‘F’ is for Fear

I wrote in an email last week to my Mom that I have made some decisions, recognizing that I am at a new stage of my life, about how I will act and what I will feel, and that I’ve accepted that I am now 46 years old; I might have 40 more years to live, or four, or just four days…after all my family’s creed is  “tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon.”

I want to live my life in a way that more deeply fulfills me, and I want to make choices which reflect that, and mostly I don’t want to be ‘afraid’ that people will judge me about it, when those choices are different from theirs …When I was younger for example, although truth be told, as recently as this year, if my Mom or Dad called me on a morning and I was still in my pajamas and had not yet left for work, I would tell a little white lie that I was already on my way to work…why?  Because I didn’t want my parents to think I was a slacker.  That is just a silly example of a very serious flaw that has resided in me for all of my adult life and one that I believe I am done with owning…Fear of disappointing my parents, that I was not working hard enough or did not have enough of a drive to earn a good living or that my work ethic was not as strong as my Dad’s or, or, or…you see my Dad LOVES, L O V E S to work…hard.  He does not have hobbies, he does not watch sports, he does not like to hang out at a bar, he does not go to the beach…”play time” that is appealing to him is using his Kubota to move heavy objects from one place to another, or digging holes or planting trees or building new pantry doors for my mother, or, or, or…so for much of my life I have been striving to achieve this level of productiveness and I realized this winter, it is not who I am and it is not who I want to be.

I got the beginnings of a cold on Super Bowl Sunday and proceeded to work fewer than 50 hours this entire month of February…I had what I think was the flu during the first week of the month and a deep chest cold during the second, and by last week I finally felt a bit more alive, but still not good, and I did a lot of crocheting and a lot of thinking these last 24 days.  I thought until my thinker was sore, as Dr. Seuss might say, and I decided that I want to be comfortable with working hard enough to pay my bills and survive in this modern world,  but to also be comfortable with spending my Saturdays this summer on the beach in a chair watching my boyfriend teach three beautiful little girls  how to surf, or spending a Friday night looking at the stars above our houses  with my son-in-law and drinking shots of FireBall until we can’t keep our eyes open, or not leaving for work until after 10 on a Wednesday because this boy I love and I want to go out to breakfast…just because…

I feel like I have accepted that being afraid of appearing to be a slacker to my parents diminishes my quality of life.  I don’t mean to sound so dramatic, it’s not.  My parents are both VERY unlike their parents…in TOO many ways to count, and neither of them ever felt the need to apologize for it.  My mom and dad are both so dissimilar to both of their mothers and fathers that you could count what they had in common on one hand.  If I find one month that I’ve got an extra $150 I would get a massage and fill my wine rack…my mom, when she was my age, would’ve bought a savings bond for my daughter or just added the credit to her household budget.  My mom is VERY responsible and I do envy her skill at money management.  My Dad married her almost 48 years ago and has known nothing of their financial situation since.  She is extraordinary, and I have come to accept that I am not her.  My Dad is now retired, and is STILL the hardest working man I will EVER know, now he just works at home or for us, his family, and not for the rich customers on the beach.  He is extraordinary, and I have come to accept that I am not him.

I spent most of my adult life fearful of not measuring up to their expectations, and have come to realize this month of bitterly cold gray days that it does not matter, they did not put them on me, I put them on me.  A friend mailed a book to me a couple of years ago called “When Fear Falls Away” and I read it, and I really really liked it, but I don’t know if I got out of it what my friend did, because frankly I didn’t change much, and I still felt all the same angst I always did…now, these bleak February days sort of pushed me over my edge…I can’t say that I “get it” fully but I get it better now, my fear of being a not good enough daughter, worker, mother, friend, housekeeper, etc., all of it is self induced pressure and I think this month I’ve finally popped from it.  I don’t claim to be enlightened or changed or that I have no fears anymore, but I do, these last couple of days feel a little more comfortable with who I am and who I’ve been, and it is after 9 and I have not left for work yet and I am not afraid to own it.  I think it’s a step in the right direction…

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Whole Hearted

We are not new to this thing called love.  We are adults with histories and pasts, and who lived full lives long before we knew the other existed…We both once said “I do” to somebody else, we both have said “I love you” to other people, we both have shared living spaces with other people, we both have gone on vacations with other people, each of us both made a daughter with somebody else, we both have shared laughter and tears with some  other person at some  other time, …so there is nothing “new” really at all that I can do for this man I love that  hasn’t already happened, that’s not already been done by some other person at some other time…

I’ve had people SAY they were going to be good to me and good for me, and I’ve had people SAY or WRITE all the right words to make me believe it, and so I suppose too there are no words I could say or write to this man that have not been said or written before by somebody else at some other time…there is nothing new I can offer…we neither are, nor can we be, each other’s first anything…yet each time I catch his eye, in each moment of unspoken kindness, in each grin or smile, it feels somehow as if everything is new…it feels like my heart is whole, and I feel like he filled in all my curved lines and sharp angles with vibrant, brilliant, unimaginable colors, before I even realized  black and white wasn’t good enough…

Each day I’ve known this boy I’m going to marry I more wholeheartedly believe that all the days, months, and years that we lived before we met were practice…practice for a chance to do a relationship right and to be a good partner, to not make the same errors, mistakes, or poor choices we made before.  I feel angry with myself that when things are peachy, sunny, and going smoothly I am filled to overflowing with kindness for all and love for many, but the minute things turn blue, cloudy, or my life path begins to get rocky and our plans get thwarted, I default to a nasty moroseness that benefits no one, least of all us. That’s not being wholehearted, that’s being caught up in the minutiae, disjointed and focused on so little that is wrong, rather than so much that is right.  I don’t want to be a girl whose default is negative, better to be one whose default is positive.  I strive every day to be happy and to not get sucked into the vortex of this modern world we live in…want-want-want-more-more-more-me-me-me-I-I-I…I have love and a roof over my head, and  family &  friends near and far…I am living as whole  a life as can be.

