My name is Ashley Harris, and I do not like to lose. I do not like to fail.
In fact, I hate it so much that I may or may not have had a reputation as that kid who would change the rules to board games just so she would win. I'm not proud of it. But just ask Claire how many times she has ever been Queen Frostine in CandyLand...
I'm going to be 100% honest right now, and tell you that my heart is hurting today. And it probably will for many a day after this one. It isn't broken, goodness no, but there are a few more long cracks that weren't there yesterday morning.
There isn't a more devastating feeling than to watch and listen as something that you were willing to fight your hardest for, slips right through your fingers. And you have to let it. You have to realize that this is something that you can't win. This is something that you must gracefully lose, because you have no other option. Because the stress is too high, and the distance is too far, and the time just isn't there. As stupid as the old cliche is, it's the truest. Timing really is everything.
And most of all, because this is what is best. For you. And for them.
This morning when I woke up, for half a second, I forgot that yesterday happened. But then I remembered tears all the way home from Orangeburg, and a goodbye for now. And I seriously contemplated covering my head back up and telling today just to forget about it.
But then I rolled over and saw that little red and black icon on my iPhone screen that says Monday February 29th. Leap day. Leap days have always been like the unicorns of days to me. This mystical creature that comes around every four years and gives you another chance. 24 whole hours of more chances to do better, to be better, to redeem, and to try again.
What I keep learning as I get older, is that life is just not something that I can win. I can't be Queen Frostine all the time. Sometimes, I'm going to get hurt. Sometimes, I'm going to lose. But that doesn't mean that I get to just give up and pull the covers over my head. And that surely doesn't mean that putting my heart on the line wasn't worth it. Honesty and vulnerability will always, always be worth it. If I could preach one thing right now, that would be it. They really will.
But today - today was grace. I got up and put on gold sparkly sandals because it was nearly 70 degrees outside. I had a really good hair day. I drove to work with my windows down. I remembered that, by golly, I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And that I can go to the beach this weekend just because I want to and just because it's five minutes across a bridge. I am alive, and I am loved, and my hair is growing out (finally!), and I wiped my own butt this morning without anyone else's help. So there is plenty of cause for gladness and joy.
Today was humanness. I sent a text that said, I won't stop rooting for you. And I slouched down behind my computer screen a couple of times while my eyes filled up with those stupid tears that give away just how much I did care. I snuggled my cat while my sweet roommate cooked us dinner, and then we laughed and cringed at Fuller House and how terrible it is.
I sat under trees in the warm afternoon sun with two of the greatest women I know and best friends I have ever had. We drank wine out of water bottles and ate giant salads and they listened. They were there, and they cared, and that was enough.
So I guess the moral to this story (if there is one) is that life is not freaking CandyLand. It's going to throw some tough shit at you, on occasion. And sometimes, you and your heart are gonna get a bruise or two. But that's the thing about life: sure, you can't win at it. But as long as you're giving it a try, you can't lose at it either.
And when the extra days and the extra chances do come around? Just be gracious. Just be human. Just bring your best self to the table. Even when you are hurting and even when the days are hard, just be real. Just show up. That's all any of us can ask of ourselves and anyone else.
And what's the best part about tough days? They grow you and they refine you. Well that, and that they're usually followed by better ones.