The What If Game

My life these days is incredibly drama free and peaceful.  Well, for the most part it is.  There’s the occasional tense moment that occurs when living with other people in an arrangement designated by most as family, but compared to the past two decades, my life is exceptionally drama free.  In fact, compared to most people, my life is exceptionally drama free. 

This doesn’t mean my life is boring.  Nor is it lackluster. 

Life with me is always very animated, that’s for sure. 

Life with me has a certain bit of comedy and theatrics to it, I’ll warrant, but drama?  Hmmm, not so much. 

 Here’s a typical day in my life these days:

After awakening and the deplorable hour of 9:00 a.m., I head back into the house after picking up the morning paper from the walk and turning on the sprinkler. I flop down on my large overstuffed and very comfy couch to browse through the meaningless empty print that constitutes the local paper. Later, I will spend an hour playing around on Facebook, looking up old tunes and listening to them on Youtube and doing whatever it is I want or nothing at all. It is an amazingly charmed life I live these days. On these days in particular, the ones where the kids are all gone at the other parents’ home and I have no deadlines or obligations except to take care of just me, it is not unlike being retired.  I do what I want when I want.  After running around crazy all school year long and being at the beck and call of four children with active academic and social lives and none of them driving, it is nice to just be able to do nothing at all. It is a luxury most single mothers don’t get.  I am very aware of this and incredibly grateful.  While most single parents (except for the exceptionally wealthy ones) have to get up every day, even during the summer, and rush off to a job only to come home and do the second shift then later fall exhausted into bed only to start the entire exercise wheel process over again, I do not have to do this for nearly 3 months of every year. It’s true I pay for it during the school year when I have no life, but it is worth it because on days like today, life is anything but pressured, harried, exhausting or stressed. 

 Of course, I could and have been caught up in that desire for the crazy lifestyle that rewards one with a penthouse view and status and money in the bank.  I was there many years ago, working in the San Francisco Bay area and commuting into my entry level management position with lots of promotional potential and making big money to cover the relatively low overhead I had at the time. Had I continued down that track, I am certain I would be enjoying a very different life than I am now.  I’d be living in a very different setting, doing very different things with very different people.  Part of me, at times wonders, how might my life have been different?

 Do you ever do this? Wondering how your life might be different if…if?  I call it “The What If Game”.  I suspect everyone spends time on this game show at one time or another. 

If I’d kept that job in the Bay Area instead of staying married and returning to Oregon.

 If I’d gone into journalism instead of teaching. 

 If I’d studied law instead of going to work.

 If I’d stayed single longer.

 If I’d married that boy instead of breaking it off.

If I’d…if I’d…if I’d….

The choice made, a job offer accepted or refused, an apartment rented instead of a home purchased, a family delayed or started unexpectedly or not at all, a relationship passed on, another fully explored and furthered. A vice casually stumbled upon which grips you insidiously till you realize one day it has you beyond your control.  A thought, a glance, a brief and casual encounter….the cumulative effect of the smallest insignificant encounters, like grains of sand on the beach, become strong enough and monumental enough to create a lifetime.  One little tweak in the design and the picture can be drastically altered.

 Choices.  Decisions.  Cause and effect.  Outcomes.  Paths not taken or taken that we can never retrace in order to change directions.  Nope.  Unlike getting lost on a road and simply turning the car around and going back in the direction from whence we came, life doesn’t allow u-turns.  Even if it did, the passage of time, our own maturing and that of others, the births and deaths of those we love, all these events change the path and the scenery along the way.

This is as it should be.  Even if it is not as it should be it is how it is.

When I go down the mental “I wonder” path, I never do this with regret.  I can’t regret.  I’ve learned too much and grown too much down the road I did travel to worry about it. I do it with curious interest and speculation. Yes, my life, had I made different choices at each juncture, would be very, very different.  But would it be better?  Worse?  Who knows?  I don’t care.  What I find important at this point is that I take less and less for granted these days. I’m glad for the paths I’ve traveled, the lessons I’ve learned, the ones I’m trying to master even now and the person I’ve become as the result.  I am so very content in many ways.

While I don’t sit around and dwell over the consequences of every little action, decision or behavior, I do enjoy contemplating the idea that you never know what path you might be heading down next.  Even when you think you know the path, even when you think you are choosing a particular direction to head, what the journey looks like and where you end up can be very, very different than you imagined.  It’s fun to just enjoy the journey rather than stressing out about when, where and how I’m going to get to the blasted destination. Of course, I don’t always feel this peaceful and un-rushed about it all. There are deadlines that loom and more tasks to accomplish than time to accomplish them most of the time, of course.  I know this.  

On summer days like these, though, it just really easy to appreciate the fact that life really is a series of journeys instead of a destination you head for.  With the stress of the daily routine temporarily at bay, it is fun to sit back and speculate about the road behind, the current road and the path(s) ahead.  I do this with just a mild amount of interest and anticipation.  It will be fun to look back a year from now and see how different things look from how they currently appear. 

