The Adult Card

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Dear Life, I need a break. Adulting is a 24/7/365 type of job. There are no breaks or reprieves. When you’ve been adulting as long as I have, eventually you hit a breaking point. Mine was about two hours ago. Not one thing I needed to go right has in the last week. And most of it is out of my control. As an adult, I know that I can’t change it. But honestly I’d really like to bury my head in my pillow and not get up for two weeks.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option. I don’t have the luxury of taking breaks. I don’t necessarily feel overwhelmed by what’s on my plate. I like most of the stuff on my plate. It’s just the way it’s being served. There’s not enough time for everything to get the attention it needs. There’s not enough money to really make life easier.

Instead there is just the churn of life. The routine of doing all the things you need to do every day to keep your official adult card. Go to work. Pay bills. Buy groceries. Deal with intolerable people. This is what being an adult is. Of course, some of us do it better than others.

Errors have been made that have impacted me negatively in the last week. I’d gladly blame myself, but I’m not the culprit. Lucky for me, those responsible aren’t accountable. So it’s up to me to show up, flash my adult card and turn on my I’m not taking any shit voice. This voice is usually reserved for AT&T, United Healthcare, the HOA, numerous other organizations that I am forced to do business with and occasionally my husband.

I imagine that he can see it in my eyes when I’m about to lose it. Yet, he never does. You know when you get so mad and frustrated that you are literally steaming. Yeah, that’s me right now just waiting for him to get home so I can spew. I’ll reiterate he’s done nothing wrong; my fire breathing is not directed at him. But he’s my person that gets to hear all of it. He signed up for this. I never hid that I was holding on by a thread.

The thread may have broken. It does every so often. Then I have to work real hard at returning to human form and rethreading the needle of my sanity. If any of this sounds shocking then good for you and your commitment to being sunshiny. I just can’t do it. If you asked me right now, “How are you?” I think it would be physically impossible for me to say, “well” or “fine” or any other normal response.

So what do I do when I’m under water and cannot adult any more. I write in the hope that it will make me feel better or at least just get it out of my head. Sometimes just writing words can dampen the fire. Even though I’d like to resign from adulting, that’s not really how life works. I have to get up every day and work and learn and grow. I have babies that depend on me, and people that care if I show up for life. So I’ll keep showing up, and I’ll keep writing.

And I will hold on to what’s to come, including a girl’s weekend and a trip to two places I’ve wanted to see my entire life.

I feel as though I’ve been an adult my entire life. So why hand in this card I’ve worked so hard for? After all, if life was all uphill, what fun would that be? I’m quite sure I’ll never have to find out.

My “Golden” Rules

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I can’t apologize for being real and saying what I think. I do always try to say it with respect and kindness. But I simply cannot be something I’m not.

At this point in my life, I can see no reason or benefit to be anything less than 100 percent real. So it’s very unlikely you’ll find me small talking or blowing hot air.

I’m not perfect, but I am imperfectly real. I strive to lead an authentic life. If you don’t like me, I don’t have any desire to change your mind. And if I don’t like you then that’s probably not going to change either. However, I’ll never be cruel. Instead I’ll do my best to avoid you.

I live by three “golden” rules. I hope they guide me in my actions and decisions. I fall short regularly. But I believe in the power and freedom of self awareness

Rule One: Be good to others

I long for a culture where condemnation and criticism of the choices of others isn’t the norm. I long for inclusion. Whatever your beliefs may be, they are yours. And my beliefs are mine. So if they are different, let’s agree to disagree. Worry less about my salvation and more about your own. So as long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s not my place to judge.

Being good to others is more than kindness and empathy. I’m not always great at these. I do realize that not everyone has the strength to pick herself up. There are a million horrible things that happen to us in life. You can waste your time with blame, or you can move on. You can’t do both. Choose wisely.

Being good to others is often about saying nothing. It’s about not being a judge or jury. It’s about not discounting the experiences of others. It’s their experience; not yours.

