So, it’s my birthday. Last night, I was lying in bed talking to an old high school friend, and I made the comment that I feel old. But, when I talk to this particular friend of mine, I inevitably revert back to my late-1990s self and suddenly I’m 18 years old again, in all my blissfully ignorant innocence. I love that. I like remembering what it was like to be 18: Back when the most stressful part of my day was trying to decide which outfit looked cutest. Back when my family life was simple, and I hadn’t yet lived through my parents’ divorce. Back when having children was something I thought about with an eye to the semi-far distant future. Back when I thought I was worldly, but I see now that I was incredibly innocent and surprisingly sheltered from the darker parts of life. I’m not gonna lie…getting older is a weird business. Sometimes I look in the mirror and am surprised to see an old lady in a fat suit staring back at me. Is that really me?! Yep…it’s you alright. Own it, girl. Seriously, people, I am 35 years old. As in…half a decade away from 40. What the hell, man? When did I get so old, anyway?
I think back to high school, and realize that, for me, high school was SEVENTEEN FREAKING YEARS AGO!! Wow. Just…wow. I totally loved high school. Most people talk about how college was so much fun, but if I had to pick a time in my life that was the most fun, I think I’d choose high school. Sometimes I miss my high school self. Everything in my world seemed so much more black and white then. I’ve always considered myself kind of a shades of gray type of person, but the fact is, I really had no idea what the heck gray even looked like 17 years ago. Although I think I’ve always had an open mind, when I was in high school, I hadn’t been exposed to any ideas that really stretched me or made me seriously explore what I had been taught. Really, it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve felt compelled to truly examine my beliefs and figure out for myself if I genuinely believe what I’d always been told was true. Frankly, it’s been an incredibly painful progression, but I have learned so much about myself that I feel like the pain is a necessary part of a genuinely beautiful process.
So…now that I’m practically over the hill, what have I learned that’s worth mentioning?
I’ve learned that humans are amazing creatures that can do some really hard things. In particular, I've learned that I can do hard things. Like, lots of hard things. Like, lots of hard things over a fairly long period of time…on almost no sleep, with snot and occasionally poo on my clothes, and without completely losing my mind. Lots of people look at all my runts and say, “Man, I don’t know how you do it!” and my reply is always, “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a choice!” Hahaha. No, but, for real, y’all…when the girlies were little, I learned that there was a surprising number of things I could do with one – or sometimes even two – human beings hanging from my boobs enjoying a nice snack or meal. I learned that I can handle being the sole responsible adult in a house where 3 toddlers had a stomach bug that caused copious amounts of vomit and diarrhea, all while I was 6 months pregnant. (My mom and Bryan timed their vacation perfectly, so as to avoid all the fun of Barf and Poo Fest 2012…by far the worst barf and poo experience of my life thus far.) I learned how to comfort a 2 year old who missed his daddy and didn’t understand why he wouldn’t be back for a long, long time, and I learned to humbly and *hopefully* graciously accept more help than I’ve ever been able to give or can ever hope to pay back. I learned that its ok to need people, that I can’t do everything by myself, that interdependence is often superior to independence, and that my Heavenly Father and my Savior remember me even when I’m so focused on just surviving another day that I forget to appropriately remember them. With God, all things are possible, and we can do hard things.
