Continuing the journey…

I knew going into this blog that it would take more than a year to find happiness.  Anyone who is honest with themselves knows that it is an ongoing and never-ending task, searching for their own happy.  But I like to set deadlines and goals, and a year is a good length of time for new ventures.

 

My latest journey on the “road back” was a short trip to London, England last week.  I used to travel all the time; for work, with LK, whenever the opportunity arose.  But with all the upheaval in the last three years, I hadn’t been able to, and realized this summer that I hadn’t travelled in almost four years.  I was beginning to get a bit of cabin fever and wanderlust, but the ties to Jack were too strong to allow me to branch out very far.

 

But then, this fall, I reached the point of no return.  I was frustrated, lonely, exhausted and, quite truthfully, angry.  I had been taking care of all my obligations at home, which I freely and joyfully took up. But let’s be honest here, taking care of a special needs child is difficult.  Doing it as a single parent feels like an impossible task some days.  I consider it a blessing and an honor to be doing it, and doing it fairly well, but even I have my limits.  So I decided to call in a favor.

 

Immediately prior our separation, LK and I had a trip to Paris planned for my birthday.  Once he left, I discovered that he had cancelled the trip without telling me.  I asked him why he cancelled my ticket and he was stunned when I said I would have gone alone.  Of course the ensuing discussion wasn’t very civil, but what came out of it was a promise to provide a plane ticket (via his immense bank of airline miles) once I was ready.  And while he was a little hesitant when I called the favor in, he did book the ticket for me. 

 

In another blessing, I had friends in London who offered me a place to stay.  I had known JS, the wife, since she was dating LK’s brother, nearly a decade ago.  I had always prayed they would marry so that we could be partners in the crazy family that was LK’s.  But in a bit of divine intervention, it didn’t work out.  And now we know why.  :-)  I had only met RS, the husband, a few times, but we had become “Facebook friends” and shared Likes and Comments back and forth for a few years.  They were wonderful hosts and I loved their neighborhood and hospitality.

 

Those two bits of the trip, a plane ticket and place to stay, removed a significant barrier to my ability to travel: money.  I could afford food and some sightseeing, but that was about it.  The addition of a longtime friend, JD, who travels regularly, meant that I would have a sightseeing partner, which removed the final fear: Being kidnapped in a foreign country.  Don’t laugh.  I have watched a lot of Lifetime movies in the past four years at home.

 

Over the next few weeks, I will share my photos, as well as selections from the travel journal that I kept.  I saw lots of old stuff, ate tons of delicious food (it’s a myth that the English have terrible cuisine) and learned a lot about myself.  I was also reminded of the Maggie that I knew before LK left, Jack arrived and I let myself be forgotten so that other things could be taken care of.  

 

I hope you will check back and if you do, that you will enjoy my remembrances of the amazing trip.  And I really hope that if you have been putting off travel, or been putting yourself on the shelf for the benefit of others, that you will be inspired to again place yourself in the forefront.  At least long enough to remind yourself of who you are and want to be.

 

Maggie

Will you just tell me what my passion is, please?

Three years ago this month, I was planning to quit my field sales job and begin looking for my “passion” and my “dream job.”  I have always enjoyed sales, but something was missing in my life and I wasn’t “blissfully happy.”  Of course, what happened instead was quite life-changing, has been documented in this blog.  And in the midst of taking care of Jack, and divorcing LK, I have been too busy to actually work on finding my passion.

Our society is very concerned with finding your passion, or bliss and working at the job that was meant for you, and makes your life full.  So, what happens if you haven’t found it?  Well, you are miserable and stuck in a job you hate and wondering why, oh why, can’t you figure out what your passion is?  It’s a lonely and sad place to be.  Especially when you see all the beautiful people on television living their own personal dreams.

I have been trying to figure out my passion for so long that it’s become comical at this point.  And the sad thing is that I may have finally realized that my passion is to love and raise children, but since I married a man who didn’t want children, I have just the one, and now I don’t have the option to stay home with him.  In any case, the search continues.

While I was in therapy, I frequently asked my therapist what the hell my passion was.  I figured that she was listening to me for an hour a week, and had great insights, surely if she was paying attention, she knew what it was?  But either she didn’t know, or she wasn’t telling.  I would have to do that hard work on my own.

