In keeping with my quest to figure out how to make my life happy and rewarding, I spent some time examining my own actions with regard to those people who are the key players in my emotional life. I wasn’t very pleased with what I observed about myself. I am an island. I have relationships that I enjoy with work colleagues, but I never let them become personal. I have relationships with my family that I love. We are a solid, steady, and kind foursome living in this house. T and I, along with the girls, enjoy each other’s company. We have created an atmosphere of harmony. Our home is a refuge of peace, and I treasure that feeling of sanctuary at the end of the day. As much as we love the boys, the four of us notice that the zen peace of our home is off kilter when they visit. As much as we love them and enjoy their company, we always treasure the return to our quiet routine of four. I suppose this is a good thing. It means we have adjusted to their absence as a daily fixture in our lives. We love visiting them in Chicago or Milwaukee. Now that we all live closer together, we see them more often. It’s when they come here, to our home of four, that we feel a shift in our peaceful routine. Continue Reading »
T quit his job. Yep. His last day was Friday. By 6:00 p.m. he was home. Home here with me. After four months of living apart, we’re under the same roof once again. Two empty houses sit back at home. Neither one of them are sold. Although we have an offer pending on my parents’ home, we’re not taking that for granted. Four previous offers have fallen through at the 11th hour. T had hoped to have a job offer prior to quitting his job and moving here. Hopefully, he will by the end of this week, but that hasn’t happened yet. Finally….finally…finally after months of living apart, T took a GIANT leap outside of his comfort zone. He said a mental “F*&# it” and joined his family. Continue Reading »
On Thursday, T and I are leaving on a trip. We’ll be gone for five nights. FIVE NIGHTS…without kids. I was thinking about that tonight, and I realized that this will be the first time since 1988 that T and I have been alone for this long. FIVE NIGHTS. Oh, we have taken trips here and there. We went to Vegas for our 25th wedding anniversary, but that was not a good time in our marriage. We flew in, spent three awkward days trying to stay busy and not argue, and we flew back home. We’ve taken trips to move kids or visit kids, but we haven’t taken a trip simply by ourselves since 1988. Continue Reading »
I have heard the phrase “love-hate relationship” often in the past several weeks. I’ve said the words, written the words, and I’ve had the words said and written to me. These words have surfaced in my life recently with a frequency that has made me take a step back to ponder their meaning. I had to take a moment to explore the notion that the frequency with which I was hearing the words “love-hate relationships” might have a significant meaning at this time in my life. Continue Reading »
It is impossible to take steps back in time. Even when our feet are dragging in the dust, even when we want to go back to the way things once were, the past does not exist in the present moment. People change, grow up, or sometimes die. Each moment is unique, and cannot be repeated or recreated. There is an unseen momentum pushing and pushing us forward and into the next moment. My past is full of joyous memories, pain and loss, friends and family. The past is full of people, so many of them now gone from my life. Thankfully, the past is also full of people that I am blessed have in my life in the present, too.
The last few years have been so terrible and full of stress. I’m not sure how to act now that the immediate crisis has passed. There are no visits to be made, no phone calls, no arrangements. Believe me, I am not complaining. It feels good to have my life back. My life. I have my life back, and now I’m just not sure what to do with it.
It seems that I had expected my life as it once was to still be waiting for me, but apparently, time kept marching on while I have been on the hamster wheel these past few years. I remember where I was, who I was, what I was two years ago. The problem is, the life I had two years ago no longer exists. I am no longer that woman. So who am I now? That remains to be seen. As much as I keep peering into the past to find the woman I once was, I won’t find what I’m searching for. The past shapes who we are in the present.
In the past weeks, I have been both humbled and hurt. I have been humbled by the kindness of the good people in my life. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. I have been touched by their genuine concern, love, and support. Several people I had once thought of as colleagues, became more than that as they reached out to me on a personal level. Others, people I had once thought of as close friends, were nowhere to be seen. That is the worst part. It hurts to realize that a relationship once valued was merely a surface friendship, a fair-weather friendship.
I have been thinking a lot about those who have been absent from my life during these past difficult months and especially the past couple of weeks. While I understand it on some level, a person going through a tough time doesn’t make the best company, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. It doesn’t make it hurt less. These are the kind of things that test a friendship, and sadly, I had a few “friends” that failed that test. I don’t mean this to sound bitter. I am looking at this in a sort of philosophical manner. Perhaps it is these very disappointments in life that enable us to move onto the next phase. By examining our lives at times like this, we are better able to let go of our past and give into the momentum that continues to push us forward and forward into the future.
