I have this dream – it’s reoccurring really, that my husband dies and I find myself alone – wondering who I am. And I set out, not on a one thousand mile hike per se’ but more like a 400 mile bike trip trying to find my strength. I WANT to see this movie… something about it, resonates with me.
I can remember when my husband bought me a diamond tennis bracelet for Christmas 15 years ago. I’ve never owned anything so pretty in my entire life. It’s not like we had a lot of money either. He just wanted to surprise me, and surprise me he did. I love that bracelet.
We were at a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house and I showed it to someone. I wasn’t bragging about the bracelet I just wanted to brag on my husband for being so romantic.
Besides, she asked.
“I guess that’s why (her now husband) likes me. I’m not high maintenance. ”
I said, “You’re right. You aren’t high maintenance, but you sure have one hell of a manicure.”
That would be when the men separated us. Good thing too.
I do not for the life of me, understand cat fights.
And if you are going to ask a woman where she got something, don’t get all catty when you don’t like the answer.
We aren’t the competition y’all.
I made it to the parking lot.
Then I made it to our car.
The minute my hand touched the door handle, I collapsed into tears.
Dropping our oldest off to college for the first time knocked the wind out of me and I cried the entire way home.
All I ever wanted when I was younger was to be someone’s wife, and somebody’s mother. I never dreamed of any other life really. Oh sure, maybe the occasional wish to be an actress or run away and be a circus clown but mostly I just wanted to be married. I thought being married would complete me in a way nothing else could. I was totally wrong in that assessment by the way, but that’s a story for later.
That kind of vibe sorta sticks and makes dating difficult to say the least. I have been looking for my MRS Degree since I could walk and talk. Guys know it and steer clear for the most part. Somehow or other though I met this really cute guy who picked up on the vibe and didn’t care. Seems he wanted the same things. Well, he didn’t want to be a wife, but he didn’t exactly mind having one – even one who lacked certain domestic skills like ironing and cooking.
My identity was always wrapped up in who I was dating. Codependancy and I are old roommies. You think Bella was nauseating? I was worse, trust me. When my high school sweetheart joined the navy I dreamed of being an officer’s wife and when that didn’t work out, it was the science teacher’s wife, the movie star’s wife, the … well you get the picture.
Being Deana, just wasn’t in my solar system of a brain. Every time I dated a new guy, I altered my personality to fit his. Manipulative? Yep. I tried on personalities and life styles like women try on clothes in a department store.
If I want to shift blame, I could easily place it on how I was raised. “act right or move out” was the motto in my home growing up. I lived in constant fear that I would wake up one day and my bags would be packed and I would be on my own. Truthfully though, where my chameleon came from is irrelevant. I own my adult choices today – even if it took 25 years to face them.
That’s what this blog is about you know. Owning choices. Life after kids. I’ve gotten away from that lately, and I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.
I am the quintessential mom. PTA president, Youth Group Leader, Home Room Mom, Office Volunteer, Substitute teacher, soccer coach. I did it all, gladly by the way. I thought I was going to die when they grew up. I didn’t.
My children are grown now. I joke about that regularly. My opening introduction is “My children are grown and my gardens are dead. Boy, are they happy I got it in that order.”
It’s been four years since my oldest left for college and one year since my youngest did the same.
In that time I have discovered:
- I love horses and even rode through the jungle’s of Belize on horseback.
- I’m funny and started doing stand up.
- I competed in a Clean Comedy Challenge in Indiana against pros who’ve been doing this for 10-20 years and while I didn’t win or place, I had a blast!
- I took my very first vacation ever – one that did not include visiting family.
- I also took my first vacation (gasp) without my husband.
- I left the Lutheran church and found a tradition that is more supportive of outreach and ministry.
- I started playing the banjo.
- I started serving dinner in a homeless shelter
- I sponsored my first child through Cups of Cold Water Ministries in the Dominican Republic
- I swam with sharks in Cancun
- I snorkeled a barrier reef.
- I love blue grass. Who knew?
- I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers (both sides of my family) — Instead of living in the suburbs, I want to own a ranch. My husband does not share that dream and so we compromise – I ride at a friends ranch instead. compromise is good.
- I’m going to learn how to rope, chase cans, and pen cattle for fun. All on horseback.
