Creating the life and livelihood I desire

Thinking about a lot of things the last week or so, and it’s been a good, healthy, creative sort of process. To be clear, I am not especially creative. Where other people may throw splashy colors of paint at the wall and it somehow looks amazing, I use a ruler, draw straight lines, create geographic figures, color neatly inside. Nothing wrong with perfectly aligned squares and triangles filled with blocks of the same color, but it’s not especially arty. Likely this explains why I am an accountant and not an artist.

C is here this week, and it’s been wonderful to see her. She’s experiencing personal issues right now, and as a family we do our best to be supportive and encouraging, to help her get through it whatever ways we can. I’m proud of her taking steps to address these things, in her own ways. I want her to be healthy and happy.

It is also an exciting time in our household. M and I have had many discussions about where we are right now, our plans for the balance of 2017 and into the coming year. Nothing big or fancy on the horizon – a business trip to Texas is probably the biggest blip on our radar, and I am not 100% sure M really wants to go with me. Houston is not a hyper-appealing attraction for him, but we can make it work and have a lot of fun. We will be there together, it will not be dreadfully humid, and the client I am working with there is engaging and thoughtful about good eats and things we may enjoy.

The more I think about marriage – and I have a lot recently for various reasons – the more I realize that there is a lot of work in intimate relationships. Give, take, compromise, play to your strengths are all things I have said recently to others about forging stronger ties with your partner. We’ve got close friends going through a rough patch in their 28 year marriage, far from the first in recent years. It makes me appreciate what M and I have built together. Neither of us are the same person we were 25+ years ago when we met, and working through our own rough patches has left us appreciative for the ways we have changed and adapted and grown together.

This does not mean I do not want to smother him with a pillow to get my way from time to time. That is just the way I roll.

More than that, though, business is booming. My client roster is stable and the work is steady, and I have been regularly getting one-off projects that spike my working hours every week. If I had any worries about making a living after my last full-time job ended, they have been eradicated in the last few months.

Speaking of my former firm, I have been doing some consulting with them on a couple of projects. Melissa had asked me about this in the comments, and yes, they did grudgingly agree to my quoted rates. However, I have been able to do the work they wanted/needed in about a third the time the staff person who had been assigned the work, and I have offered to show him the methods I utilize to get the deliverable prepared. Thus far, they have preferred to outsource the work to me, except when I had to push the schedule back twice due to scheduling conflicts with my other clients. I suppose the new management did not understand that my going off and pursuing my own clients and work meant that I would be busy enough almost immediately to not have time available for them.

I am fortunate to have landed so firmly on my feet, something I am grateful for and do not take for granted.

Am I changing? Most definitely. I am focused on work and building something bigger and better. My life. The life I want to live and including the livelihood I desire.

This has been my whole quest, my whole life. As it should be for everyone.

But what I’m thinking lately … people want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and do not necessarily want to compromise or give up or give in to anyone or anything else or even work that hard for it.

Perhaps I am being hard on those around me right now. Within my own life and world, I understand my close and once closer friends and the bumps in the roads. Sometimes their spouses or significant others’ are unreasonable assholes. Sometimes they are as well. In a couple of cases I know how easy it is to lose ourselves in the parenting role, to the point that we experience almost a grief-like state when our kids grow up and move on and into independent lives. We are so wrapped up in our identity as super mothers that we lose our identities as wives or independent units.

Or maybe we just get tired and want to be lazy when we reach middle age. Only we have to keep working at jobs we hate and are unwilling or unable to find a way out.

Pride is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s related to status or doing something to pay the bills that bores us to tears. M and I have crafted a marriage that works for us. I don’t judge anyone else in their choices of life and lifestyle, but my hope is that we can each find peace and contentment in some facet of our lives.

The danger of pride is it can lead to a sense of entitlement. Or if things are crappy in one area of our lives and it impacts our pride, our sense of self-importance could be twisted and turn us into an entitled asshole. Being humble and kind has its own benefits.