T and I went to a wedding reception last night. It was a small, intimate party. Oh, and yes….it was for two men, but that is an entirely a different story! Anyway, it was a beautiful reception at their home. Twinkling lights were strung all around the tent in their backyard. There were hanging lanterns, soft colors, wonderful food, and the champagne was flowing! I knew almost everyone there, and so did T. We had a great time visiting and laughing with friends. We were both relaxed, and several times, T mentioned how much this outdoor party reminded him of our own wedding reception. He said that he would really encourage our own kids to do something much like this when the time came for them to get married. The informality was so relaxing and warm. It felt much more like a celebration than the showy receptions we had attended most recently.
As I said, we had a good time. In MY case, I might have had too good of a time. I was swaying and leaning heavily on T as we made our way back to the car. We held hands as we drove home, and I drifted in and out of sleep. For once, we were coming home at a decent time and to an empty house.
I quickly hopped into the tub while T took a shower. By then, I wasn’t feeling very good at all. 😦 I laid my head on the side of the tub and tried to remember just how many drink I’d had. Well, I couldn’t remember. In fact, I could barely finish my bath and make my way to the bed without getting sick.
When T climbed in bed, he snuggled up to me and said, “Oh man! You’re naked.” I must have mumbled incoherently, because the last thing I remember as I drifted off to sleep was him asking if I was OK, was I going to be sick.
When I woke up at 4:00 a.m., I was in a panic. T was gone. I didn’t know if Andrew and Emily had even made it home for the evening. I popped up out of bed. I was naked! What??? I looked out the window, and I could see Andrew’s car in the driveway. Good. Thank goodness, he was home. I threw on my robe and set out to find T. I wondered if he was mad at me. I wondered if anything had happened between us. Yeah, and I felt really stupid.
T was dressed in a pair of shorts and sleeping on the couch. I woke him up. “Is Em home? Are you mad at me?”
He laughed. “Yes, Emily is home. No….nothing happened. It didn’t really turn me on when you said you felt like throwing up.”
We headed back upstairs to our room and snuggled under the covers. (I made a quick stop to the medicine cabinet for some Ibuprofen.) We turned on King of the Hill and drifted back off to sleep knowing all was right in our world.
A day of travel, and then conference Day One is over. I’m already worn out, and I have three more days of this ahead of me. Tomorrow, I’m going to be kind to myself mentally and not feel like I have to socialize quite as much…or at all if I don’t feel like it.
The conference is fantastic, and I get re-energized to be around so many people who care about all of this as much as I do. I read “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” over my solitary breakfast, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Before dinner, I headed down to the bar for a drink before meeting up with everyone, and I read, “The Case For Business Investment in High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail.” It was gripping! The United States ranks 8th worldwide in high speed rail investment. That is shameful. As you can see, I’m having a WILD time!!!
Tonight I had dinner with four other women. Three of them were lesbians. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” It was strange, though, and although I am most definitely NOT attracted to women, as I sat there, I thought about the merit of not having to deal with men! (Just kidding, my male friends!)
After dinner, my one non-lesbian friend and I had a nightcap in the hotel bar. She was upset. Her boyfriend was on a business trip and had not called or emailed the entire time he had been gone. As we sat there, she opened up her iPad and looked at Facebook. Of course, he had been on Facebook. He’d uploaded pictures, updated his status, and checked into restaurants. There was something else, a woman he had “mentioned” several times was commenting and LIKE-ing almost everything on this guy’s page. My friend asked for my advice, and I said, “DITCH HIM.” I told her not to even give it a second thought. She didn’t want to rule the guy, all she really wanted was to be treated with decency and common courtesy. If he couldn’t manage that, then get rid of the loser!
My friend had sent him a brief email from the airport as she set out on her own trip. “Have a great time in DC.” He hadn’t called. He hadn’t emailed back. He hadn’t even sent a text. Is it really asking too much for someone you care about to acknowledge your existence? She and I sat and discussed it. We live almost 200 miles apart, and communicate often. If she emails me, I respond. She responds to me as well. I asked her if it would hurt her feelings if I didn’t reply to her. What if I ignored her if she sent me an email or a text? What would she think? She said, “I’d think you were a bitch!” We laughed about it, but it made us both pause. Why then, would she even consider continuing a relationship with this man? Why try to keep him as a friend, let alone sleep with him? Why do we hang onto toxic relationships? Why do we try to “teach” or “help” those around us be who or what we need them to be? If the guy is a jerk, then he is a jerk. My friend agonizing over it is not going to change a thing. She is fun, intelligent, and extremely successful. She would not allow anyone in her life to step all over her, yet when it comes to her “love relationship,” she is vulnerable. She doesn’t apply the same criteria to that part of her life as she does to all other areas. Too many of us are guilty of doing that same thing. I know I am, have been. We value ourselves less than those around us, and it needs to stop. Expecting to be treated decently and fairly by those we allow into our heart and our lives is NOT expecting too much. I reminded my friend that she was not expecting one thing from him that she was not willing to give in return. She would never treat someone she cared for in such a callous manner. She should expect no less in return.
