I didn’t know I was having vision problems until the DMV pointed it out to me. A pair of glasses fixed it.
Driving at night was becoming a problem for me. I wasn’t sure if it was the desert darkness on the highway late at night, worn out from long rehearsals, or just the fact that I was getting older, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to see at night. The glare of the headlights coming in my direction made it impossible for me to focus. My sons would keep an eye out on the road for people walking along the highway at night. Why people would choose to do that, I will never understand. For self-preservation alone, why do they not carry a flashlight or have something reflective on?
I continued to make the drive, carefully, only because I didn’t need to read the signs to know where to go between the theater and home, but I was starting to limit my excursions to daytime activities. Driving in unfamiliar places in the dark was becoming impossible. This must be part of getting older, I thought, although I would never have admitted it out loud.
As my 40th birthday approached, I found a driver’s license renewal from the DMV in my mailbox. Opening it, I figured I was going to have to pay the fee and be done with it. I’ve never gotten a ticket or been in an accident. To my dismay, I found I’d have to go in for a vision test. No problem, I thought, at least I don’t have to take the test again. Don’t make fun of me, but I barely passed the written and behind-the-wheel test when I was 16! I live in mortal fear of the day I have to study and take it again.
I made an appointment at the DMV and headed into the city the following month. I covered one eye and read the letters on the board ahead of me, as instructed. No problem. When I covered the other eye, the world went blurry. I could only read the first and second line! The DMV employee had me read it off the computer. “Sometimes the computer screen is easier.” She told me. I still couldn’t read it.
It was the strangest feeling. I’ve never had vision problems. My mother always wore glasses and I used to tease her when I was a teenager. Coming home in the middle of the night, knowing she couldn’t see the clock without her glasses, I’d tell her it was only 10:30 when she would groggily ask from her bed when we had woken her. My brother and I thought we were so clever.
I stood there at the DMV trying to focus on the letters to no avail. The DMV worker was so nice about it. She passed me but suggested that I get glasses right away. I made an appointment the next day. My vision was that bad. When I got my new glasses a few weeks later, I was absolutely amazed at how much better I could see. At night, the lights no longer fuzzed out and blinded me and during the day, I could see read the signs so much sooner.
Strange to think I hadn’t noticed my vision getting worse, that I believed I was seeing the world as I had always seen it. How could I have not noticed such a dramatic change?
That’s how we see life. The world around us is only our personal reality, shaped by time and experience that only we can have. No one else sees it just the way you do. It builds up slowly, day after day, experience after experience. And at any moment, something can come along to change that perception, someone can alter your perspective with a word. One experience can show you that you are missing something, and another can offer you new insight. Your whole world changes.
I could have stood there and argued with the DMV worker. There must be something wrong with your machine! Maybe there was something in my eye, I was tired, or it was allergies. I could have stood there holding tightly to my own perception of reality and never gotten any help. I could have continued to squint into the night and cause an accident or gone through life not knowing that there were trees on the top of that hill.
Hold lightly to your perceived reality, it makes it so much easier to change. There is so much we miss by holding on to the past and what we believe to be true, never changing.
I recently woke up from a dream that was so different, so excitingly new that instead of sighing peacefully and going back to sleep hoping I’d remember it in the morning, I jumped out of bed to jot down my impressions to insure it’s survival.
My journal was on my desk, not beside my bed, so I slipped out of bed and quietly padded to my office. I flipped on the light and sat down at my desk to write. As I opened my book and picked up my pen my phone dinged. A message at this hour. Everyone knows I’m sound asleep and I haven’t touched anything to alert the all-seeing social media of my activity.
“Are you sleeping?”
A message from an online friend.
“No! I just woke up from an amazing dream and came to write it down. And here you are!”
