Parents

Out and about at lunch today with one of my associates, she asked me if I miss my parents. Second anniversary of her father’s death is Saturday and she is already feeling the oppressive sadness processing her ongoing grief.

At work, in most of my face-to-face life, I rarely think about much less mention my parents. When I do, it is typically in the context of their shortcomings. While I wish to be fair and balanced in my observations and remembrances, truth is there is not a lot of positives to talk about my childhood or my family of origin. There truly are few happy memories.

The simplest answer is no, I do not miss my parents. When I think of my mom, it is the last few months, and then only when M and I are doing something or are somewhere that she might have enjoyed. It is the reflexive part of me that wants to be kind, even to people I do not especially like as people. With my dad, it is more a curiosity of who he was, what he was like as a young man. All I know about him, really remember about him, is that he was drunk much of the time and seemed miserably uncomfortable during the periods of my life he was trying to get and stay sober.

My associate comes from a closer family. Her mother and twin sister live in southern California, and they talk on by phone or text every single day. Her vacations are spent with them or her boyfriend’s family. And right now, her ongoing grief over her father’s sudden death 2 years ago still weighs on her heart. I feel for her, yet wonder what that’s like. Tempering that grief this year is the eager anticipation of birth of her first niece or nephew later this year. She will make a wonderful aunt, and someday, when she has children of her own, I strongly believe she will be a wonderful mother.

She has good examples to draw upon.

Me, not so much. And I wonder whenever I depart from this life, if my kids will miss me and mourn my passing. Not something I dwell upon, but it is a point of curiosity that I will never know for certain. #relief

Despite not having good parenting examples to draw upon, I did okay. I own my mistakes – I married the wrong guy and had children with him, then divorced him and broke up a family. There are scars there, I’m sure. While I do not apologize for making a poor choice in their dad as a husband, I worked very hard to be a responsible parent and give my kids the tools they needed to grow up and successfully launch into independent lives of their own. In his own way, I feel equally certain their father did the same. My relationships with my children and their spouses are loving, honest, open. M and I am parents who respects boundaries and their sovereign adulthood, but if they need us, we would do just about anything to be there for them. And truly, I believe the same is true of them for us. Thankfully there has not yet been a situation that tested those theories.

Relationships change with time, because we have different experiences that alter our perceptions and beliefs – I believe they call it growing up. Does not mean we all grow up well, or evolve into better, smarter, more powerful or intelligent people; growing up to me just means we are not exactly the same people with the same thoughts we were the year before. Or such is my hope, anyway.

In the last couple of years – it feels like big growing up years. I started taking better care of myself, getting regular doses of exercise, learning how to use weight training machines and equipment in the gym, making better and healthier food choices. For most people this is just one tiny aspect of what they do in life, a hobby, but for me, it’s become The Hobby and The Gamechanger for most aspects of my life. I went from an employee working for an employer to expanding my side hustle (accounting) into a full-time, self-sufficient small business and back to full-time employee with part-time small business and now back to full-time small business owner. The impacts of these two things on my overall health – I went from insulin-dependent diabetic to well-controlled diabetic without any medication. I lost long-time friends along the way, people who perhaps felt threatened by a trimmer, healthier, freer, more financially empowered me. At the same time, I have made and added new friends that share my hopes and dreams, understand my health aspirations and mindset. Other relationships deepened, the bonds of our tribe strengthened and became closer. Both my kids, while living on their own for awhile, married their partners and solidified and expanded our family.

How does this all come back to my parents? Expectations. Or lack thereof, in my case.

I had no sense of my parents investing in me growing up. Go to school, get good grades, get a good job. Nothing at all against blue collar families, but my parents had no idea what was involved in getting into college, how much it would cost, how much – if anything – they would be willing to contribute for me to get my degree. So I was middle aged before I finally finished my degree. I got a job, got married, had a family, got divorced, got married, raised a family, and through it all got better, progressively more responsible, high paying jobs before I finally finished college. My success – I’m perfectly frank and honest that my parents did little to nothing directly to contribute to it. They had relationships with my children, until the kids grew up and into the initial stage of independence.

