Feet First!

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I’m not sure exactly when it clicked for me. The past 6 months, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. Not just the sitting in silence, pondering life part. I mean the making lists and digging REALLY deep into who I am and who I want to be. Maybe it was turning 44—a mid-life crisis sort of thing. Maybe it was having my dream job and still feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. Whatever started this ball rolling, I am glad it did. I have never felt more empowered, motivated, and aligned as I do right now, in this moment.

This uneasiness I was feeling, this sense of having  no purpose, no path—it literally brought me to my knees. And I’m being completely honest here. I spent much of April and May of this year in bed. In tears. In complete and utter hoplessness. If I had the job I always wanted, the love of my life by my side, two magnificent boys ensconced at top-notch colleges, my elderly parents still alive and living with me, all the material things I wanted, why the hell was I in complete and utter despair? What the hell was wrong with me?

Yes, I’ve lived with depression my entire life. I know its in’s and out’s. I know its lies and destruction. I know how it seeps into your blood and into your soul. I know how that bitch sneaks into your bed at night and steals every ounce of happiness you had, with no reason, no rhyme, no warning. This was beyond that. This was a completely new thing. This was me floating helpless with no idea where I was going. I was no longer just depressed; I was lost. I, the real me, was gone.

I’ve been changing my eating habits and fitness habits since the first of the year. I’ve blown up over the last 18 years. I mean, BLOWN UP. I was about 100 pounds overweight. And I think here is where the moment of clarity came to me. It was on a treadmill, when I thought I couldn’t go any further. I was about to push the “stop” button on my treadmill, when I looked at my time. I was on there for 40 minutes. At a high speed and incline. When I first started in February, I could barely do 10 minutes with no incline and at a low speed.

Wait a second? Did I really do that?  Did I really come this far in a few months?  And I did this on my own. Yes, with support, but ultimately I was in control. It was when I realized how strong I could be physically that I realized how strong I am emotionally and mentally. I have been through so much shit in my life—I mean seriously. And here I am. Still. No matter what life has thrown at me, I’ve gotten through. And there it was, the truth I needed. Everything I needed was inside ME. I didn’t need to look to a job, to my love, to my nice car—-what I needed to thrive was me.

Now, I feel free. Is everything perfect and happy? No. Is my depression suddenly gone? No. But, now I know that the power lies inside me to overcome anything life throws at me. I am scared to death. I’m flying without a lifeline. I’m starting my own business to coach others to find themselves, to harness their power, and to do so with writing. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself.

I’m jumping in feet first! And I’ve never felt so fearless in my life.

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Time Machine

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My Mother’s Day wish this year is simple: a time machine. Just for a few hours. No, I wouldn’t take it back to buy Microsoft stock or witness some historical event. I would go back to an ordinary day….just a typical Wednesday, maybe 2001. I would go back to our humble house on our less than great street. The one I never really liked, but at a young age, was lucky to have. It would be a sunny, nice spring day. I would go back to the morning. When my boys, then 7 and 4, would still be asleep.

I would creep into their rooms, and sit down and watch them sleep. I would take in everything about that moment–each hair on their head, the sound of their sleeping breath, the smell of the room. After lingering a bit, I would wake them up and we’d go downstairs for breakfast. And they could have whatever they wanted—-ice cream? Sure!! Chocolate chip pancakes with extra chips? You got it!!

After breakfast, we would move head back upstairs to our “learning room” to get started on the school day. Lego on the floor?? Again??!!! As the plastic missile makes its way into my foot, I would smile and enjoy the searing pain shooting up my toes. As the school day begins, I remember how difficult it was homeschooling two boys. But, this day, I wouldn’t yell when Holden didn’t want to do his English lesson, because he wanted to read about space and rocket ships. I wouldn’t get frustrated at Harrison when all he wanted to do was look at the photos in his animal books. I would grab all the books and sit with them.

I would do every single thing they wanted all day—-no matter how silly it seemed at the moment, no matter what I had planned for the day. I would hold the hugs just a little bit longer. I would kiss just a little bit more. I would cuddle up on the sofa just a little bit longer as we watched silly cartoons, which I used to think were a waste of time. The extra cookie that they wanted after dinner—I’d give them 2.

