Running My Life In Circles

Recently, I was tearing my house apart looking for some film camera equipment I haven’t seen since our move to our new house five years ago. While I was looking, I ran across a journal that started in 11/2006 and ended in 8/2008 in which large chunks of time are not accounted. I was thirty-six in 2006, my daughters all still living at home, my grandmother and mother were still alive which was essentially a whole other world for me compared to today. I read through most of the journal entries and was confronted with some truths about myself that I was not thrilled to learn.

Painful Truth No. 1 – I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life since age 11 worrying about my weight, body size, calories, what I eat, how I look and today I’m still doing the same things. The same vicious cycle. And guess what? It hasn’t fixed much of anything. It’s been pointed out that I should probably go back and read my older blog posts. That I’ve been doing the same things over and over. I use a food journal, I quit, I swear off diets and scales, then I go back. You get the idea. This realization made me realize that it was time to just give it all up. It hasn’t worked long term. It’s wasted a huge chunk of my life. So fuck it, enough is enough. I will have to retrain my thoughts and start trusting my body. I guess if I get bigger, I get bigger, if I get smaller, I get smaller though I bet I stay pretty much the same size. Either way, I give up. I grant myself permission to be free of all this nonsense.

Painful Truth No. 2 – I ask myself the same life’s purpose and direction questions over and over and over. Should I pursue this college degree? What do I want to be when I grow up? Should I start my own business again on the side? Fourteen years (and more) I’ve been asking the same crap. Maybe I think there is a magic answer out there? This realization was the most surprising. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been asking these questions for this long. Literally, I’m beating a dead horse and now it’s nothing but dust. If I’m asking the same kind of questions, then I’ve found no answers. There is no celestial guidance, no sudden aha moment and my life suddenly all falls into place. I’ve been running in my life’s purpose circle for years. Chasing my tail like a dog and never quite catching it. I’ve pondered over this for several days, trying to figure out how I can let go.

Obviously, I’m a classic over-thinker which I hear that is common especially in introverted people. This painful truth is not so easy to resolve. I feel a great amount of anxiety when I consider letting go of this useless behavior. Maybe this over-thinking is a security blanket that if I quit trying to find my life’s great purpose then I must acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have some great worldly contribution. That I am ordinary and like everyone else for the most part. That I might just be average and mediocre never writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or curing cancer or making a stunning mark on this world that will be remembered in history books. When I consider that statement, I realize, I don’t even care if I’m in the history books and really rather I was not immortalized in a text book. What is it that I feel must achieve and why the continual push for excelling? I don’t know.

But it is time to stop another one of my useless behaviors. It’s time to stop thinking and get more into living, doing instead of mulling over my thoughts for hours on end. I can live my life or I can think about my life. I chose to live it. I grant myself the permission to stop over-thinking about my life’s purpose and live my life, freely and unencumbered by vague expectations that come from who knows where. Living in my thoughts is a safe place to be, a place where there are no real risks because you never leave your mind. It’s safe that way but safe is boring and I’d been complaining about where is the excitement in my life, why am I not like I was when I was younger? Well, because I quit taking risks and branching out. I’m afraid to look stupid or fail or both.

I’m grateful that I found that old journal even if I haven’t yet turned up my old camera equipment. I’m grateful for painful truths as they help to guide me to more positive ways of living. Now, I just have to put what I’ve learned into practice. Wish me luck friends!

Pandemic Tip: Be Kind to Yourself (and Others)

There seems to be a general attitude out there that as long as you keep your ass at home, you have nothing to worry about. Our grandparents and parents had to deal with wars and so on, all you have to do is sit your ass on the couch. I disagree, I don’t think it is just that easy. Maybe to keep the virus from spreading, yes, by all means we should stay at home as much as we can and follow the rules, even if you don’t necessarily agree, don’t be a dick and infect someone else. But to act as if this is easy and easier than what our parents/grandparents went through, like it’s no big deal is not right either. Not it’s not the same but it’s not so easy either.


War was in another country, not in our back yard or front yard or town. This war is on our own soil and while it is definitely different from when sons and daughters went overseas to fight and possibly be killed, this is still war. We can be caught in the cross-fire unknowingly by just trying to go pick up essential things like groceries. Sons and daughters are on the front lines but so are parents and grandparents. Instead of just soldiers, we have LPNs, nurses, doctors, EMTs, law enforcement, grocery workers, restaurant workers, gas station attendants, nursing home workers and so on.

Everyone is directly exposed to the enemy just by living your life and trying to survive.
This is also an invisible enemy, it’s not someone holding a gun, a grenade or dropping bombs that you might have the chance to see and avoid. This virus is completely unseen by the naked eye and can be carried on a gentle spring wind right into your body. You have zero chance of seeing it before it attacks you. You might be afraid to even leave your house, terrified when you have groceries delivered or picked up because of this invisible enemy. You may have been on the front lines the whole time, dealing with this enemy and watching it claim its victims, terrified you or your family are next.

In war, you have a weapon to fight back, in this pandemic, the only thing you can do is hide if you have that luxury but a good percentage of us have to still work. I’ve been fortunate to work at home but my husband, who works for a power utility, has been working 7 days, 12 hour shifts which is incredibly hard on the body. I can’t even imagine what doctors and nurses and EMTs are working or how are they handling it. They are so amazing, I bow to them, they are my heroes. If you get this virus, you may or may not survive. Thousands of people have already been killed on American soil by the enemy. And you have that a-hole out there telling you on social media that you should be able to accomplish all these great goals. Fuck you pompous social media asshole.

I’m just trying to get through the day, sequestered mostly at home and worrying about my family and friends as well as humanity at general. I’m worried that the partial lay-off I am now starting (20% of my hours have been cut) will turn into a complete lay off and after 22 years with an employer where many of my coworkers are like family, my career will end. I’m worried for my daughters (one who is out of a job) that the economy will be able to stay strong enough that they can continue paying their house payments, etc. I worry for everyone laid off by the shut-down and didn’t make that much money to start with. How are they living? What can I do to help?


Saying all you have to do is sit home on the couch hugely diminishes what people are going through right now. I don’t believe this is a fair statement and people are feeling as if their fears, sleepless nights, lethargy, depression, anxiety, and so on are unfounded. This is NOT unfounded, this is real, people are dying of an enemy that is silent, invisible and of which we have so little information to fight back. You can’t pick up a gun and shoot it. You can’t even see the f’ing enemy. There is no flash of gunfire to let you know that you have been ambushed. There is nothing. And that is terrifying.


