Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A lifetime to celebrate

In the past twelve months, I've gone to more memorial services than in my whole entire life.  Huh, what gives?  It has definitely not been the best year on record, to say the least.

Gone are the years in my twenties where everyone got married and weddings were a regular event.  The thirties?  Babies.  Babies.  And more babies.  Now that I'm almost, sigh, forty?  Divorces and death.  This is obviously one of those getting older awful secrets, like suddenly not tolerating dairy and sausage, gray eyebrow hair, and age spots that NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT!  Or, I was just too young and perky-boobed to pay attention to the warnings?

Now, I'm certainly not saying that me attending all of these memorials even remotely compares to those that had to actually plan the service for their mother, father, husband, partner, or sister.  But, I just can't help but feel gloomy about it all because the life switch is so glaring.  I only wish I could go back to the days of shopping from bridal registries, bachelorette parties, and traveling out of town to witness happy nuptials (and making for great extended vacations while we were at it).  Wedding in New York?  Can you say side trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto?!  Good times for sure.

Oh, and all those girly baby showers and ogling the cute onesies and playing silly games...I miss that! Those were the glory days when everything was new and exciting and being experienced for the first time.

I can daydream all I want, but I can't go back to those times.  And, well, I'm not sure I would if I could.  I ultimately have to accept the fact that life is what it is...today.  Life now at almost forty feels so much more grownup and hard and way more sad, but a million times richer and rewarding.  With every loss of a loved one comes a greater appreciation for life and loved ones still with us.  With every divorce comes hope for growth, life lessons, healing, and a chance for new love.

It's also a good reminder that those major happy events that I yearn for don't always have to come in the form of a wedding or birth of a baby or a huge accomplishment.  The best things can be in the everyday happy life-changing moments in my life and in the lives of my friends and families, like my friend's husband getting a better job, a home-based business that's suddenly taking off, a wonderful new home, cancer going into remission, getting a lucky lottery slot at a great school at the last minute, a remarkable breakthrough in treating a son with autism, a back injury that's healing well after surgery (well on the way to 100% pain free!), birthdays, anniversaries, adopting a new rescue dog, quitting smoking, falling madly in love, and so on and so on and so on and so on...

I smile and cheer and relish all that great stuff.  When I add them all up, those sweet daily life moments far exceed the occasional sad memorial or divorce.  It really puts it all in perspective to write out a list like that.  And, here's hoping that some of that new love will mean more weddings (yay!) and more babies (awww!) and more reasons to get all dressed up and celebrate.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet song

Last week it was a record 113!! unbearably hot miserable degrees here in Los Angeles.  Today is drizzly and cool and I love it.

As I walk my kids to class this morning, we collectively smile at the welcome change in weather, hug each other goodbye, then I walk out to my car to chit-chat with a good friend (and fellow mom at the school).  She shares her glorious plan to go home, nap (crawl back into bed), and allow some much needed "me" down time.  Amen, sister!  I feel happy for her, relating to my own requirement for that kind of time for myself and thrilled to see my friend do the same for herself.

Today, however, my ambitious vision of my day looks much busier than hers, like a stop at Target for some necessary stuff, TJ's for food and fruit, then home for cleaning my bathrooms, floors, and tackling some of the clutter leftover from a week of being home with sick kids and my (bored) need to organize my closets.  But, realizing I'm starving and I don't like shopping for food in that "dangerous" state, I head home for a quick bite to eat, with the intention of going right back out for errands.  Only, once I'm home I remember how much I despise grocery shopping in the rain (it's up there with oil changes and teeth cleanings) and realize a nice breakfast with a cup of hot green tea and a little bit of tv while I clean up might be more in order.

I scroll through my dvr looking for a recorded show I can leave on in the background while I'm cleaning, and decide to finally watch a Live from the Artist's Den that I recorded last March.  It features my absolute favorite singer/artist in the whole wide world, Patty Griffin.  Geez, I don't know why I saved it for so long.  Maybe the time never seemed right?  Maybe I worried it would be boring?  I've seen Patty live in concert four times for various album tours and she is an total pleasure and joy to watch.  And, damn if I don't cry every time I see her!  Heck, I don't even have to see her live; sometimes it's simply listening to one of her cd's (yep, I own all of them).  Her angelic voice singing her beautifully sad and moving songs from the heart and they just, well, they just touch my soul.

So, I'm "watching" Patty sing as I'm doing this and that, but find myself not doing anything else but staring at the tv as I'm enthralled with her amazingness, reliving past concert experiences, most of them with my mom, and how we both cried during different songs as they touched us in different ways, and I'm simply enjoying the moment and nothing else.  And then, like on queue, I start tearing up and crying as she performs one of her most haunting songs, "Sweet Lorraine".

Wow.  I guess I needed a good cry and I didn't even know it.

It was then that I realize why I haven't watched this recording for seven months.  I was waiting for today, on this quiet drizzly melancholic mellow first Monday of October day.  This is all I really needed to do today.