The conversation went on for half an hour. I dreamed that I was talking with an old comedienne that looked a lot like my Grandma Shirley. She told me that I was really funny, hilarious, and that I should try stand up comedy, try acting. I told her I had acted in the past but was never very good at it. She begged to differ and told me she knew talent when she saw it. She took me to a party with her and there were other famous people there, actors, directors and such. She introduced me and they all confirmed that I had something. And then I woke up. I wasn’t startled awake, I was laying there content. I felt accepted, proud, self-confident. I wanted to remember that feeling. That’s why I got up to write it down.
Telling my friend about it, he suggested that I do what my dream suggested. I’ll admit that I’ve thought about it before. When I was teenager, I took plenty of acting classes and was in several high school shows, but I was too self-conscious to do it well. Acting takes complete self abandonment; going up there as if you are the center of the universe, with no thought to whether or not anyone will like it. Talent or not, you can’t see it unless you throw the robes off and stand there naked before the whole audience. I could not do it. I hid myself.
These days I wonder, would I be able to do it now? Am I self-confident enough to let go? There is a small community theater here. I could go down and audition. I went back to bed with these thoughts on my mind.
When I woke up in the morning, I was still thinking about it. I’d slept soundly knowing the dream was safe in my journal and the idea tucked away in my messages. I started my morning routine thinking I’d go back in a few hours and rethink it all. Nestled down in my spot on the couch, book in hand, I relaxed into my morning.
After a bit, I mentioned the dream to my husband who listened attentively, but as I told it something started to swirl around in my head. This dream wasn’t about acting. It’s about self-confidence. I got another cup of coffee and picked up my journal.
As the morning progressed, more ideas started to fall into place. I accosted my teenage sons as they stumbled sleepily into the livingroom. I had to talk more of this idea out and they just happened across my path as it was coming together. I don’t know what I’ll do when they move out and I lose my captive audience. Pity my poor husband!
I’ve always been a dreamer, not the pie in the sky, big ideas kind of dreamer, but I almost always dream when I sleep. I dream vivid and realistic dreams generally every night, especially when my anxiety is high. While most of the time my dreams are varied and colorful, there are a few that are recurring. They revolve around being left behind, trying to be understood, or being without help in a crisis. This dream was different and that’s what got me so excited.
This dream was encouraging and left me feeling supported and loved, pushed from beyond. And it wasn’t about acting at all. It only took that form because that was my past experience. Like I told my sons, I know not everyone believes in spiritual dream stuff and, to be honest, I don’t either, but I do believe in subconscious work. I’ve been working on some big things the past couple of years. For the past few months I’ve felt stuck and unsure how or if to proceed. This dream shook something loose in me.
A side note, but related, I haven’t thought much about my Aunt or Grandmother since they passed away years ago, but over the last couple of weeks they have come up several times. I reconnected with my Uncle and cousin, I randomly met someone he knows, my cousin posted about his mother, and then this dream with the face of my Grandma. Those two women were a big part of my life growing up, but I lost them in my early thirties. I hadn’t thought I had lost much until now. What could they teach me now about being in my forties? Those were strong, bold beautiful women. I’m feeling a need for their confidence and support. This dream is a piece of that, another reason I believe in an afterlife that touches this one.
What in the world am I talking about? I’ve been rambling on for pages! Writing! I can’t say I’ve always wanted to write or that I’ve been writing since I could read. I can’t say that I have several stories, books, or poems stored up just waiting for the right publisher to come along. I can say that I have always had something to say.
I feel like I’ve had something hidden away from me for years. Like those stories you hear about a princess raised by farmers and finds out who she really is. I’ve never felt like I fit in with the women in my mother’s family and when the women in my father’s family were alive I was too afraid of them to really embrace them. I feel like a combination of both, not quite as crazy and wild (the slightly self destructive that I thought they were) and not as timid and reserved as my mother’s family. I need to tap into the “training” of my mother and her mom; the quiet, calm, and respectable side; AND the wild, free-ranging, self-assuredness of my dad’s sister and mother.
I wrote these words a couple of days ago and closed my notebook thinking it all seemed like it was an idea going nowhere, just like the thousand other times I’ve felt like I had something solid in my hands but when I looked directly at it, it turned to air.
