When I was younger, I never felt as if I had enough of anything. I felt greedy for attention, lusted after riches, begged, borrowed, and yes even stole to acquire more. I felt that if I could surround myself with things I saw others be so happy with, I would finally be happy. That carried on into my first marriage where I used things as substitutions for the love that was absent from my life.
As I grew in age, I began to understand that no amount of material goods would give me what I was looking for in my heart. That new pair of shoes, new car, new pan, new…anything would never fill that void. Even though I still hadn’t discovered what exactly that void was, I knew my needs weren’t being met by my buying things. I moved away from that behavior.
I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t enjoy a good shopping trip, but I’d rather focus on the company I keep instead of the goods I may get. I try to shop only when I need something like food or a pair of pants, for example because I’m less likely to just randomly spend money I don’t have. But, overall, I don’t go shopping with the sole intention of purchasing something. It has to be pretty spectacular (like my goldfish shirt or my hugger shirt) to necessitate me buying something.
My evolution made me realize that my emotional needs weren’t being met, so of course I attached myself to a man who was emotionally unavailable because he matched me at that point. Matched me enough for me to realize that the absence of emotional connection was what I was missing. I started to reach out emotionally to those I trusted to test the waters of truth in myself. I found rejection from him but I found acceptance from a few others which kindled a small flame in my heart.
I broke from that shell in much the same way as I did the other, I evaluated, realized, understood, and moved on to the next stage. I’d realize material goods are nice, but they are not where love is found. I realized that connection is as important to the growth and understanding of myself and others but it wasn’t enough. But what was I missing?
By the time I reached my third “stop” searching for love, I was broken. I had nothing of material value. My mask of makeup had been stripped away. My body had been violated. My spirit was barely breathing. I had but a basic foundation of self. A rudimentary understanding that there was something far more than what I had. I longed for whatever it was. I was disconnected from my body, mind, spirit, and self. I was lost and I knew it.
The next five years allowed me to find what I’d been missing. Out of all the crazy weirdness, I found myself. I’d hidden under the covers of degradation, humiliation, anger, hurt, fears, shame, guilt, and most of all, self-loathing. Through the unconditional love from my friends who saw me, nurtured me, loved me, cleansed me of my clutter, helped lift me up from cowering into standing, I learned to be me.
I felt like a toddler. I took uncertain steps and with coaxing, love, and laughter, I stepped into the sun of Arizona, born of the Phoenix, almost literally. The Painted Desert showed me colors that I knew existed but had never seen before as Stephanie and I passed through the landscape. The smell of Christmas that Flagstaff has all year round filled me with a sense of giving, but Shanna gave me the gift of acceptance of myself. She showed me love every step of the way. Carrie sealed me with a sense of naked belonging. I didn’t have to wear a mask of any kind around her. She adored me. I adored her. We sang the songs of unity, all of us. I learned to rise from the ashes in Arizona.
My testing grounds are my battle grounds I stand on now. I don’t have to justify myself to anyone. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. I do anyway, but I don’t have to. I can say no without explanation. I can say yes without reason. I can protect. I can serve. I can pull pranks. I can be everyone I’m supposed to be but on my terms. I’ve had to strip away everything in the ashes of my old life to rise again, but I am quite happy being who I am now.
When I look around at the world through these child-like eyes of mine, I see such beauty that sometimes I weep with joy. I see the smile of a person towards one of their own and the light of gratitude flashes brightly. That’s the light of love. Gratitude. Where there is love, there is gratitude for every little gift given, every glance, every ribbing and inside joke. There is thankfulness in each breath when a loved one is ailing. There is thinkfulness.
There is relief then peace when gratitude is found and met in one’s life. Every day that I’m mindful, I can be thinkful (misspelled on purpose as a hybrid of thankful and thinking): I am grateful for the quiet music in the background. I am thinkful for my visit. I am thinkful for my computer to write this. I am full of gratitude that I’m loved. I am just thinkful that my needs are all met, my body is rested, warm, and full.
Each moment I’m grateful is one that allows me to notice things differently than others because I’m tuned to the gratefulness in my life. It’s similar to breathing in love, breathing out gratitude. In a way it’s like looking for the silver lining in everything, whether perceived as good or bad, like my Uncle taught me so many years ago. Gratitude is the silver lining.