90% of my days are the same. I get up, get dressed, pack lunches for the kids, schlep them to school, come home, eat a little breakfast, and sit myself down at my computer.
Most of the time I already know what I’m going to write. I have articles to write, social media posts to craft, ad campaigns to conceptualize. The words are there, somewhere in my head, I just need to let them out – via my fingers – into the computer.
Other days I just stare at the screen. Tired. Drained. Completely tapped out of anything creative or original to add to the miasma that is already swirling around the Internet.
Those are the days I long for a regular 9-5 job where I can just react to what is handed to me instead of having to create something from scratch.
Those are the days when I give in to my endless daydream of owning a little country inn. Couple rooms, kitchen, small common area. My days would entail lots of cleaning, some cooking, administrative duties, and maybe a couple surprises here and there.
It sounds like an insane amount of work. And yet, it sounds like the most restful thing I can think of.
Imagine a life where you always know what to do, where you always have something concrete to point to at the end of the day. Today I did that and it had that effect on that person. Such bliss.
Inn! Words! I mean DUDE. I could be all over that.
And then I remember that I have those children that I have to tend to every day and that husband who actually likes his job (most days) and that we actually enjoy living in California. And Maine, while pretty, just ew on the whole snow and winter thing.
And I love the writing, the sitting at my desk with the puppy at my feet, letting the words flow freely from my brain to the screen.
It’s just that some days I think I’d rather be baking a pie for my paying guests and planning out a week’s worth of breakfasts before I go clean up a room that has just been vacated and give my brain a bit of a break.
Until I remember once again how much love to write. How much I need to write. Then I sit back down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and get to work.
We sat there, in the room next to the one in which, two years ago, he took his first breaths with the replacement lungs that were supposed to give him a new lease on life and watched him take his last breaths. All of us holding our own, leaving him all of the oxygen in the room if he wanted it.
I’ve known my father was dying since he was diagnosed with emphysema when I was 20, almost 20 years ago, and yet, as I counted the seconds between his last breaths, I truly felt deep in my bones, that I wasn’t ready to let go, not ready to say goodbye.
He was always happiest on a boat.
If it’s this hard when you have that much time to get used to the idea, how is it possible to survive when death is a surprise?
Emphysema is a bitch of a disease. It slowly robs you of your breath, making it harder and harder to live. For a man like my father it was a tragedy.
He loved food. He loved wine. He loved sailing and traveling. He was always the best dressed, the most dapper wherever we went. Sometimes I swear he was born in the wrong time. He would have dominated the 20’s.
At a friend’s wedding.
As he slowly lost the ability to breathe without support, the sphere in which he lived grew smaller and smaller. In the end, before his transplant in 2012, his life was mostly limited to his apartment, where he lived quite happily, if rather breathlessly, with his wife, his basset hound, their two cats, and his computer.
You’d think that, pretty much always knowing exactly where he was and what he was doing, would have meant that I’d take full advantage of the time he had left.
But I didn’t.
Because I’m an idiot. An idiot with baggage. Baggage I wasn’t able to let go of in time.
Beach hugs are the best.
I posted to Facebook that I was rushing to get to Toronto before it was too late and messages of love started to pour in from around the globe. Friends from my childhood reaching out to share a story about my dad, a favorite memory, a small anecdote, or just a note to say how much they’d admired him and liked him.
And I wept. Because their tributes were beautiful and because so many of my memories of my dad are tempered by the anger I felt for him for years. Anger I held on to for much too long. Anger I nursed and coddled.
He was a fantastic, brilliant, charming man, but he wasn’t an easy man to love, not when you were his daughter.
Gotta wear fancy hats when you garden.
I made my peace with my dad, with his shortcomings as a father, shortly after his transplant, on a day when we learned he had contracted a hospital infection and might be losing his colon and his life.
I made my peace that day, but even though he lived, I didn’t embrace the fact that he was still here.
There is so much I wish I would have done differently. And yet I know that there was no way I could have really done anything differently.
In what we affectionately called his Santa period.
Life is hard. And it’s complicated. And it’s so rarely as neat and clean as a tv script.
On TV I would have made my peace and we would have skipped (metaphorically) into the future, arm in arm, happy and easy with each other.
In reality, I made my peace, but never put down my baggage.
I believed my whole life that my dad held me to a higher standard. That he expected more of me than I could ever deliver. I always felt that I was letting him down, just a bit, just enough. And I resented him so badly for making me feel like I could never quite measure up to what he had expected from me.
But on my end I also held him to a higher standard. And he never quite measured up to what I naively expected of him.
He always appreciated a good funny.
We never fully allowed ourselves to see each other, the way we really were, flaws and all. We were just too much alike, mirror images of each other, reflecting it all too clearly, to let down our guard and just be.
He was an amazing, complex individual. He was smart, and clever. He was passionate about a million things and knowledgeable about a million more.
When not on a boat, he was pretty happy in a kitchen, with a glass of wine.
And I wish, more than anything, that I could sit down to a great meal with him, pour us both a glass of wine, and set down my baggage so I could really and truly appreciate him for the person he was.
He was a man who loved a good story, who relished playing the part he’d written for himself in that story. I spent too many years trying to pull him out of the story and into my reality when I really should have just joined in in his.
This week was “Ski Week” in our school district, a bizarro break that can always be found somewhere between Winter Break and Spring Break, rumored to have started back when families would literally just head for the hills as soon as the snow got good and the schools started closing to pretend that they were controlling the situation. (OK, I admit I might have started that rumor.)
