Prioritize Much?

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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.

Spent

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The week from HELL carried on into the weekend from hell.  Friday wasn’t a good day.  T has some serious things going on at work that I will keep out of this blog to protect his privacy.  However, I will say that they were serious enough to consume hours of conversation and to cause fear in both of us.  Not the kind of fear where you’re afraid of losing your job, but the kind of fear that makes you wonder, “Why in the hell am I involved in this anyway?”

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Week From HELL

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I went to bed early (for me) on Monday night.  I had an early morning meeting the next day followed by an evening event.  I knew that a long day was ahead of me, and I was patting myself on the back for trying my best to be rested.  I had left my phone on, as I had promised Emily, because she was working a rare overnight shift.  By 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, she was texting me.  “Mom, something is really wrong.  I’m feeling so sick.”

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Crazy Stress

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I have missed writing, but I haven’t had time or energy.  The worst part was the fact that I have not allowed myself to write.  I have had nothing decent to say.  I have once again been mired down in frustration, stress, and depression.  Work has been a political, back-stabbing fest.  People I had once considered friends seem to be going out of their way to trip me up and make my life a bit uncomfortable.  Decency and kindness have been in short supply.  The past couple of weeks have been topsy turvy and confusing.  Mostly, it has seemed as if FRUSTRATION has been around every corner. Continue Reading »

My Roller Coaster Life

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T and I went to Chicago last weekend for an open house/parent’s day at Andrew’s school. We both took Friday off work. I was excited because we were taking the train for this trip, and it would be T’s first time riding the train. I had hoped that he would love the experience, but he wasn’t too impressed. I suppose I understand that. He didn’t like the lack of control he felt without a car. He did like not having to pay an arm and a leg for parking, though.

We had a great time. Our visit with Andrew was really, really wonderful. After checking into our super-fabulous room, we met Andrew at a Starbucks near the “L” station by our hotel. We talked. We hung out. We went for an early dinner at one of our favorite spots and gorged on BBQ sandwiches. Then we headed over to the Hancock Center to have a drink at the Signature Room on the 95th floor. The view was spectacular, made even more fantastic with the addition of the twinkling Christmas lights. We each had a martini. The bill was over $50 for three drinks! After we left the Hancock, we shopped a little and wandered our way over to another favorite spot where we feasted on crab cakes and filet sliders. The weather cooperated, and it was wonderfully warm for December. I did stop to buy some ear muffs, though, and T and Andrew laughed when they made me talk too loud and say, “what” each time they spoke to me.

The visit, demonstrations, and tour of Andrew’s school were impressive to say the least. While the changes in our son have been evident, we began to realize that his newfound focus and drive can be credited in part to an intense curriculum. The students are immersed in their discipline from day one. I can’t begin to express how very proud I am that Andrew has taken hold of his new life in Chicago and appears to be thriving and loving every minute. Our visit was over all too soon. They were golden moments that I am certain each of us will always cherish. It’s a rare gift to be able to have such happy, fun, content moments with our grown son. As we made our way back home, both T and I were quiet. We had taken a day and night to forget about everything that weighs down our lives. Now we were speeding right back to all of the things that made things not so perfect.

It didn’t take long once we got home to lose the relaxed, peaceful feeling we had in Chicago. All of our regular weekend chores were waiting for us. The girls had stayed home by themselves, and we had allowed Em to have a couple of girlfriends spend the night. They had a fantastic time, and I’m glad….but oh, what a mess was waiting for us. They had done A LOT of cooking. The made cupcakes, pancakes, bacon and eggs. While they had “cleaned up” the kitchen, it wasn’t exactly up to Mama Martha Stewart’s standards. You could have practically skated on the bacon grease that covered the hardwood floors in front on the stove.

When we got home, the girls were hungry. They wanted dinner. They wondered if I was going to go to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. “There’s nothing good in the house!” Uh, no…not that evening! There was laundry to do, cat fur to vacuum, and I was feeling guilty knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fit in a visit to my mother that weekend.

While I enjoyed having a Friday without work, I should have been in the office. It’s budget approval time, and I had two really horrible meetings to prepare for on Monday. I should have been working on Friday, but being a Mom had to come first in this instance. It is such a balancing act at times. Panic was beginning to creep in while I was attempting to do a weekend’s worth of work in one day at home.

