Jun 10 2012

Would somebody please open a window?

My life has become predictable. I am stuck between here and there. I wonder if anyone else has ever felt that way.

I am leaving one stage of my life and I am not quite ready. The next stage doesn’t even seem to have formed yet so I have no idea what steps to take next to get to where I am going.

This is hard.

Some of the plans and dreams I had at 25, the ones that I worked towards all these years, I have now discovered have not worked out. The life I predicted I would have at this age is not like what I thought at all. Ever the optimist, I had no idea that this could happen. I am a student of the positive thinking movement. I am a believer in choosing the life you want to have. I grew up with the notion that if you work hard enough and live honestly and openly that only good things will come; that somehow I might be protected from any major disturbance or calamity. I never allowed defeat to enter my vocabulary. I never allowed negative thinking to keep me from my dreams. I never allowed the negative messages I received from the outside world to distract me from my life. I never let my past mistakes define me, knowing that they were mere stepping-stones to get me to the person I am now.

I found some old journals and was reflecting back on the things that I had thought then. My children were young and well under my care and careful guidance. I deeply enjoyed those years and thought nothing of giving up a life of financial comforts for the every moment I would spend with them. It was tough. It was very difficult at times making ends meet.

During the time of raising my three children, I learned how to budget like nobodies business. At times we had a grocery budget of $50 dollars a week for the five of us. Somehow we managed to still eat well. We didn’t go on vacation but we had great picnics in the yard and trips to the library. On winter vacation, when many of our friends were heading to Florida, the kids would make construction paper cutouts of flowers and trees that we taped to the walls throughout the house. We filled a basket with sandwiches and juice boxes and travelled to our destination ( the family room) on an imaginary bus ( a few rows of dining chairs). I generally drove.  We might sit under the picture window in the sun and then I would send the kids to their rooms to put on their bathing suits to go for a swim in the ocean (the bathtub). My children were tired by days end, just as if we had spent the day on a sunny beach.

In summer, we occasionally went camping. Most times, my children would gather other neighbourhood children to put on a variety show of some kind on someones front porch. . They would invite all the neighbours with their hand-made invitations and then would sing and dance their way through an hour performance or longer depending on the time it took to encourage one of the kids who always came down with stage fright.

I had it all figured out back then. I would stay home with them until they were old enough to take care of themselves. Then I would go back to work.

In the meantime, to make ends meet, I sewed for people and sometimes picked up a house painting job. I would baby sit and picked up a part-time job at the local drug store, working hours around my husbands schedule. I did this while I pursued my career as an artist, working on commissions late into the night and teaching classes around my babysitting schedule. It didn’t feel like work, it was fun and I was enjoying my life as a mom. It was part of my great plan, balancing my passion as a mother while I established my career.

Then the economy took a nose dive.

I expected at this age to be well immersed in my career. I expected that by this age I would have the mortgage paid and would be living a life of travel and luxury. I had envisioned that my children would settle into their own lives close by and start their own families. I would be slowing down at my work and instead have the luxury of spending hours on a rocking chair lullabying  my grandchildren to sleep.

John Lennon says in his song Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”

That couldn’t be more true.

My husband lost his job. Granted he was able to find another one right away, yet it was a drop in income.  Then shortly after as we were getting back on our feet, his company went on strike. It lasted 6 weeks and took us a couple of years before we managed to catch up again. The children were getting older and their bodies occupied more space than what we had in the house. We moved to another home. We didn’t move up,  it was more like we moved across, to something that was still in our current price range but had a layout that accommodated us better. We were careful and we were smart. We based every purchase on what we needed as opposed to what we wanted.

I have to admit life is still good. It really is. The things that happened instead of what I had planned have turned out well, sometimes better than the vision I had created for myself.

When some doors closed, there really were windows that opened.

I also have to admit that some of the  disappointments and difficult events that happened, especially the ones that came out of nowhere or the multiple events  that followed in close succession to each other have been at times more than I thought I could bear.

Despite my positive thinking, not everything worked out to my naïve plans. I never accounted for what I would do when my children not only left home but left the city as my son did or the province as my daughter will very soon. They are part of the mass exodus of young ones leaving our town to find their dreams elsewhere. There isn’t a lot here for them right now. It’s not a negative attitude. It’s just a logical one. When you can’t get hired after you have attained the proper schooling and certification, when your credentials are exemplary and your drive and work ethic are at a maximum rating, then the only thing you can do is try to fill your dreams in the places that need or want you. It makes me sad. I didn’t plan on being sad at this time. I didn’t plan on my children never coming home and the possibility that they will start a life and their families somewhere else. I didn’t plan that I might be only seeing my future grandchildren once or twice a year. That’s lousy!

I didn’t plan on very important people leaving my life. Some have moved away, others died. Can you believe it. They died! I never even thought about that when I was young. It honestly never entered my mind. Isn’t that remarkable? Yet they did! And it stinks! I never thought about taking care of an aging parent and a sister with special needs and the house and their health and their general welfare. I never thought that most of the conversations that I have now with my siblings is on planning who is doing the grocery run or the yard cleanup at the house we grew up in. I never planned on spending many a phone call discussing how much more we can handle and grappling what to do next that would be not only smart but  be honourable to my father’s memory and my mothers right to her own choices and need for independence.  I never expected to do any of this while taking care of my home and career and attending to my own health and that of my immediate family. I never expected to be doing this while I had to adjust to my children leaving

I never expected that once I found a career that I loved as much as the work I do as an artist  would end in a lay off as well. I’m still grieving, I’m virtually unemployed and the comforts of family life and being a mom are changing rapidly.

So now I am faced with a new set of realities. Due to circumstances that are out of my control, I feel a sudden urge to start drinking.

At times like these, I feet like the doors are being slammed in my face and the windows have been sealed. I feet like I am standing on the outside desperately searching for some small crack to peek into to at least give me a sign that things will be ok. I  find myself digging around in the old familiar places like a dog trying to paw his way back into the yard or at the screen door wanting to come back inside from the rain. I am in desperate need of comfort and stability. So much so that I once again have an arsenal of self-help books laid out beside my favourite reading chair. One is entitled comfort which strangely enough has provided none. Instead I feel more uncomfortable than when I started reading it. I stopped at chapter 7.  I have one called Life. I swear if it tells me some quick recipe of how to fix it in 10 days or less by reciting some positive mantras, I’m going to throw it in the back of my neighbours truck before he heads to the dump.  I have one on how to quit smoking the easy way, which I bought prior to the load that just fell upon me. It’s probably not a good time as I am likely to trade one addiction for the other aforementioned. I am not a good drunk at all. I will never be able to figure this whole thing out if I am crying into my pillow or vomiting at the side of the road.

My daughter told me weeks ago, before her job offer that she felt that she was stuck, in the middle between the life she had and the life she wants. I understood her completely.She was surprised that at my age, I could be going through this too. I quoted John Lennon. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. This was good for her to see, Maybe it will help her maneuver through the changes in her life that I am sure will come.

 I am excited for her and in a sense, as much as I am in a place of unknowing, there is a small part of me that is excited for myself. I am standing in the great divide. I have no idea what is coming. My eyes are wide open and I am throwing my hands up into the air. I give. I am not giving up. I am giving in to what ever is waiting for me and the path I am supposed to take next. I am throwing it all up in the air and am waiting to see where it all falls. A door or window will open. If I look back on my life thus far, statistically this will happen – I am 100% certain. I just have to avoid the booze in the meantime.

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