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.

Hopeful realism

After starting this post during lunch and scanning it quickly just now, I recognize that shock of sudden death is starting to fade and I am in full-on processing mode, albeit the scenic route.

I live a small life. It’s not big, not flashy, not glamorous. But in the ways that are important to me, mine is a big, bodacious, overflowing, bursting kind of life. All good things.

What I value, I prioritize. My relationships – with M, my kids, extended family tribe, friends, clients and business associates – all are important to me and somewhere on my personal hierarchy of values scale. Work is on that scale somewhere as well, and not just for the financial support and stability it provides us. Accounting is not a flashy profession, and the type of work I happen to do is not as lucrative as being on the career track of a national or even a prominent local firm. But it’s infinitely more satisfying to me. The clients I have know me as a person and trust me to tell them the truth, no matter how much they don’t want to hear it. I have also come to care about them as people and experts in their own fields. There is some sort of new classification where the professional respect bleeds over and becomes a personal friendship as well. Having worked in larger corporate firms, it is so unlikely for me to have developed a work-life balance that blurs and blends into something that fulfills my need for mental challenges and stimulation as well as the emotional security of not having to hide myself behind the professional mask many hours each day.

From the work M and I both do, our basic needs are met. We have a nice home, an abundance of food, transportation, health insurance, employment, and money in the bank for our even older and grayer years. We have many wants as well, yet none that burn so hot that we are left feeling deprived and unhappy for its absence.

It’s the bigger losses that we cannot recover or replace that leave us sad and wistful for a different outcome.

I do not feel especially ambitious about travel or vacationing right now. If anything, I am enjoying being at home when I am not working on work-work. There is so much to do around our homestead, between decluttering and maintenance and planning/negotiating future projects. Just a few examples:

  • The dining room set we recently purchased used – $150 for an oak table with 2 leaves and 8 chairs – requires a good scrub and polish to make it our own. Then we need to move it from the dining room, put a newly purchased rug on the floor, and toss out the ugly old one presently residing there to protect the laminate.
  • There is more tree trimming to do, then the growing pile of dead branches need to be loaded in the truck and carted to the dump. But it’s been so hot; such outside tasks are lower on M’s to-do list.
  • Then there is our garage, a weekend job of organizing and decluttering all on its own. Again, the heat is a factor in this project; it’s difficult to get either of us motivated to take care of this crap when it’s 100+ degrees outside and not much cooler in the garage, even with the doors wide open.
  • Installing shelving in our laundry room. Part of this is just making decisions about how much shelving to put in there, purchasing and installing the materials, but it’s been low priority. However, my latest born-again zeal for getting rid of crap and doing a better job with available space has me eyeing this more critically and wanting to make get busy planning to make it happen.
  • Our hallway linen closet needs to be reorganized. This is currently the favorite dumping ground/stash location for anything and everything we’re not sure what to do with.

Left to my own devices much of this would likely already be done, either hired out or boatloads of crap tossed or donated long before this. Unfortunately, being married, staying happily married means some negotiation about how the shit gets done. With the way our lives and work/life balance tends to work, I only have small pockets of time to work at a project before I have to go out for a meeting or be at my computer working or am simply tired and in need of a recharge. Both M and I have health and fitness-related activities that consume their own chunks of time and are highly prioritized for each of us. Hardly matters if the trees are trimmed or crap we want/need to retain is stowed properly if our health is so poor we can barely do much for ourselves.

What often times judgmental me feels is lollygagging on both our parts about projects outside the scope of essential housekeeping or work-work tasks, the reality is our lives are full of commitments and responsibilities we desire to pursue or are part of the continuity of our lives. The projects on our lists will get done, eventually. Or we will relent and throw money at the problem and hire it out, something M is loathe to do if he himself can eventually get it done. In my impatience defense, I only suggest hiring out things he likes doing less than others, or that would take him on his own an extraordinary amount of focused time. Painting the exterior of our home immediately comes to mind. While M could most definitely do it and do it very well, I’m not sure our marriage could survive it. For such a big, time-consuming task, I would much rather there be a licensed contractor overseeing and doing the actual work, because when I reach the point of screaming because it’s not being done right, they are not showing up as promised, or it is taking too long because of the first two factors, a contractor can skulk off and escape my wrath at his own home. M, not so fortunate. I see this as a win-win as well because M, with his perfectionista tendencies, can follow along behind our painting contractor and either point out what he wants changed or touch-up to his heart’s content.