I did learn a few things from my folks. From my dad, don’t drink alcohol – you have no self control and will be an alcoholic. From my mom, don’t try to trade on your physical appearance – you’re not tiny, pretty like me, and learned helplessness presents more like a mental handicap than charming, attractive, rescue-worthy. And from both: we cannot or will not protect you from the predators of the world, so resign yourself to being a disposable commodity and expect everyone to steal your virtue, your dignity, and anything else you value.

There was such obvious favoritism between my sister and that it disturbs me to this day, yet made my adult life so much simpler despite that. The great hopes and dreams landed squarely on my sister’s shoulders, and when you are not expected to amount to much, the bar is set so low it is not that difficult to step right over it. It created this huge sense of resentment and distrust between my sister and I, because while accepting the benefits of being the golden child she resented the responsibility of being the older daughter and having to cope with the conflict of blazing her own trail. Me, I didn’t much care. Being viewed a the fuck-up (or the potential fuck-up) for having a mind of my own and speaking frankly has its benefits.

Because of that family dynamic, with my own children I have some very hard and fast rules about treating them equally. I do not see or sense the resentment between them that once existed between my sister and I. And I am very happy about that.

At the same time, I cringe and squirm in discomfort when I recognize my shortcomings and challenges that have been passed down from my to my kids. My bitter battles with food – C shares that. My hesitation and freaked-out-ness about school and education – I see the same sort of challenge with discipline and focus on topics and subjects of less interest with G. At the same time, I see a lot of good qualities that come from their father and I as well. They are both intelligent, have personal integrity, and are good citizens within their own communities. Far more than I was at their age, they are fiscally responsible and not buried in credit card debt, so they obviously learn from mistakes, mine as well as their own.

My associate and my friend, I am glad she loved her dad so much that she continues to process her grief 2 years after his passing. It’s moving to me that she tears up a little when talking about precious memories, that her family are people who express love in ways she could and can feel.

Breaking cycles, breaking family patterns – it may take generations to get to the right and more perfect balance. For me, it’s enough to come from my background and having children who grew up into balanced, responsible adults that I like as people well as love because they are my children.

My parents did the best they could, and their imperfect, flawed examples taught me to try other ways. My mistakes are mostly original and my own. For that, I am grateful. But I still do not think of or miss them much. That’s my character flaw to bear.

The elbow and the sock

Today I had a weird elbow twinge pain. Which for me is unusual. Shoulders, knees, even wrists I could understand. But elbow?

I know it was not from the gym – I did all lower body stuff this morning and somewhere deep within my glute muscles some bundle of fibers are bleating out “we don’t like you anymore!” It wasn’t until a couple of hours into my workday that the pain twinges began. I felt fine this morning when I got up and to the gym, and I felt fine through the other trauma-drama of my morning. Around lunch time that I noticed straightening it out completely made this little twinge of pain, but only sometimes. After chatting with my friends about it at lunch as one of this current events of our days, we decided it was stress elbow, because nothing else came to mind.

So after lunch one of the associates comes in with a white crew sock. I eyed is suspiciously and backed away, just in case it was stinky, which earned me an eye roll and assurances it was clean. He says I continually bump my elbow on the arm of my chair, and he sock was to protect it. Thinking about it, I figured okay, agreed that I do periodically have that behavior, and accepted the sock.

Now, this seems perfectly logical to me, but living with M and his many, many cuts and scrapes and injuries from running or working around the house, I thought the intention was that I cut the sock part off the sock and use the stretchy part to protect my elbow. Not very stylish – walking around with half a tube sock on your elbow – but at the time it seemed fine.