So then, I asked a friend, who is a business coach, and while she was able to tell me what she saw me get excited about, it wasn’t an actual declaration of what my passion was, and there was no path for my future to be had.  But she did give me a list of questions to work through that would cause me to consider what it was that made me happy or fulfilled or excited.  And as I have been working through them, I am realizing that I don’t know what makes me feel that way.  Except for caring for Jack.  And as good as I am at that role, there is no one offering to pay me for it.  Yet.

I did consider a nursing career while I was in the trenches of the hospital and caring for Jack while he was very sick.  I decided that I only really wanted to care for Jack, and although I would love to take care of other babies, the pain of losing any (which does happen, as I came to find out while at Children’s Healthcare) was more than my tender heart could bear.

So I am going to return to the quest to find my passion for a while.  I am going to really “sit with myself and feel my emotions” and reflect and question and consider what may help me find the path to my passion.  I do realize that my passion may actually be Jack, and not some job or career that will allow me to support him.  So, perhaps a paying job that does not fulfill all my dreams, and even makes me less than blissful, is still in the cards.  But maybe I will find some passion that I can convert into an income.  I am very hopeful.

As with all of my projects, I began my research with Google.  If you Google “how do I find my passion” you will get over 62 million results (in under .13 seconds) with a myriad of techniques and exercises to help you find said passion.  I am going to try three in the next few days:

1:  Self Reflective questions that ask what in my life has been exciting, when have I felt fulfilled, when I felt trapped or unhappy, etc.

2:  A Dream Board:  This is a collage that includes pictures and words that I respond to in some way, or represent the way I want my life to look, or feel, or be like at some point.   I am instructed to flip through magazines and cut out any picture or word that I am drawn to, even if I don’t understand it at the time.  I am getting less and less “engineer-y” and more and more “artsy fartsy” lately and the old me would have scoffed at this “go with your feelings” nonsense, but I am really looking forward to this one.

3:  A Core Values List:  This is something that I did when I went through a Franklin Covey course and really helped me focus my abilities and goals in my sales job.  I am hopeful that if I complete this exercise while considering my personal life, it will be similarly successful.

So, there you have it.  The quest for my passion has begun.  You’ll notice that “find a man” is not on the list as yet.  I am getting closer to being ready to try to date again, but I’m not there yet.  I don’t think I have the energy to find someone and make sure he’s feeling good about himself and feels loved until I’ve done the same for myself.  I am going to find my passion, and then if a man fits into the plan, I’ll look for him at that time.  For now, it’s about me and Jack and our future.

And I’m really hope my passion involves living at a beach house…

Passionately yours,

Maggie

Projects Update: Closets and Faucets

I hope you all are having a great week.  Atlanta was blessed with beautiful, mild weather today and Jack went to his first day of preschool.  What a great milestone for him, and for me!  When I dropped him off I expected at least a little bit of a fuss, but he just went right in and never looked back.  Clearly, he will have a love for school just like I did! 

When I picked him up, there were two children asleep, one crying his eyes out and Jack was playing with a toy telephone that another child was trying to take from him.   He just looked at the boy, held on tightly and waited him out.  Jack retained possession of the toy and when he noticed me he didn’t run right to me, but just kept playing.  Fortunately for me, the crying child needed a hug so I got to sweep him up and love on him until Jack was ready to leave.  The teacher told me that Jack was the only child who hadn’t cried that day and I felt blessed to have such a happy, confident child.  In spite of his rough start and all my overprotectiveness!

So, finally an update on the projects I’ve been working on!  With the help of my father and his friend, we replaced all the faucets in the bathrooms.  I have lived with the ugly bronze ones that were here when we moved in for a decade.  I didn’t want to spend money fixing something that wasn’t broken, but when they began to refuse to yield water, one by one, I was able to give myself permission to go buy new ones.  And I found gorgeous brushed nickle ones for less than $50 each!  It was a small change that makes me happy everytime I look at them. 

Below is a photo of the old faucet, which was the same in all four sinks.  All four were removed before I remembered to take a picture, but I believe the ugliness is still obvious:

And below is the new faucet.  This one is in the powder room and as Daddy pointed out, it matches the mirror that I bought for that bathroom over six years ago. 

I love the new faucets!  I will keep squirrelling a little money away each week until I can afford the next bathroom fix-up: new lighting!!  Each bathroom has, wait for it, ugly brass light fixtures that I really don’t like.  I’ll let you know when I get that done, hopefully before Christmas!

