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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Making Friends with Change

As I sit writing this, there is a Christmas tree in the corner of the room. And on that tree is not one of my ornaments. The ornaments I’ve collected for 37 years. They, along with all the rest of my belongings have been in storage for a year.

I am wary of change. I’ve always liked things to be safe...predictable. Years ago I sat in a pew at First Parish Brewster and listened to Jim Robinson tell us - change is your friend and tried to believe that.

I clung to those words as I went through more changes than I can count. Divorce, children leaving for college, my parents deaths, breakups, loss of friendships, and job changes. For someone who has feared change as much as I have, I’ve been through a boatload of it.

So you may wonder,  why are all my things in storage?

Last year I sold my house. The house I’d lived in for 18 years. It was a house my former husband and I had built. I’d picked out every tile, light fixture and color. Even though it was too much for me financially and physically I clung to it. After so many changes, so many losses, this home was the only security I had. But with my back to the wall I took a leap of faith and sold it.

I will spare you the details of the awful, protracted and acrimonious real estate deal I went through, but suffice it to say, my fantasy of handing over my lovely home to someone who was wonderful and would love it the way I did, and having some security was dispelled. But I let go.  

Faith is what gets you through change. It is what allowed me to put one foot in front of another and keep going even when that felt impossible.

I have moved three times since January. I have not been able to find a year-round rental, and it’s been a struggle. After moving in with my boyfriend into his winter rental last January, I was positive by summer I’d find something. I didn’t. Thankfully, one of my dearest friends took us in for those eight weeks we had to leave. During that time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she and I both immediately knew that’s why I was there.

That’s the thing about change, it often isn’t until you’re in the middle of it, or slightly on the other side of it that you see the why. It’s having faith in knowing you don’t have to know, it’s trusting that maybe there’s a reason, and that change will lead you to a better more interesting place.

My marriage ended so I could grow into the person I was supposed to become. My son’s descent into and recovery from heroin addiction made me a better person. A stronger, more compassionate, less judgmental person. Selling my house and not having my things has made me see how little they really matter. It’s friendships, family and love that matter, not stuff.

It may be that despite myself I have begun to make friends with change, to be less afraid of it. I will still often try to avoid it, but I’ve learned a new motto, something I learned from the world of improv. When life throws me an opportunity to do something that challenges me, that scares me, instead of running away I have learned to say yes, please, and I have to say, my life has become much richer, fun, and interesting because of it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Just A Little Lie

I was asked to write a story about a lie to read at an event. This is the one I recalled from my childhood. I hope you enjoy it!

I was an unusual child. A bit more worrisome, a bit more sensitive, never quite like everyone else. I always spent a lot of time alone amusing myself like I’m sure everyone did, by playing library with my dolls and stuffed animals.

I was scared of the life size doll who lived in the back of my closet, monsters under my bed and the dark.

I may have been a scardy cat, but I never lied. except the time I peed in a box in my closet when I was four, because, well, why not? After discovering the evidence my mom told me, quite sternly that we had been going to do something special that afternoon, but because of what I had done we weren’t She died five years ago having never told me what that special something was. The not knowing still haunts me.

With a history of not lying, and pretty much being a good girl to the enth degree, I set off for my first day of first grade. My outfit had been carefully planned - a smocked, plaid dress, new Mary Janes, ankle socks and a brand new super poofy petticoat that crinkled when I walked. I was a vision of five-year-old splendor.

What I now realize is I was so focused on how adorable my outfit was I failed to realize that once we got to school, me in my super cute outfit, that my Mom would be leaving. Leaving as in, I’d be alone with complete strangers. What was she thinking?!

I’d gone to a private kindergarten, but that was kid’s play compared to real school. This was the big time - more kids! Recess! Desks! All day long! Well, I would be walking home for lunch with my brother, but I was essentially being thrown out into the world for up to three hours at a time. I panicked. My brother was long gone into the super secret world known as  fifth grade. I was abandoned, alone - except for my teacher and 20 other kids. But for all intents and purposes I was totally alone.

