No Shades of Gray

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When I was a young(er) woman, I often used my great-grandparents as my mental guides.

Hazel and Clifford were a wonderful, happy part of my childhood.  They lived on the family farm where Grandpa’s own Great-Grandparent’s had lived.  To me, it seemed like they had been there forever, almost like characters out of a fairytale.  Great-Grandma was a tiny, little woman who always wore a dress, old-fashioned lace-up boots, and a smile.  She taught me how to gather eggs.  I can see her bending down before me, the bun in her hair streaked with gray.  She may have been old, but her eyes were youthful and sparkled with merriment. Continue Reading »

Confused

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I have been working on a blog post off and on all weekend.  I’ll write a little bit, quit, come back again later, and write a little bit more.  I feel like I should write about moving Andy to Chicago.  It was a significant event in all of our lives.  I have written out the facts and many of the emotions, but I can’t seem to bring it to any kind of conclusion.  It feels like I am writing a report for school.  “What It Felt Like To Move My Son Away From Home.”  Bleh.  It didn’t feel good.  Sure, I am happy for him.  Yes, it was a hassle.  Yes, it was emotional, but it probably wasn’t any different or more significant than anyone else’s experiences.  It was LIFE.  It was simply another step into the next stage of all of our lives.  The details aren’t what is important.  The fact that the apartment was a mess doesn’t matter.  It’s clean now.  The fact that it was hotter than hell on moving day doesn’t matter.  It’s cool now.  I’m wearing a sweatshirt.  What we had for dinner doesn’t matter.  Where we stayed while in Chicago is insignificant.  Those are the details that don’t matter in the long run.  They are soon forgotten.

What matters is now and what is to come.  What matters is the void that is left by the absence of my sons.   What matters is that they are happy and adjust well to what lies ahead for them.  I hope they are adjusting better than their mother.  I’m sure they are.

Four days.  We have had four days at home since Andrew moved.  I am already sad in so many ways.  I am shocked by the disruption in my own routine.  I had thought to feel a sense of freedom and relief.  Instead, I am feeling sad and lonely.  I had hoped that T and I would look at each other with smiles on our faces and think of all the thing we could do together now.

Andrew and I had a routine of watching TV together before we went to bed.  We would pick out something on Netflix and watch together.  T would always be in the room, but he usually fell asleep within minutes of sitting down.  I would sit on the couch with my laptop.  I would usually be writing, working, or messing around on Facebook while we watched.  Andrew would be across the room in the red chair.  (It’s not even red, but for some reason everyone in the family calls it the “red chair.”)  T would sit in the green chair.  (It is green.)  Now the red chair is empty.

The first night after moving Andrew, we ended up in our same places and turned on the TV.  It was just T and I now.  As we watched TV, something made me laugh.  I looked up to smile at Andy, but he wasn’t there.  I looked over to share it with T.  Ugh….  What did I see?  T sitting with his head thrown back, mouth hanging open, and sound asleep.  My God.  For over twenty years, I have looked at that!  My heart just dropped.  Now there was no one.  The boys are gone.  The girls were in bed.  It was just T and I, which essentially means that I will sit alone in a room, or I can choose to sit in a room where he is sleeping.  I know this routine.  I know it all too well.  I hate it.

I am tired.  I am so tired of being the only one who tries.  I am tired of trying to be entertaining so that he will stay awake.  On Saturday afternoon, I caught him sleeping on the floor of the boys’ old room.  He was supposedly in there cleaning, when Em came to get me.  “Dad is laying on the floor and not moving.  Would you please go check on him.  I’m afraid.”  I was, too!  That sounded really strange, so I rushed upstairs to see if he was OK.  Yep.  Sleeping on the floor.

On Saturday night, I watched a History Channel documentary while he slept in the chair.  He’s the one who turned it on.  I wasn’t at all interested in it, but I thought if he made the choice, then maybe he would stay awake.  He was out in less than 10 minutes.

Tonight Em asked me to watch a movie with her.  We sat down and watched about half of it (T slept across the room) until her boyfriend called.  He left yesterday for college in Wisconsin.  Seems all the young men in our lives are gone!  Emily was excited to hear about his day, so she went up to her room to take her phone call.  She asked me to pause the movie so that we could watch the rest tomorrow.

There I sat.  T was asleep, and I was wondering what to do.  It was too early to go to bed.  I’m a night owl.  I wasn’t even tired.  There was no one to talk to.  I just sat there thinking, “This is it??  Is this really it?  Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?”