The next project that I want to catch you up on is the closet build out that I started in the guest room.  I absolutely love the result!!  I am still planning to add drawers in the future, but the three drawers cost as much as the whole organizer, so they will be acquired as I save for them.  For now, the shelves are working just fine.  This photo is of the closet organizer empty:

And here is the closet filled with my sewing machine, some extra blankets and pillows, luggage and off season clothes:

I am very happy with the end result and have been in there to just look at it several times since it was finished.  Clearing out the clutter is great, and creating a beautiful, functional storage space is absolutely wonderful.  When your whole world seems hectic and out of control, it’s just nice to have a corner of your home whipped into shape.  Is there anything more relaxing?

So is there anything you can do in your own home to make a corner of your world more relaxed and peaceful?  Let me know if you start a project of your own in search of happiness!

Enjoying my home and life,

Maggie

 

Sappy, Life-Affirming Metaphors Ahead…

I did not get the closet build out finished last week and I am totally okay with that.  Because what I did get done is prepare the closet for it’s new role as my favorite closet in the house.  Below is the before photo of the closet with the single, builder grade wire shelf.  The closet is not living up to its potential at all…

Now, brace yourself for the aforementioned sappy, life-affirming metaphor.  I don’t know if it was the fatigue, or the paint fumes, but I began to really identify with this closet during the past week.  Like the closet, I haven’t been living up to my potential in quite a while.  But only as a woman, and person.  As a mother and protector of Jack, I am an unmatched and rousing success.  As Maggie, I have left a few things untended.

As I removed the wire shelf, the anchors and screws that had supported it clung to the wall like a dog to a bone, and like I have been to my past.  Once finally and violently removed, the holes left in the drywall were gaping and dramatic.  I couldn’t believe the size and design of the anchors.  How could this much engineering be required for a lone wire shelf?  But the ugly shelf was expected to hold perhaps a hundred pounds of clothes and the drywall foundation would never be strong enough. 

Anyway, I guess my marriage was like the anchors and screws.  Over engineered to hold up an ugly and dysfunctional relationship that, no matter how many beautiful clothes, or trips, jewelry or other “things” were hung on it, would never be pretty, and certainly never strong enough to support us.  It, we, looked great on paper.  Everyone said so.  I thought so.  But in practice, the design was flawed and the life we built fell apart.  So, moving forward, I patched and sanded the voids left in the wall and painted them a lovely shade of creamy off-white.

Isn’t it a beautiful clean slate?  I am still looking for the spackle and sand paper and paint that will transform my soul into a clean slate, but in the meantime, I find that hard work and sweat are a great help. 

Below, I have included a photo of the lower half of the tower that will be in the center of the closet, to give you some perspective.  It is about two feet wide and the closet is about seven or eight feet wide.  The bedroom is kind of small, so I am going to install drawers in the tower so that a dresser isn’t necessary in the room.

The next step involves a level, a drill and a saw, and although I am quite comfortable with a firearm, these tools scare me.  So I am waiting on help to arrive this weekend.  If all goes well, the closet will be finished by this time next week and I will have a wonderfully fresh, clean new place to look at and be inspired by moving forward.

We can all thank HGTV and the DIY network for the metaphors and disproportionate importance placed on home improvement this week.

Happy home improving!
Maggie

 

Jack already thinks I’m perfect…

Last week found me taking a small slide backwards from my quest for happiness, but overall was good.  Jack’s sitter had gone on vacation and I while I was able to find a sitter for a few hours, I spent much of my week in the house with Jack.  As a childless career woman, I remember thinking that women who were stay at home mothers were crazy, and that there was no way I could ever handle that much domesticity.  Then I had Jack, and my mind spun a post-partum tale of home bound bliss that said I wanted to be with him every second of every day.  And then the pregnancy hormones wore off and I needed some “Maggie time” so badly it felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I love being with Jack, but realized last week that I have spent every single day for the past 22 months as a mother, with no real break.  When Jack was born and went to the Children’t Hospital, there was a period when he was in ICU care that I couldn’t spend the nights with him, but I was there all day.  Then they put him in a step-down room and I spent 24 hours a day in the room with him.  Since returning home, the only three nights I have been away from him have been the nights LK has kept him.  This has left me no time to go on a trip or take any real time for myself to relax of regroup.