It’s kind of a joke these days because snow, like rain, has been rather scarce around these parts for the last few years.
In any case, god forbid the children ever have to go to school for more than 6 weeks at a time, and so Ski Week still exists.
And, while last week I had virtually no work to do, this week I was absolutely slammed. Which is awesome when you have two children begging to be entertained.
Even better, after two days of working like crazy and periodically yelling “I sure hope you guys aren’t on the computer again” out of my open office door, C and I came down with a small stomach bug.
She spent an evening throwing up, I spent almost 24 hours sleeping. Which was great, because of all the deadlines I somehow had to meet. For a whole day I alternated between intense writing and equally intense napping.
And that was the day I stopped asking them if they were on the computer or wondering just how many TV shows they’d watched.
Guilt gained ground as the nausea and sleepiness relented and I found myself lamenting my less-than-stellar vacation orchestrating to a friend the next day.
“You know, they’re still better off than the kids who are working in the fields.”
I stopped my whining and thought about it.
Two kids, playing educational games on computers and watching truly harmless TV shows, running around in the sunny backyard, no pressure, no schedule, just unstructured free time. For a week.
If you ask the International Unofficial College of Super Judgy Moms I have completely and utterly failed my kids this week. No educational day trips, no intricate crafts, endless hours where I completely ignored my kids…
If you check my Facebook stream, we have completely and utterly missed the point of Ski Week. Clearly we should have either been on a ski run or on a sandy sunny beach.
But if you ask me or my kids? I think we did this vacation just perfectly. I met all of my deadlines beautifully and my kids are relaxed and recharged and just about bored enough with each other’s company to almost want to go back to school.
Almost. But they shouldn’t worry too much. They’re off again in 6 weeks and I’m sure I’ll be just as lax about planning anything for them to do and just as busy then as I was this week.
January slipped by in a haze of carefully crafted headlines, subheaders, body copy, and million little or big edits to those same carefully crafted words.
I wrote little else last month. Advertising is fun, but it’s definitely eating up huge chunks of my days and even bigger chunks of my head space.
Instead of wandering around my days imagining smart, insightful blog posts or pondering deep thoughts about worldly issues, heh, instead I wander around noticing all the banners and headlines around me.
Some impress me. Others, not so much.
And so, a whole month slipped by without me really giving any thought to what my word of the year should be.
I thought for a bit that I’d just skip that this year. I fell flat last year. I haven’t embraced a thing. Instead, I think I spent a large part of the year doing the exact opposite. I feel like I’ve been fighting my way through my days, through the choices I’ve had to make, though the situations thrust upon me.
And I’m tired. Really, really tired of fighting.
Exactly the same way I was last year, only more so.
I sat down last week, in the middle of a tiny lull, and pulled out my Leonie Dawson workbook. It’s hoakie, and pretty, and cheesy, and everything I love. The goal of the book is to help you close out the previous year and prepare for the following one. The business aspects don’t 100% apply to me because I don’t have a product to sell, other than my words and my expertise, but the personal life stuff? It’s spot on.
I didn’t over think it. I didn’t analyze my answers before committing them to paper. I let myself be vulnerable and honest, secure in the knowledge that no one would ever read what I wrote.
And when the workbook asked me what I wanted to open myself to in 2015, even without realizing it, I wrote
“I want to allow myself to feel all my feels.”
I am the queen of masking my feelings, of denying them, of walling them up, burying them deep, and turning my back on them before they can cause a chink in my armor.
As one friend has recently pointed out. I have mastered the art of grinning and bearing.
I am strong. I endure. I get on with my life.
Feelings just get in the way of that.
I think part of the reason I’m so tired, so drained, is that I’m losing the battle with the feelings. There are just too many. Too many demanding to be felt.
I think it might be time to start taking down the wall, time to acknowledge the feelings behind it.
I cannot think of anything more terrifying than that. I worry that the ocean of tears that lies inside me will drown me if I let it. I worry that all those denied feels will each extract their pound of flesh as they make themselves felt.
And yet, I’m more worried about what will happen if I keep denying myself the luxury of wallowing in my hard earned emotions.
In the past I’ve strongly adhered to the notion that it simply takes less energy to not fall apart than to fall apart and then have to rebuild yourself.
But in the past I didn’t have the support I have today.
I have a husband who keeps proving to me over and over that he’s there to help me. That he wants to help.
I have amazing friends who not only watch me cry without judging, but who have come to my rescue when I’ve been at my lowest, feeding me exactly what I need to feel strong enough, supported enough to be vulnerable.
I have family who is always there, loving me for who I am, proud of who I have become, silently and not so silently supporting me in every way, and reading between the lines of what I write to see what I really need.
In the past I always worried I’d have to rebuild on my own, and I always knew I wouldn’t have the strength required to do it.
Today I know I’m not alone. I know I’ll have help.
So, my word for 2015 will be Cry. Which I know sounds really sad, but is really a strength. I will feel the feels. I will embrace the emotions. I will let myself be vulnerable.
It won’t be easy, and it sure won’t be pretty. And I know that I’ll be scared to let it happen. But I think it’s necessary. Because maybe the reason I failed at embracing everything last year is because you can’t embrace what hasn’t been felt , what hasn’t been named.
But scared is just another emotion to embrace, right?