It makes me smile (and ya, sometimes cry) when life reveals exactly what I need when I need it.  Like when I'm at dinner with a friend who invited me and I realize how much I needed to get out and be social, or when my man rubs my surprisingly tight shoulders with a you-seem-really-stressed shoulder massage, or when I laugh so hard my eyes water as I hold my stomach and I realize it's been months since I laughed like that, I mean really laughed from deep down, and I feel much much better for doing it.  Yep, today was just like that.

"Most everything means nothing, except some things that mean everything."  - Patty Griffin

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ravioli vs reality

Last weekend I went out of town for four days.  FOUR glorious carefree days away from my everyday life.  I stayed in a rented beach house right across the street from the ocean.  Uh huh.  Oh ya.  Total bliss dipped in sunny goodness.

Of course I love my family and my life, but I desperately longed for a break from it all.  I was starting to see molecules in the air, my house felt about as big as my refrigerator, and I had visions of shaving off my daughter's hair because I couldn't handle another minute of her screaming like I was pulling out her fingernails before I even touched her rats nest hair with the brush!  Walls closing in, random crying alone in my bedroom, one centimeter left of patience, too many glasses bottles of wine, and a profound inability to feel any inspiration other than taking odd (but admittingly cute) pictures of the backyard squirrels were just a few clues that I needed a change of scenery.

So, me and three other longtime girlfriends (and previous traveling companions) escaped from our very different lives and convened just over three hours up north in a quaint little beach town.  Oh, but not before stopping for lunch at a wonderful restaurant I discovered a few years ago on another girlfriend weekend away for one of my favorite and BEST DISHES EVER CREATED ON THE PLANET.  A total masterpiece in every exquisite fresh and buttery bite. I dream and drool about this dish.  Even the waitress said she would eat this ravioli if she had to request her last meal.  Yep, it's that good.

With my getaway starting off with an unbelievable meal like this, it would be all downhill from there, right?  WRONG!  I had a great time.  I walked on the beach every day collecting shells and sand dollars while bird watching, touching strange spongy rocks covered with sea anemones and starfish, smiling, and washing away my worries with every breath of the cathartic ocean air.
We shopped and ate like tourists, played hilarious board games, drank coffee every morning on the balcony overlooking the ocean, munched on indulgent snacks and sweets that filled the counter and fridge (btw, calories don't count when you are on a girlfriend getaway), talked, laughed, laughed, laughed, watched movies, napped, read, explored neat rock covered beaches, danced, sang, and...let go.  Oh, and I found an old Santa (and my first Mrs. Claus) for my Santa collection at a really neat antique consignment shop that I could've spent hours at exploring all three floors. I didn't wash a single dirty dish (thanks Amy!), or cook a single meal (thanks yummy restaurants and snack foods, especially the chocolate dipped strawberries made by Terri!), or drive anyone anywhere (thanks Christy, our tour guide!).  Totally pampered.

I felt at peace, content, happy, relaxed, and reconnected with my friends and most importantly...with myself.  And above all, thankful for the opportunity, money to afford it, my good friends, and supportive family.
Then...I went home.

I came home to a sick son and having to take care of him while bracing for more sick members of the family.  On Thursday, my daughter barfed in the car, then spiked a fever, and also stayed home from school for two days.  There was a day or so in between fevers and barfing and rinsing noses, but the time feels totally lost and blurry.  With all this comes bickering cranky emotional kids, cooking three meals a day (I make a yummy chicken noodle, though), dirty dishes, bills, homework, being sneezed/barfed/cried/snotted on, etc., etc., etc., and the inevitable virus/cold/whatever-the-heck-it-is waiting to hit me any day now.  Hello reality!  Basically very little time to myself all week.  I'm exhausted from the loud reality of it all.

Can you say the total opposite from my pampered weekend at the beach?

Was my girlfriend getaway a total waste now that I'm home and dealing with all of this and feeling kind of sad and overwhelmed because it seems way more multiplied than normal after a weekend of such zen and fun?  Well, I can look at it a few different ways...

Cruel: Bwaahahahahahaha you dared to steal away to forget your responsibilities and obligations as a mother and wife!  You threw your little universe out of balance by having all that fun, so now you must pay and it's all your fault, you selfish you!

Guilt:  While you were away having all that fun without them, your family needed you and obviously suffered greatly in your absence.  You should be able to have fun at home and be grateful for what you have because your life is pretty good compared to many others suffering and in far worse situations than you.

Life: This is just how life goes.  You need this time away to replenish, rejuvenate, and get centered. To be YOU.  You are no good to your family if you remain depleted and resentful.  Your kids are totally affected by your state of mind, good or bad, and mental health is just as important as exercise and eating fiber.  Embrace the ups and downs of this roller-coaster ride that is called life.

Honestly, I know the real truth is that it's just life; it is what it is.  But those cruel and guilty feelings have a yucky way of creeping into my thoughts.  Lucky for me, I can simply accept that fact and swat that negativity away with happy memories of that magnificent ravioli dish, my hilarious girlfriends, and lots more good times during this and other getaways in my past (and hopefully in my future).  I am so glad I gift myself a true break away from it all once in a while.  After plenty of practice over the years, it's become an important part of who I am and helps me deal with the not-so-fun stuff a little bit better.  It's good to remind myself that it's worth the fallout when I'm feeling drained like I am at this very moment.  Absolutely positively worth it.