5 Lessons Learned From My 3-Year-Old Self

Just yesterday,it seems, I was three, toddling around my grandparents’ property in Idaho; following my grandfather everywhere and chasing the neighbors chickens from across the road. These were happy, carefree days. I was surrounded by people I loved, in a location I loved, doing the things I loved, whatever that is at three, and nothing in my world was amiss. I looked forward to each moment. In fact, I was too busy enjoying each moment I had no concern for the next. My old mind now recalls those happy times as the endless days of summer. There were no rainy days both literally and figuratively.

Fast forward 50 years and the landscape dramatically shifts. I’m no longer three, no longer quite so carefree. My free-spirited happy-go-lucky three-year-old self morphed into a middle-aged woman with worries. There are wonderful summer days aplenty in my 50-year-old life. There are also many, many overcast and rainy days too.

When did I grow up? When did I take on the responsibilities and cares that fill my days? How and when did I lose that sense of existing only for the moment without worrying about or anticipating the next? Continue reading

Those Little Breaks in Life: Give Yourself Permission to Take One…or Two

There’s part of me that wants to call out in a high pitched, annoying, nasally voice, “I’m baaaaack!”, but how cliché is that? Instead, I just say I feel like doing it, instead of really doing it.  If you are a detail person, you’ve noticed that the last post before this one was dated April 6.  If you’re a relational person and you liked The Wild Mind, then you noticed I haven’t been writing and you missed me.

j0442825I Took A Little Break from Blogging

Well, not so little.  It was a big enough break to get me kicked off some of those rating sites and blog lists since I didn’t post anything in over 30 days.  It was a big enough break for me to finish up the onslaught of work projects, demands and deadlines I had going during the first half of this year. It was a big enough break to give me time to rethink things. A lot of things. Continue reading

Kicking Off The Holiday Season

j0422837 I have a friend who firmly believes that Halloween is the holiday that officially kicks off “The Holiday Season”.  Being a person who really knows how to entertain and, yes, even cook very fine meals, she is all about celebrating.  And she is good at it.  Whether you agree with my friend or not, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, followed immediately by the day now known as “Black Friday”  (only in America and when did that happen anyway?), it is clear The Holiday Season is well underway. 

The Problem

In years past, I was all about Christmas and decorating and making everything festive and, like my friend, I enjoyed celebrating in the company of family and friends.  But somewhere along the line things went horribly wrong and suddenly, The Holidays, have lost their appeal to me.  Or maybe I’ve just become very, very confused about does and does not matter when creating those memorable holiday moments.

Okay, things didn’t really go “horribly wrong”, at least, not all in one big life changing moment.  It was more like a gradual decline and I think I did it to myself.  Too much pressure, expectations for myself and those of others (mostly in-laws), the demands of being a new mom, starting a new demanding career at the same time (oh, yes, I do wish I’d played Solitudethat card differently), and the gradual erosion and decline of a marriage.  Along the way, The Holidays lost their charm.  They became something to be endured; a source of pain, frustration and immense exhaustion.

After the second divorce, I tried the best I could to make Christmas memorable for my children.  This wasn’t easy, since I was now in the place so many people find themselves in after divorce:  broke…if not bankrupt. I was definitely the former, scrambling to avoid the latter.  Looking back, I don’t even know how I survived that first Christmas because child support hadn’t even kicked in.  The second Christmas was also pulled off with meager finances and the third Christmas, last year, was the first Christmas my children spent away from me.  That was tough! 

  Yes, I am fully aware that in spite of the pretty lights, the happy smiles on people’s faces, the advertisements that boast loving couples, happy families, and joyous, grateful children with lavishly decorated homes where trees are standing amidst a treasure trove of gifts, the cost of which might easily feed a small third world nation somewhere for a year, The Holiday Season for many, is a season of pain, regret, disappointment, sadness and deep loneliness. Many of us, especially those of us who are Singles in a World of Couples dread the advent of the holidays because it means we will be attending yet another office party alone, waking up Christmas morning alone while the kids wake up and open presents elsewhere, eating alone with no one to greet us in the morning or drink a toast with us in the evening.  That awareness can gnaw at us and deprive us of joy, energy, and contentment.

A Solution:

Now, if I let it, that could depress me.  I could spend my time regretting the misused past.  I could spend my time fretting that I am now unable to provide my children with what I’d always wanted and hoped to be able to provide them materially. I could feel badly that I don’t have significant other to share the joys and sorrows (or my hot tub!) with.  I could get weepy that things are not exactly what I wanted or how I planned or imagined.  I could despair that things are not better than they are.  Sometimes I do.  Not for long.  Maybe only about two hours a month…if that.

