The Story of Me

I have a nasty habit. A destructive, cruel and mean streak that flays skin.

That damages the soul.

A habit that finds the weak spaces and places and, like molten lava on bare land, burns chaos into being.

I hold myself up to the blinding light of what I think I should be, must be, have to be, and am meant to be – for others.

Never for myself. Never valuing me. Who I am – above who others think I am.

I guess that the very act of acknowledging the glitch in the process is the first step to healing?

The story you have for me, is not the story I have for me.

And my story of me is what is important.

I will wait.

I am not quite sure why, but today I thought about death. About suddenly passing on, with no goodbyes. No final curtains. No warning.

I thought about what would be left. What is still unsaid. What will maybe never be said. I wondered if people would say good things about me? Or if it would barely register?

I thought about the things I love. And the things that love me.

The things that I carry. And the things that carry me.

And I thought I would write this. So that it is forever. It is not meant to be a eulogy. Maybe one day. But not right at this moment.

To anyone that reads this. To whoever needs this. To whoever.

Please take care of the things I love. The places and people that have been important. Love the creatures that have kept me warm. The beings that comfort and give me life.

Please care for the things I leave behind. The little things, that matter to no one but me. The shared moments that form over a lifetime.

Please be kind to yourself. In the going about of your life. I have been so hard on who I am, that sometimes I have forgotten to be who I am. Never make that mistake.

Please believe that you are stronger than you thought. No one survives this world with their perfection intact. That does not make you any less perfect.

Please believe that someone, somewhere, loves you. Here or not. Aware or not. Alive or not. Someone, something loves you. Gives you Grace. Hopes for your Grace.

Please remember to breathe. And enjoy the things that really matter. For too long, I missed the little things. The fluffy things. The hopeful things. The pure joy of the breath. Don’t let a moment pass without finding a joy in those little things. In the breath of life. The breath of a friend. The breath of hope.

I have always loved you.

If you ever doubted it, I miss you.

If you ever thought you needed it, I forgive you.

I hope you forgive me.

Please believe that I wait. We all do. When that time comes.

I will wait. For all the things that I love. And all the things that I have ever loved.

I will wait.

Me

Hello.
You don’t know me. Not yet anyway. I am you, 27 years on.

You turned 40 the other day. It came and it went much like any other day. There was some celebration, there was some sadness. But it passed. Much like any other day.

You worry so much about not fitting in. About not having friends. About what people think of you. About whether your mom and your dad value you. About whether your brother and your sister love you.

Stop worrying. All those nights of tears and fretting get you absolutely nowhere. Not one bit of the energy you expended ever changed anything anyone ever thought of you, did for you or meant to you.

Stop worrying Jessie. You will be ok.

I have to tell you that your dad dies soon. A massive heart attack. Norine comes, and Stephen eventually. And then they leave and it is just you and mom.

In time, you forget what he looked like. You forget what he sounded like. You forget who he was. Because you barely knew him. All that becomes important is whether or not he was or is proud of you. And it doesn’t matter one way or the other. The only person who has to be proud of you, is you. Learn this now. Learn it well. Because you will fight this demon all your life. And it will win. Every time someone doesn’t measure up to the ideals you have set for them. Every time someone leaves. Every time someone disappoints you. Somehow, you manage to turn it into something you did wrong.

Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t take other people’s shit on as your own. And try to remember your dad as best you can, for as long as you can. Because you will miss who you think he was, who you hoped he was, who you believed him to be every day for the rest of your life.

Over time, your mother develops an unhealthy attachment to you. Your nature, and her nature, clash and crash and nothing good comes of it. It will shape you and affect you in ways that no one will ever understand. Don’t let it. So much of the heartbreak you face, comes from this one simple fact. Your mother, however unintentionally, will mould you into a soul that is very damaged. Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t let another person’s weakness become your own. But remember always, she did her best. It may not have been good enough for you, but it was her best. Don’t turn away from her. Love her as best you can. Because she is your mom. And one day, she will be all the family you have close to you.

When you get a bit older you are going to fuck up monumentally. You will think your life has ended. You will think you will never recover. You will believe that you are done. Don’t. Stop. It makes you strong in ways that no other person will ever be strong. Although the fear of it will haunt you forever. You will recover. You will get better. You will be okay. I promise. Just keep breathing. One breath at a time. This one moment does not define who you are. You fucked up. You are not a fuck up.

