Living Your Dreams

What if what I am supposed to be doing is exactly what I am doing?

I ask only because I read a blog entry of a friend who is searching for her direction in life. Or redirection. We can never assume, after all, that where we are, what we are doing or who we surround ourselves with is permanent.

Life is about change – at its core – not about permanence.

I was a teacher for twenty years. When I left, I can count on one hand the number of minutes it took for someone to ask,

“So what are you going to do now?”

As if emigrating to Canada, remarrying and focusing on my writing/blogging in addition to giving the stay at home mom thing a full-time go for the first time in the five years I’d been a mother wasn’t enough.

What are you going to do with your life?

So that it’s meaningful – in the eyes of the world – is the question behind that question.

But what if, maybe, I am doing what I am meant to do?

Given that nothing is permanent, and I can reasonably expect the circumstances of my life to change over the course of time, why couldn’t what I am doing … right now … be what I am meant to do? Right now.

And isn’t that enough?

Writing for blogs, studying yoga with an eye towards teaching a few classes – maybe having a studio one day – isn’t nothing. Though I recognize that like “having it all” or “having enough” it is an eye of the beholder thing.

Does anyone’s eye matter but mine in the assessment of what makes my life meaningful or gauging what I should be doing with my life?

I think not.

And a life’s “purpose” is more than what one does in terms of culture’s obsession with the idea of work and career (which, frankly, is the measuring stick in our Western world to an unhealthily large degree).

What if, what you are doing right now and where you are is “it”?

For now.

I found this on a yoga blog.

What I have now, probably for the first time ever in my life, is enough.

I am not complacent about it.

I recognize that relationships are active and therefore require tending. I know that nothing about the strata of society I occupy is immune to disaster.

But in societal terms I have come to recognize as my norm, what I have is plenty. There isn’t a single thing or experience I lack. My emotional well brims and is replenished continually.

Perhaps this is what has been nagging at me of late.

My conscious mind – conditioned as it has been by years of North America consumer driven life-style and middle-class faux career ambition – feels I am not working hard enough to be … what? I don’t know. My inner-self has been quite weepy about it in a pushed around little girl sort of way.

She knows we have enough. Time to acknowledge it and let a few things go.

I have dreams. Modest and unassuming. But they are not deal-breakers for me and really never were.

I have enough. It’s almost verboten to say that out loud as many people fear it invites the active mocking of the fates. That’s flatly ridiculous. Nothing is permanent and fate has nothing to do with that anyway.

If you ever had enough, could you recognize it?

A fair question.

I’ll break down the actual Michael Stone* workshop later in the week in terms of nuts and bolts, but today I am going to talk about narratives.

Stone talked about how our stories distract us and keep us stuck in patterns that no longer serve us or actually inhibit our lives in some way. These internal narratives run on a continual loop that we may be aware of but are just as likely not to notice. In terms of meditation, which was one of the themes of the workshop, our inability to silence/redirect or otherwise reprogram these stories we tell ourselves interferes with our ability to focus on our breathing. On a larger stage, our stories enable us to avoid reality.

An example, my youngest sister, BabySis, exists for the most part in a life that must seem like some waking nightmare to her because I am certain that even she would not have wished for it back when she was sixteen and planning to trap her very first boyfriend by getting pregnant. She saw hearts and flowers and an infant cross between the baby Jesus and a child model in a Pampers commercial. She did not see an alcoholic not too unlike the dad she wanted to escape or living in a double wide on the farm where he would be employed as a diary hand. She didn’t foresee him physically abusing her or her body run down and broken by  a combination of vertebrae scrunching laboring in a nursing home laundry and twenty years of junk food, cigarettes and too many babies.

Her narrative to explain her reality boils down to this …

“Mom and Dad made me give my baby up.”

And with that, she neatly side-steps the truth – which was that our parents told her she needed to live in a home for unwed teen mothers to learn how to be a parent on her own – and she has had a handy emotional bludgeon for purposes of guilting her family into putting up with her behavior for the last couple of decades.

A lot of people carry around the “parents” narrative to explain away their missteps. I taught rooms full of children who are probably still playing the parent card.

Interestingly, the first time I ever looked another person in the eye and told her I was not going to accept her story as the basis for my relationship with someone we both knew, a parent story was playing**.

I skimmed blogs on Valentine’s Day and wasn’t surprised to see the “Valentine’s is bad. Stupid Hallmark holiday.” theme weaving in and out. Anyone unattached by choice or happenstance snarks pretty much the same tired, trite reasons that Valentine’s is trivial and shouldn’t be allowed.

But Valentine’s is just a day on the calendar that carries some historic significance and, at it’s root, is harmless. So what if people wear pink, buy flowers and send cards? Perhaps it is something we should do for no reason as well – acknowledge the people we love in a tangible way, but that shouldn’t invalidate reserving a day for it. Trashing it because one is feeling unfairly left out ? Story. No one is left out who has someone to give to and we can all give.

