Where is the Middle?

Upon the occasion of my most recent birthday (the one where I turned 55), I did a little bit of computation.

Unless modern medicine and science steps up it’s game, I’m not middle-aged anymore. Technically, I wasn’t middle-aged last year either, but I don’t remember thinking much about it.  I suppose that I might have thought about it and forgotten.  That’s entirely possible, seeing as how I’m closer to old age than middle age at this point.

Anyhow, living to be 110 year of age seems highly unlikely given my genetic inheritance.  I know that it’s not all about nature – nurture and environment play a role also.  Let’s evaluate that for a bit, shall we…

I’m a child of the sixties.  You know, the generation that ate margerine instead of butter because it was so good for you. And, what do you mean that potatoes aren’t a vegetable?  Okay, we’ll have salad – iceburg lettuce with Miracle Whip.  Don’t forget those brand-new convenience foods that are making Mom’s life so much easier…Tang, potted meat, boxed mac-n-cheese, jello and canned ravioli.  I’m eating better now as an adult (most of the time) so that probably won’t kill me outright.

The one activity that I am a bit concerned about though is that classic evening activity we all enjoyed in the South…running behind the mosquito fog truck …DDT shower anyone?  Plus I did spend a number of years in the Rio Grande Valley watching the crop-dusters present their show as they sprayed the crops several times a year…

Oh well, all of that is in the past and out of my control.  Other than learning from the past and remembering the good stuff, the past needs to be history.

And worrying about whether I’m going to make it to 110. or 56 for that matter, is pointless.

I have no guarantees.

None of us do.

I have right now.

And I have hope for the future.

What I do with the time is mine to decide…well, not mine totally.  Other folks factor in somewhat…my family and my friends have some say on what happens with my time.  But, the  choice of who I let share my time is mine to make.

Okay, strictly speaking sometimes we lose control over who and what comes into our life for a time.  Bad stuff happens.  Rude people happen.  A moment or more is lost to circumstance.

But the choice is still ours – the choice of how to look at it and how to live in the time we have.

Here’s a story.

I was out with my sister the other day and we were driving along.  I saw an assisted living center with the name “Autumn Leaves”.  I innocently commented that I thought “Autumn Leaves” was a pretty cool name for an assisted living center.

My sister who is 70 years of age and was near death more than once this past month, had another perspective.  About the autumn leaf reference she replied, “Yeah, drying up, falling off of the tree, being raked into a pile, and burned…”

Okay.  Maybe I didn’t think my comment through.  That happens more often than I’d like to admit.

At 55, I was more focusing on the whole life cycle thing.  And that I like autumn leaves.  They’re pretty when they change colors and float about in the wind.  Maybe I was thinking about composting them and enriching the soil for next year’s planting.

At 55, I like to think that I’m still green and on the tree.  I’m busy reaching towards the light providing the tree with nourishment and cleaning the air.

At 55,  I’m not ready to turn brown and fall off the tree yet.

I’ve met very few people in my life who are ready for that…at any age.

So, I’m going to try and quit thinking about my life as having a beginning, a middle, and an end.

There may well be a Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.  That I can’t change…but I can keep having beginnings when I choose and as often as I need to.

I can end things that aren’t positive and beneficial for me when need be.

I can choose to do it all with joy.

And when it’s my time to fall off the tree, I can become the best damn mulch for the future to grow in as a result of the joyful choices that I’ve made.

 

Normal

Today was a day.  It was Thursday, to be exact…a thoroughly uneventful day.

This is the third blog post that I’ve tried to write in order to share my day.  All the posts have  been so boring that I’ve about given up.

But, since writing is often how I make sense of things, I’m persisting and am tapping away at the keyboard once again.

Please keep in mind that I have no idea what I am going to write about, and there are no promises that anything remotely interesting will result.

For foreshadowing, let me share that all the schoolwork is caught up and my sister is back home at her house.  She’s not back to where she was before all of this started, but making progress.

So…

I got up this morning.

I went outside to let the chickens free from their coop.

I went back to bed.

My brief trek through the house on the way to the front door left me overwhelmed.

I lay in bed and started making a mental list of all that needed to be done now that life was returning to normal.

I thought about just staying in bed.  I felt the anxiety start…

And then I said aloud, “Enough”.

I was tired of being tired.  Done with feeling like I couldn’t catch up.  Worn out from facing deadline after deadline.  Sick of feeling like I was failing at everything.

