I've been facing my mortality a lot lately. I mean, I've always known that no one gets out of this world alive, but I guess in my youth, the concept of death and dying was something I didn't spend a lot of time considering.
A few things have happened over the course of the last few years that have made me realize that my link to this life is tenuous at best. Having recently faced a health scare of my own, I guess I'm trying to come to terms with my date with the Grim Reaper.
Being mostly agnostic, I'm not weighed down with a lot of organized religion's opinions on the afterlife. I don't really know what happens when I eventually end up taking the big dirt nap. And no one can tell me -- since no one knows. We may all meet St. Peter at the pearly gates, or we may just be worm food. Either way I'm not going to spend a ton of time in prayerful supplication in an attempt to garner a seat at the big dinner table in the sky. I live a (relatively speaking) virtuous life, and my "God" and I -- we have an understanding of how I roll. I figure since we're all (allegedly) created in His image, He knows what's in my head and my heart and while I may have some 'splainin' to do -- I'm comfortable with how things will turn out.
My problem is more about the people I would leave behind. You see, as verbose as I am, I struggle with the whole discussing feelings thing. I must have missed the day when they covered that in Girl Behavior 101 (along with lessons on shopping math and crying to get your way). I just plain suck at that stuff. I'm more from the behavior school of: If I like you, you'd know it. If I don't like you, you'd know that too. And if you're not sure -- we aren't that good of friends.
So there's a lot of people who mean a tremendous amount to me: my family, Peter, the whole Alvarez/Anderson crew, a select group of friends. And I probably don't tell any of them often enough (if ever) how much they matter to me. I guess I just kind of hope that they know. But when you're faced with the thought that you may run out of time before you have a chance to really let them know... well... that's kind of overwhelming. I've spent the last few months trying -- in my own way -- to tell those that count what they mean to me.
The bigger thing is my kids. I'd kind of planned on being around for them their entire lives and now, dealing with the fact that I may not have that luxury, I'm struggling to put down all the things I need to say to them. There just aren't enough words. And since I put every other personal thing on this blog -- I figured that this is as good a place as any to start writing these things down so they may someday -- hopefully many many years in the future -- read my version of motherly advice.
I didn't know the meaning of absolute love, or absolute fear, until the moment I held you the first time. I didn't know what I was doing or how I was going to do it, but I was fiercely determined I was going to do the best I could by you. I knew I wouldn't always get things right, I knew I would make plenty of mistakes. But I was going to do my best. I look at the boy you are and I see glimpses of the man you will be and I think I've done okay. I am proud of you, always.
I am proud of your honesty. While many children lie easily, and often, that has never been the case with you. I hope it always remains so. You are quick to take responsibility, and I am proud that your apologies are not empty. When you say you are sorry, you mean it. Do not lose this as you grow hardened in this world. It is always easier to own your mistakes, speak your truth, and live with the consequences. Lying is never the answer.
You didn't get your long fuse from me -- I have always been quick tempered. But I wish sometimes you were quicker to ignite than you are. You let people push you more than you should. You don't always have to agree. You, my little negotiator, are more than smart enough to learn how to say no. You can do it nicely, politely, and with a flash of those perfect dimples in your beautiful smile and no one will be upset with you. It is not up to you to manage the emotions of the world. Making yourself sick to make everyone else happy is no way to live. Stand up for yourself in every way.
I love how you are comfortable with your own company but don't let that turn you into a loner. I know it's hard for you to be the social animal your sister and father are, but it's not good to always go inward. People enjoy your company. And you need to enjoy theirs as well. You don't need to be the life or the party, just as you don't need to be the wallflower. Find a happy medium and just celebrate being in the presence of those who appreciate you. You have more to offer than you know.
Don't be afraid of hard work. Test yourself, physically and intellectually. It will only benefit you in the long run.
Don't be afraid to fail. And never, never, never give up. Nothing is insurmountable.
Always celebrate your uniqueness. You have never looked like, acted like, thought like, or behaved like any other child I knew. I hope you will always remain my perfect little non-conformist. In the words of E.E. Cummings: "To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting." And remember, my darling boy, that dorks rule the world.