I’m cautious about it. Paranoid even. M worked hard much of our life together and has made things simpler, smoother for me. In our present days, I can indulge my workaholic tendencies, building my business and reputation among clients and community where I toil. I cannot allow myself to become overconfident about anything in my life, and I find it akin to walking a tightrope. If finding balance is a challenge, maintaining balance is possibly even more than that.

Or maybe I’m just new at it. I have always been more secure in my professional pursuits than anything else, and it would be easy to become very big-headed about my own success and importance in the bigger picture.

In my pursuit of better health, I put forth a lot of effort. Maybe I am more accustomed to it now, but it seems like this is what it takes. What I do, how I exercise, how I eat, how I conduct myself in the rest of my life – it has become interwoven in the fabric of the rest of my life now. Still a very long way to go, because I have a whole long life ahead of me that requires that I eat healthier foods, that I exercise, that I work at the intellectual curiosity pursuits that capture my imagination, that I continue to give a shit about those worth caring for and about that cross my path and turning away from those who waste my time. It’s not that I think my time is so very valuable; it’s that I believe everyone’s time is valuable and should not be squandered.

I’m learning, every day I’m learning. Right now it’s how to cut off, let go, dismiss the disagreeable or anyone else who does not “spark joy” to make me think or grow as a human being.

We all have our hopes and dreams, even for those of us who have such small scale, modest hopes and dreams that they seem impossible to separate from regular life. Maybe I do not get to be a fitness model in this lifetime (not an ambition, just an example) or the smartest person in the room. However, I’m happy being this much healthier version of my former self and I will always be glad to be the dumbest person in a room full of highly intelligent people.

And I did that. Selfishly and for myself primarily. I work hard and do the heavy lifting to get this far in my better health quest. I read, I study, I listen to other voices and ideas to expand my own worldview. I have a thriving little business with clients who like and respect me and the imperfect guy who is just about perfect for me. Because I invest the time and the energy to make it happen for me. Not overnight. It’s taken years to get this far. But my effort is paying dividends both big and small.

And that’s mostly on me. I’ve had help. I’ve had coaches and friends to cheer me on when the going got tough or bitch-slap me back to reality when I wanted wallow. But mostly it’s all me.

It feels good to be me, something I am gradually growing accustomed to feeling.

Revisiting days gone by

For another blogging project, I have been revisiting old posts from 2015 and 2016. It’s something I rarely do, and now after having done so, I wonder why I don’t more often. Well, there’s the typos and wrong word choices and maybe I could have stated something better, but with my stream-of-consciousness blogging style I suppose it should be expected. And really, those should be small cakes issues in the larger picture of taking a peek back at what I memorialized here on the blog.

It made me feel good about my life and it’s progress. I reread some of the comments received and was touched all over again by how great my readers. It’s an emotionally squishy time for me right now; I get that I am likely to be more moved than usual by words and acts of kindness that mean a lot to me. Still, while bawling is a little overreactive, I do not take you who read me for granted. Sometimes the reminders of where I was, where I presently dwell, where I will venture is so overwhelming and positive.

Life is fluid. Sadness will not last forever. While friend J is irreplaceable and I miss him terribly, I am grateful for so many other old and new friends who fill up my life.

But right now, work is slamming me, as is concern for C and A out in Tampa and experiencing their first hurricane season. We are concerned, of course, but not precisely worried. What can we do from here? They work at the same company and their center closed at noon on Friday and will not reopen until at least Tuesday, so they are hunkered down in their apartment and stocked up with recommended supplies, batteries, flashlights, water, food, etc. They have bags packed and the animal carriers at the ready for the fur babies if they are told to evacuate. If there were more we could do for them, we would, but it is simply a hope for the best, plan for the worst scenario right now. And from clear across the country, we just read the news and text back and forth.

So just a brief post today, because I need to get to the gym and then onto a very long work weekend ahead. No complaints, though. I would much rather feast and feel the pressure of work than famine and feel the pressure of not enough.

