How Does It Feel, How Does It Feel, To Be On Your Own, With No Direction Home, Like A Complete Unknown, Like A Rolling Stone?
How many of them really know what they want, though? I mean, a lot of them think they have to know, right? But inside they don't really know, so... I don't know ,but I know that I don't know.
People expect Thanksgiving to be a time of gratitude and kinship and I suppose that it holds the same feelings for me. The thing is that, for me, it has always been a benchmark at how far I've progressed. Progressed in what? Life, I reckon. Everyone reflects on their anniversaries--birthdays, wedding anniversaries, deaths--but Thanksgiving has always been another one of those days for me. I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's the whole coming back to my parents' house, the old homestead, of if it's simple nostalgia. Mainly I think it's because with everyone announcing aloud what they had to be thankful over the previous year, I always get to thinking about if there is anything I should be really thankful for. More to the point, I get to thinking if there is anything anyone should really be thanking for me for. Did I do anything positive, really positive, for anyone for unselfish means or has the previous year just been a futile exercise in self-service?
I can't say that every Thanksgiving is like that. There have been some years where all of it passes me by and I'm just grateful for what I have. Other years, like this year, which haven't been so smooth, I get to the thinking. Maybe it's just the row I hoe, placing myself at the forefront of people's problems--my family, my friends, my staff--but except for writing on here I don't get much opportunity to dissect exactly what makes little 'ole me tick. I go. My daily life is as simple as that most days. I don't exactly weigh my options most often. Most often I've made my decision about matters months before and, when it comes to act on something, I'm already way too invested to realize I had a choice. It's served me well, considering. I'm not big on the regretting at any rate. I go and, when I go, I don't like to be stopped... even if it's only me. Yet for some reason I always stop on Thanksgiving I always stop.
This Thanksgiving I was lost in thoughts regarding about the nature of my character. My character hasn't exactly been beyond reproach in the last few years. I've accepted that, like most things about me. I can only be Breanne--no more, no less. But, feeling the tension between Greg and I at Thanksgiving dinner. Seeing the looks my mother passed me on more than one occasion, I felt the scrutiny of my actions in a more personable way than I have felt all year. It's one thing to make a decision and never see the repercussions of your actions. It's like setting a fire and riding off before you get a chance to glimpse at the damage you've wrought, as my daddy says. I'm good at setting at the fires. It's the putting them out that I struggle with--at least, when it comes to my own. I spend so much time putting everyone else's out that you'd figure it'd be easy to put out my own. Nope. That's the piercing gaze I felt all through the course of dinner and that's what got me out on my balcony, my trusty 'ole balcony, for the first time in a long time.
After dinner, while Greg mingled with the rest of my family downstairs, I snuck off to my bedroom. I opened the sliding glass door. I sat down, my feet dangling off the edge like I'd been doing for the last twenty odd years, and took stock of my life.
When it comes right down to it I think I've been accused of being something I'm not. I never claimed to be perfect. That's a misconception that's been branded on me since I was young. I can play the part, I can look the part, but I've never felt the part. Not really. Inside I've always felt the welling of something wicked that I never had any real control over. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm long for damnation, but, when I do get to the Heaven that's awaiting me, it won't be for the way I've managed my own life. Nope, when I do get in, I feel it will be for the way I've always treated most others--fairly, blindly, without regard for my own benefit--and not for how I've treated myself. I can honestly say that I've been a good person in that respect. It's just the kind of life I've built that I'm none too proud (or none too ashamed) of. It is what it is, an imperfect life led by an imperfect person. Then again, I've always suffered the syndrome of people expecting to know who I am, of people expecting me to be accountable to some higher standard they are.
I've been a victim of the malady of knowing so many people that they all think they know me. They don't. They never see the frustration. They never see the worry. They never see my stopping to apologize. That's a face I reserve for days like Thanksgiving and for days spent in the company of those lucky few who do know me well. That's a face I reserve for people who have seen me at my worst and for people who I've hurt in the worst ways. I think that's the worst of it. People expect the best of me and, when they see the worst, they regard it extra harshly as if one of their heroes just fell off their pedestal. That's the worst of it, their imagining my squandering my potential. You'd think I was next in line for sainthood the way people talk.
