If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do, who would you want most to spend your time with, what kind of person would you be?
I am not certain why, but I’ve felt deep inside for awhile now that something is coming for me. For some reason, I keep feeling like it’ll be a stroke, or something related to my heart. I cannot explain it, and I am hopeful it is just a bought of anxiety that is presenting only cerebrally, yet I feel still that I must explore it, perhaps if I am fortunate stumble upon some deep reason why now I fear death.
It isn’t so much my own ultimate destination, whether God sees me, loves me, or if I’ll end up in heaven, but rather, those I’ll leave behind should I perish untimely and quick. I know firsthand the agony of losing my mother when I was 21, and she only 39 years old, and the hole it left in my life is evident every day since. I worry what heartbreak my children would face should they too lose their mother well before old age, and when I consider my mortality, that is of the utmost concern. I can feel what they would feel, and I know I’d have no recourse, no way to stop and take away their pain, and it tears me apart to think I could leave them and then miss the rest of their lives.
I tremble now, just thinking it. I know that I don’t treat my body as well as I could, there are vices I hold onto that no doubt would be the cause of my demise should I not curb my nicotine habit or stop drinking entirely (I fear alcoholism as this is what took my mom, so I’m VERY aware of the danger); these things plagued my mother as well, though I am far less at their mercy than she was, nonetheless I am wise enough to realize I should stop. I am selfish though, and if I am honest realize these things already take me from my children for the time that is wasted consuming harmful substances that have the power to end me… Still, I find myself weighing the cost too often, which is one of the most difficult truths to admit – I guess, at least, I am honest about it and know what I am facing in myself to change this fate. It is a difficult and painful but forthright knowing, that I too am just as weak-willed to succumb to the things of this world we consume for pleasure that have the ability to kill us. I learned from my mother that one thing, the difference is, I still have the chance to change it, at least, I hope.
As I survey the room I am in now, I see the material life I’ve amassed. The furniture, the comfortable mattress beneath me presently, the art, my yoga mat that I find most benefit from… Things. These will all end up rotting away in a landfill someday, yet now they make up a portrait of my physical existence; the clothes I wear, the makeup, the toothbrush and the towel atop my head drying my recently washed hair.
I don’t want to just amount to a collection of worthless possessions, yet want to reach for something meaningful, much deeper than just leaving behind stuff to let the world know I was here.
The laughter on my son’s face.
The way Delaney and I can look straight into each other’s eyes and not budge from the gaze, but see straight into each other’s hearts.
The sweetness of Jemma’s sensitive heart, moments when I hold her because she’s afraid or sad, when she allows me in to the places that are difficult and scary, and there I let my love surround her to keep her safe.
The long and honest talks Layla has with me, being so honest about her struggles with friends, honest about her feelings, honest about her anger and frustration, bringing me into that world when most children her age want nothing to do with parents, let alone divulge the hard parts honestly.
The way their hands fit in mine, fighting over who gets to stand on either side of me as we walk into the super market just to have my fingers clasped with theirs.
… I don’t want my life to be about me, entirely, nor about the things I own or what I wear or whether my skin betrays me by some undiagnosable condition that makes me afraid to face the world. I don’t want it to be about my temper and my trauma, past hurts that still dictate who I am today and how I can behave so poorly. Fits of rage at times, a curled-up ball on the bathroom floor in the dumps of depression, anxiety pulsing through my chest like an unstoppable wild fire. So much darkness can course through me and sometimes it feels like a force I cannot control, so heavy tethered to me as though no love, no light, can penetrate this endless pit of hell I often dwell helplessly within.
It is inside me, to be this person; I am capable of being this, but I know my life is too short, I know right now even writing this is proof I understand that I CAN change it, and that I need to.
I want my daughters, my son, to look up at their mother and see a radiant beaming light of love.
I want my son to be thankful he was adopted into this family and not resent his mother, me, for not being better than the one he couldn’t stay with.
I want my daughters to learn what a woman should be, what a mother should be, and want to grow up and be like me.
I want to access the pureness of my soul, that love that can reach even the pit of hell and call forth goodness from it, because I know I am this, I know I have this inside of me, I just too quickly let it lose to darkness, fear, anger… But, I am tired of that struggle.
I cannot leave my children, the way my mother left me. I just… cannot do that. I cannot be that. That cannot be my story, how this all ends.
I dream to watch my children become parents themselves one day. I dream to help them as they navigate love and relationship, friendships, finances, careers, hardship, trials, and triumphs. I dream to be the one they call at 2am because they got too drunk at some party (let’s face it, it’ll happen) and they’ll know I’ll help them through it and be the voice of reason when they sober up and need to face the mistake. I dream to be the one she calls when the first boy breaks her heart and it hurts so much she doesn’t understand how she’ll get through it, and offer up advice because I’ve been there, too. I dream to be the one he calls when he needs to decide which path to take after college, should he travel or settle down with the sweetheart and start a family. I dream… to be there.
