It’s a Process

lunaAnother pomegranate martini lingered in front of me; its sweet red nectar glistening in the glow of lowered lights and laughter. Two of my girlfriends flanked the table and I was absorbed by their presence.

I’m realizing that everyone suffers from some level of loneliness or discontentment. The stay-at-home mom, the working mom, the mom with grown kids, the working woman with no kids, married or not married…we are all the same. We fill the emptiness with food and drinks, shopping, random busyness, excessive exercise or dieting, unfinished projects, sometimes absorbed in self-doubt and gossip. We sabotage our relationships by assuming our significant other innately knows our sadness, this unexplained emptiness, and we carry secret grudges that spill out in bursts of unexpected emotions.

We are surprised by our seemingly sudden lack of emotional endurance and struggle to get through each mundane task.

The first week of school I overheard a group of moms half-joking about their increased anxiety and chaos of trying to maneuver successfully through school schedules, carpool lines, after school activities, dinner, and homework while still keeping the household together and their husbands happy.

“It’s all a process,” one mom said to the other, “eventually it works itself out.”

But maybe it doesn’t ever really “work itself out”.  Perhaps what really needs to happen is that we work it out with ourselves, change our perspective and expectations of what life is supposed to look like in this moment.

There have been different moments in life when I felt content and filled with purpose. Some moments lasting weeks, months and years. Some simply just that, a moment. And then there have been all the “in-between”, the days where the world felt like it was suffocating me and abandoning me all at the same time.

So there I was, having dinner and drinks with a couple of friends last night. We were doing what we’ve done a thousand times before, venting about life and love. There was a fair amount of wallowing in self-pity too, swallowing up the conversation in “If only” and “I need” statements. But as I replayed the conversations in my head this morning, when I really listened to myself, it struck me that these feelings of discontentment are just strands of all the things about myself I don’t really like but could change with a little effort. My loneliness is also me digging in my heels, desperately trying to stand still as my children and my life  have marched forward.

It truly is always a process and a constant state of change. Life doesn’t just work itself out – we have to work harder at finding our own happiness, seeing our own worth and moving towards it every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

hello courage

a small piece of art hanging above my desk
a small piece of art hanging above my desk

I’ve spent the better part of an hour letting my last cup of coffee grow cold, sifting through pounds of advice on how to overcome writer’s block, looking for that one perfect and inspiring blog prompt. It finally struck me, though, that my three-month long writing drought  is not due to insufficient inspiration or a lack of living, but more about the courage to write about the truth of my days.

Days filled with average things.

Days seemingly unimpressive or worthy of writing in detail.

Days that pass in predictable succession.

In my heart of hearts, I know there is no shame in living a life void of monumental drama, a life overflowing with family, friends and a future. It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of frustration or loneliness. It certainly doesn’t mean that every aspect of my story is bound in happiness and success. My children often disappoint. My husband and I sometimes disagree. My friends and parents can be frustrating. My health declines and rises as rapidly as my weight and as sharply as my mental stability. And I am well aware that at times I am the same disappointment, the same frustration and most definitely, the same amount of disagreeable to others at any given time.

I am deeply flawed.

I fail as often as I succeed. Sometimes more.

“I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself. But for the rest of my life, I am going to be with me and I don’t want to spend my life with someone who is always critical. So I am going to stop being my own critic. It’s high time that I accept all the great things about me.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Last month I pushed myself to go to a small writing workshop facilitated by Capital City Writers. The guest speaker was author and screenwriter Ted Kluck, focusing on writing creative non-fiction. Writing non-fiction is scary. There’s a level of fear when crafting anything riddled with truth, creative or otherwise. And there is a whole other level of fear that someone will either be offended by our truth or poke holes in the very memories we hold as truth, forever changing the way we see ourselves and the life we have built.

My intent was to slip in unnoticed, blend in with the walls and just absorb everyone else’s energy. I am not a member of this writing group, nor had I met anyone present.

I am quite foolish.

The room was small, speckled with a handful of professional writers currently working on projects. Not only did I not slip in unnoticed, but I sat on the front row, a dear friend in tow as my shield. Ted’s down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is, personality engulfed the room. In a matter of minutes the atmosphere ceased being thin and started filling my head with thick possibility. I sat with pen in hand and a stack of blank paper most of the afternoon. Eventually a trickle of ideas splattered the pages. I questioned everything that came to mind, catching as many words and phrases possible before they could fall to the page, fearful that somehow my thoughts wouldn’t be good enough.

