Fear. It's what I'm feeling right now. Overwhelming angst. Panic. Anxiety.
I've been reading a lot lately about writing, because I want to improve. It's what I love to do, and I'd like to get better at it. I just read this article on Twitter about this CRAZY thing you can do to be an inspired writer. Just take what you're feeling at the moment, and write about it. Simple, right? I decided to give it a go. Well... here is the result.
I'm scared to death of what I'm about to do!
This summer I managed to wrangle all five of my kids, one of their spouses, and my grandson into going HOME for a visit with me. My brother and most of his family joined us also. It was a FEAT! I thought at the time, 'if I can pull this off, I will be able to accomplish ANYTHING I set out to do, ever again, from here on out!' Well... I did it. We didn't just go visit family, we took a daytrip (and into the night) to New York City while we were there! Many of us experienced the Big Apple for the very first time in our lives, even though my brother and I were born and raised in Upstate NY. I spent my first 37 years of life there. But, NYC! It was exciting! A dozen Upstate NY transplants, now living in Nebraska and Kansas, walking down Wallstreet, taking the ferry and the subway, eating at a pizza shop, snapping pics at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park. We did it all! Fourteen people (my best friend and her daughter were our tour guides)... fourteen hours... It was a blast! An experience I will NEVER forget. And, I got to do this with my family! When I am an old, old woman, I will tell my great grandchildren all about my first trip to the big city (at 50 years old). Lol!!
We attended family reunions, BIG ones! We had a few bonfires - my personal favorite - drank a few beers, listened to our kids sing and play guitars in my mom's back yard. My parents live in the sticks, just up the hill from the dairy farm where I grew up. They have Amish neighbors. Watching a horse and buggy trot by daily was a pretty spectacular sight! Very nostalgic. Sometimes, we could hear them singing. I just wanted to run out to the dirt road and hop on their buggy and sing along with them. Do you think they would mind? :D
We also spread my younger brother's ashes in his favorite place, back in the woods behind my parents' home. We planted a tree for my mom in her front yard, in his honor. That was tough. We had our tough times, just like everybody. We were a BIG family. I have step siblings, half-siblings, full-blooded siblings, and that dynamic is always tricky; but, when push comes to shove... we are all family. When my younger brother was murdered almost two years ago, we all felt the pain. This summer, many of us came together to honor his memory. I was so proud of us. All of us. We took time out... to recognize the fact that one of us was missing; and he wasn't coming back... ever. Yep! It was tough. But, we all still have each other, even though we live miles apart. This trip changed me.
Which brings me to this BIG thing that is causing me so much anxiety. After living in Nebraska for the past 13 years, seven of them as a single mom (of those five kids), I have decided to move back home. Home. Think about it. Home is not a geographical location. It's a place, yes. But, it's a place where you feel comfortable. A place where you feel like you belong. Look back up there where I referred to myself as a transplant.
I live in Nebraska. I have been here for a long time. I really do like it here, most of the time; but, it's not home. I haven't known my current circle of friends since I was a little girl. I did not grow up with them. We didn't hang out in the same haunts as teens. We didn't go to the same school for 12 years together. We didn't get in trouble together. They weren't the ones that came to visit me in the hospital every time I had a baby. All of my kids were born in NY.
My friends here are very precious to me. They've helped me through some tough times; like divorce, finding a job (after being a stay-at-home mom for almost 20 years), helping my kids with broken down cars, attending funerals with me. They've lent me money when I had no idea how I was going to pay the bills. They've cried and prayed with me on many, many occasions. And, I DO have family close by. My brother is a quick four hour drive south, and my oldest daughter just a little more. We've traveled back and forth for holidays and family visits since 2005. Wonderful, wonderful visits - Easter, Christmas, birthdays, and weddings... the birth of my grandson, and graduations. I do not lack, believe me!
But... I want to go home. It's where I belong. It's where I came from. It's where 'MY' people are. My classmates, my friends, my family... a lot of them are still there, in that tiny, little town where I grew up. Cows, churches, bars, wildlife, snow.... LOTS of snow! Believe it, or not; it's where I want to be. Home.