By Sunday evening, I was not feeling well. My batteries were running low. As I pulled into the driveway way after dark from my trip to the city with a load of Christmas gifts and groceries, T informed me that he had brought home a Christmas tree. Ugh! I put away the groceries and made dinner while he put the lights on the tree and Lola bounced around excitedly asking me when I was going to get the boxes of ornaments out of the basement. UGH! All I wanted to do was sit down, but what I really needed to do was a week’s worth of ironing. Decorating a Christmas tree had not factored into my plans for the evening. I could feel myself slipping. I was near tears. I didn’t want to be grouchy. I wanted to go back to that happy, relaxed feeling I had less than 24 hours earlier.

As I ironed, a friend sent me a text asking about getting together sometime with mutual friends to have a holiday drink. These are friends from “back in the day.” We are all past PTA presidents, and spent many mornings sipping coffee while our now-grown kids played. I loved the idea of getting together again to catch up on each other’s lives. We’re all working now. The kids (almost all of them) are all grown, and we don’t get together as often as we once did. My friend sent a text. “How about Sunday, December 11?” and I lost it.

December 11. I hate that day. It is the most horrible, despicable day. December 11 is the day my daughter Grace died. December 11 is the day my dad died. Two people I loved. It was on December 11 that I held my daughter in my arms as she looked into my eyes and took her last breath. On a December 11, I wandered through the pitch dark house, room to room, flicking on lights and calling my dad’s name. On December 11, I found my father dead on the living room floor. December 11 is full of horrible moments frozen in time.

I told my friend, “I’m sorry. I can’t on December 11.” I sent no more texts. I couldn’t. How could I explain that I am crazy on that day each year? How can I explain that I live in fear of that day? On December 11, I want to gather everyone I love all in the same room. I want to make them sit within my view. I want to hold a vigil over them. I want to lock the doors and stay in the house.

That one little text, with the words “December 11” threw me for a loop, and I still haven’t been able to recover. I sat in the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t help with the Christmas tree. I sat down later that evening and talked to T about it. He knew, or at least understood, my reaction. He’s seen it for years…The December 11th Syndrome. It’s real, and it sucks.

Things have been hazy since then. The cloud of depression has descended. I tried to explain that to T, too. The clogged-up, cottony feeling of depression. I told T about times in the past when I had wished for a semi to cross the center line while I was driving. I had wished for a patch of ice to spin my car around, out of control, and throw me off the road. I explained to T about the times when the depression became almost unbearable. I told him about times when I truly had not wanted to go on, but could not figure a way out of each day…the endless string of days filled with pain. I told him that sometimes, and now was one of those times, dealing with depression is an exhausting struggle. It felt better to talk and to say it all out loud.

Through the haze of this depression, I have been functioning as well as I possibly can. I’ve been working and taking care of my responsibilities. Life goes on. People are nice, or people are rude and mean. What I am going through is unnoticed and unimportant to most people around me. Most people don’t even know. I created the budgets. I attended the meetings. I answered questions and phone calls. Like an automaton, I continue to function day after day.

Strange moments have pushed themselves forward, to the front of the haze. Last night, I fell asleep on the couch and dreamed a happy dream. I had a puppy, a bloodhound (strange!) and I was happy. Something happened, though, and woke up. I was was awake for hours alone in the middle of the night. Near dawn, I fell asleep once again. This time my dream was full of fear and sadness. I don’t remember exactly what happened in the dream, but I was surrounded by grieving people. The room was full of despair. A door opened, and in walked a dear friend. I was up and wrapped in a comforting embrace. This morning, I sent my friend a thank you text for being such a reliable, comforting part of my real life. That steady friendship had made its way into my dreams just when I needed a friend.

And the strangeness continues.

This afternoon, I received a text from another friend. “Sorry I won’t be able to meet for dinner. Problems at work. Had to fly to CA.” I had no idea that I had even made dinner plans. So I rescheduled a dinner that I apparently would have missed.

Tonight, when all I wanted and needed was to completely relax and regenerate at the end of a bad day, I received a phone call from the hospital. My mom had fallen, and they thought her leg was broken. There was no need for me to come right away. Mom was being taken in for an x-rays, and I wouldn’t even be able to see her. They told me to wait for a call. I didn’t change my clothes. I didn’t throw on my comfy yoga pants and giant sweatshirt. I stayed in my office clothes in anticipation of a trip to the hospital. I waited. I did laundry. I vacuumed. I helped Lola with her homework. I made dinner. I carried my phone around waiting and waiting. Thankfully, my mom called at 8:30. Her leg isn’t broken. She can’t walk, though, and has been admitted to the hospital. No, there was no need come to the hospital tonight, but I need to go first thing in the morning. Arrangements will need to be made. The hospital will only keep her overnight. The assisted living facility won’t allow her back if she isn’t able to walk. It’s up to me, once again, to figure out where my mother will be going. Again. Again, and by myself. I have meetings scheduled for the morning. How am I supposed to fit this in, too?

