What do you want?

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 9.00.08 AMWhat do you want?

You have to do things for your family, your friends, your work, your life, but What do you want?

Someone asked me once – What do you want in life? My reaction – a blank stare. I couldn’t come up with anything and me being me – I spouted off a bunch of things and while doing that I realized all of them – EVERY single one was not what I wanted, but what my work wanted, what my family would have wanted, what my mother would have wanted, what my partner wanted, what I should want and what I was doing in life to get the things THAT I DID NOT WANT! I was not living my own life, but someone else’s. I don’t know whose life I was living, but it definitely wasn’t mine.

That was a moment I’ll never forget. I had lost myself. Lost it all – in the mess of the day to day. I believe that’s why people get depressed. It’s not the only reason, but one of the reasons. Life becomes meaningless.

I’ll quote Joseph Campbell again, he’s one of my go-to guys for wisdom about getting clear on things.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves.”

The clues are how you feel and the way you are behaving or the things you are doing to succeed or to sabotage yourself.

Sometimes it’s best to give up on things you should want, but don’t. It’s hard, but necessary. That moment for me was 11 years ago.

Start today. It’s just one day, but the first one in the rest of your life. It’s crazy how doors start to open when you finally decide what you really want and agree to begin that conversation with yourself.  What do you want?

february. two years time.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 7.32.34 AMTwo years ago – I was fired. In FEBRUARY. Some part of me is still shocked by that, but I’m grateful. Grateful that the end was a beginning, as it always is.

A shove, over the edge, to the right direction.

Even a year after being fired, I dreamt about my old job, the people I knew there, the work I believed in. I would wake from dreams feeling terrible about myself, feeling that somehow I had failed. Consciously I knew that it was all okay and that I was going to be fine, but that still small voice in me was afraid. Afraid. Afraid that I couldn’t make it on my own and that amount of fear means only one thing to me – that I am on the right track.

It was me who dodged the bullet. I got out early. Many people who worked for that company for many, many years have now been laid off, doors have been closed – an era has ended and they too have started over. Did any of that have anything to do with me?  Sometimes a moment in time – changes everything for everyone involved.

After all of that I kept my focus on the goal – work for myself – has to be awesome – work from home – has to be awesome – work is not life – has to be awesome.

Last year I started my own business – IN FEBRUARY. And then two weeks later, my dog Wonder died – IN FEBRUARY.

What is it about February?

This year I moved into a dream home. IN FEBRUARY. We found this amazing place to live. One we couldn’t have imagined, or maybe we did imagine all along. I walk around everyday thinking – who lives here? Oh, I do.

And if you had asked me two years ago, after being fired, or last year – after starting out on my own – Would I be here in this moment today?  The answer would have been YES and NO. Yes, because I’ve always worked hard, always thought I could do it even when others thought I couldn’t. I always imagined this. But no, because who comes from places like me and makes it? Someone once told me, sometimes you have to go first. So, here I am going first – or at least trying. First to tell you that you can do it too and that is not bullshit. No bullshit. You can do it. Whatever it is you want to do. You can do it.

You’re going to get knocked down, knocked back, but you can keep getting up. You can learn the skills to make, to do it, to change your life.

There is no time to stand still, change is inevitable. This year is going to be better than ever. Imagine it exactly as you want it. It might be as beautiful as that.

2014. LOVE

Where will you be next FEBRUARY? What can you do in two years? Where will you be two years from now? Do you need help getting there? ask! GO!

What if it’s all true

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.43.04 AMWhat if it’s all true?

What if every bad thing someone has ever said about you is true? Or has some truth to it.

What if you let it in? Consider it? There is truth in all of it. Might not be my truth, or yours, but there is some truth there. The choice to believe it or dismiss it, that’s what’s up to you. I most times want to go on the defense when I hear something negative about myself, but what if I let if sink in? What harm could that do? Am I obsessive? Am I micro-manager? Can I go with the flow or do I always need a plan? Am I contrary just to be contrary?

