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Reflection writing

Reflections Upon a Gift of 42 Years

I turned 43 last week, so today’s blog is devoted to reflecting on 42.

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, 42 is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. It is The Answer. Nobody bothered to ask Deep Thought what The Answer was supposed to mean. It’s left to the reader to laugh at the absurdity, assign a personal meaning to The Answer, or something in between.

While I never assigned a personal meaning to The Answer in the series when I initially read it, I did hope that I would have things figured out by the time I turned 42.

Do I have things figured out?

No, not entirely.

I have, however, learned a lot this past year.

  1. I have lived my life by the seat of my pants. I went through elementary school, middle school, and high school with the plan in mind that I would go to college, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. After I did everything but the successfully have children and live happily ever after, things went wrong.

    I ended up married too young to someone who was even more young and unready than I was, experienced miscarriage, and went into freefall after things fell apart. The only constant in my life was my job, and even that didn’t last. I ended up on a train to Chicago to meet my oldest daughter’s father and experience life in the suburb of a very huge city.
  2. I discovered that I was living my life in survivor mode after a guy I followed on Twitter offered me the opportunity to beta test an online academy he was building to help people duplicate the success he had. He’s eccentric, and I respect him for being able to go from being a homeless veteran to being the wealthy owner of several businesses.

    The first week was super-hard, but it helped me realize that I was trapped in the scarcity thinking that had allowed me and my oldest child to survive by luck alone until I met and married my second husband. I was still reacting instead of being proactive, and I was completely unaware that I was doing that.

    I’m in therapy, so I may have eventually realized my flawed thinking in session with my therapist, but the opportunity, being in the right place at the right time to be a part of this, it helped me realize this sooner and start taking steps to change my thinking and my life.
  3. I’ve discovered the previously unknown stories of some members of my family. I developed an interest in researching my family story after a cousin I hadn’t previously known contacted me on 23andMe, and I started digging so I could find out how we were related so we could build our respective family trees correctly.

    Learning about the horrors and hardships my relatives endured made it easier to understand why they made the choices they made, and I was able to forgive them. I am not excusing the choices they made, because quite a few of those choices were terrible, but I can understand why they made them.

    I was even able to cry on behalf of my maternal grandmother, who is probably one of the people I’ve hated the most in my life. She died in 1999, but I still have to live with the impact of the choices she made in my relationships with my mother and her siblings. Her cruelty, lies, and neglect were instrumental in making my mother and her siblings the people they are.

    And like a rock thrown in a still lake, the ripples of what was done to my mother and her siblings affected me and my siblings and our children.
  4. Other than our family’s current income and my own health issues, I really love the life I have. I’m legally blind, in constant pain, and am constantly exhausted, and I love being the person who makes the food we eat, takes care of the children, and keeps the house running. My love of writing and making art doesn’t have a set schedule, so I can do it when I’m not busy with my children or household duties. I have great friends who want me to succeed at whatever makes me happy.

In discovering these things about myself, I have made a lot of progress. I have also started seeing new opportunities presented to me, and I am using those opportunities to help me meet my goals for myself and the goals I share with my husband and/or my children.

Additionally, I have set a goal to update this blog once a week. Once I have been able to do that for a while, I may choose to update it more often. In the meantime, I am also working on the manuscript for a piece of historical fiction based loosely on the short life of a relative. It may never be published, but I think it’s key to helping me heal and provide closure to a lot of things I’ve discovered. I love finding information, and I hope to give people a greater understanding of what life was like for a woman born into poverty in the first half of the twentieth century.

Categories
writing

The Bittersweet Diaries

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I got inspired to take what I learned while trying to find how a cousin and I were related to tell a story. As the world seems to be inching closer to yet another world war, I saw what my children were thinking and feeling and what my neighbors were doing in their day-to-day lives. We are all doing our best to survive, just as they did before the other world wars.

My maternal grandmother, Cora, was three years old when she was orphaned. Her father died after a fall at the brick factory where he was working, and her mother died of cancer a few months later. She and her siblings ended up being taken in by their aunt and her husband. She was six years old when the war started in Europe, and she was eight when the United States joined the war.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask her about her life during that turbulent time, because she died in 1999. She was only 66. She had led a very hard life and had made both good and bad choices throughout her life, as one does.

The truth of it is, I hated her. I was sad because my mother was sad, but my mother had not kept secrets about what had been done to her and her half-siblings as she grew up. When I became a mother myself, I hated Grandma Cora even more for the choices she had made.

