I Don’t Want to Die Alone

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I don’t want to die alone.

There was a show on TV called Parenthood. Have you seen it? I adore this show. It’s probably just behind LOST in my list of all-time favorite shows. Mostly because the writing was real – funny, touching, painful, and beautiful. The family was messy and complicated. But there was a frequent tradition featured in which the family would come together in the backyard of the parent’s Berkeley, California backyard (see above & below). All you have to do is Google “Parenthood table” (or something similar) for dozens of photos of this backyard scene. The dinners were chaos and love and hard things. And every single time, I thought to myself – it’s this. This is what matters to me. This is what I want (minus fake TV drama).

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I want to grow into old age with my kids (or “step” kids or “adopted” kids or whatever) and their spouses and their kids all around me. When my grandparents passed away – I was there – with all four of them – hugging them, saying my goodbyes, or holding their hands long into the night. What a gift this is, to be with the people who helped form you into the person you are, as they leave this world.

I’ve always dreamed of a big family and all that comes with it – loud, a little unruly, and full of joy and laughter (arguing and craziness and all the other stuff too). My own family is small. My parents are divorced. I’m not very close to my brother, but wish that I was. I am not very close to my dad, either. But I love them both dearly. Today, my dad was rushed to the hospital due to a stroke. If my brother had not gotten to him as quickly as he did, things might have been much worse. I suppose that deepens this unsettled feeling in my soul, as I grapple with what comes next. As I age and consider what family means to me, this dream, this hope – seems more and more at the forefront of my heart.

If you’d asked me twenty years ago what I thought life would look like right now, it certainly wouldn’t be the life I’m living. I’ve made the most of the life I do live. Don’t get me confused with someone that didn’t live fully though life looks different than expected. I’ve done things I have wanted to and tried things I’ve wanted to. I certainly learned how to make the most of the little joys in life. But this life, as it is right now, isn’t the life I want. No matter how long and how much I pray, I come away with the belief that I’m not supposed to let it go. So I’m not going to. Though life right now isn’t what I think I’m meant for – it doesn’t mean I phone it in. I give what I have – to what and whomever is in front of me. It’s not my style to give, or work half-heartedly.

The thing is, there are just some things you can’t take with you into the next life. I can’t take my pension, any books I write, or any accolades from any career I hold. When I leave my job, I’ll be replaced. Life will go on. I won’t be remembered. When my days are done, it doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor. None of it will be carried with me. I am not famous and won’t be remembered by anyone, but those around me.

And what of this solitude I live in now? It’s not what I want. I want a messy, loud, big family, and a complicated, beautiful life. I don’t want to die alone. Who does? Do any of us set out on a path that would take us in that direction? Except in rare cases, I’d venture to guess that answer is no. But that’s the path I’m on. So how do I get where I want to go?

I have a few ideas. They’re swirling in my head. I’m unsettled in this in-between – questioning if I can survive one day longer working for the federal government, when my heart longs for creativity and artistry and beauty and celebrating and making something lovely with my hands and my words. There are things that fill you up, even when they’re tiring. I’m not being filled now. There is no symbiosis between me and my work now. I give and there’s not much filling me up. There was at one time. But that was lost a few years ago. There’s not much to be changed about that – it simply is.

I mention this because that’s the first thing that has to change. Whether it’s today or 12 months from now, I’m not sure I know. What I do know is that my life – my writing, my someday family, and my deepest dreams, are all worth far more than a pension, or the security that comes from this life I created accidentally. This accidental life doesn’t mean it hasn’t had value. But it shouldn’t come at a cost of everything that matters to me.

I don’t want to die alone. And before I go, I want a rich life that creates space for writing and healthy habits, and the family I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of, and praying and hoping for. I told my therapist (as cartoon-ish as this image sounds) many months ago that the pace of my life, due to work, has me barreling forward, so very fast, that I feel like a snowball, bumping its way down a mountain, packing on more snow and ice as it goes. I hit the bottom – or some plateau – and come up for air and can’t believe another month, another six, or another year – has passed. And then something knocks me down the mountain and off I go, barreling down the mountainside again. I look up and two years has passed.

It’s time to stop this barreling down a mountain, life – because I’m missing the beauty and sweetness along the way. And more importantly, in the safety of the paycheck and pension, I’ve lost precious time that should have gone toward building the life I’ve dreamed of. I don’t know when, or how, or what my next step is – I only know that someday, when my life is done, I won’t care about my pension or how many bosses complimented my work or getting awards for my years worked in an organization that has literally broken people for so long, it doesn’t know anything different. Recently, the man who steers us all wrote a document that is supposed to guide this organization into a new era of managing its “talent” in a whole new way. I haven’t read it – mostly because I find it terribly sad. For years it has used people and spit them out. They’ll just find another person to replace the ones lost along the way. I won’t be missed. But I will be desperately heartbroken if I give up anymore time and my own life and dreams.

I won’t die alone. I don’t know where, or when, or how this will all come together. Mostly because the industry I want so badly to walk into, ignores literally every resume I send out. I see it as part of me moving on. But someday things will come together. In the meantime, I will look forward, with joy and anticipation, to the day that this dream becomes a reality.

Favorite Childhood Toys

For today’s Bloganuary post, the prompt is What was your favorite toy as a child? It’s hard to pick as I had a few favorites. They included Strawberry Shortcake, my Barbies, and any of my baby dolls. But my absolute favorite was a Holly Hobbie doll (Holly Hobbie’s friend, Heather). The vintage Holly Hobbie Heather doll, looked like the one above.