Peace, privacy, maintaining positive relationships

I am just barely involved with social media. I have a Facebook profile, but mostly I use it for looking at photos and things that my few online friends like and share. I am involved in a single Facebook group. And that’s it. Other than my blogs, which are hardly controversial or divisive, I am remain pretty low-profile, practically anonymous. And I prefer it that way.

A few of my work-related associates and clients wonder if we are social outcasts of a sort because we are not public participants in the social media world. Of course, they are millenials and grew up entrenched in this environment. Whereas I am an old dinosaur and very happy with my quiet life. I was also a fairly late Facebook joiner.

Their reasons for flying under the radar are exclusively professional; they do not want to be too public with details of their lives and personal opinions or open themselves to scrutiny from potential clients, employers, adversaries in business. I get that. Mine are more practical: I find Facebook and social media a complete time-sucking waste 98.8% of the time, and other 1.2% is devoted to pictures and events in my kids’ and friends’ lives and photos or topics of interest to me shared or liked by people whose thoughts and opinions I respect. Between work and the rest of my day-to-day life, I rarely have the luxury of enough time to cover all that I want to do and still get enough rest. I try hard to maximize my productivity and not be clicking through page after page after page of stuff I either barely want to think about much less care about reading.

A close friend has zero social media presence and rarely to never publishes pictures of himself and asks that others more active in such forums respect his request to stay offline as much as possible. His preferred method of communication is email; he is even a very spare texter. While far from a Luddite or technology adverse, his thought is that it is far too easy for the ignorant to feel powerful without basis or cause for their opinions and ideas and life is challenging enough without becoming involved in an online spat. If anything, he himself has been guilty forming an opinion too quickly based on a quick scan of information on current topics and having to backtrack and rethink his opinions.

All told, a pretty careful, thoughtful person.

In today’s emotion-charged public discourse, I long for the periods of my life where more measured tones were used within the context of public debate. I miss the days when newspapers and television news reports could be trusted in their reporting of facts and observations and witness accounts. Such reporting was verified independently and the writer’s personal bias and opinion was either excluded or ruthlessly edited from the published piece. Corrections, when needed, were published discreetly, but at least mistakes were admitted and corrections issued. These days? Fake news is an industry into itself. Reporters are pundits and their personal bias colors nearly everything written under their byline. In this era of social media and no-holds-barred instant access to off-the-cuff opinions and remarks, there is less thoughtful discourse and more victimization for any and all perceived wrongdoing against an individual or group or villainizing of those whose thoughts and ideas fall outside of lock-step agreement with the majority of the larger, more vocal masses. Being righteous and advancing the agenda is the only thing that matters; bulldoze opposition, silence dissent, beat anyone standing in the way into submission. The agenda is the only thing that matters.

It now seems to have become part of dialog within my own family, where we almost shout each other down and call it debate. I am disheartened by such behaviors, and when cooler heads prevail, an honest conversation about how we interact on hot-button topics needs to take place. I am not looking forward to that, yet I know it’s necessary to maintain healthy, open dialog with other adults in my family. The volatility of today’s political climate seems to either build healthy debate or aggressive erosion of relationships. The polarization is killing life as I prefer it.

M is as guilty as anyone, and while I tend to believe we are all intelligent and thoughtful people, he is far more sensitive to being discounted and disrespected than I am. M is far more entrenched in a traditionally moral, Christian perspective than I am, and while I respect his opinions, I also disagree on many fundamental issues. Yet from a values perspective, we are more alike than we are different. However, it seems easier for me to accept that the world is changing, probably too rapidly for my comfort, but the next generations think differently and are influenced in ways we were not. When demanding respect for us as individuals and well as the values and ways of life we hold dear becomes the driving issue, the conversation becomes incendiary and not at all relevant to the topic under discussion. The dug-in opinions of being absolutely correct become more important than the mutual respect and affection we share as a family.

It saddens me that the antics of the lunatic fringe on both sides of the debates are monopolizing and becoming the entire dialog about governing, and I am so disappointed it has now become a thing within my own family. I have disagreed with a lot of things our leadership has done most of my adult life, and sometimes my disagreement seems so futile. Yet I know staying completely silent, not voting, not participating and letting it roll right over me is not an option either.

