I’ve made a decision. I’m going to deactivate my Facebook account for the entire month of December. For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, you’ll know that this will be a shock to my system. I am a FB junkie. I update my status several times each day. (It’s a great way of venting…or cheering!) Some days, I update my status MANY times. I use Facebook on my cell phone, at work, and at home. While I don’t necessarily spend a great deal of time on Facebook, I frequently check in to see what’s going on. I check Facebook in my office, while I shop, while I drive, before I go to bed, when I wake up in the morning, and numerous times throughout the day.
I have enjoyed reconnecting with old classmates on Facebook. A group of us have begun meeting for dinner or drinks occasionally, and it has been fun to catch up and revive old friendships. Facebook has been a good networking tool for my career as well. I have deepened what would have been only surface work relationships by getting to know my colleagues as friends on Facebook.
On the other hand, I have encountered old “friends” who have attempted to take a Facebook friendship to another level. Those guys have quickly been unfriended. Then there are the people who are so “MY LIFE IS WONDERFUL” that it makes me sick when I know that the reality of their lives is far from what they portray on Facebook. Others use Facebook as a political or religious platform. I don’t unfriend those folks, but I don’t read a darn thing that they write, either.
I will miss keeping up with all of the various activities that my boys post on Facebook. I suppose that I will have to email them or call them more often. T has a Facebook account, and he can share any interesting pictures that the boys post. Lord knows, I won’t miss seeing the college dorm party pics!
I’ll miss playing Bubble Witch Saga. I’ll miss playing Bingo. I’ll miss the quirky funny posts. I’ll miss the jokes. I’ll miss knowing every move that every one of my friends is making. I’m very nosy, and Facebook is a fine outlet for us creepers!
Obviously I enjoy Facebook, so why would I impose this hiatus upon myself? Recently I have been thinking about the amount of time I spend “plugged in” to my computer or phones. What in the world did I do before I had this obsession? What did any of us do before Facebook, computers, and cell phones? I don’t know what any of you did, but I once did a lot of things that I no longer do. I read books. I owned a loom and wove rugs. One winter, T and I learned how to paint with watercolors. I played the piano, or the clarinet, or the saxophone. Sometimes, I talked to real people face to face! I baked bread, pies, cookies, and cakes. I had sex! I exercised. There was a whole world of things that I once did without being connected to an electronic device. For one month, beginning on December 1, I am going to see if I can get back to basics once again.
For all sad words of tongue and pen, the are saddest are these, “It might have been.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
Most people in my daily life don’t even know that I once had a daughter named Grace. It was a long time ago, and there isn’t really any reason to disclose information that will only serve to make someone uncomfortable. Often, the “face” we present to the world is far different from the person who resides in our hearts.
Thanksgiving is November 24. It’s a day of family celebration. I will celebrate along with those around me. I’ll be thrilled to have all of my kids home and under one roof for several days. What most people won’t know or won’t remember is that November 24th is also Grace’s birthday. It would have been her “golden birthday, 24 on the 24th. I can’t help but think of how things might have been. What an awesome day to have been able to celebrate her birthday. Instead, I will remember alone, and I won’t say a word to anyone. After all, who wants to remember something sad, something that happened so very long ago?
Lately, I have been spending too much time thinking about “what might have been.” I am standing in the present, but too much of the time; my head is turned around looking back at the past. I miss my dad, and it isn’t the same to celebrate Thanksgiving without him. I miss my grandparents during the holiday season, too. And Grace. Thanksgiving will mark the beginning of a time each year when too much of my time is spent remembering and thinking about “what might have been.”
Several years ago, a friend who had lost a child asked me to join her in forming a support group for those who had recently lost babies. It was at a time in my life when I was very happy. I had returned to work. I was moving on and moving forward. I felt sad for this woman. I really did. Her experience had been horrible, but a couple of years had passed since then, and she seemed to still be LIVING for her grief. She wore her baby’s name and birthstone on a necklace around her neck. She set a place at the dinner table for her missing child. While I understood her pain, it made me sad to think of the pain she was causing her children that were THERE. This woman had defined who she was by her grief, and it scared the hell out of me to see that. I had to tell her that I could not help her out with the support group, but I also felt the need to gently explain to her that I while losing a child still hurt; it no longer defined who I was. I offered to help anyone who needed someone to talk to one on one, including her, but I just couldn’t go backwards. I knew that weekly grief meetings would not be something that would help me in healing and continuing to move forward.
