I thought I would be young forever

standard April 18, 2016 1 response

I’ve had a nice big patch of white hair over my right temple since our tumultuous 2011 experiences, but until recently, only a few others would appear here and there, easily ripped out and dismissed as mere annoyances. These days however, new white hairs appear with devastating frequency. And they’re no longer happy to let themselves be contained in an area that can somewhat easily be masked. Oh no. They’re popping up everywhere.

And then there’s this weird thing happening on my chest. As in, when I wake up I have these disgustingly deep wrinkles all down my cleavage. They fade as the day progresses, but man is that a hard thing to see first thing in the morning. It’s like I’m getting old or something.

Or rather, it’s like my body is trying to tell me something.

It’s like it’s trying to hint at the fact that I’m turning 40 in just three months.

4. 0. In. 3. Months.

And how is that even possible?

I thought I was going to be young forever.

Or, rather, I thought I was still young.

Because young is a mindset, right? I’m sure I saw a poster on Pinterest that said something to that effect. And if it’s on Pinterest, it must be true. Right? RIGHT?

And I really thought I was still hip, and cool, and with it. I mean, I have a stripe of bluish green mermaid hair for crying out loud, if that doesn’t scream hip, I don’t know what does.

And then we went to Las Vegas, and spotted a young woman dressed in a show-girl outfit, posing in the street with people delighted to spend a couple dollars to have their picture taken with her. All she was wearing in lieu of a bra were two pretty little flower shaped pasties.

When M pointed her out to me, I gasped.

“Oh, that poor girl’s mother…” I whimpered.

M gave me a look, which made me whimper even louder.

Because cool, young, hip people don’t look at scantily clad girls and wonder if their mom knows what they do for a living.  Ergo, I am clearly not cool, young, or hip.

The next day, while lounging by the pool in my no nonsense tummy control bathing suit from Lands End, I actually googled “how old is middle aged?”

Good news, apparently, it’s not an age, it’s a state of mind.

Bad news, I might be heading that way on a runaway train fueled by un-hip Mom thoughts and tummy control bathing suits.

Of course, ever since then, I’ve been dreaming up tattoos that would prove to the world once and for all that I was still very much hip and cool.

At least, I did that until this morning, when I was in the shower having the kinds of deep thoughts you can only have when not being interrupted by kids, dogs, social media messages, or anything else that constantly interrupt my thoughts during the day.

As I lathered up my hair and wondered if there was some magic shampoo that could make my white hair a little less brittle, I asked myself why I was so terrified at the thought of getting older.

I thought about all of the things I have accomplished in the last ahem – 40 – ahem years.

I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have filled those years well. I have tried and tested lots. I have learned even more. I have been daring and bold. I have lived life fully. And I’m not even close to done living life fully.

I may no longer have a chest that won’t quit, or the kinds of looks that help me get ahead in life. But I have smarts I’ve honed carefully for many years. Hard won experience I can put to good use. And it’s so much more satisfying to know I’m landing jobs because I’m good at what I do, rather than because I look cute in a suit.

Yes, I’m still freaking out about the big birthday. Yes, I’m still googling tattoos. But I think I’m starting to get a grip on the whole thing.  40 is a major benchmark, but it would be more worrisome if I had nothing to show for all those spent years.

I get to spend the next 40 putting into effect what I spent the first 40 learning and practicing. So, maybe it’s time to accept that wisdom and experience have youth beat in all the ways that matter. But, if I’m brutally honest, and why wouldn’t I be at this point, now that you know all about the weird cleavage wrinkles…, I might have to sit with that thought for a while. It might take a long while to start feeling like a truth rather than something I’m trying to trick myself into believing.

 

And then, of course, there’s this…. The brutal reminder that I’m damn lucky to be struggling with these feelings at all.

"Growing old is a privilege denied to many" tattoo

I forgot rainbows exist

standard November 10, 2015 Leave a response

I turned the corner, driving that fine line between driving the speed limit and going fast enough to get to school in time to collect the kid getting out of her after-school activity. I snarled at the rain starting again, at my broken windshield wiper I didn’t even know was broken until this morning, at the blister forming in the rain boot that only gets worn once or twice a season.

And then I saw it. And I gasped.

A rainbow. A silly, stupid, glorious rainbow, stretching clear across the sky. A perfect shining rainbow.

And then I laughed.

Because for a minute I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing.

I’d forgotten about rainbows.

What can I say? It doesn’t rain very often in California.

So, I’d forgotten about rainbows.

Rainbows in all their magical, improbable selves. A thing that children color, because they’re so darn pretty and shiny and irresistible.

Rainbows, reminding us that there’s beauty and magic to be found in even the dreariest of days.

I seriously can’t believe I’d forgotten about rainbows.

Just how grown-up and jaded have I become?

What happened to the girl who always looked for the silver lining in every situation? Who always tried to tease the fun out of every moment?

2011 was a brutal year of unending big catastrophes that kept knocking me off my feet.

This year has been less obvious in its relentless sly attacks, and yet, apparently no less draining.

I keep trying to pull myself up from my bootstraps, keep trying to jolly myself out of the gray area I seem to wallow in most often these days, but it’s hard. There are constant reminders about my father. Constant little challenges to overcome. Constant reasons not to smile, but to, instead, force a grin on my face a bear another day.