So when I live this rule, it’s not that I’m selfless and full of inspiration. I’m not. I do respect the views of others. So please respect mine. Our differences make us human. So why are they often what tears us apart?

Rule Two: Be good to animals

I’m suspicious of those without pets. Of my inner and extended circle, I can think of no one who doesn’t share their home with an animal or three. Having an animal makes every home better. But my rule extends beyond the domesticated. We have a duty to care for and protect animals. Yet most see animals as something to control or use.

So I worry about the dogs pacing the shelter floors. I worry about the elephants prized for their tusks and nearing extinction. I worry about the bears in Alaska who have lost critical protections.

My ask of anyone is to see the beauty in nature; a beauty created by animals and plants. They do not need man. They were here long before us and will probably survive us. People often say that humans have personified animals; that they simply don’t have feelings. I would argue with this all day. They may not be as complex as we are, which is probably a good thing, but they most definitely feel and grieve and love.

Rule Three: Be good to yourself

The hardest rule not to break, for we are all too often unkind to ourselves. I am my own worst critic. No one has ever been or ever will be harder on me than me. I’d say I’ve called a truce with myself. I try to have boundaries, so that yes I can push when necessary but also let off when I’m hitting the wall.

Someone told me the other day they had high expectations of me, and I answered, “I have high expectations of myself.” I expect to be perfect. As I’ve already told you, I’m not. So there’s this winding trail of disappointment.

I am honest with myself. It took me a long time to get here, to be self aware. It was work, and I didn’t do it alone. It’s peaceful though. It’s calming to know that I control my attitude and choices. Nothing nor no one has this power but me. Don’t ever surrender the power you have to be your own person. It’s hard to get back.

Be patient. Be considerate. Understand that if you are trying every day to be better and be authentic then you are doing great. You’ve survived everything that’s happened thus far, and hopefully can still smile.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Always know in your heart you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.” I hold this in my mind a lot. Maybe you will as well.

I’m no inspirational leader or motivational speaker. I’m just a woman who loves to write and is sometimes not afraid to be vulnerable and honest. I just have moments of courage, and they happen to come out in sentences. If my words every mean something to anyone then I’ll feel heard; I’ll feel purposeful. I’ll feel I’m following the rules.

This is Marriage

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My husband and I regularly have discussions about the bathroom habits of our dogs. Unfortunately, one of our dogs, Fawn, has had several accidents in the last week. So we’ve spent time trying to dissect what caused the poop on the floor. I’m not trying to be graphic, but this is marriage. If you’re unwilling to accept that much of it isn’t very exciting then it’s probably not for you.

We often say our schedule revolves around when they need go out, and that isn’t really a joke.  Along with the regular discussion about dog bathroom habits, there’s the eternal question of “What’s for dinner?” If I haven’t pre-planned the meal then this is the dreaded and loaded question. He likes everything; I like some things. So he always puts the pressure on me to decide. Sometimes though I just can’t make one more decision. I think 87 percent of our “disagreements” stem straight from this topic. So if anyone wants to plan our meals for us, we’re interested. But he is such a saint about it; it’s not easy to have to eat with me and my don’ts.

So, yes this is marriage. Marriage in the end often comes down to who you can stand to have most of your meals with. Because that’s what you do, you eat with the one you love.

The other frequent topics of conversation are the renovations. I’m not involved in the work really; I design and get out of the way. Yet, he likes to keep me updated on all the different problems that arise. For instance, there’s not a wall in this place that’s square. He’s told me about all of them. He’ll often go into detail about how he’s going to install something. I honestly stop listening. It’s not that I don’t care, but I don’t.

I can only take in so much information every day. And the information I refuse to retain is where things are located in Lowe’s. I know my stores; I can tell you where most anything is in the stores I most frequent. So I expect him to know where stuff is at Lowe’s. He does not. I usually have to actually go with him, and every time we do, I remind him, “This is your store.”