Solution:  I don’t let it.  I’ve learned to enjoy what I have and be grateful that I have it.  I’ve also learned that things can always be worse.  After all, as one friend recently said to me, “You have a roof over your head, a good job, you are paying your bills haven’t had to foreclose on your home or file bankruptcy, you and your kids are healthy and you have food on the table.  It could be so much worse, so chin up!”

I’ve learned over the last three years to think differently about many things.  I now think differently about my holidays.  I think very differently about the holidays on those years when my kids will be away for Christmas Day.  I’m not so hesitant anymore to ask out that guy friend to my office Christmas Party.  I just make sure it is someone who understands that this is not a Friends With Benefits situation or that I have any illusions about us as a couple.j0444098  I’ve given myself permission to be single and to enjoy it.  I’ve given myself permission to take full advantage of the times when the kids are away.  I’ve met enough people and have plenty of friends that if I want a date to an event I can have one.  If I’m sitting home alone on a weekend night it is because I have chosen it, not because I have no other choice.  I’ve learned to be at peace with myself.

I no longer feel that I’m missing life if I stay home…alone…curled up on my couch in my lounge pants and t-shirt…in front of the fire.  Would it be fun to be using my couch differently?  Of course, but I’m not desperately hoping that will happen or thinking that it must happen in order for me to feel validated and alive.

Mostly, I’ve learned that the off times, those times when the kids are away at their other homes is a great time for me to work on the many home improvement tasks I have lined up.  I don’t have to worry about kids wanting to help with the painting or spreading the mess throughout the house. I don’t have to stop mid project to fix a meal and clean it up.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some j0438433of my adult friends that I have a more difficult time connecting with when the kids are around. It’s a great opportunity to get caught up on laundry and if all else fails…

…it is a wonderful time to try to learn to cook a new dish! 

Yeah, like that’ll happen anytime soon!

I do have questions though for those of you out there who, like me, have a shared custody or a parenting plan that means your children will be away from you some or all of the holiday season. 

How do you handle the holiday season when you don’t have your children with you to celebrate?

How has divorce changed how you celebrate the holidays?

 

 

My Own Personal Nirvana

kicking up heelsI have a secret time of the week that is all my own.  No one can touch it.  No one can invade it.  It is impossible to ruin. It is the very best part of the weeked for me.  It is my own personal holiday in a busy life. This is the time right after I’ve dropped my bags by the door, kicked off the work shoes, hugged and kissed the little one and said “Good-bye, have fun and be safe!” to her for the every other weekend that she goes to be with her dad.  It is the time right before I head out for evening festivities to blow off steam from a stressful week with other adults who’ve also had a stressful week and need some adult time as well.  I might not even go out.  I might stay in and simply revel in the silence (except for the stereo, always the stereo!) and enjoy the blissful solitude of not having to answer to anyone, of not having to be completely cheery,animated and confident when I really feel exhausted,  frazzled, uncertain and unprepared.  I don’t have to try to carry a conversation, diagnose a learning problem or strategize or organize anything. I don’t have the constant buzz of young voices in the background. I don’t have to be “on”.  I don’t have to be anything.  It is that time of the week that I do not have to do anything I do not want to do.  I don’t have to show up…or I can.  It is my choice. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of choice lately.  We all want it. In the U.S., it is an inalienable right. Some enjoy it more than others.  We have it and yet we don’t.  We make choices and those choices completely remove certain other choices from our plate of options.  Sometimes we make choices and the results of those choices take us down roads where we end up completely without any options whatsoever.  Being without options is not necessarily a bad thing either, but mostly, being without options in many cases and for many people translates as “trapped”, “caught”, “stuck”.  It can happen when choosing living arrangements, universities or vocational schools, relational partners, careers or geographical areas to settle in.  The tough thing about choice is that you can’t always tell whether the choice you make today will end you up in your own personal prison years down the road.

femalesillouetteOne thing I’ve noticed about myself  lately, and by lately I mean over the last couple of years, not just the last few weeks, is that more and more I want to create my own hoops to jump through.  I’m less inclined to want to jump through someone else’s hoops.  For example, when considering whether or not to return to grad school for that prized doctorate, I decided that I really just don’t want to go back to school (at least right now) in order to jump through someone else’s hoops to get a piece of paper that says I can now put a few additional letters behind my name. The degree wouldn’t necessarily give me many more options than I have now and it might even be one of those choices that lands me in the place where I feel very “trapped”, “caught”, “stuck”.  I decided to wait on the PhD. 