It’s not how I want to be, not who I want to be.

I want to be the girl who looks for rainbows, not the one who forgets they even exist.

Rainbow

We are the stories we tell ourselves

standard October 7, 2015 1 response

Who were you when you were a kid?

I was the lazy one. The underachiever. The one who got by by doing the least humanly possible. Who read all day instead of studying or working.

I told my husband this the other day. Then I told him that I still thought of myself as lazy, as underachieving. He just looked at me and burst out laughing.

He’s known me for over 15 years and never, not once in all that time, have the words lazy or underachiever, been words he thought of when he thinks of me.

And yet? I still think of myself as lazy. As doing the least minimum possible to get by.

Even though I’m on the PTA. Chair a volunteer program at school. Wrote a novel. Pack wholesome lunches for two kids every day. Do a million loads of laundry every. single. week. Work tirelessly for three, sometimes four clients, while managing my own blog and starting my own business. Help with homework, push literature until it comes out of the kids’ ears, listen to endless conversations and concerns about school and friendship. And so on, and so forth, from sun-up to sun-down.

And yet? If you ask me, I’ll probably shrug, wrinkle my nose, and say that I probably can do more…should do more…that I don’t because I’m lazy.

Have you ever noticed how the stories we’re told when we’re kids stick?  How they become truth? Indelible truth. In ways that are so very, very hard to alter. In ways that literally shape us and turn us into who we are, or, at the very least, into who we believe we are.

As kids, we all too often become the stories that are told about us. As adults, we are the stories we tell about ourselves. And yes, often those stories are one and the same.

Now that I’m aware of this story I’ve been hearing and telling for over three decades, I’m going to make a conscious effort to change the story and change how I perceive myself.

Because if I’m not behaving like a lazy bum, at the very least I could be giving myself credit for all the work I do instead of constantly berating myself for not doing more.

When I fall into bed, spent, at the end of the day, I’m going to focus on what I did do, not what I didn’t. I’m going to tell myself that I’m a good mom, a great writer, a supportive wife, a trustworthy friend. I’m going to remind myself that a day is only 24 hours long and that I’m making the very best of the ones I can control.

And I’m going to try to change the story I tell about myself and be a little bit more supportive of my own efforts and successes.

What’s your story?

I left my kids on the other side of the country

standard July 14, 2015 1 response

On Saturday I flew the two kids to the Midwest so I could drop them off at camp. Overnight camp. For two weeks.

I went to camp as a kid and loved it.

M went to camp as a kid and hated it.

Two differing opinions that warred in my head when we first learned of the camp this winter and I asked the kids if they’d want to go.

In my mind there was no doubt that camp would be a fantastic experience for them. Two weeks on a gorgeous lake surrounded by kids, going from one activity to the next…heaven to most kids. Right? I was even hopeful that a little separation would be great for Little L, help her become a little more self-reliant and a little less prone to asking for help before even trying something.

But I worried, because, in so many ways, they’re very much M’s children and taking them to camp halfway across the country didn’t leave many options for middle of the night pick-ups should things not pan out.

That said, the whole halfway across the country no middle of the night thing is also good. Sometimes not having an easy out is a good incentive for pushing yourself through the hard parts so you don’t miss the good parts.

But I still worried.

And then Sunday dawned and I had to load them into the rental to take them to the drop off spot. And then I had to hug them goodbye and leave them behind.

I was fine until that point. Riding my “Camp is a GREAT THING” wagon all the way. Until I realized I left my heart behind with them.

I drove away from the camp, headed into town for a few hours of sightseeing and reminded myself of all the good things camp does for kids.

I reminded myself that my job as a mom isn’t to shield and protect my kids from everything and anything, but to help prepare them for adulthood. Because, after all, we’re raising adults, not children, right?

My heart broke at the thought that I wouldn’t be there to cuddle Little L at night when she felt homesick, but I comforted myself with the thought that any one of her three counselors or the camp mom would be there for her.

My heart squeezed when I wondered who C would discuss her worries with, and then relaxed when I remembered she had her journal and a slew of new-found friends.

My breath hitched when I realized I’d forgotten to ask the director to make sure Little L ate, because she sometimes doesn’t and then she gets cranky, but then I reasoned that it would probably be apparent, very, very quickly.

And then I stopped myself from thinking of any other ways they’d be missing my ministering and doting.

I dropped my kids off at camp and I will not be privy to their day-by-day feedback. They’re going to have experiences I won’t be able to picture and might never hear about. And that’s ok. It’s sad, it’s hard for me, but it’s great for them. I will peruse the camp’s nightly picture uploads to look for smiles and happiness. And I will try not to worry if they look tired or a little sad. Because a nano-second captured on film doesn’t tell the story of a whole day, or a whole week. And I will remember that this is a GOOD thing.

For them, for me, for us.

I won’t always be there to hug them and pick up the pieces. I won’t always be close by for instant feedback or advice. One day they will be spreading their wings and going to college and then off to their own lives, and it’s never too early for them to know that I know they are smart, strong, resilient, and I trust them to stand on their own two feet.

Even if it makes me feel like I’m walking around completely empty when they are away from me.

Looks like she's not the least bit traumatized by camp.

Looks like she’s not the least bit traumatized by camp.