Today I turn 45…..yikes! I get for some of you this sounds old, for some this feels young, and for others it might be right around where you are too. To me it feels like such a big number…..at the wise old age of 7, I had a plan for what life should look like – by 15 I should know exactly what I am doing with my life and a solid plan for execution, by 22 I better have my act together with a good job, great husband and maybe kids. And well, I better have knocked off everything from my life-to-do list by 40 because it was all downhill after that. I was at the time in my life when my parents’ friends were turning 40 and there were a lot of “Over the Hill” themed parties, clearly I was impressionable.
Well, things on this wild journey did not go as planned! At 15 I was convinced I wanted to be a banker or international business woman racing across the world. By 22 I figured out that I was really bored by accounting, and rather do something else with my life. I was in an entry level job, a great boyfriend (now my husband) and no kids. When I turned 40 I had a job I loved, a great husband and 6 beautiful kids – including one just a few months old that reminded me I better not be over the hill because I had a lot I still wanted to do! Five years later I reflect on just how much has happened in that window of time – the kids grew up, Peter beat cancer (just barely), we lost my mother and John’s father to cancer, I worked hard – really hard – and we are five years wiser, seasoned, and slightly weathered.
A few weeks back I was on Spring Break in Pagosa Springs with 5 of the kiddos. I posted a picture of my view from the condo’s deck – overlooking the water with majestic mountains on the horizon and clear blue skies. My mug of hot chocolate and a good book as my companions. The kids were too busy loving cable TV which we don’t have at home. A friend replied to my FaceBook post asking me what I was reading – I replied with “Just Too Busy” by Joanne Kraft. She looked it up, and replied with “…well, I am not sure you can take a sabbatical year but you can always do mini version of that….”. I chuckled. Just a few days earlier, as John and I drove to our local Starbucks (I know…not a surprise), I just looked over at him and said “I just can’t do this anymore….I am exhausted, I go to bed at night accumulating more and more regrets of time lost where I should be doing more with the kids…I can’t keep trying to do it all…..you and the kids are the most important thing to me, yet you get the least and worst part of me at the end of the day”. Following a quizzical look I blurted out “I’m quitting! I’m done, I need a break, I want to be a better mom and wife…..I don’t know what it is going to take but I need to do this”. Silence. Then in my charming way said “Dave Ramsey said that if you need to work three jobs to support us, you can do that – I need to be home….”. When in doubt – quote Dave! Silence. And then all that came out was “OK”. Not quite what I was expecting from my highly analytical thinker that often conflicts with my quick decision making by instinct and gut sense.
So there you go – last night I turned in my written resignation. One of the easiest yet hardest things I have done. I love my job. I love my co-workers. Many of them were the long distance, reliable, cheerleading team that sent me words of encouragement during the darkest times of Peter’s cancer treatment. And sometimes they were the non-sugarcoated and honest words that needed to be said – “Remember today that Peter needs you to stay strong”, “…this is not about you, this is about Peter, and you need to fight for him today…”. Co-workers that became friends and grew into ‘brothers and sisters’ that called it like they saw it and still embraced me in those dark moments. Those dark moments when I needed to scream at endless barrage of Peter’s medical struggles, my frustration when I felt there was nothing I could do to fix things, and my anxious moments when I feared I was not strong enough to cope with losing him. I have been so blessed to have a job that challenged me while at the same time generously providing for my family and empowering me to make the decisions that were best for them at the time. And it was with that empowerment that I have made this change. I have worked in some capacity for 30 of the last 32 years – flash back to the 80’s and I started off working at a video rental club at 13 – yeah, this is a crazy change into unchartered territory!
Last month we lost Peter’s Special Education teacher to cancer. Not only was it a hard loss for us who relied on her wisdom, caring, and encouragement – but it is a huge loss for this world. Michelle was truly an angel that slipped down from heaven to bring grace to those around her. Michelle’s funeral was amazing – and it was the impetus to stop and assess my life. I was, after all, over the hill and rapidly sliding to FORTY-FIVE! To those closest to me, I have said that the last ten years have been hard, and I am tired. Life has peaks and valleys, but I feel like we’ve been on a never ending rollercoaster, and I want off – give me ”It’s a Small World” gentle ride for a while! This last school year has, in all honesty, been brutal. Stressful, heartbreaking, hurtful, yet a time of needing to fight for our family day in and day out in ways I never thought we would ever have to do. I’m tired, and our family needs a change. Time to course correct.
