I have a friend I’ve know for quite some time who is an executive coach. This man makes a living coaching top executives at companies to improve outcomes (and I imagine this means profits) for the organization. He makes more money in one gig than I make in several years. He’s probably made and lost more money over the years than I will see in several lifetimes. As I type this, he is involved in putting together a deal that will allow him to quadruple his income and expand his business. He’s doing this at a time in his life when he should be (or most people are considering being) retired. He doesn’t punch a time clock. His office is in his home or in a coffee shop or cigar shop nearby. He lives in a tower and drives an Audi. He controls his time, his life and mostly his levels of stress. He does what he wants, when he wants with no demands imposed on his life other than those he chooses for himself. It’s a pretty good gig for supposedly being retired. But it hasn’t always been this way for him. He’s had some pretty rough moments along the way. Read the rest of this entry
My oldest daughter is heading back to college to finish out her junior year in just a few days. There are many things to be done. She is a list maker. Lately, as her personal stress begins to mount, she’s taken to vocalizing these lists. I find it interesting to note, that she repeatedly mentions two things. She reminds us all, that we still have to do our White Elephant Gift Exchange. (No, we haven’t done that yet. It’s been tough to get everyone together the last few days.) My daughter is also insistent upon creating her New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. This year, I just don’t share her enthusiasm.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
When you look back on 2012, what single word would you use to describe your year? Was it a year of triumph, of joy, of wealth or misfortune? Was it a year of stability or change? Was it a year of loss, grief and pain? Was it a year of peace and tranquility? Is it a year you are glad to have lived or is the year for you already reminiscent of heartache, failure, struggle or regret? Is there, if you were to consider it, a theme to your year?
Another year has come, tarried awhile, and is on the verge of bidding us all adieu. This year no doubt brought its share of surprises, joys, disappointments, challenges and successes. Maybe, for some, it was a year almost completely pocked with pain or personal failure. Maybe, instead, the year painted broad brushstrokes of blessing on the canvas of your days.
Ever notice how we human beings have ways of marking the passage of time? Sure, we have our calendars, our reminders, our clocks and gizmos. I’m talking about the not-so-obvious ways of marking time. The methods which mark time in subtle ways that leave you realizing after the fact how time has passed rather than noting it up front.
I am not a winter person. I like cool weather but I’m really a sunny, summer person. I mark my years mostly by noting the passage of the seasons. The months from January to the end of March are dreadful for me. In the region where I live winters are relatively mild, but temperatures can vary from a balmy 60 degrees one day to snowing and freezing levels the next. I find this pretty tough on my system. I’m always glad when Daylight Saving Time arrives. Even though I lose an hour, I can see that summer is on the way, and with it, some more consistent temperatures.
When parents divorce in my county, if there are children involved, the parents are required to take a class that deals with the issue of helping children through divorce. It’s not a horrible class ,but it is required. The judge will not award a decree unless both parents take the class. I signed up and took the class as soon as I could after filing for divorce from The Evil Ex.
I remember the class well. I was there, fighting back tears and doing my level best to appear calm and well-adjusted, in spite of feeling like I might, at any second, dissolve into a liquid mass of human saltwater. I signed in, took my gratuitous paperwork, got some awful coffee, and found a seat near the side of the room toward the front. Shortly, after I sat down, a man entered. He looked like your typical geeky professor type. He strode up to the woman at the sign in desk and announced, “I’m being voted off the island, and I hear I have to take this class, so here I am.”
So much for feeling miserable. I couldn’t stop chuckling about it each time I thought of it for a good year afterward. Humor has a way of numbing the pain sometimes.
This week, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to work. I have a job that allows me a great deal of time off each year. This is not paid time off, but it is still time off. Because my job is so demanding and stressful during the rest of the year, I loathe working during these off times. This year, due to medical expenses from my cancer treatments and the gradual drain of the Non-Boyfriend on my pocketbook, I decided to sign up to work five weeks this summer. This week was week three. It’s been wonderful to have something to go do each day that helps me forget that I am being voted off my own island.
On Tuesday of this week, the Non-Boyfriend and I voted each other off the relational island. Later that day, one of my colleagues began sharing at break, how his wife of 27 years just voted him off the marital island this last May. (I did not start talking about my situation. He brought up the topic all on his own.) He is still reeling from the shock and surprise and grief that comes from being blindsided. I can relate.
I mentioned a few posts back how I changed my status on Facebook to single right after I realized that the Non-BF had been planning a secret escape from our crumbling island. It wasn’t long before I had friends commiserating with me digitally, offering their condolences. Many contacted me privately. Some of these folks are single eligible men. One of them is a person I “met” digitally about four years ago through a blog I was writing at that time. He lives on the other side of the country, and even though I’ve long since stopped writing on that other blog, he’s kept in touch through Facebook. We’ve never met in real life. He, too, was just voted off the island of relational bliss.