I think I’ve also learned a lot about relationships. Mostly, I’ve learned what not to do, but I like to think I’ve learned a little about what works, too. Many of you know by now that I filed for divorce. It was one of the hardest, but most necessary things I’ve ever done, and I’ve learned so much as I’ve dealt with this struggle in my life. I’ve learned that you can’t love anyone enough to make them love you back the way you need to be loved if they don’t want, or don’t know how, to do it. I’ve learned that loyalty isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be…that for loyalty to be binding and precious, it can’t be one-sided, and that one-sided loyalty is really just sad, not noble or honorable. I’ve learned that I am capable of acting in ways that embarrass me and make me ashamed of myself when I am hurt and angry, and I think I’ve hopefully learned how to better control that part of me. My dad likes to tell his players’ parents at the beginning of each season, “Everyone has a little crazy in them. Your job is to keep your crazy under control this season because I don’t want to see it and it has no place here.” I think I’ve learned to deal with my crazy, and I’ve learned how to recognize the things that make me crazy and take care of myself so that they don’t drive me to do stupid things that I’ll regret later. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to put others’ needs before your own, you have to let go of things you can’t control, and I’ve learned that letting go is not the same as giving up. That last one was an especially tough lesson that I think I am relearning every day. Letting go is not the same as giving up. When I think about letting go, I think about William, the main character in the movie A Knight’s Tale, who says, “It is not in me to withdraw.” I often feel this way – like no matter what, if I’ve made a commitment, I cannot withdraw. Although I think I’ve learned a lot about letting go, I feel like my initial thought is always that it is more honorable to go down with a sinking ship than to take a step back and say, “Yeah…no, this really isn’t going to work for me. Let’s figure something else out, or I’m going to have to let this go because the path we’re on is not acceptable to me.” Really, my kids are the ones who forced me to learn this lesson. I had no choice but to learn it, because I quickly realized that these little monkeys are stuck to me like glue, so if I go down with the ship, they’re coming along for the ride, and THAT was not acceptable to me. So, in all of my relationships, I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that you have to let go of the things you can’t control, and that letting go is not the same as giving up.
Recently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that I am something of a feminist. Not the “burn your bra” and “never shave your armpits or legs again” kind of feminist, (these ideas don’t bother me, they’re just definitely not for me), but more of a, “Hm, this is how I’ve always been, and now I realize that maybe feminism is a term that fits my belief system” kind of feminist. For a long time, I resisted the feminist label. Then one day, I remember reading something derogatory that was written about feminists, and thinking to myself, “Hey! They’re talking about us!” Then, I immediately thought, “US?! Wait…am I a FEMINIST?! What the freaking hell?!” So, yeah…SURPRISE. It sure surprised the heck out of me, I’ll tell you that much. Really, like I said, I think it just put a label on something that I’ve been all along. I’ve always had a strong sense of “fairness” and I think feminism stems from the part of me that wants for things to be fair. A wise teacher once told me, “Fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets exactly the same thing. It means that everyone gets exactly what he/she needs in order to be successful.” I love that, and when I think about feminism, that’s what feels true to me. We don’t all need exactly the same thing, but we all deserve to get exactly what we need to be successful. Anyway, along those lines, I’ve learned that we all need different things, and I have happily discovered that I have a love of people that runs much deeper than I originally thought myself capable. Frankly, I’ve always kind of characterized myself as a people-hater. Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but for as long as I can remember, upon meeting new people, my initial reaction was always to dislike them until they showed me a reason why they were likable. Weird, right? But, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to try to love people for who they are, as opposed to who I want them to be. Again with the letting go…it’s so much easier to love people for who they are when you learn to let go of the idea that you have any control over who they decide to be. My oldest son teaches me this every day. We are so similar in many ways, and so different in others, and it is a huge learning experience for me to learn to let go of the things I can’t control when it comes to him. Sometimes I have to take a deep breath and say to myself, “It’s ok if he wants to wear the same 3 shirts his Uncle Westlee got him on rotation every. single. day. for the rest of his life. And it’s ok that he isn’t super competitive and isn’t particularly interested in trying new things. Let it go, Kalani. He’s happy…be happy for him.” Admittedly, sometimes I totally lose it and yell at him to get back upstairs and change his shirt, or I will spank him like I spank the other kids when they don’t listen, and don’t think that 9 years old is too old to be spanked, because it’s not. Or, sometimes I sign him up for things he’s already said he doesn’t want to do because I’m just SURE that I know better, and that once he gets into it, he’s going to LOVE it. Sometimes it works out for me, but usually it doesn’t, and in those instances I have to just chalk it up to another learning opportunity, another reason why I have to learn to let go, and one more reason to remember that different people need different things to feel successful, and that’s ok.
So...there you have it. Thirty-five years worth of wisdom boiled down to a single blog post. Thus spake Kalani, aka The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe...