New Year and Old Struggles – (Warning: Lengthy Rant)

It’s a brand new year!

And… all the stuff I wanted to have organized, cleaned out, simplified, decided and completed are still staring at me — threateningly.

Januarys are tough on me. I get this urge to purge in the fall of each year, this  overpowering need to re-evaluate every single thing about my life and give it a  “checkmark” for ontrack or a complete overhaul if it’s off the mark.

This year, a whole boatload of poo hit the fan just as the first week of December was coming to an end — and the work I’d done to clear myself some scheduled time to work on preparing for the new year was suddenly taken over and then some, along with new demands on my time… and on my conscience.

First, my youngest son wanted to move home on December 16th. A trip to court (initiated by the ex) culminated in my son wanting to come home with me immediately following court. It wasn’t a pretty situation for someone Derrick’s age and I wish things had been easier for him with his father. But that didn’t happen and I ended up renting a room in a local hotel and staying there for several days to enable my son complete his finals before making the move home.

I had to take him to the store to get some clothes to attend school as well since the ex (charmer that he is and always has been) refused to allow us to come and pick up the child’s clothing while in town. Derrick hasn’t spoken to his father since that court date, and although I can’t blame him… although I have my own very opinionated stance on WHO should have acted like the adult between the two of them… I still cannot help but feel terrible that he’s lost his connection with his father. But, at the same time, I can’t insist that he call. I can’t browbeat him for his choice. I just hope they work it out in the future. The NEAR future — for both of their sakes.

Hubby is a gem, he not only encouraged me to spend whatever time I needed helping Derrick cram for exams and get his semester finished up, he also didn’t complain that I was breaking the family budget by camping out in a hotel for several days right after cutting our budget to the bone to pay off the last of our credit cards before the end of the year to meet my “no credit card” goal for 2006 — and all this happens (of course) right before Christmas.

My eldest son, during this period, was told he couldn’t stay in his father’s home and, at the ripe old age of 17, left his father’s house to strike out on his own. I don’t approve — but I don’t approve of many of my son’s choices and his actions lately, and I signed over legal custody of the boy when he went to live with his father three years ago. He left my house earlier in 2005 after staying here only a couple months because there are rules here and rules apparently chafe when you aren’t accustomed to them. He went back to live with his father, and a few short months later, he’s on his own. He will probably make it, he’s smart and strong, but it’s a big bite to chew at his age.

I love him dearly, but worry about what will happen next. I did get a call from him today, and he’s got a job — which is a good first step. He left me a message on my machine, and I’m anxious to learn more about the news, but he’s without a phone right now. Personally, I just hope he finishes school. He’s three credits shy of his diploma, and with his new-found adult responsibilities, I’m afraid the importance of finishing these details may be lost in the shuffle.

It’s so hard to keep from helping him. I did take in a laundry-basket “care package” before Christmas of food and essentials. I can’t give him cash… I know he has to work this out. I know it’s the “natural consequences” kicking in of his choices and that I must let him learn from them… but it’s difficult. It’s hard to let him work his way out. I know, as my father reminded me, we all have to go through this, but I was a couple years older. And it was easier to do it myself than to watch one of mine do it. My parents assure me that it’s always harder to watch your children struggle than to struggle yourself.

Anyway, that’s been stressful. Derrick’s horrible grades, after a history of good ones, was a terrible shock too. I knew his grades had dropped, but I had no idea how much. I hope he’s happier back here at home and that I can encourage him to excel in school again. He was gone 11 months. I missed him while he was away… but the son I have now is different than the son that left home a year ago. He’s still my boy, but things inside have changed, and I’m having to get to know him again. “Visitation” doesn’t give much opportunity for that, no matter how much you talk, how open the relationship and how many phone calls there are back and forth each week.

Alex’s grandmother (on her father’s side) was very ill over Christmas. The ex called me and asked me to take her to visit. I did — and when I called to make arrangements, with my ex-father-in-law, I found out she was in the hospital. One thing led to another, and I ended up sitting in the hospital with this woman I admire and had always enjoyed. But this was not under the normal circumstances of our passing of the time. She was on the downhill slide of the ravages of diabetes and a host of other, probably related, ailments. Our conversations were mostly one sided, but she didn’t want me to stop talking. She wanted to listen to people talk, to be read to, to hear music. She wanted company.

Again, I have a wonderful husband. Few men would understand that I felt compelled to stay when she asked me not to leave, to help her to eat when she said she was hungry, and to talk with her about what a legacy her granddaughter was — how they share so much in common — how Alex loves to read, just like she does… how Alex is enamored of horses, just like she is… how Alex is stubborn and brilliant, just like she is. She only offered small phrases in response, but she listened to every word I offered. She understood everything around her. She seemed trapped — mentally alert with a traitor for a body.

My husband understood. He said… I don’t view her as your ex-husband’s mother, she’s our daughter’s grandmother and she’s important to you and to Alex. I understand that you need to stay when she needs you to stay. So I stayed. Alex took a horse book up and read to her grandmother the last time she saw her in the hospital, and it was obvious that her Granny was pleased.

I will admit it was a strange situation, but her husband, her daughter and her younger son said it was ok that I was there, that they were glad I had come and that I came back over the course of several days. Even the ex asked me to stay and feed her when she asked for me, and he left the room so I could.

They took her home Thursday before last. She passed away day before yesterday. My former father-in-law called me just an hour after her passing and told me where the arrangements would be made and what funeral home was handling things.