I am reading, listening, trying desperately to discern what is real, what is fiction, what is primarily the shrill agenda of those with the biggest megaphones and/or the quickest to use their fists or any sort of violence to make their point. Anymore, it seems important to use care when expressing an opinion. For whatever reason that saddens me. How can we become closer as a family, as a community, as a country, if we cannot have talk openly about our differences?

We have new neighbors who think M and I are nearer to the antichrist than we are normal, rational, thinking people because of the chasm between our political beliefs. M and I have agreed that for the sake of peaceful fences, in the future we must refrain from discussing current events or politics with people that living so close to us. We own our home, as do they, and we have no desire for the next 20 or 30 years to be cold detente every time we happen to cross paths. We already have a contentious relationship with the elderly couple directly across the street, but then again, so does everyone else living nearby. None of our neighbors are our best friends and with the exception of one couple unlikely to even be on our guest list for a backyard bbq, but they are part of our geographically closest community. If we must adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell to maintain a sense of peaceful tranquility, surely we can just do that and all continue with our superficial getting along? Unless they start hosting strident rallys or protests that are disturbing to us, I think it is a small price to pay to pleasantly coexist.

It comes up today because our newest nextdoor neighbor has installed a flagpole and has a rainbow flag flying from it. When we first met them M looked up their Facebook profiles, which are locked up tight and completely private. Makes perfect sense to me – he is a financial planner and she is a school counselor. Personally I don’t care about the flagpole or the rainbow flag, but M finds it particularly annoying. It seems in tune with his general peckishness lately with the craziness of the news reports and the furor over Charlottesville. I remind him that these are not our friends, barely acquaintances; they are neighbors, nothing more. And really no worse that the Harley enthusiasts that lived a few houses down when we moved in and would host hordes of bikes for parties a few times per month. While these were yuppie bikers, the noise from the motorcycles got annoying when trying to enjoy a peaceful Sunday at home.

But more and more, I am starting to think my privacy-enjoying pal is on a better path. Maybe more restraint from even logging in and scanning the headlines would bring more serenity to my life. Perhaps then I would be more open to listening to the thoughts that come forward in my discussions and able to find a way to agree or disagree more productively.

But I know me – I’m not very capable of completely disengaging. The search for balance continues.

Choosing life – observations and takeaways from funeral services

Recently there were two deaths in client families: one lost his mom, the other lost his sister. I attended both services this week. How very different the contrasts in families and how life is celebrated and death is mourned.

First the sister, it was a life needlessly cut short. Her services were religious and somber, and while no one openly spoke about it, I have to believe her obesity had a hand in her death. For such a young woman (late 30s), a heart attack and then a stroke are not particularly normal circumstances or a natural cause of death. The very vague “she has health problems” explanation was essentially politically correct speak for preventable death. In my experience, when a person dies of cancer or waiting for replacement organ or genetic conditions, people are open that it was cancer or liver/heart/kidney disease/failure or something else for which there is only treatment, no cure. It saddens me, because it did not need to happen. And it’s difficult for me to equalize my sadness with my discomfort of my anger that what has happened happened. It hits far too close to home for me and my attitudes to be okay with passing my own sense of harsh judgment on this poor woman, even if it is 99% in my own mind. I have a pretty expressive face; I’m sure my thoughts were written plainly if anyone bothered to look closely.

The reception afterward was full of wonderful comfort foods and an entire table of homemade sugary goodness. I had a glass of water and escaped as quickly as I possibly could. That was Monday. I was back at work with them Wednesday and Thursday for a few hours each day, and their break room sweets are back in action. Ugh. The mom’s need to continue comfort herself by non-stop baking continues. I understand the poor woman’s grief – I am a mother who had to bury a child who died unexpectedly and way too young – but I foresee more preventable tragedy and health conditions in their future.