On the other hand, I enjoy jumping through certain hoops. My job for example is one area where I will jump through hoops.  I do this because I like the reward of the paycheck every month for doing so and I also like this because right now the idea of jumping through my own hoops in a self-employed sort of way presents far too much choice for me and far too much instability.  Choice, in that way, is not desirable to me.

Being trapped or caught or stuck by our choices can be an incredibly rewarding experience as in the context of relationship, for example.  Consider that rare relationship where you and your partner fit so amazingly well together in more ways than just the physical.  There is the right amount of closeness, intimacy and connection perfectly balanced with the exact amount of respect for each others’ differences and individual preferences and need for solitude or separateness. You can see doing life with this person and it is an exciting vision not an  uncertain venture.  In this case, the choice made leads to being limited in ways that are fulfilling and rewarding. The reality is, you are in a place that you are, to some degree, very limited in the range of certain kinds of choices you can make while certain other options have been completely eliminated.  Being without options in this scenario is not necessarily a bad thing.

Choice.  How to spend our money.  How to spend our time.  How to spend our lives.  Choice. 

Freedom.  Freedom from having to make choices.  Freedom to make choices.  Freedom to freefall.  Those are Friday afternoons for me.

Friday afternoon: those moments after the breakneck speed of a whirlwind week and right before the weekend is officially underway.  The entire weekend stretches before me filled with free choice and choosing my own hobluerayops to jump through in the order in which I choose to jump them.  No schedules to keep except those I implement.  No obligations to fulfill except ones I’ve chosen.  On Friday afternoon the weekend looms large and I don’t have to commit to any of it just yet. 

Choice and freedom.

To do…or not…as I choose.

This is my own personal Nirvana.

Some People

Some people are just real downers. 

These are the people who take everything happy and good and fun and find something wrong with it.

These are the folks who feel it is their duty to caution you.  It is impossible for them to ever rejoice with you…or anyone else.

They are filled with the worst possible scenario every minute of every day and they take precaution, caution and looking at life realistically to new levels.

They fill me with dread, doubt, fear and anxiety.

I worked with people like this for 8 years and was able to get along with them but the stress I endured was incredible.  I just wasn’t aware of it till I quit working with them. 

I simply can’t be around people who are over the top negative and cautious like this. Really, I am bad enough if left to my own devices.  I don’t need any help here.  I need to surround myself with “glass half full” types not “glass half empty and there’s nothing you can do to change it” types.

It’s just not healthy for me!  They stress me out.  Life is better than they say it is.  It is less dangerous than they suppose and for me to say that…well…that just tells you something!

Best Excuse Ever?

Okay, this post is only partially poking fun. 

Why is it we find it so difficult to be direct and honest with each other.  Somehow, the act of saying, “No thanks” or “I’m really not interested” or “I’d really rather not, thank-you” without cushioning it with some fabrication or white lie is difficult for us. Okay, let me narrow it down.  It seems to be difficult for us in the U.S. on the West Coast (since I have no other frame of reference culturally, let’s go with it for the sake of dialogue).  When someone wants to be with us or invites us out, it is difficult to say, “No thanks.”  Instead we say we are busy, we make up excuses we uncomfortably fabricate some prior commitment. We also do this (c’mon, you know you have, I have too) when we are in a relationship and don’t know quite how to end it.

What’s more, we buy into these excuses when others use them to escape us.   While these excuses may sometimes be valid and legit, many are excuses people give each other when they are just not into the other person and are too wimpy to simply say so.  Because they could be legit, it is often tough to tell when they aren’t really legit.  So we give the partner or our date the benefit of the doubt.  This is probably reasonable to do one or two times.  The problem is we give them the benefit of the doubt again and again and again and…you get my drift.  Before we know it, we’ve wasted a year or two or seven of our lives.  Here are a few of the more common excuses I’ve heard since entering the dating scene two years ago and hanging with other single women/men and hearing about their dating woes.

“I’m not feeling well.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t.  I have family coming in from out of town.”

“I have to work.” 

“I’m too tired after working.”

“I’m helping a friend move.”

….and so on and so on.  I’m sure you can come up with a few yourself.

Just yesterday, I heard the greatest excuse ever though.  From a healthy man  who was telling his girlfriend of nearly two years why he couldn’t get together with her (for now the 6th evening in a row).  Here’s the excuse, ready? 

“I couldn’t call or come over because I was having chest pains due to stress.”  (The stress of not dealing straight with your girlfriend, maybe?)

Okay, excuse me for just a moment while I wipe up the mess I caused by choking with laughter and spewing my drink all over the table when I heard this.  Seriously? 