So in the coming weeks, I am going to try very hard to find a way to take a few nights to go to the beach, or even a hotel with a pool and a spa.  A friend with complete freedom to travel at any time pointed out that I sounded “trapped” in my last post, and although I don’t want to admit that, because then I sound like a bad mother, I have felt trapped.  I want to go to a beach resort, or a European city and just take care of me for a few days.  I have a lead on a great sitter for Jack and so now it’s just getting the timing and logistics hammered out.  I hope to be writing about my mini-vacation soon…

As for last week, I didn’t have a sitter for as many hours as ususal, so I didn’t get to work that much, and I was exhausted every night.  I did read a few things, although I didn’t get a whole book read.  One interesting thing that I read was a short story from the book “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen.  She is a psychiatrist/therapist and in this essay called “Beyond Perfection” she describes her youth, and her struggle to gain approval from her father.  He was never impressed with her 98 on a test, and instead asked what happened to the other two points, crushing her spirit and ensuring that she would study relentlessly for every future test she ever had.  She points out that the term “unconditional love” is superfluous because love is, by definition, unconditional.  What we are looking for is love, but what we actually seek is approval, and since we do that with accomplishments or efforts outside of giving love, we compromise our happiness by seeking perfection.  She eventually marries a man who, after she spends an inordinate amount of time studying for a driving test on which she earns a perfect score, asks her why on earth she’d want to do that.  He asked why she traded the lunch in the park and the visit to the museum for a few more points on a test that she could have just “passed” and had the same result:  a license.  She realizes that by studying so much the past week, she missed out on living and enjoying life, and the approval for the perfect score didn’t come, and it didn’t reallly matter.

I wish it were easier to just stop trying to be perfect.  I’m not perfect, and I know no one is, but each time I fail to do something, I feel badly and unworthy.  And yet, no one else seems to care.  I know that my friends and family don’t care if I show up in a slightly wrinkled shirt, or if Jack is wearing a bib with a stain on it, but I really wish that everything were “perfect.”  I don’t know what perfect is, but I know that I’m not there yet.  Last week, I accepted every single invitation for a meal or meeting, even though I was tired, and would have rather slept, or do laundry or otherwise get something accomplished.  And as it turns out, I had a great time out with friends.  I have far better memories of laughing with “Grant’s Mama” talking about raising sons, and with my friend “T” talking about finding time to exercise and take care of ourselves, and on the phone with so many others.  And not one person asked me why my eyebrows hadn’t been tweezed lately, and no one asked if I had cleaned my toilets that week or ironed my shirts for tomorrow.  They just enjoyed me, and I them.

So, for this week, I have one project that I want to accomplish, and several goals for relaxation and enjoyment.  First of all, I am going to finish building out the closet in the guest room.  I will post pictures soon, but I am pulling out the wire shelf that the builder put in and building out a wooden closet organizer.  I have wanted to do this since we bought the house, but here I am 11 years later, and just getting it done.  But I’m done feeling bad about it.  I’ll get it done when I get it done, and hopefully that will be this week.  If not, then next week, or the next.  Also, I am going to find a painter to paint the library and living room, both of which were painted when we moved in.  I have hated the color since it dried, but since LK refused to repaint a freshly painted room, I have lived with it.  Actually, I have scowled at it every morning for 11 years wishing that it didn’t remind me of the past 11 years that I’ve had to look at it.  I know it may cost several hundred dollars, but the price will be well worth the boost in morale, especially if it frees me from that morning scowl.  And as an added bonus, if I can work it out, I am going to get a massage.  And maybe go to a movie.  Ok, now I’m getting a little crazy.  Too much me time.  Right?  No?  Ok, I’ll do it!!

Peacefully yours,

Maggie

Back in the saddle again…

In my last post I mentioned that there were several things on my plate that were causing me stress, and that I had begun to cut myself some slack so that I could just live a little.  You’ll be happy to know that the good parts have continued!  I have been less focused on laundry, the divorce and responsibilites and more focused on happily living each day.  Yesterday I even went to the movie theatre.  All by myself!  And I loved it!  I saw Larry Crowne, with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  I loved the movie, and I had a big bag of buttered popcorn and a huge coke.  I won’t even let myself think of the hundreds (thousands?!?!) of calories that I consumed, because it doesn’t matter.  Everything in moderation, I always say.  Or at least I’m starting to say.