I have one park that has a small enough parking lot, wide trails and enough area that I feel safe hiking. It’s not that I’m afraid that I may be attacked, murdered or raped. I am afraid I might get too close to someone infected, that they might breathe the virus in the air and I’ll walk right through it. Not very many people go to this park (thank god) but when I do have to pass someone on the wide paths, I literally walk ten feet off the trail and crouch down with my back to them to act like I am taking a photo of a flower or something with my phone. I will wave at them all friendly like but inwardly, I ‘m terrified they are carrying the enemy. They are probably perfectly nice people who would never intentionally hurt a soul but yet they are potential carriers of this virus. I feel bad for being this way but I am doing everything in my power to still live my life but also stay safe. I’m also protecting them, just in case I’d be carrying this and be asymptomatic.


One of the few ‘normal’ things I allow myself is to go through the drive through for Starbucks or Dairy Queen, but as soon as I pull away from the window out of sight, I’m wiping everything down and using hand sanitizer. I even wipe the lid where I sip my drink and the spoon that comes in my mini-Blizzard. I had been ordering books from this small bookstore and getting curbside pickup to help them stay in business, but as soon as he socially distance appropriately hands me the book, I throw it on the car floor and sanitize everything. Now, I have to give up my weekly book purchase because my hours have been cut. It was the one joy I had each week. I never normally buy books unless it’s something I will reread or use for reference but now I had been buying books I just wanted to read rather than getting them through the online library. That in itself felt like a decadent extravagance and it also gave me a feeling of helping out, hopefully keeping that bookstore afloat. I might be able to do one book every other week, but I’m starting to become afraid to spend money, I feel like I should save every penny in the case of a layoff.


Picking up groceries, we don’t even get out of the car and we refuse to sign anything or take the receipt. When we get home, we have a table, gloves, sanitizer and bleach spray in the garage in where we do our sanitization of what just was brought into our home. Non-perishable items that we don’t need immediately stay in the garage for at least a week. Other items are washed down as we can with bleach solution. My husband does the sanitizing and I do the carrying in. There is no more just taking it from the trunk of the car into the counter. We don’t even keep the bags the food comes in because we are afraid of contamination. We don’t even recycle them anymore. Touch once with gloves and discard. Not exactly environmentally friendly but safer from the virus.


With the shortages and hoarding, we can’t do just one weekly trip to one store with maybe a stop off at another store to pick up some produce. Nope, we have to do multiple pick ups in multiple towns to get everything we need. Grocery shopping has become almost a full time job and we are only a two-person household. And we allow substitutions on most every item except for a few. It’s not a time to be picky.


I worry about going back into the office, it’s a cube farm with enclosed space and an HVAC system that is cobbled together. The air flow is bad, the area is tight and I have to go through 4 doors to even get to my desk. Doors that are touched by so many people. I miss my friends at work but I’d just be afraid to be near them and vice versa. Working at home every day gets old. I feel like I never get away from the house, I start losing track of days. I’m very, very fortunate and grateful that I can and I’m protected but it’s not easy. I’m not on the front lines, but yet I still should be gentle with myself and acknowledge that I’m struggling a little.


But if I’m not writing the great American novel, doing fabulous home projects, starting a side business, or doing something else equally impressive during this time sequestered at home, then that’s okay. It’s okay that I don’t know what day it is and have to look at my phone or calendar to confirm the date. It’s okay that I don’t feel like cleaning the house or being creative or working on hobbies or anything. It’s okay if I just want to lie in bed and stare out the window. There’s a war out there. It’s okay if I am worried and scared. It’s okay if all I want to do is lie on the couch and watch movies. It’s okay if I’m having trouble sleeping. It’s okay if I miss my grown kids’ hugs. It’s okay if I feel isolated even though I’m an introvert. It’s okay if I’m exhausted even though I didn’t do much all day. It’s okay to cry. All of what I am feeling is okay, acceptable and very much warranted.


I don’t need to achieve, I need to survive. I need to be kind to myself (and others). My feelings are valid even though I’m not sending my sons or daughters off to a foreign country to war. My daughters are in the middle of the war, just like me because the war is HERE. No one has to go across the ocean to be killed by enemy fire. The enemy came to us and you can’t see it. It is threatening everyone I know and love. Everyone.


Be kind to yourself, what you are feeling is warranted for the situation. Don’t listen to social media when they say oh you need to do this or that, and don’t pressure yourself either. Eventually, this too will pass but we will be dealing with the effects for a long time and life as we knew it will change. Some things will be better and some not so great. Look out for your neighbor, for strangers as much as you safely can. We need to support each other just as we did (usually) in war time. But most of all, take care of yourself, be kind to yourself.


Sending my love and praying/meditating/wishing for everyone’s health and safety. Godspeed.


Nature is Still Open

This COVID-19 pandemic is freaking scary. People are dying from it every day. I can barely look at social media or watch/read the news. it’s so depressing, scary and sad. The hardest part for me so far is not being able to see my grown daughters in person. The other hardest part is not being able to go out and do some of the things I love. Neither are dire or life-threatening, just a challenge. I’m not complaining (well I’m a little pissed off about this whole thing) but I am coming up with game plans to help me stay sane in case of a complete lock down where I am not able to leave the homestead. But in the mean time, here is a reminder that even though many things are closed, the majority of parks (in Ohio at least) are still open (unless you are in an area that is not allowed non-essential travel).

Now I feel like I have to make a disclaimer, you have to use common sense and realize they don’t know everything there is about this virus so I suggest visiting parks that aren’t heavily visited and taking every precaution especially when using public facilities as restrooms. This virus lives on surfaces for a long time. I try not to use any of the public facilities and if a park is pretty much vacant, there’s always the woods. Hey, it’s what long distance hikers/backpackers do, they don’t have port-a-potties along the Appalachian Trail every few miles. I can’t promise that you won’t come in contact with this shitty virus at a park facility. Don’t touch things that others might have like fences, benches, picnic tables and so on. Like I said, just assume the f’ing virus is on every surface. Look but don’t touch. If you have children, I’d definitely avoid any playgrounds or play equipment.

In Ohio, there are numerous nature preserves that are hardly ever visited. Do some research in your area to find the lesser visited natural areas. Many parks are closing their facilities like rest rooms in response to the pandemic so check their website and/or call ahead. You may have to plan around the lack of bathrooms open, etc. Pack snacks and water. Just think ahead especially if you have kids. But even if a park is more visited, usually the trails are wide enough that you can give each other plenty of room. I’ve found the times I’ve been out in parks, they are fairly deserted compared to normal and those out are very polite giving room where needed.

Taking a short car ride to a natural area can help with cabin fever. Spending time outside in nature has a stress-relieving effect. Take time to breathe in the fresh air, notice the plants and trees around you. If you’re quiet, you may see some interesting wildlife. Also, this gives you a sense of normalcy in a time that is nothing near normal for most of us. Focusing on your surroundings allows you mindful moments where you can forget about all that is going on around us. Right now, spring wildflowers are starting to bloom as the days are getting longer and warmer. Brush off those guidebooks and take them with you, maybe you’ll discover a rare plant.

