Prioritize Much?

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03

Last weekend was a throwback to our lives of about five years ago; our house was full of people and bustling with non-stop activity.  Andrew spent a few days visiting, and Emily’s friend spent the night here on Saturday night.  I took a day of vacation on Friday, but there wasn’t a moment of quiet until late on Sunday afternoon.  While that was my normal life five years ago, the past weekend was a shock to my system.  Our lives have become quiet, peaceful, and ordered.  As much as I miss a busy household, I have come to appreciate the down time at the end of the day. It makes me realize how much has changed over the past two years.  So much.

T and I took a walk early Sunday evening. It was the first time we had been able to have a conversation alone in days.  We talked about the past weekend, and we talked about the future.  Where are we headed?  What is the next step?  We’ve made so many changes with our jobs, our home, our location, and we’re still trying to figure out exactly where it is we have landed.  Or have we really landed at all?  Is this home or is this still part of a larger transition?

Making this move was the right thing to do.  My motives were not pure, though.  I’m not sure if I was running to something or away from something.  Maybe a little of both.  Thankfully, this move has been good for my family.  The kids are all happy.  We are able to spend more time with the boys, and the girls have adjusted beautifully.  T is happier than I have seen him in years.  He loves his new job.  He’s made friends, and he has more free time than he’s had in years.  A few weeks ago, he told me that he feels like he’s semi-retired. Considering he works over 40 hours per week, this shows how much he really needed this change.

As for me, I’m not quite as happy or well-adjusted as the rest of the family.  I am unsettled.  I’m stressed out.  I’m not sleeping well, and I don’t know what I want.  If I take a step back and think about what in my life has made me happy in the past, none of those things are available to me at this point in my life.  I can’t go back to the time when I was home raising my children.  The band I once played with is no longer together.  Those were good times, but I’m not able to time travel or recreate those years.

I often wonder if I am destined to always be a step ahead or behind of really being content.  I get frustrated with myself for not just being satisfied.  We want for nothing.  We have a lovely home in a nice neighborhood.  Shouldn’t these things make me happy?  Yes, I should be happy, but it all seems kind of two-dimensional.  I feel like a sitcom family.  I have become the kind of person that I had always been secretly proud NOT to be.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this situation over past few weeks, and T and I have spent a lot of time talking.  How much of myself do I really want to give to my career?  This job has become all-consuming.  I’m spent and exhausted at the end of each day.  Too many weekends involve some kind of work-related event.  I am overwhelmed, and I don’t feel like I am making a positive impact.  I don’t know if it’s even possible for one person to make an impact here.  I’m discouraged.  In the past, I didn’t let hurdles get in my way, but this time, I think the hurdles may be too large for me to move out of the way.  I lay awake at night analyzing and planning strategies, and I can’t seem to find a possible solution.  I am one person, and I may be in a situation that is impossible to change.  This situation is complicated, political, ingrained, illogical, and unkind.

The illness of my friend Glenn has shaken me.  Life is too short too spend time being unhappy.  In the time I have known Glenn, I have often wondered about the logic of some of the choices he has made.  He has turned down work opportunities if they would have infringed on his time with his children.  He lives in a small apartment, yet he took his kids on yearly vacations, concerts, and weekends of fun adventures.  I’m ashamed to say that I often saw those expenditures as a waste of his money.  I see it differently now.  Glenn has only a short time left to live, and I’m sure that he treasures the memories he has created with his family much more than anything he would have bought with the money he spent.  Glenn’s life may be cut short, be there is no doubt in my mind that he didn’t squander the time he has had.  He has been happy, and he loved well.  I’m not sure I could say the same thing about my own life, and that has caused me to take a step back and assess who I am, where I am, and where I am heading.

I am not unhappy; I’m just tired and stressed out.  I am discouraged.  I have been chasing something that I’m not sure I even want.  There’s no passion in my life, just empty acquisition.

