“The things that make us feel so abnormal are actually the things that make us all the same.” -PostSecret
I worked at a dry cleaner before I married Harv. You know how sometimes you hate your job so much that poverty seems like a better alternative for you and your child, but years later, whenever you think back to that time, the corners of your mouth turn up as you appreciate the profound impact it’s made in your life, and you feel blessed and grateful for that opportunity?
LOLOL. I just like to make up best case scenarios sometimes. Imagination exercises keep my mind fresh and sharp.
Intake, inspection, and cash out were my rotation of duties at the dry cleaner. After customers dropped off their clothes, I tagged each piece and marked stains that might require extra care. The last step before an item went to processing was pocket check. I stuffed my bare hands into every pocket, pulled out the lining, emptied foreign objects, and brushed the inside seams to remove stray fibers and lint. Then, I inspected whatever I found. Anything of value went into a ziploc bag I stapled to the customer’s receipt. Used tissues, candy wrappers, confetti, and receipts with a total less than $5 went into the trash. After processing and finishing, I inspected, buttoned and zipped, lint-rollered, and then bagged each item.
I could go into detail about the unsanitary, alarming, embarrassing, possibly illegal shit that I touched, inspected, bagged or discarded, but I won’t. Not because that fee of 99 cents per laundered shirt bought a wash & iron and my silence, but because that look you gave me when I notified you that the item I found in your pocket was stapled to the receipt is a look I understand. I understand what it means to be painfully lonely. I understand what it is like to harbor secrets.
This blog has been my journal. Well, a journal minus the luxury of privacy. It’s forced me to examine and re-examine the truths I held for so long without question and to sift through a past I’ve tried my best to push away. The more I wrote about my journey, the more you shared your stories and insights in comments and emails. Your encouragement came when I needed it most.
So I wrote this for you. It’s clear that when I thought I was most alone in my struggles, you too were in the same place, or you had been there before me and left a trail of crumbs for me to follow. I wrote this for you because you are good and kind. You haven’t wasted too much time, and it isn’t too late.
I wrote this for you because you are not as bad as you think you are. No one told me that until I was already someone’s mother. I was overwhelmed with trying to raise a good person because I thought I was too broken and too bad for the job. It freed me to hear an outside voice tell me that I was not bad.
Those last few sentences are the reason I haven’t been able to finish writing this note to you since November. Every time I reached that point, I would wonder, “Wait just a goddamn minute. What about the people I don’t like? Are they not as bad as they think they are?” Obviously, them motherfuckers are worse-er than they realize, and none of this applies to them. I wasn’t comfortable writing about goodness and grace while admitting to such unbridled pettiness. But, that’s who I am. Today.
I’m afraid to face how much work still lays ahead of me. I now know that it’s not weird to be afraid of the truth. But you ain’t gon’ change what you can’t even admit.
I hope to be calm, thoughtful, and wise one day. Like Master Splinter. Not exactly like Splinter because that dude is a rat who lives in a sewer. That’s not the kind of life I want for myself. I’m trying to set boundaries and maintain baseline standards.
I wrote this for you because I wanted to share with you what you’ve helped me to realize as my real truths- what I know now that I didn’t know before and what I always knew but didn’t want to acknowledge.
1. Some people are broken beyond repair, and you should run far, far away. Not everyone has good in them. And the people who do possess goodness have varying amounts. I believe that people have a goodness limit. And it’s an immoveable boundary. Some people are capable of being great and some people are only capable of doing no harm. Which is still important. Allowing bad people to stay in your life will destroy you. It will happen slowly or quickly, but it will happen.
2. I know that the same kinds of people and the same kinds of situations will continue to present themselves over and over again until you have learned what you need to know. This isn’t something you can fool the Universe into believing. The Universe sees through bullshit, and no matter how deeply you hide the truth, it will reveal itself.
3. I know that you should do what makes you happy. There’s no point in being stuck in a job that brings you misery. Because when you are miserable, you inevitably make other people miserable. Misery is overwhelming and it’s hard to contain. Do the thing that makes you happy. But, and this is important, you have to figure out if you’re actually good at that thing you love.
4. I know that once you find yourself on a bad path, you often have to hit rock bottom many, many times before you can come up for air. If you’re a broken person with the capacity for change, then be mindful of the process. Don’t fight it. Becoming unbroken is not at all easy, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said fuck this shit. You can wallow in the fuck this shit for a little while, but when misery no longer suits you, you have to dig yourself out and start again.
I know it’s hard to break free from what is familiar even when it is wrong and painful and scary.
5. I know that it’s hard to stop treating someone poorly after we’ve started. I think we lose respect for those who accept our bad behavior and abuse. And because we know they will take it and eventually come back…or maybe they never even leave, we just continue to act badly.
6. Some relationships can’t be fixed. I’m going to tell you this right now knowing that you’ll probably still go back for more pain, but it won’t change. If it was bad from the beginning, it will continue to be bad. If you want to work toward tolerable, it’s an immense amount of effort and upkeep and the end product will still never be a completely positive one. It will just be less worse than before. Do you want to live a life like that? A life, when distilled down to just a few words, is less worse than before? You deserve better.
7. And finally, I now realize that a lot can change in a year.
Throughout this next year, I’ll be chronicling the steps I’m taking to become the person I’d like to be. You can join me if you’d like. Anything is possible.
P.S. In the next few months, I’ll be redesigning some features- integrating Facebook comments, switching over to Mailchimp, etc. Let’s get connected: “Like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (@flourishinprogress). Most of the pictures I never post anywhere else end up on Instagram. I don’t really give a fuck about Twitter (@ElizabethJLiu), but I’m there too.