If you are in an area that the weather is cooperating and you own your home, there is usually plenty of yard projects you can get into. Trimming bushes, pruning plants, cleaning flower beds and so on. Depending on what restrictions are happening in your area, you may be able to fertilize and/or reseed your lawn if you are comfortable going to the home store to buy the supplies. Right now, it’s cold and rainy without much relief in site for my area for the next week, but I have gear for the weather, I may be out walking in the rain.

Unless prohibited if we go on lock down, I’m going to be walking my dog for miles and miles on our country roads. There are several old cemeteries that I can stop and visit which may sound creepy, but trust me, I’m not going to run across a living human there. I can take a sketch book and my charcoals to sketch the surrounding farm land. Or take my camera and challenge myself to find new shots right around my yard or the surrounding area. It wouldn’t hurt for my photography skills to look at subjects in a different way. This will force me to become more creative and maybe even figure out some of those little-used features on my DSLR.

No one knows how long this may last but the one blessing is that better weather is coming soon. It will be time to resurrect the hammock and patio furniture. Get out the fire ring and spend some evenings around a fire. Pull a blanket out as a I did as a kid and read on a makeshift outdoor bed. I had thought about buying a stand-alone basketball hoop for my driveway and a basketball a few months ago and I’m wishing I had done that earlier before all of this. In a way, it reminds me of when you were a kid and you had to entertain yourself on summer vacation. Well, if you were a child of the 1970’s or 80’s, we had to entertain ourselves in the summer after our parents shoved us out the door and told us don’t come back until dinner.

As I write this, I am seeing news stories about the first COVID-19 deaths in Ohio. This shit is scary. My heart breaks for the loved ones of these people as well as the loss of their lives. I’m so angry at all of this. I don’t know why it is happening or could it had been stopped, but it just pisses me off. But it is out of my control and at some point it will pass like everything else. Though the aftermath is already changing people’s lives, their family dynamics forever. It seems like in 2020, this shouldn’t happen but here it is, bearing down on us like the grim reaper.

This shows you that you never know what could happen in life, no matter how well you prepare, no matter the best laid plans, life as we know it can come to a screeching halt. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or in a month, but I plan on taking it day by day, hour by hour. I’m going to self-quarantine as much as I can even though it totally sucks. I’m cancelling my spring break trip to Kentucky with my daughter which was happening over Easter weekend. Hell, we might not even be able to get together for Easter. It’s so hard to tell. But if we can’t, we can’t. It’s a small price to pay if it means someone will not die from the virus.

In the meantime, I will get outside, get into nature and of course, keep a lot of social distance by using the resources that are seldom visited or just in my own yard or neighborhood. Stay healthy and safe. We will get through this together.

Reflections From My Final Day of my Forties

Tomorrow, I turn 50 years old and for some reason moving into the next decade of my life always makes me reflective. I look over the previous decade and think about all that has happened. Where I was in my life when I turned 40 is a lot different now that I’m on the cusp of 50.
Turning 30 was probably the hardest for me as leaving my 20’s felt like I was definitely heading into middle age. My ‘youth’ was behind me it seemed. Turning 20 had been celebrated because I was more than happy to stop being a teenager. I always felt older than I was back then. In a rush to grow up and be independent. Turning 40 was no big deal. I didn’t have a lot of feelings about it, I was busy with three teenagers and taking care of my mother who was going through multiple bouts of cancer.
My whole 49th year, I have been thinking about what does turning 50 mean to me. When I turned 20, 50 seemed ancient and old. Last night at dinner, my husband asked me where did I see myself at 50. I honestly didn’t think about it before now. I had just been trying to survive in my 30’s and 40’s. There has been enormous changes during this past decade. I’ve lost some very important people in my life and in my mid-40’s, I became an orphan so to speak, with no grandparents or parents alive. My three daughters have grown up and moved out starting their own lives. Frankly, I hadn’t planned for this part of my life.
The beauty of social media is that you get to share moments with people in your life that you may not be able to otherwise. I’m friends with many of my classmates and us being the same age, I’ve watched them embrace their jump into the next decade. Not one of them complaining but joyful that hey, we made it to 50. My personal feeling is one of gratitude, that I have been given all these years to live and I’ll tell you, now fifty sounds young. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said, ‘You’re only as old as you think”. She lived to be almost 101 years old. I never once remember her referring to herself as ‘old’. I think it is sage advice.
So many of my friends and people I know never made it this far so every day, every year is a blessed. Going into the fifth decade, you have a completely different outlook than if you were going into your 2nd or 3rd decade. You’ve seen some shit, experienced great heartbreak but also great amazing joys. What was important to you at 20 is probably not as important to you at 50. Wisdom comes with age and you finally understand the saying ‘youth is wasted on the young’.
At 20, you have all these lofty goals and ideas that may seem silly or frivolous now that you see what is truly important in life. Walking beside my mom in her final months of her life narrowed that list down for me exponentially. The only thing you take with you when you die is love. So my life is centered around those I love the most and being kind and loving to others. Love is my meaning of life. To love and be loved. To help others and not be a total shit to people.
As I move into my fifth decade, I want a simple and uncomplicated life. I know this isn’t always possible because well, … life. However, I will continue to strive to just enjoy the little things, enjoy what we have worked so hard for and have fun. I think I can finally take a breath and have some damned fun. I always put so much pressure on myself to achieve, but now I’m not sure what I’m achieving. To really focus on taking care of myself after pretty much all my life, I’ve taken care of someone else. To really pay attention to my health because I know as I get older, good health may be more of a challenge. The body is not as forgiving as you get older.
In conclusion, I’m excited to leave being my tumultuous 40’s. I feel more like I did back in college when I had my whole life ahead of me. I still have my whole life ahead of me, but the minutes and days are even more precious because I have much fewer of them. I look forward to trying new things and having many more new adventures. I enter this decade freer and less tethered as I am at the moment, not taking care of anyone but myself. It’s time to really enjoy my life, relax and have fun. Explore new possibilities. Look at new ventures and take a few risks.
Goodbye 40’s and hello 50’s, you sexy beast!


Don’t Change a Thing!

With the start of the new year also being a start of a new decade, social media, advertising, conversations, etc. have been set very much around ‘new year, new you’. Lose weight, get motivated, quit smoking, so on and so forth. Okay, giving up smoking is a really awesome goal – trust me, lung cancer is no picnic. This tide starts somewhere in November and runs through January usually dying off right before Valentine’s Day when our focus shifts toward a holiday that seems to be fraught with expectations and triggers (PS it’s also my 50th birthday – I love gift cards to bookstores, Starbucks and resturants if you feel inclined hahaha).

