I used to believe

Years have passed since I was placed on this great planet we call Mother Earth. And in all of these years I’ve been blessed with life, I’ve screwed up a lot, but I’ve also gotten my fair share of things right. I’ve been knocked down more times than I can to count, but I’ve gotten up one more time than I’ve been knocked down. I’ve learned more than I can retain, and I’ve lost more knowledge than I’ve learned. And in this all of this screwing up and getting things right, being knocked down and getting up, and learning and forgetting, I’ve gained a little insight into life, love and family. Things I used believe were true, based on adages and a passing down of knowledge, are now giving way to new truths which I’ve  based on life being lived and lived well.

I used to believe that actions speak louder than words. I used to want the big, showy fireworks in life. I wanted the actions. But I’ve come to learn that actions and words have to match each other. I have had people in my life who look like they treat me nicely. They do what they’re supposed to do. They buy cards and gifts for birthdays, Christmases and holidays. But their spoken words are biting and cutting. I’ve had people in my life who have told me they love me and they love being in my life, but they have treated me with indifference and coldness. I had to step away and say, “I deserve better.” I want actions and words to match. I’d like kind deeds to be done but kind words have to follow and if I can’t have both, I’d rather have kind words.

This is what I want my children to learn and hold true to their hearts…Your actions should match your words. Say, “I love you” with softness in your voice and show, “I love you” with the warmth of your actions. And if you find you have people in your life whose actions and words don’t match…walk away.

I used to believe family was made up of people in your life who raised you or who you married. What I’ve found is that family is also created with people who love you. Unconditionally. Family is there for you when you need them. More often than not it’s been “family” who has stepped in and stepped up when times got tough. Through each of my three pregnancies and one miscarriage it was the “family” we built who rallied around us when we needed support, love and guidance. The day we found out we lost our last baby, our faith sharing family came to our house bearing dinner to nourish us, arms to help hug away the pain and words of comfort to ease the anguish of losing a little life. They were our family when we needed something more than just Jenni and Stan and the kids to get through a rough time. Family doesn’t have to be created by blood or marriage. Family is something bigger. Family is love.

What I want my children to know is that they can make family out of anyone. I grew up as a military brat and went on to marry into the army. Family bloomed wherever we were planted. Friends became the family we didn’t have around. I want my kids to know family lives where there is love, whether it’s created by blood, marriage or just plain, ol’ love.

When I was in high school and college I used to believe that the clothes make the person. You had to dress right, had to have the right brand of clothes, the right sense of style and be dressed well all the time. I still believe I need to dress well and present the best side of me I can, but I no longer believe that if someone is well dressed, with the right brand of clothes and a fabulous sense of style they are a wonderful person. I’ve met too many good people who wear what they want to wear, their style is their own, they don’t dress to impress anyone but themselves and are beyond kind and more than successful. And their success shines through in their character. I’ve met many well dressed, well put together people who are the epitome of spiteful, rude and just plain, ol’ ugly. All I have to do is watch how these people treat service workers, the servers at a restaurant or the cashiers in a store, and I know exactly the type of person they are. I see their mottled character through their fancy clothes. So I’ve learned that clothes don’t necessarily make a person successful, it takes character to makes a person successful.

What I want  my children to understand is that character and success in life go hand in hand. Someone can be well dressed with all the right clothes in all the right brands, but if their character is tarnished and flawed, I want my kiddos to keep on walking.

The last saying flows right into the next life lesson I used to believe, or at least tried to believe. “Never judge a book by its cover.” I tried hard to believe this one, until I got older. I tried hard to not judge a book (or a person) by its (or their) cover, but now I have to believe it’s more than a little true. Sometimes we need to judge a book by its cover. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit we all do it. We all look at someone and judge them, instantly. And we usually know, in that instant, whether they are the type of person worth having in our lives, but only if we really listen to our gut instincts. Years ago, I met this guy. He seemed pretentious, stuck up, snotty, cold and aloof, all of the things I never wanted in a guy I was dating. But my guy friends loved him. They defended him and they encouraged me to go out with him. They said I was shallow when I told them he wasn’t a person I wanted to date. They said I just needed to get to know him better. I dated him for nine months. Nine months of my life were wasted on this guy. He turned out to be a bigger asshole than even my gut instinct told me at first. He was conceited, arrogant, mean-spirited, detached and a user (not drugs, just people). I should have gone with my gut. I should have trusted myself when I judged him by his cover. But I didn’t and I spent nine long months always wondering why I should even like this guy, always wondering why he treated me so poorly, wondering why I let him treat me so poorly. It’s because I didn’t trust myself, or my gut instinct, and remember that sometimes it’s OK to judge a book by its cover.

I want my children to learn to trust their instincts and realize it’s ok to, sometimes, judge a book by its cover. It’s OK to let yourself seem shallow when you judge someone with your gut. Not only is it OK to trust your gut, sometimes trusting your judgment could save not only your heart, but your life as well.

I used to believe a lot of things I was told to believe. But now, I’ve learned and grown. Now, I know actions and words have to match, family is wherever there is love, character is what makes a person and sometimes judging a book by its cover is necessary. I’m glad I’ve grown a little. I’m glad I’ve been pushed down and gotten back up. I’m glad I’ve learned a lot and forgotten more. But most of all I’m glad I have things I used to believe.

Oh, for the love of my children…

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