The point pounded home to me again and again, all this stuff means less than a hill of beans where grief is concerned.

This heartache is fresh, raw, and hurts dreadfully. Yet, even down here and squirming in the trenches of the freshness of pain, I know it will pass, heal over, scab and then scar. Life does go on, no matter how awful it seems in these moments.

I am not now nor will I ever be one to compare pain or wounds with other people. We feel what we feel in the ways that we feel it, and we are each unique beings. Talking about pain or happiness or other emotions is comparing apples and oranges, and I nether win nor lose any coveted prizes for hurting more or less that someone else experiencing loss. Loss hurts. Grief sucks. And life continues as if nothing of any significance happened in the world at large.

Such is my reflection of the smallness of my life. Someone significant in my world died, and I am learning to navigate this new normal. It has not turned me more cynical, dark, desperate, or depressed me into paralysis. I take it as a reminder that life is precious, our expiration dates unknown, because the future is not promised. All those cliches and platitudes designed and deployed to try and make us feel better about a fact of life we cannot change are true and yet they do not make me feel much better.

Mine is a hopeful reality. I love and lost a dear friend, and it hurts me deeply. He was among the first folks I would always want to share good news, on speed dial when I was troubled. Our email correspondence is epic, and like me, he seems to have saved every one ever exchanged. It’s precious to me, and even the mundane, day-to-day reporting leaves me feeling a little lost as to how I adjust to a world without my best friend in it.

Thing is, I will adjust and life continues. I still smile and laugh and extract full measures of joy in my days. And how quickly, how easy it still is for me to forget he’s gone, and when the thought flitters through my mind of how I will frame the funny moment or tiny victory, I feel the ice pick in my heart as I remember he’s not here to share with anymore. And all over again, it hurts and grief sucks.

The life I have built for myself, the world where I personally dwell is a beautiful and amazing place. It was before he passed and remains because of the zillions of memories  created. And going forward, I still see a lot of beauty, life, brilliance, humor, and love.

It’s a fresh, new, raw wound, one that may take a lot more time and resources to heal than I can presently predict or imagine. But I think mine is a long view, mixed with a dash of something akin to faith that we will meet again. For now I am living my life, feeling my pain, enjoying my joys. Hopeful realism at its finest.

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.

Civil discourse, or lack thereof, becomes personal

My life has indirectly been touched by the issues dividing our country. Trainer J is a Berkeley grad and close friends of his were physically assaulted in the February 1 melee on campus. Listening to an interview J’s friend’s gave on what happened to them, I am so saddened and so struck by the very personal nature of the story and upset by the continuing narrative.

I am not a terribly political person. I tried to write about it yesterday and failed. The anxiety and fear surrounding the divisiveness in our world right now makes me hesitant to even relate the story here in my own blog.

The choices we make dictates the life we lead. To thine own self be true.

In truth, I am truly appalled, disgusted, and angry about what has happened, yet not at all surprised. I live in California, within a reasonable driving distance of Berkeley and San Francisco, accurate hotbeds and depictions of the liberal and progressive thinking that has dominated the federal government the last 8 years and continues to dominate the governing authorities of California. My little townie suburb is the epitome of the flyover states; referring to it as a redneck hicksville is not far off the mark.

Like most others I know and speak to routinely, we are struck by how those whose lips move and present sincere-sounding platitudes of tolerance are so gravely intolerant. Living in this state my entire life, I understand how desensitized and business as usual such behavior seems to me. Except now it has indirectly hit home for me. Someone I care about has close personal friends, practically family, and they were assaulted, beaten, because they wanted to attend a lecture by a man whose views the UCB campus roundly and publicly condemn. It hits far too close to home and for my comfort. I want my home state to be better than that. I want people to be better than that.

