Monday, January 26, 2015
It's crazy how quickly time flies! Just yesterday Joshua was turning 8 now he’s 18. How is it possible that was 10 years ago? Life was so much simpler back then it seemed. Johnny and I were still babies ourselves, the boys were holding on to 1 digit birthdays and thirty was a novelty. The early 2000’s was also long before words like breast cancer, autism or traumatic brain injury became a staple in in the Olachia household. Now some 10 years later we are preparing for Joshua to graduate high school, Micah is half way through the 10th grade and Johnny and I are well past 40.
It’s unbelievable how you just blink and life has suddenly raced ahead of you. Life has a way of moving forward whether you are ready or not. I’ve learned in my 40 plus years, you can’t hold it back and you can’t predict anything life has to offer or where it will ultimately take you, all you can do is buckle up and hold on. Life lesson #19: Raising boys to men… Life doesn’t come with a manual. It takes no prisoners and runs you long and hard. If you don’t grab hold, life will leave you behind!
When I sit down at the dinner table each and every night I see my world surrounding me, my husband of nearly 2 decades and my amazing if not precocious teenage boys. The conversation most nights is all over the place, sometimes awkward, at times serious but never dull and always entertaining if not downright silly. I wouldn’t trade this life I’ve been given for anything! I am truly blessed even in the times I’m stressed out, feeling the reality of life’s demands, difficulties and trails. I know with certainty I’m blessed beyond compare no matter what life throws my way and despite any ups or downs rushing towards me. When I take inventory of my life I’m reminded of the blessings I have, especially as I look at my children, watching them grow and now become men. This was the one, specific gift I asked of God following my breast cancer diagnosis…to live to see my boys become the men God called them to be. And now, all these years later, at the age of 41 I am living in the very moment I pleaded for as Johnny and I prepare our boys to enter the world as men.
It’s hard to believe I am the mother of an 18 year old young man. He’s not a baby anymore, though he will always be my baby no matter how old he is. Joshua is kind and tenderhearted, strong in his faith, loyal, giving, and sometimes unsure of himself but always ready to embrace the next chapter. Life hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s been rather hard on Joshua, but in everything from growing up surrounded by the uncertainty of cancer, to his own battle with a traumatic brain injury, Joshua has always risen above the turbulence with a strength that amazes me. In spite of daily pain, he’s pushed through school, pursued drumming, taken to the ice with hockey and recreated his dreams changing his whole life course in spite of what difficulties life handed him.
Looking at my baby today, I see the man he has become. I’m proud of how far he has come and I look forward to the man he has yet to be. I know life will continue to throw punches, it always has, it always will, but knowing his footing is sure I’m confident in the decisions he’s yet to make. Joshua’s not perfect, none of us are, but his character is undoubtable and his faith is unwavering. In just a little over 4 months my first born will walk across the commencement stage, with cap and gown on receiving his diploma as he graduates from high school, part of the class of 2015. No doubt I’ll be crying, but my tears won’t fall from sadness, no my tears will break free because of joy. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m really ready to see Joshua enter the adult world, but I do know with each stroke of the Masters hand Joshua’s life will unfold colorfully and beautifully.
Yes, for the last 18 years Johnny and I have been raising our boys together. No one handed us a how to manual when Joshua and Micah were born in the late 1990’s. The reality of this whole parenting thing is we have been flying by the seat of our pants, learning as we go. We've worked hard to make our house a home. Nothing worth anything comes easy or without difficulty. What we know now more than ever before as parents is this: all those nights we are up crying, worrying and on our knees for our kids in prayer, God IS listening. Every child has their own story to tell and life to lead so at the end of each and every day our greatest desire as parents is for both Joshua and Micah to know they are accepted for who they are. We love them fiercely, unconditionally, without limits and without judgment because this is how Christ loves us. Johnny and I may not always agree with their decisions or choices in life, but our love is and will always be present. The thing is this, life hands us uncertainties all the time, throws a wrench in our plans, takes us unpleasantly by surprise and attempts to beat and drag us down. We can’t control every minute of our day or even the turns our children will take along the way. Life can be absolutely miserable and heartbreaking as we watch our kids go down roads which are dark and dangerous BUT if we know without a doubt we’ve given them the right tools and a firm foundation; we have to trust God to handle the rest believing He has instilled HIS character into their hearts
From where I sit now life may not be as simple as it was over 10 years ago, back when we were celebrating birthdays with dinosaurs, pirates and Buzz Lightyear. They were boys then, not the men towering above us now. Still together as a family we celebrate and take inventory of our many, many blessings. There have and will definitely continue to be really tough days, if not months or years ahead of us BUT those moments are short in comparison to the downright amazing blessings life offers us in return. We just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride, holding on to our family, our faith and our ability to navigate even when we are lead down an uncharted road. The truth is sometimes our best memories come from detours in life we never saw coming!
