I think it’s been established that I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing most of the time. And yet – I rarely let that stop me from actualizing my vision. The result? I’m constantly terrified.
Something happened to me at some point on this journey that made me realize the impermanence of things. Maybe it was living through my parents’ divorces when I was a kid – transitioning into new schools and new families every few years, or the tragic death of my very young aunt – to whom I was extremely close – when I was 5, or maybe it was being run over by a car at 16. The things that most people valued, to me, always felt like a distraction. But at the same time I couldn’t figure out what was of value to me.
When I was younger the outcome of all of that was deep cynicism. I was pissed off all the time and not in a productive way. My anger was paralyzing. Everything felt pointless to me. I lived with a deep sadness that felt like a hole in my gut – there was no place for me on this earth. I was self-destructive. Fascinated with the dark side of life – with broken, lost people – yet afraid enough of the darkness to never go too far.
I stayed on the edge of the middle. Straddling the divide between lost and found. Fixer of brokenness in others yet deeply in need of fixing myself. That fixing came a little at a time – and continues everyday forever I hope. It began with love and support from the people in my life. They loved me until I was able to find my answers in my own time. They believed in me until I was able to believe in myself – and now they believe in me even more. They also at times allowed me to build walls and accept my own limitations – but we all do the best we can with what we have. Ultimately, I had to find my own way. I have never fit into the “regular box.”
I recently had a conversation with someone about an upcoming project – that I will be announcing soon – and we were talking about the whole point of It Runs in the Family and other projects in this movement of breaking our silence around mental illness. I talked about telling my family’s stories and recognizing that, though there were very difficult issues to face, there were also so many wonderful things; but to appreciate the wonderful things you have to be willing to acknowledge and forgive the broken parts. She responded that “when you love someone you love all of them.”
Why am I saying all of this? Well, first off, to be honest with you about who I am and where I came from. But second because that statement is so true about so many things. In order to love something you have to be able to love (acknowledge, accept, forgive) all of the pieces. Telling our stories isn’t just about reducing the stigma of mental illness – it’s about reducing the stigma of imperfection. We are not all ok all the time. Our houses are messy, our kids don’t listen, there’s not always enough money, our marriages can struggle, sometimes was fail at things that are really important to us. Sometimes we are lost and sometimes we sit comfortably on the edge of the middle waiting too long to take a step in the direction we want to go.
A friend of mine wrote a play in high school in which she coined the phrase “the edge of the middle” – it was a symbol of all those old people too afraid to move forward in their lives. It was a cautionary tale to our generation to not get frozen in place – to not be afraid of living outside of the box – of all those wonderful, cliché and yet magnificently hopeful things young people tell themselves and each other. It was the first play I produced and it meant so much to those of us involved. Today, not living on the edge of the middle means the same thing but the stakes are different, for me a least. It’s not about disappointing myself anymore – it’s about having the courage to use my voice for a purpose. It’s really scary. What if people don’t care? What if my voice isn’t strong enough? What if everything I did to get to this point, to say all the things I have to say – means nothing?
So to end where I began, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve never been a part of a movement or been a blogger or a person who does all the things that I am currently doing. There isn’t school for this stuff – at least not for a 37 year old wife and mother of 3 with a full-time job. I am a person who has things to say. I am a person who thinks a lot of other people have something to say and they are not heard. I am a person who is standing on the edge of the middle taking a step into the unknown. Please bare with me on this leg of the journey.
On July 23rd at 7 pm at the Urban Farmhouse in Midlothian, Virginia we will use our collective voices to shed light on the challenges of parenthood. Singers, storytellers, poets, actors, bloggers and me! We will love all the parts of this scary, crazy journey out loud. I hope you will join us.