it’s called work

Work is simply defined as the effort or activity directed at accomplishing or producing something.  We have to work to be able to pay for where we live.  We then have to work to -keep up- with where we live; we have to work to keep our pantries organized, our towels folded, our dishes washed and put away, our floors vacuumed, our toilet bowls sparkling, we have to maintain our yards/gardens/landscaping, we have to maintain our heaters/air conditioners/water lines.  It all takes energy to do all of these things and so if you live alone, and have no one who you have to love or care for, well, that’s great!, you’ve used up all of your energy trying to maintain your way of living that it does not matter that you have no strength or time left to maintain your relationships.  Presently I not only now share my space with someone I care about, but the bulk of my heart lives only right next door to me.  I have many people to care for and care about within my acres of town, and working to maintain those relationships is hard work.

I find myself being short-tempered with all the people I love when I find myself short on time to get done the things I want to get done…I want to be able to play & visit  with my grandchildren and not be annoyed that they are making a mess and still have not organized all their Monster High dolls, I want to be able to relax & talk  with my boyfriend and not be annoyed that I still have four loads of wash to be done and he still has not put up new shelves in the garage.  The fact of the matter- I can do all of these things myself.  I can do anything that needs to be done inside or outside of this house and anything I don’t know how to do, I can find out how to do it from my Dad and if he can’t help me do it, I would have to hire someone to help me…but in general, everything I need done I can do myself, and therein lies the conundrum…perhaps being like I am, a bit OCD and a bit quirky, and way to insistent that it’s “my way or the highway” means that I spend all of my energy doing what needs to be done the way I want it to be done, that my effort to maintain what really truly matters most, my relationships, gets pushed to the bottom of my “to-do” list over and over and over.

I can’t begin to recall the last time I chatted with my daughter about how her school classes were going, or what was happening at her job, we talk about how little time she has to get her homework done because she still has five loads of wash to put away, and why is her dining room ceiling filling with nail pops, and why does her electric bill keep going up when she’s been so careful about everybody turning off the light switch when they leave the room…we don’t talk too much about what actually matters…her marriage, her health, the happiness and development of her children.  In the “old” days,  work was defined differently in that the MAN worked to bring in the money to get the house and the car and afford the food that fed the children, and the WOMAN worked to keep the house neat and cooked the food and kept everybody’s clothes clean…but that is all mixed up and jumbled up in this modern world, the separate domains are different…the feminist in me thinks is just terrific that I do what used to be defined as a “man’s job” climbing ladders, banging nails, repairing sheetrock and painting houses, and the 1940’s housewife in me positively adores cleaning her walnut floors with vinegar and a rag, and folding linens, and cleaning bathrooms, and cooking for as many people as I can get around my table on a Sunday afternoon.  For me, the problem is that I do do all of those things, I am both man and woman in my world, as many women are today, and the definition of ‘work’ in modern households is not the same as it was in my Mimom’s time, so it’s no surprise really that we women, well this woman, I,  feel we are failing at maintaining our relationships too, how much can we do, are we supposed to do, before we cry uncle??!!

I suppose if I was better at delegating, like a good manager would, the tasks that need to be done and who needs to do them, and could release the level of control I feel I need over everything, there would be more effort available for the work needed to maintain my relationships.  I feel with a new month soon upon me, and Mercury shortly thereafter to go direct, and all of this ‘Mercury in retrograde’ miscommunication hubbub should be over, it should be at the top of my “to do” lists to better maintain my relationships, or at the very least to work as hard at making them good as I do at keeping my towels perfectly folded, to tell people I care about them, and more importantly show it, and to ‘work’ on what actually matters, to put the energy into producing and creating and accomplishing healthy loving relationships…there will always be laundry to do, there will always be houses to clean and driveways to weed, but I must remember that I have to make the effort to make good relationships or there won’t always be a handsome boyfriend to talk to while we cook dinner, or a daughter next door to talk to about that loud noise we heard last night, or two little girls who call me Nana and think I am just super just as I am…I read a quote yesterday in Oprah magazine, “sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”  and I was thinking that is work I can live with…do what I can with today and if I don’t do so well, try again tomorrow…

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One of my kind

Last night as I shuffled around television channels that showed me, yet again, I really have no need for cable, I found a fascinating program on PBS about animal odd couples.  An hour of the emotional relationships and connections between non-related and non human animals.  It was amazing; a lion and a coyote that grew up together from pups and act like loving brothers rather than an eater and an eat-ee, a goat that befriended a blind horse and led him around as a seeing eye goat for 16 years, a dog that mothered an abandoned baby deer and maintains a “friendship,” and a goose that fell in “love” with a giant tortoise and has made her his mate for life.

