U-hauls, Empty Nest (Sorta), Food Journals and Next Chapters…

A lot has happened since my last blog post.  Yesterday, I moved my two oldest daughters into the house my oldest bought.  Her first house!  I’m so excited for her (and a little melancholy) and immensely proud of her.  This is a house that she bought all by herself by saving up for a long time to build up her savings.  When I was driving a truck load over to her new house, I started thinking of myself at that age, 25 almost 26.  At her age, I had been married for 5 years and was pregnant with my 3rd child and we had just moved into our first house that we bought.  

The thing is, back then, I’d never thought about buying my own house.  You were programmed to think that you went to school, got married (maybe college) and then the house came.  At least in my family.  While the 1970s still encompassed women’s liberation from the 1960’s, even in the mid-late 1980’s when I was a teenager, the old ways still clung.  Though I was an independent person to an extent, it never dawned on me to buy my own house because very few women I knew had done so unless they were divorced or “weird”.  Fast forward 21 years and here is my daughter buying her own house.  And watching the social media feeds, so are a lot of people her age, male or female without the trappings of having to get married first.  

Had I been in a better situation had I just worked and bought my own place, rather than marrying someone that I did not really want to marry?  I think so though I would not have the great daughters I have today.  A lot of it has to do with the Christianity that I was familiar with growing up.  The male was the head of the household and the female more subservient.  Which I am not saying is good or bad, but maybe it just wasn’t the only way.  I think of the potential in life that I had not developed because I was stunted by a patriarchal mindset.  Not blaming anyone, or being a victim, but you are influenced by those ideals swirling around you.  It simply had not dawned on me to just focus on my own education and career like my daughter has done.  Then buy my own house and when love arrives in your life, you don’t feel dependent on that person.  You know you can take care of yourself which is what I really pushed for with my daughters, as it is miserable to believe that you are dependent on another person for your life.   

Being independent means you have to face the fact that you are in charge of your own failures and successes but that is the reality of life.  I spent a good part of my life feeling that I needed someone else to help me achieve my goals.  Someone like a parent, a boyfriend or a spouse.  But they weren’t really in charge of my life the way I depended on them.  I was so miserable and unhappy tying my future and my goals to someone all the time.  Not that you don’t have joint goals with your spouse but when you let go of your individual goals, the things that make you happiest, you are not living authentically.  Luckily, I have a husband now who doesn’t want to control every little thing in my life and he actually steps back and forces me to do it on my own sometimes.  Which is good, because I’ve spent way too much time in the shadows.  My former spouse’s shadows, my mom’s shadow, etc.  I reached a point in my life when all that had faded away and I was left standing there thinking, OMG, who am I? 

That’s the problem with hanging your shingle on someone else and not yourself.  You lose yourself and who you are or in my case, maybe I never really took the time to figure out who that was or I thought I knew already.  And that doesn’t mean you can’t be in a relationship to get there either.  You can, you just have to pick a relationship with mutual respect and where each or one partner doesn’t want to control the other.  Yes, it’s scary when you do something on your own especially if it’s important to you.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have a good support system or people who encourage you but you realize that you are the one driving the bus so to speak.  I’m 46 years old and this is finally dawning on me.  That my fear and lack of self-confidence kept me from going after what I loved.  Instead, I stood by my man (which for 18 years of my life was disastrous) and never really did enough for myself.  I hid behind other people.  It was easier that way.   Well nothing good ever comes easy.

As my house empties a bit, I am now sitting in what once was my middle daughter’s bedroom that overnight became my office.  A place to write and work on projects where I can focus and fight my urge to be up cleaning and so on.  I’m a bit ADD that way.   in a way I was sad they left, but proud at the same time.  LIke any change, it takes me a little to adjust to it but I usually make the best of it all.  in a way, it is exciting because I can focus more on my goals.  I miss my daughter a little but she’s just ten miles away and having my own “room” for the first time in 26 years is actually nice.  I woke up this morning and was running different room configurations through my head.    

On the food journal note, yesterday marked my monthly measurement milestone.  I have lost 9 pounds and 6.5 inches (8 different measurements).  It’s been hard to stay focused on journaling.  Many days I want to blow it off but I’m forcing myself to stick with it for 3 months minimum.  I was excited yesterday by the loss of inches because my weight fluctuates.  It can go up and down 5 lbs in a day or two.  Weight isn’t the best method for me, mostly I am doing it more on a scientific outlook but the measurements give me my actual progress.  That and how I feel.   I feel really great inside and out so that is worth the hassle of logging everything I eat.  Three months is what they say you need to create or break a habit.  So I’m going at least 3 months on this food journal journey.  We will see how I feel when I reach that point in February on my oldest’s 26th birthday! 

