Goal 9: Work hard, but take time to rest.

One of the hardest parts of losing my job is telling people what I do.

When meeting someone new, the first question that they ALWAYS ask is what you do for a living. The second question people ask is how many kids I have. Never fails.

Yesterday I went to the gym later than usual. Someone asked me why I wasn’t at work. I think people are just too nosy.

Two days after I lost my job some friends had a party at their house. Right off the bat, someone asked me what I do for a living. The question hit me hard and knocked the wind out of me. What? I didn’t have an answer prepared. I stumbled awkwardly through the whole story of how my husband and I sold our business last year and that the new owners recently eliminated my position unexpectedly.

My answer seemed to confuse people more. Is it a good thing that you lost your job or a bad thing? Yes, the answer is yes to both. Losing my job after working with my husband for 11 years was very hard. Not to mention that as a workaholic I wrapped a lot of my identity in my work. Yet it was a good thing because now I decided to write a book.

Now do I tell people that I am an author when they ask me what I do?? Then I have to explain what my book is about which is very personal and painful experience of growing up with a disabled sibling in an abusive home environment.

If I am a writer, I should be able to come up with a creative way to tell people what I do for a living in one word. If I tell people I am retired, that brings up even more questions since I look a lot younger than I am.

Then I decided to tell the next person who asks that I am independently wealthy just to get a good laugh. Would that shut them up?

The strange thing about not working is that I really don’t have any extra time. I am still running around like I am in a hurry. I keep a strict schedule. I drop my daughter off at school, go to the gym for an hour or two, write my book, then work on this blog. Plus I do other things like clean the house, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and run errands. Now I wonder how I was able to do all of this while working 30+ hours a week.

You know how the saying goes, ask the busiest person that you know if you want to get something done.

I’ve always been a workaholic. I feel very stressed out if I don’t accomplish enough in a day. Resting is a form of torture and usually only happens when I am sick. One day I had doubt about writing the book and said that heck with it, I am going to watch a show on Netflix. My daughter came home from school, saw me watching TV, and was concerned I was sick. She felt my forehead for signs of a fever and was worried about my health.

Relaxing is something I rarely do. But it is something that I want to learn how to do. I’ve always had the harsh workaholic task master of perfectionism pounding constantly in my head. If I learned anything from losing my job, it’s that I can’t let how much I am able to work control my life and dictate how much I am worth as a person. It is a wonderful way to avoid relationships and look like a martyr.

Working hard was something I was good at and I ran with it. There are few that top my work ethic and determination. But it controls me. I’ve learned anything that controls me isn’t good for me. I am no better than an alcoholic looking for the next drink. I am always searching for the next project, the next goal, and I am viewed as an inspiration and a hero for doing it.

I am afraid of success. What will I do next? Running marathons is not enough. How about a 50k? I drive myself to the ground. Are you proud of me now? What more can I do to prove my worth?

It is a great way to avoid intimacy. I am in the middle of something and am too busy to talk with you right now. What a safe place to hide.

If you give me a hard time, I will condemn you of your laziness with great pride.

Then I wonder why I can’t relax. I am worried and stressed when my mind is free.

Here I am, a workaholic without a job. I never ask for help. I do everything myself. I think I am beyond reproach, but I can’t run from myself.

I am starting to see a wonderful coping mechanism being torn apart. Maybe it is a good thing I lost my job because I am now faced with myself.

You can only outrun your demons for so long.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

The community theater extrovert

I don’t know what it is about community theater. I become a whole different person. I’m not just talking about the role I’m playing as a character, I’m talking about me as a person. I become an extrovert.

In real life I am not much of a social person. I blog, does that count? You get the idea. I like to keep my opinions to myself. I shy away from the spotlight and become a wallflower. I am moody, melancholy, and not at all agreeable. But at the theater, I am an extrovert on stage and off. All or nothing, baby! My most redeeming social quality is that I have a quick wit. I love to make people laugh. After the evening shows, Paul and I rarely made it to bed before 1 AM.

One night after celebrating at the theater, we had a couple of people crash at our house. One of the actresses confessed that she has cancer and is going through her third round of radiation next week. How could I say ‘no’ to that? Come on over! That night I went to bed at 2 AM then got up the next morning and did the show all over again. That is life as a community theater extrovert I guess.

