An Only Child With Siblings

When people ask me if I have siblings, I always hesitate. I typically will say, "I'm my mother's only child."

From my earliest memory, I've always wanted a sibling. An older sibling. Such a thing to wish as how would I ever get one? People would often ask the younger me if I wanted my mom to have another child so I could have a little brother or sister. That thought was terrifying to me. Me? Be responsible for someone else? Be some sort of role model/mentor/caretaker person to a little human? Absolutely not.

I have always had older friends, always run with an older crowd. I always liked having someone older to help me figure things out and I've also always been mature for my age. I never related well with folks significantly younger than me. I play "little sister" VERY WELL.

When I was 14, however, I got my wish. As we did every year, my mom and I went to AL to visit family for Thanksgiving. Somehow, that year, I ended up spending a lot of time with one of my older cousins and her daughter (who is about 2 or 3 years younger than me). This cousin had a sister named Lisa, and so when she kept mentioning that later in the day we would be going to Lisa's house, I didn't think anything of it. Her sister had moved, having recently gotten married, and I was excited to see her new home.

Later that night we pulled up outside of a nice house and as we got out of the car, my cousin hesitated. She turned around to face me in the back seat and said, "Ashley. I never thought about how this might make you feel. You're ok with us being here, right?" I was confused. Why in the world wouldn't I be ok with it, I thought. She read my mind and jumped out of the car, pulling the front driver's seat forward so she could see me. Her eyes got big and she said "you don't know where we are, do you?" Then I was DEFINITELY confused. Hadn't she told me we were going to Lisa's house? Reading my mind again she filled in the blanks - "Ashley, this is your sister's house..."

There are levels of confusion. I know this because at this point I was on the most extreme level. What sister? How did I have a sister? I'd been with my mom 14 years and seen no other child show up with her.

My cousin led me into the house and we walked towards the back and downstairs into a finished basement/den. There sat a woman about my cousin's age, who looked just like me. Next to her was a woman with a lighter complexion and smaller frame but who resembled the woman who looked like she was me 15 years in the future. Turns out they were both my sisters and that they knew all about me. They knew things like what kind of grades I made, what grade I was in. Lisa -- my sister -- had just given birth to her daughter and she already had a son (who had the same name as my cousin Lisa's oldest son... she also almost chose the same name for her daughter as my cousin's daughter... too much).

I sat with them for over two hours dumbfounded. How had I had what I wanted for all this time and no one told me? I wish I could say we went on to have really tight relationships but we didn't. After the end of that year, I lost touch with one and I haven't spoken to the other in 4 years.

I've mentioned on several occasions that my life is nothing if not a series of motifs.

This past Thanksgiving, as I sat down for dinner with my family, one of my cousins' (by marriage) sisters and niece walked into the banquet hall to join us for dinner. Another one of my cousins later told me she heard that the niece was also my sister. My mother later confirmed it...

Clearly my father has ensured the human race will never die out...


More of Me

I spent the first 4 months of the year immersed in myself and what I was trying to finish. I neglected friendships and responsibilities. I avoided phone calls, didn't respond to text messages and skimmed emails. I half-ass supported folks in need unless supporting their need put me any closer to my end goal. That included myself

I won't be apologizing for any of that because it was a necessary thing. Sometimes you have to shut it all out and hone in on the goal and work your ass off for a little while and get what it is you want.

This last month, however, I've been assessing the damage. Who do I owe? How can I make it up? Most folks aren't holding it against me because they understand, because they get it. Most folks are just happy that I'm back... or coming back, at least.

I also spent this last month assessing what I've gained. You can't spend 2 years of intensive study on how humans develop and not get all in your own mess of a life (and, if you've done any living at all, it is a mess. It might be a beautiful mess, but a mess all the same, and that's not bad). From day one of my program, our professors warned us that if we bothered to do the work in the program we would find ourselves different from when we started. We would find ourselves growing. Our professors even suggested that we warn our loved ones because it might be difficult for them.

I didn't believe any of that -- I thought, sure, maybe some of these folks around me who have never been through anything in life might find some growth process in here and maybe I'll enhance an iota or two but overall, I didn't have any growing to do. Not right now. These were my thoughts. I was ridiculously arrogant and oblivious and wrong. I like to think that maybe that helped me grow more than I would've because I wasn't expecting anything. I was just trucking along.

