Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Wow. Time passes so quickly when you're immersed in living. I last posted a column several months ago, though I've thought many times to myself, "Oh! This would make a great essay!" as an intriguing idea or topic coursed through my brain. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to acclimate to waking at 6:00 almost daily; by 9:30pm, I'm wiped out. And those hours in between are spent working, ferrying kids back and forth, fixing meals, shopping for meals, or trying to keep up with this giant house and its many needs. I, a voracious reader, have not cracked open a book in weeks. That's criminal.
But it's almost my birthday, and that is the time of year at which I look back and take stock of my life. I will turn 47 this weekend. Forty-seven! That's almost 50. That's almost a half-century. That's almost...old. Older. Kind of old. I am grinning as I type because no matter how I word it, 47 is older than I ever thought I would live to be. I'm sure if Dad is reading this, he can remember when I, in all seriousness, declared my certainty that I would not make it past 19 because everyone on the planet annoyed the shit out of me. I am returning that favor to my teenagers these days, who find me obnoxiously annoying simply because I draw breath. I've tried to accommodate them by experimenting with ways to inhale and exhale (read: live) without actually opening my airways. Fun Fact: It's impossible. And so...I annoy them.
But seriously, as I recollect the past 365 days of my existence, I marvel at how different my life is now compared to then. When we are actually in the moments that comprise our days, it is nearly impossible to recognize those that will eventually be acknowledged as life-altering. But reflection offers crystal-clear magnification; it allows us to view our lives as a sort of slide show. Oh, look! There's Becky and Tavia holding up the Christmas tree that wants so badly to fall over, and hey! Here come's Tuck through the front door to save the day.
Another slide reveals a surprised and visibly elated Tuck as his eclectic group of friends surround him in celebration of his 15th birthday in what Tuck eventually described as the best party he's ever had.
And in another scene, there I am, packing boxes and crying because I'm thoroughly exhausted and torn between needing to move on and not wanting to move my kids from the only home (and community, and friends) they've ever known.
I watch as the kids and I make the monumentally difficult decision to let go of our beloved Oliver, whose seizures claimed his canine dignity and comfort. We surround him with love there on the vet's office floor as he takes his last breath and gently lays his head in my hand. We say goodbye.
In my mind's eye I see myself growing more frustrated and beleaguered as I try to maintain the house I sacrificed to stay in all those years, the one I lovingly painted and decorated and made into a home. I can't physically do it alone. I can't stay there, being told that it's not really my house anyway, that somehow, all the sweat equity I've accrued over the 12 years means nothing. I weep, for all the disappointment and loss. And then I resolve to keep my splintered family together because whether these kids know it or not, we are strong enough to start over somewhere else and create something wonderful. Different, yes. But wonderful nonetheless.
My brain cannot think of the most challenging moments without also conjuring memories of those most rewarding and enriching. I see myself in Mexico with Rick, where we slept late and indulged ourselves in whatever way we felt like indulging. Time ceased to exist, and we just enjoyed basking in each other's company. The breathtaking sunsets and crashing waves of the Caribbean didn't hurt, either.
I see Rick again, reaching out to my kids with patience and a genuine desire to make them feel comfortable. He knows it's a tough crowd. My kids are loving, but they're products of my influence: They say what they think and they aren't exactly in a place of great trust. I watch as he gently enters the sphere of this family in a manner that is at once cautious and yet oddly confident. He recognizes the importance of building relationships with my children; he knows I value their feelings and opinions. He understands that to embrace me is also to embrace my tribe. As weeks pass, I watch them accept him, welcome him, tread easier around him. He is with us when he can be, and we always look forward to his arrival.
As the year winds to a close, I see us pile into the van: Max, Tuck, Bella, and I (Tavi stayed in Windsor a few days longer), along with our two remaining dogs, Kya and Scout. We drive 2000 miles across the country and I marvel that the trip is so uneventful and, well, smooth. Ok, as smooth as it can be with four people and two dogs in an enclosed, moving vehicle. All in all, that trip could have been a nightmare and was pleasantly not.
Then there we are, Max having left for foreign shores, the three kids and I searching for our place in this new community. There are good points and bad, and in my most recent poll, I am told by all three that they would not choose to be living in Colorado now. Yes, they miss their friends. Very much. Yes, Bella misses her dad. Yes, school is better in some ways, worse in others. Typical issues that accompany a typical move. I miss my friends too, achingly so. I miss my old office, which was beautiful and bright and the only space I've ever occupied that felt like it was truly and only mine.
But we are adjusting and finding things to appreciate: Bella and I especially love the ocean that sits right outside our front door. We love to go down to our pier, where I relax and she explores, showing me her found treasures. Tavi marvels at how quickly she's made friends, good friends, and how easily she transitioned into her school. Tuck has arguably struggled the most, but he also was the one who left the most behind, being oldest and having just embarked on a music career. But even he has found a core group of friends and has begun performing publicly. And we are all lucky because those people we love visit us. Our dear friends Jennie and Tim stayed for a few days. My sister was here to help us with the move. The girls' dad has visited once. Tavi's friend Ali just spent a week with us, and Tuck's friend Dakota will be here on Friday. I'm pretty certain to see Wendy and Tami here in Vacationland before 2012 comes to a close, and the girls are going back to Colorado for the second time in four months this weekend.
We are learning a lot. The move, which foisted our little gang into unfamiliar territory, brought us even closer. We have relied on one another in ways we didn't before, and I realized not long ago, as we sat around the dinner table and laughed and sang and talked, that my kids are friends. A stranger remarked on this phenomenon a couple weeks ago, when Max was visiting and we all were out together. She was amazed at how much my kids seem to like each other, and how much fun they had just talking with one another. I think our self-imposed exile from all that we had known made us appreciate each other more, even as we continue to fight and argue about things we one day will look back on and wonder why.
I also believe that this leap of faith has served to show my children how resilient and strong they are. What they did was not easy, and each has exacted a toll from me in his or her own way. I accept that, because what I essentially did was ask them to trust me, to believe in my wisdom, to blindly go far away. I asked them to think back on their own lives and consider if I had ever let them down or led them astray. I asked them if I'd ever lied to them, or even put my own needs or desires ahead of theirs. They knew I had not, and so they reluctantly took the leap with me. And ever so slowly, their new lives are unfolding. And whaddya know? Those lives aren't too shabby.
It's been a tough year. A tender year. An evolutionary year. A year that serves to remind that we are never too old to change, to grow, to risk. It's been a year that underscores the value in staying true to oneself, in recognizing a good thing when you see it and holding onto it. A year that reminded me that struggle is part of the glory, and trusting my gut is always the right thing to do.
And so I embark on my 48th year with gusto and a belief that the good I put out into the world is coming back to me in spades. I have the love of a solid man and love him back like nobody's business; my children are good, interesting people whom I adore; I get paid to do something I love, which in turn helps keep my family going; and I find something to laugh about every day. I wake up to the sound of sea gulls every morning and coffee brewing in the kitchen. I regret little and have much to appreciate.
I am joyful.