You tend to meet a whole bunch of eccentric characters at the theater. For a brief time, they get to be someone else too. I wish I could say that all other life stops for awhile during the run of a show, but it goes on. I lost my job during the run of the show. I wasn’t the only one either. A cast member had a funeral to attend out of state. One young girl got her first period and had to reach out to people that were basically strangers to help.

For that short period of time, we became like family and you know how it is with family…some people drive you nuts. Oh, and there is always drama.

There was this new lady that was very beautiful, nice, encouraging, optimistic, and cheerful. She also totally annoyed the crap out of me. Every time she was on stage she would over act and upstage me. It drove me nuts. Back stage she dumped my whole water bottle on my dry clothes. It was an accident so I couldn’t do anything but suppress my irritation. She apologized profusely. When we had only two shows left, she decided that she didn’t like the dance routine choreography and wanted everyone to change it without actually telling everyone who would be on stage at the time. I told her there was no way I would be changing anything.

My husband Paul had the lead part. He had somewhere around 200 lines to memorize. Most of them were a paragraph long. He did a great job. Everyone thought that he had a natural gift for memorizing. Does anyone?? I really want to know. He spent at least an hour a day going through his lines.

There were love triangles on stage and off. Did you know that the theater is also a good place to fall in love? My uncle Rick met someone at the theater for a first date and they are already engaged!

Sometimes things didn’t go as planned. Lines got missed or messed up. Once the curtain opened at the wrong time while a woman was changing behind it. One little girl got hit hard on the head by someone moving a prop. Three other people fell, one while tied up. Many people had sore throats. We wandered around the rest of the week like exhausted zombie versions of ourselves while life continued on.

Then after the show is over, the main characters have to de-role. It is time to say good-bye to the new family. There is a period of sadness and loss after saying bye to a beloved character that almost becomes you for awhile.

For that brief time, everybody loved you. You were someone special, a star. The anxiety of performing is a major adrenaline rush. It is thrilling! Did I mention the costumes, makeup, wigs, and hair primping? Fun!

Then when it is all done, we go back to our normal lives until the next show.

 

Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #15

Sometimes…money costs too much.

Money…along with sex, religion, and politics are the topics I was taught not to talk about.

Money…how can it cost too much??

I think greed costs too much. If you spend your life chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of having close relationships with others, in my opinion the price is too steep.

But wait, aren’t all rich people greedy?? Absolutely not! Greed can take the hearts of the rich and poor alike. There are a lot of rich people that do wonderful things with their money. If you don’t have money, you could be generous with your time.

But, doesn’t money buy happiness? It certainly can make your misery a lot more comfortable. My husband always said that the only ones he hears say that money doesn’t buy happiness are poor. It’s unusual because he has lived his life at both ends of the money spectrum. It gives a different perspective.

Paul is the type of guy that if we go on vacation, he spends a lot of time talking to the servers or staff. He can relate to almost everyone. Neither one of us feels comfortable being served. We like to clean our own house, mow our own lawn, and pull our own weeds.

I think we all tend to get used to our mode of living. If our fortune changes in either direction, it can be rather shocking.

For us, there is always the ‘can’t afford’ warning bell going off in our heads. It’s strange to live in a big house. Our electric bill this last month cost more than our mortgage on our old house. The more you have, the more everything costs.

I grew up middle class. I had a rich uncle that paid for my college tuition. My aunt told me to never tell anyone that he was paying for my college. There seemed to be a certain hush hush involved in having money. Like it’s some big shame to work hard and be successful.

In fact if people talk about how much money they are earning or how rich they are, I mistrust them. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But how come we don’t feel that way when someone tells us how broke they are?

I admit, though, I am jealous of a few rich friends that don’t have to work. It must be really nice to be able to devote all of your time to your hobbies. Maybe it would get old, boring, or be unfulfilling. I tell myself that often while I am at work on a beautiful summer day.

Although I’ve lived in my dream house almost two months now, I posted zero pictures on Facebook. I’ve told only the people that I’ve had to. I live a very secretive life and I like it that way. Money makes me feel very uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit. It’s a huge adjustment from the way we grew up and how we have been living up to the point of selling our business.

It has always been us and them. Now we are not us anymore, we are them. How would you act? I don’t want people that liked me to love or hate me. I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want things to stay the same, but they’re not. So I tend not to talk about it even though it is part of my story now. I’m afraid to be honest with you about money because it has been so ingrained in me that it is taboo. But who really cares?? There are people out there smarter, richer, and better looking than me. That is okay, I guess.

