Love Purposefully

I got married yesterday…!

It was nothing fancy – kinda spur of the moment, actually. It was early morning, and we stood at a fountain just outside our local library. (People were still sleeping in the gazebo and I didn’t want to disturb them. Truth.)

The people who had been sleeping on the benches woke up and watched.

Our wedding party consisted of two teenagers and a dog. Yes, our little maltese was clutched in my step-son’s arms because he’s our third child. Deal with it.

The Justice of the Peace who married us just happened to be a guy I went to school with and hadn’t seen in 25 years. He wanted to catch up and connect on Facebook when we just wanted to go to IHOP and eat breakfast.

Some people would gasp, wag their tongues, and swear that we had to be crazy to get married that way. But, I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s funny how life experiences change your perspective on things.

Our bench-sitters smiled as we exchanged vows, one woman wiping tears from her eyes. I can only hope she was remembering / feeling something beautiful as she awoke to a surprise ceremony.

A gazebo-sleeper woke, too, and scooted his sleeping bag to the edge where he could watch. He laughed with us as we struggled to exchange rings (swollen fingers, ya’ll).

Perspective.

These were people who had nothing invested in what they were witnessing. Yet, they were moved anyway. Did I feel like our moment was being intruded upon? Absolutely not.

I saw humanity in a way that I hadn’t before.

A grandmother had brought her grandson to the library too early, and I watched as they perched on a bench alongside the homeless. I could hear her explaining to him what, exactly, was happening. She smiled as he giggled and covered his mouth with a tiny hand.

More than my last name was changed yesterday. My heart was moved in an unexpected direction. I am compelled to do something. I don’t know what. Yet.

As you go about your day today, be aware. Be conscious. Be open.

Even a passive act of love can bring a smile. Just imagine what would happen if we did it on purpose.

 

 

 

Keeping it Simple

It has been a little over one month since I walked away from a “normal” life.

It has been a beautiful awakening.

What I’m about to say may sound like I’ve taken refuge in a hippy-commune (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing – peace, love, and happiness ya’ll). I’ve come to a place where I totally understand why people choose to walk away from lucrative careers and live off-the-grid.

I won’t lie: this place is a bit scary because of the sheer amount of introspection that occurs. But, it is also an eye-opening experience that I welcome with open arms and zero regrets.

We purchased a cozy little camper, just big enough for the four of us, and spent the first two weeks of my freedom camping. It was just the two of us for week one. It rained off-and-on for four days of that week, the pitter-patter of rain-drops only adding to our contentment. We would wake at dawn, share the quiet mornings with a cup of coffee, and simply be.

We had nowhere to rush to, nothing urgent that needed to be addressed. There were no outside pressures to clog my brain or my spirit. We did alot of walking, sometimes talking to one another and other times just enjoying our surroundings as no words were needed. A peace settled over us both in that first week.

Surrounded by the song of cicadas and the scent of forgotten camp-fires mingling with the mossy aroma of damp earth, I found myself again. That wasn’t my intention, but my soul began to feel as I filled a spiral notebook with descriptions of what I was seeing, hearing, and smelling.

I cried alot as my emotions became words on the page, a sweet release of tension and pressure that had surreptitiously taken root over the last several years. I bled out, getting rid of infection that was full of societal expectations and perceived responsibilities.

The kids joined us shortly after that, the second week being their last hoorah before going back to school. It all clicked into place as I watched my step-son head off to fish, looking like a teen-aged Opie Taylor (from The Andy Griffith Show) with his pole slung over one shoulder and a tackle-box clutched in his other hand.

My heart’s desire is a simple life. Uncomplicated, uncluttered, unfettered by what is currently considered “the American dream”.

 

Before anyone explodes, let me explain. By definition, the American dream is freedom for all to pursue prosperity and success. You may ask, what’s wrong with that? Nothing – not on the surface, anyway. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is the definition of prosperity and success? Most would say wealth, or financial freedom. Financial freedom, in my humble opinion, is an oxymoron. We are all slaves to our bank accounts, regardless of how much or how little is in them.

Now, my idea of the American dream is the freedom to take risks, to follow our hearts and chase our dreams. It is the freedom to fail, and to fail fabulously. But, it is also the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and march on.

So, now when I’m asked what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a writer. My answer is often met with raised eyebrows, which makes me smile. I already know the questions that are flying through the minds of the askers. One simple sentence should answer all of their inquiries, though: Because I can.

I’m a writer. That lone statement is the creation of my future, my American dream.

 

No Regrets

Last week I did the unthinkable, the unimaginable. To some, it may seem irresponsible, irrational, and every other ‘un’ and ‘ir’ word.

I’m told I did it with dramatic flair, even though I didn’t mean to. I made a few people cry, and made a few others angry.

I quit my job. Cue the shock and awe.

I submitted an eloquent, yet brutally honest, resignation letter. Hence, the drama, I suppose. Yep, I burned more than a few bridges with that one.

