This Beaded Life

Puberty sucks.  Anyone that has gone through it knows the truth and that it can be explained in those two little words so acutely accurate: it sucks.

I’m fixing to hit the dirty thirty.  Whoa: 30 years old, who knew that was coming?  I’ll tell you one thing, I had no idea! I remember being a kid sitting on the porch with my friends, not caring that my sloppy pony tail had long ago lost its perfect pull or that my hands and fingers had become a wall for warm ice cream to trickle over and down onto my shorts.  I remember saying to my friends, all of us young and in stern agreement,

I don’t think I’ll live past 30.  I just have a feeling I won’t make it to be that old.

Well here I am and in less than 30 days folks, I will have made it to the big three O.  I’ve learned quite a few things along the way to get…here.

One of the things I learned is that puberty blows.  It’s super hard and that it doesn’t just happen one time.  That’s some sort of fantasy where life is super easy, we hit one phase of horrible body odor and acne, a few unexplainable ups and downs that render us helpless and easily defeatable.  No…life is just not that kind.

It’s like we are made with this string.  This string is extra long, a lot longer than our actual lifespan – who knows why. When we are born a knot is made at one end; it signifies that initial start of our movements, our memories, our achievements both big and small;  this knot holds everything in place for us, keeps us moving up or forward (however you choose to hold this string) and builds us a chain of events.  As we grow, we add beads to decorate our spotless and empty present.  Little things appear on the string first: your first smile, your first kiss to mommy, your first laugh…you get the idea.  The first bigger beads come at the most dramatic and life changing moments like maybe taking that first step or going to school without crying for mommy and/or daddy once for a whole day.  Obviously these first few beads reflect your parents perception of what is of importance.  The real beads, the glass beads, the most delicate and decorative represent pieces of you, maybe these beads have letters on them if you’d like.  You put them on the string yourself.  It usually happens around the time you discover your parent’s sense of humor makes no sense to you at all. Or when you realize that it is your room and therefore your parents shouldn’t be allowed in if you don’t personally invite them.  congratulations, you are becoming a person.  You deserve a ‘special’ bead.

Little moments fill the gaps with tiny yet un-dramtically colorful beads.  We decide what are the big beads, the lettered beads, the most ornamental, etc.  We choose what they represent.  Any bead, big, small, medium could be anything you want.  Break-ups that really hurt, learning to skate or play the guitar or discovering girls aren’t easy to talk to or boys are super easy to talk to (or maybe it’s the other way around?).  I imagine my own string to focus mainly around my lonesome personality as I am a severe introvert (can introverts be severe?). An example could be the first book I read twice (Sadako and the Thousand Paper CranesSadako_and_the_thousand_paper_cranes_00) or the first mural I ever painted or learning to control my temper because I was too small to fight my sister (she’s grown from a big girl into a big woman).  Along with my temper I learned to somewhat control my most sensitive emotions.  I cried a lot and I learned that other people really don’t like people who cry.  I came from a time and class of people where crying didn’t get you attention.  I didn’t get therapy or prescribed drugs because they were unobtainable to my mothers poor little family.  What I got was a lesson: no friends if you let everything people say to you break you; no boyfriends if every girl they look at makes you cry out in a jealous rage.  It’s not that the emotions cease to exist, you just learn not to play into them as much the older you get.  Because my sensitivities always got in my way and it took extra layers of bricks and mortar to block off these impulsive lash-outs, I gave myself an extra glass bead or two.

By the time we think we are entering adulthood, around 20 or so, we start going through more changes.  Our bodies demand activity.  It’s not always clubs or sex (although a lot of times it is exactly that) it can sometimes be something unlike you, a natural desire to experiment.  This is where people really start to consider college if they are not already there, maybe those already enrolled change majors around this time (people like me just change partners…a lot).  Maybe you go hiking out-of-state, or take a road trip to the other side of your state, or go to a bar that’s completely not your scene or it could be something completely rounded and you only change radio stations in your car.  You discover the many facets of yourself, is my point – yes, discovering you like reggae instead of pop is discovering a new facet of yourself.  We each have so many sides to us that I don’t think we ever get to really see ourselves in one lifetime.  This period in our lives is exciting, or it should be anyway.  Some of us, you know, our desire to explore ourselves and the world around us forces us through intimidation into a state of idleness where we become drifters.  We’re just…”passing through, just passing through.  Nothing to see here….really.” That’s what happened to me.

Then we reach this state where we realize, “Oh my gosh, I have kids, a crappy job, oh no…. *camera zooms in on shocked face* “I’m an…….(whispers with horror) adult.”  And we look at our strings and we speak to ourselves, maybe we cry a little…. We see the things we did and ponder the things we didn’t.  We gauge our current positions by the size of our beads or the gaps between them, did we take enough time to really notice each of those smaller beads as we added them?   We glance upon a beautiful blue bead with one of the letters of our first names and remember how grown we thought we were then, how little we enjoyed our freedoms, how wild “those days” were.  It’s actually really tragic.  Being homeless at twenty was not fun, I can tell you that, but I was grown dammit!  I knew what I was doing and while I frown with disappointment on that bead, I still recall how free and wild I felt even when troubled and stuck without a clue or answers.  I learned so much about myself, the world around me and the people in it and even the system we all flow through.  I realized by the time I was 25 that when I was twenty…it was just more puberty.  It was all about growth; it just wasn’t my boobs (how unfortunate) or unsightly body hair (in some cases it was exactly that).  It was about the development of my character, the molding of my personality and learning the processes I would go through in thought to live my future daily life.