The associate who gave me the sock was out at anther firm this afternoon, but one of the other associates saw it on my elbow and did a double take. He then informed me that the intention was that I put the intact sock over the arm of my chair to cushion the impact of my grazing elbow. I was really embarrassed and hyper-responsible me immediately thought I should text an apology and then run out and buy him another pair of socks. But work happens, and all afternoon the guys were cruising by my office to examine my elbow sleeve and tell me about how meaningful the hacked up socks. They are – were – his favorite basketball socks. They were his lucky basketball socks. Those socks didn’t get washed for a year after he won some team won the basketball championship in college. They were his only pair of gym socks. He would be laughed out of the gym for wearing black dress socks going forward. Forget getting married and fathering children; he’d never get another date, having his prized athletic socks hacked to bits.

They were relentless. It reminds me how much I will miss the camaraderie and the teasing, and how special this firm has been for me. Surprisingly, the normality of our days thus far this week – even though I am typically not in the office on Tuesdays – has made it easier knowing these are the last of our days together. Work is getting done, fires being extinguished, everything is running smoothly. For them, next week will mean new faces in various offices and new procedures in how things are managed. I suspect the real transition will begin Monday morning.

Until then, this is my office, this is my crew. They can joke around and tease and try to make me feel ashamed of hacking up a coworkers loaned socks. I did run out and buy replacement pair after work, and they are waiting on his desk. And the legend of me and my elbow sleeve will live in infamy.

It is as it should be. I don’t do that much truly dumb stuff all that often.

And my elbow? It feels better. Maybe it’s purely psychosomatic, or maybe the sock sleeve did something beneficial. Or maybe it’s all the laughter of the afternoon. I am now sure it’s the result of all the mousing this week – editing a lot of invoices and writing a lot of emails. Yet another silver lining of using my MacBook more during the workday.

 

Fear, anxiety, friendship

One of my very best friends is in the process of long-term recuperation and rehabilitation from a very serious illness. His return to health has been an arduous journey and is not over yet, but he has been improving and all our hopes are for a full and complete recovery. Along with that, though, we are really hoping he will be capable of flying home within the next month.

Not going to lie – it’s been extraordinarily difficult for him to go from strong, active, and vibrant to this point of weakness, much less active because of his health, and having to fight to recover in all sorts of ways that are unfathomable and unimaginable to me. As far as mood, it’s been an almost textbook cycle of anger, depression, resolve, and wanting so badly and trying so hard to get back to baseline normal. Physical recovery and moodiness aside, there is a cognitive relearning curve in many areas that has been occurring concurrently.

He is family. M and I would no more turn our backs on him than fly to the moon by flapping our arms. Does not make it all rainbows and unicorns to cope with and to watch despite our care and commitment.

I preface it this way for a couple of reasons. It seems the closer we come to his return, the more unraveled he seems to be becoming. Thing is, I don’t care what he looks like – how skinny, how hairless, how much muscle he has lost. I don’t care about his memory loss and what he has had to struggle and battle to recover. I don’t care if he wallows in self-pity and must try to climb out every single day. I don’t care about any of that at all. I want him to be healthy, be all he can be, and his recovery is just short of miraculous in how far he has come in 9 months. Being him home and nearby where we can help and hang-out and communicate in more efficient and effective ways that the geographical distance presently allows is our ultimate goal. The rest we can cope with and fix. In a lot of ways he sees it, but depression, anxiety, and fear make him unpredictable in how he may react.

My Pollyanna-ness gets on his nerves; I know it and try to temper it. However, we tend to communicate primarily via email and online chat, occasional Facetime, text, phone call. I have ongoing concern but am not hovering and wringing my hands over him. Don’t want to see or read my sunnier outlook? It’s fine to delay or even delete my communications. It’s also fine to tell me to shut the f**k up. We’ve been friends for a very long time, and as I said, he’s family; he can say that to me without penalty or long-term hurt feelings on my part.

But our affection and respect is mutual. I know this, and I know his situation and circumstances are unusual. I make huge allowances and give him a whole lot of leeway.

The last few weeks, though, have been trying. With my work-related situation, he has been a most supportive rock and sounding board for me. It is part of what makes him special to me, that he is so stable and sensible much of the time. Outside of me and my issues, though, he’s been a pain in the ass. He’s been alternatively empty shell bright and fluffy to surly and snarling in general conversation. Frankly, I generally prefer the surly and snarling; I can work with that by snarling back. The bright and fluffy? I may as well be chatting with the cardboard cutout of him about the f**king weather.