But I’m a realist, and I understand that the extremes of both sides of any argument get the most attention, make the biggest splash, and strongest impressions. Unfortunately it also makes more acceptable and allows people to show little or no restraint when it comes to their emotions.

Except for those of us trying to maintain boundaries of restraint, common sense, and civility toward one another. I know what happened in Berkeley is simply par for the course in the day and age we are living in, but it’s still very hard to swallow.

Yesterday while I was driving to the gym, a truck ran a red light near my home and made a left turn into the intersection I was traveling through. I saw him in plenty of time and was able to drive around without incident. However, he followed and drew up alongside me as I was making a left turn, and then made an illegal left turn alongside of me, then proceeded to match speed with me as we traveled another couple of blocks. I slowed down, he slowed down. I speeded up, he sped up to match and stay right next to me. When I looked over, he was making faces and flipping me off. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began taking photos of him. While driving. As the flash goes off, the truck sped up and away from me.

It struck me at the time that in the civility war, common sense and restraint are losing. In the quest to be right, to WIN the arguments at any and all costs trumps all. Intimidation, violence, and falsehoods are the norm these days. An impartial press? Not for a very long time. Social media is a powerful influence; everyone has a voice. Even those of who blog about our quiet little lives have our space to share our thoughts and express our opinions.

Thing is, thoughts and news shared via blogs is not unbiased reporting of facts and events. Same is true of Facebook and other social media platforms. And equally unfortunate, great swathes of our population cannot tell the difference between the hysterical “sky is falling” screeching and the impartial dissemination of information and reporting of events.

I used to think, to have hope, that my children and future generations would go to college and learn to think more analytically, more rationally, be smarter and brighter and better than me. I had this hope for a cycle of continuous improvement, that they would be better, smarter, kinder than those I know and grew up with. The years pass and I lose a little of my shining hope that the world will be better place when I leave it.

What I see now from my window is how my peers have made mistakes and missteps, how overindulging and smoothing the pathway of growing up has resulted in this paralyzing fear of making mistakes and loss of entrepreneurial independence has been stifled. And that’s what I see – homogenization and attempts to reshape everyone so we all look alike, think alike, and act alike. Is there safety in numbers? Cries of diversity seem to contradict the slow, steady, march to be a somehow kinder and gentler people by government decree and enforced by government authority.

I am not a political person. I respect reasonable people and any differences in opinions. But violence and intimidation have crossed paths with me. And I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate having my right to drive to the gym impeded or people harmed for sport.

Even here on my own blog, I stepped back and away for month because of an unpublished troll who was unrelenting. Before today, what I talked about was routine reporting on my life and times. It’s not harsh or harmful to anyone else. Peace, balance, life is hard. It’s unfair. There is no regulating fairness. Or making people behave appropriately and try to be better, kinder, and gentler versions of themselves.

Corollary to my final 2016 training recap

Last year, trainer J introduced Scott Abel into our training routines. Whether he had been reading and following Coach Abel for awhile or I just start paying more attention when he was discussing technique and theory seems irrelevant at this point, although I do believe it was the former. Or maybe I was just finally in the headspace to hear what Coach Abel has to say about exercise, diet, physique transformation.

Under most prior circumstances, I would discount Coach Abel almost immediately because of his history as a physique competitor and trainer/coach. His message would not apply to me, unfit and hapless/hopeless middle aged woman. Negative girl was starting to pump up the volume during this period, and I would be slowly backing away muttering about not being in that realm of exercise and never, ever being capable of and therefore not interested in that aspect of gym life, all the while thinking “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.” Fortunately by that time I was already moving away from setting specific goals, counting calories, learning about macros, and seeing food, body, exercise as my enemy. Fortunately by that time I had enjoyed some surprising success with managing my diabetes and having medications cut and numbers dramatically improving. Fortunately by then I was more focused on improving my overall health than on what the scale read or how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin.

