Category Archives: Life Lessons
I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”
I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him. The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex. He had to have been. Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)? The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul. (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)
“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone. To me, this phrase smacks of negativity. As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.
Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.
Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis.
“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery. It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.” So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing. Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what? Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us. If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place. And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses. Will we ever come back? I hope not.
I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough. I’m a threat. I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest. I’m a break from their safe routine.
The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.
So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.
The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well. So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery…. Cheers!
It’s a double-edged sword. A two-faced creature. The stuff that either makes dreams come true or shatter into itty bitty tears. It’s the glue between relationships – personal or professional. It’s what raises the bar for a lot of us or, if not met, can disappoint and crush.
No. It’s not love.
Expanding on yet another post I wrote almost two years ago about boxes and labels and expectations being a big part of that, I’ve come to another crossroads in my still-developing life. I’ve been willing to accept that I cannot be contained, cannot be categorized, and I’ve reveled in that freedom. But it wasn’t enough. Others still criticized and pushed their expectations on me to be a certain way and, though I stood my ground, I’d found old habits threatening to resurface. I felt guilty and wanted to bend to their will.
So this time around I’d made it perfectly clear. Do. Not. Expect. Anything. From. Me. I am who I want to be, not who you want me to be. Not my job to fulfill your expectations.
It was easy for me to wrap my head around the fact that their expectations were their issue. Not mine.
Some people complied, some people didn’t and that, honestly, annoyed me because, damn it. I expected them to respect my request.
Ahh, but I’d gotten caught in my own box of expectations, didn’t I? It didn’t occur to me until my cousin mentioned that she was waiting for someone to do something and it wasn’t panning out. She then added, “Oh well. That’s my expectation. Gotta let it go.” This ah-ha moment hit me like a nice 2 x 4 across my ego. I had to release the expectations I had of others. Yeah, I know. I said “duh,” too.
It’s brilliant. Obvious and simple, but brilliant. I’d thought of all of the little expectations I’d had of other people and I just had to laugh, starting with the expectation that others will release their expectations of me. A close second was how events or situations should turn out. Unpredictable at best with all of the possible outcomes, it was far easier to release that expectation then to try to control something I had no control over.
So, yeah. This expectation thing is a two-way street, a journey that if everyone took, could very well circumvent a lot of frustration. As much as we might like to, we cannot control and we cannot predict what another will do. We can only observe and try to respect.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Truth – for the most part we use our internal radar to weed out falsehoods from fact. We could have hard-core facts (pro or con) shoved in our face about something, but whether a particular subject resonates with us or not determines if it becomes a belief. If a belief somehow serves us, we’ll fight to hold onto it.
Two years ago my oldest called me over to his computer, totally freaking out.
J: “Mom! Look at this! The Slenderman!”
Me: What is that?
J: The Slenderman! Oh, my God, Mom. You have to see this picture of him! He’s real!
J: Yeah! If you look at him, you’ll die!
Me: So they guy who took this picture is now dead?
J: Probably! But not everyone can see him so those are the ones who are safe.
For those of you who don’t know about the Slenderman, here is an explanation from ufosearchonline.com:
“Slender Man (or Slenderman, depending on how you spell it’s name) is described as wearing a black suit strikingly similar to the visage of the notorious Men In Black, and as the name suggests, appears very thin and able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. Once his arms are outstretched, Slender Man’s victims are put into something of a hypnotized state, where they are utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them. Slender Man is also able to create tendrils from his fingers and back that he uses to walk. Whether Slender Man absorbs, kills, or merely takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any body’s or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion. Slender Man is most often seen as a tall, extremely thin man with long, strange arms, and a face that no two people see the same way (if they see any face at all). Where he comes from is as much a mystery as what he wants.”
*Big sigh* How could it be that my son had so readily accepted, albeit with a fit of tears, that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real when I broke the news to him? (Yeah, yeah, yeah. In my defense I thought he already knew and was just going along to make me happy.) My son had eventually figured out that I was Santa Claus and took that with relative grace when I confirmed his suspicions. The bottom line – he trusted me enough to accept my truth.