On the flip side, what if all the good things anyone has ever said about you is also true. Am I ambitious, tenacious, smart?

That’s the balance of life. We are both – and – only we know the real truth about who we are, but everyone else sees it every day. You can hide the good or the bad, but people see it and so do you. And maybe it’s not “BAD” of “GOOD” at all. Maybe it just is. Maybe our strengths can also be weaknesses.

What if I let the comments in?

Freedom. Freedom from trying to be someone, freedom to be yourself. The good, the bad, the best. We’re all of it.

and the holidays

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 9.12.08 AMWhen I was small, I loved the thought of Christmas and the thought of getting gifts. We never got much and it was almost always the off brand when we did get something, but I always hoped there was something spectacular under the tree.

Some might say, I should have been thankful for what I received. But me, at 10, 12, 16, or even now at 43 – I’ve always thought we could do better, save more, get just one nice thing instead of 10 terrible things.

When I was 11 my parents left me with my two brothers – I’ve written about this before in TODD. As we approached Christmas, I began to work on this piece about Christmas, but couldn’t finish it until now. It’s not that I hold onto these memories and dwell on them, it’s more like they hold onto me.  The Holidays are hard for me, but not as hard as they used to be. Instead of avoiding the memories, I now embrace them in this way or that and they are only a part of the story I have lived.  They don’t rule my life, they don’t define me now, but they are a reflection of my experiences and I can’t help but think about them from time to time.

~

Mom calls once a week and talks to Bobby and Johnny, I sometimes talk to her and sometimes I don’t get a turn.  When I do talk to her, I don’t know what to say. I just listen to her breathe on the phone. I wish she were home and I want to tell her that, but I don’t know how to make the words come out of my mouth.  She sounds happier being away, she laughs, she’s fishing, going to the flea market and visiting with people and Dad is working. I like her to be happy. So, I don’t tell her anything about me or how I’m feeling, because I don’t know.

It’s a few weeks before Christmas and I’ve long stopped wishing for something spectacular under the tree – that’s just not how it works – we don’t have the money. So, I hope for snow and trips to the library and good TV shows that I’m allowed to watch.

Mom is on the other end of the phone and she says, “We got you something you’ve always wanted for Christmas. You’ll love it. We’re sending it in a box with some other things and it will get there right before Christmas.” As I look back today, I wonder what I thought she was sending. Love? Safety? Security? What had I always wanted? That’s what I needed, but I couldn’t say it. I didn’t know how and back then – I didn’t know that’s what I wanted.

I say – “Wow! I can’t wait until it gets here!”

A week or more pass and Johnny and Bobby have decided they will get a Christmas tree, but not put it in the living room where we usually have it when Mom is here, but they will put it in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, which they have turned into the living room and the old living room is now the sitting room. Looking back, none of us belonged in that life, I wanted to be spectacular and they wanted a sitting room. We were made for better times and things.

We tromp through the snow and the woods to find the tallest tree that will fit in the house and they chop it down – because they love to chop things, kick things, build things, fix things. They drag it back to the house and get it into the stand and decorate. I don’t like decorating, because whatever I put on the tree is not right and not in the right place – according to them. So, eventually I give up and sit on the couch. I eat some chewy Christmas candy left over from last year. They string the lights, put ornaments on, throw tinsel all over and then decide it is time to decorate the GIANT pine tree outside.