Today I spent hours alone my car.  I listened to music as I drove.  There were memories attached to so many of the songs that played.  Some songs I remembered playing with a band.  I thought of musician friends, smiles, shared jokes, camaraderie, and good times.  Other songs brought back memories of loved ones, times and places from the past.  What was special about each of those memories was what I felt in my heart.  My memories were connected to my life in a way that is not present in this drone-like life I am now living.  That makes me sad.

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Rest

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We’ve all seen the image.  Maybe a Facebook friend posts it along with an inspirational quote below the image of a woman standing on the beach, her arms wide-spread, maybe a scarf is billowing in the breeze.  Of course, she’s beautiful, young, and thin.  She’s healthy and strong. Of course, she is.  She is powerful, because she is embracing change.  The quote is always about change.  Maybe one of these:

“Change or die.” – Alan Deutschman

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

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F-Tards

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I shut down the blog for a few months.  I needed to detach myself from those things which were causing me stress.  By detaching myself from the stress, my intention was to come home in the evening and be present in my life instead of, even for a short time, refocusing on the stress.  Did this help the situation?  Looking back over the past few months, I think it did.  The stress still exists, but over the past months I have spent time cherishing and cultivating the good things in my life. Continue Reading »

Tomorrow Began Yesterday

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end

It’s all now you see: tomorrow began yesterday and yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow. – William Faulkner

It’s a quiet morning, and I’m in the house alone sitting in my room, sipping on a steaming cup of coffee, and cuddled under the covers in my robe.  Mornings like this are a rarity, and I am fully enjoying the moment.  Out there beyond my bedroom door are lists of things I need to buy and things I need to do.  Kids and family will begin descending on our house either tonight or tomorrow.  I haven’t really been able to clarify exactly who is being brought along to our house…or when.  For now though, until my feet hit the floor with some kind of purpose, these morning moments belong to me.   Continue Reading »

Our Own Path

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roadtochange

A lot has happened since my last post, a lot of exhausting things.  I’ve learned something.  Just because something is exhausting, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad thing.  When friends ask about my new job, one of the first things that comes up is the “Stress Level.”  Is this position less stress?  Is it easier?  Do I enjoy it more?  No, No, and Yes. Continue Reading »

Upon Her Return…

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Imagine what it would be like to be plucked from your life for a year, two years, maybe even longer.  Then quite suddenly, you were back!  Well, you were back to the same place, but of course, things had changed during your absence.  That’s how my life feels now, but I’m sure no one around me notices a thing.  They hadn’t even noticed that I had been gone.

Before I go any further with these thoughts, let me say that my intent is not to criticize my family or friends.  I have been blessed with a supportive family and truly wonderful friends.  Unfortunately, some of the burden of these past few years has been mine alone to carry.  It was my dad who died.  It was my mother who was sick.  I was the one the hospital, nurses, and doctors called when there was an emergency.  I was the one who made the phone calls to check in on my mom.  T made many trips to visit my mom.  The girls went along many times, too.  When the boys were home, they made their obligatory visits.  They helped haul and carry things during her three moves these past couple of years.  The one constant in my mom’s life was ME.  If T was there, so was I.  If the girls were there, or the boys paid a visit, I was there, too.  I was there, there, there.  And now I am not.

It has been two weeks now.  Two weekends in a row I have gotten up on a Saturday AND a Sunday morning with the entire day in front of me.  It has been a strange experience.  Oh, I have plenty to do, plenty I should do, plenty I can do, just nothing that I HAVE to do.  The obligation is over, and it’s sad in a way.  I feel sad to feel so lightened.

I feel like a stranger in my own life.  I look around, and so much has changed.  My parents are gone.  Just gone.  Poof!  It suddenly feels sudden!  Two hellish years, and it feels so sudden!  What in the hell happened?

The past two weeks have been so strange.  I miss the boys.  Did you know they are gone?  Of course, they’re gone, but suddenly the house feels very empty without their messes, their loud voices, and their laughter.  They are both so happy and so involved in their own lives.  What is/has been going on here at home has been secondary at best to them.  That is as it should be, and I’m proud that they are happy and haven’t felt that I am their responsibility.  I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Em is almost out of high school.  We will be celebrating her 18th birthday in a matter of days.  She is “in love” for the first time.  Yes, they use those words right in front of us!  Her boyfriend is sweet, protective of her, and has the most beautiful smile.  The funny thing is, he bears an almost eerie resemblance to T at that same age.