Today, I’m in a RV park in Montpelier, Idaho, reading it over again and seeing something else. That’s a realization in and of itself. I’m reminded of a story somewhere when someone is blindfolded and writes in a trance, then goes back to read what is on the page and finds someone else’s words. It does make sense. There is a message there. And if the message is there for me, the odds are that someone else might need to hear it as well, so I keep writing.
Where am I going? That’s probably what you’re asking, and exactly what I’m asking myself. I think the point my subconscious is trying to make is that “fortune favors the bold.” I’ve never been one to self-promote. “I’m shy.” I tell people, but not in an introverted way. I’m not happier when I’m alone. While I do enjoy the pleasure of my own company, while I do love making time to sit quietly alone with my thoughts so better to write them down, I am not fueled by that. I crave regular interaction with people, as if fueled by the energy of our connections. But I am so self-conscious, worried about doing the wrong thing, offending someone with my words, not fitting in with others, that it sometimes stops me from doing the things I want to do. That’s something I am working to change and my next step is here.
I’ve been plagued with a few thoughts since I finished the big project of writing my first story. The first of which is, now that the story is down on paper, what should I do next? It’s memoir and very personal to me. I’m terrified of promoting it and then having to defend it. As I’m writing these words something just dawned on me. Maybe that story shouldn’t be the first thing I promote. I have so much more I could be writing and promoting.
I recently came across a Tim Hawkins sticker that struck me as perfect for what I really want to do here.
“Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.”
He was talking about comedy, but I think it’s so much bigger. Maybe comedy isn’t just an entertainment, maybe it’s philosophy for the light hearted. Which connects me to my dream again. I’ve always been someone who notices things. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always carried so much anxiety. I love to read. I love to watch, to experience. I love being among people, maybe not in front of, or leading, but quietly among them, soaking up their energy.
Throughout my life I’ve taken notes; journals and notebooks full of my thoughts and ideas, questions, and observances. When I write I rarely know where it will go, what will be the outcome of my tapping at the screen. The connections come to me while I write the same way they come to me during a conversation, spontaneously and not always fully formed. The more I write, the more I think, the more the idea takes a stronger form.
In the past, my blog posts are written on the spot. I have an idea, or want to review a book I just read, so I sit down and tap out the first words that come to mind. I immediately look back through it and post it that same hour. I’d like to change that.
As I spend my first two week vacation alone with my husband since we had kids, I’m spending a lot of time walking, driving, thinking, and talking. With no kids to care for, and an introverted husband that thoroughly enjoys his quiet time, I have had plenty of time to think, write, and rewrite. I have been using this time as a writing retreat and my intention is to build up a few articles, like this one and others, so that I can begin posting something more complete several days a week while I work on new observations to post later.
I’ve had a terrible time putting that into coherent words!
What will I write? Observations. I’ve struggled with that for a long time and with Tim Hawkin’s bumper sticker, it finally dawned on me. It’s perfectly acceptable to live life, take notes, and tell strangers. It is simple philosophy and something I enjoy and feel confident doing. Hopefully, someone out there will find my observations interesting or helpful!
You know when you learn something about someone that makes you feel less about them? Like you learn something about their past, their feelings about something important to you, the things they did growing up, or the things they do now and you’re like, “Ew. I do not want to get involved with that person!” But maybe if you did, you’d learn something about the world and about yourself; if you could separate the learning from the painful experience of dealing with someone else’s growing pains.
We all experience this with the people we meet, whether we want to or not, but we wouldn’t go looking for it and if we did, we’d be a mess. No one goes looking for pain…but many times painful experiences teach us the most about ourselves.
Reading fiction, novels, lets us do that without so much emotional personal pain. We experience other people’s lives and learn from them, but we don’t hurt from it as much because it’s not real, or if it is kind of real, at least it didn’t happen to us. It’s like looking at Medusa through a mirror. She won’t turn you to stone but she’s still hideous to see.
