I’ve recently started doing something that I haven’t done in years. I’ve been laughing. The sound often startles me, and the feeling in my belly is a delicious shock. I lay in bed last night listening to an episode of Frasier playing on Netflix as I fell asleep, and I started laughing. I jiggled the bed with my laughter. I couldn’t seem to stop or catch my breath.
Taking a full week away from work (at least not being in the office, as I have had daily contact with work) has been good for me. My daughters and I spent a relaxing, fun, and activity filled six days in New Orleans. Six days sharing one tiny room, and there wasn’t one moment of angst between the three of us. Multiple times during our trip I was thankful for the blessing of these two wonderful people I am lucky enough to call my daughters.
Like my recent trip to Vegas with friends, I was consciously trying to live in the moment. I tried not to think of the work that was being left undone, or the past which continues to haunt me. I tried not to feel guilty that T was back home working ungodly hours while I vacationed. I tried not to feel guilty that I was spending too much money. Years of watching every penny makes it difficult to indulge in a luxury like travel. I banished negative thoughts as soon as they entered my mind, and I concentrated on the NOW. I cherished the making of new memories. It was certainly a character-building exercise traveling with the girls, but engaging a 20 year old and a ten year old was easier than I had anticipated.
We tried new foods and revisited some of our favorite southern specialties. We spent an afternoon wandering around St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. We visited Marie Laveau’s grave, brought her gifts, drew three X’s on her tomb, and asked the voodoo queen for a special wish. We wandered for miles each day through the French Quarter and made a special trip to see the home of the notorious Delphine LaLaurie. We sat in the sun listening to jazz and watched the tapestry of people in Jackson Square. Each morning we had a gigantic late breakfast of beignets, hash browns, sausage, juice, and a Bloody Mary for Mom. In the afternoon, weather permitting, I lounged in the sun while the girls swam in the rooftop pool. It was glorious.
Even with the warmer weather, relaxation, and marvelous food, we were ready to come back home. We missed our real lives and our new home. We missed hearty Midwestern fare: meat, potatoes, and Chicago-style hot dogs. We were all smiling when T drove up to pick us up from the airport. The first thing we all wanted was a chili cheese dog from Portillos. We took turns telling him about our trip as we inhaled our delicious dinner.
Once we were back home and the girls were off doing their own thing, T and I finally had a chance to talk. I laughed as he told me about sharing his bed with both the cat and dog while we were gone. It’s hard for me to imagine him willingly sleeping with these pets he hadn’t wanted in the first place. That’s T, though. He makes other people happy. He indulges the people he loves. While he is not overly demonstrative or abundant with his praise, his actions are always genuine and loving.
This past year has been full of change. Along with the obvious changes of relocating, selling homes, and new jobs, I have been surprised to find that relationships and friendships have changed in ways that I had not expected. Some people I had considered friends have completely exited from our lives. Certain family members have distanced themselves from us. T’s oldest sister hasn’t spoken to us for almost a year. I’m not sure why these changes have occurred, because we have attempted to stay in touch. It seems that some people have simply not been able to accept the changes we have embraced. Maybe they have seen our move as a personal affront. Why would we leave our home, everything we knew, our people, our hometown? In our little town, it is unheard of for people our age to leave as we did. People leave when they’re young, or perhaps when they retire to a warmer climate. I can’t say that I have ever heard of anyone who just…..left.
While the loss of these former friendships has been a little confusing, it hasn’t angered me. They are still good people. I still care about them and wish them well. Family is still family. Friends, even absent, remain my friend. This has just been an unexpected result of change. I was unprepared for this impact to so many relationships at such varying degrees. The result of these changes has caused me to cherish and value even more those people who have remained in my life. So many people I have loved are gone now. Too many losses were due to death. Others have chosen not to be a part of my life for reasons that have sometimes remained a mystery to me.
“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”
I started this blog post talking about the return of laughter. How does the loss of friends, family, and loved ones belong in a post that starts out with laughter. It is the beginning of acceptance of these losses that has brought about the return of laughter. I’ve stopped fighting those things which are beyond my power to change. I’ve stopped agonizing, rehashing, and wishing for things to be different. Instead, I have begun, still tentatively, to live again and to allow my heart to open itself up to life once again. Change and loss are inevitable parts of life. Even if we lock our doors, keep a vigilant watch at our windows, and never change our routines..change will find us.
Life isn’t fair or easy. Knowing this and figuring out how to go on living has not been easy. I’m learning to be grateful for the moments that feel right. They are there. Moments of good have always been there, but for such a long time, I wanted different moments. I wanted to recreate moments from my past, or it seemed that some elusive element that would make me happy was just beyond my grasp. Slowly, I’m learning to appreciate quiet moments, days without tears, and people who make me laugh. These are my little victories.