The tree outside is so tall that I cannot see the top when I look up, I have to go out into the yard to see the top. I warn them about climbing that tree. “Remember Johnny – how you broke your arms climbing the tree across the street. Mom says don’t climb trees.” They laugh as if I’m crazy and get a ladder and a big mess of lights and go out into the yard. The way Mom tells the story about Johnny’s fall is: “You were in the bathtub and I had to get you out fast because someone ran up to the door and said Johnny was hurt. So I pulled you out and told you get dry and dressed and ran to the front door. When I got there – I saw his arms and they were all crooked. And I took a deep breath and said someone run and get Ardis and see if she can drive us to the hospital. And then Johnny said “I’m sorry Mom.” That’s all he said. That’s it. Broken arms and all and he said he was sorry. He didn’t cry one tear when they set them back in place. He was so brave.”  All I remember was I had wet hair and was running a comb through it and I peeked out at Johnny and his arms were all twisted around, his wrists going in the wrong direction. I felt light-headed and sat down and combed my hair some more. He came home with casts up to the elbow on each arm and laid on the couch for a week or more and someone had to help him pee. I’m glad it wasn’t me. That’s how I tell the story.

They work for hours on that tree making sure every bulb is in the right place and when they are finished it’s the best Christmas tree I’ve ever seen in person. Big red, green and blue bulbs light up and shine bright. We laugh and it’s fun being out with these guys in the snow putting up Christmas lights, even though I’m only watching. I would like to be a dare-devil and climb that tree, but there is no way I want to break my arms so I’m not doing it.

A few days later, when I get home from school Bobby and Johnny are busy doing something, wrapping something and laughing. It’s the last day of school before Christmas and I am home now for the week, it’s Wednesday and I only have to wait two days until Christmas, but really only one day to open presents – on Christmas Eve. That tradition started because my Dad used to be with his other family on Christmas day. The one he was married to and not us and that is an entirely different story for another time. I’m happy to be off school, but bored because I know I’ll be listening to a whole lot of Billy Joel and Foreigner on my Dad’s 8-track player that is now in the sitting room. These guys listen to it non-stop, so loud that I can’t watch TV.

They tell me “Stay out of here, we’re wrapping Christmas presents from Mom and Dad.” Laughing and laughing, rustling paper, I watch a rerun of Brady Bunch and there’s a small part of me that is excited and thinks maybe, just maybe this year something spectacular is going to be under that tree.

They come out of the living room and say, “You can take a look now.” I don’t care anymore, but that small part of me that hopes for something special goes to take a look. The tree is full underneath with what looks like 30 or more presents all wrapped with bows and some even have a ribbon around them. There is one giant box in the back corner of the tree, almost behind it.

Bobby says “That one is for you.”
I smile and say “Really? What it is it?”
They laugh “Stupid, we aren’t going to tell you what it is, go pick it up and shake it.”
“I don’t want to.” I say.
“C’mon just try it.” I walk around and it is so heavy I can barely lift it. “What is it?”
“Guess.” I’m really not into this whole thing of guessing. I’m never right, so I don’t guess and sit on the couch again.
They laugh and say “Don’t you wonder what it is?”
“It’s heavy.” I say
“What could be so heavy?” Bobby yells grinning ear to ear.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s a bowling ball?”
“You don’t even like bowling.” Johnny says.
I can’t figure it out.

I’m excited, but I’m not telling anyone, so I sit on the couch and wonder and wonder.

On Christmas Eve, Johnny says “Let’s open presents on Christmas morning like normal people.” Bobby says “Yeah, that’s what normal people do.” I do not want to do this so I grumble around and get mad and punch the couch, but I know they are not going to change their minds. So, we watch some TV and drink soda, eat candy and eventually I fall asleep on the couch.

When I wake up, I don’t really want to open presents but Bobby and Johnny are so excited. They say “You have to wait and open the big one last!”
“Can’t I open it first?”
“No, we’re saving the best for last, Mom said.”
“Mom’s not here, so who cares.” I fire back.
“We’ll tell.”
“Fine.”
We open socks and underwear and I open a new nightgown and some other things that don’t matter. There is wrapping paper everywhere, all over the living room. Bobby brings me the big box. My stomach flutters as I peel back the paper and pull back the tape on the top of the box.