Her response? Even better.  But first you have to know that she introduced the whole topic to me by saying, “He had a really good excuse for not coming over or calling last night.”

“Oh?” I asked.  Seriously, no excuse is good.  Either you want to be with me or you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you do, you will.  If you don’t,  you won’t.  If you aren’t I’m not spending any time wondering about it. My friend clearly doesn’t share my perspective.

“Yeah,” she said, “I mean, I could see that.  That happens to me too.”  Really?!  Okay, then!  We’ll go with that. 

I seriously don’t think I need to even mention it, but because there are morons out there who will actually attempt to convince me that there is a medical condition (I’m sure they’re right) that has these symptoms, let me just say this:  Whether there is a medical condition or not is not even the freaking point.

T he point is this: This is someone you supposedly love who supposedly loves you.  You are in pain and you don’t even tell them about it  until after the fact?  You don’t give them the opportunity to comfort and care about you in your time of need.  What’s more you don’t even call to say “here’s why I can’t come over?”  If it is that serious, you should have been over at the ER getting it checked out and even so, significant other should have (out of consideration and respect at the very least) have been notified.

I’m sorry.  I just don’t buy it.  On so many levels it just smacks of  just not being able to say the truth. 

If my friend is okay with that, then I wish her the best.  She is, after all, the one who will have to live with herself and her choices and his behavior.  I just know that what she is experiencing would not work for me, for so many reasons.  I simply desire something more and better than all that.

75 Degrees & Crazy April

See Cat Stressed
See Cat Stressed

Today it is a rockin’ 75 degrees outside.  This is the first in a series of really brutal weeks that will make up my April.  I’m calling it Crazy April. If  I make it successfully through this week, I will be nothing short of very impressed with me. If I make it through the month, I am going to celebrate.

First, grades are due this week, by the end of the day Wednesday.  I was busy straight through the weekend, unable to get much grading done and none today.  That means that tomorrow and Wednesday, are the only two days I have to get grades in and I can’t do this during school hours because usually I’m sitting back watching t.v. and eating bon bons teaching.  I say, usually, because I have a student teacher in my room who is doing her practicum and thus, I am relieved of most of my teaching duties, but none of my grunt labor supervisory duties. 

Today,  all by my lonesome, I had to make sure all the invitations to our Math After School Club for 140 students were printed, folded, labeled and delivered to classrooms so teachers could send them out today. breathe That Club starts next week and will run through the end of the month. I’m in charge of organizing it.  This means I’m scheduling nine teachers and four aides, coordinating schedules, gathering materials, training, communicating and basically running my butt off (this is a good thing) to make this thing happen. Oh, yeah, and I’m also responsible for coordinating the snack.  Yeah, this ought to be good!

Today, was the start of our After School Science Club which will run all week.  I am teaching a play with stuff and get pretty messy Hands On Science Inquiry segment.  This, like the Math Club, will take up all my after school planning time.  Fortunately, I can rely on my student teacher for some of that.  I’m glad she’s so competent.  This entire scenario would be a nightmare if she were not.  I must make a point to thank her and tell her how wonderful she really is.

The big finale is the Professional Development Class that I will crash and burn teach on May First.  This one has me in fits…well…it just does.  There’s nothing worse than teaching teachers.

Of course, in addition to all these things, life’s normal demands still exist.  For example, tonight, my second oldest daughter told me her play rehearsals changed from being over at 6 to starting at 6 and going till 8.  This completely wipes out the plans I made with my oldest daughter to go shopping for a prom dress after she gets off at 6.  Somewhere in all this mess I have to fit in dinner. 

So, it is a rockin’ 75 degrees outside and I am not able to be out in it grading papers.  Instead, I’m here, offgassing some of the stress of my week and celebrating the fact that I made it through Day 1 of Crazy April. 

tablesettingWhen it is all over, I’ll have a few additional dollars in my paycheck and this will be a great thing.  I’ve already decided that I’m buying 2 tickets to the Special Olympics Wine, Food & Chocolate tasting event on May 2nd which is the day after all this ends.  I’m going to treat a special friend ( identity yet to be determined) and I’m just going to go and celebrate a month well done.  But I have to get there first! 🙂

It Appears I’m The One Going Silent This Time…Sorta

A short post tonight.  I’m tired.   I still have a ton to do before tomorrow, when I can hop in the car and travel 90 minutes north for my mini-vacation of sorts with The Beau.  We have plans to relax (I’ll probably collapse) Friday evening.  Knowing him, he’ll cook for me, I’ll eat, we’ll talk till wee hours of the morning (yeah, right). 

Saturday morning, he’s cleaning his garage, I’m going to grade papers.

