Category Archives: Relationships
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!
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.
I promise to hold myself up to the light of truth, to acknowledge my worthiness, and to know that I am not somehow flawed, but a work in progress.
I promise to go easy on myself on days when my reserves are low and to make it okay to say no.
I promise to praise myself as much as I praise others.
I promise to be grateful for all that I have accomplished and know what I have not yet accomplished is on its way.
I promise to see the woman in the mirror and always find something to be grateful for.
I promise to love without restraint if only for the sole reason that I am capable of doing so.
I promise to trust my inner voice, for I truly do know the best decision to make – the one that works for me.
I promise to use my experiences to my advantage, to learn from them, not berate or minimize them.
I promise not to take myself too seriously, to laugh a bit more, to take a few more risks, and to do things because I want to, not because I should.
I promise not to settle for less than I deserve.
I promise to believe that I can and will accomplish what I intend.
I promise to fix my nail polish if it gets chipped. It might seem trivial, but it’s also the little things that make the big difference in how I feel about myself.
Last night I was sitting in a court room with about 20 other people for a court-mandated program called Focus on the Children. Everyone in the room was there because they were either filing for divorce or custody of their children, or both. We all needed to be there, because the information being given had some value, but none of us wanted to be there, and if we had our choice, we’d be home. Therein the reason behind making the program mandated. Mandated is forced. Mandated is not always positive.
So there’s the scene: Twenty strangers together in a place and time not of our choosing, under negative circumstances. And I could feel it. The walls of personal space were reinforced like fortresses. I counted 50 chairs and with only 20 people, no one sat next to each other. Hell, even I put the literature they gave me in the seat next to me as a warning: “Move on. This seat is taken.”
I shocked myself with that one. Me…Miss Open…Miss Trusting…Miss What You See Is What You Get. But everyone in the room was doing the same thing. Eyes straight ahead, arms held close to their body, and with the exception of that one guy who kept asking questions about mental stability issues of a spouse, no one spoke. I could almost see the barriers that encased each one of us.
Then my thoughts jumped to my friends, most of who I’ve met by hanging around the martial arts center where my sons take classes. There was a time when all of us would do the same thing as those in the court room. We would sit with the space of an empty chair between us, but at least we’d sort of look at each other, smile, look away, smile again, make some sort of comment and then stop talking until the time came to do it all again. Now, though, it’s a hug-fest whenever any of us walks through the door, pulling up the chairs for each other so close that our knees touch when we sit.
So where’s the tipping point? When do we make it okay to drop the shields and let others into our personal space? What triggers the green light to peel away the layers of our person and reveal it to others?
For me, I have no boundaries – sometimes a liability – and let just about anybody into my space. That’s just the way I roll and sometimes I forget others don’t think like me. When I get in close proximity to someone I don’t know, I can feel the energy pressing outwards. And, yes, I have been known to ignore protocol and enter their space anyway.
For everyone it’s different. Remember the woman at the grocery store? It took but one hug to go from stranger to friends. I have a really good friend who, after something like three years, has shown me a side of her I never would have guessed. It took her that long to shed the last of her last few layers.
So what is it for you? What do you look for in someone? Is there some special quality that makes it okay to touch your knee with theirs when sitting together? Better yet, is it you who makes okay…or is it the other person?
Remember, a stranger is only a stranger until you know their name.