Why the angst, anxiety? I love my kids, my family, the friends I've grown close to in the past 13 years. I really do! If you've read any of my other articles on this site, you'll understand that I am a nostalgic, family-oriented person; maybe more than anyone you've ever known. My kids, my friends, my home that I've worked so hard to create over the past several years - I am SO going to miss them! How can someone live in two places at once? If I could, I definitely would! I long to go home, but I hate leaving.
Aside from the obvious, painstaking stresses of moving... packing, leaving my job, finding a new one, finding a new place to live - there's the anguish of leaving my kids and their new families, my grandson (only a year old), leaving my job of four years. I found the perfect job for me here. The atmosphere I work in is awesome! It's very ME!
I just need to go home. For most of my adult life, I've lived far from home. My parents didn't get to see my kids grow up... not really. Even 1300 miles away, as we are now, they've seen more of my kids than they did when we lived an hour and a half away from them in NY - through Facebook. I know a lot of people think of Facebook as a negative thing, but it has been a Godsend for me... and my family. My mom doesn't miss anything! I make a post about Hannah's college recital... she's on the phone congratulating her on a job well done. My recent weight loss... she encourages me on every single phone call... and 'likes' every single post. If I don't post anything new or positive in a week's time, she's on the phone asking what's wrong. She's tuned in, connected.
This is how I know we'll be okay. My kids use all the social media... Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. They've made sure I know how to use them too. We're good. I won't miss anything! We will have a connection that was never available before. I will get to SEE my grandson as often as I want. I can witness all the little things that happen in my kids' lives.
And... I'll be back. I've decided not to sell my house here. After I've been HOME long enough (I think I'll know when it's time), I can come back. My kids will scatter. I know they won't stay in this town... or state forever. But, when I come back, I will be centrally located, able to visit to my heart's content! I'll have a place to come back to. At that point, I may just feel like I'm coming HOME.
My earliest childhood memory came to mind today, as it often does when I am reminiscing. This little girl, three or four years old, happily toddling across a hardwood floor in the living room of the home she shared with her parents and two little brothers. Light streaming in from tall windows, carrying sparkling fragments of Northern New York dust down to land gently, silently on the coffee table behind her; while she straightened the colorful, crocheted blanket on the back of the monstrous sofa. Standing on her tippy-toes, she was barely able to stretch her little body across the cushion to tug on a tassel. Music was coming from somewhere, maybe the big console tv in the corner, or from the record player in the next room. There was always music. Maybe that’s why, to this day, music is so important to her. At the end of this little reverie, my parents appear in the doorway to the dining room – smiling, happy.
This nostalgic vignette sheds light on another constant in my life – HOME. My happy place. The one constant I can carry with me… even when I’m not there. The roots of which, dig deep; even though the familial foundations were short-lived. My parents divorced when I was five.
Fast forward almost 50 years to any Saturday morning. My iPhone is plugged into the soundbar on the entertainment stand in the corner, filling the whole house with tunes from my favorite Spotify playlist. I’m flitting around the living room, Swiffer duster in hand, sometimes pausing to belt out a chorus into the yellow-handled ‘microphone’. Diffused light flowing through the sheer curtains that cover the big picture window behind the faux leather sofa (no blanket) carries equally sparkly Nebraska dust particles into the room (no coffee table). Katy Perry, Juicy J, and me… we’re warning everyone to beware of the Dark Horse that’s “comin’ atcha!” Water the plant, dust the piano, sweep the hardwoods; “… cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine, there’s no going back!” Just me… and URL, my 10 year-old miniature schnauzer. He is not phased at all by my dance moves, but is patiently waiting for the area rug to be vacuumed so he can roll around on his back, flailing all four legs in different directions. I call it frolicking.
This is not exactly the scene you would expect to witness in the home of a divorced mother of five, who’s been on her own for the past seven years; juggling work, bills, matters of health & wellness and dating after age 50, is it? Juggling sounds like I'm handling things flawlessly; like those balls are swishing through the air one after the other without even a little hitch. Not! Balls have been dropping all over the place! I have scrambled for what seems like forever to retrieve one while another gets away - like wrangling five very young children for "perfect" Christmas card photos. It suddenly dawned on me today though, over the past several years, I have somehow managed to organize my personal disasters into their own neat little cubicles... somehow. How did that happen? How did I find my way back to this seemingly calm, happy place?
