Saturday, May 19, 2012

Defining Uncertainty: In Life, Crap Happens

I am a planner.  It’s the way I have always been.  I need to know what’s going on; where, when, who’s going to be there.  It used to really throw me off when plans changed last-minute or if “The Plan” was just to see what the day would bring.  Then November happened, and suddenly my life became the definition of uncertainty, and I must say that I have been able to adapt much better than I would have expected.  Some of this has come from within, and some has come from the inspiration of others.
So, are some ways I have defined uncertainty recently:
The Wedding
This was a wedding that was planned to the every smallest detail.  Truly, my sister should plan events for a living.  There was very little question as to how the days surrounding the wedding would play out, until we found out the day before that my mother would not be there.  The mother of the bride.  This was not how it was supposed to be, and at the crux of this realization, I was not sure I could make it through intact.  It was an impossible situation:  How do you move forward without such an important person?  Well, we did not have a choice, so we had to just figure it out. We didn’t have time to process the enormity of this tragic turn.   We cried at the rehearsal and during picture-taking, walking down the aisle and on the altar.  We cried at points during the reception.  In allowing ourselves moments of weakness, we were able to find moments of strength, and it made all the difference.  I gave the toast without any hints of a quivering voice.   I was able to laugh as my son danced with more rhythm than any eight-year-old should have and catch up with old friends.  It was the beginning of my own transformation into a person who could more easily accept reality and the things that are simply uncertain.

The Accident
I left my teaching job this fall to take an administrative position, and as excited as I was for this new challenge, I knew I was going to sorely miss a dear friend and fellow teacher when I left.  As teachers, we were on the same wavelength with everything, like we shared a brain.  As friends, we connected in the same way, including our adoration for ridiculous television shows and boy bands from the 90’s.  I got to know her husband and witness the true love they shared as best friends, and I watched her become a mother. I loved every second of reliving the trials and tribulations of having young kids through her experiences.  Then, in January, tragedy struck in the most cruel and incomprehensible way.  While changing a tire on the highway, her husband was struck and killed, leaving behind his best friend and his three young children, all between seven years and 8 weeks.  You want to talk about uncertainty, talk to this woman.  She’s developed the kind of strength I wish she didn’t need;  the kind of strength that produces an article like this.  The kind of strength that allows her to plan events in his honor and organize shopping trips and concerts to maintain normalcy in her life.  She is taking life by the horns, and living each day full tilt, because you just don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.  She’s an inspiration and someone with admirable determination to overcome her uncertainty, but I wish she didn’t have to be.
Life is unpredictable.  In the words of the priest leading his funeral, “We all want answers.  We all want to know why, but in life, sometimes crap happens.”  My take from this realization is to embrace the whims of life.  My school district’s budget is in shambles, and I may not have a job come fall.  I have plan B and plan C, and I am not going to sweat what I can’t control.  My mom may never be the same, and she may never welcome me into her life again, but I cherish every memory of the good times.  I appreciate every friend and family member who is a part of my life.  We can’t control life, but we can control our attitudes and reactions to it to make the best of what we have.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Sort-Of Brother

Leading up to a remarkably different Mother's Day, I spent the week counting my blessings.  It was my way of keeping tears and pity-parties at bay, and for the most part it worked.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and many I have already shared:  My husband and brother-in-law, my dad, and my sister.  I even had the good fortune of being featured on a blog series titled Life Changing Moments.  This post introduces a new family member; one that I know I can count on for a shoulder when needed, and a laugh at any given moment. 

My uncle was ten-years-old when I was born.  Poor kid was poised and ready to be the doted-upon, youngest child in a family of seven, and then I made my debut as first niece and grandchild, pigtails, glasses and all.  We spent a lot of time together when I was young, and I know I was a monumentally huge pain more often than not, much like a little sister can be.  Like siblings, I think we can both look back on those tumultuous times and laugh, knowing they brought us closer with each spat and squabble.  I wonder if he remembers:
  • the time I went into his bedroom, after being told specifically NOT to, and glued his model car pieces together in a big tower that I was quite proud of...until he saw it.
  • that he told me his fish would bite my fingers off if I put them in the tank. (They were goldfish.)
  • when I went to Florida to visit, and I got mad because he went off with his friends instead of playing with me, so I took my Me'me're's advice and removed the wheels from his skateboard while he was gone. (I was was actually quite impressive work.)
Those are simply a few of my shining moments.  A total pest, and yet despite all of the hassle, I know he's always loved me, and he has proven to be an unwavering pillar of strength during some of life's toughest moments.  I know remembers:
  • the very last time my Me'me're was taken to the hospital before she lost her battle with cancer.  He was only eighteen, I'm sure he knew what was happening, and he stayed with me instead of going to the hospital.  I remember it as if it were this afternoon. The sun painted the sky a bright orange color as it set, and we sat outside together for the longest time.  I don't even remember going in the house, or what happened later that night.  I remember that he could have been at the hospital, but he was with me, siting in the side yard, silently watching the sun set on life as we knew it.
As you can imagine, he has been rock-solid through this tragedy.  At the onset, he sat for hours in the hospital waiting room, called and texted with updates, and held me close as her gurney was rolled down the hall to the ambulance bay.  He gathered clothes, made trips between houses and hospitals, and did his best to get Dad to eat.  I know for a fact, there is nothing he would not have done.  Every family needs a man like this, and I am so grateful that he is part of ours.  It is my hope that if he is ever in need of the kind of strength he's provided for me, I can be strong enough to hold him up and make the kind of difference he has made for me. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jodi Picoult Was Right

I have always loved to write.  Up until recently, it was mostly for my own enjoyment; a hobby more than anything else.  There have been times when I have written more than others, times when a spark of creativity grabbed hold and held on for a while.  Those are typically times that coordinated with school vacations and I found myself with unfamiliar down time.  What I am experiencing now is markedly different, and it is reminding of something a favorite author shared with me years ago.

A title at our school book fair caught my eye, and though my two-year-old didn't leave much time or energy for reading, I could not resist. After one page, I could not put it down.  I'd never read a book so quickly, devouring every word.  That book was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and she had inspired me.  I tried to start writing, and I struggled.  I was teaching full-time, and I had two kids.  I was frustrated, so I emailed Jodi, because I am bold like that.  I asked her how she was able to spend so much time writing with a life so similarly busy in comparison to my own.  Much to my amazement, I got a reply ten minutes later.  Among other bits of advice, she revealed this:
"I can't not write.  I have too much to say."
That was six years ago, and I will be honest in saying that I didn't quite understand what she meant.  I had ideas, and I had some skill, and I really wanted to write.  When all was said and done, though, if I didn't get some writing done, I was okay with that. 

That was then, and this is now.  I understand what Jodi was talking about now, because I feel the same way.  I am coming off one of the busiest weeks of my school year so far, full of evening commitments, and I have struggled to squeeze in time to write.  My arms ache, like words are stuck inside, waiting to come out.  I feel better when I write, and I am so fortunate to have discovered that.  For me, I guess it took a tragedy to ignite that spark into a full-fledged flame that will light the way for my future.

So, thanks Jodi.  It took six years, but I get it now.  I, too, can't help but write.  I also have too much to say.