Dear Picture I had in My Head,
I would like to start by saying that this letter will be equal parts happy and sad. It will be a jumbled, rambling sort of letter, containing brutally honest statements and observations; probably a little profanity here and there, either for flair or because I’ve been cursed with a sailor’s tongue; maybe none at all, who knows. I implore you with my words for acceptance of this semi-apology for this last decade of my life.
So far this sounds more like an obituary than an apologetic thank-you letter. I suppose that’s typical.
I have had countless opportunity for self-reflection, especially within this last year, and several things have been laid out for me, extremely plainly. I now feel like it’s time to throw some of this back out in to the universe and see what happens.
I close my eyes and think about my high school graduation day. Was that when it all started? Was that the day I began subconsciously grasping for freedom I didn’t know I wanted? Freedom from expectation, obligation and necessity. Either way, I apologize for placing that pressure on you for precision. I have never, in the last decade of my life or to my limited knowledge ever, been capable of fitting anything in to its appropriate place, myself included. I am thankful for the life experiences I’ve come by, by trying to place a square inside of a circle inside of an octagon. Dearest Picture, I hope you know I wouldn’t trade where I am now for all of those mistakes, not even for a second; those mistakes have added character to my road.
I think those of us, that have been blessed beyond measure to see things differently, the ones that are left-of-center and unashamed to the labeled as such, are often viewed as society’s delinquents. We’re wired peculiarly and to many, we’re constantly throwing off the balance of an already upside down world. We’re responsible for what’s wrong with the world. Why can’t we leave well-enough alone? Well, I’ll tell you….
We’re told from day one that we have to think a certain way, fed copious amounts of, “Sunday school answers,” and expected to absorb, recite, rinse and repeat. I am so not okay with this, and it should be mentioned this isn’t how the real world works. Some stuff is learned, other things are ingrained. Us left-of-center kids are screwed here because we go against the grain, asking all the wrong questions and being too curious. I am making no religious attack here, by the way, it’s just the terminology that came to mind and best fit what I’m trying to say. All of that is not to say, that given the chance, I would go back and do
certain things better:
I’d have longer conversations with my dad and ask him all the shit that I ask myself now; I know he would have all the answers, and if he didn’t he’d at least be honest and say that he just made shit up as he went along.
I’d have more confidence in myself and my decisions long before age twenty-five. I never realized what second-guessing didn’t do for my self-esteem.
I wouldn’t have gone to college. I’d sell my car and most of my belongings and spend the rest of my days traveling, reading every piece of legit lit and writing all of my thoughts down as I went.
You see, I didn’t realize while I was graduating high school, living a gypsy life through my early college years, meandering through my mid-to-now-late twenties that the whole point is to grow, and take note of it. I have no shame in out-right apologizing for this. Every single part of my life was planned out for as far as I could see: graduate high school, graduate college, meet a man, get married, procreate, white picket fence, etc. the end.
THAT’S JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I’ve always known that fitting in to that mold and mindset wasn’t right for me, I just didn’t know how to make myself a better counter-offer. I thought that just by making these larger than life declarations of change that I was changing. Surely by moving from city to city, back and forth from my hometown to some other city in Louisiana, learning things about the history and culture, influencing my musical and culinary tastes and making friends I will have for a lifetime were good enough to mark a woman’s change. These were, in fact, times in my life I’ll never, ever forget. I don’t think, until recently though, I looked back at those images and realized what they all really meant, and for that I am truly sorry.
Here’s a tiny list of other random crap I’d like to apologize for, in no particular order:
– for expecting everyone I come in to contact with to know what it is I’ve been through and to silently apologize for all the wrong I been done….that’s not their problem and I don’t know why we expect complete strangers, hell, even friends, to feel it necessary to apologize for someone else’s mistakes.