I close my eyes and open the box, it’s full of packing peanuts. I scoop handfuls out and onto the floor and then I see something. Gray and dark, so I dig on and I see more of something gray and dark and I stop and tears flow and flow and flow. I scoot back from the box and cry. “ROCKS!” I scream “They sent me rocks?”  I can see on their faces – they realize – they were playing a joke –but I do not think this is a joke and it is not funny.

“Amy, Amy, it’s okay, really there is a present in there, we just thought it would be funny to put rocks in there. There really is a present in there Amy, seriously.” I scoot back further. “I don’t want it. I don’t care. You are the meanest people I have ever known” I sob, sniffing snot back.

“Amy, really, look, it’s something you’ve always wanted it. Look Amy.” they plead.

I look and they have a brown plastic box in their hands. I rip it out of their hands and open it. It’s a silver watch with digital time – something I have always wanted.  I pull it out of the box, it has a stretchy metal band on it. I pull back the band and slide it over my wrist. It feels cheap on my arm, like a play toy. I pull it off and throw it down. “I don’t want it. It’s like everything else, cheap. They probably got it at a flea market.”

I put some jeans on, pull on a sweatshirt, two pairs of socks and my boots. Put my coat on, slam the door and walk to the woods where everything is quiet. In the middle of the trees and snow – I stand and cry again, the cold feels good on my hot wet face.

~

While my brothers are villains in this story and Todd, I adored them and loathed them.  They were kids themselves trying to take care of me in the ways they new how, like teenage boys.

It’s not fair.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 7.17.18 AMYears ago, I used to say “That’s not fair” whenever things didn’t go as I thought they should.

One day some said to me “Amy, whoever told you that life was fair?”

Hmmmm

No one.

It’s not fair. But that doesn’t matter.

Fair means no one let’s you down – ever. Fair sets you up to believe you deserve better – always. Fair sets you up for unrealistic expectations. Fair means we have no emotions and no psychological issues. Fair means if you don’t get what you want you give up.

Reality is – well – REAL.

You can be disappointed and that sometimes isn’t fair, but it is real. Instead of thinking about an outcome, I try to think about how I want things to be. Instead of imaging a rigid rule to live by – I think what kind of flexibility can build into my thoughts about fairness?

I recently really, really wanted this new house we saw. We put an offer in and all these signs were pointing in the YES direction. Guess what? That sale failed. So…what did we do? We looked again and found an even better house for less money. WHA?  We could have moped around – which we did for a bit and we were totally pissed at first, but I kept saying, let’s think about what we want our new house to be like and feel like instead of dwelling on the house that was never going to be and magically – or not so magically – a better house appeared.

It’s not fair that someone bumped our very good offer, but it is real and so is the new house we’re moving into.

It’s less about getting lemons and making lemonade and more about imagining lemonade the whole time. If you’re thinking about lemonade – when you get lemons, you’ll know exactly what to do. GO!

Revolution_revelation_love_2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 6.25.05 AMIn 2012, I started the year by writing about REVOLUTION. Last year I started by writing about REvolution and REVELATION.

2012 = Revolution – everything in life got turned on end, things changed quickly, my therapist of 8 years moved away. I lost my job. I got a new job. I decided to figure out how to work for myself. I started all over again.

2013 = Revelation – everything in life revealed itself.  I evolved. How I was going to work for myself revealed itself. I started my own business. I worked my ass off for ME. I believed it could work. Not everything was perfect. My dog died. I couldn’t write as much. I had some complications. It wasn’t the easiest thing ever, but I changed because of what I saw around me. Life revealed itself because I was willing to stay with it. 2013 was revealing how to thrive.

Why do I tell you this?  Because dreams do come true. I am proving it everyday. Dig deep, you can be happy, believe it, BELIEVE it. You can’t sit there doing nothing to have it happen, you have to keep working at it, but it can happen. If you imagine it.

