Category: Rites of passage

When Your Baby Becomes A Real Person, Life and Birthdays Are Never The Same

Having babies is a great idea, until you realize that they are real people. My real people are pretty much grown up now, and this is not where I say “but they will always be my babies.” Of course, in some way, they are still my babies. Big, tall, hairy, manly babies.

My real people were born in different years but all within four weeks of each other, which means every year we have birthday season. We’re in it right now as a matter of fact. For nearly two decades I enjoyed the yin-yang of it – expensive…and celebratory. And I thought this year would be no different.

But the first rule of parenting is to give up the rosy glow, because guess what, real people do what they want to do regardless of their parents hopes, dreams and expectations. We’ve had a lot of years to adjust-abhor-accept that, but it’s still not easy when birthday and holiday season roll around. Why? Because this year my real people made plans of their own. And worse – without even telling me until I had already ordered the cake.

Me to Real Person who is actually permanently moving “home” soon:

“Hey how about you drive down for a long birthday weekend before you move back, and we can celebrate your birthday and get your car registered, get your classes and financial aid all situated, and find you an apartment.”

(The middle child real person is transferring to a college near home to finish his senior year. Hooray! Although I better not have any hopes, dreams or expectations that his being around the corner will grant me free access.)

Real Person:  “Um, no, I can’t. I’m going to a festival.”  

Me:  “What festival?”

Real Person:  Electric Forest.”

Me – while quickly googling Electric Forest festival:

“Oh wow sounds like fun, but how did you get time off from apple?”   Wait… hold up… “It’s half-way across the country?!?”  What?!? (I have to admit it looks pretty cool.)

“Oh yea Mom, it’s in Michigan. Don’t worry, I’m not driving and I’ll only be gone 5 days.”

Ok, the kid is going to be 22 this year, but this is my baby. (Big, tall, hairy, manly baby.) He is going to an outdoor music festival – in the forest – and there’s more – working the festival to get free food and camping space – with a group of his friends.  My son camps?

Wow. I don’t know how I feel about this. Um, Happy Birthday.

My youngest did not utilize the shock and awe factor, he just decided on his 17th he would go out to dinner with friends and afterward to do whatever they wanted until he got home by 11pm. He told me the day before his birthday that this was his plan.

Oh ok. <sigh> Happy birthday.

Not sure what is in store for the oldest yet, we are still only part-way through birthday season. But I bet it will involve his girlfriend, and I don’t know if we’ll be part of the plan. I’m so proud of this kid, he will be 24 and finds his own way every day. I have such a soft-spot for this one that I will be totally fine with whatever he decides. (Can we get that in writing?)

I’m actually proud of all of them, and my soft-spot is pretty big. Like them. Big, real people.

It’s ok, I still ordered the cake. And yep, enjoyed every bite.

 

It’s Easy To Be Yourself If You Remember Who You Are

Last night my historian husband started singing a song (he does that a lot, just starts singing out loud, usually songs from the 1970s,) that he used to karaoke at a club he frequented way back in the day. This was before karaoke even existed mind ya, he used a beer bottle as his mic and people would clear the dance floor for him to croon. Then he stopped mid-song last night and said, Wow, I can’t believe how many people I have been during my lifetime. 

Did you ever stop and think for a minute about how many people you may have been in your lifetime to date? I don’t mean multiple personalities, although sure why not – our personalities can and do change to some degree depending on our situation. I’m talking about who you really “were then,” verses who you are “right now.”

He began reminiscing about those different people he was – during his formative years, as a teenager, a wild fraternity brother, a banker-turned-journalist, husband, father, husband again, step-father, photographer, writer, furniture-maker, antique car enthusiast, Harvard University employee and student, and of course a pseudo-karaoke star.

As he did that I was overcome with physical and emotional discomfort – not from his chronicled narrative, but from whatever is locked up behind closed doors in my own mind. Memories that I can’t see or hear, but I can feel. I think it’s called dissociative amnesia – the stuff is in there – I just can’t remember much after too many years of overwhelming stress.

