Monday, July 24, 2017

Headed Toward Normal

It was 11:07 PM when I first walked into the kitchen. I finally stop watching TV (though Sunday night is filled with TV favorites) and got up to DO something.  It wasn’t as if I hadn’t done anything all day; it had been a productive day on many fronts  I’d made a chicken and broccoli salad that I took to a friend’s to lunch and help reorganize kitchen cabinets  a fun job for me and helpful to her.

I’d gone to help the once-husband unpack a carload of our daughter’s stuff that he’d just helped pack and drove to his house to unload and store; and I’d decided to see (via email) if it was possible to arrange a weekend reunion with some college friends in a city where none of us lived.

I had my lists of to-dos (getting ready to leave town for my nephew’s wedding) and among the many items was making a tomato tart.  I had tomatoes freshly picked from a friend’s neighbor and now there was a possibility my friend and her family might come for dinner and I didn’t have any idea of what I would make.  But the tomato tart would come in handy. I needed to get up and make it.

While I was slicing the onions and sautéing them (with olive oil and the lemon thyme I’d just cut from my little garden) I started thinking about a question someone asked someone else in my presence:  

“When were you the happiest?”

That was some question. It wasn’t a question I’d ever thought about answering.. And while I was trying to think of my answer to that question, surprisingly the answer just popped up   “Now.”

That was surprising.   There were so many happy-s in my life:  Happy when I met my husband; happy when we got married; happy when I had my kids; happy at so many times but (and this was “but” big) all those times I was happy, I was also saddled with stress and/or worry.  Always.  My other twins: stress and worry.

All of those happy occasions in my past were times when I was in control, managing a lot, taking care of a lot  people and things.  I was orchestrating my life and theirs.  No one asked me or demanded I do it.  It was my mission.  It was what I thought was my lot in life and I was pretty good at it but it wasn’t great for my relationships and it wasn’t ever carefree.

Now most of my day, my every day, is spent only on taking care of me.. It’s a pretty easy job!  For the most part I feel happy and content.  I may have times when I wish I weren’t alone and times when I wish I had a partner to do things with  things like listening to music, dancing, or trying out a new recipe on.   And I’d like to be working some, but that hasn’t worked out yet but still  for the most part, life is good and I’m not worried!  I just signed a new lease (Has it been a year already?), my physical issues are behind me at the moment and I don’t have much stress.

I’ve never lived this way before. Living this way now is really a gift; and whatever it cost to get this gift, well, I guess right now I’m feeling the payoff.  It was 11:30 at night and I was doing exactly what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.  That is my life these days.  Amazingly.

It’s been two long years of real transition but right now  I think I’m starting to edge into the phase of what might become my new normal.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dear American Airlines

Dear American Airlines,

I have been flying American Airlines since I was in college (40+ years ago!) and have always been a fan but never more than a recent trip I took (with my American Advantage miles!) from RDU to (get ready) Martha’s Vineyard by way of DCA.  I had received an unexpected and lovely invitation to visit the Vineyard for a few days and then decided to see an old college friend living outside Boston before heading back home.  I was amazed that I could do the trip with my carefully saved miles and could actually fly in to Martha’s Vineyard (saving me the bus and ferry fares to get there). I was thrilled.

The day of travel June 25, there were weather issues elsewhere (loads of rainstorms) and at RDU we were waiting and waiting for our plane to arrive.  I began to get nervous knowing that my connection in DC was a tight one.  I tried to stay positive.

Our plane arrived around the time we were due to take off but still, it was only a forty-minute flight.  I stayed optimistic (not my natural state of affairs).  I kept telling flight attendants I had a tight connection; could they be sure I had the wheelchair assist at the gate?  Between two bad knees (getting shots in July, fingers crossed) and more recently a “collapsed” left foot, a wheelchair saved me pain and further damage to an already-not-great ankle.

We landed at 1:38 pm (about 30 minutes later than expected) but I was relieved, “I’ll make the plane with a scramble,” I thought as the flight to MVY wasn’t due to depart until 2:17.  Still, it was going to be tight.

And then.  And then we didn’t have a gate.  Or we had a gate but the gate was changed. Or we had a gate but then it was cancelled.  Another four minutes before we could head for our gate.  But then another plane was assigned to that gate ahead of us.  The clock kept running, the minutes were slipping away.  2:01pm.  I reluctantly thought, “I need to find out when’s the next flight,” and saw there was NO next flight.  Hmmm.  I looked on the next day, Monday, thinking I might have to stay in Washington DC overnight and take the first flight in the morning but no matter how I searched, NO MATCHES to be found.

