Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” *

I can remember, when I was young, that I saw the world stretching out in front of me, and I had no idea who or what I would one day become. Every day was a chance at something new, and I followed a path that I set for myself.

There came a time, though, when the only thing I saw stretching out in front of me was time. I saw nothing to challenge me...nothing to do more than to draw me from one day to the next. I saw no possibility of change...of adventure...of becoming more than someone who went to work and came home, only to restart the process again the next day.

I was asked yesterday how it was I came to find the courage, the willingness, the chutzpah even, to resurrect my life and make the drastic changes I made.

It was a challenge that put it all in to motion.

"Kim," I was asked, "what is your passion in life?" A pause while I thought...and found no answer. "Or do you even have passion anymore?"

And I had to admit to the friend who had gently asked me the question that no, I no longer had passion. I had been going through the motions. I had been taking one step after another on a long familiar road that only led from one day to the next. I had no deviation, no experience outside of work and home, no plans that were not made for me to follow.

I thought about that question and remembered that my passion used to be words. I had been a newspaper editor and reporter. I made my living investigating stories, attending meetings, writing about the events in our town in a way that people who had not been able to attend would understand them. I had a column. I wrote humorous insights into daily events. I wrote inspirational columns because I thought deep thoughts and still could. I read every day...all kinds of books. I spent my free time writing to friends and communicating with others.

So I took that question...that challenge...and took a step off the path I'd been on. I decided, at age 45, to go back to school and get my degree before I was 50. At 46, I started school. Almost every day for the next four years, I poured myself into writing and did receive my degree in Creative Writing and English one month after turning 50.

It wasn't enough to get my degree, though. With the confidence I'd built in doing well in school, it was time to step out of my safe job as a cashier in a retail/restaurant establishment, and start doing something that made a difference.

Just before my 50th birthday, I became a Peer Provider at a mental health facility in my hometown in Texas. It was now my job to share my story of depression, bipolar, panic and anxiety...and how I'd come to live beyond my diagnosis and become my own person again. It was a step I'd never dreamed I would take...but rekindling my passion, pursuing my education, and deciding that the status quo was no longer satisfactory made taking that step not only possible, but necessary.

Now I'm 51. I have decided to enter into a relationship with my long-time friend, Pat. We've BOTH made a conscious decision to stop thinking we had to be alone the rest of our lives, and started entertaining the possibility of being part of a couple. We are 51 and 55 and I for one don't feel old. I feel rejuvenated...rekindled again...resurrected as my client mentioned yesterday.

Who will I be in five years? I will be strong, confident, and sure in what I'm doing. I don't know what that is yet, but I will know it when I see it. Until then, I will be strong and confident and sure of what I do and do not want. I will be bold in going after the things that I feel passionate about and not be afraid to think outside the box or be held back because I'm a woman of a "certain age".

It's not too late. It's never too late. And I will still be exactly who I might have been. :)

* George Eliot

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"No one can grow in the shade." *

I've been in three major relationships in my life.

I married a man at 20. I divorced him and later married another man in my 30s. We divorced in my mid-40s. And at 50, I entered in to the relationship I am in now.

At 20, there were a myriad of reasons that I chose to get married. None of them were good enough to base a life-time commitment on. I barely knew the man, who was older than me...who had been out in the world...who had embarked on a career. I was young, had never seriously dated anyone before, had never worked out a compromise in a relationship, and had only worked the typical high school/college jobs. I had no clue about how a relationship was supposed to work, so I decided to take his word for How Things Were Supposed to Be and tried to submit to his ideal of What A Wife Should Be.

Seen and not heard. Maybe not seen at all.

He preferred attending military functions, which typically included the spouse, on his own. He preferred shopping different parts of the store than me when we were out.

Shy. Submissive. Subjugated.

Which I'm not. Which I tried to be. Which I became.

And what growth I managed to do in the shade of his attempted control turned out to be rather stunted.

So in my 30s, when I was manic, and I married again, I made sure not to marry a controller.

Instead, he wanted me to be in charge of everything...and he wanted to be close. All the time. Overwhelmingly close.

I couldn't leave the house without being called every few minutes to "see how you're doing." I couldn't talk to my friends or family without him interrupting me to make jokes or ask questions that could very well have waited. I couldn't leave the room without him asking where I was going.

And in the shade of his clinginess and smothering, I did not grow at all.

I was also very unhealthy at that time -- in the throes of a bipolar roller coaster, not yet diagnosed, and desperately needing help.

When I got help...when I started to get healthy...when I tried to take back some of the strength I had gained when I was on my own...the marriage (always shaky) quickly died and we separated, then divorced.

I became strong. I began to grow.

Slowly, and with the help of family and friends who did not try to control me or smother, but always encouraged me and supported me as I began to take steps to set my future in place.

Now, in this third relationship, I started out healthy and strong on my own. My friend and I met on equal footing, in a long-term supportive friendship, and built on that. We talk...about everything. We discuss important things and chat about silly things. We celebrate both our similarities and our differences. We explore each other's thoughts, dreams, likes and dislikes, discovery ways to interact and connect. We support each other in the decisions we have to make. More than a girlfriend...more than a lover...he wants a partner. He doesn't want me to be anyone but me. He doesn't want me to put myself under his control...he wants me on equal footing. He doesn't want me to be his mother or his constant-every-minute-of-every-day-touchstone...he wants me to be his companion. He wants us to have our own interests independent of each other, as well as things we enjoy and do together.

It is the healthiest relationship I have ever known.

I had to grow and get healthy to find it.

I could not grow in the shade...but in the nourishment of family and friends whose love was unconditional.

* Leo Buscaglia