Well, I need to close as I am having my first volunteer day at the local nursing home.  Im a little nervous but I always am when it ones to something new.  I’m excited about the fact the Winter Solstice has passed and the days will start getting longer.  I’m excited for 2017 and what all it can bring.   I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.  Cheers!

Empty Nest – Sorta…

I don’t technically have an “empty nest” by definition.  All three of my daughters are still living at home though they live their own lives.  Two of them work a second shift full time job so I don’t see much of them and the youngest is going to the local college full time and working with an active social life so I don’t see her much either.  Which is how it should be.  This is what we parents train them for, going out and getting on with their own life.  What they don’t really tell you is how that is going to affect you.  When I say something about it to people who haven’t gone through it, they roll their eyes and say well you knew they were going to grow up or something equally as helpful.  I always think in the back of my mind, well, you will be here one day too and I will offer you the same grand advice and sympathy.  Okay, I’m a little vindictive at times, I’ll admit it.  

Recently it has become more acute for me because my middle daughter who worked with me went to the second shift job at the place where her older sister worked.  It was a great move for her, better pay and opportunity for her to advance.  As much as I was excited for her, I dreaded the fact that my “buddy” wouldn’t be around to keep me company because she’s more a homebody than I am.  So essentially it was rare I was alone in the house with all the different shifts and people coming and going.  Until now.  

Add in the fact my husband works a swing shift, I’m finding myself home alone much more frequently and not really sure of how I feel about it.  One moment I am ecstatic I can hog the tv, the couch and play my piano as loud as I want.  The next moment, I look around and think, this is weird.  Where is everyone?  For ten years of my life, I lived with seven people in my family.  You were never alone and you never were in the bathroom alone.  There were days I couldn’t wait for this day when I had the house to myself and could pee without an audience.  Now it’s here, I stand in the silence of this house and I am not really sure what to do with myself.  

What I’ve read about empty nest from experts and people that have been through it, we all feel somewhat the same.  I’ve been lucky because it’s been a lot more slow process than some of my friends where it has been very abrupt.  But much of the advice I read, falls short with me.  Volunteer.  Get a hobby.  Travel.  All good suggestions but I am finding myself wanting more purpose than that though volunteering is a great thing.  I often feel like the girl interrupted.  My life went in a completely different direction than I had hoped.  Almost hijacked by narcisstic husbands and poor choices on my part but it’s straighten out.  The chaos and craziness those relationships provided were like white noise that I did not have to face my own life and what I wanted to do.  If you are too busy surviving, then you don’t have time to think about your dreams and hopes or your life purpose.  

My oldest daughter is twenty-five and she is at a similiar cross roads.  She had hoped to get into grad school and further forgo having to choose a direction for her life.  As she said, much of her life has been orchestrated.  You go to school, graduate high school, go on to college and then get out and get a job.  She had taken a hiatus after my mom’s death Becuase we were all pretty shell shocked and needed time to heal.   A little like me, she is asking the question, what does she want to be when she grows up because the old things just doen’t seem right to her.  She is starting to look in directions and for paths she had never considered.    

However, she still has most of her life ahead of her.  She may marry and/ or raise a family.  I’ve done that part.  So check, family done.   I try to imagine myself back in high school when counselors, teachers and parents are asking me what I want to do after I graduate.  The biggest difference is I am established in life and when you become middle-aged, you start feeling that it is really important that you don’t fritter your life away.  But the problem with that line of thinking is that you forget to enjoy life because you are too worried about making a difference, reaching that goal because you feel like you only have so much time.  The flip side is you can become so concerned about making the wrong choice, you make no choice at all so you are stuck in limbo.  Which is where I think I am at times.  

When I was younger, early 20’s, I had a million ideas for businesses and actually had the balls to even go for a few of them. Now I come up with 100000 reasons why I shouldn’t do something.  In a way, youth has the upper hand here because ou are more likely to take risks, even if they are stupid.  The older you get, the more you learn and the more you think, I have to be crazy.  I could lose my house, investments, savings, cars and the like.  When you are just starting out, you have much less to lose usually.  On the other hand, if I don’t ever try or reach for my dreams, I will regret it on my death bed.  I feel much like I am frozen, paralyzed.  

At the end of last year, I wrote down several goals and have achieved several of them or am on the verge of achieving them.  Going back to school has given me a sense of purpose I did not have before and has also eaten up a lot of my free time.  Now I am less than two weeks away from finishing and I am thinking, okay, now what?  Having a goal and a purpose felt good.  I was doing something for myself, just as if I was much younger without a family.   This tells me that after graduation, it will be time to sit down and think up my next moves in life.  In a way, this is daunting and exciting at the same time.  Learning to spend more time alone is different but not a bad thing.  It is much like being single and living alone when you start out, something I didn’t really experience. 

