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.

Hardwiring Happiness: Dr. Rick Hanson

My favorite podcast – Being Well, has been a huge blessing to me over this last year. I can’t say that I’ve perfected any of the concepts I’m learning. Haha. In fact, this week, my first back to work after a lovely break, revealed that I have much to learn. It was a rough week as I face some things I haven’t wanted to face. But I have been learning a great deal, nonetheless. I get a little closer to where I want to be, all of the time. Today, I had a few minutes to listen to these videos, after working on some packing – as I prepare to move. Packing before a move is always stressful to me. I can get overwhelmed. I was definitely feeling that today. Slowing down to watch these left me with a sense of hope, in spite of what I had been feeling in the moment.

In this video, Dr. Hanson talks to his son, Forrest about “taking in the good.” He talks about ways you can change your brain – for the better. There was a key moment that really left me with a sense that no matter where I am or what I am doing, happiness and contentment are possible. Around the 2:48 mark is when he talks about this concept that you can take in the good and have it transform your day instead of the day being a “long, slow slog.” I loved this part (2:48-4:30).

I also watched the video below – Hardwiring Happiness: Dr. Rick Hanson. In this Tedx Talk, Dr. Hanson talks about turning experiences into the “happiness, resilience” and other strengths we need to have happy and contended lives.

From the description:

Hardwiring Happiness : The Hidden Power of Everyday Experiences on the Modern Brain.
How to overcome the Brain’s Negativity Bias. Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and the author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, best selling author of Buddha’s Brain, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.

This is seriously good stuff and truly excites me on this journey to healing (that I’ve been on since my (foster) son left my home).

Never Walk Away From Love

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I never start my year with resolutions and a list of “shoulds.” I’ve done that to myself twice already in the last five days. I was determined to do 30 days of yoga with Adriene Mishler. I didn’t take into account how very poorly I’m feeling right now. I have to ease into this. And I started this crazy Bloganuary thing and look, dude – I just can’t. I’m not good with writing prompts because I genuinely just don’t care about a lot things. 🙂

It doesn’t help that this new year has caused me to face, or begin to face, that someone I cared for – just didn’t care for me. We all know that actions speak louder than words. But sometimes feelings can blind a girl a little – delaying reality. So here I am, finally facing reality. Sort of. I will never, ever – never in the history of ever – stop being a romantic, who loves love. And I will never stop being real about how much I care or who I care about. I am, however, facing my reality.

Which brings me to my new favorite show, that I wished I’d watch, while it was airing. It’s The Bold Type from Freeform. I am absolutely loving this show even though it’s geared toward the millennial crowd (the younger end of that generation). I’m enjoying the friendships and the weird & wonderful work sitch there. If only work environments were actually like Scarlet magazine. One of the storylines I love the most, is the romantic relationship between Sutton Brady and one of the members of the publishing company’s board, Richard Hunter. Sutton is my favorite character in general. But when she faces the hard choice between her career, avoiding rumors, and her relationship – she chooses her career. It’s unfortunate that we are still making choices that cost us on either the personal end or the work end. But I digress.

As I’ve watched the first two seasons, I’ve really hoped that Sutton and Richard would get back together. Sutton’s boss, Oliver, the head of the fashion department for the magazine, is rarely personal with Sutton – as his assistant. But he gets personal and a crying Sutton shares that she made a horrible decision to let Richard go. In reply, Oliver, tells her to go back to New York (they’re in Paris for Fashion Week) and tell him how she feels. Sutton says, “I can’t just leave.” Oliver says, “I’m telling you to. Never walk away from love. No white after Labor Day. And never walk away from love.”

That line – it got me. I might have cried. I’ve been, in spite of my usual stance of taking risks and remaining firmly outside of my comfort zone – as much as possible, regretting sharing my heart so openly. Especially to one who just doesn’t care about me. That’s a shitty feeling, you know? This isn’t an exact correlation here, so work with me. 🙂

What if it had been though? What if taking the risk to open my heart was the right call? Clearly it wasn’t. I mean, it didn’t mean anything to him. But what it it had? So here I am – realizing that looking like a freaking idiot is well worth the risk, in spite of the hurt. Because you know – never wear white after Labor Day and never walk away from love.

On that note, the other thing I’m not going to do in January 2022, or any other month this year, is should on myself because I was real and the woman I am made to be. So here’s to continuing to be sincere and sharing my heart even when it hurts.

Never walk away from love.