Well here I am. Another year is gone. I am now 45. As I remarked to my friends the other day, my 45 is much different than my mother's. She was older than I when she crossed this year. She had a son who was 24 and a daughter who was 20. She was tired and unwilling to learn anything else. She was done with pursuing life. I am not her. I am hungry for life. I have an insatiable desire to grow and learn. I am far from done. But when asked if this was the 45 I saw in my mind's eye when I was 20, I had to answer truthfully. That answer is no.
At 20 I believed in happily ever after. I believed in forever. At 45, neither is even in my vocabulary anymore. It's simply a language I no longer speak. Talking to a friend the other night, I was remarking about my failures and regrets. How I wish things were different. I was then informed that I do not see what he sees. He sees a great strength inside me. To have survived both the suicide of my brother and the loss of my husband, to still be standing is nothing short of miraculous if you knew me before it all began. Those were the pillars of my life. The two of them and I were the trinity that could hold the world together. Now I stand alone to do the same work. And I am making it work.
I no longer believe in forever and certainly not the happy part. I believe that happiness is where you find it. One cannot "make me happy." That is something I must find within myself. I have more flashes of happiness than sadness these days. I smile more easily. It actually reaches my eyes now and again. But I am told my eyes still have a haunted look behind them. The hurt of the past nine years cannot be erased by time or tears. For if tears could have washed it away it would have been gone long ago. My life is as it is and I cannot change the past. I have lost much around me, and I even lost myself for a while. But the bones of me are still here. The core of me is alive and well.
Emotionally I am a bit fragile. I am horribly homesick for the south. I am looking at my sojourn in the north as if I have been deployed on a secret mission and I am counting the days until I set my feet in the warm soil of the south. Half of what I want to eat is exotic to this place and the other half tastes like mud. If I don't cook it, I probably won't eat it. The same goes for what I feed my emotional health from this situation. Most everything I hear is toxic. I don't understand self pity nor lack of ambition. I don't understand a victim mentality. Nothing was done to you. You participated in your demise. If you don't like where you are in life, do what is necessary to change it. Put some starch in your backbone. If I am not crying, don't even think of starting in front of me.
So as I take inventory this year, this is what I can say regarding the state of the magnolia. I am stronger than I look. I am wiser than I thought. I am smarter than I guessed.When I love, I love hard, but when it is betrayed it goes cold quickly. I long for peace. I don't know where that peace might be nor how to obtain such a thing. But I need it. I need a home that is not on fire constantly. I need to rest. I am a guest in my own life. The hotel changes but I am never at home. It is up to me to find a way to make room for me. I am never comfortable. I always feel out of place. But I like me. I will give myself credit for raising an amazing child. I will give myself credit for standing up and having enough courage to literally begin again. I am functioning. No one is taking care of me. No one is feeding the fire of my ambitions. There is no sunshine of love towards me that I might feel warm and wish to reach toward the sky. What grows in me now is mine. I need neither permission nor approval and that feels good. I have extricated myself from the bad people and the bad things. I will not dwell there ever again.
When spring comes to the magnolia, there can be snow on the ground and the sap will still start to flow. The wounds made from the pruning of the winter can ache but soon a tough skin will cover the injury and the inner strength of the tree will heal it. Just because you perceive that it is still winter does not mean that it is cold in the heart of the matter. I may look like I am still without my branches and that my blooms are long forgotten. You may believe that I may never bloom again. Rest assured I have reserved my strength. Rest assured I have planned for this day.