Over the weekend he sounded in good spirits, but almost too good. Flying is painful for him, makes his brain literally hurt from the pressure. Knowing he was boarding a plane causes anxiety and fear, which he of course does not want to flat out admit, even though it’s the big giant dancing pink elephant in the room. I get it; I didn’t push. I also restrained myself from asking yesterday how the flight went, instead asking him about a Jordan Peterson video series on biblical stories, wondering if he knew it was available and/or started listening. He barked back that he wanted to “put a bullet in his brain to make the pain stop and I wanted to know what he’s listening to?” That’s actually fine – pain talking; I am also grown-up enough of a big girl and can take it. I didn’t reply right away, knowing his head is hurting and not wanting to make the situation worse. Told M that flight had not gone that well, and figured I would write an email instead. Before I got an opportunity, though, got another text that stated “Don’t fucking email or communicate with me any further. Done for now.”

Ouch. Rational Pollyanna in me understands this is pain talking, but it smarted. I resolved to honor his wishes, and when his head stops aching and he wants to talk, I am not going anywhere and we can and will hash it out. Family is family; we say shit we mean in the moment and regret later. Unfortunately. And if this is the worst way we treat one another (and it pretty much is), we are surely not that bad.

So there’s that.

Then this morning while I am at the gym, M gets a phone message from a hospital in Berlin regarding friend J. M had been outside feeding/playing with the cats and getting Cheepers situated in his cage when the call came in, so he came back to a voice mail asking us to call. M texted me and I immediately ceased what I was doing and practically ran out of the club. By the time I got home, M had returned the call and was told it was a next-of-kin notification that friend J was safe, being treated, and his doctor had been contacted. Unfortunately, there was no consent to share information about his condition, but it was policy to notify us.

Under the best of circumstances, this would freak anyone out. Family member in a hospital in another country – fear, anxiety, worry are all normal emotions. Unfortunately for me, this brings flashbacks to the dreaded school phone call regarding my daughter, perfectly healthy 12-year-old, falling ill at school on a Thursday and being told less than 24 hours later that she is brain dead and not going to wake up ever again. My emotional reactions are overreactive and warranted. The fear – oh my, deer in the headlights has nothing on me in this situation.

While we are frantically calling his regular physician to try and find out what’s happening, friend J calls himself when he learned we had been contacted to explain that had happened and reassure us that he is fine. Simple accident – woman fell into him, he fell over and banged his head on a doorjamb. Because of his ongoing recuperation and head injury, his coworkers insisted he be seen by emergency doctors. He was to be released soon and is fine.

I listened. He sounded normal, angry with the staff, assured me that it’s nothing serious. I listened, said okay, handed M the phone and went to throw up. Fear and anxiety released.

In the moments between the hospital conversation and him calling, our last interaction played and replayed in my head. Would his harsh, angry, frustrated-with-his-life words be the last thing he said to me? Is this what 25+ years dissolves into?

It was several moments of awful, hollow feelings. So many years, so many good times, great memories replaced with his last couple of messages on his part and retreated silence on mine.

No clear answers. I don’t want to be angry with him, yet I am. I don’t want him shitting all over me because he’s having a hard time, but I’m allowing it right now. It seems we still have time to sort out the sibling crap in our relationship. But for a few minutes this morning, I had the dreadful certainty that I was going to be living with my regret for all I coulda/shoulda/woulda said.

I do not want to ever live with regret. But my emotions are as highly reactive and hair-trigger ready to fire as they ever get, with this week’s final days on the job and dealing with this today.

I am going to let this sit awhile. I am not going to reach out directly, because my feelings are pretty raw. What I would likely say right now – you’re a selfish, self-centered jerk engaged in an ongoing pity party and I hate you right now – is mostly unproductive.

And now I’m really, Really angry, the kind of angry that comes from a big giant scare and the relief that it was a false alarm. Since he also reads this blog from time to time: I’m really angry and it’s all your fault, you ass. Doesn’t mean I won’t get over it, forgive and forget. Eventually. But interactions with me could be HELL between now and then.