Thursday, January 22, 2015
If you’ve ever taken a drive through the back roads of Texas, you know how beautiful it can be. You also know you’ll find yourself alone with your thoughts down our country roads. There’s not much playing on the radio but you are sure to find a country song without much trouble. That’s where I found myself recently, on the back roads, singing to the radio, listening to Texas country, lost in my thoughts. Personally, what I love about country music is the fabric, how it mirrors real life, the way you can find your own story in the grains no matter where you’re from. If you listen closely you’ll find yourself in a country song. I found my story down an old dirt road, passing through numerous county roads while the radio played on. It's actually quite beautiful how you can find and lose yourself in country music, deep within the many layers of its uncomplicated storytelling. And if you so happen to be driving down an old dirt road listening to the radio you can bet it will both stir up and lay down memories long past overdue!
One song in particular sticks out in my mind from my recent back roads trip. As I listened to Jake Owen belt out, “We all want what we ain’t got”, suddenly life made sense. All my wondering thoughts stopped and a light bulb of sorts went off inside not just my head but in my heart, maybe deeper even, shining a bit of wisdom into my soul too. And yes, all because of a country song! Life lesson #18 is about genuine appreciation, recognizing it can come in many forms. But let’s not forget, life can absolutely be found down an old dirt road! Go on, buckle up, we're about to venture down a long, winding, old dirt road today...
Here’s a little bit of Jake’s wisdom: “We all want what we don’t got. We ain’t happy where we are. All I want is what I have. We all wish it didn’t hurt, when you try your best and it doesn’t work. Goodbye is such a painful word. We all wish it didn’t hurt.” These words resonated with me, deeply. Not because I want something I don’t have but largely because I realized I am thankful for what I DO have. I found peace within myself surprisingly listening to those country songs. It wasn’t just a moment where I grasped the situation for what it was, a loss beyond my control, but the grace and ability to let it go broke thru unexpectedly, leaving the memories in an old worn out tattered box right there on that old dirt road, hands on the wheel, tail lights burning in my rear view mirror.
Sadly, I realized some people in life can’t let go or allow wounds to heal. It’s an all or nothing deal until they’ve burned every bridge or strangled the life out of you. They take and take until everything is gone and there’s nothing left to give, then blame you. Unfortunately, we sit there in a daze, scratching our heads, standing around wondering what we could have done differently, asking ourselves what in tarnation happened! Thankfully once we finally realize there’s no fixing what’s broke sometimes or salvaging the left over pieces we can move on. We can’t save those who won’t save themselves! You just have to take inventory, say goodbye and leave the past behind you. There are always going to be those folks out there who can’t be happy with what they have. Unfortunately these are the kind of driven folks who can't share in the happiness, instead they would rather be miserable than have to share or be part of anything. Simply they have to have it all or nothing at all! I know this from my own personal experience, you can allow it to drain you dry or set your boundaries and keep moving down that old dirt road.
What has caused me to sit, take a deep breath and ponder all this? Hum, that's a loaded question but if I'm putting my cards out on the table I'd tell you recently I was accused of being unable to share, being raised selfish, incapable of love and being a downright horrible, terrible person. This makes me sad honestly, especially in view of who I have been raised by and what this says about my parents. Now let me be very clear, I am 100 percent capable of being all of those things. I am in no way perfect, I mess up, I mishandle situations, I am human. I screw up all the time but the core of my character is not found in those angry accusations. What I realize in this whole situation is something I like to call the box theory. There are people in life no matter how hard you try, you will never please. You can love them, give them all you have and still it’s not enough. Think of a box, now fill it with everything you have and then start giving away the contents. No matter how much you give, if you’re left with anything, some will still think you have too much. Their box may be 99 % full, still those kind of folks ONLY see that 1%! They have such an empty space inside themselves they have to fill their own box with what you have left. Just a glimpse inside your box even though it may only have 1% left is enough to cause insecurity as these folks simply see you have something they don't. At the end of the day what they have is empty space and a need to continue filling their own box past capacity. Is it selfish to say no, to set boundaries and ask them to appreciate the blessings within their own box? If that's the case then I guess I am a terrible person, unworthy and incapable of sharing. I think what we have to understand is there are those in this life who will reject us no matter what we give, no matter how hard we try, or how much we may love them. Many in this life sadly can’t receive love nor can they give love despite how badly they want it.