– for not ever having a vision for married life, and yet pursuing it to some extent any way. If this is the chance that I get to say this, however backhanded it may be, I guess I’m going to take the chance. my ex-husband was/is (I guess?) a good man. He so perfectly fit the idea of what the ideal husband should look like, I didn’t take in to consideration that specific idea might not be right for me….or for him. I’m sorry for trying to fit my unconventional ideas about monogamy, marriage and what a relationship means to me inside of a perfectly cut cookie marriage. I had no idea what I was thinking.
– for expecting the person that I committed my life to, to love me back, unconditionally. to accept me for all of my flaws and embracing that person, instead of turning away, questioning nothing and tossing any hope for our delicate relationship aside. I’m sorry I imagined grandeur.
– for anticipating all the men in the history of ever to act and treat me like my exes. this is asinine and I only do it subconsciously and I’m making a conscious effort not to do that.
– for reading total crap over the years, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to read. one day, I’ll write a grand toast to all of the banned books with bad language and provocative ideas, applauding them for pushing me to think. I’ll also write a toast to science fiction for making me realize that though Jane Austen had a brilliant mind, she laid it to waste, only trifling with matters of society…a master of painting a perfect picture. (though I will never, ever trade images of Darcy in my head.)
– for not saying what I’ve always wanted to say because it may or may not fck with the picture someone has of me in their head. I’m not here to fit in to your idea of what I should be like. That being said, I’m sorry for not knowing how to best use my words until recently. I used to throw them out at people, often times aggressively and without understanding of what it was I was trying to say.
– lastly, for expectation in general. yes, let me sit on my soap box and apologize for allllllllllllllllllll the nonsense I – along with everyone else in the world – subconsciously expect from everyone. decency, gratitude, courtesy…all of it.
I think of all the different times that I moved, the growing pains and the happiness that went along with them and now I realize that I was by-passing all of them, treating them as passing fancies on the way to the next thing I “had” to check off on my list to complete the picture in my head. What we don’t realize that the picture in your head is never going to be the picture that actually stands before you; that picture isn’t tangible. This brings me to my next point….
It is possible for you, Picture, to step up your game and be real, tangible and present. We manifest our own happiness, it’s as simple as that. Once we embrace this little gem of wisdom, that’s all there is to it. When you realize that there is no 5 x 7 frame for you to fit your life in to…well, things just get much easier.
Once I stopped thinking about what I was supposed to do and started focusing on what I wanted to do, my life shifted. While it is unfortunate that certain events had to take place and a certain amount of time had to pass before I woke up to this revelation, I’m so happy that it’s clear now. Everything about the way the world looks to me has changed. I had all the tools from a good upbringing, but now my life requires more from me. I had to take charge, I had to answer all the hard questions solo and re-evaluate everything without input from others. I had figure out how to be ballsy enough to make a mess and humble enough to realize that I would eventually have to clean it up.
I never pictured any of this. THIS LIFE WAS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MY HEAD. I didn’t picture my dad slipping away from me before I was finished with my first semester of college or what that meant for my mom. I didn’t picture getting married at twenty-three and I certainly didn’t imagine getting divorced by 27. I didn’t think of certain people falling out or back in to my life. Those things you just can’t plan. The picture in your head is honestly only good for destroying hope of what it is you really want. I feel as though, now, that if I live life without any true expectation, without a gorgeous filtered photo in my mind, that happiness can be obtained. And that’s the real picture of perfection.
I’m not saying go through life without a plan or without caring or being involved. I’m saying don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t look quite like you planned. We cannot constantly mourn the loss of things that didn’t turn out…otherwise, we’d be sad and miserable all the time.
Maybe this thing is a eulogy?
…either way. Thank you, Picture in My Head, for pushing me to this place of non-attachment. For forcing me to find gratitude in the things I have learned up to this point and healthy anticipation for the things to come. For reminding me that the picture doesn’t have to add up, be perfect, fit in a frame, be in color or black&white and doesn’t under any circumstances have to be technically beautiful. For making it clear from now on I need only to appreciate the images as they pass by, moment to moment.
Thank you. I will miss having you in my head.
The Girl Who Decided a Picture Isn’t Always Worth 1000 Words