It was only when I began trying to figure out how I was related to my cousin Destinie that I began to really piece together the tragedy that was Cora’s life. She was born into poverty and spent her entire life trying to survive as best she could. According to my mother, Cora’s aunt treated her and her children like they were demon spawn, so I can only imagine how cruel her life with that woman must have been. I figure that Rose only took her and her siblings in out of a sense of duty to her dead brother rather any sense of love or compassion for the orphaned children.

Her husband John was different, though. According to my mother, John was a kind person who enjoyed spending time with Cora and my mom and her younger half-siblings. She also told me that Cora spent a lot of time with John, even dressing like a boy and using the nickname that John had given her, Toby. That’s probably how she got her own mechanical knowhow, and it may have been what drew her to her first husband, a mechanic named John. (That John was not a good man, but that’s a another story for another time.)

As I learned more about Grandma Cora, I began to hate her less, until I didn’t hate her at all. I still hated the bad choices she had made, choices that had hurt her children and herself, but I understood why she made those choices. She was born into poverty, orphaned as a toddler, and basically stuck in survival mode her entire life.

So, her life inspired a story. There isn’t a lot about people growing up in poverty in rural northeastern Missouri in the 20th century (or in any century, for that matter), but my research and my knowledge of the choices Cora made as she grew up and became a mother and a grandmother have inspired me to write a fictional account using elements of her own life and her own choices.

Will it be complete by the end of November? Nope. Will it ever be published? Maybe. We’ll see what kind of story emerges from my mind and if it’s worth sharing with the world. The voices of the poor have been unheard for a very long time, but that’s starting to change as access to communication media continues to grow. Stories are starting to be told, and voices are starting to be heard. It is my hope that we can all build a better, more compassionate world from the telling of the stories of those the world once chose to ignore.

We are here.

We have always been here.

Categories
Reflection

Between the Shadow and the Soul

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” ~ Carl Jung

My husband Michael is part of Mankind Project. It’s a movement that is working to help men fully embrace themselves and feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly and fully as the people they are. They are combatting the toxicity that has created a society where men are only considered manly if they express themselves with only a handful of the emotions all humans possess. Since I’m not a man, I can only bear witness to what comes of the Mankind Project within my husband and his friends, and what I have seen is a lot of positive changes and growth for both of us.

Michael is a therapist, and while he cannot and will not act as my therapist, there are things that manage to osmose through the professional life/private life barrier. Some of those things are from his education, and some of them are from seminars and what he has learned from the Mankind Project. Michael has created a safe space where I can express my emotions and separate my feelings from my thoughts. I didn’t even differentiate between thoughts and feelings until we had one of our many long talks. Sometimes those talks started as arguments that evolved into us sharing our truths and expressing our true thoughts and feelings. Our relationship keeps getting better and stronger as we become more mentally healthy.

One of the things I have resisted very hard is the idea of the “shadow self.” I’ve denied its existence and tried to justify everything I’ve ever said or done in a way that allowed me to maintain the illusion that there is no darkness within me.

But there is darkness.

Oh, yes, there is darkness.

Michael has shared with me the saying “That which you resist persists.” I take it to mean that the more I deny the existence of my shadow self, the greater the risk of the things I want to keep hidden breaking out. I must accept everything about myself in order to be the person I want to me.

Will I be sharing the details of my shadow work?

No, I will not. The journey of acknowledging and accepting the shadow self is very intimate and personal. My journey is not like anyone else’s, and my work is not like anyone else’s, so sharing the details of that work won’t be useful or helpful to anyone else. However, I may have future blog posts that are inspired by what I discover and the work that I do.

That being said, it’s time to get back to work.

Categories
Reflection

What Do I Want To Create In The World?

Wow. I thought the previous questions were hard.

This question? This one is super-hard. I can’t finish this blog without figuring it out. There have been times when I thought I knew, but…I don’t, I really don’t. I’ve had to sublimate myself because I’ve spent my entire life feeling like I had to apologize for even existing.

If you’ve never felt like you had to apologize for your own existence and make it up to people for your entire life, I envy you. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing.

It’s infuriating.

So, what do I want to create in a world where I have spent most of my life doing my best to please other people?

I want to create what pleases ME.

What is that, though?

I want to create a life and a legacy that lifts my family out of poverty. I want money to flow into our lives easily and so abundantly that we can start helping other people’s dreams come true, too.

I want us to have a nice, energy-efficient home of our own with a pool, a swingset, a tree house, and plenty of space for gardens, fruit trees, a fire pit, and stargazing.

I want to write with my true voice for an audience that supports and appreciates me.

I want to create art that inspires my audience.

I want to raise my children to be good people who make good choices, follow their dreams, and feel secure in being their truest selves.