I am a success story in this regard, and as hard as it is to write that down and publish it publicly (lest you all judge me some ginormous egomaniac), I am standing by it.

Abel writes a lot about the inside-outside transformation. From a Facebook post today:

After this many years and decades Coaching people to physique transformations, it still amazes me how people tend to overlook the elements of lifestyle that will make or break being able to accomplish and sustain a physique transformation. 

So many people form a goal to take better care of themselves and to transform themselves from the outside-in, and then get all caught up in incidental elements of this transformation process. They start focusing on counting calories and number-crunching macros and searching for the “magic training program” and all the rest. But they miss and overlook the most fundamental aspects that make sustainable physique transformation possible – and that is lifestyle considerations. 

Lifestyle is the FOUNDATION that supports all these other things. It is not the other way around. That is the illusion. 

And lifestyle is also one of the hardest life habits to change. But make no mistake; things like time-management, mindset and attitude, sleep patterns, meal times, stress-management – these things together ALL fundamentally matter more than does the right workout program or the right diet-strategy. If you don’t have the right lifestyle and the right mindset to fit these things into – then it is never going to work for long.

Such sentiments resonate deeply within me. I have worked very hard at transforming my mindset, at locking away my negative girl and shutting down the voices that whisper that I can’t exercise, that I’m fat, gross, out of shape, never going improve. Nothing I do every day in the gym or the yoga studio even compares to the difficulty of transforming that part of my life and lifestyle.

The timing is just right for me at this point in my life. My jobs are flexible enough that I can spend up to 2 hours at the gym every day and be in bed by 9 or 9:30 so I can get up and 4 a.m. to get my exercise done and crossed off my daily to-do before I even consider doing anything else. I simplified my eating down to a few basic meals and I eat those over and over and over again. Since I am not much of a foodie or a cook, it’s easy enough for me to drink a protein shake or eat a bowl or oatmeal every day for breakfast and have the same turkey and cheese sandwich almost daily. Weight loss when it occurs will be a nice perk, but these less I thought as an earned consequence of my actions the happier, calmer, and more enjoyable life became.

I have worked hard and deserve the success I am presently enjoying; I have earned it. However, in my reading and trying to learn more about the science behind physiology and human body systems, I recognize and accept more and more that decades of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits and food choices are not reversed overnight or even over the course of the year. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. That said, I have no basis for complaint. None at all. Everyone ages and maybe complete recovery and some shadow of socially approved slender, svelte figure is not possible for me at this stage of my life. Oh well. I have a fabulous husband who loved me when I was fatter and loves me more now not because I am this much fitter but because he loves that I am happier and more comfortable and confident in my own skin. My health is excellent and I am rarely sick, allergies aside. I have been careful and cautious in my exercise pursuits and avoided injuries thus far, a trend I hope continues. As long as I can continue to manage my vanity and my ego, I can continue to dwell in my present level of happy, mostly balanced headspace.

In my own mind, I am Jane Average – normal level of intelligence, common sense, and ability to get through life and learn from my experiences. This was me comparing myself to others, and over the course of the last year I have learned just how dangerous that behavior can be, because I will always find reasons for fault with me. Stopping myself from comparing me to others has freed me to pursue my own thoughts and make better choices and exercise more realistic judgment about what is possible, what is not. I am far less susceptible to the endless drone of marketing that tells me I can be more than I can in 10 minutes per day. It also gives me a lot more room to be completely genuine in my support and enthusiasm for other people’s successes. Envy is an ugly emotion; self-flagellation for not having the same level or type of success is far worse.

The resulting overall physical improvement from my exercise efforts is wonderful, but the ways it has impacted all aspects of the way I conduct myself and live my life is unexpected. My mindset and interest in continuing the process is such a huge boon and benefit. I don’t know that Scott Abel is 100% right in his theories and opinions 100% of the time, but I do know his approach generally makes sense to me and has impacted me far beyond any tiny expectations or hopes I might have harbored this time last year.