I find the whole experience disturbing, and I have reaffirmed my commitment that such a demise is not going to happen to me. Which chronologically impossible, as I  am already 20 years older than this young woman at her death, I still feel like I am too young to die of preventable causes right now at 56. If I have to do massive overdoses of sets of sit-ups, planks, push-ups, walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, dead tread pushes – essentially everything in my nemesis stable that I  have dislike-but-good-for-me relationship with – to remind myself what fitness costs and how sugar derails my efforts, that is what I am prepared to do. The dissonance in my own world from this event and the ongoing sugary fat foods being presented and softly pushed my way is at this moment far too much for me. My mind is so overwhelmed by the disconnect that I will fulfill my contracted commitments for this year (hopefully only another week) and then notify them by mail at the end of the year that they should plan on hiring another consultant next year.

If I am going to have my negative judgment gene engaged continuously, I am going to do my best to voluntarily separate myself from circumstances where I have no hope of influencing changes in behaviors.

Contrast that with Tuesday’s almost 3-ring circus memorial for another client’s hard-partying mother – it was stark. First, no religious ceremony or overtones. The celebration of her life included good food, better booze, music, laughter, funny and sad stories, and people being themselves and acting naturally. There was a buffet meal-like food line with a many healthier options. There was a pretty amazing caesar salad and skinless, boneless teriyaki that was quite good. While In life the departed was a foodie as well as other vices like alcohol, recreational drugs, lots of sexual partners and treatments for the associated afflictions that can come from unprotected sex before the onset of AIDS, her son is a pretty upstanding citizen with many positive lifestyle habits.

Despite her being a terrible, terrible mother (a standard by which I unabashedly judge other parents as indicators of them as people), I liked her almost in spite of myself. She happily signed over custody and care of her only child after cheating on and being divorced by his father, and only stayed in touch with him as an adult because of what he was willing to do for her. She was uniquely self-possessed and owned her many shortcomings while somehow charmingly explaining them away as character defects. In the years we were acquainted I do not believe I ever saw her completely sober, and she angered, frustrated, aggravated me on numerous occasions in my own right in addition to my anger, frustration, and aggravation from her behaviors and attitudes toward her son.

Still, at the end of it all, I can almost admire the way she lived her life on her own reckless, destructive, hurtful ways. Her son – my client as well as my friend – is well-respected and powerful in his own rights. He chose to accept care and responsibility for her as part of his lot in life, and he did so in ways that were compassionate, yet at arms length and very expensive. He told me once caring for her was less about his mother as much as about his own self-respect and the type of man he is and aspires to be, which is someone who does what he can to protect his family, even if it is mostly from themselves. I still do not agree with him on that completely, but as people we are all different about what is minimum standard requirements for being a good and decent human being. At the end of her life, he had no reason for regret or guilt. He did not exactly love her, but she was his mom, and his respect for that biological role in his life caused him to protect himself in the ways he chose while she lived.

The services were very nice, with so many of her friends present who were quite charming characters in their own right. The remembrances were touching, many quite funny, too many heartbreakingly sad due to her own choices and personality disorder. I choose to think of the flawed woman in the best light possible. I know there is evil in this world; I have been exposed to and experienced it firsthand. She was not evil as I define it, but she was self-centered, selfish, and horrible in ways that absolutely disgust me. I won’t really miss her. I won’t miss our interactions. But I won’t say I’m glad she’s gone either. I mostly wish for peace of mind for those closest to her throughout her life.

We met again today, one of our regular face-to-face meetings at his home. His obvious relief at not having to think about or worry about what his mom is doing, what havoc she is wreaking or tantrums she may be throwing looks good on him. And I don’t judge him at all for feeling that way. In life he went above and beyond for her, far more than I would have ever been capable of emotionally or financially with my own parents. He has earned the right to be happy that burden has been lifted.

I identify with the people in both events, because it seems the circumstances of the deaths have touched my own life in real ways. My life and lifestyle choices through the years have not always worked out in the ways I intended, and in painful times I have lashed out and been destructive. Whether I was lucky, smart, just due a better break, or some combination of all the forces of positivity in the world, I survived and came out okay.

But life is changing. Mostly good and great changes.