My “Holly Hobbie” doll wasn’t known as Holly Hobbie or Heather, however. I called her “Amy.” My Amy doll went everywhere with me. When I went to my grandparent’s house for the weekend, Amy came with me. My Amy doll was so well loved that my Grandma Light (mom’s mom) performed a bit of a facelift on her because she was starting to fall apart. Amy got a new face (haha) and dress. My Grandma was an awesome seamstress.

I loved her so much for everything she did for us. I was quite worried about how things would turn out with the Amy doll (I said she was my favorite) and my Grandma was so sweet to humor me and take such loving care with something that was so important to me. I actually still have my Holly Hobbie doll. This is what my loving Grandma did for me so long ago. 🙂 Grandma even made me a sack (behind the doll) to carry her, my favorite blanket, and any other toys when I would go to see my dad or other grandparents.

I have some very sweet handmade things from my Grandma, in addition to her facelift on the Holly Hobbie doll. 🙂 She made me clothes and even purses. Here’s one I have saved. Isn’t that sweet?

I was definitely a kid that loved her dolls, barbies, playing house, and anything related to being a mom, having a home, and caring for others. So it’s not surprising that my favorite toys revolved around that.

It was fun to take this little walk down memory lane for #Bloganuary.

Comfort Zones

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, elaina avalos
Summer of 2017

I just found out a few short minutes ago, that WordPress is holding its first ever “Bloganuary” challenge. They’ll be sharing one writing prompt per day. The goal is to write one post each day, to go along with these prompts. I’m two-days behind, but being late to the party has never stopped me before – so here I am. Today’s prompt is to “write about the last time you left your comfort zone.”

I have many examples of stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m a weird person that likes home and the routine of it. I’m an introvert. I’ll go out of my way to not have to deal with people (because I spend all day being extroverted). But I also love a good adventure. I could pack up and move to Africa or Spain, tomorrow – if I felt it was the right call for me. I’ve pushed myself to leave comfort many times – since my very early 20s. The biggest example of this was in 1999 – when I left behind California, my family, my university (I was still about 2 years shy of getting my Bachelor’s degree), and everything I’d ever known in Southern California, for the East Coast.

I had worked with kids up until that point – as a nanny and a tutor in Orange County, California group homes for foster kids. I loved working with children. To be honest, I never saw myself having a career working with kids because I had such a strong belief I would be a mon. I figured that’s where all my kid energy would be focused. I sometimes wonder if I should have gone into a career working with kiddos. All that to say, I am really good with kids – to include kids from very hard places and with challenging backgrounds. I interviewed for nanny jobs in several places to include Buies Creek, NC, Connecticut, and all over the Bay Area. But it was the Washington D.C, area that won my heart.

U.S. Capital, Elaina Avalos
The last time I was in D.C. I stumbled onto a concert. It was so cool. Serendipity.

So off I went. I took a nanny job living a couple blocks from the “Courthouse” neighborhood in Arlington, VA. I was in love from the moment I arrived. In love with DC, Arlington, and this new little life I had created. I’m a huge history and political nerd & living in that area was a constant source of joy and excitement. I left my comfort zone and went to a place where there’s snow, ice (I had never seen snow fall ever before in my life – let alone drive in snow or ice), and metros to take you where you want to go. I adored most everything about life there.

But it wasn’t easy. I had to learn some lessons the hard way. Aren’t most of us like that in our early 20s? I wasn’t smart about some things. I had a lot to learn. But, I lived. I did things I’d dreamed of doing. I met my church/small group friends at the Tidal Basin for lunch – sitting under blossoming cherry trees. I was at the Supreme Court when big decisions about our 2000 election, impacted our country. I stood on the National Mall the day President Bush was inaugurated (it was a freezing misty rain that day), and I watched fireworks on July 4th, from the Iwo Jima memorial. I would eventually work for a Bush political appointee – but that’s a story for another day.

I will always be proud of myself for leaving my comfort zone and choosing to be uncomfortable some of the time, because it gave me some incredible experiences. I will always be grateful for those. Even with some things about those years I wished I’d done differently, I will never regret taking the leap. I think comfort zones are fine & good – for a while. But shaking ourselves and our lives up a bit, is often where we learn and grow the most.

Arlington Virginia, Elaina Avalos
Looking toward Arlington – near the Lincoln memorial.

How about you? What are some comfort zones you’ve left behind?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I know the last couple of years have been hard. A global pandemic, sometimes isolation from the people we care about, and so much instability in the world. It’s hard to see the good things, at times – especially when that’s what fills our Facebook “newsfeeds,” social media, and what we see on the news.

But the Good News is, there is hope. This has been a hard few years for me. I’ve lost a child I believed I would raise, I lost in love, and I faced a toxic situation that has now contributed to my health facing new challenges. But there is hope. There is always hope. No season lasts. No trial endures forever. The Good News for me is in the form of Emmanuel – God With Us – Jesus.

I don’t care much for religion and the ways in which we’ve perverted His message and the reason He came. But I do know with complete certainty that I’d be lost without Jesus. And so, that is where, in spite of all of the ugliness, where my hope lies.

I wish you & yours a beautiful holiday season. And I hope your day today is filled with peace, joy, and all the good things.