Bummer.  I realized maybe American didn’t fly to Martha’s Vineyard during the week…now what?  I asked a flight attendant was anyone else on board headed for that connection?  No.  Only me.  “They’ll never hold the flight for one person,” I said to her mournfully.  I was almost in tears.  So close and yet so far.  I wasn’t sure what was possible to do.  Most of the options were time-consuming and too expensive.

Finally, we headed for a gate.  I’d already texted my host that there was no way I’d make it there that day.  UGH.  We all started to line up to exit.  I got my overhead bag out and braced myself trying not to be too upset and then, and THEN the first-class flight attendant at the door said, “Martha’s Vineyard com’ON, they're holding the plane for you!” and my eyes widened and my face lit up and the passengers ahead of me stepped aside while I scooted to the door where the wheelchair and a gate agent were awaiting me.  Things happened so quickly I never got anyone’s name I just started thanking people as we flew toward gate 34.

“I can’t believe they’re holding the plane…you don’t have another flight today and I couldn’t find one tomorrow…”

“That’s why!” this lovely gate agent said to me, “Don’t worry, they knew that and they’re holding the plane.  You gotta have faith!” and as I whizzed through the door onto the jet bridge and was wheeled down the ramp and quickly made my way onto the plane (with the next two flight attendants welcoming me aboard and congratulating me on making it) I just felt so lucky and so grateful and so thankful that someone, MORE than one someone at American Airlines decided to go out of their way and make my day.

Thank you for such terrific service!
Taken from my window, happily making the flight to my vacation!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What Will It Take To Make Me Happy?

My therapist asked me this question the other day:  

"What will it take to make you happy?"

It was a good question.  It's been two years since I made the decision to leave my marriage and left.  I've been back and forth to the house physically over those two years  but not to the marriage. Tough. Up and down. Still sad.  And uncertain about what my "new normal" looks like  but over all, across many aspects, I'm living happier and feeling so much better.  

Now I'm spending my time, energy and finances (for the most part) 
on myself  a new experience. Totally new. My truth is that most of my life I made myself somewhat indispensable (or at least valuable) by taking care of things for others.  By doing that I got the attention I needed; the attention that wasn't available at home.  Good behavior got me attention (since second grade).  But that automatic-robo focus on the external (It's-all-his-fault) and lack of focus on my internal (What's my part in this?) in part created the unhappiness I found myself living in.  

From young adulthood on, my driven, commanding (ever-worried) behavior
 got me great jobs, made me great friends, paid our way (partially) through life (along with my persistent frugality).  But it wasn't all beneficial. Not for me or my relationships.  I trusted next to nothing.  If I wasn't hyper-vigilant, something bad was going to happen.  And a married a guy who virtually never worried (way before I came along) and thought about it even less after we married because mastermind-me was always on the job.  It was a vicious cycle.

We're both free of that now.  It's a better, easier, happier life
  but it came at a price. And now, moving forward means leaving behind the only male partner I've had for 36 years.  It doesn't come easy!  Hard to turn off the motor in my mind that still looks for the clothes I think he needs (in thrift stores, of course) or still wants to pass along info I think he could use, or still thinks about feeding him the leftovers I know he'd enjoy having.  But that coupled life is no longer my reality.  My reality is grieving the loss of the marriage and grieving the loss of couple-dom, and I need to sit with that.  Something I don't find easy to do.

My daughter is going through a break-up and she's decided to write about it, which is SO healthy.   And it reminded me how I've shirked writing about my own transition.  From where I sit, it seems too hard to categorize or define or even know what my life is day to day.  How to write about that?  

What's on the table for me right now is so uncertain, so nebulous, that I scarce wanna write about it  but writing about it is what helps.  At least for me.  And I'd guess for our daughter, too. [FYI, that was just a place of transition for me, choosing to write "our" instead of "my" daughter.]  Anyway, none of this territory is known to me.  

I make choices every day and only as they benefit me.  I don't really need to consider anyone else  or if I do, it's because I CHOOSE to.  It's such a relief  such a gift to just focus on what I want and not need to take anything else into consideration.  Amazingly freeing.

And yet I've had two health scares recently (urgent care/ER) and at least one will require surgery pretty immediately and being on your own makes you feel really vulnerable. All the progress you've made on feeling strong and being able to exist solo, fritters away when you're in the ER and someone is asking, "Emergency contact?"

It's hard to write about this stuff, this transition.  It's always shifting to me.  But writing about it (along with time spent in therapy) forces me to examine it and that helps me learn from it.  I've examined a lot in my life and in real depth  but not examined myself.  I haven't been in help-myself mode in, well, forever.  At least that's how it feels.  It's a frightening business  but it's a must.

One of these days, I'll get into a writing routine again; find some "new normal", but it's not right now.  

Bear with me it may take time, but I'm gonna figure out how to truly make myself happy. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dear President Trump

This is my postcard on this Ides of Trump...