I’m reading a novel right now that makes me look at my life, my behavior and wonder if I have grown up at all the last 20 years. The characters in it closely resemble characters from my own life in my early twenties. I can identify with many of them and some of them I don’t understand at all, much like some of the people I worked with back then.
It’s fascinating learning from other people’s choices and points of view. Back then, when I was in college, would I have made similar choices if I were in that situation? Would I make different choices now? I believe I would but, to be honest, I’m not so sure. Sometimes I think I’m more mature, more open, more thoughtful, and then sometimes I catch myself falling into a tantrum fit over something instead of having a reasonable conversation. Some things about myself I want to change so badly and I realize there are some things I just need to accept.
But this isn’t about my behavior! It’s about novels and why we read them. Sure, they can be great entertainment, but they can be so much more if you let them, if you read them the right way, with your mind opened to learning from other people’s lives, fictional or not.
The best part about the character in a novel is that you get to hear their thought process, the reasons behind what they are doing. We rarely get that in real life. We only see our side of an argument, of a relationship, or an altercation in the workplace, on the road, etc. We only see our point of view. In a novel, we get to see all of it.
For me, reading novels reminds me that other people in this world are actually people with their own lives and agendas, their own traumatic childhood or disastrous family. The person at the stop sign next to me is not an NPC (non-player character) in my game of life. I had to go ask my son what that’s called, by the way. Do you know what I’m talking about? Those characters in the game that just fill space or give some background to the scene? They don’t really do anything. You can’t interact with them other than push them out of the way or run around them to kill time. The people in the grocery store aren’t like that. If you talk to them, they’ll remember it and go home thinking, “Wow. That person was so nice.” Or “What an ass!” They aren’t always there standing in line behind you or wandering the aisles looking for soup.
We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we start to think of the people around us as NPC’s. But I digress yet again.
Go read a book. Fiction is just as important as non-fiction! We can’t let ourselves get too wrapped up in it though, just like we can’t get too wrapped up in other people’s drama in real life. We learn what we can from story characters. Real people do need a bit more of our attention and love, but the bottom line is that their life is theirs, not ours. Besides, I have too much to read to take on your crazy life as well as my own!
Someone asked me what I do last week and I told them, proudly, “I’m a writer.”
“Really? What do you write about?”
“Well…I write a blog…about…stuff. Books and such mostly. Things I think about.”
It sounded so vague. I’ve read loads of articles about blogging and keeping to a topic or theme, but I just have never been able to do it. I write about what comes up in my life, what I’m reading, what I’m seeing, how I feel about things. I try to find the meaning behind what I’m experiencing. Philosophical stuff.
Wait. Is what I write here “philosophy”?
I’ve read a lot of philosophy. Most of it, Socrates and Plato, seem beyond my understanding, but I love it. My son recently took a philosophy class in college and I was thrilled to hear all about it. I didn’t take any classes like that when I was in college. I was too busy in the theater, building and painting sets, being an “artist.”
Then a few days ago, I was reading an article in Philosophy Now about “The Decline and Rebirth of Philosophy.” The article talked about how we’ve separated philosophy out of everything and treated it like a science. It’s just not a science. You can’t talk philosophy all on its own without history, religion, relationships, etc. It how we talk about those things. History without philosophy is just a list of dates. Religion without philosophy is just doctrine. Relationships without philosophy is just social contract.
I found comforting words from the article, like “fancying themselves as experts on subjects on which there can be no expertise.” There are no expert philosophers! How do you like that?
In my opinion, we’re all philosophers to a degree. We all think about the relationships between things. We all try to live by a certain philosophy of love, kindness, selfishness, whatever. Some of us just like to talk about it more.
I googled “simple definition of philosophy” and found this on Wikipedia,
Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.
I’d say that’s exactly what I write about. I see things, I think about them, I connect them to other things. I ask questions. I wonder. Books, social media, family, flowers, non-profits, history, relationships, parenting, homeschooling; my posts tend to be all over the place but they’re not. They all revolve around “Why?” I want to know why we are all going crazy over social media, why we send our kids to schools, why we spend our sexual lives with only one person.
