Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Art of Being Human

Anyone who has read my book knows I have seen my fair share of heartache and heartbreak. I have been asked more than once how I managed to get through it. So many people have asked me how to get through the really hard stuff. The truth is I am not really sure how to answer that in any real way. Every situation is something I faced differently every time. Even as I write this I am struggling to deal with something big in my life. It is a failure of sorts. Sometimes failure isn't clear cut and obvious. Sometimes it sneaks up on you and hits you later and even then it is not black and white.

I took time off of work to write and promote my book. I just re-read it. I believe it is worth the time it took to write it and it took years. I am not one who believes I am gifted or has the kind of confidence that it usually takes to do this kind of work. I am self deprecating, not because I think it is charming, but rather because I am never satisfied with my work. As much as I like the book as it is I think I could have done better and want the opportunity to do exactly that.

There is a catch. I need to earn money in order to write. Starving artists are only cool when they have the benefit of being young, single and bohemian chic. I am middle aged with four kids, a husband and several animals to take care of. I am lucky to have them and try everyday to remember that I cannot let them down. That is where my problem begins and in some way ends.

My taking time out to write has cost all of us. I have worked for many, many years and we are like everybody else and depend on it to live. I have never had a big career or a job that paid well, even when I worked as a nurse. The truth is I worked two nursing jobs and never broke 30k. That being said, it explains why I worked 2 and 3 jobs most of my adult life. My failure is not being able to support my family the way I would like to. The decisions I have made as far as my work was always dependent on my kids, husband and the place in life I was residing in at the time. I did what I could with what I had. It is neither an excuse or a rationalization, just a fact.
I never finished college and have regretted it most of my life. Maybe if I had a degree...even though I know lots of people, friends and family that have degrees and aren't doing much better than I am. Maybe that has been my excuse. I am not feeling sorry for myself because it is a wast of time and time is of the essence for me. I am just trying to be honest. The kind of bone honest where I sit down and take a hard look at my life to make sure I am on the right track for my family. I say that knowing they come first, not because I am a martyr, but because my loving them is what sustains me, like oxygen. My love and devotion for them and in turn theirs for me, is what allows my heart to continue to grow, expand and open.
I don't regret taking the time to write the book. If I never get to write again, which is highly unlikely, I will always have my book as my legacy for my children, grandchildren and one day great grandchildren. Michael has allowed for that and worked many hours of overtime, so that I could have it. There is no way to repay that kind of absolute love and sacrifice except to work everyday at being a better person and trying harder.
I called this the art of being human because a long time ago I didn't cry for several years. It was considered a form of weakness and wasn't tolerated. I am not talking about my childhood and my parents, but a time later when I was an adult. I held everything in for someone else's comfort level. I was slowly, but surely losing my humanity. I was slipping away from being the kind of person who feels things deeply and responds in kind. I had to learn how to cry again. Once I did the flood gates opened and I cried for months, at the drop of a hat and had a hard time not crying. It took a while for me to lose my steely resolve and icy demeanor. I had to practice being soft, open and vulnerable. The time it took for me to re-learn what should come naturally, allowed me to learn how to take a hard look at myself every once in while and see if I still agreed with what I saw. Learning how to cry and mourn, has given me the opportunity to let go of things that no longer work for me.
Not having an income is not working for my family. The bottom line is, a girl has got to eat. I know there are some folks who think talking money is vulgar. I personally don't. That is not to say that one should go around talking about their money problems to every person they meet. I mean, I think it is alright to be honest about changing your direction in order to support your family and saying so.
What does all this mean for my future? I have not one single clue. My humanity allows my hopeful heart to believe the answer will come at the exact time it is supposed to. I may very well end up a person working in the grocery store who wrote a book once. If so, then I want to take the time now and find a way to be happy with whatever road I end up on. It is another practiced art form, this idea of letting go of our own expectation of what success really means. While I mourn my inability to bring money to the table, my family continues to celebrate the unusual talents that I do have. I have not been able to give them stuff, but I have been able to give them large chunks of me, loving them. For them it seems enough, more than enough, actually. I am still learning how to define my own version of success for myself. On the days I am full of regret, I listen to my family tell wonderful stories of how we have always managed and what a good life they have had, then I just let the tears of joy freely fall from my eyes, as I remember that they will alway be my greatest prize.

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