Writing the Book on Love through Memories from Mom

 

I had to take a break from blogging to back to something bigger. A book or two, actually. Let me explain…

A few months ago I hit a creative rut, but I tried and tried to blog anyway. At the exact same time, I ended up spraining my wrist pretty bad. Typing, or any use of my one hand, became unbearable. I was completely out of commission from writing.

One of my closest friends pointed out, “Hmmm… It’s really interesting how life stopped you from writing in a way. Don’t you think?” She was right. There had to be a reason. It was like God side eyed me and said if you aren’t going to take a break, I’ll make you take one. There are days where I still cannot believe how blessed I am to have people who help me learn life’s little lessons like that. 

I make this joke a lot, but a part of me wholeheartedly means it when I say: That’s literally the kind of support I’ve been looking for my entire life. I tell myself I wasn’t always this lucky, to be surrounded by the people who I am right now. But the honest truth is I just wasn’t always as appreciative.

Someone once told me love works both ways. If you want to be let in and loved hard, you have to show up, support, and celebrate your circle consistently. You get what you give, pretty much. And I’ll admit I haven’t always lived up to my giving potential. So, I used my break from blogging to get back to something special. Let me tell you how the story starts…

___

A couple weeks ago I was shopping at Target for my boyfriend’s soon-to-be surprise party. I told myself this party was going to be one for the books. My cart was filled with banners, confetti, and all that fun stuff. It’s in my blood to go above and beyond, especially for birthdays.

The night before my aunt’s birthday one year, my uncle filled her bathroom with balloons and a card so when she woke up for her early shift like she does every morning, this day would feel more special. As I watched from the sidelines, helping him here and there, I’ll never forget how excited he was for her. It melted my heart, reminding me of my mom.

In mom’s house, when the clock hit midnight you’d be woken up by everyone laughing and singing to you. Mind you, your birthday was an all day affair from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.. Whether you wanted to celebrate or not, mom would have at least one room in the house decorated to the nines with balloons, banners, and cake. Even if you didn’t like cake, you still deserved one. No matter how old you were, before bed you’d get a kiss on the cheek, a hug goodnight, and a “happy birthday for the last time this year.” 

You don’t realize it as a kid, but those little details determine the story line of your life. Then one day you’re 23 years old,  it’s closing time at Target, the employees are giving you dirty looks, and it’s way passed your bedtime. Yet you’re Facetiming your friend because you just need to tell someone you found the most perfectly obnoxious pinata for your boyfriend’s birthday. 

In those moments you realize you are your mother’s daughter. You finally understand the time and commitment it took for your mom to do those seemingly little things that you’ll never forget. You finally understand how it brought her pure joy.  You immediately regret rolling your eyes, being a brat, and not taking a second to appreciate it all. You feel so overwhelmed with love that you can’t help but want to make others feel the same way.

Knowing you have someone like my mom who will show up, celebrate, and love the living hell out of you is the most comforting and reassuring feeling in this world. Everyone says they want to be successful, they want to be happy, they want to be fulfilled, but I don’t buy it. I’m convinced we are all craving the kind of comfort you only get from being undeniably loved.

Knowing this, I always tried to let my childhood best friend know how much I loved her. Especially after every time she’d seriously say, “don’t judge me”  because we had ultimately chosen different paths in life. That didn’t change the fact that she would always be my best friend, practically a part of my family, like a daughter to my mom even. I wanted her to know that. I wanted to leave that mark on her. She would always be loved.  

There were moments when you bet she tested the living hell out of me. During the difficult times of our friendship, I only just began to understand what my mom meant when she said: “No matter what you do I will always love you.” Fulfilling my promises. Keeping in touch. Never judging. I found out that love can be hard to hollow out from the heart sometimes, but doing the hard stuff is what makes that love real.

What defines real love from fleeting love is how consistently you choose to care about people through time and change. Consistency is the foundation of loving someone no matter what. Showing up over and over again for the hardships. Making it for the most memorable milestones. Stopping by to say hi and taking the time to keep them in mind. Con. sis. tent. ly.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m extremely lacking in the consistency category. I’ve been the character cut off abruptly mid-season in a lot of lives. I’ve been the flake. I’ve gone ghost. I’ve left invitations unresponded and texts unread. You see in today’s world it is so easy to half ass relationships and not wholeheartedly love people. I’m learning to acknowledge the hearts I’ve accidentally and even purposefully hurt, navigating how I can avoid being another antagonist.