I’m not writing to solve anything. I’m not telling anyone what is right or wrong. I’m only adding to the ongoing discussion. It’s one of the great things about the internet! So many ideas. So many discussions to be had. And all we do is insult people and watch funny cat videos.
Here’s another gem from the article, “philosophical disagreements are by nature unresolvable.” That doesn’t mean there’s no point in discussing it! Philosophy will never be finished. It’s a fractal. The more we talk, the more discover, the more there is to discover. We’re complex beings in more ways than one!
Now I’m not only a “writer” when I tell people what I do, I’m also a “philosopher.” My blog is about my philosophy, my thought process, my life. I want to share those ideas through my writing, not only to see if anyone else thinks the same way, but how they may think differently. Or, on my bad days, if anyone is thinking at all.
One of the books that has been suggested to me several times over the years is Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I finally got around to reading it and I’m disappointed in myself that I did read it twenty years ago. My suggestion? Go out and get this book right now and read it. It’s a tiny book and will take you just a few hours to read, less if you skip the first part, which you should NOT. If there ever was a list of required reading for life, this book would be on it.
In the first part of the book he talks about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. I’ll admit that I did speed read through this part of the book a bit. It’s sickening, really, and I’m not easily scared off from reading real horror accounts. I do highly recommend reading it. It gives powerful insight and background to the second part of the book.
A few of my favorite quotes from this part of the book were,
“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
When I ask myself, ‘How can people behave this way?’, this makes sense of it to some degree.
“It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”
My answer to those that lose their minds at those who poke fun at negative situations. If they can, I can.
“They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Think about this. If someone who spent three years in a concentration camp can feel this way, why can’t you? At every turn, we have a choice to make. Do we meet this day with a positive attitude, with kindness, with compassion, with pride? Or do we throw ourselves into the mud and wallow in depravity?
“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and mediation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it consistently sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment.”
This one hit me hard and it’s something I struggle with all the time. There is no general answer to “What is the meaning of life?” The answer may be 42 but we don’t really know the question. By the way, Douglas Adams was on to something there, so go read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” if you haven’t already.
Why do we not know the question? Because it’s different for everyone and different every day of one’s life. My meaning now was not my meaning yesterday and it was never yours.
And then there is the idea of taking “right action.” What does that mean? Was my right action in my teens and twenties, finding a family of my own? Was it focusing on raising my children in my thirties? What is it now? Is it writing this? Volunteering? Working another job? Traveling? I just don’t know yet but I do get closer to the meaning every day, only to be farther along in my journey and have the meaning change again. Like he says later in the book, maybe we just can’t know what our meaning really is until after we’ve lived it. I like looking back at my life and seeing my collection of experiences and trying to make sense of it all. I can’t imagine what today will look like from twenty years from now.
The second part of the book is about his theory of “logotherapy” which really made sense to me. Should I go into it here? Why not? I’ll share a couple of my favorite quotes, but PLEASE go read this book for yourself. You will not regret it!
“Not every conflict is necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict is normal and healthy.”
What? Please! You mean being sad for a moment, hours, or days, doesn’t necessarily mean I need to fix something?! Being angry or put out about someone’s behavior doesn’t always mean I have anger issues?! Feelings are transitory. See what they mean, learn from them, or don’t, and then let them go.
He talks about homeostasis being great for biology, but in human nature, not so much. Humans don’t like being bored. We can’t grow when we’re bored. We’re always moving from one extreme to another, ecstatic to depressed. I’ve kept a journal for years and I love going back and reading old entries. In my writing, I can watch myself rise to great happy heights and plunge to depressing depths, sometimes several times in a day. Each time it happened I was learning something about myself, about what I wanted in life, where I needed to go, finding my own meaning. I wish I could see it as it happened more often. I wish I could realize more quickly that my lows will be followed by highs again, but I guess that’s the nature of life. Transitory and partially blind.
