600 Posts

I started this blog nearly five years ago, in January 2010.  I was approaching my 40th birthday and I felt adrift.   How did I end up here, I often thought.  Who am I and how did I become this person?  I would find myself talking to myself in the mirror, having the conversations that I couldn’t have with another single soul on earth.

Then I started this blog.  This blog helped me.  Helped me figure out, if not the answers to those questions, at least find some peace in the journey I’ve been on.  When I look back on the way I felt then, the sadness that often permeated my days, the insecurity I felt, it is nearly embarrassing.  I’m not that person anymore.  I’m not the person who needs others for validation, for them to like her.  Who needs to always know everyone’s opinion of her and change it if it is negative.

Some of that is age, but some of that is the introspection this space has allowed me.

I journeyed through time here, taking the time to sort through the stories of my past.  For most of my life, I’ve felt like a victim of the tragedies that have befallen me, the rotten luck I’ve had or the lack of closure I’ve felt.  I don’t feel like a victim anymore.  I feel strong.  I feel like a fighter.  I feel like someone who has taken the blows and come back swinging.

I was able to meet again the characters that lived in my past, in my head, in the stories I told myself late at night.  And in some cases, upon reexamining those long ago events, I discovered that I wasn’t, in fact, blameless for the mishaps that befell me.  It wasn’t always my dumb luck or the world out to get me.  Sometimes it was me, and my own actions that brought about this thing or that.  Not an easy pill to swallow.

It’s been years since I finished writing my life story, one memory at a time.  I still keep this blog, to write in sometimes.  But mostly it is like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in when I need it.  If I want to go back in time, all I need to do is click a few times and suddenly there I am, in a room with my son’s father again.  I can give myself permission to love him again, to think about the funny way he used to smile or the way he would visit me at the drive through window when I worked at Burger King, his car spewing oil smoke so thick my coworkers would shoo him away.  It is 1988 again, and I haven’t made all the mistakes yet.  I’m in love, and I’m happy, and the world is my oyster.

Or it is 1992, and I’m in a hospital room with my mother.  I can allow myself to remember not only the beauty of caring for her while she was ill, but also the hard parts, the angry parts, the parts where we argued.  It’s OK for me to remember that it was a hard thing to do, to care for her alone in addition to my 2 year old son.  I’m there again, remembering the nights we cried together before she died.

Or it is 1999 all over again, and I’m standing backstage at a Rick Springfield concert.  He is telling me that he wants me to work for him.  I’m scared and excited and sweaty and not sure how I will be able to do this, and I’m also trying to quiet the thirteen year old girl screaming inside my head.  It hasn’t gone south yet.  It’s still fun.  It’s still amazing.  He still looks at me like I’m the best thing for his career that he is trying to reignite.

Or it is 2004 and my beautiful blond boy, my silent, stormy, sweet boy hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  There’s still hope, there is still the idea that maybe we are just like everyone else.  Even though I know we’re not.  Even though I am already hoping someone will tell me what to do with this child to fix him.  Because for every problem, I think, there is a solution.  There’s a problem, and you fix it.  That’s how life is.  Right?

Going back through my blog here allows me, even just for a moment, to imagine.  To dream.  To allow myself the fantasy of the paths that I didn’t end up traveling.  But it also gives me the thing that I wanted, always.  It gives me peace.  It lets me know that I made these choices.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was an active participant.  For each thing that happened to me, I reacted.  I chose.  I forged a path.  I decided what came next.

It hasn’t been an easy journey.  But it has been my journey.  And all in all, even with all of the pain and the heartache and anger and sadness, there has also been joy.  And truth.  And discovery.  I know who I am now.  I used to need someone else to tell me, to validate me, to let me know that I was good, smart, strong.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me those things now.

Because I know.  600 posts later, I know who I am.

Advertisements

11 Years Later

It’s hard to believe it has been 11 years since that Tuesday morning, so much like this one, crisp and clear here in the Northeast.  I now live far closer to the place where that tragedy occurred than I could ever imagine that day.

One of the musicians I have followed for years, Kyle Vincent, wrote a stunning tribute that day as the events unfolded.   It is poignant and heartbreaking all at the same time, the way he highlights the path we could have chosen if we’d all pulled together in the aftermath of that day.  Instead, eleven years later, our country is more divided than I could have ever imagined.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL5T7Xeif0o&list=UUBADoNjI5lO8FLe8Stm092w&index=5&feature=plcp

I also wrote about that day, extensively, here, reliving the day as it unfolded in my world.  Here is my own perspective on that day, in the posts below:

https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/1737/

https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/it-is-personal/

https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/not-ok/

https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/the-end-of-the-day/

https://myformerlife.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/an-endless-day/

My thoughts and prayers go out today to all whose lives were altered so irrevocably that day.  That awful, awful day.

