Tag Archives: Life

In Search of Me: my past.

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In order to understand who you truly are you must examine your past. The past shapes you but I believe that each person has the responsibility to decide what they keep and what is not useful or might even be dangerous to hold on to from their past. Sorting through your early past can be a mix of joy and pain for some lucky people. Then there are others that don’t have a lot good to say about thier childhood. The best thing I can say is that it made me who I am.

My mother, and father for that matter, had issues. There were huge issues that prevented them from parenting me. I know those issues preceded my birth but they seem to have escalated with every year of my life. One parent was always stealing me from the other. I spent long stretches in New Orleans with my mother and her sister and then back to New York with either, both parents, or just my father.  My mother tended to take off. Most of these issues were related to drugs and alcohol but I’m sure a fair share was just plan old mental illness. A therapist told me she thought it would be helpful to read the book “The Glass Castle”. She thought I could relate to it. I have it, and read the first chapter, but can’t seem to get much further. I probably should read it but having seemingly lived it I prefer to write my own stories.

Many difficult years followed but I always knew that I wanted a different life and a family of my own. There was something in me that knew life was not supposed to be the life I grew up in. I knew it even when it was happening. Years later when I worked with children I would see that in a select few. That knowledge, that although they come from chaos, they had no intention of living their future that way. It seems to be very important factor in how difficult the future will be for those individuals.

At 16 my parents lost custody of me and I lived in a group home with other kids that were incorrigible runaways. Of course I had nothing to run from, I was homeless, but 35 years ago there weren’t a lot of places to put me, and parents rarely lost custody of their children.

Now before you think that I’m writing this to run my parents into the ground, please know I’m not. I believe people do the best they can. Sometimes their best sucks and you need to distance yourself from them. I did that but also took care of both of them until they died a few years ago. I did that from a distance too,  because I know what was best for me.

I also believe that at a certain point in life everyone, no matter where they come from, is responsible for their own actions. I have spent a good portion of my life working with kids to help them see you don’t have to be your roots of origin. Taking responsibility for your life gives you power and control over it. Not necessarily the easy route but definitely the only way to really change your circumstances.

Having been raised the way I was is exactly what was supposed to happen to me. I read once that they only true forgiveness is when you are grateful for the experience. It has taken many years to be grateful, but I am.  I have utilized all of my experiences to become who I am. I really like me now and I am the sum total of all of my experiences, both good and bad.

For the next two weeks I am renting a gorgeous old house in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The kids are here and they’ve brought their friends. Friends of mine are also here. We’re quite the large, laughing, loving group. I look around this 214 year-old house and wonder what the lives of all of the people within these walls entailed.  How much happiness, sorrow, regret and joy happened in this house? How many of those people were able to take the hand that life dealt them and make a beautiful house of cards as I have. Yes, I treat it like a house of cards because you never know what life will bring. Happiness like this is a very delicate and fragile thing.  I feel incredibly grateful for my past that has brought me to this point in my life. There is very little I would change, huge mistakes of my own included. It doesn’t define me but it certainly helped mold me. I just continue to make alterations in this evolving project that is me and am constantly deciding what stays, and what needs to go, in order for me to be healthy and productive.

“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”

 Sophia Loren 

Becoming me

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Starting today I am intent on spending as long as it takes re-evaluating the many ways I define myself. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I am mother, partner, teacher, friend, and neighbor. Then of course I am my strengths and weaknesses, my hopes, fears, triumphs and disappointments. I’m sure there are more. I want to weed out all of the labels that don’t work anymore.

As a single parent of four children I have spent most of my adult life defining myself as a provider. I did whatever I needed to do to support my family in any and all ways. The last of my four is finishing high school and the rest are making their own way. I know from experience that they don’t stop needing when they turn 18 but it certainly changes.

Who am I without all of those definitions? Who might I be if I could be empty of all preconceived ideas and recreate myself? What will I keep and what will I find doesn’t serve me anymore?

I’d love to know if anyone has travelled a similar path.  I’ll let you know what I find.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu

The Value of Time

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Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.

M.Scott Peck

How much is your time worth? Having been a consultant that charged by the hour, a project worker who has charged by the job completed, a teacher who was paid by the school year regardless of hours worked, and a waitress paid by the satisfaction of the customer, I know it can’t be measured in terms of the clock or financial compensation

We can measure it in terms of achievements or projects completed. Maybe we measure it in terms of time wasted or opportunities lost?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately and how much I have left. I’ve realized how much I want to do and also that if I live to be 150 I’d never have a chance to do it all. Therefore, I need to get busy loving, seeing, doing and experiencing.