What has happened since then? SOMETHING has happened, because I am no longer that strong, positive woman who would not allow her life to be defined by grief. I know from experience that sadness breeds sadness. One sad thought leads to the next sad thought. It becomes a vicious cycle. When it rains, it pours. I believe that! Negativity will only lead to more negativity.
I suppose that by recognizing that I have slipped back to a place that doesn’t feel very good is the first step in pulling myself back up out of the hole. I’m not sure if happiness is necessarily a choice, but I do know that wallowing in self-pity and looking back at “what might have been” is not congruent with moving on and moving forward. Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative people all need to be pushed out of my life. While these next few days and weeks will be full of sad reminders, they will also be full of moments full of happiness and joy. Those are the moments that I need to pull in close, and those are the moments that will help me to become someone who I can be proud of once again.
“It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”
Today I caught myself smiling. It was a real and genuine smile, AND…it’s November. I was amazed. As I walked down the hall to a meeting, I was still smiling. Someone passed me, and they smiled back a little curiously. I don’t even know why I was smiling. I’m not sure if I even had a reason. If I had to pick one reason, I would say that I was smiling from relief. Another BAD November anniversary has passed, and it was easy to see how much better my life is right at this moment than it was last year at this time.
For all of us, life has a way of going in a direction of its own choosing. Who among us is exactly where they thought they would be or doing exactly what they had planned? I would venture a guess that there are relatively few of us lucky enough to have life cooperate to such an extent.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
~ John Lennon
As for me, I am waking up from a shell-shocked two years of my life. Escaping from the hell of depression is a pretty f-ing happy feeling. That is why I am smiling. YES! I know that there will be more sad times. Depression has a way of wrestling its way back into your life, but TODAY, not today. So I am happy.
I feel a tinge of fear along with this happiness. I am excited to have all of the kids home and under one roof next week for the first time in months. I’m so excited, and so unused to feeling good, that it scares me. I don’t want to jinx this feeling.
I spoke to both boys this week about their travel plans. They both seem excited to be coming home, too. Each of them asked me about a traditional day-trip we take each year on the day after Thanksgiving. “Are we still going to go?” I was taken aback. I didn’t think either of them would want to go this year. They have such a limited amount of time for this visit. I assumed that they would spend Friday catching up with their friends. I felt humbled and honored that they were both saving that day to be together with their crazy, old mom.
Andrew called last night around 10 p.m. He was absolutely beside himself with enthusiasm and excitement. He had just finished his first film shoot where he was head sound guy. He’s involved in making a short ( 10 minute) film on location in Chicago. I’m not sure if I have ever heard such excitement, hope, and joy in his voice. I have never felt such happiness in another person’s joy. I’m praying, keeping my fingers crossed, and sending positive energy that he stays on this path of finding the happiness in his life.
And now the one confession that I have to make. Oh, I wish I would learn to mind my own business, and T is about fit to be tied with me. I sent Katy (Andrew’s beloved ex-girlfriend) an email. All I said was “Hi, Katy. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you and hope things are going well.”
That one email turned into a series of messages. (What did I think would happen???) I caught her up on my family, and she told me what was going on with her sister and parents. Her life hasn’t been easy this past year. Her sister has been sick with a blood disease. Her father (a mortgage broker) fell on hard times due to the downturn in the economy. I think I knew these things from the final months when Andrew and Katy were still together.
What I did not know was that Katy spent all of her remaining college money on her sister’s medical treatments. She is now in her final year of school and has enlisted in the Army. They offered a full scholarship for her remaining education, and she will be going into the service as an engineer. Good for her. What a good sister and daughter! And now the problem… When Katy was in basic training last summer, a congenital heart condition was discovered. (Does everyone I know have one?) Katy will be having heart surgery in December.
The emails between Katy and I were actually quite brief. In no way did we discuss Andrew and Katy’s relationship. I have no idea if there is anyone special in her personal life. I have no idea if she told me about the surgery assuming that I would tell Andrew. I have no idea what to do! T says that I need to say, “Good luck to you and happy holidays.” In other words, he thinks I need to back off and stay out of it. I’m not sure. Like usual, my heart says one thing, and my head says something completely different.