This is marriage; pretending to listen, hoping that the other person knows stuff you don’t. He has knowledge in his head, I could never absorb and vice versa. We’re a good team. We even each other out.

Essentially marriage is about really liking someone. It’s different than the love we feel. Love is a powerful emotion that’s rarely stable. It has peaks and valleys. I look at him sometimes and just think, “Damn, I love him.” And sometimes I look at him and think, “Damn, I want to smack him.” However, most every day, I’m pretty confident I like him. He doesn’t get on my nerves very often; although sometimes I’m just irritable, so it’s not really him. I’m a woman, my mood isn’t constant. That would be no fun.

So liking each other, that’s the “secret” to a long marriage. At the end of the day, I like talking to him. I like watching TV with him. I like that he’s prone to be silly and sing me back the end of the sentence I just said. He says this is to indicate he heard me. I think he just likes to sing.

Marriage is not for those chasing big highs or relentless passion. That’s not what happens when you create a routine or a schedule with someone. That’s marriage; less exciting more humdrum. I’m totally okay with that simply because he’s the person I most want to do nothing with.

Happy Birthday, Jen

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Today is a very special day; it’s the birthday of one of my favorite people. This amazing woman has been a constant in my life for over 25 years. I often write about my life and tell stories of my triumphs and tragedies. The story today is about my friend Jen.

Calling her a friend doesn’t really fully describe our relationship. She’s more than a friend, she’s family. The wonderful thing about adulthood is that you get to chose your family. I’m so glad we chose each other.

We met in middle school. I liked her wit and her bright spirit instantly. Our high school days were filled with the kind of memories you only have if you grew in a small town. We had a lot of fun, none of which I can repeat in this blog. Just in case her kids read it. Let’s just say we had many adventures, and we lived to remember it.

I almost lost her decades ago when she was in a bad car accident. Seeing her in the hospital was something I can still recall. But she never felt sorry for herself. We even laughed at our attempt to navigate a Wendy’s while she was using a walker.

Adolescence soon merged into adulthood. And by then I had already been dealt many blows. And she was there. No matter what heartbreak I had, she was there to listen and love me. It’s hard to find someone who always show up for you.

In all our years of friendship, I cannot recall an argument or harsh word. There have been times when we haven’t talked as much because you know, life. But she is someone I could call to be there. I’ve called her in tears many times, only to finish the call with a smile.

She has since grown to be an amazing wife, mother and neighbor. I know this because of how she lives her life, never judging, always forgiving. She is the epitome of selflessness. She’s much more selfless than I could ever dream of being. She makes every room brighter for being in it. Her kids are such lovely boys who love and respect their mom.

I do worry that she doesn’t do enough for herself. I encourage her to take time just for her. She deserves it.

Some of our best times have been lately. We are just so in sync with each other these days. We don’t see each other near enough to suit us, but we commit to making time for each other. I can be completely honest with her, showing her the good and imperfect parts of myself. There’s only a handful of people I genuinely trust, and she’s in that select group.

With her in my life, I’ve had much more laughter and love. I look forward to many more years of adventures with my pal. I’m so blessed to have this beautiful lady by my side in this crazy, amazing life.

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

A letter to my mom, 20 years later

Dear Mom,

This isn’t a regular day, but I don’t need an anniversary to remind me of how irrevocably my life changed 20 years ago. For years, I could barely function on this anniversary, although I don’t know why it’s called an anniversary. I’d rather not remember that day, and 20 years have certainly helped it fade. The truth is I wasn’t there. I was on the way back, but I felt it even before I knew it, like some seismic shift in my foundation. But you were not alone.

You were never alone. People loved you; your laugh, your wit, your brave honesty. People still love you, and I think of you every day. You are my anchor. You are my constant. You are still the opinion that matters most. For every decision I’ve had to make or obstacle that’s been in my way, your voice is the one I heard inside my head.

