Worry For A Friend

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dandelion

 

I’ve been feeling really burned out and frustrated.  The past two years have taken a heavy toll on me.  One thing I have learned for sure is that change causes stress, even if those changes have been good.  I’m simply worn out and exhausted.  Moving, starting a new job, making sure that the kids are adjusting has made my head spin.

Weeks ago, I decided to take a short trip back home by myself.  I planned on getting my hair cut by the same person I had trusted for years.  (The ordeal of finding another stylist could be a blog post all by itself.)  I was going to call a former co-worker and see if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  I planned on doing a little shopping at places that I miss and then meander around my hometown on the way back home.  I looked forward to a low-key getaway BY MYSELF.  I just wanted 24 hours of not having to work, worry about work, or kids, or anything.

I emailed my hairstylist, and asked her to let me know when she could fit me in on either a Thursday night or anytime on a Friday.  May 1st was the first available date.  I was excited to plan my getaway, until I went to schedule the day off.  I sat down at my computer and opened up my calendar to May 1st.  Right across the top of the page I saw “Lola – No School.”  I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to go away by myself.

Lola is 11-years-old.  While she is sometimes home for an hour or two after school, she doesn’t like it.  There is no way that I would leave her home alone all day while I went off to selfishly spend time alone.  My next thought was that if I asked Lola to tag along with me, then Emily would expect to come along, too.  I took a deep breath and emailed my hair stylist to ask if she could also fit the girls in for a hair appointment on that date.

That evening as we sat on the patio, I asked the girls if they’d like to come along with me.  They whooped with pleasure, and I felt like a heal for wishing that I would have been able to have some time to myself.  Then T said, “Hey, can I go, too?”  The girls let out a big….UGH!

When T stepped inside the house for a moment, I talked to the girls.  I told them that they needed to apologize to their dad and tell him that of course he was welcome to come along.  So there I was, both girls and a husband coming along on my alone trip.  Oh, the dog was coming, too, because no one was going to be home to let him outside.

In my head, I was griping and complaining.  Even as I made hotel reservations for two rooms, I was wishing for the weekend trip I had planned by myself.  I arranged for a friend to keep our dog as an overnight guest, because I couldn’t find a hotel that would allow pets.  The dog will be with us, just not at bedtime.  When T started making arrangements for us to visit his mom and then invited his sister to join us for dinner, I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “Quit hijacking my trip!”  Then something happened to make me take a step back and realize what is really important.  My family wanted to be included.  They want to spend time with me.  I should be grateful, not griping.

Just yesterday, I received a text from a dear family friend from back home.  Earlier in the day, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and the doctor’s prognosis was grim.  Damn cancer!  My friend has three children, and the youngest isn’t even out of grade school.  My heart sank at the thought of what he will be facing and what he will be missing.  He had been misdiagnosed for too long.  Now it appears as if it’s too late for any treatment to have much of an impact on the disease.

I can’t stop thinking about him and remembering times together and our many conversations.  Our backgrounds are so different, but we have been friends from the moment we met.  He is from New Jersey, and I’m a small town Midwesterner.  Years ago, he and I were hired by an organization as a team.  Technically, I was his boss, but we worked as a team.  I can still remember our first conversation.  We hadn’t yet met, but we immediately hit it off.  He was my muse, and he inspired creativity in me.  I owe much of my success in that job to him.

My family became his family.  As a divorced man without extended family nearby, he often spent time at our house and joined us on holidays.  Eventually our jobs took us on separate paths, but our friendship has continued.

He is younger than me.  He’s too young, and he has so much left to accomplish.  Nothing about loss is logical.

He and I have exchanged many texts since yesterday.  He’s not able to speak right now, and I’m thankful that we are able to text as a means of communication.  I asked him if I can come see him, but he keeps saying, “Not now.  Soon.  It’s really bad now.”  I’m afraid, because I don’t know what that means.  I’m praying that there will be a time soon.  I have told him that all he needs to do is let me know.  I can be there in two hours…day or night.

I feel petty and selfish.  All week I have been complaining inside.  I wanted my trip alone.  I resented the fact that first my responsibilities changed my plans, and then everyone else climbed on board.  I feel like an idiot for concentrating on the negative instead of being grateful for a day off work, a trip back home, my health, and the chance to spend time with people I love.