I haven’t said a word to Andrew. I haven’t even mentioned Katy’s name to him. I will take T’s advice and stay out of it. I’m certainly not a matchmaker, and I’m too jaded to believe in the fate of true love. If Katy wants him to know, she will tell him herself. I will back off and wish her well. In my heart, though, I will say a prayer for her, and for them, and for true love.
Today is one of those horrible anniversaries of a BAD November day, a day that was most likely the worst day of my life. I have been thinking a lot about that fact this past week in anticipation of this hated date. It truly was the worst day of my life, and that makes me feel bad. It makes me feel guilty. I have lost loved ones through death, but not on this date. On this date, my horrible experience was something worse than that of losing someone through death. That makes me feel bad and guilty, so I have been trying to examine what happened and what went wrong. Unfortunately, all the fingers point to me. I have no one to blame but myself for getting to a point in my life where I was truly alone in my pain and grief.
While the experience of losing a child, or my dad, or when Andrew had his terrible accident were all gut-wrenchingly horrible to live through, I didn’t blame myself. Those things were “just life” or bad luck. During those terrible times, I felt surrounded by love. I had a safety net. I had people there to catch me when I fell and to soften the blow. On this WORST November day, I was utterly alone. I was crushed by ugliness, lies, and betrayal, but no one knew. No one cared. I had destroyed my safety net. Those good people who had once been there for me where no longer around. My dad was gone. My friends had long since washed their hands of my troubles. My family was clueless. I had taught them through my actions to simply “leave me alone,” so they did.
I had made a mess of my life, but I thought I could handle it. I thought everything would be OK. That was not the case, though, not on that dark November night. On that night, the very flimsy ground that was my foundation crumbled out from under me. No one cared. I had misplaced my trust. Those I thought cared, did not. Those who did care, had no clue. I was truly alone for the first time in my life. I wanted to die. Truly, literally, I wanted to end my own life. It scares me now to remember that BAD November day. It scares me that those whom I thought would care, did not. It scares me that those who did care, had no clue. It has been a long struggle back from that dark place. Many times, I have wished for a quick magical cure, but there is no magical cure to the pain life sometimes brings.
Last night, I thought about the times in my life that have been seasons of grief. I thought about those other, more rational times of grief, and I realized how things have changed in my life in the past several years. My Dad, my friend and father, he TALKED to me. He and I talked about anything and everything. During some of the most horrible times in my life, I could always count on Dad’s daily phone call. On days when all I wanted was to pull the covers over my head, Dad would call, and I always answered. We would talk about politics, religion, local news, or current events. He always had a story. He always made me smile. He pulled me through some of the toughest times in my life. He has been gone now for almost two years. Without a doubt, those two years have been the worst years of my life, not because my dad has been gone, but because my life was a mess (and only got worse) at the time of his death. Oh, how different these past two years would have been if my dad had been there as a steady, loving part of my life.
These past two years have been terrible. I have learned some valuable lessons the hard way. We are all responsible for our own actions. I will repeat that one, because it is important. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS. No I didn’t deserve to go through such a hellish experience, but as I said, when I look back at the circumstances, all fingers point at me. If my trust was misplaced, who placed it wrongly? Me. If I went through a terrible experience, and no one was around for me to lean on, whose fault was that? Mine. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN ACTIONS.
Slowly, I am rebuilding the foundation of my life. Many of the people who were once part of my support system are gone, but I am learning to reach out again to the good people in my life. More importantly, I am trying my best to be good to others and to be there for those good people in my life.
I’ve written a lot about my son Andrew, my oldest son, the one most like myself, and the one most like my father. His life has been spectacular and tragic all at the same time. Very much like my own life when I think about it.
When Andrew was a senior in high school, he was selected to be part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. Two students from each state were selected through an audition process. (Andrew is a fantastic drummer, guitarist, vocalist.) Students from across the nation marched in the famous Thanksgiving Day parade. He had just turned 18, and was excited to return to New York City where he had been for the first time the previous spring on a school trip. This time he was going alone, playing the drums in a famous parade, and would be with students from across the country. On that trip to New York City, Andrew met Katy.