For me, the true measure of the value of time will be  how much joy was packed into every moment. How about you?

Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can’t buy more hours.  Scientists can’t invent new minutes.  And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.  ~Denis Waitely

Italy, Inspiration, and Incredible women

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The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  Michelangelo 

Is it acceptable to still want to be something when you grow up, even at 49? Is it best to have a plan and expectations or is it better to do as I do most of the time and just have an idea and fling yourself at it? Do we still get to do that at this age? Of course I’m not saying that I don’t think about what I want to do, but if I consider what has worked in the past, I’d say launching into something full steam as if it were really already under way has been the successful approach. Starting this blog and proclaiming to people all over the world what I was in the process of doing surely made me feel as though turning back would be defeat. 

This new business and non-profit is the first endeavor I’ve undertaken where my main concern is not how I will work it around my children. My youngest of four is almost 17 and the oldest nearly 30, so it’s all about me this time.  What a glorious age this is. I love the woman my age too. They have done so many different things, many while raising children, and often supporting a home, that they just don’t have time to be afraid or if they are they kick it aside and march on. They’re supportive and compassionate without being patronizing. They know themselves or they are clearly on the path and don’t mind telling you what they think. Women in thier 50’s, give or take a decade, are to be envied. When I turn 50 next year I feel like I’m entering this exclusive club of creative, smart, funny, self assured people who don’t have time to take any crap from anyone and God help you if you mess with anyone they love. They are fiercely loyal and understand the value of a good girlfriend. They know what they want and also how to get it. I just love that. 

Another incredible part of life at this age is I get to do some of the things I’ve dreamed about. July’s adventure is a trip to Italy. I’ve dreamed of this trip and I see no reason to waste anymore time. If you miss my ramblings I’d suggest you check out:

http://newsofthetimes.org/

http://talktodiana.wordpress.com/

http://youwerebornthatway.com/blog/

http://spilledcookies.com/

http://waitingforthekarmatruck.com/

http://joyfulonpurpose.com/

http://almostspring.com/

http://help-me-rhonda.com/

http://geniespeaks.wordpress.com/

http://blessedwithastarontheforehead.wordpress.com/

Oh, it’s just ridiculous how much talent and insight is out there. I could never include them all. These people and quite a few others have become a sort of blogging family for me.  I feel very blessed. 

Positano, Florence and Tuscany.  I’m going to eat, drink, be merry, and contemplate my future as if I were 16 and it was all ahead of me, because it is. Only now I’m smarter, have no time to waste and I’m aiming higher. 

Arrivederci,

Maureen

There is no greater harm than that of time wasted. Michelangelo

The Journey Begins

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Sometimes in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself.

Katherine Sharp 

In the early part of this year I knew exactly what I would do in June. Isn’t it amazing how easy things seem when we don’t have to move on them quite yet? As a special education teacher I have the same students for fifth and sixth grade. Of course I become very attached to them, and I would hope them to me. So, I planned to finish my year two of teaching the same students and see them off to 7th grade, tie up the loose ends, and resign my position. It was a plan.

As the time came close I started to talk myself in to being able to work at the school and start my new endeavor too. I also found myself doing a lot of negative self-talk and scaring myself into just staying. I found all of the reasons not to let go of the secure and familiar, even though I knew letting go was what I truly wanted.

I gathered my courage and resigned. People were shocked! They tried to persuade me to stay. I have to admit, that felt good. It almost worked, but then I’d be staying to feed my ego or retain some false sense of security that a job with a pension and benefits offers. We all realize that people lose these things every day, so there is no security there either. I did give it more thought. Some might call it obsessing over it.

When I was very still and listened to that voice inside of me, the voice who knows all of me, I knew what I needed to do. I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t listen to that voice. Each day that followed I’d cease to be the person I truly am. I’d be denying that spark inside of me that wants to accomplish more than I have. I’d be foregoing the journey to find out all that I really am and what I am meant to do in favor of choosing to safe road of predictability.

So I jumped and I feel light enough to fly. I resigned yesterday. Let the journey begin!

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

Ayn Rand

The real me

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Tell me what you yearn for and I shall tell you who you are. We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wandering.

James Hillman

Oh James Hillman, you are so wise. Who would I be if I could create the idealized version of myself?

I yearn for freedom in my day and in my life. Sometimes when the day is moving along and I’m in a meeting, I’ll gaze out the window and imagine myself making a me-shaped hole in the wall much like you have seen in a cartoon.