I grew. Understand that. Who I was in August of 2010 is not who I am in May of 2012. And when I began to understand that, I started telling everyone because I was excited about it. I wanted everyone to know that I had grown and because I had grown I could help others grow (especially my little kiddos -- the precious pups who make me crazy inside). Except I kept saying that I had "changed." And I thought I had, but as I've had some time to myself to think about things and actually begin effecting change in my life (like ending relationships -- that is CERTAINLY something I wouldn't have been doing in August of 2010) I realized I'm not changed, in the sense that I was one person 2 years ago that I am no longer. I may be doing things I wouldn't have done before but that's not to say I didn't want to do them. I feel ok doing them now. Does that make me a changed individual? No. I think it makes me authentic. I'm different in that I'm the same with more of me coming, spilling, pouring out.

And this whole thing hasn't been easy and doesn't seem to be getting easier but I'm ok with that. I'm just fine with that because if it's hard, if it's easy, I need to be more of who I am. That's what's right.


365 Days to Change

A year ago I wrote these two posts: Owning Myself Pt 1 and Owning Myself Pt 2. Shortly after posting both of these, a friend of mine and I had a couple of conversations about the post. The general gist was that she wanted me to know she wanted to be the type of friend who I could lean on if I needed support and that I should seek out friendships that offered the sort of emotional support I discuss not having in those two posts.

After our conversation I had a separate one with another friend where I expressed that I while I felt like she intended to be genuine, I didn't trust what she was saying. From a general stand point, people often offer themselves up to be that rock for you but when push comes to shove, they don't know how to handle it. From a more specific standpoint, this friend has always been good for knowing the right things to say and then not following through. I've always been an actions person, so this has always made me wary of the feel good things she says.

365 days later I'm done with our friendship. I had a major event happen in my life that I told her was upcoming but she didn't acknowledge it because she neither read my email or responded to my phone call. It shouldn't have mattered, she knew the day was coming at some point and she never bothered to inquire.

That in and of itself is just a story of a person making some bad decisions. We've all done that and negatively effected people we say we love and care about. But I've got multiple stories just like that one and I'm determining that what I need to do is accept that I can be the best friend I know how to be all I want but if it's not reciprocated it only hurts me in the long run.

It wasn't that I didn't know these things 365 days ago, but today I'm ready to accept them because it means I'm on a path to better friendships that work hard to be supportive because they know it will be easily and readily reciprocated.


Working Through It

I didn't have a great day today. Certainly wasn't the worst day I've ever had. Not even close, but it wasn't a great day.

I had a conversation -- technically two -- that I've been rolling around in my head to have for a couple of days. In the world where I planned how this would go down the conversation was going to happen at least a week from now. However the real world had alternative plans and they happened today. And by happening today they didn't go as planned, at all.

I wasn't taken seriously, I believe the two individuals think I'm a ridiculous joke (which is actually not that big of a deal to me except for how it effects the way they interpret what I said) and I had not one iota of satisfaction afterwards.

So I talked to a couple of friends about it. That's how I process: out loud and with another living person (the latter when possible, I've been known to go it alone) and because this is ultimately an issue I've been hashing out and planning around and working through for almost 3 years now, they didn't have much to say and I didn't want them to. It's time to "leave this at the alter" as I told one friend.

But just "letting it go" hasn't been easy. I can't even figure out what it is I want to happen. I thought what I wanted was to be heard, understood and then left alone but I'm beginning to think that what I wanted was to be loved. To be told that I despite what has occurred, I actually do matter -- to these specific people.

What I wish were true is that I would see this for what it is (which I do) and then stop focusing my attention on it and instead put that attention on something that does work out well in my life (which I'm not doing). For the absolute LIFE of me I cannot figure out what the hangup is.

I do have a hypothesis. Walking away means letting it all go. Everything I thought might be true won't be if I walk away. Staying has meant a lot of anxiety and anger and walking away would, eventually anyway, bring a lot of relief so the only answer is that somehow, somewhere, I've determined that walking away without the things I wanted = failure and one thing I absolutely don't like to deal with is failure. Certain failure. The failure that occurs when your most important interpersonal relationships just don't work out. I hate that failure. I hate letting people down and I hate being fooled into being let down.

So while I'm so ready to go, there's something that just won't let me. I need some scissors. Or a knife. Or better yet, a dadgum backbone. Ironic since almost everyone in my life would tell you that I have no qualms laying things out as they are.

