1. Dumping bad boyfriends when I was a teenager. At the time (s) that I did it, I was soooo concerned about how they’d feel, or if I was the loser for not wanting to be so-and-so’s girlfriend. I’m pretty sure they got over it right smart quick. I did, too. It needed doing, and I needed the practice in not letting wieners suck up my life. One guy was still tied to his mom, another was too much of a druggie, another was a closet Satanist (!), others were just jerks on some level or another. My beloved and wonderful stepmom was a big help in talking me through the feelings afterwards, too. She made sure that I knew there were more fish in the ocean, that I had been polite and straightforward (for my own conscience), and that I had as few regrets as possible. She would also give me the business if she thought I was being mean to one for no good reason.
2. Moving to the Midwest: I grew up on the east coast, and I had a seriously crappy childhood. I sometimes wonder if I had stayed there, if the memories would have been overwhelming merely because of proximity, and I kind of think they would have been. Chicago is a nice town to be a newcomer in – people will help you figure out what bus or el train you want to take, the downtown area is laid out in a grid, the lake is always EAST, so you can find your way around, and it was a good place to be a teenager in the 70’s. Burbs are burbs everywhere, but I do think that the people here are a degree more outgoing (if not nicer) than they were back east. I’m also not an LA, movie-star-worshipping kind of a person; in fact, I may like to read gossip magazines in the dentist’s office, but I really couldn’t care less about celebrities, their babies, their foibles, their clothes, etc. Nothing they do is going to change my life! I miss the south, but that would have been too much like remaining in the east.
3. Having kids: Yes, it hurts, pregnancy is weird, nursing is kind of a drag sometimes, and it’s years before they become interesting enough to really talk to. It’s an endurance/marathon life, one in which you learn more about yourself while caring for the needs of another. There are no breaks, no vacations, no days off, no rest stops, no pay or raises or promotions, and just being a woman with children costs you 20 points in social ranking and far more than that in desirability. F*ck all of that. I’ve learned that I can cope with anything – Rosemary’s Baby delivery rooms, New Year’s Eve projectile vomit, all kinds of alarming stenches and substances, sleep deprivation that spans years, physical exhaustion, debilitation and injury, bad medical advice, poverty, anything you can think of. And I can love my kids through it, keep them smiling, which helps me smile, and offer hope to them by believing in better things myself. I’ve learned that I’m nicer than I thought I was, tougher, more resilient, and can be meaner and more relentless in defense of my kids than I would have been comfortable with had I not had them. Boogey on, Momma!
4. Going back to school for my degrees: I struggled for so many years to try to accumulate enough credit hours in the right field to get a degree. Something always got in the way, and I felt crappy on a low-level, ongoing basis about not achieving what I had expected of myself. I wrote about it in Midlife Crises in more detail. I found some things out, though. The first is, that I can do it. I am hardworking and smart enough, and my brains didn’t turn to oatmeal during the kids’ toddler years, I really did and do have it in me. I don’t feel like I wasted any money, and, looking back down the long, long trail that led here, I learned a great deal more than what helped me pass the academic tests. Time, itself, helped – it helped the right people get into the right places so that credit hours that had been lost abroad could be recouped, it helped me develop a motivation so unstoppable that nothing was going to get in my way, and it helped me learn to trust myself and stop wimping out to authority figures and naysayers.
5. Knitting a lot: I don’t paint, I can’t draw a stick figure that doesn’t look deformed, I don’t sing any more, and I’m a danger to the planet if I dance. I also am the world’s most unpredictable interior decorator, and my love of the bizarre and sometimes odd leads to some interesting choices in gardening. But, everyone needs outlets for their creativity and something to absorb sublimated energies while the mind ponders. I knit. I have knit some supremely beautiful things, and I have knit some dog crap on a soggy paper plate (not literally). I like it, it makes me happy, it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, and I like to see the results as well as use the process to deal with twitchy fingers. I like that I can see my creativity in every room in the house, including bathrooms. I like that my kids immediately head for Mom’s Hand Knits when they’re cold, sad, upset, or need a woobie. I like that they will snatch stuff right off my needles before I’ve woven in ends because they like whatever it is so much. I like that they brag to their friends and feel special because they are wearing hand knit stuff. I like that every single dog we’ve had has adopted an afghan and made a lifelong nest in it. I like the sound of the needles clicking – like water in a garden, and I enjoy the susurration of yarn speeding through my fingers. I like the dexterity it gives me. I would wish that everyone finds a hobby to bring them this much joy and peace.
Have a good weekend!