Dear President Trump,

First let me say, I did not vote for you.  Being from the Northeast I certainly knew of you, may have respected your business acumen in real estate, certainly gave nod to your ability to stay pretty near the top of some game as the decades passed; acknowledged that you're a Survivor. You're a contestant who eventually becomes the host of the show.  

Your congressional speech was aspirational; as those speeches are.  And yes, it didn't offer any details on how you would pay for your vision of what you want your Presidency to achieve, but neither do any of those speeches.  And while I realize it was only words, I was glad to see that you could restrain your tendencies.         At least once.

As a former teacher and an always-educator, my message to you is I'd like to remind you that you are the role model for millions of individuals who look up to and hold their President in esteem. You and your words, actions, and behaviors, impact millions  especially those citizens who aren't yet voters  our young people.

I say this because many, many years back, when I was giving a workshop on academic integrity with the eighth-grade class at a private, elite academy, one of the students justified his choice of actions by saying, "Well if the President can lie, why can't I?"  I was dumbfounded.  Not just at what this student said and believed, but at the fact that not one other adult in the room chose to tackle the ethical issues raised by that response.  

I bring this story up because it was in reference to then-President Clinton. Despite the fact that I am in disbelief at much of what you are doing, that is your right to do.  This is a democracy, flaws and all; it is what we've got, what has worked, what is often envied, and what people fight for.  Democracy will work its way through this the way it always has.  It lies in the words and actions of our elected officials and the populace.  While I'm waiting for democracy to work,  I can't abide by the lack of standard you are setting for our children.  Nor can I understand how those who support you can overlook the crassness and the lack of decency in your daily behavior.

Almost immediately after the inauguration of the Trump presidency, in two very different settings (one on an airplane and the other in a college campus paper) I heard examples of young people behaving in ways I found disturbing.  One was a reference to a student overhearing a few other students openly talking in a racist way while walking across their college campus.  The other way was a college professor headed back to his campus in another state, recounting that all of a sudden some students were balking at the partners they were being teamed with, etc.  To me that was appalling.  And like it or not, you, the President, gave them license to behave that way.

President Trump, here's what I'd ask: Isn't there a way for you to fulfill your new role, do the work you want to do but do it in a more positive, character-building way because it's what's best for all our children?  

I'm not asking you to stop tweeting, but does every day have to be a day that you disparage someone or some group?  Does every day have to be a day that you spout untruths?  Why not do your job without doing that?  I know it's not how you're used to behaving, but you're not in the real estate business NOW (well, at least you shouldn't be).

It's in no one else's control; what you say and do sets a standard for a portion of our populace.   I understand the focus on a bottom-line business approach and attention to more efficiency because we've gotten very top-heavy and incredibly sluggish about how our government runs.  I'm all in favor of improving THAT.  But I deplore how you are governing.  I rail at your lack of discipline and your choice to be uncivil and unwelcoming to those who most need the protection of the Presidency.  

I expect my President to be truthful and compassionate and just  that is what I wish and want and hope for, because it is what everyone who loves America deserves.  Other postcards will say much more, but today I'm focusing on the thing I believe you CAN change.

President Trump, we can disagree on just about everything else but can't we agree that all our children deserve to feel safe from the fear of being uprooted from their families?  Can't we agree that every student deserves to feel safe from harm, be it verbal or physical?  Can't we agree that making America great is making it strong AND kind AND inclusive?

I can.

I hope you can.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

This Is Us...Really

USA is showing a THIS IS US marathon and I find myself re-watching and feeling even more than I felt seeing this show the first time. It's got everything you've seen or wished for in a family  a Dad who's a dreamer but shows love; a reluctant mom who clearly does her best but is flawed.  There's sibling rivalry, not fitting in, weight, cancer, success, fame, dying, regret, family  relationships.

I know people don't understand my deep connection to watching TV.  Television is a source for me.  Of company, of information, of sentiment, and vicarious emotion.  When I'm feeling lonely, disconnected, sad, depressed, I find something to watch that will fix that for me.  

It seems frivolous I know.  But there are so many pluses for me watching TV:  It's right here and it's here all the time; I've already paid for it; and between satellite and Netflix and Showtime and HBO, I can usually find something that will give me what I'm seeking.  I don't have to risk that I'll seek something and it won't be gotten.

My friend Susan believes it's better to ask  even if you don't get what you're asking for  than not to ask at all. I don't feel that way.  Yet.  It's too disappointing and too hurtful and too  well  just "too".

But I understand that when you don't ask, you definitely have no chance of getting.

My struggle (well, one of them anyway) is to let go of the outcome.  That's what a therapist tells me.  Let Go of the Outcome.  Let go of resentment and regret.  Let go of expectations.  Let it all go.  I'm trying.