Before class the teacher had us go out on the playground to get some fresh air and get acquainted. Alright, this could be good. A little hopscotch, a little jump rope. I could totally do this. I killed at jump rope.

But the thing was, no one came over to me to ask me to play. I stood there alone, too shy (or as I later discovered many self-help books later) introverted to approach anyone, and no one was seeking me out.

So, in a moment of what I now realize is pretty genius thinking, I did the only thing my five-almost six-year-old brain could think of. I grabbed my eye and started to cry. A teacher came running over, understandably concerned and asked me what was wrong.

“I have a piece of glass in my eye!” I wailed.Where this idea came from I have no idea, but looking back I think, well played little Candy.
Soon I was surrounded by all sorts of teachers, and the principal. What I could not comprehend at the time was that my father was their boss. A newly minted wunderkind superintendent brought in to fix an ailing school system. And here they were - first day of school and they had broken his only daughter. My mother was immediately summoned.

I’m sure on sight my mother knew the truth, but back in her arms everything felt okay once again. We walked home, me still insisting my eye hurt. She played along, rinsing it with some water, putting a  warm compress - her answer for everything - on it. I had some graham crackers and thought, okay, day one was done. But no, after lunch she took me back.

I ended up falling in love with my teacher, Miss Kennedy, the prettiest teacher ever. I was not the only one to fall for her however, one month into the school year she got married and left. My father was never able to secure another full time teacher for our class and we ended up with 22 substitutes over the school year. You can rightfully assume I didn’t handle all those changes very well, but I never pretended to have glass in my eye again.  From that day on I took a far more dignified approach - crying in a stall in the girl’s bathroom. A coping strategy I still  to this day find quite effective.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Next New Thing

I recently upended my life. On purpose. And now I'm thinking, now what?

I decided last fall to sell my home of 17 years, which, as such a decision will, set forth a cascade of emotions, and more work than I ever could have expected. But now it's over. I've moved and I am feeling a little...lost.

We are not defined by our four walls, but they are the nest that holds us. The launching pad we thrust ourselves out into the world from. When the nest is gone, we lose a little bit of our sense of self.

Freed of a ridiculous amount of financial stress I feel like I can breathe again, And being a good student of years of therapy, and a life coach myself, I am practicing a lot of self-care, a term I must admit makes me cringe just a little. But I am taking care of myself. I joined a gym and go everyday, and am taking yoga three times a week. I am trying hard to put body and soul back together one downward facing dog at a time.

While most of my belongings are in storage while I figure out a longer term plan, I was smart enough to bring pieces of home with me. I am sleeping in my own bed, making bread dough in my Kitchen-Aid mixer, putting my feet up on my coffee table, and of course, snuggling with my cats. I am also living with a man who loves me very much, and whom I love. It's all good. I am supported, loved and healthy. So why do I feel so insecure? At times so scared?

It's because I've stepped out of my comfort zone, and that's always scary. It's the same part of us that stays in a relationship that isn't working because at least it's familiar. Even though I had an almost constant stomach ache over worrying about money, I was in MY house where I felt safe. I'm thinking this is an amended definition of insanity - continuing to do something that is incredibly stressful because to think of doing something else is way too scary.

I truly don't know what's next and it's the most exciting and frightening thing ever. I don't know where I'm living come July, but I have faith that it will all work out. I know it will. I have a writing partner I adore who challenges and inspires me to do more and to dream big.

Maybe that's the big takeaway - allowing myself to dream again. To shake off the shackles of servitude to a piece of property. My children are all grown and successfully living their lives and I can, for the first time since becoming a mom at 21, just think about what I want to do next.

The unknown is kind of a scary place for a control freak. I'm trying to make friends with it, and little by little I am. I have my moments where I miss my home so much it hurts, but when I remember the reality, that it was a very one-sided relationship, it helps. We needed to break up. It was time. And now there's a lot of room for all sorts of new things to bubble to the surface and I can't wait to see what's next. I think.