The first Valentine’s after Will died came two days after I buried him. It was a cold afternoon. Just the sexton, me and Dee and a hole in the ground. I went to school that Valentine’s with treats to give my students, and this was after I’d left a box of baked goodies at Dee’s daycare for the caregivers, who were beyond wonderful to her and I.

All day during the passing periods I saw girls and boys linked together. Flowers. Cards. Candies. And it felt … hopeful. It warmed me up a bit knowing that love existed and was being shared.

I suppose I could have woven a story for myself full of pity and bile, but where the point would have been in it I didn’t know, so I chose to give to those I could and trust that someday I would receive again.

The next Valentine’s I found a box of roses on my doorstop from Rob, as he and I had just begun our romance.

Narratives push us away from paths that can be good, or down alleys that are bad, for us depending on the quality of the story and how much we chose to believe in it.

I wouldn’t say that I am story free or that I can completely resist the temptation to try to enlighten others about their own narratives – though I hope I am getting better with the latter. I do know I am experiencing a period of rewrite.

Rough drafts are being polished or trashed depending and I am scaling back from epics to novellas. I’ll update as necessary.

*Stone’s website offers free downloads of his lectures. Click here.

**It was my sister-in-law. She blames her current mixed up life on her mother. The first time I met this SIL, she rambled on for a good 45 minutes about the evils of her mother. Finally I said, “I like your mother. Your history with her is yours to take up with her, but it doesn’t have anything to do with she and I.”

I’ve mentioned before that there was a possibility we’d be heading overseas to live for a while. Rob was pursuing a position on a project that would have taken us to the UK and then Saudi Arabia. It would have been a 4 or 5 year gig that would have allowed us to move on to the retirement/second career thing in the mountains a bit sooner than later.

But the job is off. I am not at liberty to go into details, but it had nothing to do with Rob’s suitability. He is, despite his ambivalence, a sought after commodity in his line of work. This was an employment case of “it’s not you, it’s us”. Literally.

So now that we know for sure we are staying put, things that have been on hold or plans that we discussed in only the vaguest of terms are suddenly wide open dreamscapes.

One of the most pressing issues is our home. Rob has been steadily renovating the house we live in for … ever. Or least as long as he’s lived here and that’s a decade plus of years.

And the house is not done. Not even close.

One might wonder that this has been a non-issue for me since moving here going on three years ago now. And it’s not that I am oblivious to my surroundings, though I come quite close to that sort of space blindness, it’s just that I am not a Better Homes and Gardens type. I have a serviceable kitchen, a comfy bed and a place to write. What else does a person need?

Rob thinks we need an addition. One that will attach a garage to the house, add a new master bedroom with en suite and provide us with a large kitchen area. This is not a small project that upends the house a room or so at a time. This is gutting the back yard, tearing out half of the back-end of the house and ripping up a deck that consumed the summer of 2008 and the cement sidewalks that consumed last summer.

On the plus side, an attached garage. I never had one until the last house I bought with Will. I’d lived in Des Moines for 15 years, parking vehicles on the street or driveway and dealing with the weather. The whole first year of Dee’s life was coping with baby carriers and rain or snow or bitter cold or blistering heat or whatever other plagues of Egypt came our way in terms of weather. I loved the attached garage. Somedays, especially after Will was nearly blind and precariously balanced, not having to load the two of them up after somehow getting them outside was the only thing I had to be thankful for all day.

A new master bedroom would give us three bedrooms upstairs and mean that Dee could have our old room, which is twice the size of her current room. We could ditch the playroom downstairs and contain all things child in her larger bedroom space. And she would have a walk-in closet. She would be in heaven although she would have serious en suite envy. She totally believes that she should have a bathroom of her own – attached to her room. Where does she get such ideas?

Aside from hearth and home, there is also employment to consider. Staying means looking for part-time work. I put working on hold for a variety of reasons, but one of them was not being sure we’d be around long enough for me to find and settle into a place before we’d pack up and be gone. Since I didn’t need a paycheck for our survival, it seemed unfair for me to take a job knowing I wasn’t going to be in it long.

My mother’s first words upon hearing we were staying was “Well, now you’ll be able to get a job.”

I start my yoga teacher training this weekend. My current instructor indicated that she would be agreeable to my teaching at her studio, once I am trained and that would be this summer, so yoga is a real possibility as part-time work. It is not a living by any means, but it’s somewhere to start. I want to someday have a studio, somewhere. Be a business owner. I think that is my upbringing. I love to write and blog, but they don’t feed my need for tangible employment. Probably seems silly to some, but I like the idea of going into work. Actually leaving the house kind of work.

