I think it’s time for me to be more child-like. I’m tired of being adult about everything.
I was on the beach yesterday watching a family with small children. One curly-haired, blue-eyed, cherub of a girl complete with a yellow bikini making a sand cake for her mother and her slightly older, more serious looking, brother in his boxer bathing suit with small blue whales on them eating a juicy peach and singing a song I don’t recognize. They are adorable, sweet, angelic…oh wait he’s ripping the shovel out of her hand and screaming, “MINE”, she has her mouth open but no sound is coming out, she’s standing up, still no sound…wait for it, wait for it…WOW. She lets out one blood- curdling scream and falls backwards into the sand. Her brother looks on, unfazed, and then continues digging the hole he had been neglecting while eating his lunch. She screams some more and her parents, clearly embarrassed but not unfamiliar with the theatrics, try to quiet her. “Don’t be a baby”, Dad says, while her brother is completely absorbed in digging and singing.
Oh please, let her scream I want to say. How I wish I could do that. Just once. Like say when the guy stole my parking spot or when the woman on the cell phone cut in front of me in line like I wasn’t even there.
Right down on the ground screaming. Can you imagine?
I think we could learn a thing or two about feeling our emotions without apologizing or holding them in from children. How do we get so repressed? Of course throwing yourself down and wailing isn’t the answer but maybe more honesty in our emotions is still an option.
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.”|
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:
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.
There is no greater harm than that of time wasted. Michelangelo
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.
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.
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.