So today there was no list.  I didn’t try to accomplish anything.  I didn’t have a goal.  I didn’t plan to finish cleaning the house or even a single room.  No expectation of catching up the laundry or the dishes or the dusting.

I just did some stuff.

I watered the plants and pulled off some dead leaves.

I washed, dried, folded and put up a load of laundry.

I emptied a couple of trash cans.

I sorted through my paper stash and thought about what I might create next.

I wandered through the house wiping away a cobweb or two and a bit of dust.

You can’t really tell that I did much of anything at all.  The house doesn’t look all that different…or better.

But I feel different and better.

My actions may have seemed random, but they were intentional.  I spent time in my home saying “hello” to my life…the life I had before it all started spinning out of control the first of August.  I was reacquainting myself with the routines that I missed when other things took priority.

And now, I feel calm (or as calm as someone with anxiety can ever feel).  I am looking forward to getting back to my “normal” life.  Hopefully, I’ll remember some of the things I learned this month about what’s important and what’s not…about what needs to be done and what can wait.

All I know, is that a little routine and even a bit of boring sounds pretty good right now.

As I sit with my art journal watching a stupid movie on Netflix tonight, I’ll be thinking of those that are living away from their “normal” right now.  And for those that are adapting to a new “normal” because their life has changed in a big way…

…for the friend who beat cancer but continues to battle the after effects of the treatment.

…for the friend whose cancer has returned and who is facing uncertainty and change.

…for the friend who adjusted to the new “normal” of Stage IV cancer and is now entering experimental treatment with an unknown outcome.

When life takes a crazy turn and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, it can be crazy hard.  We find ourselves looking back at what was and we just want to go back to the familiar…the normal.

Going back isn’t an option.  We are where we are.

Staying put isn’t an option.  We have to go somewhere.

It’s not about courage or bravery.  It’s not like we have a lot of choices.

The life we have is the one we live.

If we have a choice in the direction we can take, we make that choice…left, right, or straight ahead.  And pray that it’s a good choice.

We cry, we yell, sometimes we pull the blanket over our head.  We worry, we cope, we fail at some things and succeed at others.

We make a difference because we try, not because we did it all right.

And through it all we find comfort in the little things…

…in watering a plant and nurturing life.

…in wiping away a bit of dust or a few tears.

…in sorting through and thinking of what we might create with what we have.

And perhaps, most importantly, for finding something to be grateful for amidst it all.

 

Some Days…

Some days the world is a sunny place – regardless of the weather or the circumstances or the realities of existence.

Some days it rains – whether water actually falls from the sky or not.

On the sunny days, anything seems possible.  I can handle it all.  Bring it on world….taking care of a household, teaching an art class, figuring out Latin homework, relearning division, waving good-bye as my kids go out into the scary, bad world alone, training a spastic, brain-damaged dog to be sociable, working two other part-time jobs, being there for my sister as she recovers from surgery, laughing off the 20 pounds I’ve put back on over the summer and being a patient and supportive listener.

And then there’s the morning I wake up, and from the very start of the day, it’s all too much.  The smallest thing triggers tears and the urge to crawl back into bed with the covers pulled over my head.  Everything seems to be moving too fast and I’m moving too slow.  I’d give anything for a “pause” button so that I could gain my footing.

When anyone speaks to me, I hear disappointment in their voice.  Their awareness that I’m just not up to the task.  That I’m falling short.

It’s not really their voice I’m hearing though, is it?  It’s my inner voice.  I’m disappointed in myself.  Yesterday, I could handle this.  Today, not so much.

What’s the difference in yesterday and today? Good question.  My anxiety disorder? Depression?  A good night’s sleep?  I’ve got nothing in the way of an answer.

I’ve been told that I’m my own harshest critic.  That’s probably true.  Being kind to a stranger is pretty easy for me.  Cutting myself some slack is much more challenging.

Maybe that needs to go on the list of things to do.  Learn to be nicer to myself.  Be kinder and more understanding that some days are harder than others.  Tell myself that I’m doing the best I can and to take a deep breath.  But not today.  I’m not adding anything more to today’s to-do list.  I’m done with today.

I’m going to go wrap up in a blanket and listen to the rain fall.

P.S.  Just one more thing.  Tomorrow, when you hear that little voice whispering that you messed up, that you haven’t done enough,  that there’s too much to-do…when you feel overwhelmed…hear these words…

I think you’re doing okay.  That you are doing the best that you can.  And it’s enough.  The world is a better place with you in it.  And the sun will come back out.

