This is a letter of thanks- to the people who yelled at me and mistreated me, when I was still a little girl. To the girls and boys who were so mean and cruel in middles school. To the friends who wound up not being friends at all. To the men I loved so much that threw that love away and broke my heart. To the drugs that almost took me out. To my own stubborn self, for standing in my way so many times…thank you.
I am not a little girl, not anymore. I have forgiven you, forgotten you, moved on…but I know now how I do not want to be talked to or treated, and I will not allow it. I had to learn that it was not okay to treat other people the way you treated me, but it was good that I could tell that I was wrong, and why, and now I am a better person for it. So thank you. I hope you have a better life today than you did when I was small.
You twelve and thirteen and fourteen year old little heathens of yore…I get it now. You couldn’t have known about my miserable home life, about how terribly your words hurt me. Not that you would have cared, such is the nature of the beast. But kids are cruel, and you (nor I) were any exception. The ones of you that remember and feel bad have grown up and are probably decent people…the ones who have forgotten are normal. But if you look back and still find your antics funny, you probably have an ass the size of a carport and a rotten life. I will pray for you.
To the friends who were not friends at all- I’ve stood where you stand, and it’s a lonely place. Sorry is not just a word, you know. Sometimes it’s a knock at the door. Life has given me a heart full of compassion and a head full of understanding, and you know, maybe I miss you, too.
Oh, and you men. Yikes. You are my Achilles heel, and I can’t blame you for my reprehensible taste, but still…one thing I am good at is loving you, and you have been disappointing. You know who you are. That first one, who got all of the best love I had, and played me like a hand of cards…like, five hands of cards, actually. So many lies, betrayals, dashed hopes and sleepless nights. But it’s okay, because you taught me a lot- about what I want, what I don’t want, and how to tell when I am heading down a bad road. So, thanks. Don’t call me or anything, just thank you.
Sigh…the drugs. I can’t leave you out, not if I’m being honest. You were the hurdle I almost couldn’t clear, and I am so glad you are gone. You stole me from my family, my children, my dreams and I almost couldn’t escape. I know you are out there, cruising my street sometimes- when I am hurting or fed up or too sad- just waiting for me to stumble, and I know you have all the time in the world. But I have learned to sit on my hands. I have learned to think about the end result, the inevitable conclusion you will lead me to, and I stay inside until you are bored and move on. I have been someone I couldn’t stand, did things I would never do, gone to places I wish I didn’t know about, all with you. But you made me better than I ever could have been without you. You stay away from me, but thank you.
And stubborn little me…well. I forgive you, and will continue to do so, when necessary. Despite the worst decisions you have made, the repeated wrong turns and backslides, your heart remains good. I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
So, thank you, thank you, thank you- all the heartache life has dropped at my door has made me stronger. I value real love like the treasure it is. I am a fierce and loyal protector of those I love- whether children, lover or friend. I am not afraid. Because of all the bad times, I know I can survive just about anything you throw at me. Because of the good times, I know it’s all worth it.
I am still learning. When to give up, when to let go, when it is not for me to decide. But I have learned, because of past mistakes, to listen closely to my instincts, to pay attention to what my body is telling me in its own quiet way. I know that facing the truth now is better than pretending things aren’t what they are indefinitely- you can’t always avoid heartache, but you don’t have to prolong it. I know that actions really do speak louder than words. I know that time really does tell.
I have been let down, let go, locked out, beat up, messed with and leveled along the way. I have cried, a lot. I have had moments where I was pretty sure life as I knew it was over- and you know what? I wasn’t wrong. Because every single time I got back up, pulled it together, sucked it up and decided to persevere, I was better than before. That life had ended and something better began.
Now, here I sit, at 37, and my life is what it is because of all the challenges, the failures, the successes, that shaped me. I know who I am, and I know what I want. I am stronger and better, deeper and more compassionate than I ever thought I could be. I am more capable and less afraid, more certain and more open minded than I believed possible. I am a better mother than I was, more tender, more patient, more aware. I am a better friend than I was, more able to listen, more loyal, more honest, more practical. I am a better woman.
I am not who I thought I would be, but everything I need to be today. And better than I’d hoped, so long ago. So thank you for the lessons that you taught me, that led me here. I am more grateful than you could ever know.