After talking to my mother on the phone for a while, I felt reassured that she would be OK for the evening. I hung up and headed into the living room to let T know what was going on. There he sat on the couch with a 12-gauge shotgun on his lap. A man with a gun. It was shocking, and instinctively, I took a step back. It was my dad’s gun. We had brought it to our house, because it didn’t seem safe to leave guns in a vacant house. Of course, the gun wasn’t loaded. T doesn’t even like guns. He wants them out of the house, and was looking online for a fair selling price. Still…it’s a strange thing to walk into the living room and see your husband sitting there with a gun across his lap.

All evening, I thought of the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity…” Tonight I was praying, not for serenity, but a break from what seems like an endless series of crises. In closing this post, I ask you all to please be kind. None of us can know the internal struggles of those around us. A kind word, a smile, an act of friendship just might make someone’s day a little better at a time when they need it the most.

Drink Me

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During my lunch break today, I called a friend.  I needed to hear a friendly voice.  I was feeling sad and stressed out.  I needed to talk to someone who cared.    Basically, I needed a friend.  Instead of keeping those feelings bottled up inside,  I called someone I knew would understand.   We talked about many things, but eventually we discussed what depression feels like.  She had written in her own blog a description that I had found terrifyingly beautiful, accurate, and true.  She wrote that depression is “like some thick, wet, blue, velvet cloak trying to smother the life out of your heart….”  I understood.   I have been feeling the weight of my own depression these past few days, and had been describing it in my own mind.  Maybe that’s part of the process, the trying to understand and interpret that crushing, muddled feeling.

Her description is a whole lot prettier than my own.  I told her that my depression feels like cotton.  My mouth, nose, face, every part of me, feels like it is stuffed with cotton batting.  I am unable to make facial expressions.  If someone were to ask me to smile, my brain could not tell my face what to do.  That must be where the “cotton” feeling comes in.  I feel like a rag doll.  I have a face, but it is blank.  Fighting for expression, fighting to act like a human and not a stuffed inanimate object, is exhausting.

Last week, when I received a funny text picture from a friend I see infrequently, I replied.  “Thanks, that made me smile.  In fact, I laughed out loud.”  He responded that he was glad and that I needed to smile more often.  He said that I’m pretty when I smile.  I felt embarrassed.  I knew just what he was referring to.  We had seen each other at a conference in May.  I could see that he felt I had changed.  I was not the same person I had been just a few short months ago.  I was sick.  I didn’t laugh or smile like I once did.  I wasn’t any fun.  I was the expressionless rag doll, and that made me feel ashamed of myself.

Talking to my friend today helped me tremendously.  Our conversation went from serious to silly from moment to moment.  We are two people struggling with loss, fear, pain, and depression, but we are also able to laugh.  God, I find strength in that.   There are good people in this world, and I am learning to reach out to them.  I am learning to accept help when it is right there for the taking.

I’m not sure why I have so often been faced with loss in my life.  Actually, I try not to think about it too much.   I do know that I have had way more than my fair share of bad luck and loss.  It would be staggering if I were to write it all down.  On the other hand, I have had so many wonderful blessings, too.  The one thing I have learned as I have been faced with adversity in my life is that there is an OTHER SIDE.  Climb that hill, keep putting one foot in front of the other, trudge through the crap that life throws your way.  There IS an OTHER SIDE.  Right now, though, that other side seems so very far away.

Of course, I am feeling bogged down.  There is so much on my plate right now, and not much of it is good.  That’s when the depression kicks in.  It’s almost impossible to fight off when life is throwing buckets of crap my way.  I feel myself sinking under, and I’m tipping my head up to try to catch a breath of air.  I need to BREATHE, but there does not seem to be a place of comfort.  I’m trying to trudge along and get to the other side of this.  I want to get to the BETTER SIDE.  I’m trying.  I keep putting one foot in front of the other, but it feels like I am fighting a pretty strong wind.

 

As I drove home from work tonight, like always, I listened to my iPod.  The song “Drink Me” by Anna Nalick came on my player.  Drink me.  That made me think.  The words of the song made me think.  “Drink me, baby.  Slowly, I’ll disappear…  I’ll get smaller with every swallow.”  Wow.  That is how I feel.  Little sips of me have been taken.  Just a little bit at a time.  A little here.  A little there.  My glass, which was once full, is now almost empty.

I allowed it to happen.  “Here, take a little bit more.  Is there anything else you want or need?  Is there anything else I can do for you?  I am strong.  I will bear the weight.  Here, have a little bit more.”  I gave too much.  I emptied out my own glass.

