Life is a book. You write the chapters. As you live it, it is hard to see the chapters start or end.
Sometimes, life is so awful that one actually thinks, “What if I wasn’t here?”
Sometimes, life is so amazing that one thinks, “God, I hope this lasts forever!”
Nothing lasts forever– good or bad. It is at the end of the chapters that we can assess our place, our feelings, our emotional stake, and hopefully, our emotional growth.
Chapter One: Being a child
As a child, I was gregarious. I loved to socialize. and quickly, I felt the connection with others. When people responded to me, I responded back. My synapses charged and grew because of the response I received from others.
Chapter Two: Awakening
I became aware of my surroundings. By five, I realized that my parents were often at each other’s throats. I would be awoken in the middle of the night by verbal altercations that no toddler or adolescent should hear. I do not think my children have viewed a movie that has been so abusive, but at my impressionable young age, my parents’ dysfunction was my reality.
Chapter Three: New Unexpected Role
I became the caregiver. My mother was in and out of treatment centers. She was “delicate” and we walked on eggshells around her. Hence, by the age of thirteen, I was not only a daughter and a student, but I was a caregiver, a household manager, and an ear to my father and brother. I had a plateful of roles in this chapter, and somehow, I maintained a positive demeanor to most, although usually, I felt like I was sinking. I tried to end this chapter at sixteen after my mother had faltered yet again. I swallowed a bottle of Excedrin. By my calculations, I probably should be dead, but something kept me alive.
Chapter Four: What About Me?
I suddenly felt empowered. My parents and their issues, as much as they impacted me, were not my issues. I decided to try to make more decisions for me. I joined clubs and sports in high school; I explored avenues I had never traveled down before; I allowed myself to speculate about my future.
Chapter Five: Failure.
Over the course of five years, I could not live my life because I worried too much about my parents and their lives. I studied in three different places of higher education, and when on the third, I felt at home, the night I felt like I was going to actually make a mark, my father begged me to stay at home because he thought my mother was, once again, suicidal. I breathed deep and capitulated. I had been through more than enough suicide scares to know that if he felt it was serious, I could not leave.
Chapter Six: Moving Out.
I decided at 24-years old that I needed to start establishing a life of my own. I could not be the Go-To-When-Things-Go- Awry-girl any longer. I had served my time, and I needed to figure out how to live for myself. I had somehow found amazing friends who were not enablers, and I wanted to explore life without a crutch. I moved out on my own for the first time, and to be honest, struggling to pay bills felt great!
Chapter Seven: Meeting Tom.
Ah! Most people say they want a movie-moment: a moment when you say to yourself, “Yes, this is my husband.” Two hours after meeting Tom, I told my girlfriend that I thought I had just met my husband. I told my brother, my best friend, and my roommate within hours. Twenty months later, we were married.
Chapter Eight: Children and Life.
The last fifteen years have been a whirlwind. Three births. Three parents’ deaths. Joy and sadness– happiness and despair. This chapter has not been what I expected it to be, but I have to admit, no were any of the others. I have a career that is constantly changing and a family that is constantly evolving. My children are my sense of joy. My marriage is an amazing accomplishment. This June 6, it will be fifteen years that we are married. Fifteen! I know people who marvel at that number.
Excerpt from Chapter Eight:
Cheryl and Tom stop for a beer at the local pub. Cheryl engages in conversation with a practical stranger.
“I have to ask, how long have you known each other?” the stranger asks.
“Almost seventeen years. We will soon have our fifteenth anniversary,” Cheryl says.
The stranger smiles and nods her head knowingly. “I see it. You are two people who fit together. You compliment each other. That is rare.”
Cheryl smiles. Sometimes it is difficult. No one has a perfect relationship. Yet, she feels empowered by the compliment. A happy relationship is not a script; it is not a screenplay; it is not a book. A true happy relationship is one where the two people block out all outside forces and just try to figure out how they can be happy– how they can laugh and enjoy and relish in the moments.
No one will write the same book. None of us know how many chapters we have. If you can, write them thoroughly and happily. Once you realize you have the pen in your hand, relish in the moments.