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Taking Back My Life

February 23, 2007 | Category: In My Life

I interrupt my musings for a rant, that will not be written in iambic pentameter.

I have rarely done this. However I feel about President Bush or the war or the Italian Prime Minister or the UNICEF study about children in rich countries or Darfur or Bono or the couple that recreated the "Dirty Dancing" scene at their wedding reception....

... I have always been a little nervous to vent my spleen on this off-off-off-Broadway internet stage. Because this is a Bully Pulpit (of sorts) and I've always been a little in awe of the written word. Its power should be respected, even if little old me is the one writing it.

That said, I get to break my own rules - right? Right?

I have a friend, and I loved her. But we had an age-old problem. She made choices I didn't agree with and because I knew it wasn't my place to say anything, I tried not to. Yet, she knew. How can you not?

How can you miss the cool tones of disapproval? The first reaction of rejection, covered quickly by a sort of false enthusiasm?

I fucked up. I knew I was. I knew I did. I am so sorry for it. Yet, faced with the same dilemma today - I don't know what the right answer is.

Be a better actress? Find a way to make real peace with the decisions, no matter how much it makes you wince? Detach for a while?

We'll never be close friends again, although that's more because we didn't know how to make peace or trust each other again. A whole different kind of stuff than the stuff that wedged us apart in the first place.

And because there is such a thing as karma, and providence, and a great wheel - now I get to taste my own medicine.


Not so much.

There are people in my world, now, who disapprove of the choices I make. Who talk to me in those calm, measured tones of someone forcing themselves to be what they consider neutral.

And I'm (believe it or not) an interpersonal wimp. I have such a hard time sticking up for myself in a way that is productive. Usually by the time I say something, I garble it so badly that everything around me erupts in a lava-like consistency of confusion, emotion, and bad grammar.

So instead of dealing with my relationships, I've just been nodding and smiling. And it has been KILLING ME.

Please note here that, funnily enough, I am venting to a slice of the world that has probably offered me the most support and honest dialogue. Not funny 'ha-ha' but funny as in 'watch me shout at the wrong audience'.

But before I explode....

Yes, I want to dye my hair hot pink for a while. Yes, I quit a lucrative job so we could fritter away our savings. Yes, I let my house get cluttered and somewhat sloppy between scrubs. Yes, I am overweight, undermoisterized, and somehwat unevenly tweezed (although really, my eyebrows are naturally unmatched... you can only work with what you're given!). Yes, my family is emigrating to another country. Yes, I know entirely too much about Tom Cruise.

So what?

Honest to the Lord above... so what?

I am so tired of feeling defensive about my life. And I think that is part of the reason that I pulled away from writing about it.

When I was a corporate mini-titan, juggling an insane career while being primary point on my son's upbringing, my exhaustion and long hours were easy to understand, even sympathize with.

Maybe even respect.

I don't know.

Bear had the best education money could buy, my wardrobe was from Talbot's, the housekeeper kept the kitchen spotless, our retirement was secure, and isn't all that the American Dream?

And didn't I throw it all away?

Memo to those who disapprove - Yes. I did.

The American Dream, for anyone taking notes, was originally Protestant Fanaticism. But since World War 2, it has come to mean a "successful and satisfying life".

Someone give me a list of 20 indicators of what that breaks down into, that I can use as a checklist.


Would capitalistic achievements and social standing be on that list?

That's a real question.

For me, for CD, and for Bear - we didn't undergo an complete change of priorities overnight. We did not enter into an impoverished (monetarily) state with glib one-liners.

We have made choice after choice of the heart, and that's how we got here.

And here is OK.

I think, I don't know for sure, but I think that I am OK, too.

And if you want to blast me in the comments, disagree with me, send me an email asking me if I know what I am doing, ping me with question marks and an opinion that differs, and talk with me about the world and how we think we should make our places in it and even quote Thomas Paine while you're at it - I am cool with that.

Dialogue is good.

I welcome you. I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

But if you want to pick up the phone, hissing with disapproval of me and my life, with nothing to offer except this prevailing sense that I am doing it wrong...

...then I invite you to hang the fuck up.


/end rant.

Well, I think I've embarressed myself enough for one day. Mutter. I think I'll go pour myself a cup of coffee and have a bit of a sniffle.

And if you're still reading this, thank you for not being one of the people I wrote this for.

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Time for an update: Do you have pink hair yet? Replaced your front door? Put the house on the market and started packing for Canada yet?

How are you doing? I hope all is well and you are happier since spring is almost here.

Posted by: LeeAnn on March 5, 2007 04:36 PM

Good for you... Dropping the F-Bomb once in awhile is good for the soul.