People who know me as opposed to those who only read me know that I often, depending on my mood or present circumstance, sometimes cry over airline commercials or Hallmark card commercials.  Almost five nights a week I get choked up or tear up watching Brian Williams’ last segment of the night on NBC.  I am a very emotional person most of the time…I have passion and I have empathy in spades…and this PBS program last night got me thinking really deep thoughts, about what I am, what I want, what I need…It reminded me that I am simply an evolved monkey, just a human animal, and the desire to form relationships and friendships is present in all the animal kingdom and one does not have to necessarily find one of their kind, only one that provides some value…I admit I got a bit teary eyed with each relationship shown…it was beautiful.

What does one “get” out of a relationship?  I don’t use the word get as a spoiled child or over indulged woman would, I don’t mean material things, and I don’t mean that she gets her way, and I don’t mean gets as in she never has to compromise or go without,  I mean get as in some sort of value that can’t be measured…Clearly, this PBS program showed me that it is not only to mate and spread one’s DNA that animals would couple-up…I must be honest and write that I had no idea animals had the kind of emotional connections and desire for friendships that I witnessed in the program…I thought that animals just were animals, and we humans were the only animals who forged bonds with no ‘value’ other than emotional.

Sure, we humans connect with non human animals, and I have a sister who is a true animal lover, and I have seen the way her dogs look at her, I mean, they look like they LOVE her, and her horses used to come see her even when she didn’t have an apple in her hand or hay in her arms, and her goats jumped up and down with “joy” when she walked into the backyard, so yes, I know that relationships can be made that have value, but in those cases, the animal values that the human is generally going to do something for it, or touch it, or play with it,  or give it food, and I suppose the human values the interaction, because it feels good to feel loved, it feels good to feel liked or needed or wanted in some way, any way.  I’ve never been an animal lover, it’s always been and still is, my sister’s domain, but watching this show made me realize that it’s okay to want to be wanted or needed or to find one that we feel fits us, even when on the surface, it seems not right…

I have, for as long as I can remember, felt like I was looking for those who were more my “kind.”  I love my family dearly and had what can only be described as an idyllic childhood, yet I always felt like the other, the outsider, the odd duck if you will.  In my attempts to couple I have consistently tried to find qualities that I value in another human that seem to fit me and in most cases were not recognized as valuable at all to those in my family.  Quirky is a word that they’ve used to describe me…I have sought out traits in others that I value but on the surface or to others have no value at all.  It is no surprise to me really then I guess that I am perpetually single, that I only got to have one child, that I never “got” the hard-working 9-5 husband who adored me or treated me like a queen, the 2.5 kids, the white picket fence, and all the “life” I thought I wanted or dreamed to have…I guess I continue to find value in people that maybe others don’t…I felt last night, watching that program, that I am just an evolved monkey.  I felt like it’s okay to go back to basics, just trying to make my way in the world, continuing to find more of my kind, or other animals who seem to fit me, it’s okay to find my inner monkey…I liked seeing the “love” between the goat and the horse, the goose and the tortoise: they can’t make the kind of bond they instinctually “should,” they can’t mate and reproduce, they can only have the kind of relationship that they create on their terms…it must be meaningful to them or they would not do it…they are like us, simply animals.  It strangely made me feel better about the choices I have made in my life that seemed questionable to others…value that can’t be measured…I can’t always get what I think I want but maybe I am getting exactly what I need…