I think most people know where other people are at even if we don’t talk about it. Even if you never posted about money, I could guess where you are at just by the things you post about.

But, isn’t money the root of all evil? It depends on how you use it. There is a lot of weight on the little piece of paper that doesn’t grow on trees. And sometimes it costs too much…

 

What’s in my genes

You may remember a couple months back when I told you that my son took the AncestryDNA test…He found out that he was only 7% German and I concluded that he probably wasn’t my son.

After all, my genealogy records put me at approximately 75% German…Mecklenberg…Bremen…Pommern…Germany…Germany…Germany!

People comment all the time that I look German. I love beer and sauerkraut.

Imagine my surprise when my results came back as 10% German. Really??

I am almost a three way tie of British, Eastern European (Polish, Czech…), and Scandinavian.

I am also more confused than ever. Could my genealogy records be inaccurate? It seems like all the research I did was a waste of time.

I knew I was English and EE, but had no clue about the Scandinavian.

Several years back someone asked me if I was Swedish. I laughed it off and said I was German. How did they know?

I was so pumped to dig into genealogy again. I wanted to learn the language of my forefathers. I wanted to travel to the land of my heritage. I wanted to dig up dirt and find my roots. But now I totally lost interest. Things don’t mesh up.

I hate it when one plus one doesn’t equal two!

Something appears to be rotten in the state of Denmark.

I used to know so much before I had so much knowledge.

Now everyone wants to take the DNA test. My mom took it and she has a large percentage of Scandinavian too. I know where I got it from, but where did she get it from??

It does change the way I think about things…I didn’t think it would. Do some of the things I like just reflect who I thought I was?

It’s not a bad thing, just different from what I was expecting.

I thought I would find confirmation, but instead I have more questions..

 

 

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #2

Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh.

I absolutely love this fortune cookie.

Growing up there wasn’t a lot of room in our house for happiness or laughter.

I was so serious, I rarely cracked a smile or a joke.

My youngest brother Luke was the household comedian. He would do outrageous things to try to make us laugh.

Then over time, Luke changed and so did I. Luke is now the serious one and I am the comedian. I don’t know when we exchanged the baton. I can’t explain it. How do roles change? Can the childhood caretaker become the adult mascot??

Did we just fill the roles that we needed to to survive? To function in dysfunction?

Now can we be who we really are? Who are we really? Are we who we were then or who we are now? Or is it a mixture of both?

Now when I get together with friends and family, I play the part of comedian. I love making people laugh. Life is too short to be serious all of the time.

I try to mix some of my serious blog posts with a pinch of laughter. There is nothing like adding a dose of humor to topics relating to death, despair, and disaster. It makes for some interesting post tags. Hmmm…death and humor?? Really now?

What is wrong with Alissa? I think she has a warped mind. I can hear your voices in my head already.

I don’t even know what genre I’m blogging in. Personal?? And everything else outside and in between. Real life? Your guess is as good as mine. You never know what you’re going to find.

I love following blogs that are able to mix seriousness with humor. It’s really difficult to master and even more difficult to consistently find in writings. They don’t seem to naturally mesh.

Why does it have to be one or the other?? Life is a mixed bag of sunshine, rain (blizzards), laughter, and tears. Most of the time the opposing spectrum cannot cross the center line. Tears from laughter. Sunshine and rain. Both are rare to find combined. Maybe that’s what makes a rainbow so beautifully profound yet elusive to capture. It is mysteriously bent outside of its natural boundaries like the top and bottom ends of the bell curve.

All of these deep thoughts over a fortune cookie about laughter…Geez…It’s not even funny..

 

What’s in your genes?

Last week my son’s Ancestry DNA results came back.

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. In fact, I don’t think he is my son.

Well, that might be taking it a little far…

My son is only 7% German. According to my genealogy records, I should be at least 75% German. In fact, just last week someone commented to me out of the blue how German I look. My husband even said that he doesn’t know anyone that looks more German than I do. That was before my son got his results back. Now I’m not so sure anymore..

My son is 27% Polish which definitely comes from Paul. He is also 10% Italian which was also a bit of a shocker. I am going to say that Paul is Italian. Both Alex and Paul look a little Italian to me. Plus Paul loves Italian food, music, and wine. My records do not indicate that I am Italian.

