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The Wake Up Call, The Kick in the Ass, and The Silver Lining

I never thought it would happen to me, but there it was. I had known about it for six months, but assumed I could right the sails and keep the boat afloat.  I got caught up in what many families are facing:  The end to a well-paying, long-term job.  During those six months, like a cornered animal, I got a tad cranky.  I felt threatened.  After 18 years of working in my bunny slippers, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, I had a wake up call. One I didn’t want to answer.

I was about to be thrown out of my comfort zone and into the world of *gulp* job hunting.

Which wasn’t easy. Especially in this small town where professional jobs are at a minimum and the lines are long for the rest of the jobs that open up. Small towns are awesome.  Small towns create a sense of belonging. I love knowing everyone at the bank or the grocery store. I love the fact that one of our busiest streets really isn’t so busy after all.

But none of that matters when the well runs dry, when I’m faced with decisions, when I feel like a failure.  A new plan was needed fast.  The more I thought about it, the more I looked at the circumstances, the choice was clear.  I needed to look outside of this town.

If I were to be honest, I’d been feeling as if my wheels were spinning and that I forgot who I was – still.  I’d been talking about a finding new direction for awhile, but since I was swimming in my comfort zone, I had no reason to get out of the pool.  Well, guess what.  Losing my job was the kick in the ass that I needed to move forward.

What I hadn’t counted on, though, was that I would be going at this alone. The boys and I had been a tight unit and I assumed we’d move together. But ‘twas not to be.  They wanted to stay with their father in Idaho for their own reasons. Reasons I understood, but still I felt I failed on many levels. Was I that bad of a mother that they didn’t want to be with me? Shouldn’t I sacrifice a few more years and stay here just in case they needed me? How much would this hurt them in the long run?

Infused with guilt, I spoke with my uncle who reminded me that, in the face of knowing we would miss each other, would miss the routine we’ve developed over the years, both boys made a very deliberate decision.  Sure, they could have taken the easy way out and followed me, looking to me to handle things, but I’ve taught them to be free thinkers and to make choices based on what they felt was best for them.  It had always been my intention to pass at least one morsal of something to them, and here I had my proof.

Feeling somewhat better, I chose to practice what I preach:  Do something that is best for me.  After putting my needs on hold for 25 years, now is my chance to follow opportunities that will further my choice of career. Opportunities I cannot find here in North Idaho.

I want to show my boys a side of me they haven’t yet seen before – the woman who waited patiently behind the mother.  I want my sons to see me as a healthy and successful person, not the overbearing, overprotective mama bear who pushed them to realize heights I knew they were capable of, all while I was feeling frustrated because I wasn’t reaching my own potential.  I want to be the best person I can be, to show them that my happiness is as important as theirs. My reasons for doing this, as painful as the process might be, will serve them as well as me.

And the timing is right.  My job had allowed me to work from home for the last 18 years and over those almost two decades I’ve seen my oldest through to graduation and my youngest get through middle school.  I’ve taught them as many life lessons as I have experienced myself, taught them social graces, and how to be kind to others.  Now the rest is up to them.

Yes, I’ll definitely miss the little things, the daily routine, the chance to hug them when they’re feeling sad or happy, but through Skype, texting, phone calls, and Facebook, I’ll still be able to nag – I mean, guide – them through the trials and successes and celebrations big and small. The moments we share will be sweeter, the visits will be anticipated events.

The silver lining to all of this is that I will have the opportunity to discover who I am and what I need to feel whole, because when we become mothers and wives, so many of us lose sight of ourselves.  It’s a continuous process, one I started two years ago. I have a very specific plan A, with no plan B, so there won’t be any falling back.  Only forward movement. By expanding my horizons outside of this town, I will be able to bring more of the world to the boys.  It’s the put-on-the-oxygen-mask-first-before-putting-it-on-the-children mentality.

My uncle also told me, “Go ahead and feel guilty if you must, but it would be a mistake not to try.”

So try, I will.

This song, The Reason, by Hoobastank, is for you, boys. You are my reason.  I love you.

Okay, I Give Up

The life I give my boys is an outside-of-the-box kind of normal.  Our house is lovingly referred to as “The Pit Stop” as we are rarely there and when we are, it’s to sleep and grab a shower and perhaps a few Z’s before we head out the door again.  My erratic work and writing hours revolve around the boys’ equally erratic hours, shaped by their activities and sports.  And the time that we actually spend at home, we spend together, yet apart.  We have vastly different interests and temperments – I’m a hummingbird on speed, my oldest a little faster than a snail, and my youngest, somewhere in between.

I love reading, writing, exercising, yardwork…my boys don’t.

They adore Skyrim and Zelda…I don’t.

My oldest enjoys making decadent desserts.  My youngest enjoys eating decadent desserts…I don’t, on either count.

My oldest and I love watching movies…my youngest doesn’t.

My youngest and I love hiking…my oldest doesn’t.

That being said, I’ve tried to reverse things a bit and make it “normal,” but failed miserably every time, ignoring the fact that when I’d tried to do what other mothers and fathers did with their family lives, it felt wrong for me, felt wrong for us.

I’ve pushed the boys on eating habits, on school, teen-tude behavior, and all I got was a big shove back.  Not fun for either party involved.

Although rules and regulations are set in place, I gave up on trying to “be normal.”  And it was freeing, because I didn’t have to pretend anymore.  But skipping not too far behind that freedom was its annoying friend – guilt.  I thought I had it all figured out when I wrote the Girl Power post, but I still found myself looking at all of my friends, wondering if I was off base.  Shouldn’t I be playing board games or something?

I realized that trying to do what is “right”, for me anyway, is a lot like being a kite.  Flying freely, yet anchored by the shoulds of the string, I’d feel “normal” and “accepted.”

But when the kite string is released, the more visible my free falling or “different” behavior is. While it’s kind of cool to do the rebel yell thing, there is a moment of ahh…damn…should I really be doing this?

I’ve come to the conclusion certain things aren’t going to happen – it just doesn’t work for us, no matter how hard I try.   So one day after sweeping up the pieces of my latest attempts, I sat the boys down and said, “Listen.  There is no ‘normal’ here.  Our routine is just what happens as the day unfolds.  We may not bond over playing catch, but we can bond while we do the Warrior Dash.  I may not bake at Christmas time, but I’ll share a box of Oreo cookies with you.  I’ll even be there for you if you want a tattoo.  You know how completely unorthodox I am…”

My oldest had stopped me and said, “We know, Mom.  We like you that way.”

*Happy dance*  They know I love them, and that is the glue that keeps us together.  But then again, it could have been the Double Stuff Oreo cookies…