I want to inspire everyone to work together to build a world where wealth is no longer considered a zero-sum game, and the rising tide of prosperity really does lift all boats.

I want to create a world where everyone has all that they need so that they have the freedom to dream, do, be, and create. The world of Star Trek will never exist as long as we dwell in the negative aspects of selfishness and treat wealth as a zero-sum game where there must be losers if there are to be winners.

When I die, I want my work to have meant something to enough people that I am remembered. If I am remembered after I die, no matter what lies beyond this life, I will live on in memory here as well.

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Uncategorized

Don’t just do something; stand there

There is very little quite as frustrating as working all day, feeling completely wiped out by bedtime, but still feeling like you didn’t accomplish much.

Most of the work I do is the invisible labor that nobody really values because it doesn’t translate into income for my family. While it saves my family thousands of dollars, it’s considered worthless because it doesn’t bring my family that much closer to being debt-free or buying a house.

During the week, I get up at 5:45 am to get breakfast started. Before COVID, I would also prepare my husband’s lunch and have it ready to go for him. If I’m lucky, our 14-month-old baby doesn’t wake up until breakfast is ready. If I’m not lucky, I check her diaper and put her in her playpen so I can finish making breakfast.

Breakfast is at 6:15 am, more or less. My husband requests oatmeal during the week because it is filling and helps him get through the morning without snacking. Our 12-year-old daughter (Sam) usually wakes up around that time, too. She’s not a fan of oatmeal, but we always have her favorite cereal on hand (plain Cheerios) or sometimes muffins. Our 14-month-old (Nem) is ambivalent about solids, but she sometimes eats oatmeal or cheerios for breakfast.

After breakfast is when good intentions go to die. My husband goes to his office, and I do my best to manage the household in the interim. Sam is autistic and electronics-obsessed, so it’s sometimes hard to find a balance among letting her have non-educational screentime, teaching her essential life skills, and helping her get better at subjects she doesn’t like (and because God has a sense of humor, those subjects are reading and writing). Nem is a very people-oriented child who demands a lot of attention. (I’ve had to stop writing this paragraph four times now to attend to her needs.)

If I’m lucky, I can distract the girls with some Sesame Street and start a load of laundry and put a few dishes in the dishwasher. (I am NEVER buying pans that can’t go in the dishwasher again.) If I’m super-lucky, I can grab a shower.

Nem normally takes a nap after breakfast, and if I didn’t sleep well the night before, I sometimes join her. Other times, I take the opportunity to shower. (It’s hard to get it done when she’s awake and fussing.) Sam is very creative and mostly good at keeping herself out of mischief. Nem is very people-oriented and likes to be near me at all times. She is very charismatic and friendly, and like her sister, she seems utterly fearless. Needless to say, I have my hands full keeping Nem out of mischief.

When lunchtime comes around, I have to find a way to keep Nem amused so I can cook. Sesame Street has done the trick so far. Nem is obsessed with Cookie Monster, and she will happily watch him sing or chase cookies. Her favorite song so far is “Google Bugle.” (She and her sister both really love Fall Out Boy, too.)

After lunch, I try in earnest to get done what I hope to accomplish before my husband’s workday ends. Sometimes Nem takes a second nap, which makes getting those things done easier. Sam helps out, too, as she can.

Once Michael’s workday is done, I do my best to have supper ready. Once again, Sesame Street saves the day if Nem is awake. Sometimes, if nothing on hand seems appealing, we’ll order food. It’s tricky on a tight budget, but we have to make it work, especially when the people who fulfill our grocery order can’t find the things I’ve ordered for our meal plans. Ever since COVID hit, our food expense has more than doubled. It’s frustrating.

After supper, Michael usually plays his favorite video game to unwind. We also watch various shows together before putting Sam to bed. We’re still trying to figure out how to get Nem to go to bed at the same time every night. Given that she was a surprise baby, we had long since filed away the whole “how to get the baby to sleep at a consistent time” thing. Sam thrives on routine and is pretty cooperative as bedtime comes. Frankly, I feel a little spoiled by how well she does with routine. With Nem, it’s trial and error (mostly error, but we’re figuring it out).

Once Nem is down for bed, I finish up what I must do before I go to bed, such as running the dishwasher or handwashing dishes if I don’t have enough for a full load (I am never buying pans that aren’t dishwasher safe again). On a good night, I can get maybe six hours of sleep before the whole cycle starts again.

Weekends are a bit better, and I can get a bit more sleep, but my duties are largely the same. On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about the kids disrupting Michael’s workday by being too noisy.

Anyway, it took me a week to be able to complete this blog. I hope that future blogs are easier to write. I’m slowly finding balance.