acute awareness

Today was a long day. Ten hours of working on clients with no break. The body is angry with me. And, as you know, I’m self-employed, so I have only myself to blame.

This is a fairly new phenomenon – having my body reject the things it once did naturally – and I’m disappointed, sad, and scared. 

I have an older client with memory issues and confusion. Her daughter brings her to me every month for a haircut and a chat. Yesterday she was not in a good mood and was not treating her daughter kindly. As we talked, she said, “When I was the mama, I was more patient. Now that she’s the mama, she needs to be patient with me.” 

“I think she’s very patient, and I know she loves you very much.”

“What she doesn’t know is that I miss my words, and I wish she would understand that!”

“I understand that. It’s frustrating when your words used to work for you, and now they don’t.”

“I miss them. I miss being me.”

“I think she misses you and your words, too. I think it’s hard for both of you that things are changing. You still need to be patient with her. She still needs you.”

The conversation went on like that. This woman is amazing. Even on the hard days, she brings me such wisdom. She might not have all the words, but those she still grasps teach me so much. 

“It’s hard when you’re old. People used to listen, and you were important. Then, when you’re old, you’re invisible unless you make people uncomfortable. You talk and talk, hoping that someone will understand your new words.”

I know I’m half her age, but I get it. Aging is overwhelming. You look in the mirror and there’s a stranger there. You work ten hours, once your norm, and the pain is excruciating. You don’t attract the same attention, and it takes longer to recover from added responsibility. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s not really new, at least in the general sense. For me, personally, though…

Is this my new norm?

45.

Wow, 45 years on this planet. Incredible. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been allowed.

Facebook has this wonderful way of reminding you of what your recent years have brought with its “On This Day” memory feed. It brings me a lot of laughter and even a bit of sadness. It’s bittersweet to see past birthday wishes from friends who have moved on to whatever comes next for us. I am now older than some of them when I was born many years after they were…It’s a good reminder, though, to sit with gratitude for my extended time.

And I’m old enough now to sit with my memories without regret. I can think about the thousands of experiences I’ve had, the people that have come and gone, the dreams that never came true and the many that have. Hindsight and all that, right? I can fully appreciate it now.

Those old posts also remind me of goals I’ve had along the way. Where those unfinished plans once brought heightened anxiety, today I thought about the things that did get done, and I reflected on the obstacles that kept me from accomplishing the others. Instead of being upset that I still haven’t finished a novel, I cut myself some slack. I’ve written thousands of words through the years, after all. I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. I have four novels fleshed-out and have been concentrating on one for the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of words. I know they’ll all get done.

I have time.

Besides, the kids are having their own pre-teen adventures, and they need their space, so I get a few extra minutes every day to write and create. The time they need from me is concentrated with the really good stuff, too, and I’m grateful they share what they do with me. One shares every detail; one tells me what he can. It’s not always easy. People never are. Luckily, I can read both of them without the words, even if some days it’s like picking apart a poem to get to the truth. They’re complex creatures, my kids. I love that most.

They’ve had their first heartaches (!). They have opinions separate from mine (we actually encourage it). They know how to do things that others can’t (Rhiannon’s starting her fourth year of piano and has written short songs! Sebastian creates board games to rival Parker Brothers!). They’re proud of those things. And they are becoming – every day – more solidly themselves. I know they’re both excited and scared about that. We’re closer and closer to adolescence…

Tony and I are at the point where we let them make decisions. We expect the truth from them, and – while we’re still guiding them – we’re evolving more and more into a support system instead of being the puppet masters. We have high expectations, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they’re loved.

They are excellent huggers, too.

I love their friendship. They’ll talk, and I realize they have conversations we didn’t hear. They have inside jokes. They fight less and less, and we’re a talkative house, so arguments are inevitable. I know that they’ll always have each other, even once Tony and I are gone. I’m glad for that.

Rhiannon is my heart. She’s kind and smart and beautiful. She’s more than I ever expected. I look at her with awe that I ever had a life before she existed. It seems impossible that she’s so new to this world! I am truly privileged to be her mother. And she loves me more than I knew anyone ever could. Sometimes I cry thinking about how lucky I am.

Romance through the years? Ugh. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m finally figuring it out. Tony is my best friend. God, can he infuriate me. He pushes, and I push back. Our past relationships have made it impossible for us to keep things bottled up, so everything bubbles over. All of that raw beauty. All of this intense beautiful love. I’ve never had a man love me like he does. He loves me, not some construct he created in his mind. He wants to know me. It’s such a gift.

He’s a great man. He works hard. He loves his son and wants to raise him to be a good man. He’s stepped up for my daughter and wants to raise her to trust that people keep promises. He loves her as his own. He is like a fierce warrior who would die protecting us.

It’s amazing.

So, yeah, 45.

There are some leftover goals to tackle, along with, you know, being a mom and wife, running a business, being a community leader, being on a theater board, and still being available to deal with my parents and brother. It’s busy.

And I love it. I’m grateful to be here.

 

the gift of a good book

Because I am not independently wealthy, I buy a lot of used books. It’s a treasure hunt every time we enter a thrift store. I look at pottery and books. I like to search for the signature at the bottom of a bowl or mug, and I open books wondering if there will be an inscription.

The thing is, whenever I find them I always feel a little sad. Who would give away a gifted book? Why would the edition of Tuesdays with Morrie that Mom gave to Mike in December of 1998 end up being resold at the Idaho Youth Ranch? Did Mike die? Did his ex decide to spitefully donate it after he left for another woman who was already pregnant with his baby?Obviously, my overactive imagination has a whole list of scenarios, with the last and saddest being that Mike just didn’t care to keep it.