Even older still and you will get sick. Some weird mystery illness that they still argue about. Stop. Don’t let any doctor who you think knows better, tell you who you are. Don’t let them pump you full of the meds that will balloon you to 170kg’s. Don’t let them. Question everything. Make sure it makes sense.

Older still, and you will realise that you are ok alone. But that being alone all the time is hard. It is hard to never have anyone to rely on. It is hard to do everything alone. But you will find a few souls that hang out in the periphery of a life. Always there. They love you. Find them. Keep them close. You will need them.

One day, you will realise that your family is made up of so many animals. People will laugh at you when you call a dog your closest. Don’t care what they say. Every single life in this life, is worth love. Love them completely. Time will come when they will become your reason for waking. Your reason for going home. Your reason to be.

So much doom and gloom. So much to face in a short life.

And I haven’t even really started.

So let me tell you this.

You are beautiful Jessie. You are compassionate and kind and generous and smart and funny. You are loyal and true.

You are beautiful.

I am proud of you.

Every little bit of you.

Every big bit of you.

Every broken bit of you.

Every whole bit of you.

Learn your lesson Jessie. You matter to the only person that matters.

Yourself.

You are exactly who you are meant to be.

And you are awesome.

Reflections

This last year has been a journey into the vast unknown for me. This is what I learnt:

I am not the black sheep I always thought I was. Yes, I once was a black sheep, but I have finally stopped letting that one moment of stupid define me. Mostly. Work in progress.

I am not the younger, weaker, less reliable sibling. Yes, in my life I have probably chosen or been manipulating into being that one, one too many times. That is not who I am. I have picked up a load that I would not have chosen for myself, and I have carried it rather well.

I empathize too easily. Far, far too easily. Sometimes, you have to let people deal with their own shit. Regardless of how much easier if would be if you did it for them.

I have more, and better, friends than I thought I did. Friends that take a mommy chicken when I can’t. Friends that bring me pretzels because I asked for them.  Friends that encourage and motivate and sometimes, just listen. Friends that go out of their way to be friends.

Making new friends is hard. So value the ones you have.

I need to sleep 8 hours minimum a night. If I don’t, the emotions in my head get too big for me. There is no fault in that, it runs in our family. Ensuring I get 8 hours plus a night, most nights, is me prioritizing me.

Losing a family is harder than I can ever tell anyone. But it is ok too. Loving someone means wanting what is best for them. Even if it doesn’t suit me.

It doesn’t matter how good you are, how loyal or true or kind or generous or understanding. Sometimes, because of the space that others find themselves in, you have to close a door and leave someone behind. Mourn the loss, forgive the hurt, remember the laughs. And move on.

Sometimes the load you carry feels like it will crush you into the ground. It rarely does. Unless you let it. Beyond all else, this year has taught me that actually, I am pretty damn fabulous.

Stronger than I thought.

Smarter and funnier than I believed.

Truer to my nature than others would have me believe.

Fat, fabulous, in control.

I think that sums it.

My weight is still an issue. Because I let it be. Because of massive doses of medication. Because I never learnt how to control it. But I keep trying. And despite what others say – trying matters. None of us are perfect.

Fabulous because I am me. And those that know me, will attest to that.

In control. Because what else is there?

Picture by Ann Gadd – http://artforewe.co.za/ and http://dogmaticart.co.za/

Revisited

Anyone who knows me probably needs to know that my sister and I (and I suspect my mother) have this weird holey / fluid / trans-dimensional annoying memory issue. We forget. We know we forget, but because the ‘thing’ is forgotten, we don’t miss it. Till someone says something like “Remember that time” and we really, really don’t.

This is a blog I wrote 363 days ago. Perhaps read if you want some context, but it is not necessary. I remember vowing to never age another day, but the actual writing of this piece has slipped into that other dimension filled with half bits of my memory. Reading it now I recognize the tone as me, and I can appreciate the idea behind it, but it is not quite right. Just a feeling of ‘offness’ and a vague disconnect.

It was written before the landscape changed so dramatically. And more water has flowed under my metaphorical bridges than I knew existed. Perhaps that is why it doesn’t sit well now. So here is version 4.0.

I turn 40 in a few days. Presents are still mandatory because I love getting them a whole bunch.