Yesterday, he mentioned flying out to see me at the holidays. We will both be sans children and negotiating a “couples” holiday season alone. Neither of us is looking forward to it. Now, I’m fairly certain this will not happen, but I do find it interesting how things in life can conspire to distract me from the pain I am dealing with. Random little interactions like this tend to be like the emotional epidural that completely knocks out the pain of the relational rejection I’m birthing. You can still feel the pressure, but the pain is not there. I’ve been voted off the island by one particularly unhappy individual through no fault of my own, really, unless finally saying no to mistreatment is a fault. Less than 48 hours later, I have people entering my life inviting me to visit their little island for a bit.
No, I’m not going to stay long on any of these islands. I will most certainly not even spend the night. I am not ready for that. But, I ask you what is the harm of stopping by someone’s island for an afternoon of friendship, sun, and maybe even some libations? Can anyone refuse an invitation to spend a day at the beach with fun companions?
I was voted off an island I didn’t realize was crumbling. Maybe it is time for me to realize that there are possibly much bigger, stronger, more enjoyable islands out there.
I’m exhausted these days. I shouldn’t complain. Who isn’t exhausted in our American overworked, stressed out society? I should clarify, I’m more exhausted than I usually am these days, and yet, I cannot sleep. I find this both strange and completely understandable. It is strange because I’m not given to being so totally wiped out and still unable to sleep at night. I find it understandable, because for the first time in my adult life since my mid to late 20’s, I am actually looking forward to my future. That last statement is a testament of just how pathetic my life has been over the last 25 years. Or, maybe, it is proof that I’ve been depressed and simply trying to survive. There really is nothing more life-draining, dehumanizing, energy-sucking, and damaging than a miserable relationship. I’ve experienced not one, but two of these in the last 25 years. One of the earliest signals to my younger self that something was indeed terribly wrong in my life was that I realized I had stopped looking forward to things in life. I stopped anticipating. My life had become something to be endured. Something to survive. I anticipated no joys, no excitement, no future. All I could do was survive…and I wasn’t even doing that for myself…I was doing that for my children.
I used to be the person who looked forward to moving. New locations, new digs, new people. I relished all the aspects of moving. For as much chaos as I’ve experienced in my life and for as much as people view me as being a free-wheeling, laid back, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type person, when it comes to moving, I am anything but laid back. This move has been no exception. I have systems in place that make moving as stress free as possible (as long as everyone around me does it my way). I also have methods that make the moving day incredibly quick and painless. Even though I’m a bit of a tyrant during a move, all who’ve moved with me, recognize that what I do works. I don’t end up with stuff scattered all over the old place or the new place for weeks. And I’m moved in and unpacked in a matter of a few hours an no one has to be inconvenienced or work overly hard. Smooth moves. That’s what I do well.
So, tonight, exhausted as I am, I cannot sleep because the minute I rest my weary head on the pillow, my mind begins scrolling through all that I have yet to do to get my family of six out of our house and into our new digs in the next 7 days. It’s pretty exhilarating, considering that just over a week ago, I had no idea I was going to be moving over Labor Day Weekend. Sure, I knew a move was in my future, like maybe six months down the road. I had no idea that within 24 hours I would find, tour, meet the landlords and put move-in fees down on what will be the largest and newest home I’ve lived in my entire adult life. Furthermore, I’m saving money in doing it. Even further, it is super-conveniently located and has all the modern amenities; something I’ve lived without for nearly a decade now. I’m excited. I’m anticipating this adventure. I’m looking forward to life in this new place. Above all, this symbolizes a casting off of all that was painful, ugly, broken and beyond repair in my life. As I toss or recycle each unnecessary or broken item, I’m taking another step closer to that clutter-free, minimalist lifestyle I seek. Stuff clutters. Clutter stresses. I’m done with both. The physical stuff and clutter are going, as is the emotional stuff and clutter.
It is much easier to do away with the physical trash in my life than it is to get rid of the emotional garbage. Of late, I am realizing the power of “letting go.” I know it sounds cliche, but I’m learning there are things I just don’t have any power over. As one who has been far too concerned with what others thought of me over the years (especially the ex’s), I’m learning that the very thing I wish I could control, but which I can’t, is others’ opinions and perceptions of me. Sure, I can do my best to put my best foot forward, but when I tell my ex that what he proposes won’t work for his daughter and I, I cannot control that he thinks I am a control freak or that he believes I’m intentionally sabotaging his relationship with his child. Where he’s concerned, I am a control freak about our daughter, but this is more due to his extreme negligence and abusive behavior than it is my desire to control in this area. In spite of that, I have no desire to sabotage any relationship he has with his daughter. He will never believe this. He will especially not believe this when he learns about our move. His reaction worries me. I then kick into feeling badly and somehow that I am again at fault for the conflict. I am learning to stop my mind from running down that well-worn path and, instead, to take a different route this time. This new route is one that affirms my ability to make good decisions and validates my intentions to move my family to a better situation in life. A situation where I can be present for my children instead of stressing out about all the things I will never have the money to repair or maintain or do for my children. I cannot be worried that this ex, who never cared about me or what was important to me, doesn’t understand my motives or intent. No matter how I present this, he will view it negatively and I will likely end up in court anyway (a needless waste of time and expense). I have to let that go. I can’t waste energy on that. With each item I throw out, I am banishing the memories of dysfunction and moving toward a healthier manner of living and relating.
This is the future I see.
This is the life I look forward to living.