Here’s another sweet one!
“Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.”
Pleasure is a side-effect of your trip to Disneyland, not the goal. The goal is to spend time with your children, experiencing the artwork, the people, the food, the smells. The goal is to get there safely, to not spend too much money, and to BE there.
“I’ve spent all this time and money to be here, YOU WILL be happy that we’re here!” I’ve heard something to that effect too many times to count. They’re missing the point and making pleasure the goal instead of the side effect.
All of life is like that. My goal today is not to be happy. It is to finish my work, clean my house, spend time in the yard, and eat dinner with my family. Pleasure will be the by-product of that.
And the last one from this part of the book…
“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.”
We are not things. A table is useful because it is level and solid. A house is a house because it shelters you. A human is a human, independent and free. It does not matter if he is useful to anyone else but himself. He is not less of man because he cannot walk or talk. She is not less of a woman because she cannot bear children or read.
Ultimately it is up to you to determine your own self-worth, your own meaning of life. We can always be moving toward that self-understanding in some small way and we should never give that up, even in the worst of circumstances. That’s what Viktor Frankl’s time in hell taught him and what he brought out of it for us.
I’m changing my status to “self-employed.” I believe I’ve earned that description even though I don’t earn an income from what I do every day. Anyone that is home all day and not at a job for someone else is self-employed in my opinion. We have work that needs to be done. It’s just that the work we have is self-imposed…mostly. And just because that work is self-imposed, doesn’t make it less important!
Yesterday, I created yet another new schedule for myself to get the things I want to do done every day. My day is like that puzzle game with the cars. I loved this game as a kid. I still have one! The goal is to get the red car off the board by maneuvering the other cars out of the way, without lifting them off the board of course!
I have several things I want to get done each day, week, or month. That’s the red car! The number of hours in the day are the playing board and each activities requirements (uninterrupted quiet, wide awake, not too hot, etc.) are the other cars on the board.
In the game, there are cards to show you how to set up the board and then you move the cars around to get your red car out. My circumstances are those cards! When I was younger it was a job I was working around and family life, boyfriends, friends, and school. Then I added my husband, my children, and in-laws. It’s changing again now that my children are almost grown and on their own…mostly.
Over the years I’ve added things I want to do too. It used to be just getting through the day alive was the goal! Well, I guess that’s always been the goal really. But the things I’ve been interested in have changed over the years; read this book, write this story, knitting, gardening, a cool job, a new friend, etc. The cars on the board of life are constantly changing!
I get overwhelmed at times, trying to sort through what I want to do, prioritize, and organized my day so I feel like I’m making progress in the world. I usually run through a cycle of building up ideas, trying to put them into practice, starting to feel like it’s all too much, and then ditching some things and finding a nice balance. It always cycles back to building up ideas again though! The book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown helped me put that into perspective and made it a lot easier to let some things go. The playing board is only so big. Only cars go on it, not tugboats, cats, trees, and chess pieces.
Removing the obstacle cars is not an option. Even if it were, what would be the point? Just moving your car off the board in one direction isn’t any fun, which reminds me of the book, “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday!
Right now, I want to read for at least two hours every, write for two hours (or at least sit at my computer) five days a week, do my yoga practice four days a week, and get an hour’s worth of house cleaning in daily. There are other things too, like being there when my family needs me, making dinner, and spending time with my main squeeze.
And here I am now tapping away, right in the middle of my new schedule, and new things pop up. My son is sick, my mother-in-law needs something, my husband is on the phone. I’m sticking to my schedule. I promised I’d sit here and write for two hours, from 8 AM to 10 AM. Sure, I may need a cup of coffee and my big baby boy of a seventeen-year-old might need ibuprofen and a glass of water, but I go right back to the writing. The only way to get better is to spend the time practicing, right?
Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism.
I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it.
Subscribe with your email if you’d like to be notified when the next part is posted!
To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.