Haters Gonna Hate

I chuckled looking at the computer screen, nearly choking on my first cup of coffee.  Was that the best they could do?

This week our town held its annual budget vote.  In our tiny New England town, the residents have to approve the spending plan each and every year at the polls.  It’s called an automatic referendum.  When I first moved here I thought it was the craziest thing; in the Midwest, we would have to approve school spending every few years in what was called a “millage vote”.  In the district where I lived, they hardly ever failed.

Where I live now?  They fail routinely.  And since we have to approve a plan every year, it means we vote until it passes.  A few years back, that meant six votes.  We were voting so late that we were about to need an emergency loan from the state because the fiscal year was going to start before we had an approved budget.

It’s why, a few years ago, a group of people and I started an education advocacy group.  To help inform parents about the budget votes, to let them know what was really at stake and lost each time our town failed a vote.  We made phone calls.  We placed VOTE YES signs all over town.  We passed out flyers at the Dunkin’ Donuts.  One year, we held a rally on the Town Hall lawn and I was interviewed on TV.  It’s made my name well known around town.  I’m either a hero for protecting our kids or a pariah for reaching into taxpayer’s pockets, demanding more.

Last year, our teacher contract called for a wage freeze.  It meant that our school system could get by with little or no increase in funding.  So when it came time for the budget numbers to be released, we weren’t all that surprised to see no increase in funding.  Most years, this would have sent us into full fledged attack mode, calling press conferences and media outlets to express concern for the future of our students.  But our superintendent managed the flat budget without any damage due to the wage freeze.  Our group quietly supported this move, which turned the tables.

Suddenly, our support of a low budget was called into question.  How could we call ourselves advocates for education if we weren’t demanding more for our kids?  But we were realists.  We knew that in the current economic state, our tiny little town would never vote for an increase in funding for a system with a wage freeze.  We didn’t want to see further cuts if the budget failed, so we supported the 0 %.  And it passed, with flying colors.

We found ourselves in a similar position this year.  A low budget, a new superintendent who was brought in to keep quality high but spending low.  He promised the system could thrive on a flat budget due to savings elsewhere in the system.  We again threw our support behind this plan, again citing positive outcomes and economic reality.

This time, we earned ourselves some enemies.  And while none of them have yet spoken to me personally, they are out there, in my tiny little town.

How do I know? Because they are posting on the Internet.  Under false names, several (or one person using several pseudonyms) people are calling me and my fellow education supporters out on one of those microlocal news websites.  Giving each one of us who signed a letter of support for the budget a comical but derogatory nickname, they go on to tell us our days as education advocates are clearly over.

Fifteen years ago, this would have bothered me.  Ten years ago, when similar things happened on the Rick Springfield fan message boards and mailing lists, I would type out a very hasty and indignant response to whomever had criticized me and something I’d done.  I would be hurt, anxious, and unnerved by the idea that someone out there disliked me enough to take the time and energy to create a false persona and type angry words into their computer.

These days, it mostly makes me chuckle.  I figure I must be doing something right if I’ve gotten under someone’s skin that much. And I marvel at how I really don’t need to respond anymore.  I am satisfied with the work I did.  I am sure I made the right choice.  And I don’t doubt either of those things just because someone woke up at three in the morning and decided to spew some hate on the Internet.  That’s their problem, not mine.

It serves as a good reminder of how much I’ve grown, how far I’ve come in the last ten years.

Unemployed

I lost my job yesterday.

It’s not a huge job, mind you.  I’ve been working on and off at our local children’s art studio for five years.  Jill and I started working together after she allowed me to host a Kyle Vincent concert at her studio in late 2006.  I didn’t know her then; a friend I’d met at my son’s preschool did, though, and when I wondered if all of my girlfriends would fit into my small roomed house for such a “living room show”, she suggested Jill’s studio close by.  By the end of the event Jill was talking to Kyle about business, and he mentioned that I did his website and graphic design.  A few weeks later, she approved my mock up for her site, and we’ve been working together ever since.

Jill put me to work doing anything my skill set allowed.  First the website, then her accounting and some clerical work, and finally, some teaching of the classes she offered to the children of our town.  It was extremely part time, but perfect for my busy life that didn’t allow me to work outside of my childrens’ school hours and sometimes required me to be available even then to meet all of their needs.  It was my first foray outside of my home since I’d moved to Connecticut, and it was just enough to make me feel like I wasn’t allowing my skills to evaporate while tending to my children’s lives so fully.