Good Luck in Canada... if I ever find the right partner and lose my auto Industry job I just may join you.

Posted by: Becky on March 2, 2007 01:04 PM

But upon further reflection, I also realize that it is easy to write a response when you agree with the person. I can very much relate to the situation in the first part of your post. The hard thing to do is to learn how to voice your differences when you really DON'T agree with the person. OR to learn how to gracefully support the person and not the action, without pretending to agree. Because most of the time, things work out ok and people are in charge of their own lives. And they just might be doing just fine, while you're sitting there wincing. I guess that is what the last few years has taught me, anyway...that people mostly know what they're doing, or will figure it out soon enough. And there is a danger in being too invested in having those who are close to us make choices that mirror our own. When they make choices I'd never make, I end up feeling somehow let down, and it makes having any sort of conversation about it feel very unnatural. So, while it is important to have hopes and dreams and expectations for those we love...sometimes we have to make sure not get those expectations mixed up with our hopes and dreams and expectations for ourselves.

Having been on both sides of the equation in my life, that is as close as I have gotten to understanding. Does that make any sense?

Posted by: laura on March 1, 2007 10:14 PM

The choices you are making are your own personal struggle...how to do what is right for your own family even when it flies in the face of what society says you are "supposed" to do. But you are not alone nor do your actions exisit in a vacuume, there are many, many other families out there struggling to create a life that is meaningful, simple, and not drenched in the sort of hectic materialism that is so prevalent in our society that it becomes almost invisible. You are putting personal relationships, family closeness, and a relaxed lifestyle over the "American Dream", and I applaud you. (Although I will miss you terribly when you leave for CANADA!)

As I am getting ready to leave full-time employment to work at home part time so that I can be a stay-at-home mommy, watching you make your way gives me confidence that we can make good choices for our family, too, even though we will have a LOT less money.

Posted by: laura on March 1, 2007 08:52 PM

Guess your family called you! Don't you just love people who think they knows what's best for you.....I figured that once I was past 30 I owed no one anything and life was just too hard to live it by someone else's standards. Do what makes you happy. Pink hair is cute and it does grow out or you can always re-dye it another color. That reminded me of the cute commercial where the young daughter is asking her mother if she could dye her hair some other color. The mother started to say no and then said, hey if grandma can have blue hair why not you! You do need to post pictures of this great hair color.

Posted by: LeeAnn on February 27, 2007 03:28 PM

Don't you just hate people who try to push their values and hang-ups onto you? To think you should be just like them even though in their hearts they know perhaps something is perhaps missing from their own lives! GAH!!!
Be you. All three of you. How you live your life is between the three of you and God. That's it. Nobody else. And it seems to me you're doing a great job of the important stuff (that didn't sound right... I'm sure you're doing well with the less important stuff too).
I totally relate to what you said about being an interpersonal wimp. I'm the very same way. Isn't funny how you can be a success at talking and stuff in your career but a total wack-o when it comes to personal stuff??
Keep up the writing!!

Posted by: Kelly on February 27, 2007 10:00 AM

Good for you. I particular felt your point about not knowing how to make up. I fell out with a friend of 17 years last week. I feel stuck. I feel I have the moral high ground. Will I lose a friend out of stubborness? I feel she was incredibly unfair to me. She doesn't see it that way. What would I advise my daughter to do? Am I setting a good example? I haven't finished thinking all this stuff through yet.

Also. as of today I'm no longer a corporate mummy. not through reflection and choice like you, though. I'm really afraid of what will happen to me, my relationship, our finances, our family dynamic. I would love to think I could make the kind of choices you made, to put family and quality of life first. I fear I'm too selfish.

Posted by: dodo on February 27, 2007 04:54 AM

Hehe. Loved the post.

It's human nature to want to meddle. PAthetic, huh?

I wanna see pics of the pink hair though!! hehe.

Hope it made you feel a little better to vent at us. It's nice to hear someone just say it like it is.

Posted by: Sam on February 26, 2007 06:01 PM

What you've done takes courage - courage that I will likely never have - so don't let The Peanut Gallery get to you!

Posted by: Monica C. on February 26, 2007 02:23 PM

Thnak you for sharing this. In a year, my husband and I intend for him to give up his partnership in a business that is financially stable. I have already moved from practicing law to teaching to prepare for a move. We are not quite sure where we are going, but we are done. Yes, I expect my life will be a bit more unstable, but sometimes I wish we could go now (we have two kids and are giving them one more year for finances). My mother is the phone caller you write about. I can't tell anyone where we live of our plans, but my family who is thousands of miles away knows of our plan. The constant doubting of our sanity irritates me. Talking to me like I am an ungrateful child pisses me off. I understand that we are damn lucky for the opportunites we have had but we want something different (possibly living overseas), and more importantly, we want to live differently. We did it all right - went to college and graduate school, paid off our school loans, had children, saved for their education and for our retirement, bought a house and a safe car BUT this is not my dream and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste my one life living someone else's dream. Good for you for having the guts to take a chance - I hope I'll be as brave when it's my turn.