You are beautiful. I know I don't tell you that because I wanted you to be more than just a pretty face. But you are. And while I am in awe of your beauty, it is your character that matters. Never cheapen yourself by trying to get by on your looks. You are better than that in every way.
You are the personification of the phrase "generous to a fault". But remember, there are many people in this world who will take advantage of that generosity. You don't need to give everything away to get people to like you. If someone doesn't like you for you, they are not worthy of your company. Give because you want to give, not because someone demands something from you, or because you hope to gain something for it.
Let go of your grudges, for they only hold you back. Hatred, anger, hurt feelings -- these all take tremendous energy to foster and, in the end, it's never worth the price you pay to hold them dear to you. Let them go. You need to learn to shake it off and move on. If someone says they are sorry, and means it, be gracious enough to accept the apology and go forward. Live in the present, look forward to your future, learn from and let go of your past.
I love how helpful you are but sometimes people (your brother, your sort-of step-siblings, your friends...) need to do for themselves. And you need to let them or you will have a lifetime of being an enabler.
Don't strive for acceptance from others. The most important acceptance you need is from yourself. Accept who you are and accept that you are fabulous in your own way. Don't spend a lifetime comparing yourself to others. There will always always always be someone who is more than you are, just as there will always always always be someone who is less. Don't be complacent, but don't be competitive either. At least not with others. Compete with yourself. Try to better yourself for yourself.
Dream big. And don't let ANYONE tell you you can't, or that your ideas are stupid. I've heard that it only takes one negative comment to kill a dream -- but not if you don't let it. If someone laughs at you, ignore it. Your dreams are beautiful, and worthwhile, and don't give someone the power to take them away from you. It's okay to not know, but it's not okay to not try. You CAN do anything you put your mind to. the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do what you feel in your heart to be right -- for you'll be criticized anyway." It is within your power to control your own destiny. Don't give that power away to someone else. Your life is your own. And you, my darling girl, will go on to do great things some day.
While Emily and Daniel aren't *my* children -- I feel like I have some wisdom (such as it is) to share with them as well.
Stop being afraid. Everyone who knows you, loves you, believes in you, and supports you. But as we've told you -- you are not perfect. You make mistakes. Everyone does. And there's no shame in being wrong sometimes. I promise you, there is not a single person you know who is 100% right all the time. It's okay. Mistakes are proof that you are trying! The worst mistake that you will ever make is being too afraid to make one. Don't let your fear of being wrong paralyze you -- there is so much of life you will miss out on that way. Failure is the best way to learn.
Work hard. You can't simply dream about being rich and successful -- you need to wake up and work hard to achieve that. And it's not always about being first -- it's about doing your best. You don't win for being the first one to finish the test but with all the wrong answers.
Learn to love who you -- Emily -- are. Stop trying on other personas -- Claire's, your cousins', your mother's. Each of those personalities are perfectly lovely on that person -- and not such a good fit on you. You are wonderful just being you. Don't try to be anyone other than quirky, funny, beautiful Emily. She's the best person for you to be.
Be kind. You have such an amazing sense of humor -- but you need to learn that you can be funny without making someone the butt of your joke. Laughing at someone isn't humorous -- it's mean. And going for a laugh at someone's expense isn't funny -- it's cheap. You are smarter, funnier, and nicer than that.
Words have the power to hurt as much as your fists do. Be gentle with both.
Like anyone -- you can benefit from the following advice: Listen more. Talk less. Your dad and I found a little sign the other day that we thought we perfect for you to memorize: Before you speak, THINK.
T -- is it true?
H -- is it helpful?
I -- is it inspiring?
N -- is it necessary?
K -- is it kind?
If the answer to any of those questions is no -- don't say it.
To all of "my" children: Find what and who it is that makes you happy and stick to it, and them. Be good to yourselves. Be kind to one another. I read somewhere that good manners can take people where neither money nor education can take them. Be polite. Be respectful. Be gracious. Be grateful. And most of all, be yourself. I love you with all of my heart.