Self improvement gets talked about an awful lot, and I have read far too many articles, books, even blogs on the subject. A lot of it was simply gobbledygoop. These days, I’m more capable of reading their words and making realistic judgments about whether it is something worthwhile for me in my life or simply a empty platitude that looks pretty in print. When I saw TM a couple of weeks ago he remarked upon how well I look and seem overall, and how our tune-up appointment next month might just be a one-and-done type year. My village – they don’t blow smoke in my direction much less up my skirt. His comment meant the world to me.

As I slowly close out 2016, anyone reading this or having followed my journey this last year and relating to my struggles as well as my successes, I leave you with the following though from Coach Scott Abel, also posted today on Facebook:

You will be amazed how much you change from the outside-in, when you focus first and foremost on change from the inside-out!

I am living, breathing, happy proof of this concept. Happy new year, everyone!

The weight of expectations

Christmas 2016 is now past, and the beginning of a brand year begins in less than a week. While it is an exciting time to me, so many I know struggle up to and through until the middle of January. The holidays are difficult.

My theory is that the heavy marketing of Christmas and the holidays to drive sales leaves people with this impression of what the holiday season “should” be like. Like so many, I grew up in a dysfunctional family and had no particular holiday traditions. There were presents, lots of presents, and stockings overflowing with candy and such, but we did not have anything even close to traditional family rituals. As an adult and with my own family, I really, Really, REALLY wanted to establish family traditions that of our own. And when I did, I found myself getting more and more stressed trying to get everything done just so and then depressed when Christmas day passed. The decorations, the traditions, the symbols of the holiday did not make me happy or feel more connected to my family. If anything, it made things so much worse.

Letting go of the expectations of a “perfect” holiday or having some traditional ritual we performed every season was among the smarter, wiser choices in my life. As a divorced mom I had to share my young children with their father. At first I wanted them Christmas morning; their dad could have them Christmas eve if he wished, then bring them home, then we’d do Christmas at my house and with my parents and then drop them with him and his parents on Christmas day. When they were young, we had presents, stockings, all the traditional stuff of a commercial Christmas holiday. As they got older, if the kids were with us we might go to the snow and then to a buffet in Tahoe or in Reno. Sometimes I’d put up a tree and decorations, but just as often I would not.

And guess what? It works for us. Being together to celebrate is the most important thing for us, either before, during, or after the actual Christmas holiday. And I still sometimes put up the tree and decorate the house, or not.

This year M and I celebrated quietly home alone. We grilled steaks, made salads, baked potatoes, and had a nice dinner together. We dropped a card and gift off at a friends home, drove until we found some snow, got out and stomped around a bit, then got back in the car and drove home. We talked with friends by phone or email or text. My daughter and son-in-law in Florida both worked, my son and daughter-in-law chose to spend the day at home alone and then have dinner with G’s paternal grandparents. Not seeing them on Christmas because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean much to us; we will have dinner on New Year’s day and celebrate new beginnings.

I’m not unhappy with the way things went this year. The past few years we have had guests for the holiday and a lot of fun and special times. This year it didn’t happen as we had all hoped, but we will be together again soon and celebrate then. For our family celebrations and occasions, what the calendar says doesn’t matter.

And so it goes for us. Perhaps it comes from being unsentimental, but growing up in a pretty cold home makes me feel like every day I spend with those who love and accept me is an unexpected gift. I strive not to take it for granted, yet have the hope that the good feelings, the warmth, the love continue for a long time to come.

Because we have no set traditions, there is no sense of boredom or obligation associated with doing the same things, year after year. I love that M and I are happy just being together, chatting with our family and friends, making and consuming a simple dinner.

I like to believe the spirit of Christmas is with us all through the year. I always hope to have a heart open to giving and receiving from the nearest and dearest as well as others that may cross my pathway.