When I have said unkind things or thought unkind thoughts I try to reboot by remembering our 1st date, our first kiss, those first days and weeks of that first summer“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”  I’ve realized that THAT is what I can do for him…I can try to make every season seem new, make every ‘I love you’ sound new to his ears…make every laugh & every smile feel fresh and unexpected, every ‘good morning’ and every ‘good night,’ every time I meet his gaze or reach for his hand, and love him enough that it feels new, over and over, maybe even til death do us part…

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I realized the other night that I’ve become rather carried away with the idea of making plans…I wear a ring when I am not working that is supposed to be a symbol for something…it screams “a boy asked me to marry him” but it quietly utters the question, “now what?”  Since the day of my engagement  I’ve had a nearly nightly affair with Pinterest; looking at wedding dresses, flower girl hair halos, lighted arched willow branches, perfectly arranged table settings, fonts for modern embossed invitations, and drooling over ridiculously ornate wedding cakes, and recently noticed with a bit of sadness and mild unease that I’ve been looking at the screen of my phone and ipad more than I’ve been looking at my boyfriend’s face.  I realize it is time for me to take a break from thinking about the future.

This man I love has little to no interest in a formal wedding or reception, and I thought I didn’t either, until the question was asked and I said, ‘yes,” and then my imagination and a lifetime of dreaming  sort of possessed me.  I can’t say that I wasn’t warned…shortly after we started dating and had fallen inexplicably fast in love, he said to me one morning, “if I had the money we’d fly to Vegas and get married tomorrow.”   He had told me enough of his past and his regrets, that I was well aware and forewarned that he was not going to have a fancy formal wedding with all the bells, whistles, and expenses, if ever he was again to get married.  I knew this, and yet over these last several weeks could not seem to help myself from buying overpriced thick glossy magazines with names like ‘ The Knot, Modern Bride, Bridal Ideas, and New Jersey Wedding Guide.’  You see, I was married, a mother, and divorced, all before my 20th birthday…my first wedding, shortly before Labor Day weekend in the summer of 1985, was in retrospect, the saddest day of my life and I knew nothing good was going to happen for me as a result of it, and nothing did.  So to write that I’ve been dreaming of a wedding full of joy, excitement, love, and promises to be good to each other, is something of an understatement…it’s been much more than a dream for all this time, it’s been this strange unattainable “goal” in my brain.

I have always wanted to be a wife, despite a minor in Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory, and numerous research papers, regarding a woman’s worth, & the history of women’s rights and status, that would indeed indicate otherwise.  A few of my girlfriends have told me over the years that they are sure it is due to my father’s unwavering adoration of my mother, and I am well aware that I do not ‘need’ a husband, nor do I need a piece of paper joining me to any man, but it is something that has mattered to me, a lot, for all the years of my adult life.  Now that there is a man in my life who says he wants to marry me, I realize I’ve been far more interested in the plans associated with the whole “future event” than with the life we are presently living.

A few nights ago in an effort to make myself drowsy, I was scrolling through my past years of Facebook posts and happened upon one from September 25th 2010; the night of my 25th high school reunion.  I had a very fun time at my reunion, reconnecting with many women from my past.  The man I now love was there, a stranger to me then; we were acquainted with many of the same people, people we both talked with for hours, and he was in the band, the drummer, at this reunion, and despite knowing so many of the same people and mingling in the same room, our paths did not cross, not even once…but here we are now, engaged.  We were in the very same room for hours that night, and he got introduced to and  fixed up with some other girl that very night, and I went home alone to my empty house, and now we sometimes wonder, how many other times over the years of our lives were we near each other and didn’t know…Perhaps I was not mindful of my surroundings that night, perhaps I was not present…I don’t know of any other explanation for me not noticing the most beautiful boy in the room…

From the moment we did meet, and he smiled at me, I felt like I never wanted to look at another face…but for these past many weeks I’ve not really looked at him at all…I look at my glimmery-shimmery ring, I look at pictures of flower arrangements, and web sites for all-inclusive honeymoon destinations, I’ve been busy making playlists of love songs and playlists of dance songs… I’ve got all these ideas for a party he doesn’t even want  to have…I’ve not been present…I’ve been busy making plans, focused on what might be, not what is…John Lennon wrote in Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”  It’s time for me to get back to life, back to reality…if he changes his mind and wants to have a party, I’m sure he’ll let me know.  If he decides on a wedding date, I’m pretty sure I’m the first one he’s going to tell.  I got myself caught up in thoughts of the future and need to pause, and just be right here, right now…for now…