I know.  It has only been four days, but I am having some really bad memories return.  I remember years and years of this.  When the kids were all little, my day was lonely after they all went to bed for the night.  T may have been there, but he was inattentive and uninterested much like he is now.  His daily after work routine consists of dinner, slot machines on Facebook, sit in the green chair, fall asleep.

To be honest, I am shocked.  I didn’t think this was going to happen.  I hadn’t given it an ounce of thought.  Maybe it would be easier to understand this if I had anticipated it.  I thought this was going to be a good push in the right direction for T and I.  Instead, it seems like we were working well together in the interest of organizing and moving the boys, and now our partnership is over.

Today, I tried to have a good attitude.  I tried to be good.  I cleaned.  I organized things.  I shampooed the area rugs.  I went shopping and bought a roast and fresh vegetables.  I stood in the kitchen and cooked for hours.  A roast, carrots, potatoes (two kinds,) fried apples, fresh rolls, fabulous homemade gravy.  It took hours to cook, about 15 minutes to eat, and an hour to clean up the mess in the kitchen.  At least there will be leftovers for dinner tomorrow night.

Of course, I have talked to T about these issues.  There is no problem.  He is happy.  “What??   What’s so bad about sitting down to relax at the end of the day?  I’m tired.”  End of  story.

Tomorrow I will be heading back to work, and I’m looking forward to it.  Our next few weekends will be full, and I have a business trip to Charlotte later in the month that I’m excited about.  I’m not sure if I am ready to putter around all day and then watch my husband sleep in a chair all night.  I’m not ready to be an “old married couple.”  Life is too precious and too short to spend feeling sad and lonely.

All evening, I have been wracking my brain.  What can I do to change this?  Four days, and I am feeling like a caged animal.  Do I go back to playing in the band?  Do I take another class?  Maybe I’ll practice playing jazz piano.  Maybe I’ll dig out the clarinet or the sax and get back up to speed.  Maybe learn to play trombone?  Maybe I’ll do some serious writing.  I would have to set up an office.  Maybe I’ll repaint all the rooms in the house.  Maybe I’ll set up the loom and weave rugs again.  I have too much energy to spend evening after evening like this.  It seems that I have come full circle again.  All of the things I can think of doing, I will have to do alone.  Music, a class, home decor, all alone.  I am once again looking at things and ways to fill that void.

Sad, and yes…feeling sorry for myself.  Why is this so hard?  It seems like all I really want is someone there to care.  At the end of the day, I just want a friend.  They don’t have to be exciting, just awake.  They don’t have to entertain me, but just share a smile.

Dreamers, Realists, and Fantasizers

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I have been thinking about this post for days.  A recent conversation gave me food for thought.  I’m no philosopher, and I will hopelessly simplify a subject that could be studied for many lifetimes.  After a great deal of thought, I now believe that there are three basic types of people:  people who are realists, people who dream, and people who live a life in a world created by their own fantasy.

I’m a dreamer.

No doubt about it.  Sometimes I have to literally force myself back to reality.  I imagine and suppose.  I strive.  I push.  I am never satisfied.  When something is good, I hope for more.  That doesn’t mean that I am never happy.  What it means is that I am never done learning, and trying, and hoping.  I want to make more successes and more happiness.  If something is fun, I want to do it again and again.  While this dreamy side of me sometimes works to my advantage, it often means that I leave the more boring, mundane duties of life until the last possible moment.  I will go on great business trip, learn a lot at a conference, make great connections while networking, but then I leave the travel expense reports and required paperwork until the last moment.  (That usually means a couple of friendly reminders from the department secretary.)  Logically, I know that the this paperwork is important and must be done, but it seems so worthless and non-productive to me.  Paperwork is just one example.  I could cite hundreds of examples of times when I have left the less than fun aspects of a project, or just daily life, until the last possible moment.

It is my birthright to be a dreamer.  My dad was the same way.  It was one of the reasons I loved him so dearly and why we were so close.  He “got” me.  I understood him, too.  He felt emotions so deeply.  He was touched inside by words, poetry, music, a beautiful scene in nature.  I can still see the goose bumps rise on his arms as we spoke deeply, late at night in the darkened kitchen or when a song on the radio touched him.  Oh yes, I understood all of that.  Even now, with Dad gone, I feel the things that would have moved him.

The realists.

