brought a little extra emotional quicksand as I watched and waited through another leap off the deep end with my dad's health. And, in true Deana fashion, his backslide caused my own backslide because I am nothing if not my father's daughter.

Even as I felt myself fraying, I kept trying to write my way out of it, to use my words as my nightlight, to throw the puzzle pieces on the screen and the page and wait for them to fall into place. I kept writing and people kept reading and friends kept supporting. But one day, someone, in passing relayed a concern from someone else. "Deana just seems SO... SAD."

And I froze.

Granted, the ellipsis and the capital letters... maybe those are my own hearing; maybe not. All words are open to interpretation and strike different chords in different people at all sorts of different times. This is what makes words so dangerously beautiful. It's not that, at that very moment, I disagreed. In fact, in that moment, I wholeheartedly agreed. I was very sad some days, but not every day and certainly not CAPITAL LETTER sad.

But in the message of "I am concerned (and also saddened) by this", I received "Deana just seems so... pitiful (and frankly, it's a little much)."  And then... someone else said it, to my face, with a full-on sympathetic head tilt. Oh, sweet Jesus, the head tilt. That's when you know there's trouble.

I didn't stop writing, but I stopped posting. I stopped sharing me with anyone else and just closed up. I thought that maybe if I just stopped telling then people would stop hearing and then they would stop worrying/judging. If I didn't fill my timeline with links then people wouldn't feel compelled to click them and then I wouldn't feel so bad when anyone tilted their head in my general direction, even if it was a well-intentioned, heartfelt head-tilt.

And then I stopped writing altogether. Don't act shocked; it's the next logical step in the shut-down process. After all, the reason I began posting was so that when I tried to vanish (and I knew I would), there'd be some accountability. I took all TWO of those possibly (probably) innocent statements, and I spun them out of control until they absolutely dominated all of my self-esteem with questions and hesitation. Because this is my Achilles' heel -- wondering and doubting how people actually feel about me. Waiting for people to lose interest, find me tiresome, and walk away. It's nonsensical and overly dramatic and has virtually no basis in reality, but for some reason, none of that logic ever rears its head in those moments. So instead, my sad becomes too big, and others' happy becomes too loud, and it gives me the perfect excuse to shrivel up and fade and prove myself exactly right.

I amaze myself at my inability to identify my nonsense as it occurs.

So, last week, when I looked in the mirror, I knew that I had not been living what I was selling. I felt no better than a snake oil salesman promising new health and a new start. I came home, sat in front of my screen and stared. Nothing happened. No pieces fell into place; no lights magically came back on. But that's not how it works, and I know that. I still couldn't shake that doubt, so slyly tugging at my pocket, so I went back. I went back and read everything I've written here, and then I went back and read my journal. And then I went back to those links I posted; I read all the kind comments I could find from all the people I trust. I hoped that seeing would lead to believing and I would suddenly trust all of the good from others and ignore all of the bad brewing within.

And I sat in front of my blank screen last night, and I stared. Nothing happened. No pieces fell into place. No lights magically came back on.

Because that's just not how it works. Flowers don't blossom in the cracks of concrete jungles because anyone planted them there. Cactus blooms don't appear because someone else hauls water through the desert to feed them each day. Dandelion seeds scatter accidentally on the winds far more often than on the wishful whispers of a child. Bluebonnets cannot reappear year after year without dying and withering first.

They don't bloom because someone wants them to or even because someone wills them to.

They bloom because they can.

They bloom because they persevere.

They bloom in spite of their circumstances and not because of them.

And they bloom because sometimes, strangely enough, the very best thing for the strongest and most beautiful flowers is a truckload of shit thrown on them.

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