This new decade also starts my fifth decade of life so I’m being particularly reflective. I know a lot of people dread getting older. Oh, no! I’m going to be fifty! Well, I remember when fifty seemed ancient and now it sounds young. But I’m really not one of those people as I prefer to look as aging as a priviliege that so many people I love and know did not even reach the grand old age of fifty. I’m one of the lucky ones and considering my wayward youth, I am particularly lucky to still be kicking around this great big earth of ours. While I can look in the mirror and see the signs of the years on my face, my skin starting to become crepey, my joints aching a little more each passing month, I am truly and deeply grateful for all of it. I am here and I am alive and I am healthy (knock on wood).

So when you add in the new year, new decade and a landmark birthday, this trifecta got me thinking. I bought a new journal toward the end of the year (okay I’m a journal hoarder, just ask my kids) and started filling it with big ideas and plans. I’m going to lose weight and get really fit. I’m going to finish that novel. So on and so forth. Then a few weeks went by and I went back to this pretty journal. As I’m reading through all that I wrote, I felt more and more tired with each page. How many times had I done this? Make these big plans and when I come back to them, I find my motivation has already waned. Sure it is a good thing to write down your goals to make them real, but do I have the right goals? What if I didn’t make a bunch of big goals? Would the world end?

What if I didn’t work toward a ‘new’ me? What if I am okay with the present ‘me’? Why do I have to keep working toward something big? I’ll be honest, ever since I could write sentences and make up stories, people told me I should write books, be an author. But cresting on my fifth decade, I’ve published in several small ways but I never really feel a thrill or accomplishment in publishing. I truly believe if publishing a book was my heart’s desire, that I would have done it by now or at least made a much larger effort toward this dream. I use writing as a way to work out things whirling around in my mind, to work out problems and sometimes just to entertain myself. I love writing blog posts because it doesn’t take huge amounts of efforts and sometimes I actually reach someone.

Over Christmas break, I spent a day going to several bookstores and trying to imagine my book sitting on their best seller shelf. I’m sure I looked every bit the crazy person standing back with my eyes closed at times, staring at the shelves of hard-back books. I couldn’t imagine it. I didn’t find myself getting excited about the idea of my book and my name on some beautiful cover. I decided that writing a book isn’t a goal of mine. Giving up a something you believed about yourself most of your life is very disconcerting. This was part of my identity, becoming a successful, rich author had been ingrained in my psyche but it hadn’t really been my own goal. I’m still a writer, but I am most likely not going to be the author of best-selling books. I am not closing the door on that possibility but I’m letting go of that goal because right now at least, it’s not mine. I know myself, if it’s something I truly had wanted, I would have achieved it by now or in the very least, put in a Herculean effort.

So what if I don’t change a thing about myself? What if my big goal becomes listening to and following my heart? Giving love and kindness to others. What if that’s it? My whole goal list in three points. Love myself, listen to my heart, be kind to others. The end.

As I wrote that list, I feel very positive and happy about it. I think we get so tied up into accomplishing goals, making ourselves better or new, so on and so forth, that we forget to enjoy the very moment we are standing in. So this year, I’m going to let go and follow those three points. I want to be more in the present moment and enjoy my life. I want to live my life in love and be loved back. On my deathbed, I’m not going to be ‘oh, I wish I’d lose that last ten pounds’ or ‘oh, I regret not writing that novel I didn’t really want to write’ or ‘I didn’t follow that goal list to the tee’.

That’s my goal this year, don’t change a thing (about me). Love myself, love others and follow my heart. Maybe, you could give this a try too cuz you’re awesome just the way you are!

Midlife Reflections – How My Fears Limited My Life

At age 49, I’m going back to college, again, this time to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  As I went over the programs with my college adviser, I found myself facing the fact that I would have to take Algebra and Statistics as general requirements for the BS degree.  I tried my hardest to find a way around these even looking at other online college programs, but there was no doubt about it, I was going to have to take these classes.  So when I registered for my first semester’s classes, I bit the bullet and chose Algebra and a business management course.

Now, I’m not going to say I’m bad at math, I’m not.  I’m bad at things that don’t make sense to me.  These things make perfect sense to my husband who is very technical and can figure out formulas in his head.  But my brain doesn’t work that way.  In high school, Algebra was the only class I truly struggled with especially the tests.  When I planned my classes for high school, I went the safe route skipping trigonometry and calculus even though my desire was to go to school for more math and science-related area(s).  When I had taken several career apptitude tests, every sort of engineering came up along with landscape architect and orchestra leader as well.   But I was afraid of the math required to get these degrees.

I ended up taking a one-year program in Medical Assisting.  Physiology and Anatomy didn’t scare me at all.  Actually I loved all the medical classes even though it was a lot of memorizing.  My plan was to do the program and move to the city to finish my Bachelor’s degree at the bigger university that I really wanted to attend.  The medical assisting program would give me the ability to make a lot more money as I was paying for college myself as I paid for an apartment and my tuition.

But I picked this course,because I was afraid to jump straight in to the four-year university.  I knew I was going to have to take pre-requisite classes because I had avoided them in high school.  Most classes were easy for me.  But complicated math, ugh, I felt like a failure because I just didn’t get it and it was so hard.  Back then I didn’t consider the fact that maybe my brain just isn’t wired for certain things and I wasn’t actually a failure, that everyone has things that is hard for them.  Instead of facing something I could very well fail, I chose to go the route of avoidance.  I was too afraid to fail.

When I decided to finish my degree, I was faced with the fact that I was going to finally have to face my fear of passing college level algebra.  When the classes opened online a week before the actual semester start date, I dove into the algebra class.  As soon as I started into it and saw how much work it would be, I dropped the business course.  This class was going to take my full attention.  And it did, I spent over twenty hours on the first week’s reading, assignments, discussion question and online weekly meeting with our instructor.  All of the class was online including the homework which was nice, but the software wouldn’t let you bypass anything.  I had to learn it and sometimes, I would be almost in tears until it finally, finally clicked.

The class contained three exams, all paper that I drove over an hour to the testing center(s) as I decided this was easier than finding a proctor and making sure the tests were returned on time, etc.  The first exam took me 2.5 hours.  I got a low B.  The second exam took as much time but I struggled way more and I got a D.  But I made sure to ace everything else including the extra test credit.  I was applying the law of averages, I just need to pass this class not get a 4.0 in it.  Even with the D on the second exam, I was still averaging an A.

As the final exam approached, this 12-week class became more intense with more complicated formulations and equations.  Due to scheduling issues, I had to switch from the remote testing center to the main campus for which I lost five days of study time.  This was not good and I was almost in tears again.  I do great when I can see my notes and the book, but the tests were much harder.  So instead of panicking, I took the total points of the class, the points I had earned, assumed I’d get 100% on the homework and other assignments because I had and then added 50% of the points of  final exam essentially getting an ‘F’.  What grade would I get if I flunked the exam with half the points?  I sighed with relief.  I would get a ‘B’ in the class.  I knew I could get at least half the questions right.