I don’t know many people who lack some of their autobiographical memory. I try not to talk about it because it’s hard. I hate that I can’t remember much of my life, especially when people around me are reminiscing. So ironically, I try to put my amnesia out of my mind.

But I live with a walking Wikipedia. Sir Husband remembers pretty much everything, and most days I’m in awe and astonished not just by his vivid memories all the way back to his toddler years, but by the smarts he accumulated and maintained along the way. He actually remembers every word to every song he has heard throughout his life – and sings them, in tune. He recalls worldwide historical events in detail, like he was there. He even remembers what I was wearing when I was a teenager and he picked me up for school every day. Wow. I can’t compete.

I’ve been lot of different people in my lifetime too – but the things they did, places they went, the clothes they wore, I’m not really sure. They say our life flashes before our eyes when we’re changing realms, so I guess eventually I’ll remember who I was.

On the other hand, I do know who I am now, today, in this perfectly memorable moment. And I’m thinking that’s who really matters.

 

 

Time Changes Everything, Most Notably On New Year’s Eve

Is it me or does New Year’s Eve come with a lot of pressure? Why the big deal? Yea, it’s the end of the old year – time moves on, just like it does every day. But we celebrate this particular end of time as if it’s truly the end of time so we better kick it up a notch or three. The build-up mounts in the weeks ahead, “What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” If you say “nothing” you kind of feel like a loser.

img_2616-1I’m happy to do nothing and cozy up with my honey, a roaring fire, a good movie and a bottle of bubbly. But this year we went out to a jazz club I haven’t been to in over a decade. I was pretty excited actually. The millennial offspring had dispersed after a week of family time and Sir Husband and I were loaded up with Visa gift cards for our night out on the town. Zero pressure.

So there we were sitting in the dim light at our awesome tiny table inches from stage, drinks in hand, waiting on the show to begin while people poured in to the cozy space, and my phone lights up with img_2620a text from my youngest.

“Hey did you hear about the shooting in the nightclub just now? A couple of people dressed up like Santa started shooting everyone.”

BUZZKILL. And startlingly uncomfortable. OMG where? I wrote him back, silenced my phone, stiffened up and started scanning the room. It was on the other side of the world, but Jesus that can happen anywhere, even here, on our big New Year’s Eve night out – you know the important night of celebration and romance without the pressure of worrying about the kids. Shit.

This is what we’ve come to now in the world. Miserable, nasty, sick people think they can shoot you because they want to. You see it on TV and you cringe then disengage, going about your business trying not to think about that kind of horror in your own airspace. By the way, the Times Square ball-dropping celebration was surrounded by SWAT teams and homeland security. Wow.

Change is everywhere. I was surprised when we got to the club (I had frequented annually with my former husband,) to learn it had not only doubled in size, they moved it down a few floors in the building and eliminated the cityscape view from the walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Bummer.

I said a little prayer in my head thanking the invisible Divine for keeping my boys and us safe while we all did something special on New Year’s Eve in our own respective locations, then I sat back and enjoyed the scene with the love of my life.

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Anyway, Happy New Year. It’s here with plenty of new pressures – like resolutions. Mine is to learn to really embrace change. Although you know what they say about resolutions. Statistics show…they don’t last.

 

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Bearing Witness to This Changing World May Be The Only Thing To Do

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I’m screaming on the inside. Well, the outside too. It started the day after the election as I was voicing my upset on social media (which I rarely do,) responding to posts calling for my input. I  “watched” myself do it – let my emotions publicly come out. I wanted to step back and just let it be since we don’t have any control over it other than casting our vote – and that’s an iffy control with our contorted Electoral College – but I couldn’t.

As I watched and read what I typed, I felt the sheer terror of what our world may look like in the upcoming months and years – not just with the President-elect, but with the great divide we see between American citizens – and I had an overwhelming surge of negative emotions, much like many others who were clearly feeling the same.