But right now, friend J, I hope you stub your toe or get an irritating hangnail.

Finality bites

I have avoided writing about meeting with Spawn of Hellbeast last Friday and the aftermath of that meeting and signing of documents. In person, she was coldly professional and efficient. Copies of my separation and severance agreement were presented for my attorney’s final review. Once he was satisfied, we brought in the notary and both parties signed the agreements.

All told, it was about 30 minutes from start to finish. End of an era and a job I loved.

Financially, I am enriched. Emotionally, professionally, I feel very much diminished.

My attorney and I went to lunch and talked about all the reasons this was a good strategy for me. We’ve known each other several years now and have a very good relationship. However, I still went home and have felt mostly depressed all weekend.

Tomorrow is the first of my last three days. There is still stuff yet for me to complete, but I can feel the weight of my departure. Associates are avoiding me after a fashion, and many of them are saddened by my separation.

Last week I received my first going away gift – a set of weight locks for the barbell in neon green. It was really a sweet gesture, even if the associate gifting them insisted they are used and this was not a big deal. But they were on my desk, until I turned my back and they mysteriously disappeared, only to turn up in the break room later in the day. It became a game last week – I’d put them back on my desk, they would go on walk-about the minute I stepped out of my office.

Friday they were missing when I left; today when I stopped by to get the last of my personal belongings in privacy they were back along with a card signed the associates.

They know me, and my habits, quite well.

These last few days will be challenging in a different way than dealing with the Hellbeast clan. I’m done; their interest in me is negligible now and I had a very peaceful, uneventful Friday afternoon without a single email, phone call, or voice mail message from anyone in the acquiring organization. I expect the same in my last few days.

However, we still have a lot of work to do. There are client matters to attend to, clients to deal with and talk to, moving of personal furnishings and such from the partners’ offices.  As far as my part in the transition, records are organized and everything on my to-do has been crossed off as done.

Really, not much left from saying final goodbyes to the staff.

I’ll miss them terribly. We have all grown-up a little more and gained some wisdom, experience, perspective in our time together.

And tonight, I am having a really hard time imagining not seeing them most days, not working together, not talking and interacting. Our relationships will change, because it is the reality of not working together almost every day and sharing experiences and common goals. I have said all along that the worst part of this change is leaving a job I love primarily because of the people involved long before I am ready for it to end.

Try as I might to put the bright spin on it, to acknowledge that I will be fine and retain my gainful employment, truth is the spin is tiresome. I’m sad and not sure my determination to put my best professional face forward is going to hold. But as my friend K advised me last week, the gift I leave them with is that I remain my normal solid, steady, and professional self to the end.

It’s only three days. With people I have come to respect and enjoy and will miss collaborating with during my workdays.

More Cheepers

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06/25/2027 – “Cheepers” after consuming breakfast.

M’s bird guest is thriving. While he’s cute and all, I guess I am just not into birds. Dogs are more my thing, but anymore, the idea of the responsibility of having one in the household is daunting. I like the freedom that comes with being an empty nester. We do have cats, but they are outdoor animals and require only a bowl of food and filled water bowls daily, a task our neighbors are happy to fulfill for us if needed.

Not sure how much longer Cheepers will be in residence, but he’s pleasant enough. I certainly don’t want him to die, but survival of the fittest makes not getting too attached appropriate in this case. Once freed to pursue life in the wild of the backyard, maybe he may live to ripe old bird age, but we have lots of predators in the back yard, including our semi-feral felines and hawks in the greenbelt. Hoping for the best, yet planning for the worst for Cheepers.

He is cute even with the Very Serious Expression.

 

Houseguest

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06/23/2017 – “Cheepers” watching YouTube with M.

In general, M and I try hard to be gracious hosts. Apparently our hospitality extends to the feathered in our midst.