Thing is – I don’t feel 40. I don’t even feel 29 or 19. Apart from a whole lot more darkness in my heart and spirit, buffered by hope and knowledge, I don’t feel like time has passed.

So forgive me if I reflect.

I have loved. Or thought I loved. And lost very badly. I learnt along the way that it wasn’t love. It was the broken pieces of my nature that needed to fix / be loved / help. I have yet to love and be loved in the way Hollywood would have us believe is our life’s goal. Doesn’t matter though. For I have learnt to love myself for who I am. More so every day. The journey is ongoing.

I have cried for friends that have passed me by. But I have learnt that those that are meant to stay, do. And those that leave make space for better ones.

I have buried a father I barely knew. Barely remember. He died too young and because of it, I grew up alone with a broken mother. I have learnt to forgive him, and God, for the reality I found myself in. And I look forward to meeting him again one day. Perhaps he will even be proud of me.

I have learnt to accept a mother that is damaged. Still she manipulates and plays on my feelings and still my nature allows it. But I have come to realize that she is not doing it out of vindictiveness or malice. She is simply broken in her own way, and was perhaps never afforded the opportunity to heal herself. She is my mother, she is old, and I love her. I will not abandon her because of her faults. I have my own, and I hope they do not become the sum of me, as they have her.

I have made my own version of an immediate family. Friends, animals, my mother. A sister I never thought I would get along with, who carries me more than she should. A sister who has left to follow her own path. A hard path. One I do not know if I would be brave enough to chose. And for all the times that she has carried me, I will try to carry her this time. These people and these creatures care for me and I care for them. And in the dark moments – that is enough. Love is always enough. 

Forgive me if I look forward.

I will be who I am. That may seem to be a strange statement, but it has taken me an age to accept that I am me. And it has taken me even longer to just be me. Every day, who I am gets easier. I find that my God has of late placed me in places and with people who just enjoy me. I can see it in them and in their interactions with me. That joy means more to my self esteem than I can ever explain. Or perhaps, He has always surrounded me with these fine souls, it is only now that I can see them. 

I will keep dreaming of the day that I get to sit on a train as it slowly winds its way through to Alaska. Or Russia. Remembering another train and the sound of a carriage going over tracks and a father and a family. A time before it was all gone. Perhaps someone will join me. Perhaps I will be alone. Perhaps I will never make it there. Doesn’t matter. The art of dreaming is just as important as the dream. 

I will strive to be the healthiest I can be. Every day my lungs get a little better I think. And every day I hope to lose a tiny bit more weight. One day – I will walk into a shop and buy a small to medium pair of pants off the rack. I am not far from this. I have avoided hospital for an age now and am off most of the medicines that make me feel so terrible. Baby steps will get you there as well. 

I will try to write more. Because in the writing I find peace. Allot of tears, but also peace.

I will love my family as much as I can. No soul is meant to walk this world alone.

I will love my God as I always have. He has seen me through some serious darkness. With patience and love.

I will be who I am, love who I care for, dream big, diet more, exercise allot and write.

I will be who I was made to be.

Every day.

It’s gonna be Epic

For almost 40 years I have existed.

True to the ideals and standards that society, circumstance and family impose on us.

Forever striving for an unrealistic version of my best self.

For almost 40 years I have struggled and tried and cried and chafed against the restrictions I have put on my own self.

For almost 40 years I have not quite fully embraced my own path.

I have never found the way to my heart, my hope, my love and my joy, unequalled and without judgment, settling and doubt.

For many, I have come a long way. They see this version of me that is completely foreign to the version of me that they used to know.

For some, those who have circled my orbit for longer, is this version of me any different to the one they have always known?

Does it matter?

Or have I finally come to realize that I can be the version of me that I chose? That I decide? That I like? That I embrace? That I have found, after 40 years of struggling to be me?

The one me that loves so completely that any creature is welcome?

The one me that is loyal and true and kind and generous?

The one me that finds joy in the art of a lost art?

The one me that draws her perfection on her body?

The one me that finds faith in her version of a God?

The one me that is actually pretty damn fine?

We all have a need to be accepted and loved.

For too long I have not accepted and loved myself.

So I shall stand before this metaphorical mirror and look at my emergent self.

I am.

I was.

But now I am. And I am so much more than you thought I could be. Than I thought I could be.

I am true.

I am bold.

I am.

Watch me.