But in the case of Slenderman… no dice. Nothing I said would convince him. The fact that this mythical creature existed obviously resonated with him. I can’t possibly begin to understand that one, but until we moved out of our house on five forested acres, he refused to go outside after dark, swearing to me that one night he saw the Slenderman peek around the corner at him while he waited for the dog to come back inside. And now that we’ve moved into town? My son is always out after dark. Apparently the Slenderman doesn’t like to hang around the lake or Starbuck’s after dark. But in the heavily treed areas…
There’s only so much we can do to protect our children from beliefs that freeze them up or make their imaginations go wild. At this point, this is one of those things I have to file in the “Let It Go” folder. He’ll figure it out… I hope.
If you really like stories that make you wonder… what if, check out Souled, a novel about what happens when a high school wrestler invites another soul to inhabit his body. You can purchase it for $2.99 on Amazon. Just click and download. Easy.
I had no idea that the gap that launched me into single status could possibly get any wider. I can see now, though, how inevitable it would be, for as I kept taking steps backward, slowly turning away from the disaster my life had become, and finally running like hell, my scenery changed, my viewpoint cleared, and my vision sharpened. I found myself standing in a place my ex would never understand. The rules regarding school work, curfew, healthy eating – the rules that united, albeit loosely, the ex and I together – soon became the mother of all disagreements.
Seventeen years ago, as part of my efforts to be the “perfect” mom, I adopted other women’s examples of what raising children “should be,” even if it didn’t resonate with me. Man, was that exhausting. I had rules up the wazoo and fought to keep them in place. And the boys fought back.
But eight months ago the blinders dropped to my feet and I found that I had forgotten to preach what I practiced. The solution was so simple.
Let them be.
Which is exactly how I prefer to be treated. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do or telling me what path to choose, so why should I do that to my boys? Sure, my body may be older, but my children’s souls are just as experienced as mine. These boys aren’t mine in the possession sense. From a spiritual point of view, I don’t have the right to put borders around their spirits and make them the exact image that society or even I believe to be true. I’m here to guide them, not mold them. They know who they need to be. Besides, what a waste of time when quite possibly after 18 years, they’re going to do and be what they want anyway. I know I did.
It is my belief that we come into this existence knowing what our life path is. The road map has already been printed up, although our free will sometimes overrides that map and takes us on some wild side trips. When we truly deviate off that path,though, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Don’t we feel the discord when we want to go one direction and someone tries to convince us otherwise? Especially if the only source of righteousness is in their own mind? Or what about compromising on something we truly believe in?
My mother pushed me to go to college because it was what I “should” do, yet all I did was spin my wheels, lost a lot of brain cells, and ran up a student loan that never should have been. Besides, halfway through the first year I realized I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. This is one area I won’t push my boys on. No amount of lecturing is going to make this the right choice for them. True motivation must come from them. Otherwise it becomes my job to keep them going, a burden that will have us both resentful.
In the months past, I’ve gotten a clearer view of who my boys really are. Without the shoulds masking their true source, I’ve been able to appreciate their way of thinking. I’m beginning to understand what makes them tick and why they don’t fit into the boxes I’ve been trying to put them in.
Sex, drinking, drugs, school, safety, curfew – those are issues I will never compromise on. Honestly, though, I have no control over their ultimate decisions on those topics, but I’ve made damn sure they know what the consequences are if they deviate from my “recommendations.” So, armed with that information, it’s their decision as to what outcome they desire.
Some may think this is the wrong approach or the lazy way to parent, but it is actually very difficult at times. To stand back and watch their actions put in motion a set of reactions (whether they be mine or someone else’s) makes me want to peek out from behind splayed fingers. It’s nothing short of a challenge to stay back and let them do damage control. On the flip side, when they are really thinking it out and the outcome is in their favor? It’s awesome.
It felt good to finally release the ties, because forcing the boys to do what they clearly do not want to do didn’t resonate with what I was all about – freedom of choice and independence. I’ve let my boys make choices of when to go to sleep (though the connection between late nights and being tired the next day still hasn’t sunk in), meals, what school classes to take, and friends. As long as safety isn’t an issue and they’re not hurting others, I’m good.
Which might explain why they gravitate to me and not to the “other.” That “coolness” factor I seem to have with the boys and their friends is, I believe, actually the elation they experience when they connect with who they are.
Think about the people we tend to gravitate toward – those who speak to and understand our souls. Not those who contradict or repress our fires, but those who stoke it, feed it, and encourage it to rise.