 

 

 

 

 

Doors

I took a shower today.  I woke up this morning and realized that I couldn’t actually remember the last one I took.  To be honest, days around here are a bit confused anyway. Too much T.V. and morphine (my sister, not me).  I’m thinking about getting one of those little whiteboards like they use in the hospital…Today is Saturday, August 27, 2016.

Anyway, I took a shower.  Please don’t judge.  Some days we have to grab the small wins and run with them…

Now, I’m thinking about doors.  This was prompted by a Caring Bridge post by a friend with stage IV colon cancer.  She just found out that she wasn’t accepted into a drug trial that she was hoping for.  “No further information.  Just a closed door”, she wrote.

I’m thinking about the slammed, closed and locked doors that I’ve faced in my past. About the disbelief, grief and pain those door have caused.  The teen-age crush that didn’t work out.  The job that I didn’t get.  The phone call that never came.  The dream that wasn’t realized.

I’m wondering how many times I accepted that unopened door as a permanent “no”.  The times I didn’t go looking for a different door.  A different way to access that dream.

And, I’m pondering the times I did look for an alternative route and a different portal.  Or sometimes the opportunities that I didn’t actively seek, but that presented themselves with time and patience.  The man I married, a different job…

Looking back, some of those closed doors were a blessing in disguise.  I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but now it’s evident.  The teen-age crush that was based more on looks than compatibility.  The job that would have involved moving to another location and would have prevented me from being available for my sister now.

But doors that don’t open hurt when you run into them.  Sometimes, in hindsight, it may turn out to be for the best.  And sometimes, it may turn out that they were just stupid, closed doors that you  couldn’t get through.  You may never know the difference.

Still, there is hope in believing that there are many doors in life,  and most of them can be opened – with time, patience and discernment.

Today I will be in continued thought and prayer for those dealing with doorways…

Those standing at locked doors and looking for the next one.

Those hurt from the slamming of the door.

Those facing a door that is slowing closing and limiting their access both literally and figuratively.

Those locked behind a door wanting out but afraid and unsure of the next step.

Those who don’t have any doors available to them at all.

Those who can’t see the door because they don’t know where to look or are choosing not to.

And those standing in front of the door, but who are afraid to knock.

 

That Post That Almost Wasn’t

I had a post all planned out in my head, but I don’t think that I can write it tonight.  I’m just “full” and “empty” at the same time.  Full of emotions and tiredness and stress and fear…empty of strength and optimism and energy.

This month has been a long haul so far.  Some bad stuff and some good.  Mostly my focus has had to been on the bad because it had to be dealt with first.  The good stuff I shall ponder and reflect upon later when the pace is not so hectic.

My sister continues to slowly recover from her surgery.  That’s good.  It’s been more challenging than she anticipated, but things are getting better.

School schedules and homework are not yet a habit, but are becoming more familiar each day.  Soon that will be easier to deal with.

I went and saw my son’s new apartment today.  We packed up some more of his stuff and took a load of boxes over there.  It’s a nice place and I am excited for this new chapter in his life.  It’s a good thing.  It’s what we raise our children to do.  Yet, I am sad that this chapter is ending.  That’s all I can say about that right now.

Oldest daughter leaves tomorrow to begin her season at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  That is a good thing also.  She loves her job and has been home for quite a while.  I know she’s anxious to rejoin her “family” there.  She misses them.  I couldn’t have made it through this month without her.  It’s time for her to go.  Yet, I’m sad.

I’m tired of crying and being sad and crying and being happy.  I’m tired of change and excited for the changes.  I want the kids to be little again and I know that its time for them to fly away.  I’m afraid of how quiet it’s going to be and wondering about the possibilities of the free time.  Mainly, I’m tired and afraid.

This turned out to be a post after all.  Short and rambling…full and empty at the same time.  There is more to be said  and somehow it says it all…at the same time.

Today is almost over and tomorrow is on its way.  Time keeps moving on by and change comes with it.  Change is neither bad nor good.  It just is.  And so is life.

The end and the beginning.

 

 

 

 

And…stop.

Whew.  I feel like I just finished a race.  I crossed the finish line this afternoon and I feel like sighing the biggest sigh of relief everrrrrrr.

We got to school this morning – we we early (a full five minutes before assembly started), completely dressed, all of the proper books in the backpack, lunch bag packed (peanut free which I found out about late last night), and a hot breakfast eaten.  I spoke with all of youngest daughter’s teachers after classes and they were all surprised that we are essentially “unschoolers”.   She did that well in orientation, class discussions and syllabus presentations.  One teacher expressed disbelief that it was possible to get to the age of 12 without learning cursive, but life will go on.  The world will continue to spin and she’ll still get her papers written sans cursive.  We’ll learn it as quickly as we can, but it’s just not that high on my priority list.