Yesterday, I drove downtown to the main campus and while a little nervous, I knew I would pass the class regardless.  It took me almost 3 hours and I found while the story problems always mess me up, I really remembered most of what I learned including the quadratic formula I had memorized along with a host of others.  I might get a C on the exam, but I figure more a D.  But it doesn’t really matter, I accept that this testing is hard for me and I did my best.  I excelled in the homework and other assignments.  Sometimes, there are just things in life that you just have to do your best knowing that you won’t ace it.  And that’s alright.

The one thing I wish is that I hadn’t let my fear of failing derail my plans.  My life would have been a lot different had I stuck to my goals rather than letting fear dictate my path. I don’t know if it would have been better, but I know I wouldn’t have regretted diverting from my goals.  I short-changed myself big time.  Had I finished my degree as planned, my career path would have probably been greatly different.  I would have likely made more money, etc.

I walked out of testing center yesterday knowing I did’t get a high grade but I was happy and felt accomplished.  I did it, I passed college algebra!  It’s better late than never.  I realize that my tendency to avoid hard things limits my life significantly.  I suppose that is human nature, taking the path of least resistance.  No one wants to struggle and fail.  But failure is part of growing.  You can read that 10000 times and think yeah, makes sense but until you actually take action, face the possibility of failing, that these challenges is what makes you feel alive.  I’ve been so focused on doing my best in this tough class that I haven’t had time to be bored or overthink or any of that stuff that I tend to do.  Boredom for me comes from not challenging myself.  From staying in my comfort zone.

As the new year, 2020, approaches, I will continue my classes but I’m also going to challenge myself in other areas of my life.  If I fail, I fail.  At least I’m out doing something rather than hiding away in my cozy, comfy zone.

Over the next year, I’ll share in my blog some of these challenges.  I hope you will enjoy my ups and downs, my accomplishments and failures.   Let’s enjoy the ride!

To the Mean People

Mean people, we all have dealt with them in our lives.  Whether it was the fourth grade bully on the playground or the lunatic who keeps sabotaging your career or the family member who makes your life hard just for kicks, we have all faced them, been victim of them and many times, we have no idea what we have even done to them.  These are people who enjoy hurting others or throwing obstacles in their paths or even trying to ruin someone else’s life.  Many times, it’s revenge for a perceived slight that in their mind was serious but you can’t figure out for the life of you what you even did.  And many times, you don’t have to do anything at all, they are just wired this way.

These are the type of people who just make your life hell and without them around, your whole world becomes brighter.  I’m dealing with one such person recently, even though I have always been kind to them and kept my thoughts of ‘omg you are a lunatic’ to myself.  But that’s just it, this person is most likely mentally ill though I’m not a mental health or medical professional, the signs all point to some sort of issue that causes this person to be vindictive, hateful and sabotaging to other people so that they can feel important, powerful and large.  They are so insecure within themselves, so miserable and unhappy that they want everyone around them to be miserable as well just to make themselves feel better.  Their only real joy is to hurt others.

I believe this person blocked a path for me for something I thought I wanted.  Though I don’t have proof, the signs all point to this person’s interference in my journey.  Though at first, I thought it was other sensible circumstances.  But then when this person popped back up suddenly in my face, I knew in my gut, they were hoping to inflict even more pain or gain satisfaction that they indeed made me unhappy because they had blocked my path. I just can’t deal with the depth of what feels like endless crazy to me so I had pushed them outside of my life as much as I could.  I’m sorry this person is so unhappy but I’m not the person who inflicted anything upon them.  It happened way before I ever came into their life, or maybe some people are just born that way.

At first, I started to think of revenge (I am Irish after all) but as I sat and meditated on the circumstances, I smiled to myself.  This lunatic did me a favor.  When I really searched my heart, the direction in to which I had turned was not one that I truly desired and so having the decision made for me, the pressure was off of me.  I wouldn’t have been happier going down this road.  Thank you, mean person.  You actually did me a solid and as you hover around what you believe to be my carcass, you will find it’s just ash of out which I will rise like the Phoenix as I have always done in these circumstances.

As I think back over my life, though at the time, these circumstances of sabotage and hatefulness perpetrated by people who meant me harm, may have seemed dire.  Though as I look further along after the incident(s), I see how my life became better.   I’ve always been a survivor and I will continue to be that until my time on this earth is over.  I feel sorry for you, that you are so black and dead inside that your joy comes from the suffering of others (or in my case perceived suffering).  I am not the person people run away from when they see you or cringe when you text them or avoid you at all costs.  I’m not the person crying that they don’t have any friends and not realizing their own personality and propensity to being cruel is the reason for this predicament.  As you tried to hurt me, my own close friends came to my side giving me support and we form a wall of friendship and love that you can’t penetrate.  You actually bring us closer in unity because they too have experienced your cruelty.

While I should be angry at you, I only feel sorry for you.  I feel sad that your life is so empty and so destitute of love for yourself.  I pray that one day, you will see the light, that the road to happiness and self-love/acceptance isn’t trying to destroy others but helping others be the best they can be, by lifting them up.  Because when you do this, you lift yourself out your dark hell.  I pray that you get the help you need to heal yourself and love yourself.  Because until you can do this, you’ll just be a miserable lunatic that people run from.  You’ll die alone a victim one more time of your own misery.

So mean person, thank you, thank you for making my life better.  I sent you love and light in the hopes that one day you’ll see that the path you’re on won’t ever make you happy.   But know, that I will always rise above what shit you throw at me and you mean nothing to me at all.

 

 

Adventures of the Mid-Life College Student

(Insert scream here) – I’ve gone back to college for the third time.  In 1989, I graduated with a Medical Assisting Diploma (that the college had promised would be an Associate’s program before my first year was up – but NOPE).  In 2006, I started on again and off again online classes through a local two-year college and over ten years of quitting and restarting, I finally graduated with my Associate’s of Applied Busines or AAB which sounds super fancy (yet isn’t).  This I graduated from two years after my mom passed away in honor of her.

When I got an actual degree and a few letters behind my name for my work email signature, I thought, there, a degree, that’s enough.  Yet here I am, three years later starting back up going after my BS degree through more online classes.  It took me applying to several colleges but I found one that wasn’t going to make me take a ton of classes and hours as well as several what I’d call repeat classes they didn’t make my co-worker who graduated from the same program at the same time take – he got credit and I didn’t – WTF (Colorado State – I’m calling you out).  I don’t care if the class was the next level up, I was not doing another Microeconomics class especially when I’m not an Economics major.

