Monday, October 18, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #38: Madge, You're Soaking In It

Rocket Bar Wine, originally uploaded by Mr. T in DC.
I'm in a foul mood. Have been all day. Before 10 AM, I got so frustrated at work, I cried. CRIED. I never cry at work--hell, there are only a handful of people on this entire planet who have ever seen/heard me cry and today I cried at work. Yes, I'm somewhat mortified about that.

The day declined swiftly from there and I'm pretty sure the problem was half mine and half everyone else's (oh god, please tell me that wasn't all me). I tried to make myself a happier, nicer person today, but it seemed like I was just making things worse. Instead I continued to make a mess of my day, executing tasks without heart and snarling at at least two people who deserved my patience and attention instead.

On my way home, I was writhing inside, trying to buck up before I reached my apartment, and then I remembered--there was no one there. I was free to be as miserable and as lousy as I pleased.

I wasn't sad to be returning to an empty apartment--I was relieved. It was a comfort to know I could finally be alone with my angst (yes, apparently 38-year-olds get angsty), frustration and mean reds. Just me and my shitty mood, and my impolite thoughts and my ugly, unreasonable feelings and fears--all of us indulging each other here. That's right, I'm listening to Le Tigre and drinking wine in my underwear. You want to make something of it?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #37: A Chip Off The Old Block

Red Block, originally uploaded by Uwe Hermann.
My son is coming home for another visit this weekend. He texted today to inquire about such things as the weekend's menu, a hair appointment, laundry services (no dirty dishes this time), and social activities. We spent about a half an hour syncing up our schedules so that we could both spend time with each other and still have time to see our friends too.

While it's true, I go bananas missing the kid every day, I don't expect him to come home and hang out with me all weekend--that would be weird. And I love that he's got a bunch of friends he cares about and likes to hang out with.

While I was raising him, I payed special attention to fostering social confidence--probably because it's the trait that I worked the hardest to develop in myself and found most rewarding. It's nice to see that he enjoys a happy, healthy social life too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #36: This Here Guitar's Not Going To Play Itself

Guitar #1, originally uploaded by grange85.
I haven't played guitar in 10 years. Every now and then, I feel something that I can't articulate with words alone and I want to pick up my guitar, but it's been so long, and I'm so out of practice, I know I wouldn't be able to make it say what I'm feeling, so I leave it sit.

Recently, I took my guitar out and set it up in the middle of my living room so that I would have to look at it every day. The hope was that I would eventually pick it up and play it.

Today I did. From the sounds I made, you wouldn't have guessed that I ever played. It was horribly frustrating. The feelings I want to express are so much more sophisticated than my guitar-playing ability (if we can call it that). Looks like me and that guitar are going to have to get reacquainted.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #35: Did I Really Just Make A Marathon-Life Comparison?

DSC_0264, originally uploaded by lloyd89.
So, yeah. The marathon. I finished it. It was hot, and lots of people had a rough race. I especially had a rough race, but I finished.

While I was in the corral waiting to start I heard a song that triggered a memory of me ten years ago. I was in my car driving home from work and said song (a very sappy, cheery song) came on the radio. I started bawling because I was not cheery at all. My life was a complete mess, and about to get messier, and I couldn't see a day when I wouldn't wake up feeling like there'd been an atomic blast in my chest.

If you had told me then that not only would I stop hurting so much, I'd even feel good most of the time; and that I would figure myself out and still like me most of the time; and that I would be standing with 45,000 other people waiting to run 26.2 miles, I'd have thought you were either foolish or insincere. But there I was, staring at the starting line, feeling extra proud to be there.

When the race was over, I started thinking about that memory again and how that time in my life was sort of training for the mental part of the marathon. Just like the race, there were times in that awful era when things were too hard and didn't want to try any more, and worse still times when I didn't think I could try anymore. But yesterday when the weather was kicking my ass all over the course, I stopped for a second and asked myself what I had to do if I wanted to have any chance of finishing and decided that was something I wanted to do and something I could do. It took me a little longer than I had imagined, and it wasn't pretty, but I made it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #34: I Know A Lot Of Nice People

Shiny happy people, originally uploaded by Donna Cymek.
So, I'm about to take a little jog around the city. Maybe you've heard of it--the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Anyway, just about every friend I have has called, texted, IM-ed, tweeted or emailed me today to wish me good luck or ask how to help me on race day. Some of my work mates even had signs made for the race (they are super cool). They sent me a signed sign today and it almost made me c-r-y. The idea that so many people are thinking such nice things about me right now is really quite pleasant. If I was a cat, I'd purr.