I am lucky for this. It’s strange maybe to say lucky. What’s lucky about me, the girl whose family died? Then I think of all the love, grace and drive you gave me, much more than most get in a 100 years. So, yes, I was lucky.

Even though you prepared me well for life and its many disappoints, I have made many mistakes. I’ve fallen into black holes that consumed me for years. I’ve not always done the right thing the first or second time. I know you forgive me. I know you understand why I’ve veered off course. I did the best I could without you. Because that’s the reality of these 20 years, learning to live without you.

I never stopped writing. Without it, I don’t know where all the fear and anger and pain would have gone. It helped me save some of the memories and face the truth. No one likes uncomfortable truths, but because you always faced your truth, it helped me find mine.

And after the horrors of the last 20 years and burning down all the tragedy to ash, I’ve arrived at some kind of happy. Happiness, I’ve learned, is something that nips at our hearts in moments. And I’ve had beautiful moments, the only thing missing was you. I’ve made a life for myself, probably not the one you imagined for me. But it’s a good life with the kind of people that don’t treat me like I’m damaged, rather they see my imperfections as evidence of a good and humble character. This life includes an amazing husband, who I think you’d love because of his sweet, calming soul. Your only objection may be that he’s a Cowboys fan.

I do wonder though if you’d be disappointed that I’m not a mom. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That wasn’t my path. It still hurts sometimes, but I look at the love and devotion I give to my animals. And it’s simply enough for me.

A million horrible and wonderful things have happened in the last 20 years, and for every one of them, you were the first person I wanted to tell. In a way I still do because I’m always talking to you. It’s the greatest language I know.

Your time as my mom helped me survive the life I’ve been living without you. It has given me a unique yet haunting perspective. It has pushed me to know very precisely how I want to leave this world; knowing I shared my stories, I worked hard, I loved fiercely and I took every adventure.

I do still think about what that parallel world would have been; the one where you live; the one where we get to be friends. Because you always told me, “I’m your mother, not your friend.”  I would have loved to have been your friend. All those moments that never happened. I won’t get over that; it can’t be mended. Glad to have finally learned that some scabs never heal, and some holes never get filled.

But I am honored to have been your daughter. It was one of the greatest parts of my life. Even though it wasn’t for long enough, and I would’ve learned so much more from you about life. I’d still choose you over and over again even though I know you’ll leave too soon.

So although this world hasn’t had you for 20 years, I know I never lost you, I carry you in my heart. That’s a place you can never leave.

Love,
Beth

I almost died last Tuesday

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I almost died last Tuesday. Okay that sounds super dramatic, and to be clear, I’m fine. I work in the downtown area of Charlotte, N.C. It’s not exactly pedestrian friendly. I’ve had close calls before, while I was in the crosswalk and had the green light. This was different. I was crossing one of the main roads on my way back to the office from running an errand. I’ve learned to hesitate a second or two even after the light comes on that says walk. I stepped out into the road, and an SUV ran the red light and literally came within inches of hitting me. A lady behind me even gasped. But as I said, I’m fine, not even a scratch. So what did I learn about myself in that split second?

I learned that it doesn’t take almost dying for me to know my priorities. I’m not suddenly going to start using YOLO as my mantra or seize the day. Because I’m already seizing the day, at least as much as I can.

You see, this isn’t my first brush with mortality. I’ve lost almost everyone that was important to me. And I’ve been in the room sitting across from the doctor hearing him say words like “cancer” and “surgery.” Maybe this gives me a unique perspective. Sometimes I’d probably trade that perspective to just have one more moment with my mom. But that’s not the path my life has taken. I often say, “Life rarely turns out as expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful.” I really believe this 84 percent of the time. I’m not perfect. I often get caught in the cobwebs of the past or the shininess of the future.

