Monday, May 18, 2015

"It all goes by so fast" isn't all a bunch of crap

In less than two weeks, my eight pound, 15 ounce, bald, beautiful, bouncing baby boy will graduate from high school.

Let me rephrase that.

In less than two weeks, my six foot, five inch, curly-haired, beautiful 17-year old baby boy will graduate from high school.

Damn that went by fast.

I use to haaaaaaaaate it when an "older mom" would glance over at me with a snide smile while I tried to reason with this same 3-year old kid as to why he was NOT getting any candy and he'd better just STOP THAT RIGHT NOW OR WE ARE GOING TO GO TO THE CAR. (Spoiler alert, young moms. THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT. THEY WANT TO GO TO THE CAR. DON'T GO TO THE CAR. STAY IN THE STORE, BE MISERABLE, MAKE EVERYONE ELSE MISERABLE, AND GET YOUR SHOPPING DONE. Because they probably won't let you back in for awhile.)

But I digress. Anyway, there'd always be this know-it-all lady who would chuckle and say in this little sing-songy voice, "Don't blink! They grow up so fast!"

I wanted to punch her in the face. Seriously? This could not be over fast ENOUGH. This SUCKED. It was like taking that girl from the Exorcist on errands, only he was a boy. And not possessed. Allegedly.

Looking back, the toddler years certainly seemed to drag on. Maybe those years just weren't my forte. I was waiting for this needy, sticky, whiny thing to become human so I could go do cool stuff with him. I remember looking forward to him NOT taking naps so we could actually take a day trip together and he wouldn't have a complete meltdown by 1 pm.

Don't get me wrong. He was a freakin' cute little kid. I would literally stare at him and wonder how I could have possibly made something so beautiful. I loved holding his tiny little hand in mine and I loved kissing those chubby little feet and I loved it when he fell asleep in my arms. I loved it when his hair finally did come in and it was just this shiny blond, curly mop that contrasted with these bright blue eyes that were so clear you could see yourself in them.

Looking back, I remember sending him to school and thinking, "This is it. This is the end of me having all the influence over him. From now on it's going to be friends and teachers and peers and the world telling him what they think he should do."

I was pretty much right - and I think that's where time started to fly. Because looking back, the grade and middle school years were kind of a blur, like this time vortex of bake sales and book fairs and carnivals and room parties and field trips and back to school picnics and awards ceremonies and student showcases - with some Boy Scout den meetings and Pinewood Derbies and camp outs thrown in.

Then BOOM. I suddenly have a freshman in high school. 

That was four years ago. I wrote a blog in August of 2011 entitled, The First Day of the Next Four Years of His Life, where I told him (subconsciously, of course, because who talks directly to a teenager?) that I would always be there for him, a few paces back, watching out for him as he stretched his wings and learned to fly. And I meant it. And I have been. But it hasn't been easy.

In fact, it's been an excruciatingly long and difficult four years for both of us - years that I don't think I ever could have envisioned. I remember blinking, but no time would pass. I remember wondering what I did wrong all those years leading up to this. What I could have done differently. Why this blond haired, blue-eyed, beautiful creature couldn't feel about himself the way I felt about him - and why he didn't believe in himself the way I believed in him.

The hardest part about being a parent is realizing that you don't have all the answers. That you can love a child for nine months before you ever meet him and that love will grow more than you ever dreamed it could. And just when you thought it couldn't grow any more it does, but it's still not good enough. That all the homemade playdough and bubbles and water balloons and finger paints and sidewalk chalk and playgrounds and Kindermusik classes and pee wee sports and zoos and sprinklers and ice cream and play dates won't guarantee that your child will be safe from the horribleness of real life.

So in desperation and defeat, you let others step in. And that's hard. That's so, so hard. But they help. And you as a mom feel a sense of worthlessness - that you dropped the ball and you can't pick it up. That you had to have someone else save him when you couldn't. But as much as you feel this way, you're so very, very thankful that they did. So very thankful. Because in less than two weeks, this mom is going to watch her six foot, five inch, blond haired, blue-eyed, beautiful baby boy walk across that stage and receive his high school diploma. And on that day, I will once again be amazed that I could love him any more than I do right now.

And I will wonder how it all went by so fast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two Weeks Notice

I gave my notice at my job yesterday.

I honestly felt sick to my stomach - like I was going to puke sick to my stomach. I don't know if it was just nervousness to tell my boss I was leaving him high and dry in two weeks or the fact that I wasn't 100% sure I was doing the right thing, even though I'm pretty sure on paper that I'm doing the right thing.

I suck at change. And it takes me quite awhile to get comfortable in new surroundings. My current job is comfortable. I know what I'm doing. I feel confident in my abilities and and I truly enjoy what I do. Most of all, I enjoy the people with whom I work. They're genuine, fun-loving, sometimes crass (in a good way), real people who I have come to know and respect. It's because of them that I really like coming to work every day.

My mom always told me that when you have to make a tough decision, write up a list of pros and cons. I made that list, and the pros of taking this new job were way more numerous than the cons. The problem is, you have to assign a weight to those pros and cons. The opportunity to work for a company that was listed in the Best Places to Work in its industry is a pro. The job description sounding like something that's in my wheelhouse yet will allow me to grow is a pro. The compensation and benefits is a pro, as well as proximity to my home.

Where else can you have a "Will It Waffle?" day?
But, it's a con to be leaving these great relationships I've forged with some of these people, especially the core team with whom I work. It's a con that I'll be leaving (at least temporarily) the confidence to speak up in a meeting or take on a new writing challenge because I've been here long enough to know the ropes. It's a con (or maybe a pro, depending on who you ask) that with my son coming home I may not have the flexibility to be there for him in the way he needs. Funny how tangible the pros are, and how intangible the cons. That's why it's hard to give them the same weight.