Working for Jill introduced me to other business owners in town too, and before long I had a small roster of website design clients.  With Jill’s studio being popular and well known in town, all I had to do was drop her name and jobs came my way with very little effort.  It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to feel like I was doing something meaningful in my off hours.

Unfortunately, since I did Jill’s books for her, I could see that the economic crash of 2008 took a huge toll on Jill’s business.  Children’s art classes were a pricey luxury that most parents were easily able to slash out of their budgets.  Jill responded as any shrewd business person would by cutting her own costs.  One by one I saw most of the seasoned teachers leave.  Jill taught everything she could herself, and when she couldn’t, she hired cheaper college and high school students to fill in.

And for a while, that was enough to stay afloat.  I marveled at how her summer camps and her birthday party businesses kept her in the black.  She bought a kiln and added paint your own pottery aspect to her studio, which brought income in during the long stretches between semesters when the bank account often grew thin.  But she also quietly put the property up for sale, waiting to see if anyone would be interested in buying the business.

No one was.  After two years on the market and over $100,000 in reductions of the price, she made the hard decision to close the studio.  I was unprepared, when I went in for my usual Thursday perusal of receipts and tasks that this would be the last time I would be asked to come in.  I knew it was coming, of course, but didn’t realize it was happening now instead of later.  This was it.  Five years and what seems like a lifetime of growth and change later, Jill and I are parting ways.

I’ve always called my job a “little job”.  But today, in its absence, it feels much bigger than it ever was.  And I will miss it.  Very much.

Happy Birthday

I sat in the front seat, blindfolded, a gaggle of giggles surrounding me in the SUV.

“Where are you guys taking me?” I laughed, trying to go along with the good natured fun my three girlfriends clearly had meticulously planned.

It was my 40th birthday.  I had wondered how the evening would play out, with R slyly mentioning something about us not needing a babysitter that evening.  I’d pouted and sulked, thinking that he hadn’t done anything special to mark the occasion.  Some of my girlfriends had been given diamonds or trips to the Bahamas for their 40th.  Normally a nice dinner at home would be fine with me, but tonight it just felt like I wanted a little more effort.

Instead, my girlfriends had shown up on the doorstep, with matching shirts emblazoned with “Birthday Bitches” on the fronts, handed me one of my own, and whisked me away.  We were currently on the “journey through my life”, which I found funny since none of them knew that I was secretly writing the story of my life, on this blog, and had been all year. I laughed when they took me to a playground and handed me a Happy Meal, all to symbolize my childhood.

If they only knew.  If they only knew that when I envisioned my childhood, I didn’t think of swingsets and laughter and girlfriends.  Or of Ronald McDonald and cheeseburgers and collectible Muppet glasses.  None of them had divorced parents, my sweet girlfriends, so they couldn’t possibly know that the symbols of my own past were much different; yelling, screaming matches; visits to my brother in the mental hospital; padlocks and harsh words.  I blocked out all of these voices in my head and smiled at my sweet friends, none of whom could imagine the pictures floating through my head at that moment, and smiled dutifully on the swing as they snapped my photo.

The next stop through our tiny town was meant to represent my early twenties; I donned the pink feather boa and tiara I was presented with and entered the liquor store.  Didn’t every girl in her early twenties binge on the Boone’s Farm sweet wine and wine coolers?  Again, I chuckled at my naive friends.  Of course they all knew that I’d had my son at age 19 and lived at home; my early twenties were marked first by diapers and later by caring for my mother as she withered from cancer.  But yes, there had been enough of the fun, booze filled nights with my girlfriends in between it all that I was able to muster the proper amount of excitement as we plucked bottles off of the shelves and went onto our next destination.

We all laughed as they’d posed me in front of our town hall with totally inappropriate signs to mark my 30s.  It was true that I’d found my activist voice in my 30s, and this one was right on the mark.  I’d gotten involved in politics and even though I’d lost the election, I’d learned a ton about how our tiny town worked.  I’d certainly met a lot of wonderful people, these three girls amongst them, and I posed outside of our town hall for their photos wondering what would come next.

Before long, I removed my blindfold to find myself in front of my girlfriend’s house, with twenty women on the porch waiting for me.  It was a surprise birthday party, and all of my friends were here to help me celebrate it.

“I’ve never had a surprise birthday party before,” I laughed, looking up at the expectant faces.  In fact, I hadn’t had a birthday party of any signficance, really ever.  I’d been allowed to have a few friends over in 5th grade, as I recalled, and I’d invited two friends over for one in high school.  But no sweet sixteen, no graduation parties, nothing other than my own wedding to really celebrate anything to do with me and my life.