Sometimes looking back through old calendars and journals, I get sad. I’m doing it because I’m trying to better remember the week before I was arrested so that I can write about our life up to that point. Memories are fuzzy, but journals…well, they leave the cold details of the dark place I was entering at the time right out there for anyone to find. I want to burn them so no one can see. But I also want this story to get out there, all of it, so I trudge through and then try to write it out so that it looks happier than it does on paper. So much drama in my heart and on my mind. I’m not sure I want to remember and share it.
I was in the thick of the toddler years of defiance. My boys were becoming their own persons and making sure that I knew it at every step. On top of that, they had totally different personalities.
My older son was 3½ years old, strong willed and full of questions, testing everything he could find around him, curious about the world around him. He was inquisitive, happy, talkative, and always wanting to try things.
My younger son had just turned two. Although he had few words, he knew what he wanted and always seemed to be thinking about something. What everyone around him was doing was of no interest usually, unless it was his Dad. He always wanted to know what Dad was doing.
My journals are filled with what we did each day and grumblings about them not listening to me, or that they wouldn’t go to sleep, worries about Nikki, and my family. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for about a year and wanted to come off it. It dulled all my senses, made me sleepy and added even more pounds than my birth control pills. I still wasn’t happy while taking them but at least I wasn’t angry anymore. There was this nagging feeling that I really didn’t need them. I just needed to catch up on sleep and then I’d be able to control my emotions again. I had tried coming off them, fell into an angry depression, and then reluctantly started taking them again hoping I hadn’t done too much damage to the relationships with my husband and children. There was much more work to do before I could come off those drugs. I needed help. I didn’t feel therapy was working. Feeling like I belonged at church helped more, and it was free.
I didn’t like the person I was. I felt like I was just getting along. I had friends and activities but no goals, no vision of the future. In hindsight, I wish I had realized at the time what was going on. I was right where I should have been, focused on raising my children. I kept going backwards in my mind, wondering what I was doing and where I was going. I was being a Mom of small children. I fully enjoyed being just Mom, why couldn’t I see that and relax into it? My children seemed to be happy…unless they were going to bed, which was when I had the most time to write in my journal. I did it to distract myself from the antics going on around me. I refused to let them cry themselves to sleep and they refused to go to sleep without me. So there I sat with my journal, my bible, and my book, trying not to let myself get angry at the two little ones unwillingly ending their day.
Evenings went something like this. After dinner, we’d begin our “routine”. We’d say goodnight to Dad, sister, and grandma. We’d enthusiastically climb up the stairs to pick out books to read. One for each boy. And one for me, usually a longer book that I wanted to share with the boys. We’d brush our teeth and get into our PJ’s, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and snuggle down on the bottom bunk together. There was usually one boy on each side of me, kind of picaresque like. We’d read “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Curious George” for the hundredth time, mimicking the characters and acting out scenes. Jake would “read” the book himself, turning pages and telling us what each person said in his tiny baby words. Once those books were read, the boys would get into bed, one at each end of the bottom bunk. Neither one wanted to sleep on the top. It was too scary! We’d dismantle the bunk beds soon and never put them up again. They only used it as a jungle gym and it was just a matter of time before one of them got seriously hurt anyway. I’d sit in my rocking chair (the one my Grandma had and gave to me when I got my first apartment on my own), open the book I’d chosen and start to read. They loved any book I’d read out loud, mostly because it let them stay awake that much longer. We read things like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Pinocchio”. Sometimes I’d have to stop reading to fix a blanket or separate little feet from kicking. I’d read a chapter, close the book, and then the antics began.
I could feel my temper start to rise every night. One wanted the window open, one wanted it closed. One wanted to talk and wiggle himself to sleep and the other needed complete silence to settle down. We tried going to bed one at a time and it failed miserably. They didn’t like to be separated either. I wish I’d had more patience back then. I wish I had just taken a deep breath and let it go, but as I sat there writing a bit in my journal and trying to read the bible passage in my devotional, I wondered if they’d ever go to sleep. Many nights I just gave up and laid down on the floor next to them or in bed with them and went to sleep, only to wake up a while later and crawl into bed with my husband. I desperately wanted a whole night’s sleep in one bed. I really didn’t get that until years later. Looking back, I’m glad we slept this way. It was crazy, but it became a routine that worked out well for all of us. I laugh thinking about sitting there in my rocking chair. My memory tells me that I was frustrated from time to time but generally peaceful about it. My journals show a different picture!