During their week in the Macy’s band, they were inseparable. Katy was from Montana. He told us all about Katy when he returned home, but we didn’t make too much of the situation. After all, they lived over 1,000 miles apart. As the months passed, Andrew and Katy remained close. It’s a different day and age. A thousand miles isn’t as far as it used to be. They talked on the phone daily. They chatted on Facebook. They Skyped. They cooked up a plan for Katy to visit us the following summer. I didn’t think it would happen. What parents would send their daughter off for a month to stay with a family they have never met?
Katy and Andrew were persistent. They talked to us. They talked to Katy’s parents. They had us talk to each other. Before we knew it, the plans were set. Katy would be staying with us for a month. She would sleep in the girls’ room. We made plans to have another “daughter” for a few weeks. Katy even scheduled several college visits for her trip. We were beginning to see what these two had planned. They were attempting to bridge that thousand mile gap.
I was apprehensive to say the least about having Katy under our roof for an extended period of time. How well did these two even know each other? What if their feelings changed the moment they saw each other again? What if we were creating a month-long problem?
The moment Katy stepped into the airport, I knew that I was wrong to have worried. Katy and Andrew ran towards each other with huge smiles. They looked and looked at each other as if they were seeing a mirage that might disappear at any moment. There was no reason to worry. Katy was everything Andrew had told us she would be. She melted right into our household routine. She was kind, helpful, funny, and lovely. There were tears all around as we drove her to the airport at the end of her visit.
Katy and Andrew’s long distance relationship continued to grow. The following winter, Andrew spent most of his college break in Montana. Once again, the following summer she spent time with our family. When the school year began, the distance would be bridged somewhat. Katy was transferring to a school within driving distance of our home. I was so excited to have her (my other daughter) closer to our family. We talked about holidays and plans to have her spend time at our home during school breaks.
Suddenly, it was over. Andrew was away at school, and so was Katy. To this day, I don’t know what happened. One weekend Andrew came home from school, and he was a wreck. Katy had ended their relationship. She cut off all contact. He didn’t know why, or that is what he told me at the time. I’ll never forget my then 20-year-old son pulling me into the bathroom to talk. I sat in a chair, and he sat on the edge of the tub with tears streaming down his face. “I don’t know what to do, Mom. It feels like I have lost my best friend. I don’t know who to talk to about this pain. SHE is who I told about my problems, and now she’s gone.” Seeing his pain, understanding his pain, was horrible. We both sat there and cried. What words can soothe the pain of losing your best friend?
Over two years have gone by now. Andrew crashed, faltered, failed, and hit rock bottom during those two years. He dropped out of college. His entire appearance changed. His demeanor went from happy-go-lucky to oftentimes belligerent. He had lost his best friend. Many times during those two years when I would try to reach the Andrew I knew still lived inside of him, he would remind me. “I have lost my best friend. What is my reason for going on each day, Mom?” He once told me that if he didn’t know how much I loved him and how much it would hurt his family, he would not still be here. By here, I knew that he meant that he had wanted his life to end. It scared the hell out of me, because yes, I knew that pain. Thank God for the strength of the love he felt for his family.
They say time heals all wounds, but I know that isn’t true. Some wounds never heal. Time simply teaches us how to push aside the immediacy of the pain. Time teaches us how to cope with the disability of loss. Andrew is moving forward. He is moving on. He is learning to redirect his focus away from the pain. Sometimes he smiles now, and the smile actually reaches his eyes. He is now 23 and back in school. There has not been another relationship in his life.
I have spent the past several Sundays cleaning, organizing, sorting, and throwing out 23 years of “boy stuff.” Last Sunday, I concentrated on the room in the basement where Andrew keeps his drum set and where he practiced guitar. Along with about 500 CD’s, scraps of paper with guitar chords and lyrics, I found something else. There were several boxes, neatly wrapped in paper, with the Andrew and Katy letters. Alongside the letters were other keepsakes. In the midst of the chaos of the music room, were these mementoes neatly tucked away and preserved. An antique dresser stands in the corner of the room, and I cleared a spot in a drawer to save them all. I didn’t read them. I didn’t look through them…as much as I wanted to! (It about killed me!)
As I continued to clean, I found the handwritten eulogy Andrew had given at his grandpa’s funeral. I remembered how eloquent and heartfelt his words had been that day. My dad would have been proud. I sat down in a chair to read it once again, and when I opened the folded pieces of paper, I found something else. It was a letter to Katy. Andrew had written it, but never sent it. Maybe he doesn’t even know where she is now after several years. This time, I couldn’t resist. Why was it tucked in with the eulogy? Would this letter explain Andrew’s tormented past several years? I opened the letter and began to read.