Today, my husband and my daughter and I attended the visitation at the funeral home. I’m really going to miss that lady. And I hope that the family weathers the storm. Now, despite the fact that I felt a little odd about sitting with her, I know my gut was right. It was the right thing to do. And today, at the visitation, her own daughter thanked me for helping her mother while she was in the hospital. I wish I could have done more.

Alex has been full of questions, and I answered the ones I could, but the one that I couldn’t, the one that reaffirms that Alexzandria is one very OLD soul in one very young girl… was this one:

“I have another question, Mommy, but I know you can’t answer it for me.”

I replied, “Well, ask me and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Why,” she said, “did my Granny have to be taken away from me so soon?”

I told her that she was right, that I didn’t know the answer to that question, but that I did know that Granny was sick and had been sick for a long time, and that she was very uncomfortable and that she was tired of hurting… so tired of it that she was ready to go.

Alex just listened, nodded once and that was the end of the questions. She looked so mature in that moment, so wise, so accepting. And a few moments later, she was in “little girl” mode again, jabbering about nothing.

Alex just turned 8 last week, and Hubby’s birthday was in the same week. Mine is later this month, and it’s a “landmark” one.

Derrick is almost settled in here at home, but there’s still a sense of turmoil for him, and we just got him enrolled in the new school last week, following Christmas break.

We also added three new pets to the family (more on these in another post later) and I must say that the last month, which also included Christmas and the New Year, has required more juggling than I find comfortable.

I’m ready to take a vacation — and the holidays are barely over. I’ve hit a whole new level of understanding that the decisions you make in your youth will impact you for decades — especially when those decisions involve marriage and children and eventually lead to divorce. If there was one thing I could hammer into my children, it would be that they should pick well, when shopping for a spouse — that they should wait 3-5 years after marriage before bringing my grandchildren into the world and that they should be sure, when selecting, that the other party has the parenting skills, the devotion, the honesty and the humanity that they want to see reflected in their own children. I want my own children to not endure divorce and the long-range results of it. I believe in marriage. Always have. But it takes two — and it has to be a priority for both parties ALL the time. This, I wish I could pass on.

There have been so many instances, so many “ah-ha” moments lately, so much sadness and joy, so much bittersweet surrounding the holidays that I’ve not had the heart to blog — not about the personal stuff. It’s been overflowing inside. I feel like my soul is full and needs to be sorted and purged, things and thoughts, feelings and actions need to be assigned their proper place and put to rest.

I’m ready to move on into this brave new world of 2006 — but I’ve not caught up on all my client projects, I’ve not read the six new books I ordered to become expert level in three different software packages over the holidays, I didn’t “rest up” and I didn’t do the annual planning, evaluation and purging that IS what a new year means to me.

It’s only 8 days into the new year, and already I feel a couple months behind schedule. I’m full. I want to find a focus and a clarity that evades me at the moment. Maybe next week will be better, maybe some of the turmoil is in the past now. Maybe I can find some silver linings for all the incidents, heartaches, stresses and demands that preceded, attended and followed the holidays this year… but I think it may take a few days. It may even take longer.

I’m sad and thankful, hopeful and stressed, overflowing emotionally and still looking for the right balance.

I’m beginning to think that I spent my 30’s stressing out and proving myself to me. I built a business, raised kids and proved everyone who doubted my goals wrong… and now, although I love my life, I’d like to slow down and enjoy it a bit more. I don’t have anything else to prove to me… except that I can learn to slow down, to be more patient, to be a better person and to make more of a difference with my life.

Next week I turn 40. I plan to retire at 52. I have so much to do to be ready in a dozen years. And, what I would like most to learn to do is relax… but I don’t know how. If age is supposed to bring wisdom and experiences (especially challenging ones) are supposed to help you to mature… shouldn’t I be farther along the path than I am now? Shouldn’t I feel more enlightened and less overwhelmed?

Shouldn’t I be better at picking my battles, wiser at calculating what’s worth the fight, what will benefit from my time and effort, those things that I can change, and the big question… is it possible for me to make a meaningful contribution to this world… or is it merely my job to learn to “be” and to learn to meditate and be more zen-like in my acceptance of life as an experience rather than a mission?

I dunno, right now. Right now, I just feel like rambling, I guess. I am at the “all scattered” stage… the total breaking apart of my thoughts and goals… that always happens just prior to life-altering decisions and changes. I’m standing on the brink, but I’m not sure which way to step. So, I’ll probably just teeter here a bit, try to collect my thoughts, search for a little meaning and meditate some on what my gut is REALLY trying to tell me.

Each year I learn a little more, each year I get a little more comfortable in my own skin and I enjoy what I do a little more. Each year life improves, but each year I’m impatient. And this year is no exception. I feel that I’m not learning fast enough, that there’s too much about life that I am still missing.

God has given me so much, my life is so blessed, and my options are wildly varied and seemingly limitless — which is a scary blessing. I want to be more open, more accepting of the universe, more open to “loving kindness” and more instep with the ancient wisdoms and teachings of the Zen masters… and yet, patience (or lack of it) keeps muddying my vision. How can I learn to just be when I can’t wait to GET to “just being”? And, how DOES a person like me, learn lessons like that? Do I need to strip my life of the distractions? Clear my desk? Make a personal vision quest? Take a nap? Or just hope this horrible agitation with myself just works itself out?

*Shrug*

I dunno, but I am tired of ranting in circles now, so I’ll bring this to an end. Now, I’ll go play with my new pet… and try to clear my mind and relax a bit tonight. Tomorrow will bring new challenges, I’m certain of that. And I’ll have to be ready to deal with those then.

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