Monthly Archives: July 2012

Non-melancholy Title

Seriously, aren’t my girls stinking cute?

I’m working on being less melancholy.  I am.  But it’s hard.  The last 9 months have been so, so hard.  Maybe the hardest of my life.  I spent my last, long, miserable winter at an unreasonable latitude.  Our first without a mid-winter escape to someplace warm (like Michigan).  The coldest we’d seen so far.  The longest we’d seen so far.  Our first with two small children.  Then, right as our Halloween pumpkins began to thaw, my father killed himself.  And thus began our travels.  10 days in Michigan to say good-bye and bury him.  10 days back in Alaska to pack/sell/ship/donate/trash everything we owned.  Then, nearly 3 weeks to track down our possessions and get them all to Colorado.  (Remind me sometime to tell you the story of calling around trying to find our car.  It had been abandoned in Seattle by a fraudulent shipping company.  Such a funny story.)  Then, The Great Job Hunt, looking for an apartment, re-establishing some relationships in Colorado and -whoops!- the Waldo Canyon Fire.  We were not in harm’s way, but my family was.  So they evacuated to stay with us (in a third party’s house!) while we ferverently refreshed news pages waiting to see if the fire jumped the road and took their house.  Now, we’re finishing another stint in Michigan trying to help my mother go through everything my father had owned.

It’s a lot of travel, a lot to ask of a pair of toddlers, and a lot to ask of a marriage.  As a testament to our solidarity, we’re doing fine.  At the very least, we all still seem to like each other, and I think that’s more than we could have expected had we known what this year was going to look like.

Today, I sit here trying not to scratch flea bites (thank you, stray cat, for getting into the house and dropping off your nasty friends), getting ready to pack my kids back across the country (only one this time!) and finally move them into our home.  Ours.  We have our own place waiting for us in Denver.  We have furniture on the way, 2 jobs accepted and final interviews scheduled for the elusive ‘real’ job.  We’re getting there.

I have hope.

Is that all that separates me from my dad?  This abstract sense of something good on the horizon?  Is that it?  This year I committed to being more brazen.  I didn’t want to be brash or act without thinking, but I wanted to stop letting the risk of embarrassment or insecurity rule my decisions.  I wanted to try things and do things and branch out a little.  I wanted to put myself out there in a way that allowed hurt, but also allowed victory.  Was that one, silly little commitment the difference between life and death?  Between being ruled by my depression and learning to rule my life?

Clearly, mental illness and long-standing physical addictions are nothing to wave aside.  They played a heavy role in the death of my father and I will forever be watching for them in my own life.  But sometimes I can’t help but wonder at the small, quick decisions that forever affect the course of a life.

When I was 18, I was celebrating New Year’s in a hotel room with my boyfriend and some friends of ours.  At 11:45, I thought back to how many people I had out-partied that semester, and how many hockey players I could match drink for drink in a night.  I thought about the fact that I was young, with a family history of addiction and alcoholism, and that my tolerance was higher than seemed necessary, and that I was only in my first semester of college.  And I decided to take a year off.  At midnight, I put down my champagne (not even an empty glass) and didn’t drink again for several years.  After the first year, it just seemed unnecessary to drink while underage, and once I was of legal drinking age, it just didn’t seem important.

What would my life look like now if I had finished that glass of champagne?  Or not taken my impulsive personal challenge seriously?  Or forgotten about it the next day?  Would I be swimming in booze right now?  Would I have graduated from college with a good GPA, finished two AmeriCorps programs, earned a Congressional Award Gold Medal, married, had two children, and traveled to see so much beauty?  Would I have walked away from God?  Would I be depressed?

I don’t know, and I’m not sure it matters.  Being impulsive is not the moral of the story, but neither is learning to see the ways my life could go (or could have gone) horribly wrong.  The moral of the story is yet to be determined.  Or maybe it’s be grateful.  For the times that life has gone wonderfully right.  Even when I’m in the midst of the hardest months of my life.

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Don’t look to the right or left – it’s all too depressing.

My husband and I are hunting for an apartment in Denver.  We were trying to wait until my Dear Husband had acquired the ultra-important employment, but every job in the city seems to start in September.  Which is fine as far as our savings goes, but does not work to secure housing.  Over the three years we’ve been living in Alaska, every landlord started requiring ‘income verification’ before renting.

Which we cannot do without income.  Which we’re waiting on and working on.

Meanwhile, one child has had a black eye for many moons and the other has a sore throat/fever combo that is making words like ‘strep’ wander through my mind.  But if I take either to the doctor, I deplete my savings which is my only tangible, visible evidence to prove to a landlord that I can pay rent.  And I can’t get the kids on state health insurance until we are in our own place.  So we’re back to income verification.  Which we’re waiting on and working on.

As a cheery little detour, we’ve traveled to Michigan to help my mother clean out my dad’s house.  The one where he died.  Which gives me a chance to celebrate with family who are enjoying new-to-them homes.  Who are decorating and picking out furniture and setting things up however it suits them.  Which is all well and good, except that we’ve been trying to get to that step for MONTHS.

Look to your left, do you see someone there that makes you feel depressed?  Look to your right.  See the same thing? Sometimes that’s the way life goes.  Sometimes it looks like the mom to your left screaming at her kids is getting much better results, and sometimes it looks like the mom on your right ignoring her kids was somehow gifted the two most docile little beings ever.

Comparing yourself to others is a tool for self-destruction, I think.  Not because others are genuinely better off than you, but because that’s all you’ll see.  Unless you’re looking for the miserable parts of people’s lives to make YOU feel better, but then what kind of person does that make you?  Also miserable.  You can’t win playing that game.

You know what you can do?  You can keep on keeping on.  You can focus on you.  Your actions and your thoughts and your own business (and busyness).  You can keep your chin up and rest easy (or not) at night knowing you’re making the right decisions, not always easy ones, because they’re the right things to do.  You can face the reality that sometimes life looks excruciating and just brace yourself for the impact and the push through to the end.

For me, that involves letting go of jealousy.  I’m glad for people moving in to new homes.  It’s a good thing.  And that good thing does not come OUT of my life nor does it reflect any lack of ‘earned good’ on my part.  God alone knows the personal story of each person in my life.  And God alone knows what knowledge, experience, and support each person has been given.  We’re swimming along in one part of the race, treading water in another, and drowning somewhere else.  An image of success in one area does not equal an easy life, or an equal playing field for the duration of the game.

And one huge reason I cannot control the image of success that I project is that I cannot control the actions of others.  I cannot understand or know their hearts.  I cannot make anyone do anything.  To believe otherwise is to believe a lie.  A fallacy.  It’s a basic teaching of Al-Anon that I internalized long before my first meeting.  I just can’t control anyone else.  As a daughter, as a sister, or as a mother or a renter.  I can only control my actions.  I cannot force my toddler to acquiesce to  my demands.  I can choose to make reasonable requests at reasonable times with reasonable expectations.   And I can choose to love her and forgive her if she chooses to be unreasonable.

So I do.  I do what’s right.  Right now that means making a difficult and potentially embarrassing call to a leasing agent.  And trying to find another way to get into the home my kids need.  Later this afternoon it will mean squelching the urge to control my tantruming toddler.  I cannot force her to stop screaming, and she probably will not stop screaming as long as her environment keeps leaping and morphing and changing around her.  When she has something stable to depend on, her behavior will likely stabilize.  I cannot control her choices or behaviors, but I can control mine.  And that is a source of peace.

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