My fear of change gets in my way a lot. I've gotten a lot better about it over the years, mostly since change seems to enjoy screwing with me. Just when I think I have my life where I want it, some monkey wrench gets thrown into the mix and BOOM. The relationship is ending. I'm moving. Someone's dying. A child is leaving. A job is changing. DAMMIT!

Ugh. WhatEVER.
I know, I know. Life is all about change. "If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." "Your life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change." I know all the stupid quotes. I don't have to LIKE them.

I guess I've always just wanted to live a nice, ordinary life. One where I raise my kids in the same house for all of their young lives, work for a great company for years on end, am married to the love of my life for umpteen years and take a vacation to the family summer home every July. Spoiler alert: None of these has occurred. Yet.

Hopefully this change is good. Hopefully I can overcome my fear and embrace this new venture as my new future, a gift from God, a fresh start ... whatever spin I can put on it to get me through the first few months of not knowing what the hell I'm doing while maintaining the confidence that soon I will.

I do have a favorite quote about change - and it doesn't even have the word "change" in it. It's by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the theory of mindfulness, which, if you haven't even looked into it, is pretty amazing and surprisingly effective. Anyway, Kabat-Zinn said, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

Wish me luck - I'm about to Hang Ten.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Most everyone has heard this obvious yet profound quote from the great Wayne Gretzky. I’ve used it before, as recently as yesterday. I was talking to a (younger) family member about some life-changing decisions and plans she was making that she seemed to be having ... not doubts, necessarily, but maybe some trepidation. Before I even had a chance to think, this is what I wrote:

“I love that you're taking this leap and I can say honestly and truthfully - from a 48 year old woman who has never done SHIT with her life because she was too worried about doing EXACTLY what was EXPECTED of her and MISERABLE at it all, you will never regret it, whether it works out or not.”

OK, so reading back on this, it may be a little dramatic. I’ve done some shit with my life, sure, and I haven’t been miserable about it ALL. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily accomplished anything earth-shattering to put my mark on the world, nor have my deeds been any greater than anyone else out there. But I have always suffered from living very much inside the box, based on what I believed were others’ expectations of my life - others being parents, community, and, well, society (and yeah, I know, the latter two probably really could not have cared less.)

I guess my regrets are that in some cases, I didn’t take any shots. In some cases, it didn’t even occur to me to do so because “I’m just not that person” or “I’m just not at that place in my life.” In other cases, it was fear of the unknown, fear of the unstable, or fear of failure. So in some ways, though I don’t have any regrets of things I have DONE in my life (except a few), I do have regrets about the things I have NOT done. 

So I continued to write to her,
I want to reiterate that. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT. You know that saying by Wayne Gretzky (go SPORTS!) "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I have missed 100% of the shots. I went to college because I was supposed to, I got married because I was supposed to, I had kids because I was supposed to, I moved with my husband because I was supposed to. The first thing I ever did that I wasn't supposed to do was get divorced, and once I got through the GUILT of RUINING LIVES I was finally at peace with doing something that I WANTED and NEEDED to do. And I don't regret it. It sucked, but it was the best thing for me and the best thing for my kids (I think.) 

And just in case my kids read this, I don’t regret you. Not for a split nanosecond. My boys are, by far, my greatest accomplishment in life, and nothing could ever trump that. (And come to think of it, probably my most awesome adventures ever.) I don’t regret going to college or getting married. Again, this isn’t about regrets from past decisions. It’s regrets about decisions I never even considered.

And even as I think on it now, I don’t know what I would or could have done differently. It’s not like I was going to move to the mountains and write my novel while my kids were in grade school. I mean, I guess I COULD have. Yes, I COULD have. But I thought that living anything but a calm, stable, ordinary life like I had growing up would be selfish. I mean, I had a GREAT upbringing, and it was VERY ordinary. I WANTED that for my kids, or at least I did at the time. Funny how life works, though. Things happened to us over the course of their upbringing that were NOT ordinary, and I fought tooth and nail to right them back. Now that I think of it, at this writing, we are certainly NOT ordinary, but that is through situations that I suppose I could call adventures, though they weren't necessarily of my choosing.

Adventures. That’s such a great word. I guess I need to stop thinking of them as these elusive, life-altering grand plans and more of situations where you just move out of your comfort zone. 

I once knew a man who considered every unknown situation in his life as an “adventure.” He’d even tell his kids, “Today we’re going to have an adventure.” He’d have no plans, and they’d just go and do. And there was always some story to be told at the end of it. One night he was caught in a horrible snowstorm, and had to walk miles to get help. But he never recalled it as a horrible experience, but as a "great adventure."

I never forgot that, and I think about it often when I’m going into a situation of which I’m unsure, or if I’m faced with an opportunity that scares me. So I ended my “lecture” to my family member like this: 

“This is an amazing opportunity, and if nothing else, you will have an adventure, and you will have it with someone you love. THAT IS LIFE RIGHT THERE, MY DARLING.” 

I hope to have adventures - things that I choose to try that scare me but excite me at the same time. Maybe it is writing that book, or moving to a new location, or taking that trip I've made umpteen excuses why I can't take. Maybe it's as small as climbing that big rock or learning some new skill I thought I was too old to master.

Life in itself is an adventure, I suppose, because you never really know what’s around the next corner. But instead of checking to see if you’re wide open and are sure of the shot, sometimes you just have to take it. Otherwise, you’ll miss … every single time.