For most of my life I have bent over backwards not to be judgmental about the choices other people make. It is an impossible standard I have pursued, though, and I know the closer I get to balance and ongoing overall better health, the harder it is to watch in silence while others around me continue to make less desirable choices. I am not one to offer unsolicited advice or opinions, but I am always honest about topics under discussion. I believe exercising my own value systems and evolving positive lifestyle mindset may extend the limits of interactions with others in my social circle. Those who are not so restrained in expressing their (usually negative) opinions are being squeezed out by others who share my enthusiasm for different and more positive and uplifting aging experiences.

I am choosing life. Our individual choices are going to be different, and I completely understand that. But I vastly prefer being around people who are making positive choices and staying active in the journey to graceful aging. It did not take a week of back-to-back funeral services to get me to that realization, but it is helpful to reaffirm that I am making much better lifestyle choices these days.  

Hello again

I have been MIA – again. While I have been pretty busy – because we’re all pretty busy – it’s essentially a lame excuse.

My focus of late has been on my better health, getting my big girl capris out of their twist and bitch-slapping myself back to reality. I’m doing fine. I’m not slacking. I’m not faltering, failing, fucking up. I’m locking down my negative girl and letting reality seep in … which is that things are good and the sky is still up there above me.

It is August and the grand plan has been to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Florida. M and I were thinking after Thanksgiving, but G and K have commitments that make that just about impossible. Since we have the more flexible schedule, we are now looking at the week between Christmas and New Years. K has the week off at her new job, and it’s either insanely busy or completely dead for me. This year, I’m inclined to work it out so it is mostly completely dead.

Next problem is that C and A both have to work that week – it’s kind of a no vacation period for them. From my perspective, it will be fine. Unfortunately, this is where the first big hurdle in family dynamics comes into play: managing expectations.

Between air fare and lodging – it’s going to be expensive. Add in attractions like Disneyworld or Universal Studios – it’s going to be ridiculously expensive. M and I will likely get a rental car, which I will build into the budget. And meals out, etc. – cheap and/or economical is not going to be part of that equation.

I am extremely sensitive to it. We have (mostly) agreed we’re not doing Christmas gift exchanges this year in lieu of the trip. I am withholding my consent for us because we are able to contribute cash toward the trip or whatever else they wish to use it for and call it a Christmas gift.

Then there is the concept of together time. This one is trickier.

For us, if M wants to spend 4 days visiting all 4 Disney parks I’ll suck it up and deal. Timing is imperfect – I am envisioning zillions of people and very long lines everywhere we go – but I do this because M really wants to and I want him to be happy. C and A have annual passes and are happy to spend their days off with us visiting Mouseland. While I know G enjoys theme parks, between the crowds and the waiting and it not really being K’s thing, they have maybe 2 days if we’re lucky.

We are perfectly fine with that. K has 4 very close friends who live in the area and of course she wants to see/spend time with all of them, and the rest of us strongly encourage that. Instead of spending money not having a very pleasant time with us, she and G should accept her friends’ offer of hosting them for several days and perhaps rent a car to meet up with us in Tampa once M has gotten his fill of theme parks in Orlando. C and A will also be back at work and their time is going to be limited to meals out with us during our stay, so we will have to find activities to amuse ourselves. This is a huge part of the tradeoffs that come with planning a trip around the holidays.

I am actually not sure K sees it precisely that way, and there will have to be a lot more conversation and communication about plans as we move forward. In my mind we are all going to be on vacation, except for C and A, who unfortunately have to work, But any time we can spend all together will be irreplaceable and should be celebrated.

This is our first foray into a joint family vacation, and I expect there to be a learning curve as we figure things out. But because we’re family, I expect we will be honest about what we want, how we feel, what is affordable, what is financially out of reach.

Now just to make it happen without anyone getting the wrong message or hurt feelings.

Ahh family. On the scale of family relationships as I hear from others and read about online, we are a pretty simple group that actually gets along well. No real reasons for complaint. Right now, I think it is just a struggle to manage expectations.

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.

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.