What is unfortunate about this string of beads (which, mind you, is starting to sound more perverted each time I type that) is how it grows.  Some of us are so fortunate that we can add knots each time there is some event/tragedy that pauses life for us.  This could be anything; the death of a parent, a grandparent, an old friend…a marriage.  These same events could cause the first knot to loosen, making our dependency on our current known selves to weaken.  We can’t trust ourselves, we don’t know ourselves.  Some of us have help, people who love us enough to help us tighten that knot back up in no time and  we add one of those malformed beads that look like two got melted together.  Some of us are less fortunate.  Our fingers lose their grip and the string slips, falling limp over our remaining stunned fingers and allowing some beads to bounce around the floor at our feet before we could stop them.  We’ve lost a part of ourselves.  Now we scramble to find ourselves again and hope we can put ourselves back together and in the right order so we can move on with our lives.  Maybe we’ll even add another bead because this newest trip was a hard learned lesson.

And then there are people like me or those who have it worse (it’s never correct to assume you have it worse than everyone else).  You’re just walking down the street one day, or waking up in bed thinking about what to make for breakfast, and some little asshole comes by with a pair of kid-safe scissors and  with ninja-like stealth and accuracy, manages to cut your string from the bottom, just above your knot.  Everything, all of your beads, all of your memories, all of your dreams and accomplishments and pride and hard work slip to the floor in one eloquent intake of breath.  All of you is on the floor.  You’re so lost you can’t even hold onto the string, even that hits the floor and is forever stained.

Where do you go from this point?  You’re not even able to lift yourself.  How can you find your beads and your string and put them all back together and in the right order?  You can’t, you just can’t.  I lost beads, I broke beads, I am forever tarnished.  Luckily….life gives you a really long piece of string.  I cut off the thin and frail end of my string that had held the weight of my beads for so long and I asked my husband to tie me a new knot.  With all of my beads laid out before me and with my husband holding the string tight for me, I picked through and salvaged what was salvageable. I tossed all the chipped and useless beads, I flung the ones crushing my most precious yet smaller beads and I broke the ones too bright and intrusive to allow those beside them to shine.

While digging through my beads, feeling the cool glass and plastic roll over my palm, through my fingers, I examined my past in an excruciatingly close and analytical manner.  At first, all I wanted was to fix everything as quickly as possible.  I wanted to replace all the broken beads, I wanted to keep as many as I could and hold on to everything even though there was so much damage that just couldn’t be undone.  I can’t tell how long I sat there polishing beads, trying to remove scuff marks and fill in cracks while my husband sat beside me patiently waiting for me to finally ask for help to throw them all away because they were just worthless.

My string is lighter now but the value of each remaining bead cannot be measured in weight or paint or sheer size.  I wonder now how much time I wasted in my life trying to jam the string through tiny holes I couldn’t even see just because the bead was big and had been painted to extremes so I could make futile attempts to make my life seem like it was more dazzling than it was ever meant to be.

The sad thing for me is that it has been a blessing to cross paths with this little bastard running around, ruining things…what a dick move to cut my string!  But, I got rid of a lot of garbage and weight, useless ceramic orbs that aren’t very attractive and serve no purpose other than to burden you with its fragility, its porous shell absorbing everything it can from you and it’s weight somehow managing to find its way onto your back instead of on the string where it was meant to play its role.  Ugly.  Ceramic beads are ugly…nothing pretty or enjoyable about them.  Just sucking up all the pretty around them, making everything else look plain and silly in its ugly shadow.

I have lost quite a few important beads….like knowing how to walk normally, moving my left fingers….took me a while to trust my body so I could turn in any direction but left.  I forget a lot of things but…is that really a bad thing?  I may be stuck in this perpetual state of puberty where I am relearning  how to become me again but…I think I am lucky to have had all of my beads put out on a spread before me.  For the first time in my life, I could filter and that was exactly what I did as I meticulously placed each bead back on my string with my husband supporting the string and my kids watching the process unfold before them in terrifying though sometimes gracious movements and moments.  I am not done with my string and I may not be where I was before I had my stroke of luck but at least I know the value of each bead on my string now.  I’m sure I’ll get my “walking” bead back, it might just be at the opposite end of the string as everyone else, however.

The point is: I’m done examining my past and I’m ready to move forward; I’m ready to add more beads to my string and to do so slowly so I can make sure I am not wasting space, adding too much weight or taking away what beauty cannot be easily seen in my other beads.  My string doesn’t need to shine or be the prettiest in the display case but I definitely want it to leave the right impression if anyone were to take a gander at it.

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