The last few months of 2008 were a little mind-blowing in a "I'll let you know when I've finished processing that" kind of way.
Have you ever gotten busy and let your house go? You know what I mean...skip the laundry, dusting, cleaning, tidying, vacuuming and so forth and one day, walk in, notice the mess and dirt and think, "Holy crap, how did it get this big and bad so fast and where in the world do I start?"
Have you ever just backed out of the house and decided to find errands to run and a good excuse to eat out in order to avoid the mess and all you have to do?
I haven't written much because I've been so overwhelmed, and had no way of figuring how to break it down and which one thing to tackle first.
The next thing I knew, the things I wanted to say had piled up on top of one another and I? had no time to get to it, but more than that, it was such a cluttered jumble in my mind that I needed to break it down.
Let's go back a few months...
I traveled this year! Oh how I traveled! All on my own! And I liked it.
I went to San Francisco, Denver and Pittsburgh. I met friends I know through blogging, traveled the political wheel with writers I respect and politicians I tried hard not to show too much awe to, and listened to our country's foremost experts on the current state of the environment and its effect on our health.
I experienced and took in so much I had to play it cool while my mind slowly digested how! freaking! amazing! my life had become.
I went on the radio. My words traveled through many channels to reach many eyes.
My kids returned to school. Patience exploded as a strong and interested reader with an even stronger penchant for science, math and art. Persistence picked up letters and concepts with a rapidity that I think startled and sort of frightened us both.
We got hit by a hurricane. Some were hit harder than us, and some hit less hard. Some businesses are back, and some are gone forever. It's hard to tell a sad story without sounding self-pitying or pitiable. It's even harder to tell this story without sounding angry or entitled. It's harder still to tell our story without feeling ashamed because some have it so much worse. We took on damage. If we do all that we should, we'll spend over $35,000. Insurance gave about $3000. FEMA gave exactly $0.00. So we're getting creative, seeking financing, trying to be conservative without being frozen, and working to make good decisions that help us recover from this. Most especially, I want to reach a better balance of helping myself recover and helping others who are in need.
My husband and I both flipped another year older and celebrated 15 years of marriage. That's right...fifteen. years. married. This officially means I am practically dead even in time with knowing and being in a relationship with him as long as I didn't know him.
Stop a second...what a concept.
The kids flipped another year older, and suddenly, for birthday and Christmas presents, I realized Patience had gotten so much more sophisticated this year, so much older, that I was stymied what to get her. I was no longer shopping for both kids in the "little girl" aisles. I got her speakers for her iPod, and we set up a CD player with her own stash of CDs in her room. Sometimes she retreats there, closes her door, and listens to music. Do you know what this makes me see? The Tween years looming.
Persistence, after having clung to the toddler-ness of being a toddler until the very last second, was suddenly All Done with the toddler years. By age she was no longer a toddler, and by mind, too. She was determined to be a Big Girl, keep up with Big Girls, do all that Big Girls can do. She wants to read, too. She wants to fix her own food, too. She chooses her own clothes, fixes hair, and makes her bed. She loves to play with friends, and her most important achievement right now to her is the ability to pump her legs and swing herself. Riding a bike is a close second.
And that means, officially, we have two children, one of whom likes to remind me that she is this close to being ten. What is the significance of ten I ask. That's the age upon which she seems to expect a Granting of No Longer a Little Girl rights. I hope I get some official booklet in the mail because honestly, I'm not sure what those rights might be. The right to get locked in an ivory tower, perhaps.
We were suddenly done with babies. At first, the freedom was liberating, but then I felt a wee bit of that sting of emptiness.
People seemed to sense this---both the being done with babies and my sting---and they started asking about more kids (because two isn't enough? or we can't possibly be satisfied with children of the same sex?). They do this despite my age, my health, and my infertility. And for the first time in a long time, I have felt the sharp bite of Being Infertile again. No, no there cannot be a "last minute baby" for us.
By November, when I went in to see my general practitioner for my annual physical, I realized what was happening: I was feeling the youthness of my life edging away and I was feeling my age.
I turned my head to gaze at a poster on her wall. It read: If you took typewriting classes in high school, it's time to see an internist.
Holy crap, I thought, that's me! That poster means me! My age group!
That cemented it for me.
I'm getting older. My kids are getting older. My cats passed on. My dog's schnoz is graying. So is my hair, and my husband's. The youth portion of life? Has ended.
It had been coming on for a while, this feeling.
In San Francisco I demurred away from some late night running parties...I had to get up early and needed my sleep. In Denver I let some events pass by. In Pittsburgh I listened to some other people talk about oh-so-very-much that they do and I thought, that's cool for you but me? I am in a simplify mode. I am in a focus mode. I am in a triage my priorities mode.
To what end? I ask this a lot lately.
I've started looking at older people with an intense interest. Today as I did my paces around the track, an older man joined me. We crossed several times because he was slower and walking clockwise while I was speedy and counterclockwise. This seemed meaningful, hinting at some sort of metaphor. He carried on at his unhurried pace, unmotivated, uninterested or unable maybe to go any faster. He felt no pressure to do anything beyond what he came there to do, at his own pace. Meanwhile, I moved forward as quickly as I could.
I told my husband last night that I do this every day for three reasons: endorphin rush, to look damn good for my age, and to be healthy. "As long as I have my priorities straight," I joked.
As 2008 closed, the birthdays past, the holidays sealed shut and gotten through okay, I made that vow to myself, a resolution if you will: to get and keep my priorities straight.
A lot of what I've done the last year has been good and brought some incredible times my way. I'll never forget the amazing parts of 2008.
But some of it came at a cost, one I might not be willing to pay long term. A lot of what I do is so very, very competitive. It demands much, gives little but I do it because when it does pay out, it can be amazing.
I've been thinking a lot about how much I prefer my little locally-owned grocery store, and the little clothes boutique near it. I've been thinking about how I like little spaces, with concentrated and focused choices. I've been thinking about how maybe I need to apply that more liberally through other parts of my life: give myself permission to stick to the little, to my preferences.
So this past year I tried out different yeses and noes. Some were right, some were wrong, and this year I think I'll build on that.
Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying my children: Patience and her self-created books, where her writing is catching up with her art, and her new sympathy and understanding that reflects that her self is growing as much as her body; Persistence, with her sunny giving nature and love of fashion and books, the new care she applies to her independence, which she doesn't seem the need to fight for just as fiercely. I'll also enjoy my husband, because who doesn't appreciate the person with whom you can communicate with through grunts and gestures (and a little mind reading) when words (or cell phones) fail you, as they seem to more and more these days.
And I'll try to break it down, and bring out a little more, one at a time, again here.