For me, it was about survival. It was about being true to myself, and creating my own future rather than continuing to struggle in a current that was moving way too fast.

I’ll be 43 this year, and time does not go backward. I’ve missed out on so many things with my family because of that job, and I’ll never get that time back. Never.

With each passing year, time seems to speed up, reduce, and condense itself into this infinitesimal speck. I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth, but I want them to be fruitful ones, happy ones. I don’t want to spend them at a job that I am passionless about, working long drudge-filled hours just to collect a paycheck.

Naturally, I was met with the expected “What are you going to do?” and “How will you survive?”.

Well, I’m going to live. And, I’m going to do more than just survive.

I’m going to THRIVE.

My Daddy worked himself right into a hospital bed, where he spent a month before passing. His last piece of advice was to not finish our lives with regrets. I’m taking that nugget and running with it.

No more 18-hour days on four hours of sleep. No more phone calls in the middle of the grocery store or during dinner. No more interruptions while spending time with my family.

I’m not going to lie – I’m nervous. But, I’m laughing more and so are my kids. That’s enough to tell me that I made the right decision.

So, here’s to the future. Here’s to sacrifice and chasing dreams. Here’s to letting go of the almighty dollar and joyfully embracing what’s real and right in front of me.

Here’s to the struggle of choosing the road less traveled. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
                            -Robert Frost

 

Back to the Basics

I think I have writer’s block.

It’s been over a week since I’ve had homework to worry about, and I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I’ve spent an hour at my keyboard every morning before work, doing what I call “warm-ups”. I usually get some pretty good ideas, gain perspective on a WIP, or simply empty my head of yesterday’s garbage. It’s a sort of purge, I suppose, in an effort to find clarity in my writing.

I am lost in the forest right now.

They’re not joking when they say you have to write every day in order to keep the juices flowing. That’s truth right there.

I find it rather ironic that I forgot that truth while pursuing a degree in English / Creative Writing. That’s a real head-scratcher.

Anyhoo, a couple of nights ago, I picked up William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and began reading it again. I also grabbed my copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and plan to read that one again, too. Both are marked up with notes and highlights already, but that’s okay because it takes me back to where I was before my brain got muddied with algebra and computer science. Ick.

I’ve also reloaded my Kindle with things I want to read. I have time to read again! And I don’t feel guilty about the condition of my kitchen! Yay! My living room is spotless, though, because that’s where my writing nook is and, hey, that has priority over dirty dishes.

I digress.

Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to move forward. That’s life. And the life of a writer is not an easy one. It’s not a choice; it’s a need. Occasionally, that need demands a reverse in direction.

I am so there.

But, the knowledge that I can reignite that spark into my own personal bonfire is so exciting!

The same can be said for whatever your dream may be. Don’t give up! That desire was placed inside of you for a reason, and it is very much a part of who you are and who you will become. Do-overs are allowed for dreamers. You will never see a sign that says “NO U-TURNS ALLOWED”. Feel free to make as many as you need to reach your destination.

Me and my Kindle have numerous dates next week. With temps in the seventies all week, I’m itching to sit in my backyard after work, with a mason-jar of sweet-tea and a few good stories. This is my U-Turn.

Start thinking about yours.

 

 

Rescuing Myself

It was a difficult, yet easy, decision. My life has been crazy (and exhausting) for two and a half years now. I’ve been going so fast that the view had become a painful blur as I watched life pass me by. I had become a passive passenger on a very personal journey. I have been busy being….well, busy. That’s not living, and I really miss my life.

I’ve spent the last two weeks examining my current existence (notice I did not use the word “life”). I am up at 4 a.m. to get myself ready for work and to umpire the kids while they get ready for school. I’m out the door by 6 a.m., returning home by 6 p.m. Then it’s time for dinner and two hours of homework intermingled with household chores. After shooing the kids into bed, I settle myself around 10 p.m. with the promise of more of the same tomorrow. Weekends are no better, still full of homework and household chores that didn’t get done during the week. I was stressed out, exhausted, and cranky as hell.

It has been miserable. It has robbed me of my joy.

It. what is “it”?

“It” was my dream, or rather what I understood to be my dream.

I want to write. Always have and always will. So, I did the logical thing two and half years ago and enrolled part-time in college to pursue a degree in English / Creative Writing.

But, and here’s the kicker, I had zero time to write, zero time to do the one thing my spirit craves more than anything. I have been so busy learning how to write that I didn’t have time to actually write. Anything. Not even in my journal. My ideas dried up because I wasn’t being inspired. Story lines disappeared because I was too worried about algebra homework. Reading is an integral part of writing and I haven’t been able to do that, either.

More than that, though, my family was suffering, too. I have missed so many swim-meets, football games, softball games, and tournaments. I can’t get those  back. I have missed precious time with my family. I know, now, that this is the reason I have lost my joy and my inspiration. I wasn’t participating in life. I wasn’t living.

So, I decided to put my foot on the brakes. I needed to gain some perspective and center myself before I got knocked completely off my axis. I realized how much I missed the beautiful view of my life, and chose to exit the speeding vehicle so that I can stroll once again.