I came here to write this out hoping for clarity but all it's doing is giving me pause and making me frustrated. Hell man.

5.03.2012 just might find, you get what you need...

I've always liked that Rolling Stone's song. Always appreciated the diction in the famous line. My man Mick tell us that we CAN'T always get what we want. Not that we don't or may not, but we can't. It's just not possible to always get what we want, but sometimes, he tells us, SOMETIMES, folks... we just MIGHT find we get what we need... *in my southern preacher voice*

These last two days showed me that Mick, whether he knew it or not, was smack dead on the point. You can't always get what you want but sometimes you do get what you need, aka, Jesus will always come through in the clutch (and sometimes when you have no idea you need Him to).

Tuesday evening my program had its annual end of the year banquet. What the banquet is for is still, after many years of occurrence, in development, but generally the idea is to honor the graduating students and acknowledge their time in the program. This is also the time that the Roger F. Aubrey North Star Award, given to honor a student for excellence in leadership, academics and service, is announced. In our program this is a big deal; in truth it is the only deal. Students are nominated by their peers and then chosen by the core faculty in the program.

I was aware I had been nominated for the award because I had to write an essay. A total lie would be to say I did not care if I won. I had a vague idea of who had been nominated and just that vague idea let me know I had stiff competition. Another total lie would be to say no one knows who I am in this program. Everyone knows who I am and it was for that reason that it just felt... wrong... to expect to win.

This is something I battle with. How much is too much when it comes to horn tooting? Did I deserve the award? Sure I did. But so did everyone who was nominated and why would I be special? Why not highlight the accomplishments and hard work of some students who maybe didn't get as much shine as I did over the last two years. Basically, I fell back into that "who am I to be great" mode of thinking that is actually pretty damn protective and a favored go-to of mine when I don't want to be let down.

The truth is that I have some vague awareness that I'm a special person. I've surely been told that I am enough. At some point in my future I'll be able to hypothesize about the idea that people who are meant for greatness go through a specific developmental set of stages on their way to greatness. Right now, the stage that I'm most aware of is the "wanting to see self as others do." It's this place where you know you might actually be everything everyone says you are, but you just can't see it. In their song "Like I Am," Rascal Flatts sing a couple of lyrics I love, "but will I ever see all the things you see in me" and "when you say that I'm one of a kind, baby I don't see it, but you believe it..." That's where I am. People keep telling me so it must be true and now I'm ready to see it for myself. Sure, sometimes I repeat what I'm told, but it is often the same as when a young child emulates something their father does - they do it because someone they trust did it, not because they understand what it means.

Anyway, there I sat last night listening to the introduction of the person who would be named the 2012 Roger F. Aubrey North Star Award recipient. I listened as one of my professors talked about how Roger Aubrey, the man the award is named for, was the type of person who made everyone feel like they were special. How everyone commented that when he talked to them he made them feel like they were the only person that mattered. And before I could really comprehend what he said more than to think "I hope I make people feel that way," my professor said my name and I really had that moment where everything was happening in slow motion.

At my peers' request I gave a brief speech and I was sincere. As sincere as I know how to be. I thanked them repeatedly, I expressed my sincere surprise at winning (even named the individual I thought would actually win) and told them that anything I had accomplished in my 2 years was absolutely because I had been blessed enough to complete this period of my life with an amazing group of people.

After the program was over, I got a hug from almost everyone present, including all of my professors and everyone congratulated me, several folks told me they were happy I received the award and felt it was right for me and one of my favorite people even said she wished I would win. It's nice to know you're noticed, it's nice to know you're loved and it's great to know people care and care enough to say so.

Afterwards I text all of my friends to tell them I had won and I was taken aback at the genuine happiness I got back from all of them. Everyone was happy for me and I heard from them what I heard all night from my peers. You're great, you deserved it and I'm happy for you. My last post was a lot about how much I've been needing that from my peers, my friends, the folks who matter to me. I've wanted it for a while -- and I wasn't getting it. But I got it last night and I needed it last night even though I don't think I realized that until I had it.

And then this morning one of my best (and oldest) friends called me to say she was an hour away and wanted to have lunch with me. Best surprise all year. Funny - I was thinking not too long ago how much I'd like to be surprised once in my life. I'm thinking I needed that, too.