Most of my blog entries, when I was actually doing them, were about the ups and downs of Peter’s medical journey. But I want to be sure to state that all my kids are wonderful and amazing and complex and interesting and fun …..I don’t want anyone to think I love and admire one more than another. They all teach me different things and are unique. But let’s face it, Peter has been the one to carry the brunt of life challenges, and we have been in support roles. But, through it all, he led us with a big smile, bear hugs, and lots of ‘thank you’. Thank you?! Yep – little man is grateful for so much every day! “Hey lady – thank you for accessing my port right the first time” – fist bump! Or “You checked my genitals one more time to make sure they are still healthy – thank you for the gentle squeeze doc!” – double fist bump on that! “Dude – that flashlight in my face at 1am tells me you are here to party with me in the Peds Unit – thank you for keeping it fun!” – I’d fist bump if you hadn’t woken me from slumber, but my coordination lacks right now. “Yo man – thank you for giving me a ride home on the big yellow school bus yet again!” – salute you from my driveway!
So here is what I figured out on my self-imposed life reassessment period – Peter has his sh*t pulled together no matter what the experts say (excuse my French to those that figured out the * is really an “I”). The rest of us whine about being tired and stressed (yes, even my youngest ones have uttered those words and I know they get it from me – “I am soooo streeeesssed ooooout!!”). The rest of us self-pity when we hit a rough patch, or feel that we have been treated unfairly when cosmically all should balance in our favor. I am still waiting for my cosmic reward for birthing 6 kids, and all the extra weight should ‘poof’ disappear. I’m not saying Peter doesn’t get totally ticked off – he does. When his sister convinces him to let her hold his iPad, only to take over what is being watched/played or better yet outrun him to where he has no say at all on the iPad – little man is really ticked off. Cut the man some slack – he is human…..super human, but human none the less.
What is Peter’s secret sauce to life? He has his priorities in the right place. At work we call those super important things “blue chips” – poker players won’t have the “huh?!” I had the first time I heard that term. Guess what – I think I have 297 blue chips to balance every day. Yep…that is me ….no white chips, no red chips, my plate of life is full of blue chips. God may not give you more than you can handle, but someone else is slipping their blue chips onto my plate! A couple of years ago I tried to do a mini-sabbatical. I stepped down from almost all my volunteer/extra-curricular activities. It helped, but it was not enough. I still had too many “blue chips” – I didn’t step far enough away to see how much I piled on my plate. Peter has three blue chips – to show gratitude, to love and forgive fully, and to enjoy the ride. Smile at the world, and it will smile back – right? Don’t tell Peter if you disagree – it is working for him. At some heart and soul level, Peter knows what the rest of take a lifetime to learn – when we start in a place of love and gratitude, how can you not live by what truly matters?
If tomorrow were my last day on earth, I would have so much to be thankful for….but I would want to change what I’ve been doing, and live my last day with those I love the most. I don’t know when my last day is – but it is time for me to take myself down to three blue chips, catch my breath, and create more of those crazy memories I get to laugh about on my final day.
This is not going to be easy. There will be good days and bad days. Some may want to worry about the effect on the economy of my significantly reduced Starbucks expenditure. I am thankful, so thankful, to have the opportunity now to focus on my family. I vacillated on whether to go here next – but I have decided to…..to all you mama’s out there – this is just my story and my place in the world today. This is not about leaning in vs. opting out. This is not about staying at home or working. I’ve been cruelly judged – and it hurts – and I don’t want to do the same to you. For many years my heart yearned to be home, but I wasn’t. My soul trusted that I was where I needed to be. Trust that where ever you are now, this is where you are meant to be, and I will meet you right there – no judgment.
A friend once told me that people come into our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I think too that where we are is for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Only God truly knows. I don’t know what decisions we will be making a year from now, but I am thankful that today I get to take this huge leap, and I am so looking forward to all the new and crazy memories our family will be making. More to come!