Once upon a time during a party—after a few too many cocktails—a woman said, “what I like about me is…”
I wish I could remember what exactly it was she liked, but too much wine prevented us from recalling anything but the phrase, which from that point forward my woman tribe used whenever possible.
What I like about me:
- Is I don’t put up with bullshit;
- I eat chocolate if I want;
- I tell my husband to make his own goddamn coffee.
Outside this posse, someone might compliment my directness or problem-solving skills, and the phrase might slip from my lips, forgetting it is an inside joke. As the person’s brow crinkles, I imagine them thinking, “Well aren’t you special?”
Usually, I explain, but sometimes I let the tension settle. It’s not that I think I’m all that and a bag of chips, but it’s fun to see people squirm and question. Do they think I’m conceited? Do they appreciate my humor? Do they reflect on their own strengths or shortcomings? Do they see a path they want to follow?
I question most things in my life, and I often think it’s because I’ve experienced a fair amount of loss. Truth be told, questioning may be the only way I make sense of the senseless.
After the death of our twins, nearly 20 years ago, I liked absolutely nothing about myself. I spent days, weeks, months, years questioning all my choices leading up to Nolan and Simone’s death.
- If I would have listened to my gut that something was wrong, would it have changed the outcome?
- If I wasn’t such a control freak, would I have gone to the hospital sooner?
- If I was a better human being, would God have intervened?
I stopped the “if only’s,” not because I didn’t believe them, but because negative self-talk did nothing to bring back my babies. I was stuck deep in reality, and it was up to me to find a way out of the shit hole.
A couple years after the twins died, I found myself flying down a country road on the way to the store. I rocketed into a storm cloud of tears and screaming, which was often the case when I was in my car with the radio blaring. Sure, it would have been a good idea to pull over, but what I like about me is that I power through. As I tried not to trail off into an empty cornfield, I found an idea—call it divine intervention or kismet. In that moment, I understood I was a better human being for having lived through the horrible loss. Nolan and Simone had taught me more about life and death in their short lives than some people learn in a naturally long life.
I’m not Pollyanna enough to say that things happen for a reason, time heals all wounds, or everything will be okay. But during horribly dark times, a genuine hug or touch kept me from driving off a bridge (only half-joking here). I also became someone who could do this for others. I like to say I am someone who can sit comfortably in the uncomfortable, and that is what I really like about me.
While my tribe of women still use the phrase, I love the hidden truth in the quip, which makes me wonder if this focus on the positive offers the truest way to influence the rest of my story.