High Horse

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What an odd day.  I had an appointment with a wine distributer first thing this morning.  I am organizing a wine tasting next month as a kick-off to our latest promotion.   As much as I like wine, I’m not sure if it’s something I necessarily like to think about first thing in the morning.  It ended up being fun, though.  We’re going to have special give-away wine glasses and eight different selections of wine.  I’m really looking forward to the kick-off party.  I have had such a good time planning this event. 

My favorite selection for the wine tasting is Bitch Bubbly.  It has the cutest name, cutest label, and it actually tastes pretty good, too.  I bought a bottle last winter when my daughter was making pink champagne cupcakes.  She only needed one cup for the recipe, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the bottle. 

When I got back to the office, I walked down to the conference room to get a cup of much-needed coffee.  I was standing there kind of gazing out the window, when I realized that I wasn’t alone.  Three people had followed me into the conference room.  They had been waiting for me.  They had a question for me.  “So, who IS Dilbert.?”  Uh oh…  Yeah, I had posted a picture of Dilbert on my Facebook page with a caption that read something like, “Really ticked off at someone who looks exactly like Dilbert.  There is no shame in being a team player, Dilbert.”  They wanted to know who is “Dilbert ?”  They were laughing, because they already knew.  The said as soon as they saw my post, they knew just who I was talking about.  Truthfully, I felt a bit ashamed to have put that out there.  It was petty and immature of me.  But hell….this guy really ticked me off! 

I did end up going into his office to discuss the matter.  I told him that while I did take ownership of missing the meeting, it had shocked me that he had not been considerate enough to take a moment to come back downstairs to give me a head’s up.  For goodness sakes, he could have used his cell phone and called me.   I would have done that (and have!!) for anyone in the building. 

Turns out, there was a NEW employee in the Planning Department who also missed the meeting.  She felt horrible.  She was really shaken up, took it personally, and worried that it would be viewed as shoddy work.  Apparently, this poor woman was a wreck when she found out that she had missed this same meeting.  We both felt much better once we realized that we weren’t alone.  This jerk, Dilbert, had not sent either of us a meeting request to schedule on our calendars.  He hadn’t even bothered to send us agendas.  So, in the end, Dilbert may have learned a lesson.  We all live by our calendars and the friendly beeping meeting reminders on our phones. 

I stopped by the woman’s office to try to cheer her up.  I told her to please not take it as a personal affront or to worry about it being viewed as unprofessional.  We are all busy as hell and juggling numerous projects simultaneously.  Mistakes happen.  All we can hope is that we have all learned a lesson and that we’ll do a better job of communication and organizing our time in the future. 

As I said, it was an odd day.  I felt unbalanced, and it seemed like those around me were also out of sorts.  I met T for lunch, and he was grouchy.  We argued as we made our way into the building.  We hadn’t even taken our seats, and there we were arguing.  He thought I was running late.  He was pressed for time.  He had things to do besides wait for me to get there.  He almost left.  Grrr….  As we waited for our food, we sat silently and breathed deeply without talking.  Tentatively, we readjusted our attitudes and had our usual mundane conversation.  As we got up to leave, I told him that I didn’t know if I really enjoyed meeting him for lunch today.  He just laughed.  I think he felt the same way.

Hillbilly Heaven

Tonight was our usual Thursday night dinner at the local tavern.  We take the kids and whoever else happens to be around.  Tonight it was just the girls and one friend.  The place was packed.  We ordered our food at the counter and then realized that there was nowhere for all of us to sit.  The kids all took a high bar table while T and I sat down with a couple of guys we knew from high school.  Well, I guess we’ve known them forever.  They were happy enough to have us join them and sat drinking beer while T and I ate our dinner.

It’s funny to go from a high-stress day to an evening at a local bar with a couple of beer drinking rednecks.  I laughed all night as they told their stories.  One of them is a carpenter and the other (toothless, I might add) installs hot tubs for a living.  As we sat there, I felt the stress drain away.  I looked around at the people.  I knew almost everyone.  It was unusual to see any man who was not wearing a baseball hat of some kind.  (Thank God, T does NOT wear a hat!)  There were John Deere caps, lots of hats supporting our high school, and plenty of  folks displaying their Nascar preferences.  There were a lot of flannel shirts, plenty black t-shirts, and not one necktie to be seen. 

I love my life in Hillbilly Heaven.  I told this to  T when we were sitting at the table alone.  He asked me why.  Remember the phase, “She needs to get off her high horse?”  Well, it’s tough to stay on that high horse too long in Redneck Country.