Sadly, life is full of folks holding back anger and grudges whether you have truly wronged them or have anything actually to do with their core issue or not. In my situation I know I am not the problem, but the idea of who I am is. I did two things wrong, 1) I was born. 2) I haven’t died yet. Sadly, as crazy as that sounds, it’s the crux of the problem. The bottom line, I exist. No it doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to I guess. I could spend the rest of my life wondering what went wrong, what I could have done differently, but the truth is I have no control over any of it. I am not going to roll over and die just because my existence makes anyone uncomfortable. Life is too short and too precious to fill up my box with any more needless hurt, made up nonsense and drama. My plan involves letting it all go, leaving it on that old dirt road with a note, free of charge. Yes, my box is full, and I am fully capable and willing to share the contents within, but not because my arm is twisted behind my back or because anyone feels they have a right to it.
So at the end of our drive down this old dusty dirt road today, I’ve learned a thing or two. No, I’m not going to get drunk on a plane, and nope I definitely won’t be wasting whiskey drowning out anything and I’m thinking I won’t find myself in the back of a cop car either. What I do know is my life is amazingly alive right now but just like Florida Georgia Line belts out, “The road comes right to my window” and it always will as long as you know the way home. So just like a country song, I’m gonna count my blessings and acknowledge but for the grace of God, go I.
It’s kinda amazing what you can find at the end of an old dirt road isn't it?
Friday, January 9, 2015
How do you define yourself? Is it how others see you, successful, beautiful or educated? Maybe it’s how you see yourself, overweight, struggling to pay the bills or always trying to keep up with the Jones’ next door? It saddens me how many of us fall into this trap, defining who we think we are without really knowing who we are.
This year, 2015, is about being myself, knowing myself and being happy with who I am, not what I am. Most, if not all of 2014 was spent finding myself, who I really was, not who I or for that matter anyone else thought I should be. Discovery can be exciting and challenging as it can be painful. For me, the exploration was worth the loss. I’m done with walking on eggshells or cow toeing to a definition of an idea of myself which has no merit! Personally, I am a wife, a mother, a lover, a daughter, an only child, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a daughter and sister in law, a friend, a breast cancer survivor, a writer, a Christian, and a million other things BUT none of those things define me solely. My son Micah says all the time,” I am not my Autism. I am not defined by my Asperger’s. It is part of me, not all of me.” Pure, simple and beautifully unfiltered!
Life lesson #17, just be you, perfection and normal are seriously overrated!
Do our mistakes define us, no I don’t think so. Everyone falls short, makes a wrong turn, says something out of hand, but I do believe we are defined in how we choose to mend those mistakes in our lives. Taking responsibility for our own actions, how we contribute and participate in the process speaks more of our character and to WHO we are rather than WHAT we are. Our trials don’t define us nor do our accomplishments. In my eyes who we really are and how we are defined isn’t found in what got us there, but in how we faced what drug us there. If we could just learn to understand what a loss is to the outside world knowing it's not necessarily a defining moment or a defeat in our journey to becoming the people we want to be, we’d be happier folks. In truth it may be just the opposite; a failure may open another door we would have missed in becoming our real selves!
Now with all this talk about defining ourselves and the” me” word coming up a lot, I want to be clear it’s not all about us. It’s not our way, I want, me, me, me, or the high way kind of thing. We have to learn in really knowing ourselves and in being ourselves, we have to give of ourselves too. I won’t say we can’t live with strings attached, but I don’t see how anyone can live with them very well. Sure if you want to be defined and controlled by puppet strings, becoming part of someone else’s circus, then so be it. Go ahead, throw yourself into it, roll around in the slop and have at it. It’s a choice. As for me, my perspective has changed at 180 angle. I’m choosing to live this beautiful opportunity God has given me, to experience and live life outside the box. This is exactly how I personally want to define myself.
See life is not a game; it’s a journey, an adventure. We can’t control everyone and how they see or accept us. It’s not in how we play, what rules we break or follow or how we get ahead. If playing the game of life is how we choose to live then we have already lost and are truly defined by nothing. We can be part of the rat race or we can take part in a living, breathing journey. As for me, I made a choice at the very beginning of this month. I promised myself and the Lord not to allow one more snippy, arrogant tip toe of chaos and drama into my sacred space! I want my faith to grow not wilt. I will not be manipulated or controlled by destructive poisons any longer. I am not who this person, that person or social media wants me to be. Honestly, I am happy with who I am and who I am becoming on my journey. I’m done with the outside world’s view of who I should be.