My boys’ path is their own. I’ll be there to dust off their knees, put a band-aid on a broken heart, give them advice on hangover cures, and I’ll give them room to fly, because they’ll need it to get over the Grand Canyon-size crevasse of thought that yawns between “the other half” and me.
I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love getting a letter or greeting card or email from my friends and family. I tend to get wrapped up in their daily goings on, or whatever person or event is causing them grief or joy. Sometimes I’ll hold on to the letter or save the email so I can read them over and over again just because of what is written, how it’s written, or just…because. I so adore my friends and family. I’d imagine some of you may feel the same way.
But how would you feel if you received a letter, addressed to you, from overseas, from someone you didn’t know? How would you feel? Wouldn’t you be curious?
Well, that’s what happened to Mr. G.L. Solomon, living in Sydney, Australia. In Naomi Bulger’s novella, Airmail, his very lonely, very mundane, very routine life takes a turn when he receives a letter from a woman he doesn’t know, who lives in New York. This odd, mysterious, quirky woman, Anouk, continues to write letters to him, confessing the random workings of her mind, and he continues to read the letters, still content in his life, sitting in his home halfway across the world. Until, that is, one day she writes him, claiming to be writing from “the other side.” Believing Anouk is in trouble, Mr. Solomon steps out of his comfort zone and into her world in New York, leaving all that is familiar to him, determined to help her in any way he can.
What happens from that moment on, can be nothing but life changing for Mr. Solomon.
Airmail is a brilliantly written novella by Naomi Bulger. It’s one of those stories that lingers in our minds long after the book is tucked away.
I had the opportunity to hook up with Naomi this week and ask her a few questions about the story, and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you!
I love the premise of Airmail. What inspired you to write it? Were the characters based on anyone you knew?
Thank you! If I’m honest, insomnia inspired me to write Airmail. I originally had a completely different story in mind, one in which a girl traveled the world writing letters to a stranger, and through those letters the stranger (and the reader) would learn about her adventures, her romances, her journey. But while I was writing I went through a particularly bad bout of insomnia, and I guess it really messed with my mind. It probably didn’t help that I wrote under a flickering fluorescent light a lot of that time, too. Before I knew it, the girl had a ‘reverse stalker’ and within a very short period of time, she was (or believed she was) dead! She never got to leave New York. I struggled for a while with trying to wrestle the book back to my earlier vision but, in the end, I gave up and decided to keep writing and see where the story would lead me.
To answer the second part of your question, the characters aren’t based on people I know, but the old man, Mr G.L. Solomon, was created in part by a close friend. I was struggling to write the character of an old man in a way that convinced even me, let alone anyone else. So I work-shopped him with my friend, an actor. I gave my friend a brief outline of the old man’s character, then started posting letters. I would hand-write the letters in the character of Anouk, and send them to my friend’s house (addressed to Mr G.L. Solomon) in airmail envelopes. I even pasted used US stamps onto them so they seemed to come from New York, rather than my Sydney house around the corner. After reading the letters, my friend would talk with me about the old man’s reactions. Things like, “He can’t read Anouk’s handwriting” came first. Then “He has developed a routine around how and when he reads the letters,” and, “He used to be annoyed when they came, but now he is curious to know more.” Together, we built up a picture of this curmudgeonly old man, who is so very real to me today.
How long did you take to write Airmail?
This was a quick book to write, I’d say only six weeks. But that was the first draft. Subsequent drafts and work with editors in both Australia and the US took literally years.
Is there a message in Airmail that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t think I wrote Airmail with a message in mind, it’s not a book that’s intended to teach. That said, I think the central message that came out of this book is to “own your own stories.” Things happen to us in life: the very good, the very bad, and a whole lot of everyday stuff in between. But if we try to edit any stories out of our memories, even the bad ones, we are not being true to ourselves. Everything that happens to you in your life helps make you who you are, that unique and special you.
Airmail has a very unique cover. Who did the design work?
I love the cover of Airmail, it was done by my publisher’s in-house designers. I talked with them about the kind of mood I wanted to create, for example the vintage postage feel, and sent them some Polariod photographs I had taken myself during my research for Airmail. But I was prepared for something completely different, and willing to accept their marketing know-how over my aesthetic. They came back with this cover, even using some of my Polariods on the back, and I just loved it.