However, I do have to take Algebra and Statistics – GASP!  I barely passed alegebra in high school 30+ years ago.  I sailed through my orientation class they force you to take even though I’ve been in school oh, about half of my life.  The first week of Algebra, I was almost in panicked tears.  Algebra isn’t my jam.  It’s not that I’m stupid about math, my brain just has a hard time wrapping itself around things that don’t make a lot of sense.  I spent HOURS and hours that first week working through problems via their online software that tests and helps you through everything you need to know.  This means if you don’t get it, you have to do a lot of the same thing which I guess is good.  But I made it harder on myself because I didn’t read all the textbook sections assigned so I was clueless.  Good job, Laura, handicap yourself right out of the gate.

So, now, I do the textbook reading first, then jump into the homework.  Today I drove over an hour to get a book – TI-84 Plus for Dummies because I have never even touched a graphing calculator.  A have a scientific one that I can use on the paper tests but the homework started with using a graphing calculator which I had borrowed from my daughter’s girlfriend (thanks!).  But I had no idea how to really use it even after the lesson instructed me, I could get it to work on the online graphing calculator because I got specific instructions, but the same didn’t work on this real life calculator.  So here I am, closing in on my 50th birthday learning how to use a graphing calculator.  I had asked my husband and he said he used graph paper, aka the old fashioned way.  Since my first test is a week away and he’s traveling for business, my butt was in the car going to the only bookstore that had this in stock.

Though I’m a little worried I won’t pull a high enough grade to keep up my GPA and still get employer tuition reimbursement, I’m working super hard on relearning algebra and actually, to be honest, I’m learning stuff that I just guessed at when I was in high school.  I get all excited when it finally makes sense and I no longer feel like a math failure.  It’s not that I’m not smart enough to learn it, it’s that it’s hard and I have a tendency to want to gloss over hard things.  I want it to be easy like most things are for me.  Give me an English class and a term paper over an algebra quiz any day.  Where some people freeze up on having to write papers, I revel in it.  While I struggle with slope-intercept form.

I’ve created a life that is consistent and easy to an extent.  I’ve struggled most of my life so it has felt good to just coast along.  I’ve worked for the same company for over 21 years.  I’ve been in my current position for 13 of those years.  I shy away from change and new things.  Maybe this is part of getting older but I think it’s also the fact that I got burned out by my turbulent life.  Now that it isn’t turbulent, I’ve been coasting.  But I’ve also been bored shitless.  Without challenging myself, even though it’s scary AF, I’ve made my life mundane.  I sit around and ponder why my life doesn’t seem to have meaning which is not really the issue.  My life doesn’t have positive challenges.  I’ve had so many negative challenges, that I shut off the good ones too.  I”ve cocooned myself into a bunch of fluffy nothingness and then whine about how I’m bored or don’t have enough to do or whatever it is.

I’d gotten stuck in the idea that I had to accomplish something huge when really all I need to do is challenge myself.  As much as I tell myself I hate algebra, it’s bothered me for years that I never really learned parts of it that my friends seemed to get.  Now I’m going to learn how to use a graphing calculator which wasn’t a thing when I was in high school.  And I’ve stopped worrying about my age.  When I first started participating in my class discussions and projects, I was terrified I’m the oldest one.  And usually I am but there’s quite a few people right in my age group and no ones gives a flying F.  It’s fun to have so many different ages and backgrounds around me even if it’s online.  I find it interesting that in the weekly “Meet” sessions for my algebra class, it’s the females that are ringing out the answers and solutions more so than the males.  That’s a shift from when I was in school.  Losing the girls aren’t good at math and sciences mentality is awesome.

Well it’s getting late, my eyes hurt from staring at a book and screen most of the evening and trying to read that tiny writing on that calculator (thank you readers!).  I’ve got a full day of work tomorrow and more homework to tackle.  Onward and upward!

Empty Nest – One Year Later – Finding Myself

About one year ago, my last daughter moved out on her own, leaving with the empty nest which is really a stupid term, because there are still my husband, my pets and I.  It’s the altered nest, the changed nest, the lighter nest.  It’s definitely not empty.  Honestly, the anticipation of her leaving was worse than the actual event.  Oh, I cried as I repainted her room, I grieved and after a few weeks, I was like, huh, this isn’t so awful.  It’s different, quieter, cleaner, and at time starkly frightening as I was faced with all this free time that I wanted but didn’t really know what to do with once it arrived.

It’s been a year of letting go, of adjusting and of grieving.  You go right ahead and grieve, just don’t get stuck there.  And understand that it will ebb and flow and eventually your new life will seem more ‘normal’.  The beauty of this time is that you get to go back and find yourself, pick up and start a new life.  The hard part for me has been letting go and also discovering who I am when I peeled away the roles I’ve been living for so long.  My caretaker role goes clear back to my youth as I lived in a very dysfunctional home.  At a very young age, I was cooking, cleaning and taking care of people that were not my responsibility.  So it’s been a bit of a shock, but I’m happy not taking care of much more than my pets, my home and myself.

I had the added challenge that my husband and I don’t work the same shift at times.(single parents – I feel so much for you!).  My shift is steady while his swings and encompasses every other weekend.  I’d never lived alone (I think everyone should live alone for a year – I’d fared much better) so being in the house alone as much as I was this past year was a struggle.  First of all, I had to combat my own thinking.  I’m not a loser if I’m home alone on a weekend night.  I also had to embrace the fact that I’m an introvert during this year.  I’ve become an ace at eating in restaurants alone and sometimes, I prefer this.  Though people assume I’m not married or I have no friends or family when I do, this is certainly not true.  I’m just a bit of a lone wolf and didn’t really discover how much this is true until this past year.

I’ve tried group activities and even if I had fun, I just didn’t want to go after the first meeting.  I’ve tried different varieties of volunteering and settled on being a Lunch Buddy for a now sixth-grade girl at the middle school.  The one-on-one interaction appeases my introverted side while the limited commitment appeased my desire to not ever be over-committed again.   My personality demands flexibility and spontaneity.  I’ve spent most of my life tied to commitments, schedules and so on.   I will admit though, having all this free time was scary at first and there are times when I struggle with the thought that I need to do more, be more productive.  When this happens, I have to really sit down and consider if I think I must do, if it really makes me happy or if it is just something I believe I need to do for whatever reason.  In other words, that I don’t just stuff activities into an uncomfortable space that will eventually just make me miserable.

Having an empty nest has really opened the opportunity to learn who I am and focus on what I really want out of life.  I was so used to just doing things because I was told I must, or there was some expectation of it (this was also self-inflicted), that I’ve been challenging my preconceived notions and ideas all year.  This is still ongoing but when I reflect on where I stood a year ago, I’ve made some significant headway.  Being authentic and being myself is a top priority for me.  Though we all have to do things we don’t want to such as clean toilets, work, etc. these things have to be done or there are significant consequences that are worse than actually doing the undesirable activities.

