I am standing in my kitchen wiping the counter tops when the first wave hits. It is a moment of sheer panic, frightening in its ability to stop me. The crippling seconds are a monster I have only recently discovered. Piles of papers glare at me from underneath the microwave, the broken dishwasher lies dormant beckoning me to call a plumber and have it fixed, the linoleum bathroom floor is peeling in a conspicuous spot directly by the door. I cannot hide it in a closet or throw it in a drawer as I do with so many other things lately.
"Fix me," the house screams as I break out into a cold sweat. I cannot move, but if I could I would brush every last bit of paper into the trash without thought, pound on the dishwasher with a sledge hammer or a meat mallet (a more likely find), and tear up the bathroom floor. My immobility is a blessing then, at least I can't ruin the house filled with flaws and reminders of my inability to be the adult that I had always hoped I would be.
And there it is, the truth, the confession, one I am not even sure I was aware of: I am NOT who I wanted to be. I am the woman in the kitchen who has forgotten how to care for herself. I am the woman who never built a foundation so now I float in the puffy clouds, which while beautiful, actually have the potential to suffocate me. After attempting to sit down, I begin the list in my head. Having always been a list maker this seems both reasonable and comforting to me. Who am I? I need to answer that question before I can figure out how to become who I want to be.
I am a 41 year old mother of four. I am an introverted 41 year old mother of four with few friends. I am a 41 year old cashier at a grocery store with a Masters Degree. I am a 41 year old woman with varicose veins, a lazy eye and a sour disposition. I have no career. I have never built that. I have no idea what I'm doing. I am angry. I am sad. I am disappointed. The list is made. I am all these things. But, I find myself wondering, am I only these things?
I begin the list again. The list must be revised, I realize, because it is not entirely right. Things are missing.
I am a 41 year old mother of four who was abandoned by her parents and now needs to be with her children as much as possible. I am a 41 year old mother of four who works at a grocery store because it allows me to spend the days with my kids. I am a 41 year old mother of four who is writing a book and is teaching her children to follow their dreams even when life has told them they are too old, or too impractical. I am a 41 year old woman with a family I love and a house with a peeling bathroom floor and other defects. It matches me in its imperfection, but it is comfortable and big enough and it is home. It is a place where memories are made and I am thankful.
I am a fighter for the underdog, the misfit, the truth (even when it hurts) teller, the introvert who sometimes enjoys the company of others. I am a 41 year old with veins in legs that work and are strong, and eyes that while lazy are able to watch my children change from day to day. I am a 41 year old woman who has lived 11 years longer than the mother, my mother, who didn't get this far. The mother who never had a house with flaws, or a marriage that she worked hard on, or children who counted on her, and knew her. The mother who could never truly be a mother because she succumbed to an addiction she couldn't fight.
I am so many things I realize as I mentally refine my list. Fine, I am NOT the person I thought I would be. But maybe that's okay. Maybe it's time to stop comparing and being envious. Maybe it's time to embrace the life I have, instead of the life I thought that I was supposed to. No, I am NOT the person I thought I would be. Are any of us? Does life even allow for that? I am NOT that person. Instead, I am this one. I am a flawed, imperfect dreamer. I am all the things that I need to be. Maybe you are too.