It was an overwhelming moment.  To think of how far I’d come, how many places I’d been to lead me to this moment, this place, with all of these amazing people gathered together…for me.  I looked around, and realized:  I am no longer who I was.  I am no longer tied by the harsh, negative experiences of my past.  I’ve taken all of them, all of those things, and used them to make a stronger, wiser, happier person.  A person who had friends who wanted to throw her a big, beautiful party to move her into the second part of her life.

And for one shining moment, I was at peace.

Vacation

I am on vacation this week, going back to my family who still live back in Michigan, as I alluded to in my previous post.  I tried to make sure I had enough posts to get me through the week while staying at my sister’s house, but unfortunately I am going to not be able to cover a few days this weekend while I’m in transition back to “My Current Life” in Connecticut.

I spent this morning visiting the tree lined neighborhood where I lived prior to my parents’ divorce, and took pictures of the elementary school where I went for my first five years of school.  It was definitely surreal to drive down that same street where I delivered papers, the same street that inspired my very first post here, Paper Routes and Sunrises.  I wrote it a year and a half ago; what a strange feeling to be in the same place at such a very different time in my life.  They say you can’t go home, and it is very true…my time here hasn’t brought me peace at all, but I never suspected it would.  It’s probably easier, and better for my peace of mind, to recreate the stories in my mind than to actually physically revisit My Former Life.

So I’ll be back here in a few days to tell a few more stories, though we’re getting very close…I’m currently writing stories now that happened AFTER I started this blog last year.  I’ll be finished soon, and somehow, My Former Life will meld into My Current Life.  Until then, I’ll be trying to keep my head above the lapping waters of the past that is surrounding me in every sense of the word for the next few days.  It’s not an easy journey, but I hope that when I come out the other end, I’ll be better for it.

A Letter to My Brother

Ironically, I am currently on vacation and am right where I was describing in my last post; in Michigan, staying with my sister’s family, with my brother coming in and taking pot shots towards the family dynamic at will and then complaining about the consequences.  Yes, that evening was a year ago nearly exactly, and yet here we are with the same situations happening over and over again.

I still plan on putting forth a few more stories to bring my story from there to here, but I find it so amusing that the post that I wrote about what happened last year posted yesterday, when we were dealing with yet another manufactured drama at the hands of my older, yet far less worldly or mature, brother. If I were to speak to him about our relationship, which would be a pointless exercise because he would not hear my point of view at all, this is likely what I would say.

Dear Brother,

I’ve learned a lot about both of us in the last year.  A year ago, I had hoped that we could communicate as equals, adults where you could hear my point of view and take a moment to live outside of your own self to understand someone else.  I thought that the concept of family was important enough to you to step outside of your comfort zone and do this.  However, after our big fight, you made very clear that your own trials and tribulations matter more to you than anyone else’s.

After my visit last year, I told our sister and our father that I was done with trying to build a relationship with you.  That I’d tried all of my life to move past our difficult childhood and the wounds that had been inflicted then to attempt to live as normal siblings who didn’t hit or hurt each other half of their lives.  But now I can see that any relationship with you simply has to be on your terms; if the other person involved does as you wish, behaves as you like, and gives you what you feel you deserve, then everything is fine for you.  A relationship with you is not a two way street, but always with you firmly in control.  I decided after my visit last year to no longer accept this.

We spent months not speaking, and I did not plan on seeing you or having you part of my life ever again.  However, when our grandmother grew ill last winter, I made an exception.  We then built an uneasy truce that has been turned into a similar relationship to what we had prior to last year’s blow up.  Which is all fine considering that we live 700 miles from each other; I don’t have a problem letting you know if I’ve heard from our father every three months, or giving you advice on which car to buy.

But when you came over during my five day visit to Michigan this week and threw what amounted to a temper tantrum, I remembered.  I remembered all of it.  When you pulled your child away from visiting with my children and his grandfather, I remembered why I had given up on our relationship.  If we knew each other outside of our family dynamic, we would never be a part of each others’ lives; your treatment of others is beyond selfish and self serving.  It is damaging to those who attempt to care about you.  And once again, I’m done.

It’s a shame we cannot find a way to build a family relationship, for the sake of our children who might like to be a part of each others’ lives.  I know our father would love nothing more than to see his children peacefully coexist.  But I do not spend the precious capital of my heart and my time with those who choose to live on My Way or the Highway Street.  So, I wish you well.  I hope that the future is kind to you.  However, I do not expect to be much of a part of it.

Sincerely,

The Person Who Tried To Be Your Sister

%d bloggers like this: