What Might Have Been

1 Comment

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the are saddest are these, “It might have been.”

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Most people in my daily life don’t even know that I once had a daughter named Grace.  It was a long time ago, and there isn’t really any reason to disclose information that will only serve to make someone uncomfortable.  Often, the “face” we present to the world is far different from the person who resides in our hearts.

Thanksgiving is November 24.  It’s a day of family celebration.  I will celebrate along with those around me.  I’ll be thrilled to have all of my kids home and under one roof for several days.  What most people won’t know or won’t remember is that November 24th is also Grace’s birthday.  It would have been her “golden birthday, 24 on the 24th.  I can’t help but think of how things might have been.  What an awesome day to have been able to celebrate her birthday.  Instead, I will remember alone, and I won’t say a word to anyone.  After all, who wants to remember something sad, something that happened so very long ago?

Lately, I have been spending too much time thinking about “what might have been.”  I am standing in the present, but too much of the time;  my head is turned around looking back at the past.  I miss my dad, and it isn’t the same to celebrate Thanksgiving without him.  I miss my grandparents during the holiday season, too.  And Grace.  Thanksgiving will mark the beginning of a time each year when too much of my time is spent remembering and thinking about “what might have been.”

Several years ago, a friend who had lost a child asked me to join her in forming a support group for those who had recently lost babies.  It was at a time in my life when I was very happy.  I had returned to work.  I was moving on and moving forward.  I felt sad for this woman.  I really did.  Her experience had been horrible, but a couple of years had passed since then, and she seemed to still be LIVING for her grief.  She wore her baby’s name and birthstone on a necklace around her neck.  She set a place at the dinner table for her missing child.  While I understood her pain, it made me sad to think of the pain she was causing her children that were THERE.  This woman had defined who she was by her grief, and it scared the hell out of me to see that.  I had to tell her that I could not help her out with the support group, but I also felt the need to gently explain to her that I while losing a child still hurt; it no longer defined who I was.  I offered to help anyone who needed someone to talk to one on one, including her, but I just couldn’t go backwards.  I knew that weekly grief meetings would not be something that would help me in healing and continuing to move forward.

What has happened since then?  SOMETHING has happened, because I am no longer that strong, positive woman who would not allow her life to be defined by grief.  I know from experience that sadness breeds sadness.  One sad thought leads to the next sad thought.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  When it rains, it pours.  I believe that!  Negativity will only lead to more negativity.

I suppose  that by recognizing that I have slipped back to a place that doesn’t feel very good is the first step in pulling myself back up out of the hole.  I’m not sure if happiness is necessarily a choice, but I do know that wallowing in self-pity and looking back at “what might have been” is not congruent with moving on and moving forward.  Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative people all need to be pushed out of my life.  While these next few days and weeks will be full of sad reminders, they will also be full of moments full of happiness and joy.  Those are the moments that I need to pull in close, and those are the moments that will help me to become someone who I can be proud of once again.

 

 

 

Mixed Emotions

2 Comments

 

I haven’t written in this blog for about a week.  I’ve been writing, but just not here.  As summer ends and cooler weather settles in, I find myself recalling many moments from my past.  I have been concentrating on remembering and gauging my progress from season to season.  I suppose you could call it a “self-inventory.”  Am I better off this year than I was last year?  Am I happier?  What lies ahead?  What do I keep?  What do I throw away?  What do I change?  What are my goals?  What am I striving to achieve?  Where do I want to be in my life next year at this time?

These past two years have not been happy.  Yet in the midst of all of the sadness, moments of joy continue to shine brightly enough to make their way through the murk and lighten my life.  Life has a way of doing that.  There is so much beauty and joy to be had in this life and in this world.  It’s contagious.  It’s almost impossible to ignore.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, but it seems that way too often I experience mixed emotions.  Some things are really good in my life, while other things really kind of suck.  There doesn’t ever seem to be a happy medium.  Maybe it’s because I am in the middle of so many other lives.  I have four kids who rely on me.  I am responsible for my mother.  Then there is work.  I manage volunteers.  I have to deal with committees and a board.  I am the person responsible for getting the volunteers excited, thanking them, guiding them in the right direction.  I feel like so much of my time is spent being ON.  Performing.  After certain committee meetings, it takes me literally hours to unwind.  That was the case last night.  I had a board meeting, and it had gone wonderfully well.  I was dead-on.  I was well-prepared, and the initiatives I introduced were well-received.  My adrenaline was flowing.  It was great, but I was revved up for hours even after I went home.  I couldn’t stop.  I burned off my excess energy by cleaning like a madwoman.  I vacuumed three flights of stairs.  I made dinner.  I ironed.  Yet, I was still full of energy.  I told T that it felt like I had testosterone flowing through my veins, and he better watch out or I would kick his ass.  Of course, I am exhausted today.

Obviously, I love my job.  It’s been one of the greatest surprises and greatest joys of my life.  I certainly didn’t set out to do what I do.  A decade ago, I didn’t even know such things existed.  If I had heard myself speaking as I do now on a daily basis, it would have seemed like a foreign language created from acronyms.  While I love what I do, I seem to be lacking balance.  One look at my calendar, and it’s obvious that there will be no let up in my schedule until the holidays.

As well-prepared as I was for the meeting yesterday, I was not prepared for receiving a phone call as I was walking down the hall, arms full and coffee in hand, to the meeting room.  It was a number that I didn’t recognize, so I answered the call.  “Pam, this is the Kidney Center.  Your mom is fine, but we need you to pick up a kit for a test we would like to perform on your mother’s stools.”  (Yuck!)  It was 4:00 p.m.  I asked when they needed me to pick this test kit up.  “Now.”  I told them that I was just about to walk into a meeting and asked if I could call back around 5:30.  “We won’t be here then.  We close at 5:00.”  My gosh!  Pretty decent of them to call me at work and expect me to drive over there, at least a 20 minute drive, within the next hour.  I asked them if this was an emergency or could it wait until the morning.  Yes, it could wait.

Today I called the Kidney Center while I was driving to work.  Their answering machine informed me that their hours were 9:00-2:30 today.  Just great.  I was tied up in meetings until 4:00.  I had hoped to leave at that time and take care of whatever it was that I needed to do.  I still really had no idea other than that they wanted to test my mother’s stools.  Truthfully, I feel that it is more a matter of racking up as many charges as possible on their well-insured patient’s account.  I called and left a message, but my call was never returned.  It is these little out of the blue things that drive me nuts.  Just when I think I have a handle on all of my responsibilities, something else always surfaces.

As I drove home from work, I looked out across the fields.  They are all bare now, and they’ll look like this for many months.  Another season has passed.  Have I used this season well?  I don’t think so.  I seem too often to be stuck in a place of sadness and loss.  As much as I try to recognize the beauty and joy around me, I am pulled back into remembering.

When I walked into the house, Emily was waiting for me in the kitchen.  She had been working on a Senior Memory Book writing assignment for school, and she wanted me to proofread what she had written.  She was on her way out the door, but wanted me make sure to talk to me before she left.  Ugh….  I was tired, and I had just gotten home.  I had to make dinner, do laundry, help Lola with her homework, now this.  I told Em that I would be happy to help her out, and she was gone.

Here is a portion of what she wrote.  The subject was “What person has had the most significant influence in your life?”

My mom is my best friend. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for her guidance along the way.  She holds me up, and I hold her up.  Thinking about my life without her isn’t even feasible to me.  If I have a problem that I need help dealing with, she’s there no matter what.  Even though it seems like she has a million things on her plate at one time, she would drop it all to help me.  She helps me deal with my mistakes, whether it’s by telling me that she once made the same mistake, or just sitting there talking it out with me.  When she is going through a hard time and is in pain, I feel it along side her.  She and I are exactly alike in just about every way that I can think of.  She looks like me, talks like me, walks like me, thinks like me, and makes the same mistakes as me.  We even have the same favorite foods.  I can open my mouth and say one word, and I’ll have my mom rolling on the floor laughing.  Sometimes we get into fights that last a while, but we get over it and finally end up laughing.  I love my mom more than anyone on the planet, and I will never let our relationship fail.

I was honored.  I was happy, yet sad, all at the same time.  She does know me.  She knows how she has propped me up these past years.  Yes, she has been my best friend.  She has held my hand, laughed with me, and understood those moments when all I have needed was to have her quietly by my side.  I am so proud of the loyal, compassionate young woman she has become.  I am so very thankful that she feels that I have been there for her and that I will always be there for her.  Even while I am proud of her, I am ashamed that she has not had a better, happier, more perfect mother.

That is life, though, isn’t it?   While we strive or wish for a “perfect,” happy existence, that isn’t the real world.  Life is full of challenges and disappointments.  As hard as we try, sometimes things just don’t go our way.  I am sad that my sweet daughter has had to learn those lessons already at her tender age.  Sad, yes, but proud that she has continued to love through the pain of loss and  mistakes and has learned that laughter often follows tears.