To be… HERE, now.
You know, sometimes as I’m writing something like this, it’s more about navigating the truth of my experience than it is putting together some coherent narrative or tell some story, rather that I spill these words so easily from some place inside me, and work through in real time what is happening within. I wish more people could do this, had this drive, had these words, and I don’t consider my honesty as a fault here, though it might make some uncomfortable to have me reveal the worst about me.
Life is too short, and I don’t want to leave my babies.
I don’t want to feel some shock in my chest and worry this will be the day smoking takes me. I don’t want to drink too much and never wake up like my mother did. I don’t want to waste away slowly because I’m too stubborn and selfish to stop these things now, today, because I convince myself it would be too hard to let these friends fall away. Because they are friends, but they’re killing me. How is that for being honest?
If I want to be there when my children grow up. If I truly want that… There isn’t an alternative.
I know that I have a place beside my mother, I have a place where my nana and my grandpas and my nephew and the baby I lost all reside, where God is, where there isn’t any more pain for any of us. I know that, deeply, I know it – I always have since I was very young. I think my assurance comes from being so fragile when I was born, I’ve said this before but I know I died when I was brand new, at least for a moment, because coming into this world, from whence I came, was really painful.
They say your soul chooses, before you come, which life you will have. I’m pretty convinced that is true, but I still sometimes laugh at my decision, this flesh of me, this person they call Christina – shit, I’m not even sure that’s my real name… I laugh that I chose this story, this place and time, this body. I laugh because since my first breathe it’s been a struggle. I’ve laid that out before, it isn’t hard to find in the blog – but I’ll just say, I’ve been through a lot.
I’ve known and felt safe in great love, and I lost it cruelly. I’ve had a gun pointed at the back of my skull while some meth addict tied me up and robbed my house. I’ve experienced divorce, not once, but twice, and was left with literally no money with two small children to care for. On and on it goes, on and on, and it all began with coming into this world backwards, feet first, and then splayed out on a surgeons table with my tiny heart cut open to fix some hole – nowadays, you know how they fix that particular congenital defect? With a single pill of aspirin! Yet, I’ve got a six-inch scar in my back because back then the best they had was to slice open my one pound eleven-ounce body with sheer terrifying hope I wouldn’t die right there on that table.
I know that I am here for a purpose, I also know it hasn’t been fulfilled yet, and I know that writing is part of this, for me. I am meant to be a writer, that I know deep in my gut. I take something as simple as words and use them to weave this life into something others can see, perhaps even relate to, and I use them more honestly than anything else I’ve got. Writing is my gift; it is what I am meant to do.
Yet I’m still figuring out who I’m meant to be.
These are not the same.
Who I want to be is the mother to four beautiful, amazing, smart, and loving children. Who I want to be is someone that does whatever she can so that they have me around, because they’re going to need me as life goes on. Who I want to be is someone whom can look beyond her selfishness and love better, give more, be… More than I’ve been. For them, but also because it doesn’t matter what I own, what I look like, at the end. It doesn’t matter, because what defines my life is deeper than anything material I’ll leave behind when I go.
I want love to be the hallmark of my life, deeply knowing I did all I could to give it as freely as I would want it given back to me, yet doing it without expectation that it will be. I want to be the kind of person that says I love you and means it enough to make this time count, these days I’ve been given. I want to work past my shit, really let it go, and find the place where goodness and light appear more often than darkness and pain. I want to set down the burdens of all the things I know I do that hold me back, and instead, reach for something greater than my excuses for why I can’t let it go, something more fruitful than temporary relief when I know it’ll take me too early anyway, so why not stop it now? Ha, I’ll write this and go do it anyway, right? Damn I know myself too well, but these are goals, and my progression may be slow at first, and I have to let that be okay – nothing changes quickly and I need to be reasonable.
I know where I want to go, and who I want to be.
I know that I don’t fear death for my soul, because I know where I’m going, I just don’t want to leave my babies, I don’t want them to feel that for as long as I can help it.
So, I’ve written all this, now what?
One moment at a time.
Something to work towards; better than I’ve been, more than I am, for them – for their hearts to be unbroken by the things I didn’t change. Another second chance when I’ve had fifty-thousand before now, but God, be merciful on my bruised and sensitive heart, and hear my prayers. I know what I am facing, it’s just little old Me, and the story I chose. Please, don’t take me too soon, but let me fulfil a purpose greater than I’ve held myself back from, let me breathe, let my heart beat, let me awaken tomorrow and give more than I gave today – working towards something I want… To grow old, to be beside my children for all the moments of their lives, to be an example of someone they’d want to be like. Take me, take these words, and hold me to it as I do the work of changing so that I do not die and leave before my hair is grey and my hands are tired. It is all I want, to have time.
Time, and love. The kind of love I’d want to have, let me become that.