I yearn for a feeling at the end of the day of a job well done and of having made at least a small dent in making the world a better place.

I yearn for a place I can make an impact, be heard and respected, and interact with like-minded people.

I yearn for a version of myself that is not so stressed that 7:00 seems like a great time to go to bed. Where I don’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering about some litigation or observation that is pending. Where I don’t eat an entire lunch and look down and not remember what it was because I ate it so quickly. Where I don’t lose patience for my own family because I’ve spent all day dealing with unreasonableness.

I yearn to be calm and healthy and centered. I’d love to spend my days working towards an attainable goal, no matter how difficult. I want to have time and energy left over to write, and listen to the people I love and laugh a bit. At the end of the day I’d like to be able to say “Now that was a good day” and mean it.

I’d love to hear how others were able to take the leap of faith to become their “real self”

Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.

William James

Delicious ambiguity

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You cannot have a happy ending to a miserable journey.

Abraham-Hicks 

Many of you who have followed my blog over the last few months (have I said thank you recently for that?) have watched me torture myself with the decision of whether to stay at my job as a special education teacher or to dive into a new business in a full-time capacity. The business has already been started and the nonprofit component is waiting in the wings for some attention from me. I can work part time at the business until I’m ready to leave my job or I can just run head long into a new life. Part of the dilemma is that I love the kids that I teach. Until you are a part of teaching a child no one thought would read, to read, or giving a student the confidence to raise his or her hand in class and believe they can add value to a conversation, you can’t imagine how rewarding this path can be. Unfortunately, because of the legal requirements of the special education system I spend about 85% of my time in meetings, writing IEPs, and answering emails from parents who have no faith in the educational system or dare I say have no boundaries’. I pass my lessons on to a tutor who has the joy of teaching it, often not in a way I’d do it myself. This all adds up to an enormous amount of stress and it’s taken a toll on my health and my personal life. I keep asking “is it worth it?” Of course any sensible person would say “no.” Then I get a card in the mail from a student thanking me for my dedication, or telling me they will visit me every day next year. Then there are the students that do come to visit and I get the chance to watch them turn into adults, and know that I was a part of making them understand that their disability is both a blessing and a curse. The fact that they struggle is difficult but as with any difficulty they have the opportunity to let that hardship turn them into people that know how to press on, to work through what would stop a weaker person. They also see the world a little differently and all of the most influential people in history have seen the world in a different way. That’s where we get the innovative thinking that changes the world. Oh, you can see I could go on and on about these wonderful people I’ve had the chance to know. I have been blessed, but it may be time to move on.

Then there’s the stress, which is incredible, and I have to be honest; it’s over-shadowing the good parts. Turning 50 this year, and watching so many people around me stricken down by illness, or worse yet die far too early, causes me to worry about how the stress is impacting my health.  I found the information below in a Huffington Post article but you could find the same in a thousand articles. It has become common knowledge that stress kills.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that feeling stressed is linked with a decreased inflammatory response regulation. Their research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease,” study researcher Sheldon Cohen, of Carnegie Mellon, said in a statement. “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.”

So, I have given myself this weekend to decide what I will do. I think I already know what I’m going to do and having flipped a coin as another blogger suggested confirmed it, but I keep waiting for that moment when I’ll be 100%. Maybe we’re never 100% on anything. Maybe it’s just about following your gut and watching what unfolds.

Thanks for reading. I truly appreciate the support and the friendship I have found here.

Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.

Gilda Radner

Changes are coming…

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Listen to me. We’re here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise why even be here?    Steve Jobs 

Kris Carr, who I absolutely love, asks: Do you know your life’s purpose? If so, what is it? If not, here’s an exercise: what do people compliment you for? What are you really good at? Let’s start there…

People say that I am the world’s best cheerleader. I can make a person feel like anything is possible and am able to dig the only shred of confidence a person may have hidden somewhere and drag it to the surface, nurture it, and help it bloom. I see things differently than many people and can get to the root of a problem where others may have given up. I’m tenacious. “No” isn’t an answer I accept readily. I believe anything is possible and if you hang around me long enough you will believe it too.

I’ve used all of these skills, talents, or personality traits in my work as a special educator or when I worked with the homeless or mothers recovering from addiction or surviving abuse.

I still feel like there’s something more to do. What is my life’s purpose? Such a huge question. How can I use all that I am to make that dent in the universe? Big questions. What’s your answer?

Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.

Carlos Castaneda