Sure, my life is slowly changing and there are times I’m excited and other times I am sad or dread the change.  Just like anything in life, any real change, there is positive and negatives but middle-age isn’t the end of the world.  I will learn to adjust to this time, just as I learned to adjust to all the other times of my life.  Some easier and others harder, but I always come out just fine.

In some ways, “empty nest” is like being given a second chance to find your path in life, your new path.  

The Art of Writing

Yesterday as I was walking around a large arts festival between downpours, I saw all sorts of amazing creations.  I’m a bit jaded as my daughters are hugely artistic.  I do photography, though not seriously, mostly for my own enjoyment.  I sketch a bit but a sixth grader can overshadow my work pretty easily.  There were artists from all over the country there with all sorts of media from paint, to wood, to metal, to fabric, to jewelry and mixed media.  Anything you could think of was housed in those white tents lining the streets and bridges.  Of course everything I liked was priced out of what I would be willing to pay for it but I am cheap.  And we have been trying to downsize our possessions, not add to them.  So it would have to be a work of art that would absolutely move me for me to even purchase it.

There was so much talent residing in that one area, it started me thinking.  My one real art that I am passionate about is writing.  No, I don’t pen fabulously crafted sentences with prose that other authors would envy.  My writing is pretty straight forward, like my personality.  My strength seems to be empathy not creativity so much.  I write in a voice that others hear in their own heads and hearts.  I can paint a picture with words but it won’t be flowery and chock full of adjectives describing the scene to the minute degree.  I like to keep it moving.  When I read and start getting mired in overly descriptive paragraphs about nothing, my natural tendency toward efficiency will have me skimming the lines until I find some real action again.   Some readers love an author who will wax poetic for long stints.  Me, I think, what’s next?  What happens next?

Driving home alone after being rained out of the festival, I opened the sunroof of my truck, letting the warm, humid air blow through the cab.  If I can help it, every vehicle I own from now on will have a sunroof.  Even if it’s a junker.  I love the sky above me and the air blowing through the roof.  I turned up my music and enjoyed watching the dance of the fading sun and storm clouds in the horizon knowing soon, I’d have to shut the sunroof when the next round of rain came upon me.  This is summer at it’s best for me.  Just being able to open the windows and not freeze.  Moments like these make me feel inspired.

I have been thinking about reinvention and second acts that are popular with my age group (middle aged).  People ruse being middle aged as the approach to the end.  As if “middle aged” is a bad word or words.  What people don’t realize is that while yes, you are past that ‘young’ era but that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.  I sat in a bar/restaurant yesterday that caters to the younger, hipster crowd noting that I was one of the oldest people in there.  My daughter and her boyfriend love this place and it does have fabulous food and atmosphere.  I’m overhearing conversations, watching the interactions of these 20-somethings, maybe 30-somethings and thinking I am so glad I am 45.  There is a wisdom and freedom with this age and older.  You have passed a lot of the frivolous drama, marriage and raising kids or at the later part of raising kids.

I also realized that I have much in common with what was either in college or just out of college kids.  I have my whole life ahead of me albeit about 20 so more years into the process.  But I have this advantage over them.  Many of them will be getting married and having children (or adopting etc for same sex couples).  I’ve already experienced this part of my life.  I am financially stable and less encumbered.  I’ve learned many lessons in life already (and will continue to learn) that I can use to my advantage.  I’m not too old for most things.  If an 80 year old woman can become a DJ in night clubs, imagine what I can do?  I may not be joining the military or doing Ironman competitions because of my knee problems but I still have the chance to become a best-selling writer if I’d ever publish something.

I saw all those artists today who have put their work out there for the world, that are pursuing their goals and I realized I can write all I want but until I start actually finishing something I can submit, my work is going to go unnoticed outside of this blog.   As far as the reinvention which is really not that, but more about experiencing life and not limiting myself to what I am today, it’s about stepping out of my comfort zone.  Exploring things as I would have when I was younger.  Actually, it’s not reinventing anything, it’s simply living my life to the fullest.  Taking some chances, stop being so safe all the time.  Trying on different hats.  Stretching the imagination.

Middle aged isn’t a death sentence as everyone wants you to believe.  It’s a new beginning.

The Many Shades of Grief

It has been several months since I posted a blog entry as I really have had nothing to write about.  Or maybe, I have and I just haven’t felt like writing.  This morning I was lying in bed thinking about the previous day where my husband and I worked in our yard, trimming back all the many bushes that grows in our quarter of acre patch.  Working in the yard since my mother passed March of 2014, is bittersweet to say the least.  She is the one who walked into this house the summer of 2000 while I was a single mother and said, Laura, this is your house, I can feel it.  And so it is and has been for almost fifteen years.