Just before the new year 2014 – I had a dream – I was texting with my friend Kate – which is ridiculous that texting is now in my dreams. Note to self – less texting in 2014?! We were texting about the new year ahead and I said: Revelation and Revolution got me to 2014, I’m happy that I changed my life with the flow of those.

Kate responded:

this year
is love.

I’m in. I woke and thought what does that mean? I thought about it and thought about it.

It means, go with love, just love it all the way it is. If I’ve learned anything these last few years it’s that patience with yourself and love for the way things are is where it’s at. Right now is all we really have anyway – so you can stop trying so hard to be good enough, stop trying to be perfect, stop pushing, imagine how you’d like things to be and start letting things fall into place they way they should be, the way they are – right now – for right now.

2014 is for Love – it’s for loving things exactly as they are, the messiness of life, the brilliance of life, to love not knowing, to love knowing, to love the past, the present, the future, to watch in wonder of how things flow, if you let them.  Just love. GO! for 2014.

What’s your word for 2014?

On_giving and thanks_remembering

At Thanksgiving – I am more than thankful – I remember.

I remember my Mother. The way her hands moved over the raw turkey, salting and buttering under the skin. She was mindful about food and set in her ways about how this or that should be done, when it came to cooking. All ten of us kids were banished from the kitchen, but I would watch – from a distance – in wonder – at how she made things – all from scratch – all on more than a tight budget.

When I was old enough, which wasn’t very old – I was allowed into the kitchen – for a few minutes – to add butter, milk, salt and pepper to the potatoes – only in her way.

She’d mash with an old hand masher, thick grooved metal at the end and a wooden handle that used to be red, but was mostly worn down to the wood. I’d add things. In her way.

Butter first. She’d hand me a butter knife and put a stick of butter on the table, still cold in the wrapper. “We’ve got to add this butter while the potatoes are hot.” I’d slice off inch after inch of butter, unwrap and throw it into the pan – all as fast as I could. She’d mash and then stop to look into the pan. “More butter.” I’d slice, unwrap and throw in again. “See there, it’s not all white anymore.”

Then milk. She’d mash and I’d pour into the old battered, but still solid cooking pot. My small hands balancing the gallon jug of milk, one hand at the top, one at the bottom.  “Not too much milk.” She’d mash and mash. “Potatoes should be creamy, not too thick, not too thin. Add some more milk.” Bang. She’d hit the side of the pan with the masher. The potatoes fell back with a thud. “More milk.” More mashing – Bang – the potatoes fall back – with a lightness.

Then pepper.  “You should see the right amount of pepper all through the potatoes.” I’d shake and shake, the pepper never came out of the pepper shaker very fast. “See that’s right, now you can see pepper everywhere.”

Then salt to taste. I’d shake the not really white anymore, plastic Tupperware shaker with the broken lid, a few times. “Potatoes need a lot more salt than you think, Amy.” I’d shake and shake and laugh, so much shaking. She’d press on, now with more stirring than mashing, fluffing up the potatoes. She’d drop a finger into the pan and bring potatoes up to her mouth. The back of her hand would come into focus. Thin and thick at the same time, veins standing out, small brown spots, always tan, but not leathery. Their smell in my mind without ever smelling them, onions, salt, butter, flour – it’s as if she had been cooking her whole life.

“Mmmm, but not yet, more salt, a little more milk.” I’d pour and scramble to keep up. And then bang, bang, bang, the masher on the side of the pot, to shake off all the mashed potato stuck to the masher. With me standing on the chair next to the table – she’d hand over the masher. I’d scrape it clean with my hands, shoveling what was left into my mouth – jump down – turn on the sink – rinse the masher and throw it into the sink with another bang.

Mom would cover the potatoes still in their pot and I would go back to doing whatever it is we do on Thanksgiving, on a cold November day – hoping for snow, thinking about Christmas, fighting with each other, watching the black and white TV – In the middle of nowhere in Michigan.