 Until then, The What If Game holds no interest to me, because I’m too busy playing The What Next Game.  Where are you today?  Are you playing the What If Game and wishing you’d made different choices or are you grateful for the journey you’ve been on and are you looking forward to what’s around the corner?

What Type Of Mr. Right?

lunchI was out with a friend the other day for lunch.  She was sharing pictures of the home she and her husband just purchased and are fixing up.  As she showed me the pictures on her iPhone, I was impressed with the before and after scenes and how much work they’ve done in such a short time.  When I questioned her about how she and her husband accomplished it all, I received a wonderful loving description of her husband and all the things he did seemingly effortlessly on this home.  She concluded her praise of him with the words, “He totally puts Husband For Hire to shame!”  I thought this was especially touching since these two are past the honeymoon stage, have been together over 7 years, and are very much still “in love”. 

 Her words got me thinking.

First, the relationship she has with her husband is a rare thing.  In many ways, what she and her husband model for me (generally, not necessarily specifically) what I hope to have.  The key thing they share is a deep, abiding, mutual admiration and respect and love for each other.  They also both have their independent lives. 

Further, as a single mom who has no skills in home repair and who has no money to hire it done, I know how valuable a man with home repair skills is.  I also realize that there are many valuable ways people can contribute to a significant relationship. I was originally going to title this post “Two Kinds of Men” because I was thinking of the handyman and the guy who is not handy, but the more I considered the topic the more I realized there are more than just two kinds of men and far more than two ways to contribute to a relationship.  For fun, I came up with a few categories using broad brush strokes, I admit, that men can fall into.  You may be able to think of more.  In fact, I hope you do.  Leave your ideas in a comment or write your own post and link to me. That would be great fun!   Don’t worry, peeps.  I am working on a post about different types of women too,  but since men interest me more than women do, it was easier to start here.  ;)Enjoy!

therepairman 1.  The Handy Man.  This guy can fix, build or renovate anything.  You’ll never need to hire a repairman because even if you did The Handy Man could do it better and for less.  He has all the tools and knows how to use them.  If you find a guy like this, you’ll be able to have the home improvement jobs completed to your specifications every time.  You might have to get used to some unfinished projects around the house as the norm rather than the exception. This kind of guy is amazing and if you find yourself with someone like this, spoil him immensely.  He will build you a mansion of love from his own bare hands.

The Manager 2.  The Manager.  This guy isn’t handy, but he isn’t okay with things being in disrepair either.  He’s a conscientious sort who is willing to part with some money on occasion to make sure everything is looking great and in perfect working condition.  He makes enough money to be able to pay to put in that slider out the master bedroom onto that redwood deck with a pergola and a hot tub which he also paid to have done. He is too busy making money so he can keep his love and his family in the manner in which he is proud to keep them.  While he won’t hang the Christmas tree lights, he won’t leave it to his wife to do it.  He’ll hire the Christmas Tree Light Hanger Person to come and make sure that every little light is perfectly spaced and straight and lit. If you find yourself with a guy like this, you are just as fortunate as if you were with The Handy Man.  Guy Who Can Hire It Done is so responsible that he won’t let you down.  He’s so detail oriented that he won’t let whoever he hires get by with doing a sloppy job.  If you are with him, spoil him.  He is proud of what he can give and do for you and the family.  Appreciate it all and it will come back to you in spades or probably diamonds.

Wayne's World 3.  The Non Man.  The Non Man cannot do home repairs, he doesn’t make enough to make sure that the repairs are kept up around the house by a repairman and he doesn’t care. He’s a fun person, lives for the moment and could care less about responsibility. He’s great in bed, keeps his body in shape and looks and acts eternally 35 even though he may have left his 50’s behind long ago. If he has a job, it’s his 15th one in the last three years. He leaves all the heavy serious stuff of finances, home repair, cooking, laundry and yard work to his significant other or his mother to deal with, stress about and lose her health over. After all, he has to play World of Warcraft. If  you meet this man, move on quickly.  The sex will be great, but the rest of the time you’ll just be babysitting.

personal_chef 4.  The Chef.  Highly sought after by career women these days, this guy is just a bit overrated. This kind of guy probably gets invited to a lot of potlucks and has a lot of friends due to his culinary skills, however, cooking a great meal every night is not as useful a skill as being good at the home repairs.  After all, and I do speak from experience here, screwing up a really good meal is far easier to recover from financially than replacing that wall that was supposed to be a weight bearing wall and should never have been removed in the first place.  So, if all he brings to the table are his culinary skills, maybe you should look further.