Posted by: Hexe on February 26, 2007 09:07 AM

KUDDOS to you for doing what I have not had the guts to do. Yet. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: emily on February 26, 2007 07:21 AM

HA! OMG do I hear you on this one.

At the end of the day I have come to realise two things are the absolute truth:

1. Not only can you not please everyone, most of the time you can't please anyone!

2. It's not you, it's THEM - really!

Case point:

My husband and I start trying for a child when I'm 24 - we are criticised for being "babies trying to have babies". Within a year it's apparent things aren't good and we seek medical advice - we are criticised for not just letting things happen and stressing too much. We start IVF - let's not even recall the comments on that one. At 30 after 5 years and 15 IVF attempts we call it quits - and are told we should have 'tried harder' (seriously "what the"!). At 35 total strangers criticise our "child free lifestyle" (sorry about my happy marriage, fulfilling career, travel plans and our lovely home you're right- when we found out we couldn't have kids I should have just thrown in the towel and spent the rest of my life in my bedroom crying #rolls eyes#).

You just can't win!

Hang in there. xx

[and cursingmama I'm using your card! You should make them and sell them! BRILLIANT!!]

Posted by: FLIKKA on February 25, 2007 02:32 PM

For my 40th birthday, I dyed my hair hot pink.

You could hear my mother's scream all around the world.

Since then, my hair has been every color combination imaginable. I love it.

My husband and I deliberately took jobs that paid less but allow us huge flexibility in hours so that we can raise our kids together.

This was fine, in theory. However, when it became apparent that we were not going to be able to afford to give the kids "the advantages" like riding lessons, piano lessons, traveling soccer, etc. Well. THAT was not ok. In fact, it might just lead to our kids being the same kind of "underachievers" we turned out to be.

It's a narrow, twisty road we're negotiating with family that loves us but does not agree with our choices as our own family unit.

This is crazy-making for us, but we smile and nod and get over it, since the kids have a great relationship with our extended family and we want to keep it that way.

Just smile and nod and then go scream into a pillow.

Canada will provide some distance.

Posted by: paige on February 23, 2007 08:20 PM

Well some folks are just that way. Others of us have made some of the same 'crazy' choices, and you know, it works out fine in the end.

I still hear from the 'rents all the time about how I've taken on to much, or how could I be satisfied with what I have vs. what they think I should have. A bit late to be teaching, don't you think!

This will make 25+ years of my caring about you, so chalk on up for being still on your side.

Canada: Spelled-> C-Eh, N-Eh, D-Eh

I'll look for Bear on the ice at the Fleet Center soon!


Posted by: TheRanbir on February 23, 2007 04:52 PM

You, and only you, know what is exactly right for you and yours. When people voice concern about my decision (to drop out of college, to have children very young, to be a housewife), I say "thank you for your concern, I believe I am doing what is right for my family." Usually with a little syrup on it, for good measure.
Sometimes, when you do something radical, people who have known you pre-rad will take offense, as if your radical move is somehow an affront to them, like you're saying they're wrong for not making the radical change as well. Perhaps moving to Canada, you'll meet people who have no idea who you were, and will take you for who you are. Then you can breathe and not have to feel defensive about your choices.

Posted by: rootietoot on February 23, 2007 04:13 PM

(beginassvice) I wonder if it would help if you would write down something on a note card or piece of paper you can keep with you and refer to when you receive the drive-bys of those who say they only care or worry. Mine would go something like this:

I understand that you dont understand how weve come to these decisions, and I understand that you feel like your plan is whats best for us. But, you dont live in our home, and you arent living our life and your hopes and dreams arent ours. I can assure you that we have thought this out fully, that we havent dreamed this up in the middle of the night. We understand the difficulties and consequences of what we are choosing to do. But, we do know what we are doing, and we believe that this is not only the best chance for our family but also the best choice. If you really love and care for like you say you do you will respect our decision, and you will support our decision.


Im sure you werent looking for assvice exactly but I know what it is to have people who say they love you question you as though you arent an adult capable of making smart decisions. As though youre making poor decisions that are going to have negative results for your child. I just may make that note card for myself.

Posted by: cursingmama on February 23, 2007 03:02 PM

::stands up, applauds::

Well said.

Posted by: caltechgirl on February 23, 2007 02:58 PM