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Smell the Coffee: Not what it was before

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first thing I noticed when I saw her that morning was that her eyes weren't sad anymore. They'd been sad for so long.

Granted, there were many times before that I'd seen them lit with mirth. She was always easily amused. Quick to laugh. But that sadness was deep and constant, rooted from stem to stern and laced through every rib in between.

The sadness wasn't hidden to her. She was well aware of its presence. Joked of it even. Liked to say she was the happiest depressed person you'd ever meet. Some friends didn't understand what she meant by that. One even called her out, saying she was making light of depression.

But she wasn't. She knew it inside and out. They were intimates.

I could tell. Knew better than anyone. Had seen her every day of my life.

She was one of those people for whom nothing came easily, and, truth be told, I think she sort of liked it that way. She was proud of her toughness, of having endured in spite of stacked sadnesses.

So now, when I looked and the sad wasn't there in the way it had been for so long, it was like seeing her shadowless. She had detached herself from that constant, and now, was practically bubbling with life.

I caught her singing along with the radio, her head bobbling to the beat like a fast-walking pigeon, except her pigeon was a half-second off pace. This one -- she never had rhythm. Couldn't clap along with the simplest tune. Her hands were forever the last to smack after the rest of the audience stopped. One beat off. That was her.

Recently, she complained of this song being stuck in her head for days. But she knew only a few bits of the lyrics.

This is my life, it's not what it was before.

And these are my dreams, that I've never lived before.

Those random fragments tormented her until she went online to fill in the many parts of that song, performed by a group called Staind, that were missing. And when she did, she realized why the song had been stuck. She'd been meant to hear and think about every word.    

Now that we're here, it's so far away, all the struggle we thought was in vain. All the mistakes one life contained -- they all finally start to go away.

Now that we're here, it's so far away, and I feel like I can face the day. And I can forgive, and I'm not ashamed, to be the person that I am today.

To have dreams and a life that it feels as if you haven't lived -- that's something I can understand. Once a person becomes a parent, it's almost second nature for them to live for their child or children.

And so often, before the parenting part has relaxed, there are others to care for or health issues to tend or responsibilities so leechlike that dreams get shoved to the side, where they shrink and diminish until they darn near disappear completely.

And when I looked at her in the mirror that morning, I was able to see that all those mistakes that her life -- my life -- contained, have finally started to go away. And like that song says, I realize all those years of struggle weren't really in vain because they've made me appreciative.

So appreciative that I can forgive and forget and move on and live.

And not be so sad anymore.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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