Learning to let go has been another big lesson over the year.  I still am working on this one as well, but after you’ve spent years guiding your kids, letting go especially for someone like me has been a drastic lesson in itself.  But as I am getting better at not trying to control, give advice, etc. (not perfect at this in any way!), I find more and more freedom and way less worry and anxiety.  My goal over the next year is learning to finally truly relax.  I’m always just a little bit keyed up, partly because my brain is constantly rolling over things, many of which I have 0 control over to anyway.  Ruminating over these things that are out of my control and driving my husband nuts is not beneficial.  Like anything else, this is a process and slowly I’m getting better and better.  I’ll never nail it perfectly but I can continue to improve.  It’s hard not to worry about your kids.

Besides finding a volunteer opportunity I really love, letting go and being authentic, I started back to college utilizing my company’s reimbursement benefit.  I finished my Associate’s degree in 2016.  I thought I was done but I searched my heart when I found that my employer upped their benefit enough that I could actually attend online college (which is extremely expensive) and graduate in less than a billion years because I don’t want to put any money out of pocket for school.  If I had some great career change I was pursuing, I would jump right in and take out loans, etc. for the higher education but since I really don’t have this, I am happy to go at a slower pace and not pay out much $$$$.

Though I will admit, I’ve freaked a bit at having to take college-level algebra after a 31-year hiatus from my last algebra class.  This class is taking huge amounts of my time, so much so, that I dropped the management class that I was taking at the same time in order to stay sane.  I’m just not great at algebra and had to start at the very beginning of the text book and read everything, watch every video, redo a ton of problems, take tons of notes, etc.  This is extremely challenging.  But while I’m not a fan of math, I am really underneath it all, good at math when it finally makes sense to me. What I do enjoy is the challenge.  Being so engrossed in something, even though it’s not my fave, that time flies by.  I was sitting in one of my regular haunts yesterday, eating lunch alone working on math problems in between bites.  One of the co-owners asked me what I was doing and even provided me with more scratch paper when he saw I was running out.

My life had gone on automatic.  I’ve worked in the same place for 21 years.  I’ve been in the same position now for 13 of those years.  I can do much of my job in my sleep.  I’m also not great about going outside of my comfort zone.  This has more to do with growing up and living a good part of my life in chaotic mess.  Now that my life is really good, usually calm (outside of work), I love the peace and am afraid of bringing anything stressful into my life.  But I’m bored shitless this way.  Walking around in a trance is no way to live.

But guess what?  Now I have all this time to focus on my own challenges and goals.  Even if I don’t have a clear picture of what I want to do in this chapter of my life, I can start working on whatever interests me.  I get stuck on that, having this great big picture and when I don’t, I paralyze myself into inaction.  The truth is, I don’t have to have it all figured out.  I can pursue what I want in life and maybe it will all click together into this grand picture or maybe it never will.  Either way, I’m not sitting at home feeling sorry for myself.  But I am also not filling my time with “should’s” and “have to’s” that aren’t truly something I need to do.  I have to pay taxes but I don’t have to join a writing group just because I love writing but I don’t love groups.  I can sit at home alone and watch a movie on Friday night.  I don’t have to get a bunch of people together and go out.

So, thank you empty nest for allowing me the time and focus to really get back to myself and learn about myself.  Hopefully, I’m becoming a better person (still working really hard on this one) and a more independent person.  I was used to having one of my daughters around to hang out with but now I have to entertain myself at times.  It’s forcing me out of my shell, out of my safe little world.  I’ve even started attending festivals alone when no one is available.  On my bucket list – go to the movies alone.  Okay, for an extrovert that sounds awful but for an introvert like me, it seems almost normal.

Thank you college algebra, you’re probably going to have me in tears a few times, but I forgot how much I love a challenge.  I have been avoiding things that I don’t like as if they are the plague.  I think this attitude is holding me back in life.  I may hate editing my own writing, but I need to if I want to publish something on a real scale.  I may be afraid of the whole submission, finding an agent, etc. process but I am going to have to move forward rather than staying in my safe bubble to accomplish publication and finally see one of my books on the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  I have a tendency to talk myself out of hard goals or activities.  No pain no gain, right?  I’ve got to get my cowardly ass back out into life.  I’ve spent years hiding behind my kids and my responsibilities.

I have no excuse now do I?  Time to live.  Thank you, Empty Nest, for ripping back the curtain of comfort that I was hiding behind.  I keep trying to pull it closed so I can hide and not face hard things.  I’ve stopped challenging myself outside of my comfort zone.  It’s hard to go back and face the forgotten dreams, it’s easy to say, oh, I don’t really want to get my bachelor’s degree or I don’t really want to publish that book, but is it really true?

It’s taken me a year, but I finally want to step out from my comfort curtain and start living.  It’s a bit scary but I feel alive.  Until next time, hugs and encouragement to you!

 

Empty Nest Series: From Super Hero to Pinch Hitter

There is not great advice out there on transitioning to becoming an empty nester.  All along I’ve not been a fan of the term ’empty nest’ because of the word ’empty’.  It’s not empty because you and/or your spouse or partner and maybe some pets are still live in said nest.  Maybe something like ‘lightened nest’.  My nest is lighter.   A term with a more positive connotation would be preferable.  My nest has changed but it isn’t empty.

Starting clear back in 2009 when my oldest daughter graduated high school, I had started reading books, articles, blogs and whatever I could get my hands on about transitioning into this lighter nest time in my life.  Considering that my youngest just moved out last year in 2018, nine years later, I’ve had quite a bit of time to do research.  I’ve even conferred with my therapist.  But the advice you get is about all the same.  Grieve that time in your life, but not too long and definitely don’t talk about it.

That’s the thing about being a parent, you spend an awful lot of time keeping your mouth shut and honestly, I get tired of it.  Not that I want to tell my adult children what to do or run their lives (though I’ll be honest, I have to catch myself out of habit and well, you want the best for them), but I want to be able to honestly express my feelings.  Not to make my kids feel guilty but so if they have families one day, they will know that this time in your life is a bittersweet one.  So that other parents out there feel that they are heard as well.

There are many things I don’t miss about being a parent.  All my time is dedicated to another person and my calendar was full.  I don’t miss having to have meals on the table every day.  I don’t miss a messy house or dishes left in the sink.  I love having freedom to do what I want when I want without (outside of kenneling the pets if we travel) outside of my job.  I don’t miss all the noise and the fighting, I like the quiet.  I love having my washer and dryer free all the time and I’m not waiting on someone to unload one or the other.  I love having a home office and an exercise studio/guest room.  I love that my life is now my own after having my first child at the age of 20.  And maybe someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll turn the studio/guest room into a room for grandchildren.

