Beyond grief, jealousy may be the darkest emotion to stumble upon. And with furious fighting, faster bleeds the wound.
Sept. 30, 2007: CSD, a national deaf communications non-profit, finalized SC layoffs. The next few days were spent packing up equipment alongside Juli, my boss. “GA to SKSK” she joked, spouting insider slang. Snapping one last photo cheek to cheek, we bid goodbye to a place we’d loved several years. Severance package in hand and baby in tummy, dreams of impacting the world through a career woke to life as a “Stay at Home Mom.”
Four babies & ten years later I reflect on that crossroad.
It was trial by fire. Ongoing isolation stirred unanticipated regret. The corporate world grew foreign as IKEA instructions. Earning power, assurance of a better life for my kids, evaporated as my employment gap widened. As a lineman’s wife, widowhood baring four babies haunted my sleep. Daycare alone cost more than I could net solo. “M I S T A K E” flashed like a neon bar sign at last call, and the rise of Facebook set it abuzz like hornets. As time crept, I felt less than and foolish scrolling The Feed of Female Success. Who would ever hire ME? I was an American Failure.
Life blurred into a Sesame Street parody, brought to you by the letters…N and O. NO perks. NO shopping. NO kid-free travel. NO business networking. NO 5 o’clock relief. NO access. NO gain. NO indication if past choices were right ones. Selfishness battled Guilt in civil war while currency from a Big Boss gave way to time with Little Bosses who pooped on me.
(Dang, raising kids is hard as heck, y’all.)
Thankfully, time spins its own gold.
Hindsight shows the honor of tending a childhood moment by moment. What a gift to be hugged at 3 pm pickup and curled upon at 3 am by trusting souls who know me only as “Mama”! I love them so! They are the only ones to whom my presence matters. And Kevin, my best friend and most amazing father in the galaxy, has been lock step this entire way.
All four babies were healthy and nursed well, snuggling against my breast all day and snoozing by my side all night. I joined a million playgroups. Reading Circle at 9 am, child on my lap. Art in the Park at noon, paint on my nose. Riverwalk at 4 pm, big hand on small. Witnessed every new tooth and every midnight fear. Caught every puke. Dried every tear. Present for all doctor and dentist appointments. Morning drop off? Afternoon carline? Evening practice and weekend games? Been there.
And lessons taught long ago draw full circle. They are compassionate and respectful. Their smiles, sincere. Their affection, authentic. They receive compliments in restaurants and they behave at school. Intentional memories, family dinners and impromptu talks on tough issues bond us. During a six month 25 hour weekend stint at Uhaul my absence weakened everyone under our roof. The experience reassured I could be who I once was. But at what cost? It was a powerful reality check nicking the core of who I am.
At 14, I began work.
At 24, I left. A baby.
I am 34 now. Still a baby. Just grayer hair.
Today, Sept. 30, 2017, finds me with no regrets. My last baby turns 3 years old today. The next few days will be spent picking up toys alongside Juli, my daughter. Our final box of Luvs lay as empty as the trenches of early motherhood I leave behind. Bring on the next ten (adolescent charged) years! Because I can finally say…. I’m happy with this path. It was certainly the right road for us.
Ten years from now, I will only be 44.
My youngest? High school.
Time is funny like that.
Now, for the first time in forever, I feel AMAZING. Letting go is incredible. (Hey! That’s what the Disney song tells us!) To mark the occasion here are acutely personal, and downright painful, Life™ Lesson summaries pulled from my diary of private writings. I’m thankful for rear view mirrors revealing a purpose far more sovereign than our own.
Maybe my babies will read this someday and know me as more than Mama. And perhaps… those who battle the dark side too won’t feel so alone. Because you can survive whatever you face.
And you will.
DEAR JACK, MAGGIE, CALEB, & JULI:
Time beside those you love is never a mistake.
Choices today mark you tomorrow.
Don’t fear human touch. The world aches to be hugged. Start with the person beside you.
Handshakes speak volumes. Be the first to extend a hand. Last to let go.
Touch isn’t by hand alone. Eye contact is the most potent touch of all.
We all have three dimensional lives with multilayered subplots.
Facebook is fun. But it is not real.
The opinion of one person can’t define you.
Relationships are organic. Some crash & burn. If mending fails, honor good memories and move on.
Moving on sucks. Not always possible.
A friendship’s end doesn’t make it a failure.
Ghosting hurts both parties.
Seek out people who seek out you.
Those who like you will respond to effort. It’s what us humans do.
Someone speaks directly to you? Acknowledge their words. This includes text, email and PM.
Pass someone you know in public? Acknowledge their presence. Always.
Intentional Face to Face time bonds us.
At the end of life, a few best friends will put you ahead of the game. Your spouse MUST be one of those.
Initiative is the first step to success. Showing up the second.
Wherever you land, act like you’ve been there. No one will know any different.
Accepting who you are is nearly as potent as acknowledging who you’ll never be.
Make commitments. Keep them yesterday.
Head up, shoulders back. Feet know what to do without eyes micromanaging.
Smile. Broadly. Note people’s response.
Superficialness sucks. Screw that garbage.
Your words must contain authenticity and sincerity.
World peace calls for individuals who are at peace. With friends. With spouses. With themselves.
Real love determines if someone’s issues are tolerable.
Most conflicts are Good vs. Good.
Apologize sincerely. State your wrongs. Using “if” or “but” voids attempt.
Don’t guess someone’s private thoughts. You’re likely wrong.
No one gets shot for saying “I was wrong.”
Examine motives. Forgive readily.
Integrity still matters.
Defend yourself. But avoid belligerence, respecting the human before you.
Defend others. Silence as someone weeps degrades all.
Words breed life or death. Communicate well.
Make original mistakes. Not same old ones.
Don’t speak ill of yourself. People will believe you.
Existence doesn’t justify likability. So offer value.
Feed that baby. Bottle. Breast. Who cares. Just feed that baby. Not in the bathroom stall.
Also, hold that baby. You get three seconds before they outgrow your arms.
Baking homemade treats together is the tesla of childhood.
It’s ok to change. Consider it leveling up.
Improve your craft.
State what you want.
Appreciate others daily.
Complaints without solutions attached make you look petty.
Avoid Topper Traps. No one cares who has it hardest.
“Yes” and “no” is law of average. Aim for high volume, you’ll get both.
Ignore “Team No”. There’s always a way.
When given a secret, keep it.
Hold your heroes to a higher standard.
But apply it to yourself.
If upset when typing, stop. Delete. Rewrite. Delete. Rinse & repeat until anger washes away.
Confidence notes it’s ok to fumble. Just stand back up.
Private assumptions breed raw emotion. Don’t screw up reality crying over misperception.
Unearth hidden expectations. Burn ’em.
Write your own eulogy. Revise daily.
Say what you need to say.
Sob when you need to.
Say I love you.
Now show it.