As I read, the tears began to stream down my face. It was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. He thanked her for loving him. He thanked her for her friendship. He apologized for perhaps not giving their love and friendship enough thought or enough value. He apologized for taking things for granted. He reminisced about happy times. He told her that he loved her. He said that he still misses her, that a part of himself will always be missing without her. His closing words were, “If I’m ever lucky enough to be sitting across the table from you again in this life, you won’t have to steal my fries. I would gladly give you every single one.”
After reading the letter, I walked upstairs to where T was watching football. I sat down in a chair across from him and tried to speak, but I couldn’t stop crying. I just said, “Andy and Katy.” T knew that as I had been cleaning that day, I had been finding the things Andrew had kept. He knew that I wasn’t looking at them, but instead was tucking them safely away. He looked at me as I sat there crying, and asked me what I had found. I told him about the letter, about reading it, and about how much our son had loved this girl. T listened, as he always does. He rolled his eyes a bit at my reaction, but he didn’t make me feel stupid. He just listened.
I sat there sniffling and trying to collect myself. I looked out the window at the bare trees and the windy November day. God, how I hate November. I looked around the room at our stuff, the stuff of a family. I missed the boys. I missed my dad. I missed my grandparents. I hate losing things that I hold dear. I hate change. I hate loss. I sat there thinking about all of those things, and I turned to Todd and said, “Sometimes life is just so hard.” He replied, “No, MOST times life is hard.” I sat there a little longer pondering his words, and I realized that he is right. Life is hard.
Later that evening, I called my son Andrew. No, I didn’t tell him. I didn’t even mention Katy. I told him that I had cleaned the music room and that I had saved his things in the bottom drawer of the dresser. We talked about a project that he was working on for school. We talked about soul music, his recent fascination. If it were possible for words to be a hug, if it were possible to send peace and strength through a telephone, then that’s what I tried to do. I told him that I love him, was proud of him, couldn’t wait to see him at Thanksgiving.
Last night Andrew called me and said, “Mom, things are getting back on track with us, aren’t they?” I said, US? What do you mean? He acknowledged how difficult the past couple of years have been, but that he was feeling so much better about everything now. He and I, who had never had conflict, had weathered a tough time.
I said, “Sometimes, some people in your life know you so well that they can see into your heart. I think that you didn’t really want me looking. I didn’t want you looking, either, and we both resented the fact that we could see it anyway.”
He laughed and said, “No shit!” Oh, how I love my son. 🙂
All day I have been asking myself if I am doing the right thing. Am I rationalizing EVERYTHING to suit myself? It seems that I spend most of my life being pushed and pulled among the needs of so many people. What is right for one person may be the polar opposite of what is needed by another. Doing the right thing in one direction, upsets the balance in another direction. It’s the old “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum. I don’t trust my judgement about what is actually the BEST way to handle things. I am so confused so much of the time.
I spent my day dividing my time between the situation with my mother and my job. Both are important to me. Both need my FULL attention, but unfortunately, there is only one of me. Today was one of those days when it was almost impossible to find the time to do such frivolous things as eat or use the restroom.
What makes this difficult is that in a “normal” situation, a person would drop everything, including work, to be by the side of their sick mother. Two years ago, that’s what I did. When Dad died and Mom’s care was in my hands, I took day after day from work to sit by her side in the hospital. She would get better and be released. Several weeks later, it would begin again. I burned through my personal days. I burned through my sick days. While those at work were supportive, I could begin to see a change in how they viewed me professionally. I could see it begin to have an impact on my kids, too. My focus was all messed up, as were many other things in my life two years ago.
As the only child of a chronically ill woman, I have had to learn to prioritize my life, my children, and my career along with my obligation to my mother. It’s not easy. All too often there is a cloud of guilt surrounding me. Each obligation that I meet usually means that there is something (someone) else that I am neglecting. It is a terrible, stressful balancing act. Thank God for T. He is invaluable in his ability to listen and to advise me on what is best for everyone involved.
Mom is currently in the hospital. I talked her into allowing me to admit her. She was dehydrated and unable to eat or drink. Going to the hospital to regain her strength is the only chance she will have to continue to live on her own. She is settled and resting comfortably. IV fluids quickly perked her up and helped to resolve her fever. There is no cure. Slowly, painfully, and way too gradually, her body is shutting down. While the hope is that she will be able to return to her apartment, I am doubtful that it will happen.