Part of my intrinsic upset comes from knowing deep down what may be in store, as I have experienced a few “psychological terrorists” up close and personal in recent years, much like Donald Trump –  narcissistic elitists who live from their massive egos that are beyond normal comprehension. Not to mention their visible indicators of emotional ignorance not only to those around them, but more importantly to their True Self – their soul – and Divine Love.

Living from the pureness of love is not an easy place to live whether we are the average-Joe-everyday narcissist or not. Projecting love instead of fear when emotions are reeling (and even when they aren’t,) is tough, even for the teachers of human compassion.

The election results in a spiritual frame of reference call for long overdue healing of the human race. But I’m not sure the task of wide-span healing on any profound, impacting level is going to happen in our lifetime, it’s too gargantuan. I’m guessing that this Divided States of America will go on for generations to come, because there seems to be this ongoing question of boundaries. Not just national border boundaries called into question in countries around the world. But personal boundaries. Who has authority over our private lives?

That is the question. Who is in charge? Ourselves or someone else? Because the fight for control is often deadly. And the fact that there is even any question of who can dictate our private lives – who we are, what we feel, who we love, what we believe, what we say, do, where we can live, work, eat, play and pray – is immorally absurd.

Then to tie all of that in with the color of our skin, our gender, our race, our nationality, our incomes, ourselves, casts our hopes and every scrap of our dreams – American and otherwise – out the window, and worse, into the fire.

And yet it goes even deeper, to the boundaries around dialogue, personal and public conversation that is so important in these unstable, uncertain, seemingly dark, catastrophic times. For the common man, for you and for me, dialogue is all we have right now, that’s how we engage with the world we live in. I’ve read and heard so many conclusions and predictions already of this impending new regime – just the beginning of speculation twisted with fact, without any hope of true knowing until hindsight reveals it – and it’s confusing.

So I decided to step back just for a minute and really think about it. We know fear begets fear, and there’s plenty of that everywhere we turn. But in that moment it occurred to me that I don’t have to ride the rollercoaster. I can simply observe life as it unfolds – wherever and however it does that – on television, on social media, online, on street corners. I can exercise the peaceful neutrality of witnessing, not as a bystander but as a person engaged in my own personal evolution occurring alongside the rest of this topsy-turvy world. It may feel like mayhem, but by witnessing I can protect that little space inside me that still wants to believe in a fairy-dusted existence. Even though the worst may be yet to come… or not.

It’s like that sweet and symbolic ditty Row Row Row Your Boat that we learned when we were little. Sing along…at least on the inside.

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Halloween Is Over, Bring On The In Between

Welcome to the Christmas Season! It’s just two days after Halloween – the official holiday launch. We can tune in to Christmas music on satellite radio now, and we better start shopping for all the popular gifts.

Nah. I’m headed to the store to get a bag of Halloween candy for 50 percent off. We didn’t really get to celebrate Halloween this year, nearly empty-nested for the first time. Our 16-year old wasn’t interested, and we live in a big old house-turned-condos that sits well off the road in the woods, nobody rang the bell here.

At first I didn’t mind the lack of festivities – much to my holiday-loving surprise – the last halloween-04-064-copyoctober-05-010-copytwo decades of hazy Halloween memories were more than enough. No costume quandaries this year, messy pumpkin carving or mad dashes to the front door making idle chit chat with wee fairies and movie characters who aren’t old enough to eat a Skittle. No boys up past their bedtime sitting in a pile of open wrappers in the middle of the floor, no candy coma, no weeks of chocolate sitting around the house. Yea it’s all cute, and I loved it year after year…including raiding their bags when nobody was looking. But they’ve grown up and moved on.

Then the sun started to set on Halloween night…and some sadness crept in.