Life is too damn short, precious, and fragile.  I have lost too many people that I love.  We all have…or eventually we all will.  One day, someone will mourn the loss of our lives.  No one escapes death.  In the face of certain tragedy and loss, how is it that we human beings are able to lose sight of the precious gift of each new day?  Why do we waste time complaining, or stuck in jobs we hate, or live our lives plodding from one day to the next?  Obviously, I don’t have the answers to these questions.

We are all human, and it is in our nature to carry on in the face of all the uncertainty and loss that life throws our way.  We are resilient and relentless in the pursuit of another day.  We adapt.  We make do with what is available to us.  We cherish the memories, and we make new memories to pass along to those who follow along behind after we’re gone.

Please say a prayer (or send good vibes and strength) for my friend that he will be granted a little extra time to make a few more memories with the people who love him.

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Let’s Go Home

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home-is-life

T came to visit us early last weekend.  He had to be in Milwaukee for a second interview on Friday, so he came to my house to stay the evening before to cut down on travel time and the need to get up ridiculously early.  He had never been here for a visit on a “regular” work/school day, and he asked a lot of questions.  “Is this what you guys usually do?”  “Do you want me to do that for you?”  (As we all prepared our own dinners and did the evening household chores.)  He seemed like an observer in his own “home” as the girls and I went about our regular routines.  He observed it all with a smile.  The three women in his life may not be doing things the way he would do them, but we had somehow managed to come up with a routine that worked for us.  Four months apart, four months in separate homes, has changed all of us.  We have all grown, and we have all found the strength to face a multitude of changes.  With all of the growth and strength, we have also discovered something else.  Even with all of this new-found independence sprouting up all over the place, we have learned (the hard way!) how very much we all need each other – not to do things for each other or because we can’t live without each other.  We have found that our lives are BETTER when we are together. Continue Reading »

I’ll Share Your Mid-Life Crisis

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I love my brother in-law.  I’ve known T’s brother longer than I’ve known T.  We were in the same grade from Kindergarten through high school.  We went trick or treating together.  We went to the same birthday parties.  As kids growing up, our families lived within a couple of blocks of each other.  I don’t ever remember a time when my brother in-law, Jack, was not a part of my life.  He’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.  He was with me when I was in labor.  He was the first person I saw when I woke up from almost losing my life.  Our families have vacationed together, mourned together, and celebrated together.  Jack and his wife have raised their children about a block away from our home. Continue Reading »

Humbling

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Prior to my  recent trip to Baltimore, T suggested that I contact an old school friend of ours who lived near where I would be staying.  We all grew up together.   Jim and T were best friends during high school.  We have once again connected with him though Facebook.  Although I had not communicated with  him personally, I decided to take T’s suggestion.  I sent Jim  a message telling him about my trip to his city and T’s suggestion that I look him up while I was in town.  Jim responded that he would love to get together.  Unfortunately, he had previous plans to be in New York City during most of my visit to Baltimore.  I responded, and told him not to worry about it.  I gave him my cell number just in case he returned home while I was still in town.  I really didn’t expect to hear from him. Continue Reading »

Need a Refill

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I don’t even know what to write about.  All I know is that it helps me to write.

I’m traveling again, and I am lonely.  This is a trip that I’ve taken too many times.  I am at the state capitol for a legislative forum.  While I know that this is important, I also know that I have more important things going on locally.  More immediate issues require my attention.  I have brought staff along with me on this trip so that I can hole up in my hotel room and work from my laptop.  I wish that I could have stayed home, but the bureaucracy I am part of requires that I attend this forum. I tried my best to delay my appearance for an additional day, but that same bureaucracy won’t allow my staff members to drive an official car.  I could have asked them to take one of their personal vehicles, but I just couldn’t.  Even though they would have been reimbursed, it didn’t feel right to ask.  So I drove the official car.   It feels like I am their mother chauffeuring them on a field trip.  They are excited, and I’m happy to see that at least. Continue Reading »

Snakes and Other Dangerous Creatures

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This blog post has been brewing for a few days.  It wasn’t until very early this morning as I sat drinking coffee with T that I even began to attempt to put the words together.

T and I had fallen asleep on the couch as we often do on the weekends.  We watched a movie all snuggled up and warm on the couch.  When the movie was over, we turned on an episode of The Office.  It was the one where Michael proposes to Holly.  I had watched it the other night with Em.  It was so sweet that I wanted T to see it, too.  I loved watching it again, and I loved seeing T smile at all the right parts.  Even after the show was over, we stayed in our spots on the couch.  We halfheartedly talked about getting ready for bed, but it was so warm and cozy.  We were so sleepy and so comfortable.