Not even good enough for an audience of one. Me.

And then I went home and avoided writing some more, until I received the phone call yesterday that my domain name was expiring. There was a moment I thought about not renewing. For a moment my eyes glazed over the computer screen as I thought, “perhaps I should just let myself disappear”, questioned if it was worth the few dollars needed to ensure my identity as My Pajama Days. After all, it has been more than three months since I last wrote.

But here I am again. Renewed yet fearful.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Jim Chaney

I love it when bloggers I admire start feeling more like a friend  than like a “reader”. It is with great pleasure that I share with you Jim Chaney. His writing style is both witty and charming as well as honest and heartfelt. I am also inspired by his list of 30 Before 30, making me consider devising my own list of 40 before 40 (apparently I am ten years his senior, ouch!) I hope you enjoy Jim as much as I do, and wander over to his neck of the woods too.
A little bit about Jim
With a love of writing and an even greater love of family, Jim brings his readers along for the ride as he shares stories of his life as a husband and father.  His humorous and engaging writing style is on display as he recounts tales of his kids (Iz and the Jakester), his love of sports, and many short stories and creative writing exercises as well.  The cornerstone of his blog, the “30 Before 30”, is a list of 30 things he hopes to do before turning 30 later this year.  He updates his readers regularly on his progress with pictures and funny stories of his exploits that are always good for a laugh. But at the heart of Jim’s page is his passion for his family and about telling a great story.  The array of subject matters that you’ll find there will be sure to entertain you, no matter what you’re looking for.  So after reading his piece below about what his life will look like 10 years from now, hop on over to 30 Before 30 and enjoy the ride!

A Glimpse into the Future

So it took some rather embarrassing groveling on my part, but I finally got Emily to accept my guest blogging request.  I promised her that she would not be disappointed and then I quickly uncrossed my fingers and got to brainstorming.  After many painstaking seconds, the storm in my brain knocked out the power and I was forced to procrastinate by playing Angry Birds for several hours.  That’s when I realized two things: 1) Angry Birds is more addictive than crack, and 2) I was blowing my opportunity to be featured on this great blog.

Having arrived at this realization, I first congratulated myself for doing so (since I was so doped up on the Birds, it’s amazing I was able to develop a thought at all), and then reached out to Emily for any ideas on what to write about.  She responded with several prompts that she found interesting and even offered to let me pitch an idea of my own.  This felt like a trap; like there was a good chance I would offer up something idiotic and have the key to her place taken away.  That’s when I noticed one final suggestion from her that struck a chord in me.

“Where will you be in 10 years?”

It appealed to me right away because I had recently contemplated a blog post about what I would tell my 19 year old self if I could go back 10 years and talk to him.  The answer is, I would tell him not to be such a tool and stop acting like his whole world hinges on whether a girl will go out with him…but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Where will I be in 10 years?  The short answer is I’ll be happy, I hope.  You see what I’ve learned about myself over these last ten years is that not much else matters.  A high-paying job?  Sure, that would be great.  A big house with a lot of land?  Even better.  But the most important thing to me is being happy with my life.

Five years ago, I married my best friend.  I’ve been happy every day since.  Now I’m not going to naively sit here and tell you that there haven’t been bad days or sour moods along the way.  But being married to a wonderful woman has made every day that much better than if I didn’t have her.

Two years ago we had our first child, Isabella.  You can call her Izzy or Iz…we do.  The priorities of my life changed that day.  No longer was I concerned with doing everything I could to make my life better.  No, now I just wanted to do everything I could to make my child’s life better.  Since then, my wife and I have welcomed our second child into the world, Jacob (Jake, the Jakester, etc.).  With an incredible partner to help me navigate parenthood, and two incredible children that will no doubt test every fiber in my being as time goes on, I am happier today than any day before.

So where will I be in ten years?  I will be 10 years happier than I am right now.