As I look back now, fifteen years later as my boys are now a senior and sophomore in college, I realize how much time I spent on things that weren’t important. I complained about things that didn’t matter. I didn’t spend time taking in those mundane moments that become the best memories. I look at them now with their own lives and their independence and I long for them to need me just a bit. I long for days of Sponge-Bob on the TV and Lego all over the floor. Days of rough and tumble boys laughing a bit too loud and being a bit too silly.

Time flies so fast. We are so busy looking to the next moment that we miss the beauty of the current moment. We miss the beauty in the madness that is the day of a mom. Those mundane moments are what I miss the most. Those days when nothing special happened, except it did……I was spending the day with my boys. The two halves of my heart. My eldest, who taught me how to love, and my youngest who taught me that that love was limitless.

They tell you a lot of things when you’re pregnant—what to eat, what you should or shouldn’t do when the baby is born, how to stay healthy. But, what they don’t tell you is how you lose your heart. How you lose part of yourself. These babies that grow inside you for 9 months, take a piece of you when they are born. And no matter how old they are, no matter how far away they roam, they carry that with them. A piece of you will forever live outside of your body, but you still feel it. Like a phantom limb, you ache for it.

Every Mother’s Day, as I celebrate my own mom, I also thank my boys. They made me a better person. They made me love deeper, they made me stronger, they made me who I am. As I marvel at their talents, at their compassion, at their humanity, I continue to miss those ordinary days. But, I’ve learned to hold onto each moment they are with me. Now, if I could only get that time machine…. just for a few hours.

 

Lloyd Dobler

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“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”—Lloyd Dobler

 

I’ve been thinking back to that college freshman I was 26 years ago. That girl knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life…..well, she thought she did. I was determined to be Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs. I was going to be a pistol-packing, strong, daring FBI agent for the Behavioral Analysis Unit, or in today’s terms, the people from Criminal Minds. I had no doubt that one day I would be catching serial killers and interviewing them from Death Row. Even as a young child I had a macabre fascination with criminals and crime. I read true crime books in elementary school, did reports on serial killers, gave speeches against Capital Punishment, and did my Senior English Paper on Jack the Ripper. Yeah, I was that girl.

So, as I stepped into the halls of my college in New Jersey, I had no doubts or hesitations. I majored in Criminal Justice and Psychology and knew exactly what my career path was. I didn’t want a family, no husband or children, so no ties to hold me back as I worked my way up in the FBI. But, something happened that year. Fear took over. As I started delving deeper into the FBI requirements, I questioned my own physical and mental strength. Then, I went to visit a prison and spoke to the psychologist there, he laid it out on the line for me. “You’ll be one of the only women they will see during their sentences.” “There’s a high risk you will be assaulted.”  He went on and on and pulled no punches. Suddenly the life and career I wanted seemed so scary. (Yeah, I should have thought of that earlier, right?) I finished out that year. Then, I quit. I quit because of fear and self-doubt.

From there, I transferred to another school closer to home and declared Journalism as my major. English and writing was always my second choice, since I had been writing since I was a child and was always told I excelled at it. But, no…English was too safe. But when I decided against being the next FBI super agent, I fell back to what I knew. I fell back to the safe place of Journalism. I loved it. I had written for the paper freshman year and was on staff of the newspaper my sophomore year. Editing and writing were a safe place for me. And they were therapeutic. And I was good at it and no one was going to shoot me—well, some editors I wasn’t so sure of!

Every job I’ve had since graduating has involved some form of writing: Marketing, editing, managing a publishing company’s editorial division, being an executive assistant, advising two student newspapers, serving as Poet Laureate. Part of every job has been writing. But recently I’ve been doubting my career choices. Am I a writer? Am I a journalist? Am I crazy? Short answer: I’m having a mid-life crisis. Yes, instead of buying a fancy car of my dreams (which I did two years ago anyway), I’m doubting who I am and where I want to be.

