True heroes are such a rare thing these days. I remember growing up loving Wonder Woman, and running down the street like mad pretending to be the Bionic Woman with the neighbor boys all attempting to be the Six Million Dollar Man. But, really considering someone to be a true hero to me was hard at that age. It meant having to trust and trust did not come easy for me then. (Still doesn’t, but I’m getting much better.)

With my birthday approaching I can’t help but think of my favorite cousin Kathy. Our birthdays are just 3 days apart, so no matter where we were, we always tried to contact each other around that time. It is so painful to realize that I can no longer just pick up the phone and say hello, hear her laugh and talk about her latest adventures.

11 years older than I, she was someone I always looked up to. We had an amazing connection. At family gatherings, you could always find me by her side. She never made me feel like an annoying child like many of her siblings and other cousins. I was always included in every conversation as an equal party when she was involved. In many ways she was the big sister I never had but always wanted. I was her “Monnie Ann” and that was all I needed. My happiest childhood memories almost all include her.

There were times in my life, I had to keep my distance as our methods for fighting similar demons were very different. Her fight included gang involvement, drugs, and abusive relationships. A lifetime of running and bad choices. I remember one drunken night in her kitchen very soon after my first husband abandoned our marriage. I was lost and trying to find some direction. She and I started playing a dangerous game of comparing traumas. I knew we had similar experiences and thought we were on similar levels. What I heard of her experiences as a child, teen and even a married woman rocked me to the core. It still rattles me a bit to think about her words as I write this. Her pain was unending. All of her choices made sense that night. Although I constantly worried about her, I always made sure she knew how much I loved her.

Our birthday conversation in 2005 was a tough one. She was total wreck. Addicted to a variety or drugs, in a really bad relationship, and living in Las Vegas. She was severely depressed as her beloved son, having had enough, had left her to move back home away from the chaos. For the first time in a long time I was settled, content. I had been working hard at putting a lot of my demons to rest and it showed. We talked for hours about getting clean, healing and working it all through. I begged her to come home, get clean and heal. But, she wasn’t ready yet. It was the last lengthy conversation I ever had with her. There were a few short calls, but nothing more.

In early 2006, my phone rang at 2 am. Kathy had been found dead in her car that afternoon, in a parking lot. She had finally left her deadbeat, long term boyfriend, packed her bags and was finally coming home. Clean and sober for the first time in years, she was ready to begin her journey on the other side of the pain. Her heart gave out after a lifetime of drugs, attempting to protect herself with huge weight gains, weight loss from the drugs and fighting the battles of her memories, trauma and self-loathing. She was just months from her 50th birthday.

I was awakened last night by an odd dream. Really more of a memory. Those can be frightening at times since usually it is some traumatic memory attempting to surface and getting a grip and facing it as an adult is not always easy. When memories come, the feelings and body responses that usually accompany them are those of the moment the original fear was experienced, but this was different.

I was little, maybe 5 or 6, and Kathy was holding my hand. She was holding me behind her back, her legs in a wide stance. I do not remember the circumstance nor do I care to. I just remember feeling safe at that moment, knowing she was protecting me. I let my mind run and more images of her watching over me came into my head. Many I had never ever realized before. At that moment, I knew she is one of my true heroes. Her presence in my life is greatly missed.

I think of her so often and pray that she is in heaven and finally knowing a peace she never knew here on earth.

Kathy, your Monnie Ann misses you.

Who's fabulous??

There are many who can take a compliment and genuinely accept it for what it is worth. I would really like to be one of those people. It drives those who care about me crazy to hear me devalue or deflect kind words with humor or sarcasm. It isn't that I don't enjoy a compliment, in fact, I love them. It just isn't always comfortable to hear.

Along with my fears, I attempt to also hide my insecurities. I have to chuckle as I write that because I also wear my heart on my sleeve and it is simple for those who know me to know what I'm feeling the moment I feel it. My fear, anger, hurt, joy, love, happiness are all so exposed, so the notion of hiding anything is really a big joke, but I do like the genuineness of that. It is one of the things I like best about myself and who I am.

The insecurities are another matter. After a lifetime of seeing myself in a certain way, dealing with issues and attempting to brave a traumatic past, insecurities just seem comfortable. In a crazy, broken way, I think they keep me grounded. I know them, I trust them, they are familiar. Often, because I am comfortable with them, they are easier to believe than the compliment someone may be attempting to give me. Just like that line in Pretty Woman.. "The bad stuff is easier to believe." It really is easy to push away the acknowledgements and focus on the insecurities. Which I'm realizing are just lies I seem to tell myself.

Today, someone I love seemed determined to make me really hear a compliment. At first I could feel the urge to deflect, but because of the nature of our relationship, I knew the words were genuine and I did my best to accept the words even though it made me very uncomfortable. But, the more I listened to the words, the more I realized this is how he really sees me. How is that possible? Don't all those crazy, broken parts of me show through? How is any of that lovable? Even likable?

The more he spoke, the more I found myself really wanting to hear and believe every word he said. I wanted to be the person he was talking about. Not broken, strong, loving. Fabulous.

With love and support like that, it just might be possible to put those familiar insecurities aside and venture into the scary unknown and actually believe it.