M rescued this baby bird from the heat on Tuesday. This is the second such rescue this year, the first, Birdy Bird, resulted in a tragic and untimely death of unknown causes. Not for lack of trying on M’s part, though. Birdy Bird was with us for almost 2 weeks, during which time he would wander around the house perched upon M’s shoulder while M attended to whatever it was he happened to be doing throughout the day. Then one morning he was dead in the cage and M was broken hearted.

Then he found Cheepers, near death on the ground in the heat. Cheepers is either significantly younger than Birdy Bird or brain damaged from the heat, but he’s a bit on the slow side about self preservation and feeding himself. Yeah, this one is more high maintenance throughout the day. But still sweet and responds to M’s voice and presence. I can walk through the room and the cheeping for food continues. M appears and Cheepers stops talking and shows his tonsils waiting for the mom figure to put forth the grub. He also expresses his strenuous objection if M walks away to get his meal while he’s still starving. Me? Cheepers thinks I’m part of the landscape, and I’m okay with that.

Last night I came home to find Cheepers parked on a towel on M’s chest watching bird videos while M was talking on the phone. Cheepers was rapt by the video of big giant bird doing whatever he was doing on the screen and talking back to big giant bird. Terrible picture, but M didn’t want me to use the flash lest I frighten our guest.

*eye roll*

Welcome to my world.

Nightmares of a mad, mad world

For at least the last 2 weeks, I have been having nightmares every single night. About work of all things. They began within a few days of meeting original Hellbeast, but as the rest of the Hellbeast clan has stepped up and introduced themselves (there is now Spawn of Hellbeast and Hellbeast Junior in the mix), the nightmares have grown worse. Even with the final determination that (1) I am being released with a fantastic separation/severance package, and (2) our last workday as a firm is 6/29, meaning I have only 4 more workdays, the stress of leaving a job I love is getting to me.

My fabulous personal lawyer J will be in the office tomorrow to meet with Spawn of Hellbeast and to review the agreement she presents for my notarized signature. He has been my champion in this mess and insisted upon coming to the office and reviewing the final document before I sign it. I am not too proud to gladly accept his hand-holding through this final step.

But even with that behind me – we came to terms by Monday and scheduled this meeting at that time – the nightmares had been getting worse. Whereas earlier they had been realistic dreams of making mistakes or forgetting critical documents or missing hard deadlines, they have been growing increasingly darker and more violent as the days pass. One night this week it was a shooting in the building – an office that looks nothing like where we have ever dwelled – and the police would not let us leave while they searched for the shooter and Hellbeast and her minions insisted we continue to work. I woke up when loud noises rang out in my dreams, only to find my alarm was bleating softly and it was time to wake up.

Last night the office had been magically transported to an airplane … that suicide bombing terrorists were intent on blowing up. The explosion woke me up … at 2:40 in the morning. Anytime I wake up on on a Thursday morning gasping for breath my body clock just knows its Thursday and immediately has me sure I’ve massively overslept and am now dreadfully late for my standing appointment with trainer J. Kind of hard to go back to sleep when your airplane office has been blown up in your head.

While my very logical mind understands this is stress manifesting itself, it is distressing. I have not been watching the news or violent videos or movies; such things give me nightmares so I avoid them. There are 4 workdays left and just over a week until I am done with all this, both a relief and a huge source of sadness. I can and will tough it out, even if on minimal sleep between now and then.

I will miss seeing my associates every day. And as much as we promise to stay in touch, it is not the same as being in the same workplace and slaying the same dragons together day after day.

I am not really an overly emotional person under normal circumstances, but these are not quite normal circumstances. Plus I am a sentimental softie. Who knew?

The rest of my life is proceeding and things are good. While I have told all my self-employment clients about leaving my full-time job and having more time available if they need additional help, I admit hoping for a light July to consider an office away from home to work in rather than trying to work from home. Love M to pieces, but working from home all day every day – he will start to get on my nerves. Not sure yet if I will again be traveling to other client offices for work or working primarily out of an office location of my choosing, but have some ideas and considering options for renting some private office space nearby.

If only I can get a restful night’s sleep without any Very Bad Things befalling me or the office.