Halloween was over and it hadn’t even begun. I didn’t miss the hoopla or mess, I missed tradition – the anticipation of the doorbell ringing, trying to keep our hands out of the candy fullsizerenderbowl, pumpkin seeds toasting in the oven, glowing amber candle lights in each window, decorations, black and orange everything. Nope, none of that this year. Just a couple of full-size candy bars that Sir Husband sweetly brought home and placed near our teeny pumpkin. We missed the kids.

But “it’s whatever” as our millennials say. They are able to move forward in time without batting an eye, something I continue to try. I think there is an “in between” phase for parents, when we’re conscious of the big change adjusting to the empty nest. The shift in circumstances is noticeable.

But why do we always try to hurry our way on to the next thing, the next phase, even the next day?

water-restIn between is underrated. Nobody wants to hang out in between anything. Whether it’s between life phases or in between holidays, the world just pushes forward instead of embracing the void in between. What’s so bad about the void? That’s where we can pause, take a breath, and just be for a minute or three.

There’s something cool about being in the gap. Suspended between destinations or phases, hanging out in this space of has-been and will-be. Like when you are looking at a candy bar sitting on your table and you know it’s there and you are psyched about eating it but you don’t go for it. You wait. You anticipate. In between.

That was my favorite part of Halloween back in the day. The part just before the sun set when everything was ready but it was too early for trick or treating. We just hung out in those moments of peaceful readiness for whatever was ahead. We enjoyed the scenery. We enjoyed the pause.

Anyway…in the meantime, Merry Christmas.

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A Name Is Worth A Thousand Words, A Friend Is Worth Forever

When the nurse called my name to take me back into surgical waiting for a minor procedure, my heart skipped a beat. “Dorothea” she said, looking directly at me since no one else was in the waiting room. “You mean Deborah?” I said. “Oh yes, Deborah. Sorry I thought it said Dorothea.”

That normally would have meant nothing – mispronouncing my name. But it mattered then, because my friend Dorothea just died — and her wake was that exact evening. Clear out of the blue, boom, dead just a few days earlier. And the nurse called out her name.

angel-starsIf that doesn’t make you believe in angels, or some sort of cosmic Divine, not sure what would. I could tell you about my bathroom light flickering like crazy although the bulb wasn’t burned out just as she was crossing realms and I didn’t know it. Or how I heard her voice talk to me as if she were right there next to me. Maybe she was.

I was sitting at a stop light adjacent to my son’s preschool, where he went 20 years ago, and could hear the wee ones playing on the playground, just like it sounded back then. It was an Indian Summer day, sun shining, the leaves on the tree-lined street turning shades of beautiful autumn. I closed my eyes and let the breeze drift through the car window as I waited, listened, and remembered.

“I’m ok Debbie. I’m ok” she said.

friends-for-reasonThat’s where I met my friend Dorothea – Dottie. We were young moms, similar in age, our boys were in the same preschool class. They became fast friends, and so did we. We spent the next decade as BFFs, just like our kids, and even our husbands.

When I opened my Facebook last week to quickly check messages there was the post by her son, only minutes old at the top of my feed. I burst into tears. It was visceral, I didn’t even know where it came from. I fell out of touch with her a few years ago, not by choice, sometimes life just gets so crazy. She was now divorced, I was now remarried, our boys are all grown up.

But I was excited to see her again – when we recently moved back home we were going to reconnect. Not anymore, I didn’t get the chance to say hello…or goodbye. This circle of life thing is something. But it is what it is. And life is life, in all of it’s joy, sorrow and baffling unpredictability.

true-friendsI wasn’t sure what to do with it. I have never experienced the death of a friend. Loss of friends, sure, but as cliche as this sounds, with life there is hope. Although I hate cliches, especially when there is some kind of tragedy. Like there is nothing but the present moment. We all know this, intellectually we all know tomorrow is only a promise (another one,) but let’s be honest. Who really lives like that?

