Sunday, November 15, 2009

Learning to Smile

I'm one of those women, that was raised to not let people know when things were bad. I was told to smile and go on. I never got the chance to mourn the loss of loved ones. I never was able to just cry. Or to feel bad. When my world was crumbling down, I was told to smile. To put a smile on my face and to "Keep on truckin'." And that's what I did.

One of the things that I remember more than anything else, was when my dad would spank me. Then if I were to cry, he would tell me, "Do you want me to give you something to cry about? If not, stop crying and put a smile on that face." I was raised "old school." I was not a bad kid. But I knew, if I stepped out of line, I was going to get it. We had a wooden paddle. And I knew, if I was bad, I would get spanked.

I never feared being spanked. I just hated the fact that I was supposed to pretend to be happy. Even when I wasn't. I HATED that! To no end, I really hated that! But I have to say, I grew up a good kid. My parents didn't just expect straight A's, they demanded them. Because that was my job. To go to school and get A's.

I never had a curfew. We really didn't have rules. Most of my friends were older than I was. My best friend, Enzo, is a 3 years older than me. As an adult, that is nothing. But as kids, it was centuries. I was never the teenager that got drunk, or was a rebel. I was the one that helped out. I took care of nieces and nephews. I helped my grandma. Worked in our office. And did what needed to be done.

Years later, I still suffer from this. And yes, I said suffer. There are days when the bottom completely falls out from under me. Completely! I am in free fall. But I sit here with a smile on my face telling people I'm good. Inside, I am struggling just to breath. Willing the tears to go deep inside of me. Trying to make it through my day.

Then one day, I just lost it. I fell completely apart. It was ironic, I was in my family counseling professor's office. He just let me cry and talk. For hours and hours. My poor professor. He thought I was going to ask him about our upcoming final. Instead, everything just came pouring out from my soul.

He helped me to find a counselor. Someone I could talk to, multiple times a week, for years. I was diagnosed as not just clinically depressed. But severely, clinically depressed. The worst that you could get. I was put on anti-depressants and went to counseling. And for the most part, I was feeling better. I could deal with emotions. Instead of bottling them all up. I finally had someone I could talk to. And I tried. I pushed forward.

Then I started to feel the financial pinch. I was struggling to pay for basics, like toilet paper and bread. I stopped going to counseling. But I tried to pay for my anti-depressants. Then I went from taking the correct doses, to maybe every other day. To only taking them when I was having a really bad day. To not taking them at all. The bottom really fell out then. I could feel the downward spiral of my life begin, yet again.

School got harder and harder to pay for. I couldn't afford books. Then tuition got to be too bad. And the bottom just fell out. I didn't have books. I couldn't pay for Internet access. My computer blew up. And I wasn't working nearly as much as I had been. The music stuff, just wasn't paying off.

Like "Prince Charming," J came to my rescue. I had been working for my friend. For a few years by now. And I really leaned on him. One night, while I was working, I could hear him on the back porch. Because my office is in his house. And I just needed a break. It was the middle of July. And probably 105*F. No lie!

He just sat there. In his big 'ol rocking chair. Looking out to the fields behind his house. Dogs laying at his feet. And it hit me. I wanted more out of this life. More than I was allowing myself to have. I wanted to be happy. To be genuinely happy. When it comes from deep down inside. When you are so happy that you are jumping out of your skin! I hadn't felt that in years. Since before my Uncle Al passed away.

I sat in the other chair. And just rocked. It was calm. The heat of the night was suddenly stable. The stars felt calming. The constant sound of J's breathing a HUGE comfort. And I sat there. We sat there. For at least an hour, in silence. Before I broke down.

There are not many people that I feel completely safe with. Or comfortable with. I think that is why I distance myself from people. I'm not sure who I can trust. And how much of my life I can trust them with. Or if they will come back to hurt me. I don't know if I am a burden to them. Because my entire childhood, I felt like a burden to my parents. I felt like I could never go to them, when things got tough. That is a bad habit I learned.

But all of a sudden J came over to me. Scooped me up. And let me cry. Let me cry until the tears dried up. Until there was nothing left inside. The kind of crying that leaves you gasping for air. That completely drains your body of all it's energy. Then he let me talk. Never interrupting. Just let me talk. We stayed like that, well until the sun came up. Me crawled up in his lap. His arms wrapped tightly around me. Letting me know that I was safe.

That was the very first time, as an adult, that I have ever felt safe. I could sit there and cry and bare my soul. And I knew, he would never judge me. Instead, he just held me. Held me tight. The harder I cried, the more empty I felt, the tighter he held me. J is one of the very best friends that I have. I honestly, could not find a better friend.

That was the day that we promised each other something. When things got bad, I could just call him. No matter what was going on, he would be here for me. And I would let him financially help me. He is the only person I let help me. When something comes up, I go to him. And he puts up the money. And I work for him. Essentially, we have gotten to the point were he pays for all of my tuition ahead of time. Then I work the semester to pay him back.

For the most part it works out. And there are definitely nights when he finds me sitting on his porch crying. Like when we lose a patient. I work with kids, and that's tough. But he'll come and just let me cry. He tries to carry some of my burden. Making my life a little easier. Never trying to make my life better or easier. Just letting me get everything out. Letting me know, if there is anything I need, he is there.

To be honest, he is the only person, on this planet, that can just look at me and know when my world is crumbling. He can tell when I have had too much. Or when I just need to talk. J knows when I am just saying that I am fine, and when I am really fine. He knows the difference between my "I need to look happy" smile, and a genuine smile.

Sometimes life just gets tough. And sometimes you just need to fall apart. To just cry until your tears dry up. And you are red nosed. Until your eyes are swollen. We all need to know, that it is OK. We are not all made out of steel. There are times when the strongest of people need to crumble. We all need someone that will be here for us when we laugh and when we cry. And someone who can genuinely make us smile. Thank you J for being that person for me!
Right now, life is not at all easy. I feel like, not only is my back up against the wall. But I am stuck in a corner. Just trying to make it. I honestly don't know if I can financially go on with school like this. I can barely keep it together some days. Work is just killing me. And I don't mean working 100+ hours for no pay. I mean, seeing all these kids suffer.

But at the end of the day, I know I have at least one person on my team. One person that will love me whether I go on to be a doctor. Or if I end up working at Target for the rest of my life. I have one person on my team letting me know, that it is OK to be human. That we all have our weaknesses. And sometimes, it is OK to let them show. That it is OK to tell someone "No" or to find someone else to take care of a situation. For the first time in my life, I am understanding, that my dreams, MY DREAMS, deserve to be chased after. It is my life, and I need to be happy too! Thanks J! I know being on "Team Lola" can be tough. But I hope you know how much I love and appreciate that you are cheering me on. Regardless of how many times I stumble. :)



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