Best of all, she was sad when the day ended.  She did beautifully.  She handled the classes, got along with everyone, made some friends and wants to go back!  Yea.

My Monday art class only has five kiddos in it which I will celebrate.  Last semester I had a dozen or so.  They were all great kids, but that’s a lot of art to teach with just two hands.  Five students means we will get to do much more challenging projects.  I’m so excited about that.

My sister is improving greatly following her surgery.  That’s a huge relief also.

All the stressors of the last couple of weeks have come to a resolution and I am done – both mentally and physically.

I feel like a balloon with the air whooshing out.  Not a terribly clever description, but it’s the best that I can come up with right now.  The grammar in this blog isn’t so great either, but I think that I’m managing the spelling pretty well.  I’m happy with good enough.

It’s  been challenging and I haven’t always maintained the best attitude.  There have been some short-tempered moments and more than a few episodes of self-pity and low self-esteem.

Okay, if I’m to be honest,  I’ve been in a crappy mood and seriously wondered if I was going to make it to this finish line or not.

Now what?  I don’t have to get up early tomorrow.  There isn’t a mile-long list of things to do and organize.  No more stuff we have to buy and figure out how to pay for.  No big uncertainties to face.

Just normal life to deal with. After dealing with all of the stuff that’s been happening lately, my old challenges seem easy in comparison.

And now, to bed.  I shall sleep soundly as befitting someone that has life totally under control.

Yea, we know that’s not the case, but just for tonight we shall pretend that it is so.

Life is good.

I Should be Asleep…

but I’m not (obviously).

I haven’t felt much like writing out loud…as in on this blog where people can read about me and my life.

I’ve been writing in my head a lot.  Trying to make sense of the events that have happened and are about to happen.

Nothing tragic or serious.  Nobody has died or been diagnosed with a terrible illness.  Just normal life events, but they seem to be happening too frequently for me to handle them.

I feel weak and unstable and lost.  I’m crying a lot.  About nothing.  And everything.

I’m crying now.  Writing things down (out loud) makes them real.  And hard.  And life-changing.

I’ve thought a lot about how to share the stories that have unfolded during the time I haven’t been writing.  There are 3 distinct narratives and I shall share them in the upcoming days and together we shall make sense of this crazy unpredictable thing we call life.

Story #1:

The Youngest Child

Tomorrow, my youngest daughter, will go to take a placement test prior to starting school on the 8th of August.  No big deal, right?  She’s 12 and will be entering the 6th grade at a private school – the same school that I taught art at last year.

Except it is a big deal.  I’ve been homeschooling for over twenty years. Her older sisters were home-schooled almost their entire lives except for Pre-K and 1st grade respectively.  Her older brother never attended school.

Life changes though.  She’s the last one at home and is lonely.  The home-school group we belong to is mostly younger kids.  We live out in the middle of nowhere and friends are few and far between.

It’s the right thing to do.  She’s going to love it.  Her uniforms and books are bought. School supplies are ready.  She’ll attend school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for classroom lessons.  We’ll still home-school some on Tuesday and Thursday.  The best of both worlds.  We’ll still spend time together and she’ll make new friends.  I’ll have a little time to myself…

for the first time in 20 years.  A lot of who I understand myself to be is wrapped up in home-schooling.  I think that it’s true that in committing to raising children we lose a little bit of who we are.

Part of me feels like I’m quitting or giving up…like I’m failing for giving up home-schooling.  I know in my head that this is untrue.  I’ve always tried  to do what’s best for my kids.  Now, attending school is what’s best for this child.

It’s change.  I’m not always comfortable with change…okay, I’m never comfortable with change.  I’m trying to celebrate not having to write lesson plans or set up a classroom.  I’m thinking about things I might do in my free days.  Who knows, I could even clean house!

See what I mean?  It’s not really a big deal, right?  Except it is – to me.  And there is still story #2 and #3.

Stay tuned..I gotta go and stop the new dog from eating more glitter.  That’s a spoiler for story #2.   Not that the dog is eating glitter, but that there is a dog to eat glitter because Matilda, the basset dog and Abbey, the bagel dog may steal food left and right, but they would never eat glitter.

Until tomorrow…

Peace.