They’re not really sure what happened, and I will never know. I just knew my old friend who had a big smile and an infectious laugh. Someone who loved her son more than life itself. Someone who was there with me for a lot of years, in all of our unrefined glory.

Anyway, peace to you dear friend. And as they say, life goes on.

 

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Our Comfort Zone Is Somewhere Between Yesterday, Tomorrow and Now

motherhoodHeartbreak is defined many ways. Like watching your teenage son shake and gasp for breath as he embarks on his first day of school as a brand new incoming junior. If there was any possible way that I could have made his life easier, believe me I would have done it long before now. We get entangled in situations as we maneuver through life, and we just do the best we can in the moment. Sometimes the best might have been different of course, when we’re looking back. Reflection can be helpful, but all we really have is today.

For most of us though, it’s hard not to reflect, especially when we are trying to reconcile parts of our past so we are comfortable in our present – put the pieces together, find closure, understand, reconnect or let go, start fresh, fix, resolve – whatever it may be so that we’re okay with where we have been and where we are going. This concept has been on my mind recently since we moved back home.

one decisionAlthough it’s not necessarily helpful, we all have expectations of however we think life should be, could be, or we want it to be. That’s just human. But when reality and expectations collide, it makes it tricky. Since learning a few months ago we were moving again, my son was sure his new high school experience would be a complete disaster. He built up all kinds of dreadful scenarios in his mind which added to his angst. Time will tell whether he comes to terms with however his experience plays out.

something wonderfulSince being back, I have tried hard to not have any expectations around reconnecting with close friends who I lost over time after leaving here years ago. Losing some caused me great heartache. Not to mention there are all kinds of other expectations that are just part of “coming home.” How could I not have expectations or hopes of all being right with the world now that I’m back. It’s taken some effort to sit back and allow what will be, to be.

Reflecting on our past, our experiences, that’s all we really only have to go on when it comes to thinking about what may lie ahead. The future can be kind of scary when we don’t know what to expect. So that leaves us with the present moment – which can feel a bit overrated. I work on it all the time, but it’s hard to truly be present and let go of refections and expectations, which both can lead to heartbreak.

When I came home from dropping my son off at his new school, I saw a post from a friend. Today is the beginning of anything you want it said, and it struck me like a lightning bolt. Think about the simplicity of that, it takes the pressure off. A clean slate today that is not marred by history or hope? I’m tattooing that on my hand.

I am also going to write it on a note and slip it into my son’s lunchbox. Today is the beginning of anything you want. What more could we hope for than that.

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The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life Takes Guts

This past weekend Sir Husband and I found ourselves in a coffee shop in a little village at a high-top table in the center window, where we sipped iced coffee and watched the world stroll by. We also had great seats to watch a wedding at the big antique church across the street.

IMG_3069Guests for this event were dressed quite formally for a Saturday afternoon. We watched the bridal party of eight bridesmaids in their mint-green long dresses laughing and swinging their bouquets around while lining up to parade in, alongside eight groomsmen sporting their mint-green silk ties. We saw the bride get out of her limo and try to get up the old, tall wooden steps in her lacy white gown behind her hefty crew, a couple of gals in long dresses carrying her train.

This was a fun thing to see, but for me with some irony. This was the same church where I married Mr. Ex. I too, hauled myself and my lacy dress up those old wooden steps behind my bridesmaids and their groomsmen many years ago. But somehow it all seemed the same.

Sir Husband and I looked at each other and laughed – we’ve both been down this road before. And unfortunately when we did it, we weren’t marrying each other. We were each the 20-something bride and groom in big, formal church weddings marrying the completely wrong people. We both even semi-subconsciously knew it at the time, but we went through with it just the same. Yea, we were kind-of dumb.

So as we watched the pre-ceremony hoopla in the front of this beautiful church, with all the beautiful people, underneath a gorgeous blue sky on a perfect, sunny, late-summer day, we couldn’t help but be cynical.