When I moved into the house it had precisely two lines of honeysuckle bushes lining the back yard, evergreens in the front, one old maple, one old crabapple and two ash trees by the front street in the city-owned strip.  Now it is full of anything that flowers.  Over the years my mom and I have bought things for this yard, I have divisions of plants that come from my great-grandmother’s yard.  We pass down plants like some people pass down family heirlooms such as an antique clock or jewelry.  You can’t be from my mom’s side of the family and not want to dig in the dirt.  So now when I work in my yard, it is like walking among a tapestry of memories.  Here is the lilacs my grandmother gave me years ago.  Here are the forsythia bushes my mom bought me on sale a the nursery.  Almost every plant is tied to a memory including ones my kids bought me for Mother’s Day.

As I sat on my front porch after we had completed a long overdue task as I let much of the yard work go last year because I couldn’t even bear to even pull weeds in my gardens full of memories, I felt so restless.  My husband recently asked if we could look for a new house in a town about 20 minutes south of our current one so he could cut down his hour drive to work.  We had talked about it when we first got together, moving about halfway once my daughters had graduated high school.  This of course started a ripple of anxiety, stress and uncertainty in me.  On one hand I wanted to dig in and say well we don’t owe much on this house, why go into debt and on the other hand, I did make that promise to him seven years prior.  The search has netted little.  We did make an offer on a house outside of town that I think we both thought would work but neither of us was thrilled with the idea of living there.

The only house that really excited us was pushing our mortgage limit.  It is also a uniquely designed home from the late 1970’s that would be hard to sell.  It’s already been on the market over two years so we would have to really commit to this home.  But as we put the mortgage payment that would accompany this 5 bedroom, 5 bath, 6 level house tucked in the woods, we cringe at what it does to our discretionary money.  There just isn’t much left over.  We reconsidered it last night after a month of letting it sit on the discussion table, even driving by it and thinking oh how perfect it is for us because it’s secluded and everyone else in this “neighborhood” seems to be just like us.  Wanting to be left alone.  Coming home, he ran the numbers and said it just makes us too tight unless they came down significantly.   We sigh and let it go.  Maybe it just isn’t the time to move.  Or maybe deep down we are both struggling with grief and we don’t want to truly move, though that is probably more me than my husband.

However, I have days where I think, I want to start over in a new town.  One that isn’t full of memories and in a house where we just start over.  Then I think about the town that is half way between our jobs and I am less than excited about moving.  It’s a little bigger than my current town, puts me closer to things I do often, more stores, restaurants, etc. but it’s not my dream town.  Then my mind thinks, well do I even want to live in Ohio?  Maybe I want to move back south?  Then I think well maybe we should just bite the bullet on that expensive house.  Then I think no, I don’t want that financial stress.  In other words, I don’t think I know what I want.  There are days I don’t feel I fit in my hometown at all.  And other days it feels like home.  Days where my house feels like a warm, blanket of love and other days where I feel weird and restless in it because I see so many memories that include my mom.

Grief, I realize manifests itself in so many unexpected ways.  For me it can be as simple as weeding around one of the roses my mom bought me that can trigger it.  Walking into the garden section of any local store.  In addition, I am at that point in my life where everything has changed for me.  My daughters are all out of high school, one graduated college and one in college.  They are all independent and my mothering duties are slight.  I no longer have parents to take care of.  People call it empty nest but all my girls still live at home for the moment.  I work in the same place my mom retired from and my middle daughter works.  I walk the halls my mother used to walk for many years.  My life is like a shrine to my mother almost. I live in the same town, in a house she helped me choose and at a job where there are constant reminders of her.  Even some of my documents show the author as being her because the templates she created.   And I was always in her shadow.  She worked her way up to the top of the food chain at our company while I chose to stay in much more quiet roles.  Mostly because I saw what the stress did to her.

Now that I am at a point in my life that it is much like that last year of high school where I am scrambling trying to decide what direction I want my life to take, I find myself quite lost at times.  I realize how short life is so I want to live it to the fullest, do the things that make me happy but I am not really sure what all that is anymore.  What was important to me two years ago is no longer important to me today.  Watching someone die, you realize how little in life is truly important.  I”ve narrowed it down to the people you love, helping others and enjoying life.  What other people think doesn’t matter at all.  What you own doesn’t matter unless you get a lot of enjoyment out of that purchase.  I suppose for me, it is much like waiting for my calling to be revealed.  I sense there is something, not sure what, but it is out there.

Maybe I just am being taught to be patient, maybe I am being given time to heal before suiting up for my next big adventure…