I left Mom to attend a meeting late this afternoon. It was a good meeting, and I was excited as we discussed a new initiative that we’re hoping to get underway in the next year. Ah….once again I was stumped. The people that I was planning on meeting during my trip this week are crucial to this new plan. What to do? What to do? Of course, no one at the meeting knew that my mom was in the hospital. Everyone assumed that I was still taking the trip. What to do? Once again, I felt tugged in two directions. (Add another direction as the meeting ran long, and I knew they were waiting for me to get home to make dinner.)
I called Mom as I drove home. It was dark. I was tired. I didn’t feel like going home to do more work. I just wanted a friend. I wanted to sit down. I wanted a shoulder to lean on. I was so tired of making decisions, so tired of always being wrong in one direction or the other. Someone is always upset with me. I called Mom, and I asked her what she wanted me to do. Did she need me? Was she afraid to be in the hospital if I was not minutes away? If I go on the trip, I will be more than two hours away. She told me to go. There was no need for me to sit at the hospital. She didn’t need me to sit there, and even if I didn’t go on the trip, she still wanted me to go to work. I thanked her for making the decision for me, and I made her promise not to hesitate to call me if she needed anything at all. T would be home, and I would gladly come back home if necessary.
Tonight I am packing. I’m going on an abbreviated version of the trip I had planned. I’ll head out tomorrow afternoon, take care of business and be back the next day. The leisure portion of the trip has been eliminated. 😦 That’s OK. I’m looking forward to the quiet of the drive. I’m looking forward to not having to cook for a day and dinner with a friend. I’m looking forward to some moments of peace and quiet.
I’m scared and worried. I miss my boys. I’m tired, and I am sad. Life goes on. It keeps on going on and on.
True to all expectations, November is turning out to be a pretty crappy month so far. I have been trying my best to see some light through the heavy layer of clouds hanging low in the skies. In fact, I have been looking forward to a couple of much-needed days out of the office this week. I was planning to take a short trip, a mixture of business and pleasure, with people whose company I enjoy. Enter November, the month were all joy is quickly extinguished, and it looks like I won’t be going anywhere. Even as I made these plans, there was a knot in my stomach. I worried that something would happen, and it has.
This morning I received a call from a nurse at my mom’s assisted living facility. This person informed me that when my mom hadn’t shown up for breakfast, she had gone up to Mom’s apartment to check on her. What she discovered, according to this woman, was a “shit storm.” My God! Who uses words like that to an elderly person’s family member?
Mom is sick again. She had apparently been ill all night long, and all over. Her mattress has to be disposed of. (Today I will mattress shop at lunchtime.) The recliner in her room is going to have to be cleaned. The carpets and bedding were a mess as well. Mom is running a fever, is unable to eat or drink, will not be able to go to dialysis today, and is refusing to go to the hospital.
I understand. Mom is ready to give up. There has been one episode after another all strung together. She doesn’t want to get better. She doesn’t want to be away from the things that are familiar to her. She doesn’t want to go to the hospital, and I understand all of that.
Here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t know what to do. The nurse said that they can’t make her go to the hospital. They can’t call an ambulance while she is conscious and refusing to go. (If she passes out, then they can call an ambulance.) They can’t make her go to the hospital, but they can refuse to allow her to stay there under these circumstances. Where in the world does that leave me? She won’t go to the hospital, but it sounds very much like she is being kicked out of the assisted living facility because she is too sick to take care of herself.
Thankfully, the nurse I have been dealing with is kind. She is going to allow Mom to stay there for the day to see if she turns a corner….one way or another. God, I understand. I certainly understand hard-headedness. I understand why Mom is basically saying, “Enough is enough.” I’m just not sure what my role is in this. I don’t know at what point I am to intervene.
Working in downtown revitalization is never boring. It’s challenging, frustrating,and exhilarating. It is my passion. It’s in my blood. I don’t know why. This is an “accidental” career. It wasn’t in my plans. It’s not what I ever thought I would be doing with my life, but it is my blessing. I have driven down the street and felt my chest fill up and my eyes begin to tear as I look at the changes that have occurred in the course of the short four years that I have been working in this area. I feel like a proud parent with each success. On the other hand, if a business fails or struggles, if there is a negative news article or a complaint about anything, I take it personally. Working in downtown revitalization often feels like being in love with an aloof, elusive lover. As much as I love my downtown, the bricks and mortar don’t give back. They stand firm and unmoving, always needing a little more love. No wonder there’s a very high rate of burnout and job turnover in my line of work.
