Another Cliche Carpe Diem Post

In Julius Ceasar, Shakepeare wrote the words, “Beware the Ides of March.” For the better part of the last two decades, it has not just been the Ides, but the entire month of March that keeps me on my toes. Because the month also coincides with Lent, I typically use the time for self-reflection and personal growth, in lieu of the traditional practice of giving something up. It’s a reminder of the years when just getting through the month was a struggle. Although I no longer feel like I battle through the entire month, I find that every year I am presented with something that challenges my thinking, especially how I think about myself and my past. 

Last year was about anniversaries. This year has been about beginnings and endings. One of my best friends is no longer a part of my life (refer to previous post “I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing”). After about three months of silence, I heard from him a few weeks ago. The email began, “Hi Corrina, Well it’s been months. I won’t begin to apologize because I don’t think it would help, but I am sorry…” and ended, “I hope you are well and I do miss you.” I realized it was too little and too late and unceremoniously closed that chapter of my life for good. 

Then there was the news yesterday. I learned that someone I knew from high school passed away unexpectedly (how in the world did we survive before Facebook?). We dated briefly when I was a sophomore. We reconnected via Facebook less than a year ago. I was supposed to drive up to see him for lunch one day; I cancelled. We spoke again a little bit after that, but hadn’t spoken since September. After hearing of his passing I scrolled through our texts back and forth, and saw the text that is haunting me right now. We had been talking just about music (we were in choir together in school) and out of the blue he said, “It’s nice to have someone to talk to….”  

I’m not the sort to believe that death suddenly gives someone amazing qualities that just happened to be overlooked in life. The truth is that we all have good and bad qualities and, even more importantly, the person that we are at any one point in time isn’t necessarily the same person we ultimately become. The problem is that death provides the ultimate opportunity to reflect on someone’s life as a whole, which isn’t an easy thing to do when we’re in the middle of life as it’s happening. I say this because not all of my memories of “Doug” are warm and fuzzy and happy. And I think it’s wrong to pretend otherwise. This was the guy who dumped me (twice), started seeing a college girl who called me and threatened to kick my ass for speaking for him, and after all of this tried to convince me that I should sleep with him. When we dated he made snide comments about my friends and tried to dictate what I wore to school. In my long line of failed relationships with Scorpios, he was the very first. But he was also the guy who first asked me out (via a mutual friend) on my birthday, the guy who first introduced me to Tori Amos’ music, and the guy who told me last summer that he still remembered the sound of my voice from when we sang in choir together twenty years ago. He wanted to get together at an open mic night one time to try a duet together, and I really wish that we had that chance. Instead, I just have a few old text messages. 

And yet, despite the loss, the last few weeks have also brought me great joy. After feeling lost without the choir, I found a new one. This past Saturday night was the first time that I really felt like I was where I belonged (ironically, the new organist knows David- as I’ve said before, sometimes it feels like what’s supposed to be six degrees of separation is really morphed into some weird borderline incestuous soup). I’ve also recently started seeing a great guy (sorry, but I’m still feeling a little selfish about those particular memories). So the scales have balanced out- no need for pity. 

But I have been reminded of just how short and how precious life is, and reflect on how many other times I’ve cancelled on my friends. When I was too tired, or busy or just wanted to be alone. When I figured I would just catch up with them next time. And that is my biggest regret and the real lesson I’ve taken to heart. Because let’s face it, sometimes that next time never comes. 

Finding My Balance

Have you ever felt like the universe was trying to tell you something?  This morning I sat down at my desk and tore away yesterday’s page on my calendar and got the distinct impression that someone must be trying to send me a message.  Today’s Inner Bitch message was “The beauty of being in touch with your Inner Bitch means that you know what you know and you’re not afraid to say it out loud.”  It was especially timely after Tuesday’s voice lesson.  I recently started taking voice lessons again and one of the things my instructor talked about is the tension that intelligent women tend to carry from the many times they want to speak their mind and don’t. She explained it as part of a discussion about trying to release muscle tension in my neck that interferes with my voice.

Well, this makes perfect sense to me, mainly because I find myself editing my comments all the time. One of the reasons I started writing a blog was to give myself the freedom to express my thoughts outside of traditional social media where my friends and family inevitably judge my words. But it’s hard to speak up when you’ve forced yourself to stay silent for so long. Trust me, Tori Amos has nothing on my silent years.

I recently read that the average person has 318 friends on Facebook. I haven’t done a recent count, but I have a feeling my friend count is less than average. Don’t get me wrong- I’m completely okay with that. After all, it was by my own doing. Because every new friend equals the potential of further silencing my words. For example, I’ve done the online dating thing on and off for a while now. Every once in a while a guy I’m talking to will ask me to friend him on Facebook. I almost always decline. I joke with my friends that it’s because it would be awkward to post something about going on the worst first date ever when I know there’s a chance my date would see my comment. In truth, I’m only half joking.

I feel like I’m in a constant battle with myself.  On the one hand, I want to just say what I’m thinking, right when I think it.  On the other hand, I know the damage that words can do. Like everyone, I’ve said things that I later regret, and when I’m really upset, I can pretty much destroy someone with my words. I want to let my feelings out, but (usually) not at the expense of someone else’s.

To add to the confusion, there are time when I feel like I want to keep things to myself. Sometimes I need to wallow in my own sadness before I’m ready to put on my happy face for the rest of the world.  I get the same way about the really good feelings, too.  I feel kind of selfish and just want to savor those amazing moments–almost as if I’m afraid that sharing them might make them feel less vivid in my mind.  The end result is feeling like I’m on a roller coaster and I want to get off, but I just can’t actually bring myself to pull the off switch.

So here’s to finding the balance between my feelings and my concern for the feelings of others… to letting my voice be heard, not for the sake of being heard, but because I have something to say, and it’s time to say it.