Lola is a big girl now.  She’s selling Girl Scout cookies, volunteering at an animal shelter, and has perfect grades.  They have all grown and changed so much.   When did that happen?  I have been so busy dealing, just dealing, with all of my responsibilities that I haven’t really seen a darn thing that has been going on around me.

What about T?  What has happened during the past few years with T?  Like always, T is there, has been there, will be there if I need him.  He is the foundation.  He has made sure that the necessary things have gotten done.  He has cooked many (most?) of the meals.  He does the laundry.  He drives Lola to Girl Scout meetings.  He helps with the homework, gives advice, and listens.  Of course, he doesn’t even know that he’s doing these things or that it is anything unique.  He just does them.  He doesn’t think things to death.  He just picks up the slack when it has been necessary.

I am trying to remember who I was before these past two hellish years, and where I fit in now.  The problem is, two years ago, I was a different person.  I had different dreams and vastly different ideas of where I thought my life was headed.  My view of my family and my marriage were different, too.  Remembering, or trying to once again become, who I was two years ago is irrelevant.  I don’t even want to be that woman again.  Anyway, it would not even be possible.

I had an extra-long weekend.  Lola stayed home sick from school today, and I took the day off to be home with her.  As we took an afternoon snooze, I laid there thinking about this strange, disoriented feeling I have had since my mother’s death.  I thought about how it feels like I have been plucked from some strange place and plopped down right back where I was two years ago.

As I laid there, I thought about Doris Day in the movie “Move Over, Darling.”  She had been rescued from a deserted island and returned home expecting to find her family as she had left them.  There aren’t any further similarities, thankfully, but that’s how I feel right now.  I feel like I have been on a deserted island and have returned back home expecting to find things unchanged, but that isn’t possible.  Life goes on and on.  Even if it seems at times that we, as individuals, have been stuck on a hamster wheel, those around us keep moving on and on.  I’m just going to have to work hard to catch up with everyone else.

Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection.  Advance and do not fear the thorns in the path, for they draw only corrupt blood. ~ Khalil Gibran

 

 

Just Say Goodbye…

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I have been remembering a scene from my childhood.  For the last few days, this particular moment has been nudging me at the oddest moments.  The memory is so vivid, I can almost smell the dinner waiting for me on the table.  The memory is set in my parents kitchen.  I was probably an eighth-grader, 14 years old.  Dinner was on the table, and we were about to sit down and eat.  I was standing next to the table talking on the corded phone that was mounted on the wall next to the counter.  My dad was looking at me, and he wasn’t very pleased.  He had asked me to finish up my phone call so that we could all sit down and eat together.  I don’t remember who I was talking to.  It was probably my friend, Kara.  (Ugh….I hate to even use the word friend in association with that girl!)  Well, whoever it was…they were not too happy that I had to get off of the phone in the middle of whatever extremely important middle school tale they were telling.  I kept saying, “I have to go, Okay?”  And my dad was saying, “Don’t ask OK.  Just say Goodbye.”  I was trying to please both this demanding teenaged girl AND my father all at the same time.  It was impossible, and I was stuck in the middle.  I kept telling Kara (or whoever) that I had to go (OKAY?) and she kept talking.  Meanwhile, my dad, who NEVER got mad at me, WAS getting madder by the second.  If I remember the story correctly, my dad walked over and flicked down the silver bar that hung up the phone.  I was horrified.  I could imagine Kara calling up all of the other girls in our little group.  “Pam hung up on me.”  Or…”Pam’s dad is psycho.  He made her get off the phone to EAT DINNER.”