The Partner5.  The Partner.  This man is golden.  He’s also a rare find. He is intelligent, capable, resourceful, has good table manners and uses good grammar when speaking and writing.  He’s smart enough to know not to belch at the dinner table, knows which fork to use in a nice restaurant and leaves the seat down for The Other Partner.  He’s a fully vested partner in the firm called Relationship. He doesn’t shirk responsibility, he has people skills, knows how to negotiate the differences in order to reach conclusions that work in the best interests of the other Partner and stakeholders in The Firm.  If he can’t fix it himself, he knows just the right person for the job and will make sure it gets done. He does what he says he will do and doesn’t make commitments he can’t keep.  He’s confident, not needy, won’t play games but will tell you exactly where he stands. When in corporate meetings he doesn’t seek to force his views or goals on others, but instead seeks to influence or persuade while fully allowing the other parties to make their own choices even though he might be very passionate about his own perspectives. He provides information and options instead of coercing. The Partner, while, intelligent, confident and capable, realizes that The Firm he is vested in is a collaborative team venture and not a top down organization where all the decisions run through the senior partner without consideration of the other entities involved.  He works hard and is fully committed to his own success as well as the success of The Firm and others he partners with.  He’s not a workaholic but recognizes that in order to be the best Partner he can be, he must take care of himself too. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself as a Partner in a Firm with a man like this stay with the Firm and work collaboratively with this man and you’ll be golden too!

A Song, Some Memories, The Kentucky Derby and A Passport

Sometimes I seriously wonder what rock I’ve been hiding under.  I mentioned in my last post that a friend sent me a song.  That song prompted me to go find the video for it and I got distracted and my last post happened instead of this one. 

Back in the day I was a fan of  The Human League, The Eurythmics, Men At Work, Bananarama and other groups of this musical genre.  Obviously, being a starving college student, I didn’t have tons of stereo equipment (unlike many of my friends who had the whole slew of components, thanks to their Daddys’ wallets) so I didn’t purchase albums or tapes.  I just listened to whatever people played.  I never heard this song.  Not once.  Until yesterday.

Now, those readers who’ve journeyed with me for a bit, know that I’ve lived under a rock ,for the most part, the last couple of decades of my life.  (Yes, I’m being a bit facetious…dont’ take everything so seriously!)  While most people were working on careers or having good marriages and building stable financial lives for their families, I was doing none of this.  What I was doing was occupying my time being something for someone else.  This something was not me and the resulting crash and burn of it all has me rethinking how to do the second half of life.  Part of that rethinking has me making plans to do all the stuff I’ve wanted to do, but because I lived under a rock with fairly unadventurous people, never did.  I no longer feel I need to have a companion with me before I begin my adventure.  I’m gradually crawling out from the rock. 

I sometimes get momentarily down and discouraged because the rock I’m crawling out from is heavy right now, however it is not nearly as heavy as it was last year at this time.  It is also not going to be this heavy next year at this time if things continue for me as they have been.  In fact, I determined that this year, in a step of faith and optimism and personal accountability, I am getting my passport.

I do sometimes feel like I’m starting out behind in life, but after this weekend’s Kentucky Derby race, I’m thinking it is still possible for me to come from behind and finish strong.  Below is a clip of that amazing race if you didn’t see it.   To see how really dramatic this upset was, forward the video to the end where they show the replay.  This horse started out the race 15 lengths behind the pack.  They didn’t even have him on the video for most of the race!  He just punched it at the end.  Hey, I think I can do that too!  Now, all I need is a good rider jockey!!!!  (LOL!  I could not resist that!)

Here’s the vid.  Enjoy!

Those College Years In Song

Most people go to college to gain skills to get a decent job so they can earn a living.  I went to college to escape my small rural hometown, and my restrictive home.  I had no idea what I wanted “to do when I grew up”.  In many ways I still don’t.  It was and is the classic case of so many options so little time.

Anyway, thought it would be kinda fun to chronicle the years through the songs that provided the backdrop to many of my activities during college. 

First, my main purpose for going to college:

One of my very first encounters with Weatherford Hall, an all male dorm, with some really interesting guys.  This building was amazing, so were some of the guys in it.  I loved some of the music I often heard blaring out those old windows on a Friday afternoon as I headed back from my last class of the day gearing up to kick into party mode.  No, I did not go to college in 1975.  Even though this was an older song by the time I hit the college scene, I never heard it until college.  It was still very popular in the early 80’s.

Then, of course, I dumped my high school boyfriend and got a new boyfriend and here’s what I thought of him:

Yeah, like so many others after him, he didn’t last long.

But then I changed my major to business and found out what the guys in the business school were all about:

And, living in Oregon, this was my theme song:

But I quickly learned that most guys don’t want to talk because well, they just don’t.  Takes a much older and more settled man to understand that good conversation is actually good foreplay, but, whatever!

I remember slow dancing with my last college boyfriend to this song.  Today, Sting, is still one of my favorite artists, and, though I loved this song at the time, I realize it was not his best by any means.  In fact, not sure now why I liked it so much then.

This summer didn’t remind me of any particular boyfriend, but the title reminds me of how I felt about the summer I had to return hom between my junior and senior year:

And, of course, what’s college without a little Greek experience going on?  I definitely had my share of all things Greek and this definitely was the backdrop to many a function and house dance.  I somehow also connect this song with workouts with the lifeguards and swim team members…and rollerskating through the city (now it would be roller blading). 

Ahhh, those were the days!  Living on someone else’s nickel but still being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. 

Now, if I could just only figure out what I want to be when I grow up.