The next thing I knew, it was morning and T was in the kitchen brewing a pot of coffee.  I wandered in with a smile on my face and told him that I was kind of enjoying our weird pack mentality when it came to sleeping.  There is something so delicious about drifting off to sleep right where you sit compared to the formality and routine of getting ready for bed.  He agreed.  Falling to sleep like that is wonderful, but damn, are we ever sore in the mornings from sleeping all night in awkward positions.  We laughed a little more as we both stood there trying to stretch out the kinks.

These odd sleeping arrangements have become our habit as of late on Friday and Saturday nights.  We skip the bed and the bedroom.  We nest and nestle in for sleep wherever we are comfortable at the time.  The best thing of all are the mornings.  It is just the two of us wandering around downstairs.  We haven’t had the luxury of lingering over coffee and conversation in the kitchen for many years.  Strangely, I am reminded of my grandparents.  As a child, I can remember waking up at their house and coming into the kitchen as they both sat at the table sipping their coffee.  It was a warm, peaceful feeling of contentment to see them there.  Now that is T and I.  It makes me feel old, yet content, all at the same time.

As we finished up in the kitchen this morning, I told T that I was going to go upstairs and write before the girls woke up.  He stopped and looked at me.  “What are you going to write about?”  He had never, ever asked me that question before.  I have been blogging for two years, but he has never asked me one question about it.    I don’t hide the fact that I’m writing.  Many times I have come to him to talk about a particular blog post or a comment that I have received.  Until this morning, though, he has never asked me what I was going to write about.  Today he asked, so I poured another cup of coffee and asked him to join me at the table. Continue Reading »

Ugly Girl

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Last night I packed my suitcase once again.  I’m leaving this afternoon to attend another conference.  While I am looking forward to spending time with my friends, I don’t find myself very excited at the prospect of leaving the peace and safety of my home.  Home seems to be the only place where I don’t doubt myself.  It’s the only place where I feel like ME anymore.

As I looked through my clothes, I couldn’t find one thing that I really wanted to pack.  It’s not that I don’t have a closet full of nice clothes, the problem is that I don’t think I look good in any of them.  There is a formal awards dinner tomorrow night.  Instead of thinking about the award I SOOOO want to win, I found myself more concerned about what to wear for that event.  Everything I looked at, I decided against once I imagined it on me.  “No.  This will make me look frumpy.”  “No.  This will make me look like I am trying to be too young.”  “No.  My arms don’t look good in that.”  “No.  This makes my breasts look non-existent.” “I look fat in that.”   “I look ugly.  Period.”  The voices in my head were not being kind.

I once enjoyed these conferences.  I enjoyed the company.  I enjoyed new ideas and learning new things.  Now, all I can think about is not acting like there is something wrong with me.  I wonder if friends that I have not seen in months will take me aside (again) and ask me what’s wrong.  Will they wonder if I have been/am sick?  Will they talk behind my back at how dramatically Pam has changed?  I can put on the most lovely clothes in the world, but clothes can never cover up the things that I would like to hide.  My hair can be perfect.  My makeup can look great, but nothing can put the sparkle back in my eyes.  That’s why I feel ugly now.  The way I look hasn’t changed all that much, but what is on the inside of me has been altered dramatically.

When I am home, I can feel the me I once was beginning to emerge.  I feel safe at home, and I am able to take things at my own pace.  I don’t have to be “on.”  I feel supported by my family.  Healing can take place at home.  It is these times out on my own that shake me up and fill me with doubt and fear.  I am afraid to be alone with my thoughts.  I’m afraid to be without the distraction of my daughters.  I miss having my cat curled up on my lap.

Rebuilding my self-confidence is a monumental task.  It doesn’t take much to shatter the delicate beginnings.  Rebuilding who I once was is much more difficult than it was getting there the first time around.  I suppose part of that is because I blame myself for ever letting anything, anyone, or any situation undermine what was such an essential and important of myself.

As I’ve thought about what the next few days will bring,  I have decided to just accept feeling ugly.  What I look like does NOT matter.  What is important is who I am on the inside.  I will go, and I will learn.  I will catch up with old friends.  I will direct my care and concern outward instead of keeping my focus on ME.  I will stop caring so much about the ugly girl on the OUTSIDE, and concentrate more on on nurturing the beautiful woman on the INSIDE.