We’ve talked about trading in the tent trailer for a holiday trailer, and using it for vacations. Rob wanted to travel the SouthWest U.S., but with the border as it is, I am less keen. And though Americans don’t seem to have any sense of impending doom, the news we get looks more and more dicey. In fact, this coming summer it seems it has never been a better time to stay out of the States.

I am only a tiny bit disappointed about not moving overseas. It could have been fun and interesting in a way that most people’s lives never get to be. But it would have been work and Dee would not have been as happy about it as we would have been. Our mothers were distraught, and the older girls, though they’ve put on brave faces, would have felt abandoned to varying degrees. It is not great for Rob. He gets to continue on as a workhorse and he deserves more. Everyone takes for granted that he will be there to fix things, give advice, loan money and generally make sure the trains run. I doubt that anyone but me really worries about his needs, or wants for him, when it comes to that. Having been in that thankless position, I know how long it can make a day seem.

Although Rob doesn’t think much of the place, there are far worse little towns than The Fort to call home. It will not be home forever, I don’t think, but it is good enough for now.

Funny, I just read a blog piece about “good enough” and how that kind of settling is a bad thing. I didn’t really agree.

I am too tired to properly update on the holiday. In fact, I hadn’t any real plans to post live again until June, but a lot is going on and this usually drives me to write.

First, I have a pen name. It came to me after much thought and back/forth right before we left for the mountains. It combines a distinctly family name, which is also my dad’s middle name, with my maiden name. I will unveil it when I have my author’s website completed and up, but I am pleased with it.

The idea for a pen name for my fiction writing self has been stirring around for a while in my mind, but a speaker at the writing conference I attended finally provided me with a tangible reason to write under more than one name. Branding. When I am Ann or anniegirl, people who read are sure of what they are getting, but my fiction is dark, twisted and not particularly mainstream in a chick lit or even a straight high-brow lit kind of way. Therefore, my alias will brand my fiction. Readers will know what they are getting.

Second, we arrived home to yet another job offer for Rob. The same job he has been offered twice before – the long term project that would have taken us to Houston is now beckoning from England.

“How many times does opportunity have to knock?” Rob asked.

And I agreed. I read Paulo Coelho’s Brida and The Alchemist over holiday (along with three other books – I was tearing up the pages) and the second book deals almost entirely with following the signs the universe will show those who make their wants, needs or desires known to it. Coelho wrote an interesting fable about listening, trusting and having faith in one’s personal legend.

I don’t know that this job is Rob’s personal legend, but I have felt for a while that it is a sign and a step towards it. But more on it as it develops.

Finally, illness stalks the family once again. Rob’s younger brother was in the ICU as of Sunday night. He is chronically ill and had taken a turn. He will not live to be an old man and probably not a middle-aged one either (he is sixteen years younger than Rob) and though it isn’t a surprise, and Rob and he are estranged, it is unsettling. And it is a reminder.

On my side of the family, Nephew1 is quite ill. Deteriorating lung disease (or syndrome – it’s hard to know because my youngest sister was conveying the information and she is not bright). The doctors had been treating his breathing difficulties as asthma for a while but it turns out incorrectly.

“They told me I could die, Grandma,” is what he told my mother.

We may be making a trip to Iowa this summer after all.

It occurred to me not long ago that I had become the kind of woman that as a single working girl, and then a married working mom, I had scoffed at. My day was punctuated by the odd chore between the pursuit of totally hedonistic self-gratification. I was even hearing myself say,

“Perhaps I should get a part time job for fulfillment rather than actual need of a paycheck.”

Okay, I didn’t say it exactly like that, but it was the subtext. And when your own mother thinks that having a job would “get you out of the house a bit”, which is code for “you need a real life” as opposed to the fantasy life of a writer, then perhaps you do live in La-La Land and it’s time to re-evaluate.

When I ran my theory past my husband, that my life was…..well…..all about me…. in a way it hadn’t been since I was in university, he agreed.

“You are practically one of those Hollywood wives,” he told me.

“No! I am not,” I protested.

But I am. I could totally be Posh Beckham, if only my best friend would marry a questionably balanced Scientologist and agree to split dinner salads with me when we do lunch. Seriously, that’s all that is holding me back at this point. That and a BMI in the double digits. And laugh lines. If only I could get past that irrational fear of botulism injections. In my face. Read Full Article

An interesting post by a fellow writer, Damyanti, led to a blog piece about a man who has escaped the gerbil wheel of modern life to concentrate on himself and what he loves. Rob and I often discuss what it would take at minimum to have the kind of life that allowed us the freedoms to pursue what we loved and still keep a roof over our heads, food in our tummies and raise a child. We have dreams but the plan to the right path hasn’t quite materialized. Not yet anyway.

Where would you “run away” to if money were not the object?