Saturday afternoon it is a wine pairing session at our winery.  That will be fun.  I will actually be able to talk intelligently about something I know nothing about afterward.  Okay…I am becoming such the wine snob.  Not!  However, it is true.  I now know the difference between a $15 bottle of wine and a $6 bottle of wine.  And the $30 bottle?  Oh my! 

Then Saturday evening I do believe we have a concert he’s lined up.  I really like not having to be the one to come up with ideas for stuff all the time.  I dated one guy recently and he couldn’t make a decision if his life depended upon it.  I’m a pretty decisive person most of the time, but that one wore me out.  I was actually glad he went silent.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be dating someone who is somewhat imaginative, creative and, yes, takes the initiative, oh, wait, and he communicates too.  Wow.  What a concept. 

I’m going to be behind on laundry when I get back, but…it will be worth it. 

Okay, I have to go.  I’m tired.  I have a big day tomorrow.  I probably won’t post much this weekend…for obvious reasons.  Ha!Ha!  It appears I’ll be the one going silent this time.  Okay, but I warned you in advance and it isn’t indefinitely.  So don’t be too unhappy.  I will be back with stories to tell. 

Sorry for the rambling, disjointed post, but I’m about ready to fall off this chair.  I’m going to be surprised if I reread this and there are less than a dozen typos.  I’m really that exhausted.

It Feels Like Finals Week To Me!

Here’s when you know you spend way too much time on the computer:

computer-addict

This is me lately.  I’ve spent the better part of this last weekend glued to my computer.  Sadly, I do have to leave to go take care of bodily functions, and feed myself and the other residents of the household.

I have a big parenting presentation that I’m giving  tonight to the parents of the school I work for.  Well, it was supposed to be parents of just our school, but it ended up being opened to other schools in the district to offer to their families…and…well.  What was supposed to be a somewhat small trial run is turning out to be something a bit more than trial or small. I can only hope the numbers are small to begin with since it will be my first run through with this material.  I’m still nervous, even though giving speeches and public presentation was the focus of my entire undergraduate work.  The content of this particular presentation is the focus of my graduate work and of particular interest in my own home since just before my divorce.  In spite of being knowledgeable and practiced, for lack of a better word, I’m still nervous. 

I also have another big presentation on Friday and this one scares me more because I’ll be presenting to the worst possible audience: my own colleagues, teachers.  They’ll do everything the kids do only worse because they are less responsive than children.  I’m also teaching the worst possible topic: technology in the classroom and this week’s focus: web sites for teachers. 

So worst audience + worst topic = complete disaster.

or I could look at it more positively:

Worst Week Of School Year This Year (in terms of extra curricular stress)+ Worst Finale on Friday with Teachers and Technology= Great Excuse To Get The Heck Out Of Dodge This Weekend and Go To The Wine Pairing Seminar With The Beau, more wine tasting afterward, and yadda yadda fun fun!

Sounds like I’ll plan on looking at it more positively. 🙂  

It feels like finals week to me.  This is what I always told myself during finals week.  I said, “Self, there’s nothing you can do to change the time you’ve wasted, lost, not spent studying or preparing.  Your going to go through this week and what the grades are the grades are.  Look on the bright side, a week from now, no one will give a rats a** about any of it, least of all you.  Relax!”

So, that’s what I’m telling myself today. 

But now, I really do have to get back to that computer and get to work…wait…I never left did I?

Sunday Evening Something Or Other

Wait a minute?  Didn’t I start my winter “break” on Friday????  I haven’t noticed any slowing of the pace indicating a more relaxed state of affairs as usually occurs on a break. 

Not me! I’ve had stuff going for three days straight.  It is Sunday evening, I’m a bit tired, have a headache and am going to go intentionally slow the pace. 

It’s quiet and warm inside, wet and blustery outside.  The perfect weather for curling up on the couch with the laptop and banging out a few ideas that have been swimming around in The Wild Mind for a few days now.  After staring at the blank screen, making several false starts and backspacing them all back to the original white screen, I’ve decided I need to just veg.  I’m tired.  I’m not feeling well (ugh!) hope I don’t come down with anything over the break, and I just need to not pressure myself right now.

It’s wonderful to know I don’t  have to get up early and start the weekly rat race again tomorrow.  That’s why I’m going to go to watch a mindless movie on the tube and probably fall asleep in front of the fire….at only 8 something in the evening on a Sunday.  After a fab weekend of parties and outings it just doesn’t get any better than that. 

I do have so many things swirling around in this Wild Mind.  The ideas are sure to force themselves out into text soon.  Stay tuned.