But I don’t think you need loss or trauma in your life to realize what’s important. I read something the other day, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” That’s a really powerful statement. We all have dreams that still haven’t quite come true. My biggest unrealized dream is to have one of my novels published and to finish my memoir. The routine of life gets in the way of dreams sometimes, but I want more than dreams; I really do want memories. I want to live a life that’s full of beauty as well as heartbreak. I understand that a life well lived has both because you have to take chances, fail terribly and pull yourself back up, which sometimes takes longer than you had planned. I want to see more than the five miles around where I live. I refuse to let fear keep me from experiencing life; whether that be traveling abroad or sharing my stories. I’m not paralyzed by what “might” happen. I understand the reality of what can happen.

I’m not completely fearless. My worries are not uncommon: bills, loved ones, rejection. But you know, I’m just not afraid of death. It’s inevitable. Nobody gets to bypass it. I just want to be sure that when that day comes, however it comes, that I lived a life, took every opportunity, lived by my own rules and left nothing on the table.

How do you really live your life? What keeps you brave?

I am a Feminist: No Apology Included

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It’s 2017, and unfortunately, some people still think I need a provider. An anonymous buyer paid for this billboard to express his freedom of speech and belief that “Real Men Provide, Real Women Appreciate It.”

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This story popped up in my news feed, and at first I didn’t pay much attention then I realized that this is actually in N.C., where I live. That doesn’t surprise me. In many areas of the state, this would be conventional thinking; however, I live in the largest city in the state, and Charlotte is more diverse. As diverse as any larger city may be, there are opinions across the board. Everyone has a right to their opinion. These are mine. I own them and am comfortable expressing them.

I understand that whoever chose to pay the money to put this on a billboard has the right to do so. But I would argue that donating that money to a women’s shelter or other nonprofit would have been a better use of the money.

As a feminist, it does bother me that in some people’s opinion, my husband should do all the providing. But I’ve been paying my own way for all of my life. We are a two income household, and he does his part, which I appreciate. I’m not ashamed to say I make more money than him. I have never expected any man to pay my way. I learned this from my mom, who was a single mom who got little child support and no other help. My lesson from a young age was take care of yourself.

On the subject of feminism, it was recently brought to my attention that some think the classic definition of feminism is to be “anti-man and pro-abortion.” I had no idea. I thought being a feminist was about wanting to be on equal ground. As a feminist, I don’t hate men, even though I have many reasons to. I could write long paragraphs about all the horrible things that men have done to me over the years. I won’t. Those experiences don’t dictate my worth; I do.

My personal definition of feminism is that I believe gender should have nothing to do with opportunity. I should be given opportunity based on my skills and my talent. I want to see a day when they don’t say “female” in front of leaders or entrepreneurs who happen to be women. We don’t do that for men, except for the phrase “male nurse” because for some reason we need to make it okay for a man to be a nurse.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? From a young age, we are given these gender identities. Depending on how progressive your household was, you, as a girl, may have only been given dolls as toys and not balls. My mom was athletic and loved sports so I knew it was okay to be interested in things based on what I liked not what my gender was. Sports have never been my thing so I gravitated toward dance and more feminine activities. But I felt as though I didn’t have limits, unless they were self-imposed.

In my career, there have definitely been times when I knew I was getting paid less as a woman or wasn’t being given the opportunities to grow. I think every woman who has a career has probably experienced something akin to this. I feel a responsibility to be a strong voice for women. I shouldn’t have to apologize for being a feminist. It’s become an ugly word, one that conjures up stereotypes and bitterness. Has it become less powerful now that it’s a label? I love words. I think they can be very powerful. They can also be taken out of context or misconstrued. I’m just wondering how we got to this place. Strong women are the backbone of society. We work more hours and still are the primary caretakers. Is this fair? No, but it’s reality.

I’m not writing this to start an argument, but I wouldn’t mind a discussion. Do you think feminist is a negative word? What about the billboard? Is it misogynistic? Or a message to men to provide? To me, I’m not offended by it. I know where I stand. I am a feminist; no apology included.