Honestly, I have no idea what exactly I want to do. I had my dream job and I wasn’t happy. So, what exactly should I do with the rest of my life? What am I good at? What makes me happy? I hope you’ll stay tuned as I try to answer those questions. I’m not who I was at 18 or even who I was in my 20’s when I graduated college. I’ve grown. I’ve adapted. I’ve changed….a lot. So, I ask myself, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Steel Blue

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I still catch a glimpse of her sometimes….

behind the steel blue cage.

The girl I once was

staring back at the woman she never thought she’d become.

A woman who lost her hopes and dreams

in a black, murky sea.

Carrying too much baggage in her heart

and in her skin.

Weighed down as she tried to swim to shore,

tried to escape the grasping tides.

That girl looks sad and lost,

wanting to see the world again-

wanting to see herself again.

Instead, the stranger stares back and once again

she loses hope of ever escaping.

A New Silence

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My house is quiet.

Their rooms are empty.

There is no laundry in the hampers.

There are no messes to clean up.

There are no diapers to change.

No faces to wipe.

There are no lunches to be made.

No 3 p.m. drives to school for pickup.

There was no rushing around this morning.

It’s silent. A deafening sort of silence. Almost mournful.

My head is loud.

The voices frantic and scared.

I try not to listen. I try to tune them out.

But they become deafening.

Destructive.

The silence is an unwelcome friend.

A New Beginning

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He looked at me and kept walking. Too wound up in laughter and conversation with new friends to acknowledge Mom. A knife through the heart, yet a heart bursting with overwhelming pride and love.

So, was my day yesterday. My youngest son had college orientation–a 3 day event including scheduling, fun, and just getting to know his new home. We went to pick him up and pulled in front of the auditorium where he would be coming out. I wanted to walk with him to his dorm and help him pack up and come home. There he was, my boy, walking out among the other college freshman with wide eyes and wide smiles, knowing that this was the start of a new chapter in their lives. He was surrounded by a group of new friends, but the way they were chatting and smiling, you would have thought they knew each other forever. I yelled for him, so he knew we were there. He looked around, then kept walking, kept talking. My heart hurt. He was in a new city, but seemed completely unfazed and completely courageous.

We drove to his dorm. There he was standing outside, bags in hand, like an old pro. He jumped in my car with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning, full of stories and excitement. He didn’t just like his new home, he LOVED his new home. “It’s kind of weird,” he said, “we come here and then go home and have to wait another 2 months to start college.” He wanted to be there now, no waiting. He was ready to fly my nest. His wings were dry and he wanted to soar. I just smiled.

It’s what we are supposed to do, isn’t it? We are supposed to nurture our children, give them the right tools to be successful adults, then send them on their way with encouragement, But, somehow when that time comes, we want to stop it. We want them safe at home where we can protect them from the ugliness of the world. But, it’s in the ugliness that they find their beauty. Things have to get messy sometimes in order to become harmonious. I wonder why it hurts so much when it’s what I always wanted. I wanted to raise 2 successful, creative, intelligent, funny, interesting citizens of the world. I wanted them to face life with enthusiasm and sheer abandon. And I did. I should be proud and happy and move on to this new phase in my life with a sense of adventure as what will come next, not just for them, but for me as well.

And I am….but it still aches. Aches for the little blonde boy picking up bugs in the yard and worried for their safety. Aches for the little redhead who loved Elmo and wanted to read every book he got his hands on. Aches for the blonde boy whose first word was “firetruck” and who insisted on becoming a vegetarian at age 5 and still is, by the way. Aches for the curly red-haired boy who asked the principal on the first day of Kindergarten, “Where’s the science lab?”

But those boys are still here, they are just in the guise of extraordinary men, ones ready to conquer the world. The blonde boy now shows me his visions through his lens, a lens that now captures the bugs and the firetrucks with a love that permeates and radiates through the photos he takes. The redhead that sits for hours on his computer, coding games and creating fantastical lands and creatures with that enormous creativity. They are still there and I am still their mom.