Life has become complicated lately. “Become.” I laugh as I write that, as if life is ever not complicated for anyone. Interesting though, that whatever you’re going through at whatever age or stage of life, you feel as if you are the first and only person to experience it…but then maybe you are. Only you can experience anything your way.
My sons are almost grown. One foot out the door, as they say. It’s a complicated feeling for me. I’ve spent the last 18 years being a Mom and not just any Mom, a hands-on (or, more precisely, hands-off) radically unschooling mom. I’ve attempted to be their supporter and experienced friend instead of an authoritarian and I feel like just when they’ve grown to the point of being great friends to have around, they are beginning to do what all young adults are born to do, drift away to find a place of their own.
It’s bitter sweet, both harsh and rewarding to see my life’s work come to fruition. And when my heart behaves itself, I can see how life will progress. They will establish themselves as free and independent adults, capable of handling life without a parent to support them, and then they’ll come back as strong equals. They’ll be better friends to me than they ever could be now.
It’ll be wonderful and I look forward to seeing the men they become. But transitions are complicated. It’s two steps forward and one step back. There are days when I’m amazed by them and days where I wonder where I went horribly wrong.
In the long run, I know where it will end up. Their Dad and I will be gone, and they will have families of their own to continue into the future. Life.
In my spot on the couch in the morning. Every morning, I stumble out of my room and grab my book, a pencil, and my glasses as I pass through my study on my way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. My husband is already up so the coffee is ready for me. I move to the livingroom, speak the lights on with “computer lights on”, and set myself down in my favorite spot on the couch to read for several hours. It’s my favorite spot because it’s close to the light, has a steady place for my coffee cup, and my warm blanket is there waiting to snuggle with me.
I’m wearing my long, heavy bathrobe. I got it last year on Amazon, not from a local store, because apparently, I’m one of the few people that want an all-cotton warm robe, not one made of acrylic fleece that gathers pet hair as I move through the house and causes static to build up and snap my fingers when I touch anything. It has a hood too, for those super cold mornings when I need to double down on warm clothes. And it’s plaid, my favorite pattern!
I’m in my happy place, surrounded by things and people I love. When I was a kid I dreamed of having my own library. In my picture behind me you can see a corner of my dream come true. Every room in my house has at least one large bookcase filled to the brim. This room has four. There are also family games we’ve been playing, my Dad’s W.C. Field’s lamp that he made when I was a baby and I inherited when he moved to smaller place recently, my son’s turntable he got when he found a bunch of old records in our storage room, and my other son’s telescope that he frequently takes out into the yard to watch the stars.
You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s early morning, just after the sun has peeked over the horizon. It’s my favorite time of day in any season, but in the winter, when this picture was taken, it’s special because the sun comes up farther southeast than ever and is hidden behind the one section of wall without windows. At this time of year, I’m not blinded by it as it rises above our patio. The side light it casts on the desert, its plants and rocks, is magical. Birds are starting to stir. Owls are going to bed. Coyotes run through the yard on their way back to their dens. A roadrunner sits on the fence flicking its tail, looking for a meal.
I took this random selfie because an old friend on the other side of the country, in another time zone, had messaged me that I was still pretty sexy for an old mom. Being the comedian that I am, I immediately snapped this picture and sent it. “Even like this?” Morning photos are always so sexy right? Ratty robe, messy hair, reading glasses, and a cup of coffee. Who wouldn’t want that?
My husband laughed as I took the picture and sent it. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Proving what a hot catch I am.” I said and forwarded him the picture. He smiled. “That’s my babe.”