I’ve only dropped one term at school, just to give myself some time to become immersed in my life again and to figure things out. I’ve had one week without homework and my brain hasn’t made the adjustment yet, still feeling like I should be “doing” something. I have given myself time to clarify my dream, and to include my family in that decision this time.

So, here’s to living and knowing that joy and inspiration are waiting for me in the form of my family and experience. I look forward to writing what I know. And, I’m secretly thrilled that I don’t have to do any more algebra homework. Blech.

 

Self-Sabotage

2016 is proving to be a year of reflection for me. I’m not doing it on purpose, though. It was not some sort of resolution. I suppose it’s just where my mind has settled for some reason. I want to live a better life, and that requires some soul-searching. My next few posts will be dedicated to what I’m learning about myself during this process. So, here goes.

Self-sabotage. That’s what I do, and I’m really good at it. I am a princess of procrastination, because I’ve had years of practice. Just ask my mother.

I don’t know why I do it. I certainly don’t gain anything positive from it. Yet, I struggle with it on a daily basis in my personal life. I start every day with good intentions. Putting those intentions into action, however, is where I fall apart.

Why do I do that?!

This has been a hard question to answer, and I don’t like what my mind conjures in response. Do I enjoy putting more pressure on myself? Absolutely not; I get enough of that at work. Do I like complaining because I didn’t get something done? That would just be crazy (and painful because there’s a ring of truth to that).

But this is exactly what happens when I choose to put something off.

Yes, it is a choice. So, why would I choose to make my life harder?

I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t.

The only conclusion that I can come to is that I am a time-waster. I find meaningless activities to occupy my time, rather than doing the things that have importance to myself and my family. Then, I complain about not having enough time in the day to accomplish my goals.

There’s the complaining again.

The reality is, I have no one to blame but myself, thereby removing any right I have to complain about anything.

One week ago, I posted about losing my joy. But after further thought, it seems that I’m the one who’s responsible for shoving it in a corner.

Self-sabotage.

Bottom line, I am responsible for my own happiness. To put that kind of pressure on my family is ridiculous, and unfair. Let’s face it: their happiness is a direct byproduct of my happiness.

So, I’m making a list of what makes me happy and making a vow to myself to incorporate those things back into my life, while removing the time-wasters that I’ve collected over the last couple of years. I will write about my journey on this blog, as a reminder to myself as to it’s necessity for a full life.

I want to live, not just simply exist. I want to experience life, not just mark things off of an ill-conceived to-do list.

I want to take care of myself, physically and mentally, so that I can take better care of my family.

No more self-sabotage and whining. It’s time to fight myself.

 

Need Advice….

 

I can only speak for myself, but I’m betting that some of you may recognize the behaviors I’m going to talk about. My priorities are so screwed up right now that I’m writing this post primarily to benefit myself. I need to hear what I’m saying, and I want to hear from others who have experienced the same thing. This is brutal honesty.

Work has been a mad-house for the last six months or so due to management changes, and has demanded more of my time. The stress-level has increased exponentially, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, unfortunately. In the meantime, I’m still attending school and trying my best to balance my home-life in the midst of it all.

But, I am failing miserably at home.

Have you ever heard the saying “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? At this moment in time, I am the embodiment of that. And, I hate myself for it.

So, I had to ask myself why I’m not happy. The answers I came up with only make me feel like a selfish bitch.

I am resentful. I resent that I have to work so hard only to come home to a house that looks like a bomb went off. I resent that the 3 hours I have before bedtime are full of cooking, cleaning, and doing my homework. I resent that I only have time for a quick shower in the morning before work as opposed to a long soak in a hot bath before bed. I resent always feeling exhausted and burnt out.

I resent having to neglect myself. Outside of homework, I haven’t been able to write and that makes me sad. That’s the single thing that is truly mine, as an individual, and I’ve lost that.

I know that my life is no different from most working mothers. These are the sacrifices that we make for our families. I love my family, and I know full-well how blessed I am.

But, damn. I’m tired.

I asked my mom once how she managed a full-time job while raising five kids. She told me that she cried alot.

It makes my heart hurt when I hear the snappish replies coming from my mouth toward my family. I’m not that person, and I know they don’t understand. My mother wasn’t that person, either, but I didn’t know that at the time. I totally get it now.

So, I guess my question is, how do I find balance? I know this isn’t a permanent situation (thank God!), but I have to figure out a way to deal with it until it’s over. I don’t like the person I’ve become, and I hate the way I’m responding to my family. I’m grouchy from lack of sleep, and basically overreact to everything. I’m making my family just as miserable as I am.

I’m normally a very joyful person. I’ve lost my joy. I want it back, and I’m willing to fight for it. I’m willing to, for my family. They deserve better than what I’m giving them right now.

I’m asking for advice. If you’ve been where I am now, how did you get through it? Quitting my job is not an option. What coping mechanisms, if any, worked for you?