This is the first day of the end of their marriage were the words that slipped out of our mouths. It’s all over after this. Sure the honeymoon will be fun, but then life will happen, and eventually it will all fall apart…… said hindsight. We laughed, although we weren’t trying for any bad karma, it just seemed reasonable to say.

IMG_3063When I got married at that very church, if I had only stopped it all right then.

Why do we make decisions when we know deep down they’re wrong? Marrying Mr. Ex wasn’t the first huge mistake, there was a long line of many more. Like staying married to him for years in spite of all the colossal problems.

We can’t really know what lies ahead when we make decisions in life. But we can tune in to our instinctual inner guidance system and let it help show us the way. There’s such a huge amount to navigate, why do we take it all on? If I only knew at the time that I was well-equipped to choose a new path…but I didn’t believe I was, and also refused to pay attention to the signs. I am certain that’s a huge part of the cause of divorce overall, we don’t listen to our guts.

It only took 30 years to finally marry the right man. Better late than never I say – and this time I knew it was right. Nobody can truly predict the future but we may have more control over our destiny than we realize. It all just depends on our view.

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Blaming Is Easy – But What Good Does It Do?

your faultThere was a whole lot of blame going on at our local registry of motor vehicles yesterday where I took my youngest to convert his driver’s permit. We had put it off since our out-of-state move a few weeks ago, and it finally moved up on the list.

He’s not particularly interested in driving, although he’s now 16. I am secretly glad he’s not ready, insurance rates are sky high. So we went through the motion of converting his permit because someday he will want to drive.

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now servingfixI fear the RMV. It’s intimidating. Besides the fact you need piles of documentation and paperwork for a license or registration, the wait is always too long. You go in hoping you have all the right stuff, get a numbered ticket then sit. Maybe an hour or more goes by and when you get to the desk you pray that what you brought with you will pass.

After only 30 minutes on this slower RMV day, we finally were called. At first I thought we were all set but then our processing stopped. Turns out our former state did not give us the right paperwork. This did not surprise me, our former state is behind the times when it comes to the national status quo.

rmv supervisorI got shuffled to the supervisor, and that’s when the blaming began. I had just called our former state a day before to ensure I had the right documentation – they swore I did. They were wrong. Blame.

That began a long list of required paperwork that did not match up from state-to-state. More blame.

She informed me that the regulations are not typical there, they are much less than the rest of our country. Even more blame.

This went on for two hours. Phone calls and faxes and waiting and forms, blame bippety blame boppety blame.

While I was enduring there, I had a loud ah-ha thought.

Blame is in the air around me a whole heck of a lot. People love to blame. It somehow lets them off the hook from their own internal chaos – whatever it may be. They may come right out and directly blame, or they find ways to passive-aggressively blame, using whatever forum they can to announce to the world that they are right and and others are wrong. It’s not just on a personal level, look at this election year. Blame is a prominent theme.

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But as I was thinking about all the blame going on – not just between state-to-state registry of motor vehicle offices – but with other blame that’s been thrown my way lately, I decided to eliminate blame.

I am not to blame, I brought all the stuff I had. The poor girl at the registry in our other state who didn’t send the right documentation isn’t to blame – she was not trained properly in her job. The supervisor at our RMV wasn’t to blame – she was just doing her job. If we really stop to think about it, blame is kind of useless. What purpose does it serve? It doesn’t fix anything.

Blaming is the easy way out. It’s feels better when it’s someone else’s fault. We are off the hook,  absolved of any responsibility regardless of our role. It’s a mechanism that’s backed in anger that allows us to feel like we are justified. But in fact it seems quite selfish.

no more blameSo I’m quitting the blame game. Whether it’s about feeling helpless or out of control, or we are projecting our own inner upset on someone else because we can’t face it ourselves, or we simply have an inability to accept a situation as it is, when blame is in the air, own up or let it go. It really only hurts us.

Within minutes of saying bye bye to blame, the permit conversion was resolved. Amazing how life’s lessons are learned. I love the RMV.

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