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This is definitely a not-to-be-missed read. And….no book review would be complete without a giveaway! So go ahead and leave a comment below, be it a question or random thought, and I’ll put your name in a hat, from which a winner will be drawn and announced tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, I’d love it if you would join me when I give you the low-down on Naomi. She so deserves a day of her own…Yeah, she’s that good.
You know what it is. Sometimes it’s hereditary, sometimes it’s picked up from the environment we’re in. It can be in the air, easily passed along from one person to another. A lot of the time we’re scratching our head wondering where the hell it came from. And it’s not gender specific. Both male and female can be afflicted.
Though there are a few people in the human population who are immune to this, like, say Mother Teresa, most of us are able to steer clear of it, but even the toughest ones can fall prey.
Like me, for example. I contracted a bout of this many years ago after being around someone with a similar affliction. It was short-lived, fortunately, but from that day on, I’ve been diligent about keeping myself free and clear.
What is this Nasty? Pure, undiluted Meanness.
The day it hit me, I had a slap-in-the-face reality check. After some particularly choice words from my ex over the subject of laundry, of all things, I came back at him with a line so vile, so below the belt, both of our jaws dropped. Neither of us could believe that I, one of the nicest people I know (okay, I’m in the top 100 of those I know), could have actually said what I did. It was so out of character, so…so…not me. All I could do was close my mouth and slink away. I couldn’t even say I was sorry. Because I had meant it at the time. That was the part that shocked me – that I was even capable of saying something so hurtful. Since that day I have kept my mind and mouth in check, because the look on my ex’s face will burn forever in my brain.
But what about others who do this on a constant basis? Earlier this week some friends, including “T” from Give Me A Valium With My Latte, and I were talking and the conversation turned to women who were nasty, bitchy, and just plain mean. We’re not talking about comments in the privacy of our own homes or amongst friends, but out-in-public mean – words intending to hurt, words that travel with such high velocity, they embed in others, compelling the receiver to “pay it forward,” or at least shoot it right back at the originator with intent to maim. It has a ripple effect and unless we’re skilled at dodging that bullet (which few of us are), many of us tend to get defensive, ball up our fists, and get ready to throw the insults right back.
That is an example of a short-lived case, sort of like the flu or a cold. As soon as the offending person leaves our orbit, we’re back to our sweet selves.
I see that situation on a daily basis with my boys. Separated, they are angels. Together, I’m packing my bags, ready for a Tijuana run just to avoid their energy. My oldest asked me once, “Mom, why is he so mean?” I wanted to shake him into next week and ask, “What do you expect when you treat him the same way?” But I didn’t. We’d had that same conversation at least one hundred times. There was no need to repeat it. My words obviously weren’t going to be sinking in anytime soon.
Some people, unfortunately, are raised in that nasty kind of environment, so when they step out their front door, they are ready to face the world with a frown and a bad attitude. They are the ones who suffer with chronic meanness. They are the ones who have no intention of entering rehab. They are the ones my friends and I were having a “discussion” about this week.
It’s sad, really. Friends and family are alienated from our lives because of the words they choose to utter. (My big brother and I, for example.) Cultures are separated because of the inability to reach for a positive or grateful thought.
I’ve never understood the concept of being mean to one another, to purposely set out to dig under another’s skin until they bleed. Perhaps it feeds the need to feel superior. I don’t know. Like I said. I don’t get it. “T” and I, along with many of my friends, prefer to live in a “no drama zone,” and I think that’s where I’m going to set up house. Not only is it easier on the body, but just think how much money we’ll save in Botox injections. Sheesh.
Before you read on, remember I came from a place where I was ripe for rebellion and I did things just because I could. My overall nature was nice with some bad-ass honey badger attitude mixed in. For me, rules were merely guidelines and I walked that line of appropriate and inappropriate somewhat sloppily. I still do. I am a hopelessly unorthodox kind of a person. I may not always play by the rules, but I am nice about it. So, that being said….
1. In high school I was a forgery expert. As you all guessed, a definite yes. I was especially proud of the accuracy of my mother’s signature. In fact, I found it extremely helpful for excusing myself from classes. I think when the school finally caught on, my mother came after me with like 20 or 25 notes. Yeah, I paid for those dearly.