 

 

Hey there

I’m still alive.  I’m hanging in there…barely.  So much is going on and I’m finding that the more stressed I get, the less I can multi-task.  Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s the stress.  For whatever reason, I’ve been getting the essentials done and letting whatever could slide do just that.

I’m realizing though, that the things that I enjoy and that bring me happiness, often don’t make the cut as essentials.  They are the things that drop by the wayside and that just increases the stress and dissatisfaction with my life.

That’s not a good way to live and certainly not an intentional life.

Sure, some things have to be done whether we like it or not…dishes come to mind right off the bat.

But there has to be more to life than dishes.  Please!

After a rather loud venting of my frustration with the unfairness of life last night, I took a moment to assess what was going on…after I stopped yelling and crying and feeling sorry for myself.  It was a rather long moment.

Now it’s time to start finding a balance again.  It seems like it’s back to the beginning, but I have made progress.

It’s not really going all the way back to the beginning of this journey.  So much has changed.  There’s less clutter and more organization.  Priorities have been identified and ordered.  I know so much more about my life, dreams and plans than a year or so ago.

It’s more like I wandered a bit off of the path and not in a good way.  I lost my way, but I know the direction I need to be going.

The main problem with not being vigilant about where I’m going is that I tend to lose sight of the progress that I’m making.

Optimism becomes lost in the day to day struggles.

Neglected tasks become harder and harder to get back to.

Habits become less habitual.

Little piles of clutter become big messes.

And it just seems to become impossible and hopeless and…sometimes even meaningless.

That’s how depression can take hold.

But today is a new day.

I’m writing this post and although there is so much that I haven’t shared – it doesn’t all have to be written today.  I can just start with this post.

The washer is washing away and some of the dishes are drying on the drainboard.

A whole truckload of stuff left the house last week and another box is already being filled.

The table is cleared and that’s a start.

There is a lot going on in my life…lots of changes.  For someone who dislikes change, I’m not quite ready to label them as good (although I know that they are).  I just feel overwhelmed by most of them.  I’m dealing with them…one step and a few tears at a time.

Those are blog posts for tomorrow and the next…

I’m back and that’s enough for right now.

Prayers and positive thoughts for whatever changes and challenges you are dealing with right now.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Days

Some days, I’m ready to take on the world.  I work the budget, earn a bit of money, do a few dishes, get a meal on the table, run the laundry, teach my kid(s) a thing or two, and watch a show with the hubby on T.V.

Some days, the world takes me on.  I manage to get out of bed….that’s about it.  There isn’t any more happening.

What’s the difference in those two types of days you may be wondering.  Hmmmm…me too.  I have no clue.  It doesn’t seem to be the amount of sleep I get or the events of the day.  The stress level doesn’t appear to change significantly.

Some days, I get it done.

Other days, I don’t.

Sometimes, I even manage to make it through the list of to-do’s that I’ve planned for myself.  It seems to take all of my energy and concentration to accomplish that though.  I’m more easily distracted and less inclined to do anything extra – like decluttering or being creative.

I’ve decided that those days are okay.  And I’m learning to accept myself as I am and acknowledge that it’s alright that I’m not able to do it all.  I am my own worst critic and project those expectations onto those around.  When I’m frustrated with myself for not being “good” enough, I start to believe that everyone around me is expecting better of me as well.  I feel guilty and get defensive.  Then I get stressed and angry.  Then I yell.

One of the things that I’m working on is not trying to figure our what everyone around me is thinking and feeling all the time.   That’s not my job.  I know that behavior is rooted in a childhood of angry parents and constant discord.

I need to feel my own emotions and let others work out their own feelings.  If I have a problem with me than I need to work on that.  If someone else has a problem with me, they need to express it and we need to work on it.

Some days I just feel overwhelmed by the stress I’m dealing with.  I’m coming to believe that a lot of that stress is self-initiated.  I’m creating it by having unrealistic expectations of my own making.

It all boils down to being kinder…to myself and those around me.

I am a work in progress.

Decluttered the last couple of days:  nothing.

Created the last few days:  nothing.

That’s okay.  I’ve spent time with family, shown up for jury duty, cooked three full meals, cleaned the toilet, done 5 loads of laundry, said yes to my son adopting a dog, let said dog in and out 3,000 times, fed said dog 300 times, mopped up said dog’s sloppy water drinking puddles too many times to count, worked on math with youngest daughter, and written one blog post.

Good enough.

I hope that you gift yourself some peace today.  We are enough, we have enough, we do enough.