This is what I’ve learned: We have to stop thinking that there will be no damage done if we don’t call, check up on, or show up for our friends and family just because they seem like they’re “livin their best life.” Social media and social anxiety have us assuming everyone’s life is perfect with or without us.  I’ve experienced first hand what it feels like to fall blind to those lies; leaving people out because they seem like they’re doing just fine. Then immediately regretting the fact I didn’t know otherwise…

On my birthday this year, I didn’t wake up to cake and confetti. I had moved out of my mom’s, but one of the first things I did was call her. When my mom answered she was already midway through the happy birthday song as if she’d been waiting on the other line minutes before I rang her.  I coldly stopped her mid-lyric shrieking and crying. I can just imagine her concerned face as she pleaded, “Hunny what’s wrong, what happened?”

I had woken up to the news that my childhood best friend, who I mentioned earlier, who I loved to the nth degree, passed away from an overdose the night before my birthday. I had no idea she was still in such a bad spot. I thought she was doing better. How did I not know? How did I not see it? Why hadn’t I asked? Because she seemed fine in her Snaps. She was regularly posting on Facebook. She had just Facetimed me the other week. I hadn’t answered her call. Why hadn’t I answered? Thank God my mom always answered my calls. Why couldn’t I be more like my mom?

I try not to fault myself for it, anymore. Instead, I’m trying to make sure I don’t leave anyone else in the weeds wondering whether or not I care about them. I’m trying (emphasis on the “trying” part) to make a conscious effort to be there for the people I love like I’ve never been before. I know, it’s terrible that I have to teach myself how to stay in touch. I’m learning the rules of the road, taking the time during the red lights in life to answer your texts, call back, and to let you know I love you. Thankfully, the timing is better than ever.

Recently, every moment marks an incredible milestone for those around me. Left and right my friends and family are starting new chapters: Graduations, engagements, babies, career moves, you name it. And my God I’d hate myself if I missed a second of it all. With this comes a lot of reaching out, socializing, to do lists, and things many of us hate. Sometimes, we’d much rather send a text saying, “Have fun! Wish I was there!” than exhausting our busy schedule.    

I’m one of those people, believe me. Sending texts. Picking up the phone. Making plans. Coming through. For some reason it can be overwhelmingly difficult. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve used the cop outs: I’m tired. I’m forgetful. I’m swamped. Or worse, radio silence. Maybe if I don’t say anything, they won’t mention it and I won’t feel obligated.

Before you’re tempted to skip out, imagine your part in the story.  Imagine you’re not the only one too busy to show up. You may not think you’re a main character, but what if you actually are? Imagine that a stomach will sink, a heart may break, and tears may tumble if you don’t play a part in this passage. Please, I’m begging you to take the time to jump in and join the party.

I had told my mom I would love if she played a part in boyfriend’s surprise party. I don’t think she believed me at the time… I had asked her last minute for no good reason but this: I thought she knew she’s always invited. Note: Never assume people think they’re automatically included. They usually think the opposite. My mom most likely assumed there were plenty of people who were willing to participate and help me out. Regardless, she already had plans to go to the beach and relax that same weekend anyway.

I bet my previous mentions of my mom foreshadowed this next bit. The morning of, my mom excitedly announced she’d canceled her plans and would be decorating for the party with my sister while I kept my boyfriend occupied in time for the surprise. She even took the time to pick up extra decorations because I got too caught up on the damn pinata to remember to get balloons. Again, I was overwhelmed with love and my boyfriend was too when he walked through the doors of the party that night.

Imagine that your loved one looks back on this day and instead of being overwhelmed with love like that, they feel forgotten, uninvited, and abandoned as if they’re just another book on a dusty shelf. Don’t let the comfort of assuming and avoiding fool you–everyone’s life is lacking love because we live in a world where there are more cop outs than turnouts. Let’s rewrite the book…

Take that extra effort to turn out and be a part of the next chapter of your loved ones’ lives. Today’s moments will be tomorrow’s stories. Make sure you’re there to tell the tale time and time again. Play a supporting role. Throw in a surprising plot twist. Decorate and dress up the details. Make it memorable like a New York Times Bestseller because you never know when the book will end. Make it so when anyone goes to read it, confetti crumbs tumble off the pages that are coffee stained with overflowing love.

 

Take a break today and everyday to
reach out consistently, celebrate often & love unconditionally.

 

Dedicated especially to Barb Hagan, Samantha Rosario, Kaylah Henry, Brett Mackenzie, and all of the incredible people who have become a huge part of my life. I love you all so much. If I am to ever write a memoir, you’ll all make it in there for sure.

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