T is a realist.  He believes in nothing….literally.  He does not believe in heaven or hell.  He doesn’t believe in God.  He does not believe in the spirits I see and feel all around us.  He believes in life, and he believes in death.  He believes in what he can see and touch and taste and smell.  All other things, he leaves for people like me, the gullible dreamers.

T is a good, kind, dependable man.  He is a law-abiding citizen.  He pays his bills.  He eats three square meals each day, exercises, and gets plenty of rest.  He works hard, and he works well.  He is satisfied doing the same job he has had for over thirty years.  He has never wanted more, or maybe he has, but he has not tried for more.  His job provides all that he requires in his life.  He is familiar with it.  He’s good at his job.  He has freedom to make his own schedule, spends time outdoors, enjoys his co-workers.

Sometimes I feel sorry that T has been saddled for life to a woman like me.  Often, I know I am a curiosity to him.  For a couple who has been married almost 27 years, I often feel we are mismatched.  I feel inadequate.  T deserves a better, calmer, more down to earth kind of woman.  He deserves someone practical and calm.  He would appreciate a woman like that.  Not that he doesn’t appreciate me, but he would admire such a woman.

He liked it best during the years when I stayed home with the kids.  I cleaned, baked, and parented.  Those were things he understood.  It’s more difficult for him now.  While he is interested in my work, I know he doesn’t understand why it is so important to me.  Why do I thrive on the stress at times?  Why do I like having so many irons in the fire?  Why don’t I want something that takes less of my energy?  Why wouldn’t I be happy just to BE HOME?  (Big, huge UGGGHHH!)

We’re working through all of these career-related changes.  I have been proud at the progress he has made in seeing me in this different role, a role that has changed all of our roles.  It has been a bumpy road, but the changes have been good for T, too.  He has been forced a bit outside of his comfort zone.  It’s not all black and white around here anymore, and T has had to spend quite a bit of time in the gray areas, too.

Fantasy.

While I am a dreamer and chase that feather floating in the air above my head, and T is carefully placing one foot in front of the other and staying right on track, there is a third type of person I have encountered at times  in my life.  This is a more rare type of person, indeed.  A person whose life is based on fantasy can even be dangerous.  They may consider themselves to be realists when in fact they are living their own (maybe even twisted) version of reality.  People who live a life of fantasy are capable of causing great harm or simply never amounting to much at all.  They are lazy.  Fantasizers are simply too lazy to be real AND too lazy to chase their dreams.  Both of those things are too much work.   They are too egocentric to care about anything beyond what feels right and good to themselves at that particular moment in time.  They don’t connect the dots.  Heck, they don’t even SEE the dots!  They want immediate, instant gratification, and they will do whatever it takes to feel good from one moment to the next.  They are looking for the quick fix, the easy way out.  They live for the moment.

I’ve known a few Fantasy-driven people in my lifetime.  One of them is a colleague from a different city.  I see her several times each year.  Her life is a mess.  She has had two failed marriages, and is living now unhappily as a  single mother.  Each time I see her, she is deeply in love with the man of the moment.  He’s always “the one.”  Sad things is, it’s a different “one” each time we meet.  I have sat listening as this woman tells me for hours about Mr. Right and then watched her head off to her room with Mr. Guy-Who-Happened-To-Be Sitting-At-The-Bar.

Another Fantasizer I know was a former board member.  He was an extremely intelligent man with a vast knowledge of historic preservation.  With some effort, he could have had a wonderful career.  Instead, he was always looking for the goose with the golden egg.  He was always trying to “make a deal” with some developer with deep pockets who would finance a project for him.  So many times, he got his hopes up, but they were dashed to the ground when his true colors showed through,
and for whatever reasons, the projects failed.  No, he failed.  He failed to produce.  He may have been knowledgeable, but he was not capable of the hard work involved to see a project through to the end.

Thoughts.

I have often berated myself for not being more like T, more grounded, or more detail oriented.  Certainly, he would not be sitting up at 1:00 A.M. blogging on a workday!  The older I get, though, the more I am comfortable with who I am and how I am.  My quest to know and learn and dream has, at times, led me down paths I would have preferred not to travel.  Along the way, though, I have learned, and I have grown as a human being.

I come from a long line of dreamers.  As I begin to see that quality emerge in my own children, I feel sense of wonder and awe.  There it is….a part of me, a part of my dad, a part of my grandma.  All of us dreamers.  I hope my children are led in beautiful directions as they follow their own dreams.