2. In the 1980s I made Tijuana runs and snuck bottles of Everclear grain alcohol back across the border. Some of you couldn’t see me doing this, but the answer is yes. I was usually the driver. And, August, for the record, I am lucky to be alive. We almost got ourselves arrested once, but fortunately we were able to take care of the “fine” with el policía there on the street. How nice of him, no? The road trips to TJ pretty much stopped after that.
3. I helped organize a relief effort for Hurricane Katrina survivors in 2005. All of you, except for one (Toria…I’m shocked! Just kidding, cousin) were correct. Yes, I did actually start a fundraising campaign, but my sons saw it through, adding their own twist on the effort. I bought the cookies and candy for them to sell, but they added to it by doing odd jobs and collecting cans. In total, they raised $1000 to send to the Red Cross. The local news station did a story on the boys (I even had the chance to say a few words) and my sons ended up with new mountain bikes donated by a local bike shop.
4. I snuck backstage at a UFO concert back in the 1980s. Yes. The problem was by the time my friend and I maneuvered past security, the backstage party was over and the entourage had moved on. Epic failure.
5. In college I cut my hair within inches of my scalp as a dare from my sorority sisters. No, no, no. But I was part of a sorority – the bitchiest sorority on campus – but I really didn’t like it, being the non-conformist that I am. I just did it because I wanted to see what it was like. I will tell you about the craziest haircut I did have – and there are no pictures to confirm this, so if you tell anyone outside this circle, I’ll deny it – I did have a cut that resembled a *cough* mullet *cough* hairstyle – and I dyed it purple. Okay. There. I said it. But know that it didn’t last that long and I wore a hat until it grew out.
6. I slept in the gutter outside of my college dorm after a particularly wild night. No. But I came really, really close to it. I was within puking distance of my dorm, but I was in such bad shape – you know the world spinning really, really fast kind of bad – that the gutter was incredibly tempting. The frat boy who I was with that night was an ass and wouldn’t take me home. He had left me to find my way back. I managed to get inside, but not in my bed. I ended up on the couch in the common area. I’ve never touched gin again since that night.
7. While working in the Security Department in college, I was a model employee. No. But I did a good job, actually, and worked with a great group of people. Now, I didn’t set out to be so deviant. I saw opportunity and took it. I worked in the dispatch office…as in documenting the security officers’ activities, as in knowing where they were at all times, as in being able to direct them to different locations on campus, as in having keys to locked doors…
8. I stole a moped. No…and yes. Guilty by association. My boyfriend at the time thought that I needed some wheels of my own so he “found” one, re-painted it, and gave it to me, swearing the guy who used to own it moved to Japan and didn’t want it. I believed him (sort of) and made good use of it. Until, that is, the real owner came back and recognized the moped that I had parked outside the security office. When the police came by to question me, my roommate swooped in, made a huge fuss over me, claiming me to be insane or something, got my boyfriend to deal with the police, and took me home. To this day, I wonder how we got cleared of that one.
9. I used to make cookies and distribute them to residents in retirement homes. Ha! I threw some of you with this one. Despite my ongoing culinary deficiencies, I did actually do this for a time. And for the record, Yatin, I said I made them. I didn’t say they tasted good, though I hope for the senior citizens’ sake, they did. Why did I do this? Well, those people were starved for contact with the outside world, and I tried to just reach out, if only to a few. I didn’t do it for too long, though. I was pregnant with my second son and the visits sometimes took too much energy – emotionally and physically.
10. My college roommates and I had were very thrifty and furnished our apartment with stolen furniture. Okay, Richard, you can stop swinging those handcuffs now. I’ll go quietly. Yes. My roommates and I did swipe a few choice items. Mostly from the men’s dorms, but also around town – plants, cool cocktail glasses, silverware, small tables. This is where #7 came in very handy. By sending security to one end of the campus, my roomies where at the other end. I also had access to the kitchen, which was great because we often had no money to pay for food. I mean what do you expect when we spent every last cent we had on our alcohol and coffee? A few years later, though, in our defense, we returned a lot of the furniture back to the men’s dorms. (Jimmy, the statute of limitations on this one is three years, so I’m good.)
Fond memories, some of them, and there are many more that shall remain in the past. I’m much more reserved these days, hopelessly responsible and considerate, though that Wild Child is still a huge part of me…
Thanks for playing along everyone! So, who is next????