What I Learned This Year

Legal process is slooooow.  And expensive.  But expensive because it’s slow.   And I’ve had enough of it.  For my part, it is over.  I have no desire to ever, ever see the inside of any courthouse for as long as I live.  But I won’t be so naïve to assume the day will never come again. 

Conversely, A wedding can be planned and executed in less than 2 months.  To think most weddings take at least a year to plan, it has to be some kind of miracle to be able to put together an intimate wedding for 70 in less than 2 months.  Of course, I had a little help from my mother, a caterer herself.  We three went out to dinner together and planned the food and the libations, and the event itself to be held at her restaurant.  I ordered a wedding dress which was delivered and altered within three weeks of the wedding.  Todd designed the invitations and had them printed through his professional contacts.  He made our chuppah, which still stands in mom’s courtyard today, though dusty with snow instead of threaded with flowers from our gardens.  And – the whole thing cost less than a quarter of my aforementioned legal fees.

People don’t change.  This isn’t a negative statement, just a matter-of-fact.  It was this long-ago revelation, along with a few important others, that led me down the path I walk today.  My stepfather says, “leopards don’t change their spots.”  He was referencing a particular individual, but it really applies to most everyone – in the general sense.  You are who you are.  Only you can change who you are, and you cannot change someone else.  A family member recently acknowledged – like I recently have – that we are in our forties.  So, if he is seeking someone special to share his life with – she should accept him as he is, the whole package, the good and the bad – because he is who he is and he’s not going to change.  I happen to embrace this idea.

There’s always a second chance.  This is a big one.  But there’s a catch:  second chances don’t usually come knocking on your front door.  Go out and seize your second chance!  And if, by some miracle or invention, it does come to you with little or no encouragement then by all means… open the God-damned door!  In my life, I got one really big second chance.  It was magical – like the gentle fall of snow around two lovers stealing a kiss in the moonlight… it was wonderful – like the first time you realize that he really does love you like that…. and it was awesome – like the rush of friends and family who came in like holiday shoppers to a Black Friday doorbuster, to witness the second chance sealed for eternity before God, a well-stocked bar, my mother’s buffet, and four dogs.

Know when to accept help when it is offered.  One year ago my internal coping coil imploded.  Without revisiting that particularly painful period of time, suffice it to say that when I went to my family doctor to evaluate a lingering cough, she strongly recommended I start some medication to help me overcome the brick wall I’d been slammed into over the holidays.  Thankfully it stopped the broken dam in my eyes, and everything came back into focus over time.  And that’s just one example.   It’s been a slow – albeit, ongoing – process, this learning to accept help… even to ask for it, since I have always been of the “do it myself” constitution.  As this year comes to a close, I’ve had to release my hold on control of some of the minute things, if not for sanity – then for my health. 

Ask for what you want.  I recently remembered one of Randy Pausch’s statements in his book, The Last Lecture.  It kind of correlates with accepting help from others.  I’ve not only had to start saying “yes” to help, I’ve also had to learn how to comfortably ask others for things I would normally shrug off and do myself, or assume I’m not going to get.  The lesson learned is, ASK.  The worst thing that can happen is that the answer will be no.  And if it’s not “no,” then you just might get what you want!  Even if it’s just a cup of freshly brewed Earl Grey, made by your awesome husband.

My kids need more chores and household responsibilities.  I think this one is self-explanatory.  Both of them are good kids, but both of them have been living in this all-inclusive, resort-like bubble whereby mom takes care of everything while they just “exist” in my house.  So, I hereby decree that the Marriot Grande Momma will close in 2013.  Kid #1 claims he deserves more “responsibility” since he’s in middle school now; unfortunately, this translation to him as meaning he gets to stay home alone from time to time is a bit misguided.  Kid #2 will gladly help her beloved momma – she just needs direction – and at age 7, she is ripe for “training,” before she is taller and the tween years blow in like a hurricane.