As I said in the last post, my houseguests have moved out.  They were here for only about six weeks, and while it was different, I really enjoyed having them here.  I had some help with Jack, and with chores, but also, I had someone to talk to in the evenings when I get so lonely.  I knew it was temporary, and when my friend told me she had found a full time job and an apartment I swallowed my dissappointment at losing them and celebrated her victory.  After all her struggles, going through a divorce, becoming a single mother, moving twice, and now beginning to win back her independence, I was thrilled to see her realize some meaningful success.

So they are gone and I have my office back.  Which is a great thing because I have found out that I do not keep up with my writing if the laptop is in my bedroom.  Tonight I am sitting at my desk in my newly reclaimed office, which I am redecorating.  I will post pictures soon.

For this weeks project, I have decided to attempt to limit my television time and use that time to do other things I would enjoy more.  We have all read that excessive television viewing is linked to obesity and bad health, but I have a theory that it is also related to my sadness and depression.  My theory is basically this:  I am tired at night, so I watch tv.  This means that I don’t get chores or projects done around the house.  Therefore when I wake up the next morning, I find undone laundry or dishes, or go another day without finishing that quilt I’ve been working on for 6 years.  This causes me to feel depressed and overwhelmed (and like a failure) so I am tired and sad.  That causes me to want to do nothing but sit on the couch and watch tv.  And thus, the cycle begins again.  This doesn’t even take into account the lost opportunities to socialize with other people, or play with Jack and teach him something new, instead of watching yet another hour of “must see tv”.

So, I am breaking the cycle.  At least for this week and then we’ll see how it goes.  But today has been great, so far.  I am allowing some tv time, but it’s only to allow myself to maintain a link to the outside world.  I had it on a news show this morning while I was preparing Jack’s breakfast, then this evening, I watched the news again.  It was a total of about 90 minutes of tv news, and honestly, if I can cut that down tomorrow, I will.  I got far more information listening to the talk radio station while I was at work.  So what did I get done today?  Well…….

* Changed the sheets on my bed.  This is a actually a big deal, because it’s a big-ass california king bed we bought for my 6’7” ex-husband who didn’t take the monstrosity when he left.  I count this ridiculously time consuming, and exhausting activity as cardio, so I was able to skip my workout today.  I am considering alternating which side of the bed I sleep on so that I can stretch this chore out another week.

* Worked four hours at my part time job.

* Cooked, divided and froze homemade baby food for Jack including sweet potatoes, butternut squash, crowder peas and a baby version of chicken chili.  I prepared enough to feed him for two weeks, and have no tupperware left in the cabinets.

* Washed dishes.   All of them.  There isn’t a dirty dish in the whole house.  Even the dog bowls got washed today.

* Transferred all my information to a new day planner.  I love doing this!  Is that weird?  Nah!  It’s awesome!  New planner day!!!

* Mounted the baby monitor.  My child is 15 months old and I have only today mounted the monitor above his bed.  Prior to today, it was rigged up via the wire to hang over the closet door next to his crib.  It worked fine, but I rarely went into his closet because I would have to disturb the wire hanging system.  Today I found a dozen outfits in the closets that I had forgotten he even had.

* Listened to the Salsa-music station and danced with Jack for an hour.  What a joyful noise it is to hear your child laugh and squeal when you dance him around the living room!  When I get tired and put him down for a few minutes he bounces around and dances on his own!  He and I are going to have a great time this week!

* Took a guitar lesson!  This was so exciting and could be a project all in itself.  I took lessons “the summer before everything changed” and really enjoyed it.  I became quite good at performing the collected works of Miss Phoebe Buffett, from Friends, especially “Smelly Cat.”  But in the turmoil of the past two years, I let this activity fall to the side.  Well, I am on the search for happiness, dammit!!  And I know that music makes me happy, so I am back at it.  Tonight, I played and sang “You Are My Sunshine” for Sweet Baby J, and he loved it.  See?  I’m happier already…

So, if you’re game, join me in this weeks challenge and turn your own television off.  For a few hours, for a day, for the rest of the week.  Whatever you want to try.  And then come back and post a comment and let me know what you got done.  And if you hated it and turned the tv right back on, that’s cool, let me know that, too!  Find happiness where you can.  For me, maybe it’s in a house where the television isn’t on all day.  I’ll let you know….

Have a good week!

Maggie