Musings on change and more change ahead…A personal post

I can never recall who said it, nor exactly how it was said, but to paraphrase: The older I grow, the one constant in my life does seem to be change.

As I get ready for some major life shifts in my personal life, I find myself reflecting on the past year and just what a journey it has been. While I shy away from the personal stuff in this space, today is a little different for me as I realize how much of the personal changes of the past year have affected me.

Thanks to Facebook’s nifty (or sometimes not so nifty) memory reminder feature, a picture from last year popped up in my feed. It was a photo that reminded me that a year ago, I was preparing for the physical separation from my life partner of 20 years, 18 of which were spent as a legally married couple. A partnership that started at 22 and ended at 42 and basically set me off on the journey to find myself at a time in life when, according to popular beliefs, you have already figured out who you are. Increasingly, though, I am starting to believe that we never truly find ourselves, instead we evolve over time and our task is to meet the changes head on. To not allow ourselves to grow stagnant, yet also to retain our central core of self.

Moving out of the family home and into a 400-square-foot apartment (which is shared my daughter) on an island at times has felt like one of the most asinine things that I could do. And at the same time, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been my healing space and in the past year, I have met many good people along the way who have shown me that despite the daily reports of gloom and doom that are fed to us, good people truly do exist.

While change may be the only constant in life, the reality is that for many of us, and I include myself, change is hard.  The day-to-day of actually doing change sometimes seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to a root canal without the anesthesia. Yet there comes a point when if we keep going, the change starts to sink in and it becomes your “new normal”…it often happens when you aren’t paying attention.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I can say that the past year has forced me to seriously assess my own skills and talents as I was faced with the uncomfortable truth that while running a grassroots organization is the ultimate in doing good, rarely is it financially rewarding. Given that I don’t wish to spend my golden years eating kitty chow and living under a bridge…yet I love the work that I do…I have increased my own side work and it is slowly starting to bear fruit. Starting a side business while running an almost 50-year old grassroots organization is challenging but so far, I am keeping all the balls in the air.

This past year, I have even seen a long-held dream come true. For years I joked about wanting to give a TED Talk and on November 5, at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, I will be a speaker at TEDxDirigo (Maine’s little slice of the TEDx world).  While it is an honor to be among an amazing group of speakers, it is one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever done. The preparation for a TED/TEDx talk can only be likened to preparing for a marathon. A mental and emotional marathon, but a marathon nonetheless.

Yet the greatest changes in my life have been on a personal front, in large part as we prepare for a new addition to our family. My son and his wife are expecting their first child, who will be earthside soon. After 25 years of motherhood, I am preparing to enter grandma-hood and with each passing day, I find myself getting more and more excited. With new change comes new realities and entering the next phase of adulthood has rendered so much of what seemed important as really unimportant. This became clear to me this spring as I stood with both of my previous husbands and watched our son get married, a day that will live in my memory as long as I am in sound mind. But that day is a close second to feeling my daughter in law’s belly move as my unborn grandchild kicked.

I have had two babies; I remember their  in-utero kicks and movements but to see your own grandchild kick, to realize that your baby is an adult who is about to have his own baby, is one of the greatest joys in life. My children and soon my grandchild will be the three constants in my life, no matter what changes come my way.

Life is like a roller coaster and I am holding on tight as I ride the wave of mamahood, work, starting over, what is shaping up to be a new relationship and watching the next generation of my family take hold. What a journey it has been! 
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Dancing in the dark…bliss versus reality

This time of year for me is always a time of deep reflection and planning for the year ahead; it is both the end of the calendar year and soon will mark the passing of another chronological year for me. However this year I must confess I am in a bit of a funk as I struggle to find that balance between my passion, reality and growing up.

In many ways, I put too much pressure on myself and now it has backfired on me and I don’t know what to do with the resulting mess that is plastered all over my emotional walls. Looking back to a decade ago when I was on the brink of turning 30, I had such high hopes for myself, so many things I hoped to accomplish, so many dreams. Instead my 30’s ushered in real adult life, starting with my mom’s cancer diagnosis not long after turning 30 and her death six weeks after I turned 31. Don’t get me wrong the past decade hasn’t been an entire bust; I finished graduate school and earned my master’s degree which for someone who dropped out of high school isn’t too shabby. Thanks to the generosity of loved ones, the man unit and I were able to become homeowners which it turns out sounds far better in theory than reality when you have two left fingers and find The Home Depot to be a dreary and depressing place. We added a beautiful daughter to our family, I saw my son grow into being a fine young man. I have work that is meaningful and passionate; my childhood dream of becoming a real writer came true.