I understand the concept and it makes sense to me, but it's one of those easier said than done.  But I'm trying. And at times, I'm succeeding.  So far my best success  I think  has been with some of my friends and my daughter.  Still a ways to go with the son and the once-husband.

So This Is Us allows me to see a family  across time  struggling and loving and hurting and supporting in ways that virtually never existed in my family.  I get to watch how they do it and I get to momentarily feel the bonds of being with a family.  I hope we managed to live that give-and-take for our kids so that they'll have a better sense of what it means to be in a relationship, to have a family.

That voyeuristic view of family life (whether it's real or not) allows me to experience what I currently lack in my life.  

Right now, luckily, I'm really pretty happy.

I love my little home.  It's filled with everything I absolutely love, arranged just as I like, only used by me and for the first time in I do not know how long (if ever) I'm neat.  Everything is in its place.  I'm no longer sloppy but I'm also not racing and juggling to manage and provide for a family of four.  

It is just me.

What a change.  I'm continually surprised by what can change.  

I had an open house on New Year's Day.  Twenty-six people came, it was wonderful, my daughter was there and saw my new place for the first time, and for the first time EVER, I didn't kill myself to have company!

I didn't have to stress about cleaning up days before everyone came because pretty much everything was already clean.  I didn't go overboard on getting drinks or food and I almost cooked NOTHING.  I had a great time, I was relaxed and I didn't pay for it in a horrible way.  HOORAY!

I miss having a fireplace and of course the companionship of someone next to me, but all in all, I'm enjoying my life at the moment and I feel secure.

So while I may be watching This Is Us — finally, joyfully, amazingly  
I'm much more intently watching   This Is Me.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2017 Resolutions

A curious thing has been happening lately  I am getting to know who I am.  This sounds odd I realize, but without all the work of caretaking and caregiving  of every person I lived with, worked with, gave birth to, or crossed paths with  I am finally taking care of one person only  ME.

And I realize I don't really know myself because I have always shrugged off what people told me about me.  I assumed that everyone was just like me but I find that's not true.  

Recently I learned that most people I've asked say that when they stand up for themselves, when they assert themselves, they feel vulnerable.  I don't.  I don't know why I don't feel vulnerable but I don't.  I pretty much always say what I think and what I feel.  Yes, at times it gets me in trouble, causes me difficulty, gains me admiration, but it doesn't elicit any sense of vulnerability and yet, I'm allowing myself to be vulnerable to show what's inside.  I am perplexed at this.

People tell me I'm a good writer.  I usually think that most people can write well and that the individual is just being nice to me.  Now I'm starting to take that feedback in and allow myself to see that this is a talent that I can and should identify with.

So in the spirit of writing my truths, and discovering who I REALLY am, here are my New Year's Resolutions:

  • I'm going to finally use all those beautiful soaps that people have given me or I have gotten over the years  because I was "saving them ." [Recently I was given a lovely set of four bars from my dear "rescued-and-took-me-home-from-a Broadway-play friend. Here's what I did with them.]

  • I'm going to realize that if I want my scalp stimulated, I'm going to have to brush my own hair for pleasure  and other things too.

  • I'm gonna try my best to continue living what Oprah might call, my "authentic" life.  I don't really know what she exactly says about that (because she's said and written so much) but it seems pretty self-evident.  My interpretation?  That I'm trying to focus on looking inward and then looking outward to understand how what I say and do impacts others.  At times, it's the exact opposite of my intention!  I'm often blind-sided by how something I've said makes the other person feel.

  • I'm going to continue "letting go and allowing the current to take me," as my hometown dear friend wrote me.  I hadn't thought of it that way, but my college buddy said much the same thing to me when she said, "Let it just evolve.  You don't need to have a plan."  I needed that because I've been letting it concern me that I don't have a plan; that I don't know what "my new normal" is.

  • I'm going to continue to be responsible but also enjoy things.  This is the very first time in my life that I have a financial cushion. (And it feels fabulous!!!)

  • I'm going to work toward having a true adult relationship with my children who are really not children but young adults (but will always be "my children").  And I'm going to keep on navigating my relationship with their father because despite the split, we are still a family.
  • I'm going to get back into a routine of writing here regularly.  Not the twice a week regularity I had for almost three years, but commit to SOME routine. 

  • I'm going to dance more!  This gives me great pleasure and  now that my son gave me a Libratone Zipp  it's something I can do at home.
    In fact I can dance any time, anywhere. (I can be seen dancing at a Manhattan bus stop or in my car on line to get gas at Costco...)
  • And finally, I'm going to be more grateful (every day) for ALL that I have  most especially for all the love and support and guidance I have gotten from my dear, dear friends and from all of you.

For the first time in forever, I think these are New Year's resolutions I can keep.

Health and happiness to you and yours in 2017...