My middle school years were a turbulent time.  I was in the “most popular” group, and it was horrible.  Girls are so darn mean to each other at that age, especially at that particular social echelon.  In eight grade, there was a vote among the student body for a number of silly things:  Best Couple, Cutest Boy, Cutest Girl and so on.  I was voted “Most Popular Girl.”  When I came home to tell my mother, she said, “The way you treat people, the way you act, I can’t believe you have ANY friends.”  Well, that’s my mom for you!  What she said rang true, though.  It made me think about what kind of person I really was.  What kind of friend was I?  I attended all the right slumber parties, but I hated it.  I had a cute boyfriend, but he was a mindless jock that didn’t even interest me.

The summer before high school, I realized how unhappy I was with my friends and with MYSELF.  When I look back on that summer, I look back with pride.  I was a young girl who was on the brink of a major change.  I took my life back into my own hands.  I realized that my dad had been right.  “Just say Goodbye.”  It was as simple as that.

I spent the summer before my freshman year in high school doing what I enjoyed.  I didn’t go hang out at the baseball diamond with the other girls to watch the jocks.  I hated that kind of thing.  Instead, I remember playing a LOT of piano that summer.  I planted a garden.  I went to spend a couple of weeks at my grandma’s house.  I cultivated friendships that summer based on the people who I truly liked, not their level of popularity.  I remember calling a girl named Kim and explaining to her that I wanted to hang out with her because I liked her.  How weird is that for a 14-year-old?

I have good memories of that summer.  I think of it as the summer I re-positioned my life.  The changes I made that summer impacted all of my high school years.  When I went back to school that fall, I was a new, more self-confident person.  I joined choir again.  I joined the Drama Club.  I spent my time with people who were like-minded and who were actually nice to me.  I had friendships based on friendship, not popularity.  Yes, some of my friends were out-and-out nerds, but they were wonderful friends.

I have been thinking a great deal over the past few months about what true friendship really means.  Having horrible life experiences really weeds out the REAL friends from the casual acquaintances.  Once again, it makes me think of orbits.  Some friendships sail out of our daily orbit from time to time, but when a friend is really needed, they come back like shining stars.  Other friendships are part of the orbit of daily life, but when the going gets tough they speed out of the orbit and are nowhere to be found.

I often remember my daughter Grace’s funeral.  It was a cold winter day very close to Christmas.  The funeral was in a remote country church an hour’s drive from our hometown.  It still hurts my heart to remember the number of friends who were not able to give up an afternoon during the holiday season to be by our side as we laid our dear daughter to rest. On the other hand, there were others, who I would never have imagined even cared, who made the trip and touched our hearts.  I will never forget a dear man from our town who made a cross from pine bows to lay on her grave.  I saw him as I sat in the pew waiting for the ceremony to begin.  One of the few memories I have of that day is seeing him pass by the window of the church with a cross of pine bows carried on his back.  I looked past Grace’s casket and out through the window.  I thought of Jesus carrying the cross as I watched that man trudge up the hill to the cemetery behind the church.  This one good deed has lasted a lifetime in my heart.  It’s almost 24 years later now, and that good man is no longer alive.  He died two days after my father’s funeral.   I spent Christmas Eve morning crying at his funeral, but my heart remembered with love and kindness how he touched my life.   While I had not seen him often over the years, his act of friendship will forever be special to me.

Through the years, I have been amazed time after time by the people who have proven to be true friends.  Often times, it has not been those whom I most imagined would be there when I needed a friend.  Thankfully, my best friends don’t let me down, and while we may lose touch from time to time, they are there, a part of my life like family.

I’m feeling a little bit like that eight grade girl again this summer.  I have been trying to please too many people.  I’m not sure if some of them are worth my effort.  Are they really my friends, or I am once again trying so very hard to be liked or to be popular?  Thirty years later, and again I am feeling like that 14-year-old girl who was so afraid of rejection.  Once again, I am hearing my dad’s words ringing through my head.  “Just say Goodbye.”

I wish I could plant a garden, but I don’t have time.  I wish I could go spend a few weeks with Grandma, but she is no longer there.  This summer will be different from that summer so long ago, but I am determined to once again make this a summer of change.