I don't know exactly when I started doing this, but Sudoku puzzles have become my Saturday morning ritual - before any cleaning commences. I wake when I'm ready. No alarm on this day. I shuffle out to the front porch in my pajamas to retreive the Tribune. Hopefully, the carrier didn't chuck it too far down the sidewalk since I'm dressed this way. Grind the coffee beans. Add cold water. Push the button. A few minutes later, I am sitting at the kitchen table or, in the summer, on the back deck with my coffee in hand, paper folded neatly in a small square, exposing only the puzzle. Saturday Sudokus are the best. They're five stars. The hard ones. I love a challenge!
I'm guessing anyone who likes to work these puzzles has a method, a system that they use to figure out which numbers go where. I don't. Not really. I kind of work it backwards if I'm honest. Huh. I just realized that. I also read the paper from back to front. Not sure when I started doing that either, or why. Hmmm... Back to my puzzle. By backwards I mean, I figure out where the numbers CAN'T go, and by process of elimination only one empty square remains. That's where this particular number has to live! Simple, right? No. This is a five star puzzle, remember?
Have you ever seen a movie where the main character is a genius kid solving a cipher? All the letters and numbers get blurry and float around the screen until one by one they become crystal clear, and the puzzle pieces all fall into place. That's kind of how my puzzles work. I know. Weird, right? The numbers don't actually jump off the page and float around. Don't send your letters of concern just yet. lol!! But, when I pull the paper back away from my face (I'm not doing it because my glasses are still on my nightstand. Haha!!), I can see all of the numbers at the same time. It's easier to see what's missing. I can see a lot of 7's, so I look to see where the few that are missing will fit. Before I know it, my puzzle is done and it's time to clean the house.
Up close, the hard things in life look daunting, confusing. If we step back to view the big picture we can see what is missing. Think about it. A major life event... could be divorce, the death of a sibling, your kid's medical condition; how do you deal with it? There will be a lot of information to process. There will be a lot of emotions involved. It can be messy. When you're in the middle of it, you can't see through the tangled, gnarly knots of pain and confusion. It will seem like you'll never get back to dancing around the living room again. And you won't, if you stay there. Step back; find a clearing. Take a deep breath and take in the view. From this perspective, you can see more clearly what needs to be done.
Seven years ago, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was getting divorced. I had been married for 19 years. Four of my five kids were still living at home. I did not have a career, or even a job. We homeschooled. My ex was in no position to help financially, even if he wanted to. It was Christmas. My family was 1300 miles away. I spent whole days in my bedroom, curled up in a ball on my bed, crying, agonizing, worrying myself almost to death. I really did feel like I was dying. My life was an absolute mess, but I still had all these responsibilities!
It is only now, looking back at this terrifying, gut-wrenching time in my life, that I realize what I did. I took a step back. A really, really big step! I packed up the kids and went home to New York. We stayed for six weeks. Some of my kids went to public school for the first time in their lives. I looked for a job, and a place for us all to live. In the meantime, all five of us crammed into my parents' two bedroom double-wide. Yep. Very cozy. My intention was to stay there, in New York, finish raising my family, pick up the pieces and move on with my life. That is not what happened. But, six weeks was enough time to think things through, regroup, make a plan. I was able to look at the 'big picture' from the safety of my parents home. I took a time-out; gave myself some space.
Here we are, seven years later, back in Nebraska. All of my kids are adults now. I have a beautiful one year-old grandson! I go to work every weekday, and clean my house on Saturday mornings. Yes, most times I'm dancing and singing along with my music... after my Sudoku puzzle is complete, of course. That rough patch is behind me. There have been others; some equally devastating. But, now I have insight. I know what to do when the going gets tough. I step back, take a long view, breathe. Then, I get to work. It's not always easy to take those hard steps, but hindsight is a great teacher. I call it big picture thinking. Next time you find yourself in a tight spot, you should try it. It works!