I have a feeling it’s gonna be epic.

Lessons at 40…

I turn 40 this month, here are 10 things that I have learnt:

  1. Tattoos are not as painful as you think they are. Except when they are. And when they are, it really is all in the mind.

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  1. Sometimes, when your body is not perfect and you struggle to accept it, you put beautiful and meaningful things on it just because they are beautiful and meaningful. And because it is still my body. And I will find a way to accept it.

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  1. Finances are freaking hard. They should teach it to you in school. Really. You are busy learning habits (good or bad) from your parents before you even have money. Then in your 20’s you start to implement those habits and then your 30’s hits you and whammo – OH CRAP central. So I decided that all is not lost. I still have a good 25 years left to fix stuff. Step one – henceforth, I shall be requesting cash donations, cash presents and cash contributions from all and sundry. Anyone?
  1. Cats are moody. Moody as hell. Except when they are not. Which is not often. More often than not, they will scope you out from a distance, evilly plotting all sorts of plotable stuff. But when they love you, there is little better than hearing a cat purr and watching them smurgle. Oh and cats on catnip. Best. Short Movie. Ever.

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  1. Dogs are love. Absolute love. If you were to ask God to personify love, He would tell you that He already has. Also loyalty, acceptance, joy and happiness

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  1. Family is not just blood. If you are lucky, they are introverts and extroverts from all over the globe and they get you. Even when they don’t.
  1. Living is not just what they tell you in the movies. Living is what you chose for yourself. As outside of the norm as it might seem to others.
  1. Accept who you are. You are not perfect. But you are perfectly you. Never let anyone tell you any different.
  1. I do not understand people. People are complex and mean and kind and honest and liars and evil and good and a pain in the ass. Animals are simple. They are what they are, within the boundaries of their species. Unless you set a human on them.
  1. Life at 40 is not over. It is not downhill. It is not the twilight of my whatever. It is much like any other year. It is learning and loving and finding and joy and acceptance.

I never followed the path society seems to dictate to us from the cradle. I never had the husband, station wagon, 2.5 children, white picket fence, and divorce. I did not fit that mold. I don’t think I ever will.

I follow my own path. It has been hard. Harder than I can maybe put into words.

I have failed so spectacularly on occasion that Hollywood could make a blockbuster movie of just the snippets. Melissa McCarthy would play me. Funny, sarcastic, deadpan as hell.

Other times I have let what others think of me interfere with who I am. Too often I put the ideas and opinions of others ahead of me. And sometimes I feel a concrete block of not being enough, like an actual weight on my shoulders, trying to press me into oblivion.

But I have learnt. I am beautiful. With beautiful things on a not so perfect body. And it is my own perfection.

I am unique. I am singular. As are you. In whichever form you chose for yourself.

The only person I need to be enough for, is me.

And I am enough.

I am

I got caught up in the idea that I had wasted some of my life the other day. Wasted it on not feeling good enough, not being thin enough, not being enough really.

Wasted it on doubting myself. Doubting my abilities. Doubting my inner being.

Wasted it on endlessly looking for …. Peace? Acceptance? Love?

Wasted it on people who don’t deserve time. On endeavors that I knew would harm me? Collecting stuff that ultimately adds no value?

Except, the idea occurred to me, that every single thing I have ever done, has led me to here. Every person, every fault, every word, every endeavor, every ‘thing’ I have coveted / wanted / needed, every failed relationship, every miserable moment.

Every glorious moment.

Every honorable friend.

Every smile, every laugh, every step on a very hard road.

They have all brought me to this place where I drove home from bootcamp last night singing and dancing to some silly song that I don’t even remember anymore. But I remember dancing.

Because bootcamp bitches. But more so because

Joy….

Fit….

Love for self….

Acceptance of self….

Doing the best I can, and actually doing it.

Being the best I can be, even it if it is not perfect, it being enough.

Facing life head-on. With a smile and a laugh and a joy that I have not had before.

Because I am. I am loud. I am the carrier of a bit of excess weight. I am sarcastic. I am self-conscious. I am too often lost. I am too often doubtful. I am kind. I am loving. I am honorable. I am a good friend. I am a brilliant daughter and sister. I am not alone as long as there are friends. My friends are not alone as long as I breathe. I am courageous. I am hard working. I am brave. I am too often sad. I am more often loved.

I am the best of me.

I am.