But I’ll admit, something very important is missing.  I’ve tried all the advice they have suggested which essentially is: Fill all your time up with something else.  Get a new hobby or go back to an old one, travel more, volunteer, go back to school, go after that career you’ve always wanted, start a business, join a club, make new friends and so on.  In theory, that sounds like solid advice and maybe it truly works for some but it hasn’t really worked for me.  I don’t sit at home doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself, especially since my husband and I work opposite shifts off and on during the month so I’m home alone quite frequently.  I already had a dozen hobbies, we travel about the same, I am going back to school in less than a month, I’m not a club person, maybe I’ll make new friends but I’m an introvert and not horribly social to start with and well I don’t have some new career I’m dying to start.  In short, I’d been living my life alongside raising my girls.  The more independent they became, the more time I devoted toward my interests.

Last fall, I signed up with a local organization much like Big Brothers/Big Sisters to be a lunch buddy for an 11-year old fifth grade girl I’ll call Madison.  Though you were to go just twice a month to eat lunch with your ‘little’, I usually went once a week when I could.  Here I was in the middle school my three daughters attended and that once was the high school from which I graduated.   I could still show you my locker in high school, #111.  I’ll admit, I’ve tried different volunteering activities and this is the first one that I really enjoyed and looked forward to doing.  I finally found something fulfilling.  Toward the end of the school year, the coordinator determined that we were a ‘match’ which means Madison and I can now spend time together outside of school with permission of her parents and of course, when she is available.  Though it took some back and forth (Madison’s parents are divorced and she floats between the homes) and some phone tag but the other day, we finally had our first day out.

I took Madison to meet my oldest daughter and while there she met a few of her friends and my daughter’s cat.  Then we visited my middle daughter and her three cats and three fish tanks.  Though my youngest was at work, she lives with the middle one, so Madison got to meet her two cats as well.  She loves animals and wanted to meet my daughters she’s heard so much about.  Our last stop was the local coffee/chocolate house downtown.  We each picked mango smoothies (with whipped cream) and walked down to the river to sit on an iron bench I sat with my own daughters when they were little.  I told Madison stories about my girls bringing bread down to feed the ducks/geese (which you’re not supposed to do now) and how my middle one would come and fish trying to catch these ginormous catfish that live in this murky river.  She told me stories as well about her family and things she’s done.

As she’s talking, I glance over at her, her feet up on the bench, oversized sunglasses on her face, my heart seizes.  I realize how much I miss these moments with my own daughters when they were younger.  I have an ‘AHA’ moment right there happily hanging out with Madison and I realize all the empty nest advice I’ve read or been given, doesn’t even touch the one key thing I’ve been missing.    It was as if the last puzzle piece of what I was struggling with finally clicked! into place.  Everything finally, finally made sense.

I went from Super Hero to Pinch Hitter as my kids grew up and moved on with their lives.  I’m still close to my daughters, I still see them frequently, we still spend time together.  We’ve had a few growing pains and bumps, but mostly things are good.  We’re still a close-knit family though everyone’s schedules are a bit challenging to get us all together.   But I’m a pinch hitter now.  Once in a great while, they need me but they are independent grown women.  I talk to them at least once a day via messenger app.  We have a group chat and individual chats.  That’s one blessed thing about technology that we didn’t have twenty-five years ago.  We can be in touch, just like we were when we all lived together.  Just less crowded and we aren’t fighting.

I had been chiding myself because I believe that I shouldn’t ever feel sad about having a lighter nest.  “You started out with no kids and you were fine back then.  You had a great time, you weren’t sad and down.”  But parenthood changes you.  I’m not the same person I was at 19-20 or in my teen years.  I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I’ve become a different person who has rounded out their life.

When your child(ren) are born, you put on a cape and become their super hero.  You’re responsible for all their care, they are completely helpless.  As they grow, there is usually a pretty intense love affair between you.  First smiles, first laugh, tiny fingers gripping onto one of yours, wrapping their arms around your neck, you saving them from all sorts of scary things, they become attached to you at the hip and then for a while they don’t like you but then they come back.  You’re the first person they show things to and you walk with them as they learn about and explore life.  So many kisses and hugs and bedtime stories.  So many sweet moments tucked into all the hair-pulling exhaustion and frustration and then one day, it’s all gone even if you have a good relationship with your adult kids.  But it’s changed as it’s supposed to but no one really tells you that you’re left a bit empty.  Maybe that’s how the word empty came into play.

It’s a process, going from Super Hero to Pinch Hitter, usually a gradual one but you’re now a bit player in their life.  What annoys the crap out of me is when people, well-meaning as they are, tell you ‘well that’s how it’s supposed to be, they are supposed to grow up’.  No shit.  Thanks so much for that.  But no one tells you that no matter what you do, even if you’re happy to not be caring for someone and to be on your own again, that you miss all the love.  Not that you and your adult kids don’t love each other but they aren’t running up to you four or five times a day and wrapping their arms around your neck and giving you sloppy kisses.  No one is looking up to you daily (though this wanes as they get older).  You’re not the hero anymore.  Maybe a little, but it’s more in the background.  You’ve been pretty much retired and even though I volunteer and spend time with someone younger, it’s not as if she’s my own child so it’s different.  She’s happy to see me and excited to spend time with me.  Now the only people who are excited to see me outside of Madison, aren’t people at all but my pets (thank god for them right?).

After I took Madison home, I drove back to my house in deep thought.  It made sense now.  I can do all the things on the list of ‘what empty nesters should do’ and it’s not going to replace the sweet love and moments I had with my daughters.  Even if I worked all day with kids, it’s not the same.  I’m guessing this is why people are so happy when they become grandparents.  They get their Super Hero cape back, at least for a decade or so.  Or maybe with grandparents, you get to keep it longer?  But this makes sense to me, this is why going back to school, delving into 200 hobbies, starting a business, etc. doesn’t quite make you feel whole (or at least me – I can’t speak for others).  But acknowledging what is really going on with me, helps.  I can be gentle with myself and not chide myself for struggling a bit.  There is a reason I am struggling and even though my girls are productive and amazing grown ups, I’m grieving parts of parenthood that can’t be fixed by anything.  It just is.

I’ve had my cape cleaned and it’s tucked neatly away in my closet in case I need it some day.  But until then, I will allow myself to feel what I need to feel.  I will be gentle with myself and understand that it’s not something you ‘fix’.  That there isn’t a book or article or blog or maybe even therapist who is going to tell you that it’s really okay and not suggest shoveling a lot of activities into that missing piece.  It’s okay for me to be sad and sometimes feel a little unneeded because the truth is, I’m not needed as much.  My feelings are valid.  I’m not being silly or a pathetic person, I am being human.   It’s okay if sometimes I feel like I’m not as useful as I once was or miss reading bedtime stories, and all the hugs and kisses.  There is no shame in that.  It’s okay to be sad sometimes while being relieved you don’t have to cook dinner every night.

Bottom line: Being a parent changes you.  You’ll never be the same person again but that’s alright.