I understand; humans hold on to too many things and should purge their belongings now and then. But books…? I mean, books are intimate. It’s not like someone grabbed the first set of red bath towels they could find and threw them into a cheap wedding gift bag from the dollar store. She decided to give you a book, something she thought you would enjoy for some reason. Maybe it was her favorite book, and she wanted you to think of her every time you saw the spine on your bookshelf. And Tuesdays with Morrie, Mike??? Your mom was sending you a message! How could you glance at it one day and think, “Bah! Sentimentality is for pussies. Off to the Youth Ranch for you, Morrie!”

I can only hope it was unintentional, and that Mike searches every copy he sees in thrift stores, hoping to find the one that his mother inscribed with “love”.

If you’re reading this now, Mike, I have your book.

 

interview with a 6th grade girl

Thought I’d get some insight on life straight from the source…

Q: Do you think it’s better to get the latest video game console/computer/phone or to have an honest relationship with your parents? (BTW, I’ve seen people have great relationships with their parents without the honesty.) Why?

A: Personally, I’d rather have the honest relationship, because it makes me feel better and less anxious. That way I can ask for help with something without having to share a bunch of things that have already happened and risk getting in trouble. Also, that feels kind of like lying.

Q: How would you create your perfect day?

A: Um, well, huh…That’s hard!

Q: Why?

A: Because it’s not really what you do in a day that makes it perfect. It’s who you do it with and why you’re doing it. It could be going to that cool hot springs place in Idaho City, or it could be picking up trash in the side of the highway. It just depends on the people you’re spending it with.

Q: Dogs or cats?

A: Cats! Definitely.

Q: Why?

A: Well, there are a lot of cats that play fetch! (Laughs) And cats are softer. Also, dogs I don’t know make me nervous.

Q: New or thrift store?

A: Mom!! What is it? Clothes…makeup…

Q: (Laughing)

A: Because if it’s makeup, I definitely want it new!

Q: I agree! Gross! What about clothes?

A: Thrift store, except underwear. (Giggles.)

Q: What’s cooler? Doctor Who or comic book superheroes?

A: Doctor Who! Definitely!

Q: How to you react when asked a hard question? Is it better to be honest, or is it better to be agreeable?

A: Well, if I have to say anything, then I’d better be honest, because I’d eventually have to spill the beans. Even if it’s something as stupid as, “What’s your favorite cheese?” Even if you want to make someone feel good, eventually you’d probably slip and say the truth. Better to just be upfront in the beginning.

Q: Are you looking forward to being a teen?

A: Yes and no. Yes, because there are a lot of cute clothes (laughing), and I get to pick fun classes. No, because of everything else. Puberty…that’s everything else.

Q: Do you want coffee?

A: Decaf. And I like cold drinks better.

Q: You’ve done private school, dual-language classes, and a gifted program, and you’ve always been able to be in tiny classes. Would you rather be in a big class and hide out, or would you rather be in a small class and always get attention?

A: Small class with lots of attention!

Q: How’s my breath? [I just had coffee AND sharp cheddar…and she’s inching closer to me, so I breathed on her.]

A: It’s like bacon and coffee. It could be worse.

Q: Gilmore Girls?

A: Yeah.

luck

Do you believe in luck? My belief in it comes and goes. I’m more into doing the work. It does seem, though, that some people are born a little luckier than others. For example, not all of us are able to get a small loan of a million dollars from our dad (don’t worry; this isn’t a political post).

Arnold Palmer said it best, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” You have to do the work.

People from both sides of the aisle like to take digs at Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump. They were, after all, born into wealth and basically handed dream careers in adulthood. The thing is, I’m not one who is going to say that they aren’t putting in the work needed to maintain and grow those careers. I’m a mom; I know what I’ll let my kids get away with. Being lazy and ruining my business isn’t high on that list. I’d fire them in a half-second, if they jacked-up something I’ve worked so hard to build.

My biggest goal for 2017? Work so hard that people think it’s my luckiest year yet. I have some business goals to achieve. I promised Maire a stack of rejection letters for my writing (proof I’m putting in the work), and they have to show up on her desk by my birthday in April, so I have less than 100 days. I’m president of a fledging business association that needs to fly, and I’m vice-president of a theater board that has pretty lofty goals for next season. All that and Pooka turns 12. There’s plenty of work waiting for me.

So crack open that fortune cookie – it’s our lucky year.

unbound

​I have the most incredible friends & clients. Kind, articulate, and intelligent. They help me more than I do them. I’m grateful.

My work is different than most. It’s a very personal business. We were trained not to talk about the biggies: religion, politics, and sex. I can tell you right now that I have never worked with a stylist that ever followed that rule. I’m sure we’ve all filtered for certain personalities, but through the years most of my clients have become so much more than business transactions.

They’re friends.

I have held people as they sobbed over lost pets, spouses, and children. I have visited hospitals, and I’ve watched kids. I’ve known about divorces before they happened.

It’s a privilege to be invited into the lives of so many, and I don’t take it lightly.

We talk about boundaries in the workplace, and I definitely agree that there must be some, but they don’t have to be as rigid in an industry that is so people-centric. Honestly, I’ve worked with stylists who aren’t so great with hair but are amazing with people – sincere and loving. They were immensely successful, too.

I’m not telling you to get into everyone’s personal business. I am saying that, when the time comes, be ready with kind, honest words. My clients always have them for me, and I will always be here when they need them from me.