Rate of Return

When I left my corporate job for the unknown of self employment I had to move my retirement account.  I did a lot of research; asked my BigDad for tips, who was very good with understanding the stock market, and I read a lot of Suze Orman, but when I had to make the final decision about where to put my money within the 60 day window in order to avoid any fees, I went with my gut.  I found a mutual fund called the “Star” fund and despite all my reading and all my searching for information, I went with the one that spoke to me…Over all these years I have been very pleased with the rate of return.  I’ve added to it in the years when I’ve been able and I’ve moved things around when there have been changes in the tax laws and it was beneficial to my future to do so.  But as a single woman I’ve had neither the good fortune nor the ability to put money in an IRA every year, I’ve not been able to save 10% of my income, or eight months worth of living expenses as a cushion.  I read plenty to know what I ought to be doing, but I can’t do any of it, so I simply do the best with what I’ve got.

I think about life much  like I think about my investment…I put in what I can, whenever I can, and if the rate of return stops proving beneficial to me, I change things around…I’ve made plenty of mistakes too, I imagine whenever we take a risk, be it with our money or our heart, we expose ourselves to the danger of loss.  I’ve ended relationships that perhaps would have proven beneficial to me if I stuck it out a little longer, and I’ve moved money too fast that I should have let sit and grow and would have exploded in value if I had not been in a rush.  I heard on the news the other day that the stock market had a spike after the government finally reopened, and so I looked at the details of my fund, and without making any deposit at all this year, it still grew by a few thousand dollars, and I felt like maybe I’m doing okay…not as well as I wish I were, but okay, and in a way that’s about all one can do right?  Feel okay…

I generally do not do things carelessly.  I generally think very much about my actions and the consequences of the choices I make.  Sure, I regret some things I have done or did not have the balls to do, but in general I play the hand I am dealt and can only try again to do better next time when I’ve folded but should have bet, or bet but should have folded.  When it comes to matters of my heart, I try to behave in a way that gives me the greatest rate of return. I try to love fully and I try to be kind above all and I really do think about the future with every choice I make in how to act or react.  I may not have the kind of money I’d like to buy the kinds of things I’d like, or go the places I’d like to go, or do many of the things I’d like to do, but I have a whole lotta love in my life, and with every smile I get from someone I love, every shared laugh, with every joyful hug, with every wordless grin, I feel the rate of return on my investment grow…

Better Days

I have a friend who lived in the south for many years and she has an expression, ‘any day you wake up on this side of the dirt is a good day.’  I say it in my head sometimes when I am having a not so good day, as a gentle reminder to find something, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, for which I am thankful. Some days are better than others, no doubt about it, and some days are so bad, it does feel like the bottom’s dropped out, that you wonder why you got out of bed, or why you went to work, or why you even are bothering to drive home and start the cycle again.  We’ve all had them, and for those of you who have not, well, they’ll come, perhaps when you are least expecting it, which is sad, but probably true.

I’ve been, even in just the last couple years, gloriously giddy, amazingly apathetic, somber & sad, joyful & jolly, rolling in the money and empty pocketed…to write that we all have ups and downs is something of a ridiculous understatement is it not???  Sometimes it is very difficult to be happy for your friends or family or simply people you know, when they seem to be having infinitely better days or months or lives than you are, but you must. You must not become so bogged down with thoughts of “why not me?” that you miss out on even the little bits of good, or even tiny slivers of mediocrity…there is good and wonderfulness in every single day if you force yourself to see it or train yourself to notice.

I so believe that we get what we give, I so believe in the cycle of karma and the balance of things.  When I myself have suffered with the “why not me” syndrome, which I hate but with which I am occasionally afflicted, I have found that the only way out of that mire and muck is to remind myself of ALL the good, no matter how insignificant the good may seem at first, if I make myself pay attention to all the positives in my life, there becomes no room whatsoever for the negatives. I know people at this very moment dealing with some very heavy-hearted worrisome stuff, and I know people at this very moment living high on the hog without any worries in the world.  For some, dealing with illness, or job loss, or familial or financial problems, it may seem that things just keep going down, DOWN, D O W N…but they won’t stay that way, they never do, even though it often feels like things will simply never improve.  That expression about everything that goes up must come down also works in reverse…when life feels so low or things feel so bad, there is no place but Up to go…