So, as they continue on their journeys on the streets of Pittsburgh and the walls of the Corcoran, they know I will always be their number one supporter, unconditionally and with my whole heart. In an odd twist of the universe, there is a bird’s nest on my front porch, inside a hanging basket. I’ve been watching it for the past 2 months, from egg to chick to bird. I watch the mom and dad hover over their babies, feeding them and squawking away at invaders. I watched as the babies began to grow and fight for space in the nest. Today, I looked out, as I do every morning and they were gone. They had left the nest. They were now soaring off to new adventures, creating their own lives. But, there was mom in the tree, chirping away as usual. Ready for her own adventure.

Suspended Animation

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If someone came up to you and asked you this question: “Who are you?” What would you answer? I guess I’d answer with my name. That’s a start. But what if they said, “No, Who are you REALLY?”  I’d probably pause a minute and say, “A mom, a wife, a writer.”  But, I don’t think that really describes WHO exactly I am . I’m a hodgepodge of idiosyncrasies, emotions, mental issues, memories. None of us can truly be defined in a few words or phrases. That’s what makes us human. But, when I look back at my second answer for a second, I’m struck by something. I said “mom” first. Most of the time that’s the first thing out of my mouth. “I’m mom to two teenage boys.” Of course, that will never change. I’m their mom forever….like it or not. But, I’m no longer a full-time mom. They are independent and don’t need me anymore on a daily caretaker basis. 

I know I’ve written a great extent about my boys and what their growing up and moving away feels like for me. But most of my posts are about how I feel as their MOM. What about me as a woman? The honest answer to “Who are you really?” is “I honestly don’t know.” I got pregnant with my oldest while studying abroad as a college junior. I wasn’t even set on a college major at that time, much less a life path. I did know that I never wanted kids and never wanted to get married. But, when I got pregnant, those were the only two things that happened. So, there I was at 21 years old, with a baby and a husband. I’ve read research that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the part that controls impulses and reasoning, doesn’t fully develop till we are 25. That explains a lot. I was too young to be a mom, too young to be married. My first marriage failed after 16 years…to be honest, it never should have lasted that long. But, I defined myself as a person, as a woman all those years as a wife and mom. I finished college and went to look for work, but it was always part-time or freelance work. I never was a 9 to 5 career woman. I home-schooled my two boys for 15 years, so that was my main focus. 

So, in 18 months, I will no longer have a child in my house on a full-time basis. No more school functions, sporting events, homework, dinners, illnesses to take care of, no more mothering on a daily basis. It’s started already, the slow move into my non-mothering being. But, once my youngest goes off, that ends. Then what? I keep asking myself that question. And right now I have no answer. I have absolutely no idea who I am as an adult woman. Yes, I have my writing and my husband. I’m an only child to two aging parents, so I still have that caretaker job to fill. But, still that isn’t WHO I am. I think that’s why I sometimes forget I’m a 40-something woman. In my head, I’m still that 21 year old college co-ed wondering what to do with her life. Like I’ve been in some sort of suspended animation. 

There are so many things I want to do in my life and haven’t done yet. I asked my son the other day, “what in the world am I going to do when your brother goes to college?” His response, “Do whatever you want to do. It’s your time.” Wow!! Words of wisdom from my 19 year-old son. I had to stop and think for a moment. What exactly are those things? I think before I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, I really need to figure out exactly who I am. My mom had me at 40. I was her first and only. I can’t even fathom that. But, she was set in her ways by then. She was a mature, responsible adult who had lived a lot in those 40 years. She was married, had a career, found out who she was and was comfortable in her own skin. 

I didn’t have that. I was a 21 year-old scared to death young woman, forced to become a responsible parent and adult, before I truly was one. I’ve been the best mom I could be to my boys. I think I’ve done a good job. They are strong, kind, intelligent young men who do good things. They’ve never been in trouble. They see the world in all its glorious shades and see everyone as equals. They want to give back to society. I think I’ve taught them well. I wouldn’t change my life for one second. Let me make that perfectly clear. I have never once regretted being a young mom. My kids are the greatest thing that’s happened to me. But, now that the full-time mom part of my life is over, I need to figure out who I really am and where I want to go with this next stage of my life. Let the journey begin. I hope you will come along with me for the ride.