Note to self: Stop allowing your heart to be drawn and quartered. Love and relationships should never be something you leverage, period. On a personal note, I have learned the opinions of emotionally deaf ears and blind hearts shouldn’t tarnish who we know we are. Sure, we may be judged and looked down upon, but by whom, those who really know nothing of or about us? Honestly, I can’t change or stop what the outside world wants to see or believe about who I am. My strides are forward, not backwards. I will be dauntless in the pursuit of who I am. This is my story, just as it’s yours, not theirs. We have no control in the way toxic people operate themselves, but we do have a say in how they manage us. We have to decide we cannot and will not define our lives through the actions of others. We are responsible and accountable to ourselves. I’m personally accountable to my Savior and to my immediate family as well but not to those who sit in wait ready to denounce me, picking up stones over silly nonsense and plastic views. Who are those who feel they can define who I am anyway? The truth is this; those who seek to define us can only do so as long as we allow them to.
Bottom line, normal is simply overrated and life is just too messy to obsess about controlling every hiccup let alone my neighbors. I am simply me, unashamed and confident not in perfection but in the knowledge of my imperfections. I've written from the hip today, speaking my truth, so I guess the question is what is yours? Life is really scary friends, but go on, take a deep breathe, put a helmet on and then get out there and live it! What are you waiting for?
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
So I'm told it’s a new year, out with the old and in with the new right? It’s the end of one year and the beginning of another, the closing of 2014 and the onward march into 2015. The promise of new opportunities, new experiences and more life lessons as the New Year begins. I don't know about you but I'm ready for whatever 2015 has to throw at me. Don't get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m willing to throw myself to the front line of difficulty but if that is where I land, I'll batter up.
My outlook is simple; life is not meant to be lived on the sidelines. Grudges have to be let go off, wrongs forgiven, hurts completely forgotten if peace is to set sail in any new year. Life lesson # 16; The New Year brings both positive and negative experiences and opportunities. If you pay close enough attention, the opportunities to reinvent yourself are endless; the choice in who you become is yours.
This year our family rang in the New Year with a family style party. Its origins began toward the end of the summer, knowing we would have family here to celebrate with us. This New Year was meant to include a special guest. Our goal was simple enough, to host a warm, cozy, intimate fun party enjoying an evening with our friends and family. Together we would welcome 2015 with all her many adventures. Down South, we are nothing if not for our traditions so with that same spirit, despite a few pitfalls, plans were made. Black- eyed peas and cabbage with cornbread was served, old fashioned Coca-Cola cake was prepared and life as we have both grieved through and celebrated in 2014 was behind us. Certainly things didn’t exactly go as planned, and our special guest didn’t make the journey but despite it all, our family doors opened on December 31, 2014 at 7 pm. I’m happy to say our party was a success, we ate, we drank, we laughed, reminisced, fireworks went up into the night sky, the balloons dropped at midnight and we all raised a toast celebrating the New Year at the stroke of midnight.
Looking back, I’m thankful for the lessons of 2014, even if many were painful. My character was definitely and yes defiantly developed I might add. My strength tested, my faith grown and my flaws embraced. Looking forward, honestly I’m excited most about the many adventures and lessons 2015 has yet to offer up. Yep all this brings me to those pesky new year’s resolutions and what direction I see 2015 going. Truthfully, I have no clue. Life is not something we can plan out and expect to turn out the same way. Life is about exploring and reinventing yourself, besides I’m an adventurous soul, not always predictable, simply put I'm pretty much a spontaneous spirit. I like life just a wee bit on the wild side I guess. I'm about details, but I'm enough of a free spirit to know when to let go.
So are you wondering about my midnight resolution? OK, well, it’s not just one particular thing. No, it wasn’t for money, personal gains, or even to stay thin, lose more weight or find my place in this world. The reality is I know my place, right here, with those I love, I’ve already been there, done that as far as the weight thing goes with no desire to re-live any of that nonsense again. Money can’t buy happiness; personal gains are never concrete BUT the truth is this: unconditional love is priceless. My resolution for 2015 is a collage of attainable aspirations: to love and be loved, to hope, to dream and to be content in three areas of my life. One with who I have become, two in the woman who is still emerging, re-inventing herself along the way and three, in knowing myself completely, un-apologetically!
Yep, here’s to 2015, may you know love, may you give love, accept and give forgiveness, let go of what’s holding you back and be yourself!