Courteous ain't the same as benevolent. Caring ain't the same as kind. Yes, I can be both benevolent and kind, but for the most part I'd go with courteous and caring. I like helping people because it makes me feel good. I like helping people because I know I can make a difference. But that isn't the same as wanting to do good for goodness sake. It's more like I have a skill which I'm good at and I enjoy exercising. But my happiness stems more from a job well done than a result well worked for. I think that's where I used to get confused. I liked being helpful and being thanked for my help, but I also was never entirely the model of restraint or saintly behavior either. It used to addle my brain at how I could reconcile those two seemingly divergent impulses. That's when I realized having an aptitude for something doesn't always instill in you the responsibility for having said aptitude. I help people, I listen, and I try to bring a smile to everyone I meet. That's where my satisfaction derives. I'm good at it. But it would be the same if I was a blacksmith. If I made a good sword I think I'd have the same satisfaction. In other words, my joy isn't necessarily based on the joy of others. It's based on the bringing of joy, I suppose. It's the process I like and not the result, you could say.
I like feeling useful and being good at something.
Yet it's this process-driven life that gets me into trouble. It's this process-driven life that made a mess of this year. I made some decisions based on how it would make me feel and didn't delve deep into how it would affect others. And I got rained on because of it. I did what I thought was right for me and left others, like my husband, in a lurch because of it. And for that I'm sorry. I don't know who that apology goes out to because Providence knows I've apologized to him a lot in the last few months. I think it goes out to all those I've let down, which, granted, isn't that many, but the few that moniker does apply to I've let down deeply.
All of that is what I was thinking about as I was dangling my feet high above the earth. All of that is what I was reflecting as I was looking down on my life, on those I could call closest to me, imagining all of them discussing me and my actions while I wasn't there. I sat there, dangling in the wind, feeling like there wasn't a single person on Earth who really knew me at all.
princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
I've been laid low before. I've felt the ache of making a mistake and feeling guilty because of it. It's just been awhile since I've felt really guilty about my entire life and not just one instance from it. I never want to apologize for who I am. I never want to do that. But that night and even tonight I've been critical of myself in a manner that I'm not accustomed to. I go. I don't usually apologize because of that. What I've done, the people I've helped, I've always thought more than made up for this flaw in my character. How could I be blamed for jumping in with both bare feet when it came to choices that made me feel good when it was the selfsame abandonment of judgment that led me to want to help others first and ask questions later? How could someone want to blame me for that? I followed my heart and that should never be wrong.
I don't enjoy hurting him, my parents, my friends, but for so long I've felt the weight of people wanting me to make decisions entirely for their benefit. I've never sought anybody's approval. I've sought the spotlight, but not the accolades. I'm just a natural-born show-off is all. But just because I tell others how best to find happiness doesn't give them the right to decide the same for me.
I know I've made a mess of things. I'm doing my best to patch things as best as I can. I'm not perfect. Not even close. This past Thursday I don't think I've ever felt my imperfection more acutely. It was the first holiday in a long time where I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I had the sensation that everyone knew what I had done and that everyone was judging me for it. The truth was that maybe half had an inkling of the events of the last few months and the last few years, the troubles that Greg and I have been having. And, of those, I think half knew the latest problems to surface that began with the adoption fight and continued with Chicago. But the only people who really knew it all were my parents, Greg, and Fanny. All of them were there, but none of them said anything.
It only felt like I was on trial.
I sat there for awhile, wishing it all could have been different this year. Perhaps, though, this Thanksgiving was a long time in coming. Maybe it was inevitable. I lived so many years in a haze of smiling and nodding for my own benefit as well of those who loved me that I never took stock of what I was smiling and nodding to. I thought I was making my own decisions and attempting to find my own bliss. But maybe all of that was a lie. Maybe all this time I was just another one of the cattle corralled into a life I thought was living freely. Maybe all this time I was penned in by what others thought would make me happy. I could have waited to get married. I could have pursued writing as a career instead of as a hobby. I could have waited for that one person who made me happy. Instead, I made snap decisions like I've been doing all my life. I didn't want to wait for the better hand so I stood pat with what I had. I rushed to build the life I thought I should have had at my age.
It's only now that I'm realizing that it may be too late for second chances and that the nagging sense I could be happier has been stopping me from seeing how happy I may already be. It's difficult questioning if there's more out there for me than this. It's difficult being a stargazer stuck on the ground.
When I got up to rejoin everyone downstairs it wasn't with the satisfaction of finally having answers to my questions. Everything blew over and Greg and I were able to enjoy the rest of the evening. I began to loosen up and I started to feel like it was an enjoyable Thanksgiving after all.
But I also realized that a year from now all of what I was laughing about this year may all be gone next Thanksgiving.
And I don't know whether that will be better for me or worse. I don't how I'll feel by then. After all, it's only now I'm beginning to question if I've ever felt complete and utter happiness at all.
I ask you, how does that feel? Do any of us really know?