It’s hard to picture life that far in the future.  Back when I was a teenager it was easier because I had dreams and visions and a blank canvas on which to paint a path towards them.  I could dream of being married and having a family because I didn’t have either.  Today I have both and so I dream of providing everything I can for them and watching as they grow with me.  In 10 years, Izzy will be 12 and Jake will be going on 11.  What’s that, middle school?  Yikes.  There’s also a very good chance that our family “two pair” will have grown into a “full house” as my wife and I would like to add one more munchkin to the mix.

As far as the rest of my life goes, I’d prefer to let it unfold as I go.  Maybe I’ll still be working for the same company or maybe I will have moved on.  Maybe I’ll still be writing my blog or maybe I’ll be writing my 5th novel.  There’s no doubt that unexpected events or experiences will come about that will steer me in one direction or another, but it’s the not knowing that makes things so interesting.

What I do know, is that I want writing to be a part of my life going forward.  Since starting my blog at the end of 2010, I’ve re-ignited a passion for the craft that I had forgotten I had and it’s been rejuvenating.  I’ve been introduced to this world of wordsmiths that we call the blogosphere and I’ve been able to notch a little corner of it for myself.  Now I’m able to combine two things that I love, my family and writing, which has only added to the feeling that I am blessed with the life I have.

So as I look to the future, it’s hard to imagine being any more blessed than I am right now.  But that is my new dream; my new vision for myself as I sit here, about to turn 30, thinking about what my life will be like when I am about to turn 40.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

This post is inspired by Red Writing Hood. Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. It is  fiction or non-fiction with a word limit of 600. This writing prompt is sponsored by The Red Dress Club. The topic this week was Sloth: laziness of the spirit, apathy.



“So you finally decided to take a shower. What has it been? Like three days? Except you hit the snooze button so many times this morning, you won’t be able to do your hair and makeup. Not that it matters, you never wear makeup anymore and I’m not sure why you bother coloring the grey since you wear a pony-tail most of the time.”

“Hey! Look at me when I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend like you can’t hear me over the buzzing of the hair dryer either. I saw what you picked out to wear, such a fashion statement you are, in your jeans and t-shirt. Your closet is full of beautiful clothes that you never wear. Oh, that’s right. You can’t fit into most of them anymore and the rest, well, aren’t exactly appropriate for sorting papers in the classroom. There’s this really cool gadget down in your basement you know – it’s called a treadmill. Maybe you should try using it one of these days. I couldn’t help but notice the empty wine glass still sitting on your nightstand either. I don’t think that was exactly what was meant by a “liquid diet” although you continue to try night after night.”

“Sure, pretend like your husband doesn’t mind. I know he loves you for your inner beauty, but come on, that wasn’t what first attracted him, now was it? Besides, you think he likes asking you how your day was and hearing, “the same as yesterday”. What was that he said last week? Oh yeah: Is there something fundamentally wrong with you lately or are you just bored?”

“Yep, there goes the pony-tail again. Nice. What’s on your agenda today? That’s what I thought, nothing, just more laundry, more bill paying, more errands, and more cleaning house. It’s a good thing you have a college degree. I can see it really comes in handy making grocery lists and meal planning. Yes…yes, I know, you’ve told me many times that the kids still need you and that’s why you stay home. But before you know it they will both be off to college and then what? It’ll just be you and the dog. All day. Every day. And those big plans you had for yourself will stop being plans and just be dreams, unfulfilled.”

“Take the plunge. Go back to school. Do something. God, I’m so sick of hearing the same old excuses: I’m still paying my undergraduate…when would I make timeI’m too old to start a careerwho’ll make dinner for everyone…blah, blah, blah. You’re just scared, that’s all. Or maybe you’ve just given up, succumbed to motherhood and forgotten what it was like to be a woman, a woman with goals and desires of her own. Be the woman you want your daughters to be and start living your life again.”

Knock. Knock.

“Mom, are you almost done in the bathroom? I need help with breakfast and we need to leave for school a little earlier today. Mom?”

“Yeah…yeah, I’ll be right out honey. I just need to figure out what I’m going to wear.”

A Day in Someone Else’s Clothes

Seriously? Juicy Couture at Salvation Army

I am a thrift store junkie. My favorite is the Salvation Army Store. In fact, recently while my best friend was visiting a few weeks ago, we patronized multiple Salvation Army Stores for three full days. Piles and piles of other people’s cast-offs were over-flowing from my cart. Yoga pants with tags still in them, name brand hoodies, barely worn sweaters and broken in denim were some of the great finds. It was like playing dress-up again.