I am not old, but I am not young.  I go about my every day like a ball of energy.  I am high-strung, wound tight, and on the go most days.  Just like doing it all myself, I also tend to keep going until I fall to bed exhausted from the day’s responsibilities.  I get up at 6 every week day to get kid #1 off to school, then  kid #2 off to school, then it’s time for coffee and showering and cleaning up the kitchen and straightening up the house, vacuuming, starting a load of laundry, pissing around on Facebook for bit before starting back to my own schoolwork…. all the while fielding phone calls from the nurse until kid #1 gets home and then I’m off to go pick up kid #2 … and then it’s time for homework help and dinner and showers and bedtime and then checking blood sugars at least twice during the night… before I wake up at 6 to start the whole process over again.  Where’s the break in there?  Or, where’s the food?  Which all leads to another big lesson of the year…

I am not a rat.  Being not young means I need to slow down.  Those all-nighters we proudly bragged about back in college, where we sat up all night in the dormitory’s study lounge slugging down cappuccinos and Pepsi, finishing term papers and studying for finals, werememorable moments we can fondly recall on our favorite social outlet.  But those days are long over.  I need more rest.  Similarly, I cannot live on caffeine and the occasional grab-food alone.  One of my kids’ favorite movie quotes of all time is from Ratatouille:  “Food is fuel.  Now shut up and eat your garbage.”  We laugh about it from time to time, but truth be told – I have been eating more garbage than fuel.  Too much alcohol.  Too much caffeine, not enough water.  Not enough fruit, vegetables, whole grains.  All of these factors are closely lined up like dominoes, and once one goes down, they all go down.  And that’s where I found myself at the end of 2012, lying in the emergency room for 9 hours dehydrated and trembling from 3 hours of violent vomiting, hooked up to a heart monitor, blood pressure cuff, two IV’s and four bags of fluids, on morphine and Zofran, and facing admittance for observation on Christmas Eve.  Blood tests, EKG, chest x-ray, abdominal CT scan, and a flu swab… all offered no explanation for the low blood pressure for which they would not release me.  A very valuable lesson, learned I did.  When your body tells you to slow down, you don’t continue to barrel ahead on your picture-perfect holiday expectations like a nut-chasing squirrel on crack.

Stress will destroy you.  Like Gollum’s Precious, it will slowly drive your body to the precipice.  Last year, stress stole my emotional stability, exacerbated ridiculous injuries that refused to heal without some medical intervention, sabotaged my mental agility in my academic progress,  cost me $1400 in periodontal surgery, made me justifiably paranoid over my own decisions, shattered my motivation to run, and opened the door to countless minor illnesses – the last of which was sinusitis turned relentless cough (same time, last year), driving me to the doctor last week for a chest x-ray and subsequent treatment for pneumonia. 

It’s in God’s hands.  At some point we all have to let go of that which we cannot control.  I did so out of faith, but also because I had the good sense to recognize that I needed something bigger than me.  I gave my fears over to Him, because I believed with my whole soul that He would restore me and deliver me from the hell I couldn’t slam the door on (even in the midst of second chances).   I also knew that – like that second chance – things would turn out exactly the way they were meant to.  But it’s not only just in God’s hands – I learned how strong prayer can be when many people pray together.  I have firsthand knowledge of this, and no – I’m no religious fruitcake.   I don’t need you to believe.  But you will.  Someday. 

Money isn’t the most important thing in life – Love and Family are.  Everyone worries about money, and I’m no exception.  I’ve spent a good portion of my life chasing the elusive almighty greenback.  And money is tight, and the bills are sometimes late, and I have lost plenty of sleep over my lawyer’s bill.  What I learned the most this year was to let it all go.  Todd taught me that.  Worrying about it doesn’t change it – and we will eventually overcome the debt.  Everything will get paid.  So…we’ve decided to quit our jobs and live on LOVE.  Okay, seriously.  We are not so stupid not to know how good we have it.  We are blessed beyond our wildest dreams of 3 years ago, when we didn’t know where to find each other and had no idea we ever would, again.  We have each other.  And we have our two undeniably wonderful families we have joined together, who have loved and supported us since day 1.  Todd’s and my families belong to both of us – it is effortless and easy – like chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and ganache.  Again, we are so very blessed.

Take time for what IS important.  My kids are important, my family is important.  Making time for my kids – doing stuff they like to do, making eye contact in the rush of daily life and wrapping my arms around them every chance I get.  Spending time with my family – all of my family – celebrating birthdays and all of our holidays, and laughing together and being appreciative of the how fleeting it can be.  Todd.  Not just being married, but spending time together – focused time – to be friends and lovers, experiencing life side-by-side, looking ahead but remembering who we were.  And last, but not least – sometimes the most important time is the time I almost never take – the time I take for me

The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things?   
Because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think. 
 ~  Randy Pausch
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