I’ve spent a great deal of time lately in quiet observation of those around me. Common themes, behaviors, and actions are beginning to surface. I am learning, or I am trying to learn. I am attempting to concentrate on peace, inner peace. What I am trying to avoid is becoming brittle or self-righteous. I want to trust. I want to love. I want to continue to have high expectations of those around me. I want to treat people with care, respect, and love, and I want to receive those same things in return.
Today I stepped outside during lunch and wandered around the area. I discovered a meditation garden behind the chapel across the street from my hotel. It was lush, green, and beautiful. There was a sign that read, “Shhhh… Peaceful Meditation Area.” Just seeing those words allowed me to take a deep breath. I wished to enter the garden, sit, and cry. I’m not sure why, but that is what I imagined myself doing. I didn’t have time to indulge in a good cry at that moment. I had another conference session to attend. In the morning, though, I am going to take some time for myself and visit the little garden. I don’t want to cry, but probably though, I will. Even if I do, I hope that peace, even a little tiny fraction of peace, awaits me.
Last Sunday was September 11th, a decade since THE September 11th, but that’s not what this post is about. In no way do I want to minimize that horrible day, but this post is not about that horror. Instead, this post is about the passage of time.
Each year, I feel a sense of dread as September 11th approaches. There was an incredible loss of life and a loss of innocence, trust, and safety. I didn’t know anyone who died on that tragic day, but still I mourn. All of our lives changed, and most of us have grown accustomed to the impact of increased security, awareness, and caution. Now we take the changes in stride. A decade later, we don’t give the changes in our lives much thought.
Last Sunday, I didn’t plan on watching the footage that I knew would be playing over and over again on many channels. It was a beautiful fall day. For the first time in weeks, I had nothing planned. It was the first weekend in over a month that I could spend any way I chose. The boys were moved back to school. It was one of those perfect Sunday mornings that was filled with relaxation and possibility.
T was in the kitchen frying bacon. He was making french toast for the girls. When I walked into the living room, Emily had a news channel on, and I was drawn in to what she was watching. I couldn’t look away. Em was on the couch, and I sat down in the red chair. We sat and watched, remembering that day a decade ago. I worked at the grade school back then, and Emily was in first grade. I went to work before school started, and she and Luke sat in my office with me until the bell rang. Luke was in third grade. Andy was across the street at the middle school in sixth grade. Lola? There was no Lola. There were no plans to even have Lola! Emily and I laughed about that, and then we once again turned back to the TV.
Lola came wandering into the room in her jammies. She snuggled up to me, sat down, and watched for a little while. She asked, “Is this real?” When I said that it was, she asked, “Is it happening right now?” She was drawn in, too. She sat still and quiet next to me.
Before long, I had to walk away. I went upstairs to hide my tears. I stood in the bathroom shaking and remembering. Eventually, I calmed down and went back down to the living room. T was had finished cooking the bacon and was trying to entice the girls to come to the kitchen and eat, but they didn’t want to stop watching TV. I sat back down with Lola. T stood by my chair and watched for a little while, too.
T said, “Think of how your life has changed since then, Pam.” Yes, I agreed. Things are different now, and he said, “No, think of how YOUR life has changed. Your whole life is different.” I sat and thought about what he said. It was profound, at least to me. It has been unbelievable and unexpected, this journey of the past decade. Of all the decades of my life, these past ten years have held more changes than I would have ever imagined possible. Some of them were wonderful. Many of them were incredible, impossible. Others, I would choose to erase if I could.
The boys are gone now. They’re grown up and pursuing their own dreams. My little first-grader has become a beautiful young woman and my best friend, full of love and compassion. These past ten years have flown by, and without even noticing, my three little children have become wonderful adults. And Lola…. Where did she come from? She was not even a thought back then, yet here she is, this old-soul full of wisdom. While so much has changed, the blessings of having these wonderful children in my life has never faltered.
And me? Not much about my life, or ME, is the same. I no longer work part-time at the local grade school. Back then, I had no desire for a “career,” yet life lead me down a different path and to a career that I love. I knew what T meant when he said that my life has changed. In the past decade, our family has changed. Our marriage has changed. The dust still hasn’t settled from all of the changes. The direction is still not clear. We are still in the midst of a journey, not knowing where it will eventually lead us.
People have come in and out of my life. Some have remained and are now a part of the daily fabric of my life. Others have chosen not to remain in my life. Dad is gone. Mom is now my responsibility. I am in the process of emptying out my childhood home and preparing it for sale. Many of the things I had hoped, dreamed, envisioned for my life are not to be. My focus has changed. In some cases, I have fought that change, kicking and screaming. The clear lens that once held my view of life is often cloudy now. I stretch and strain to see through the lens that is my life, but it is impossible to get a clear view.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ I Corinthians