All I Know So Far…

These days, I feel like I never know what each day is going to bring. I’ve been blessed enough to have many happy surprises over the last few weeks. I’ve also been dealt some blows. It always seems to happen when I start to relax and let go. Then BOOM. Another smack. It was the last punch in the gut that made me realize that it’s time to let you get to know me better. I’ve been on here for a couple of years and have written primarily about my children and motherhood. The funny thing is, you know nothing about who I am. You know who I let you see.

I haven’t always been this way
I wasn’t born a renegade

I was born and raised in the town I currently live. I’m the youngest of four kids, my three brothers all being much older. (Sorry, brothers. But it’s true.) When I was born, they were in high school, getting ready to head off to college. I was the perfect chick bait at high school football games. My mom likes to say that I was raised more like an only child, though I’ve never felt that way. I come from a close-knit family where somebody is always around. But I realized at an early age that my kindergarten stories were far less interesting than the nearing-adulthood dramas my brothers had to share. I learned to be quiet. My nickname was “Mouse.”

I went to a local Catholic grammar school, run by nuns who fulfilled every stereotype possible. Want a nun who slaps your wrist with a ruler? Had one. Know a teacher who made you wear gum on your nose if you got busted chewing? Check. Ever get demerits because your knee socks were down? Me too. It was yet another place where I learned that it was probably easier/best to stay quiet.

I was bullied and I bullied in return. It was a vicious, relentless, childlike caste system. And don’t get me started on the bus…..the hierarchy in that system still baffles me to this day. You’ll never hear me complain about having to drive my kids to school. I’d be damned if I put them on one of those mobile torture chambers.

I felt alone, still feel afraid
I stumble through it anyway

I had a small group of friends, still have them to this day. For them, I’m eternally grateful. And I’m equally appreciative to WhatsApp for keeping us connected through the decades. Some of us even went to the same high school. Another Catholic school. Just what I needed. More God.

I made new friends, kept the old and staggered through my teen years with very little grace. I dated a boy from my aforementioned grammar school. Our ups and downs were the opposite of every happily-ever-after relationship in a John Hughes movie. Our biggest low, though was when I got pregnant. Senior year, so much on the line, and so many perceived expectations that I had of myself and others had of me. Moderately popular, friends with many, and an athlete. This is not what happens to good girls. But it did. It changed me. At first, for the worst. Later on in life, for the better.

I wish someone would’ve told me that this life is ours to choose
No one’s handing you the keys or a book with all the rules

My guy and I broke up after that. Then we got back together and broke up again. Again and again. We were way too young and naive to navigate our way through it successfully. Then one night, during one of our fights, he was particularly belligerent. Grasping an old bottle of Codeine from a case of swimmers ear, I popped one pill every time he said something nasty. I woke up thinking that there were rats in my shoes and I was floating through the air. My poor parents had to rush me to the hospital where I was forced to drink charcoal and have my stomach pumped. I didn’t have many choices after that. It was either voluntary or involuntary admittance to a local rehab center. I went voluntarily. Two weeks. Senior year. Best thing that could have ever happened to me at that age.

The little that I know I’ll tell to you
When they dress you up in lies and you’re left naked with the truth

I returned to school, amid whispers and side glances. I held my chin up high, but kept my head down low. Just get through the next couple of months then you’re off to college, I told myself. This was when I learned to put on a happy face and act like peoples words and opinions don’t hurt me. I put on a show. I relearned the value of being quiet.

Let the walls crack
‘Cause it lets the light in
Let ’em drag you through hell
They can’t tell you to change who you are

By the time I got to college, I was way beyond oat-sowing. I spent the next four years trying to reinvent myself. I so desperately wanted to start over. I felt that if I buried the shame that I carried with me from my high school years, put on that happy face and played by the rules, all would be forgotten. Too bad life isn’t that simple.

I generally played by the rules in college. I ran track, I studied hard, I dated the same guy for most of my time there. I kept a fairly low profile. By the time I got to senior year, I had broken up with my longtime boyfriend and vowed to stay single the entire year. Days before classes started, I went to the campus pub and met a guy. So much for that plan. The next part of this story is a blog post in itself so I’ll skip ahead a bit: we dated, we broke up, we dated, we broke up, we dated, we broke up, we dated, five years passed, we got married.

As the years passed in my marriage, I found that life went more smoothly if I kept quiet and was agreeable. Keeping the peace was much easier than rocking the boat. However, if you ask my ex, he’d likely argue this point. The problem is that it wasn’t always the big ticket items that I stayed quiet on. It was the day-to-day minutiae. It sounded a lot like this: What do you want for dinner? I don’t know…What do YOU want? What do you want to do today? I don’t know….What do YOU want to do? What do you want to watch on tv? I don’t know…What do YOU want? I created a life for myself based on choice deferral. It might not seem like a big deal, but in my case it became a lifestyle. I got lost in my own silence.

So you might give yourself away, yeah
And pay full price for each mistake
But when the candy coating hides the razor blade
You can cut yourself loose and use that rage

Here’s the most shocking revelation of them all as it pertains to me and my life, though. I present as an extrovert but I’m actually an “extroverted” introvert. Those of you that think you know me, just scoffed out loud. Those of you that actually know me, just smiled. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The people I’m close to, I’m CLOSE to. All others are on my periphery. I’m not keen on small talk, I prefer sweatpants to sequins, and I only share tidbits of a story, never the full monty. If you don’t know me well enough, you’ll think I talk a lot. If you do know me, you understand how quiet I actually am.

I wish someone would’ve told me that this darkness comes and goes
People will pretend but, baby girl, nobody knows

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Isn’t it contradictory for a closet introvert to share so much? Yup, sure is. And this post has taken me weeks to write. But I’m starting a new chapter of my life and, if you’re reading this, you are along for the ride. When I started this blog, I said that I had stories to tell. And dammit, I really do. I will neither regret my past nor shut the door on it. It made me who I am today.

The only difference is that I will no longer be quiet about it.

Stay unfiltered and loud
You’ll be proud of that skin full of scars

That’s all I know so far.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month….

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