I'm pretty independent--oh who am I kidding, I don't let people do anything for me unless I literally can't do things for myself--as in I have broken bones and can't walk (thank you, Ken), or I am just home from the hospital (thanks, Laila). But I have been told that it actually makes some people happy to do nice things for me and it isn't burdensome at all. So I'm trying to get past the things that make me uncomfortable about being taken care of. Harder than it sounds.

Today I could tell lots of people really, really wanted to help, so I thought about what others could do to make Sunday easier for me and fired off an email with instructions. Yeah! I'm going to feel like a princess Sunday afternoon. A sore, sweaty, starving princess. I'm okay with that.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #34: It Seems I've Overlooked Something Important

WANT! Lolcat Cookie, originally uploaded by melissacorey.

Yesterday someone asked me, "what do you want?". Not in an exasperated 'beat it, scram' way, but I think this person actually wanted to know what I wanted at the moment. I went mute. I tried to say something, but I couldn't think of anything to say. I was kind of taken off guard. I'm sure I wanted something at the moment, but I couldn't access any information about it--and even if I could have, I would have been afraid to say anything about it.

I've spent the last ten years asking myself what I wanted and trying to give myself those things. It took years for me to even answer myself because for so many years before that, what I wanted didn't matter. When I started answering myself and getting myself the things that I wanted, I considered my mission accomplished. Personal growth, check! It never occurred to me that other people might want to know what I want too. I'm glad I got to experience that--it was some of the good stuff of human interaction, even if my part of it was a bit clumsy. Call me Leo the [Very] Late Bloomer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #33: There's More To Making Progress Than Meets The Eye

This way to progress (v2), originally uploaded by robertpalmer.

For the first time in months, maybe more than a year, I stayed in this weekend and did nothing except run a 10K race on Saturday. I had big plans for the rest of that time. I was going to inventory my backlog, schedule each and every task and get started on some of them. I was going to do that last weekend too, but I accepted several social invitations and after being everything to everyone except myself, I was too tired to even get started. I didn't do that this weekend--I said no to everything.

Still, the lists are unmade, the tasks are unscheduled and I haven't gotten started on any of my pending projects. What the hell have I been doing then? Well, I slept a lot; I watched movies; I went for a pedicure with a friend...I kind of slacked off. No, I totally slacked off.

I also said no a lot. I'm not used to this whole no-saying thing, so as crazy as it sounds, protecting my solitude this weekend was a drain on my energy stores. I obsessed about how people would react. I made excuses for them. I almost made exceptions.

Right now, the process of saying no is long and agonizing. It takes from me almost as much time and energy as it saves me. But it's more than what I was doing for myself last weekend, and the weekends before. I have to believe that next weekend it will be even easier and I won't have to entertain 6 catastrophe scenarios in which someone suffers a tragic fate because I said no, before I remind myself that I promised some time to myself and turn down a request for my involvement.

So I guess this has been a long and roundabout way of saying, even though I didn't get anything done this weekend, I can consider it a success because I didn't say yes when I should have said no. I got some rest. I enjoyed some leisure time. I made progress.

Empty Nest Discovery #32: Me Time Is A Must

As much as I love people--and I really do--I need me time. This probably sounds strange coming from the woman who was lonely a few days ago, but I don't think that being lonely sometimes means you can never want to be by yourself. I'm finding that I need at least one day out of seven when I'm beholden only to myself. Lately, I feel like I could use more than that. Probably because I'm not getting that one day out of seven on as regular basis. There may be a solo getaway in my future...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Empty Nest Discovery #31: Saying No Is Not As Easy As It Sounds...For Me

Lately I'm awestruck at how hard it is for me to say this two-letter word. I've always been very bad at saying no. I've tried unsuccessfully many times to get over my discomfort with no, but I'd give up at the first opportunity to say it. It's too hard, I'd whine to myself. Well, my out-of-control schedule has me more committed this time to overcoming my objections to no. This time, I haven't given up as soon as the no-saying got tough. I have made two phone calls in as many days to one of my best friends for a 'say no pep talk'. It's kind of sad that I have to phone a friend to stay on the path to no, but it beats the alternative. And I won't abuse the privilege. I'm sure one of these days, I'll be a pro at no.