I feel no sense of disappointment. M and I have not exchanged gifts in years, and even in our earliest days of romance, we both tended to pursue practical needs rather than wants or uniquely personal things. Of course, there was not a lot of spare cash lying around, but we were happy then, are still happy now.

And now that the silly season has mostly passed, we breath a sigh of relief that we made it through another year without the Christmas crazy touching us enough to bring forth angst and disappointment. Perhaps this is the best gift we could provide for one another.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2016

Pretty quiet on the homestead this Christmas eve, and I am so happy about that. I slept later than anticipated – this no alarm policy could be a problem if allowed to continue unchecked – but I enjoyed the most restful sleep I have had in days, maybe even weeks.

I woke up with the tiniest tinge of guilt about the confrontation last night, but there were literally a dozen supportive, encouraging, “don’t you dare feel guilty!” texts from friends overnight. That made me feel better. The difference between this year and last year says a lot for how much I have grown and matured (for lack of a better word) as a person in a year. Certainly I did not go out seeking to pick a fight with her, but she’s a bully and rarely gets called out on it. I stood my ground and calmly made my point. No blood was shed, no voices raised, and I acted appropriately. My biggest concerns were for the elderly host and hostess, but when we were saying goodbye they were all smiles, warm hugs, pleas to come visit them in their new home. The son, the snarky bitch’s husband and one of my old friends, was not upset about the encounter, said she tends to bring such things upon herself and want to play victim. He knows me too well and for too long to take offense.

The gym today was the most crowded I have seen it the last time I went in the middle of the night. And for me and the gym and my schedule of attendance, anything after about 5 p.m. is the middle of the night. The combination of it being a Saturday, Christmas eve, and my arriving 2+ hours later than usual all made a perfect storm for seeing a lot of other members.

But I did run into one of my favorite tribe members today and had opportunity catch up. I arrived with the vague idea of fluffy-cuffies and lower body, and there she was, on the Freemotion machine I might have chosen if she had not already been set up for her upper body List. She offered me the extra side, but I had squat machine and hyperextensions first. I was fine with the other cable machine on the other side of the gym, as it is closer proximity to other machines on my List of the day. Still, so fun to see a kindred spirit. Texted trainer J a selfie of the 2 of us, all sweaty and gross. Such a great Christmas eve gift, because my tribe sister is on opposite ends of the practice and training session schedule.

For today M and I have mostly lazed around. He went off to his bestie’s open house tonight, I’m staying home and catching up on reading and writing. Tomorrow we are having breakfast with some other friends passing through town enroute to family further up the freeway, and then we plan to just simply relax and enjoy the day, maybe take a drive or something equally leisurely.

I feel sort of impatient for the year to be over, because I have several projects starting the first week in January that are very exciting to me.

Gym and yoga studio are both closed tomorrow, and I am on the fence about doing a workout here at home or simply bagging a rest day. I’ve been going light on workouts this week – between holiday/work stress and the allergy flare from the lawn removal, it’s not been my best week. I am seriously wondering if I have an allergy-related condition affected by the smell of dirt. I guess I will decide tomorrow morning. Maybe I am obsessed.

More importantly, though, I have been eating a lot of crap and junky foods. It’s Christmas and this is what happens. I am not especially alarmed by it. If anything, I am philosophical about it. For the last year I have exercised, I have eaten better, I have enjoyed a lot of success and grown my confidence. A few weeks of less desirable choices and a few days of lighter-than-typical exercise is not the end of the world. Come Monday the holiday is over for another year and I can continue to prepare for the new year ahead.

The real holiday happens next week, when the calendar changes to a new year. We see a lot of people we love in December, but for me the new beginnings and reasons to celebrate start in January.

Tonight I’m huddled up alone, after chatting with my daughter in Florida and my son and daughter-in-law across town. Things are good, quiet, peaceful, and quite honestly, just what I need. I have lists of things to write about and work-work yet to be done. But just for tonight, I am doing what I want to do, which is finish this post and another email to a brotherly friend too far from home this Christmas.

All is calm, all is bright in our little world. And it is just as it should be Christmas eve.