Monday, January 19, 2015
My year: Extraordinary. World altering. Big.
I'm working on my life's makeover version 10.0....or maybe it's version 45. I swear I've more than my share of life makeovers, struggling to find my place in the world, and sometimes making dramatic changes to make that life happen.
My family of origin doesn't understand my life most of the time. When I wanted to buy a Eurorail pass and travel Europe when I was in college, they told me it was a "stupid, wasteful" idea, and that I wouldn't be safe, and that a woman shouldn't do such things. When I got a job in corporate America, my family moaned that I was an old maid and said, "Why aren't you married?" (I am not making up the old maid thing. I was married near my 30th birthday, and my parents repeatedly told me that I was an old maid. When I got married, they told Bryan "Thank you for preventing her from being an old maid," without a hint of irony or humor.) They do not understand where I choose to live (within the city limits of a large city, in a neighborhood with -gasp!- people of color and GBLT folks, where houses are not all painted nearly identical shades of taupe), or my politics, or the fact that I have stepped away from my childhood's faith. They can hardly imagine how I have become a forty-something divorced single working mother with lefty-liberal politics, working in non-profit.
They have learned to accept me for some of these things. It is impossible to dismiss the happiness that some of my choices have brought me, and if you listened to my mother talk about the trip to Europe twenty-some years ago, it sounds like a) she was in full support the whole time, and that b) she lives vicariously through that trip. Revisionist history, perhaps, but I am also aware that it's her way of trying to connect with me.
Cancer was one hell of a life makeover. Not only did it alter my body permanently, it also altered the rest of me. It showed me parts of myself that had only been hinted at previously, and gave me a glimpse of what I was capable of. I put that glimpse into full working mode with my divorce, facing the idea that maybe, just maybe, I could transition from stay-at-home-mom-cancer-patient to a working single mother without collapsing and dying in the process. But was even more than that, as big as that was: it was the idea that outside of my marriage was something deeper and bigger than I'd allowed myself to dream of, and that I wanted something more than the life I was living. To life my life fully, I needed divorce, and the life makeover that came with that.
So far, so good. I've gone from fighting for my life, scrambling for the basics, to exhaling. I have a happy life.
Isn't that wonderful? What a sentence, "I have a happy life." I do not take that short little sentence lightly, I do not forget that it is extraordinary and not at all a given. I have health, a strong relationship with my daughter, a warm and comfortable home. I am surrounded by dear friends, books, safety, interests. There is always food in my refrigerator, and happy little stashes of light bulbs and batteries and toilet paper and toothpaste in the drawers and cupboards. Music plays. There are pretty mugs to drink coffee in, a yard with a swingset. When it's cold, I wear a down coat or a wool one, depending upon the event; when it's hot, I can choose which pair of sandals to wear. There are invitations to join friends, school events, people gathered around my table.
None of that is taken for granted, not even for one second.
And now I am ready for something more.
2014 brought about some amazing things in my life. I went from a job back to a career - a hard fought battle, and I won! I do work that is meaningful in the world, and that makes me want to do a happy little dance. But that's not all! Buying a new car - not a "it's not much more than functional, but it will do" car, but a shiny new car with a few bells and whistles that makes me feel happy to get into it. It's so symbolic: I committed to this big expense with the belief that I could handle it....and that I was worth it. Believing that I am worth it, that I need not feel guilt over having nice things, well, that's new. And extraordinary.
And there's more: Skiing! Skiing is a rich people's sport, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A pair of decent gloves costs $50+ dollars, and gloves are the least of it. But I have wanted to turn my daughter into a skier since before she was born, and at last, I'm doing it. It's not practical...but it's important to me. It's living fully. It's a chance to do physical activity (and let's not forget, our great ideas are nothing if we are not alive to think them), to be out in nature, to bond with my daughter over a mutual activity. It's a chance to be social with like minded people. It's a chance to get out of Seattle rain in the winter. And it's a chance to feel the joyful "whoosh!" of speed, the laughter of landing in a snowbank, the thrill of the quick turn executed successfully. It's a chance to stretch ourselves and learn something new, to test our bodies. And it's also cocoa in a thermos waiting in the car, and coming home to watch a movie, tired but happy.
And I made it happen. In borrowed ski pants for me, and hand me down ski coat for Tessa; with neck warmers purchased in about 1990, and ski goggles that are equally ancient; with rental equipment in the shiny new rack on top of my shiny new car, we did it.
And it's time for more. Much, much more.
I am ready for the next step in my career, and I have my eyes set upon something beautiful. I had a meeting last week with a local cancer agency, and I feel that the possibility is strong that I will work for them (likely in late spring, if my gut is correct). It would come with a big raise - not to be taken lightly, as it would be life altering financially - but that isn't the half of it. It would also come with the chance to make an even bigger difference in the world. It would test my new professional skills, and also give me more tools professionally. It would allow me to work with "the best."
I am not thinking small. I am thinking BIG. And I am on my way.
And writing: I'm onto something, and I feel it, and there has been a shift in the wind, and I'm about to do something more than I've ever done before. I have my Big Idea and it's unfolding every day, and I'm going to make it happen.
I am absolutely finished with living small. Done. Do you hear me? I mean this. I am so absolutely tired of thinking small: of fighting to pay the mortgage with enough left over for classroom field trip fees. I'm tired of a boss who borders on the ridiculous, thinking small while puffing himself up in an order to appear large (and in the process, looking, well, puffy); I'm ready for a boss who is a mentor and who brings out the best in me. I'm tired of staying so close to home, and I want to travel. I'm tired of telling myself that I'm nobody special and my writing will never amount to anything more than journaling. I have something to say, and this year I AM GOING TO SAY IT. I am going to ski (that's big!) and make my career take off and hike to beautiful places and travel (not sure about that one yet, only that I'm working on it) and I'm going to do all of this with my beautiful daughter at my side and enjoy all the tiny moments and revel in the giant leaps.
And love. I will not forget romantic love. I have some things left to learn, and I am going to work hard at learning them. I do not have a plan, but I do have a new openness that was missing before; an openness to recognizing where I have room to grow. Stay tuned on that, it's new, but I am working on it.
2015 is going to be my year. I'm going to work hard at making it happen, and I am going to work on it being BIG.
This is my year of "Yes." Bring it on!
Where have you been living small? What is your "big" and what are you doing to reach it? What is your "YES"? I'd love to hear your story, too. We're in this together, so let's do it!