Working with dozens of unique small business owners is always challenging. Listening to their individual needs, wants, and concerns, and then attempting to get them to all work together is often a monumental task. This past weekend, we held a major downtown event. It was our third year for this event, and each year we have grown and added new activities and promotions. What started out with two businesses coincidentally holding pre-holiday open houses has grown to dozens of business participating in a joint promotion. This event is our shining-star success story. It has become the largest downtown tax revenue generating weekend of the year. Yes, even larger than Black Friday.
The best thing about this event is the cooperation between the bars and restaurants and the retail establishments. We capture the retail trade early in the evening and then send them on their way to the food establishments. From the first year, we incorporated jazz music as a way to draw people through the doors of retail establishments. I called on friends in the local music community to help me out that first year, and now we have musicians clamoring for the available spots. The coolest thing is that you’ll find live music in unlikely locations. This year we organized over a dozen jazz combos to play in our retail locations.
Last week was incredibly busy as we prepared for the Friday night event. It was definitely a juggling act to organize all of the last-minute details. By 5:00 p.m. on Friday, things were in motion. As I walked from place to place taking pictures, I felt such pride and a sense of accomplishment. The stores were packed. People were smiling. People were BUYING. The business owners told me that they had been busy all day. This year, the two-hour evening open houses had grown to an all day celebration.
When I finally met up with staff and volunteers for a cocktail, I was satisfied that we’d had another successful year. To make things even better, I received a text from a friend who lives in my town. “We’re down here and this is great! Where are you?” I told her to come on over and join us. We all had a great time sampling martinis and had a fantastic dinner. Another year was under my belt, and the event had been a success.
Yesterday, like most mornings, I woke up, stretched, and reached for my phone. First I checked my emails. Nothing good. I checked Facebook. Nothing unusual. Then I checked my work emails. My office phone sends my voice mail to my email account when I am out of the office. This may be another reason for me to hate technology. There were several voice mail files in my inbox. I listened to them. They were mostly questions about the Saturday open houses, and I returned each call. (Do people think I LIVE in my office?) The last message I listened to had been sent at 12:37 a.m. I was curious about what that would be about. Who would leave a message at that time of day?
My heart sank as I listened. The person didn’t leave her name, but started in by telling me that I needed to “Get my act together.” She complained that the newspaper had said that the event began at 5:30, but she had been in an establishment that had begun serving hors d’oeuvres and wine at 4:00. Which was it? Couldn’t I even get my times straight? I needed to get my act together! She went on to tell me that the whole event was a letdown. Her town, a neighboring community, would have done a much better job. “Get your act together!” I was still laying in bed. I woke up thinking the event had been a success, and all it took was this one nasty woman’s phone call, and I felt like a failure.
Who does things like that? What is wrong with people? Who feels the need to lash out like that anonymously, to someone who has worked hard and actually cares about what they are doing, at someone who they don’t even know? That phone call ate at me all day. That phone call ruined my weekend.
The woman may not have left her name, but the file that came through to my inbox identified her phone number. I looked it up, so now I have her name. 🙂 Thankfully, it is not someone I know. There doesn’t appear to be a personal agenda. She is simply a really horrible, bitchy person. Yes, I know that I should let the matter go, but I can’t. Her words stung, and I am tired of stinging. I’m tired of mean people, and I’m tired of being treated as if I don’t have feelings by mean people. It has happened all too often this past year.
Once again…I am tired of mean people. I’m tired of people getting away with abominable behavior when they think no one is looking, when they think no one will find out, or call them on it. Yet again, I find the need to hold up a mirror for someone to see the reflection of their own bad behavior. I am tired of being a doormat.
On Monday, this lovely lady is going to be getting a call from me. If she has a complaint, I will be happy to calmly listen to what she has to say. This time, she isn’t going to get away with the safety of anonymously calling my office in the middle of the night. I will call her by name, and I will tell her my name in return. I will put a human face on the other end of that phone and that complaint.