It struck me at some point that someone, somewhere had stood in their closet and said to themselves:

“It’s really about time I got rid of this.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if someone was gushing over my red and black plaid wool riding jacket from Laura Ashley, with the oh so sassy shoulder pads,  like I was gushing over the many warm winter fleeces. I was continually in disbelief when I would come across expensive items in mint-condition. Who gives away practically brand new clothes?

But then that morbid side of me started wondering if maybe I wasn’t modeling someone’s cast-offs but clothes that had never been worn. It reminded me of cleaning out my grandfather’s closet after he passed away. There was a row of unworn dress slacks, still with tags. He had obviously just ordered himself a new collection to replace his well-worn wardrobe. But he had never had the chance to wear them. Not one.

I started day dreaming about being someone else in these clothes. What did they look like? Did they have any children? Were they a child themselves? What kind of life did they have and was it everything they had hoped it would be?

There was a time in my life that I was a married single mom and then just a single mom. I don’t know which was worse. Being a married single mom meant that no one could enforce child support. My name had been stripped from our bank account maliciously so that I had no access to funds, and since I worked part-time while finishing school, there wasn’t much in my account. At least 50% of The Tortoise’s clothes came from thrift stores and the other 50% were gifted to me by a dear friend who worked at a children’s consignment store. I don’t know what I would have done without her generosity on many accounts. Clothes that The Tortoise out grew I sold back to the consignment store to help pay bills. Beautiful dresses that my grandfather had bought her, adorable outfits from my mother and even gifts from  aunts and uncles. It pained me to see so many memories be exchanged for only a few dollars. And I wondered if the next person would appreciate them as much.

Yesterday, DW and I took some time to go cross-country skiing. Just the two of us. The girls were content to stay snuggled up on the couch in their pajamas, eating popcorn and watching movies all afternoon. But the 31 degree weather felt warm for a change, and not a gust of wind drifted through the trees. It was perfect weather to click on some skis and hit the trails. At first we started out close together, but DW is much more proficient and agile on the snow. Soon he was several paces ahead of me. A gentle snow started speckling the sky, tiny flakes caught in my eyelashes. The only sounds I really heard were my skis swishing rhythmically back and forth like an elliptical machine, keeping time with my quick breaths and steady heartbeat. My body became warm, sweat trickled down my back and I had to unzip my jacket. My black snow bibs and pink gloves caught me off guard for a moment. They were my Aunt’s at one time. She gave them to me years ago when she found out I was moving to Michigan. They were high-end purchases for a weekend ski trip she had taken, but never worn since. Living in Texas, unless you traveled to ski resorts often, there just wasn’t a need for such quality snow items.

“Everytime you wear these, just think of me, ” she said.

My aunt passed away in August of 2009. She was only 53. It is always devastating when people die, but there is something even more empty when they leave behind such an unfinished life. She struggled with mental illness for years, and we will never really know if some of her physical ailments could have been avoided had she been mentally well. After she passed away, my mom and I tried to help clean out some of her clothes to donate. Part of her mental illness prompted her to be a compulsive spender and hoarder. Boxes and boxes of unopened purchases flooded her hallways, bedrooms and closets. It was overwhelming. Buried in a guest bedroom closet was an unworn, raspberry pink, full-length down coat with a matching faux fir trimmed hat. Everything was still in plastic. Everything still had tags. Definitely not something a person homebound and in Texas would ever wear. My mom and I were stunned, teary-eyed.

“I think you should take this home with you, ” suggested my mom.

“But we might be able to return it or something.”

“Maybe. Or you could wear it and think of it as a gift from your Aunt.”

I’ve worn that coat almost everyday these last two winters, and I do think of her every time I put it on. Sometimes I even peer at myself in the mirror and whisper “thank you” in hopes that my aunt has finally found some peace.

So now, when I pillage racks and racks of clothes at the thrift store, or pull out a gently worn hoodie from my closet, I will see them not as cast-off’s but as someone else’s history, moments passed but not forgotten.

I will be their memory keeper while spending a day in someone else’s clothes.