The reality is that on the checklist of goals I had at 30, I have hit most of the goals except for one that I have continued to ignore but am realizing is no longer possible to ignore. Financial security has eluded me and continues to elude me and it’s starting to bother me.  From a financial perspective my 30’s were basically a continuation of my 20’s, except that health insurance was no longer a given.

This morning I woke up thinking of my father who is getting older and basically living hand to mouth and the fact that in the next decade he will probably retire and with no retirement plan, the reality is that my brother and I will have to help him out. His own fragile financial stability was shattered with my mom’s death and resulting bills and thanks to the worldwide economic crisis and his age; he has never regained his footing.

Then there is that pesky reality that hell, I don’t even have a plan for my own retirement one day, so basically I will be working until I die. That thought scares me to death; it scares me to think that I could end up being that little old lady trying to eat cat food to survive. Or burdening my own kids due to my desire to follow my bliss and passion.

It’s in these moments that I realize that I am still quite young enough that I can change the financial course of my life and that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. The problem is that to change the course of my life essentially means leaving the work that I love and the work/life balance that I have that allows me time to indulge my creative side. Earlier this year I received a call from a headhunter about a position that was amazing on paper with an attractive six figure salary and lovely benefits; the only problem is the job would have taken my soul. It was the type of administrative position that I am well qualified to do, but despise the thought of.  After my initial excitement about the idea of being in the running for such a high profile position, my soul cried out, don’t do it!!! I listened to my soul as I have done in the past and now am starting to realize that maybe it’s now time to seek out such positions.

I have always loved that the man unit and I have crafted a life that we live on our terms but lately that money thing is weighing heavy on me as yet another year passes and I was unable to visit with family. My seven year old has relatives she has never met, she only just met my brother on Thanksgiving when he came out here and she is seven years old! Sadly it is our turn to visit family since they all last visited us but living life on our terms never seems to allow for travel and it’s starting to scare me how fast the years are flying by.

So as I do the dance of struggle in these dark days of December I grapple with the question of what next? I do know that if I move on to a different type of job the demands pretty much will take away the simple joys such as being able to write publicly to the extent that I do. There will be a cost to my family, but what really what costs more? Living joyously and presently with just enough or making the sacrifice and doing the adult thing and dedicating myself fully and maybe even miserably to achieve the dream of financial stability. Of course I sometimes wonder is financial stability in this ever changing world even accessible to the masses.

Deep thoughts and much planning lay ahead for me.

 

 

To be human is to struggle

We live in a culture that doesn’t hesitate to talk about any and everything yet despite all that we willingly talk about and share sometimes with complete strangers, many times we aren’t really talking and there are certain topics that frankly scare most us shitless, they include death and aging.

Death is scary; it’s the great unknown, the absolute equalizer because no matter who we are, at some point we are all going to die. If we are fortunate we will get old and then die, but aging is scary, so we keep moving the goalposts as far as what aging is. Back when I was a wee lass, older people were easily identifiable, now today’s 50 year woman can look as good as a 25 year old on the outside so we think we aren’t aging. In fact we flee from it. Back in the 1970’s Gail Sheehy wrote Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life and for decades it was wildly understood that middle age started at 35, now we can’t decide if 40 or 45 is the start of middle age. Funny thing is despite the fact that we changed the parameters, internal changes affect enough of us that even if we are still “young” we sense that shift internally even if we don’t talk about it publicly.

I on the other hand have no problem talking about it, the gift of losing a parent early in life is that you realize growing old might not be so bad. A few days ago, a dear friend asked me if I were struggling. The truth is I am struggling, but it’s not a bad struggle, in fact it’s a struggle I suspect I am not alone in but who wants to be Debbie Downer?

The beauty of growing old is clarity, clarity that at times results in an internal struggle, this past year I have and continue to struggle with reconciling who I really am with who I think I should be. I am realizing that some of the goals I set early in life are not nearly as important as I thought they were or in other cases am making peace with my personal limitations and accepting myself as I really am, not who I think I should be. Probably the most public example that I can share in this space is around my writing/blogging/yapping work. I may want more as a writer but my true gifts don’t lie in writing no matter how much I want them too. So I struggle with realizing this passion, this hobby may never be what I want it to be, but it still has incredible value. It’s hard at times to redefine ourselves.

The thing is life is an even greater struggle when we fight against what is, when we refuse to see reality and instead live in the land of what ifs. For me accepting reality is not about giving up and retreating but it’s about making peace with what really is, even if it disturbing on some level.

One of the truths I have come to accept in my life is that struggle is part of life, to struggle keeps us on our feet and sometimes makes us move much faster than we like, but to struggle is to be human. The only time the struggle will end is when we stop breathing. So yeah, I am struggling, struggling to find myself in a world that frankly doesn’t have much love for an almost middle aged Black woman.