Of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered 4 more Ancestry DNA tests for each member of my family. It was the only online shopping I did while trapped inside 3 days during the blizzard. You should be proud of me! Lol. I was tempted to order the ‘how to speak German’ kit and buy plane tickets, but hey maybe I’m not even German.

Now here is the big kicker…My son is almost 50% British. I didn’t know that my husband was British. My genealogy records indicate a small percentage of British blood.

Last year Paul’s mother passed away. He never knew who his father was. His mother told him some very limited details about the identity of his real father. One thing she said was that his dad’s last name was Wilson. The Ancestry DNA results matched my son up with an unknown 2nd cousin with the last name Wilson.

I’ve opened Pandora’s box. Should I reach out and contact this unknown cousin? I asked Paul what his thoughts were. He doesn’t care either way. Is there more to gain or to lose?? I honestly don’t know. What are your thoughts?? I have been tossing this around in my brain a lot lately…especially since soon this Wilson guy is going to be seeing 3 more close relatives that he probably had no idea existed.

I started digging around in my family tree to try to find my British link. I found 2 separate lines going back to England both with the last name of Wilson. Then it hit me. Oh my gosh, could my husband and I be related?? Is that why my son is so British?? What have I gotten myself into now??

I can tell you one thing, this has really renewed my interest in genealogy.

 

 

 

Moving on, part 1

Last time I shared how my feet swept the ocean floor. It was pretty raw, but not at all pretty. Today the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction.

Both the deepest lows and the highest highs are hard to talk about. People just don’t do it, unless they are writing a novel about the life of someone else. It somehow seems too personal.

But to talk of everyday life is boring. It is like a flat line on a bell curve. Today I did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher, and went to work…blah, blah, blah…Nobody wants to be flat lining!

I learned a long time ago not to care what others thought of me. Having a severely mentally ill brother and an obese father that is known to walk out to get the mail in his underwear would do that to you.

Seriously, I would’ve been soooo screwed if I was sensitive enough to care what people thought of me. Instead, I do what I want whether people like it or not.

This thinking opened the door to new adventures. Literally!

In two months, I will be moving into my dream house.

Who could’ve guessed that the business my husband started and I helped him build would be such a success? We struggled to make ends meet for so many of our early years. We almost bit the dust with the recession. Then we slowly earned enough money to start remodeling our modest little house. And now after selling the business (but still working there) we are starting our life over.

He is having an identity crisis now, my husband. What happens when you accomplish more than you set out to achieve? Should he start another business? Would we, as workaholics, end up destroying ourselves when there is nothing left to build? Should we retire early? How could we sit still and do nothing? Should we start new careers?

My husband always thought of himself as the underdog, scraping and scrapping to get by. Who is he now??

People are stopping by our new house just out of curiosity and showing pictures to all of their friends. Remember that boy who didn’t have a dad that we thought wouldn’t amount to much?? People are talking. Rumors are spreading like wildfire. People are asking…How much are the taxes?…Are you going to clean your own house?…Why would you want such a big house when your kids are ready to leave??…They swarm around us with a buzz of questions like busy bees.

I’ve always wanted a swimming pool. When I left home, my parents bought an outdoor swimming pool for Matt’s therapy. What??!? When I begged them for one, they always said ‘no’. I could swim in the lake up north. It always made me feel a little hurt. But in our climate, we can only use an outdoor pool for about 2 to 3 months of the year. It doesn’t seem worth it. My parents haven’t even used their pool in years.

My dream house has an indoor pool in a room that is probably the size of my current house. It is an older house, but full of character and charm. It has hardwood floors, wood burning fireplaces, and a big yard for my dog to run around in. My kids will each have their own bedrooms.

At least people cannot say that I married my husband for his money. He didn’t even have the proverbial pot to piss in when I met him.

I married a boy that spent his earliest year growing up in the projects in the inner city of Chicago. When I met him, he didn’t own a house. He didn’t have any money in the bank. He owned a rusty old Chevrolet. That’s about it. He had a mediocre dead end job. He wasn’t going to have an inheritance. He didn’t have a father and had no clue how to be one. He didn’t have any siblings. He didn’t know how a husband should act. His mother wasn’t the type to offer help.

He had nothing and knew nothing about family life. But he had this dream to start a business. It was a big risk, but it paid off.

I am really excited to start this new adventure.

I’m ready to move on…