- I’m leaving for my second ever vacation next month and this time, I’m going to ride along the ocean and IN the ocean bareback on a horse. (How freaking cool is that?)
- I’ve taken command of my health and I’m learning about genetically modified foods and how they impact my body.
- I’ve become and advocate against Monsanto.
- I came out as a democrat.
- And I went back in the closet over that because I couldn’t handle the rejection and pushback. (I’m working on that)
- I’m learning how to voice my opinions with respect and ask for the same in return.
- I let go of old friendships that require me to stay a chameleon and feed my fears of abandonment.
- I’m making new friends.
- I started writing poetry.
- I wrote my first novel (unpublished, but written at least)
- And I’m getting ready to write my first non-fiction book.
I am free.
Life doesn’t end when our kids move out. It simply opens a new chapter and a new opportunity to meet the woman in the mirror. Have you met her lately? Have you listened to her? Are you free?
For some of you, this is your first year on your own. Your child has left for college and you are wondering what’s next. I’m here to tell you there is a lot of awesomeness next. Find one thing you want to learn this year and try it. You may like it, you may not. But either way — enjoy the ride.
” I miss my friends. I miss our house. I miss our store. I hate you for bringing me here.” she said. And he reminds her, “But we chose this, remember? The house, yard, and store were too much to take care of now, and we were too far away from town and the doctor’s offices. And we’re closer to our daughter now. You can walk to her house. You couldn’t do that before. So what if we have to drive farther to see our friends, we knew that when we chose to move.”
* “I hate living in Chicago. It’s scary and it’s hard. And those men I have to work with? They are crude! They keep trying to scare me off. It’s so hard some days Gramps.”
“But you chose this, remember? You wanted to live in Chicago. You wanted to have a career. You knew you would be the only woman in that group when you accepted the job. You chose this life. The only question that remains now is what choices are you willing to make today? Are you going to step up to the plate and face the challenge you accepted or are you going to run away?”
YOU CHOSE THIS, REMEMBER?
If I remember nothing else from my Grandfather, I hope I never forget those words. You chose this. Own your choices or they will own you.
My Grand Father had an 8th grade education at best, and I swear up and down he was the smartest man I’ve ever known in my life. I miss him beyond measure most days.
The great thing about choices is we get to change our minds and make a different choice, or we get to buckle down and do what needs to be done.
I got a little whiney this week. I didn’t think I was being whiney. I thought I was just stating facts, I’ve been performing all month at various venues and some have been harder than others. I haven’t slept well in I don’t know how long. I’ve been up half the night most nights writing new jokes, practicing my banjo and my guitar, writing stories, talking with friends, working through home work that is due June 15. I have gardens to work, and deadlines looming. I got to feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all and I think part of me was looking for a little bit of sympathy only I didn’t get it.
I’m glad really. Women (and men) don’t need sympathy — especially in light of the fact that we are all living the lives we choose to live. (For the record, sympathy and empathy are not the same thing.)
We may not view our lives as choice. Sometimes we view ourselves as victims of either fate or circumstance or others but nothing can be further from the truth.
I’m choosing to add music lessons, a ministry class, and playing stand up in bars and clubs to my already full schedule of running a home, caring for aging parents, and going green in my gardening (No GMO’s for us thank you) not to mention becoming a full-fledged cyclist. All of these are good choices. Yes, it does mean I get a bit less sleep. I’m not a victim. I’m living my dream. I’m performing comedy. I’m working hard at being the best comic I can become. Every choice I make pushes me a little bit closer to my goals.
I can either accept, appreciate, and value the hard work that goes into that – or I can stay a stuck little girl and whine which leads people and myself to wonder – if it’s really that awful why do you keep doing it?
We choose where we work, where we live, whom we trust, how we eat, how we spend our time and what we think.
When we replace the have to’s with chooses to’s, we step out of the little girl victim mode and become women who own our own lives.
It isn’t always easy. Life is still life. Relationships are hard. Work is hard. And even in the face of hardship we still choose how we respond.
We aren’t beach balls tossed around by a crowd. We are women. We control our steps, our hearts, and our destiny. Only when we live it, breathe it, and own it are we free.
* I went on to earn numerous performance rewards, including but not limited to recognition from the National Associate of Female Executives for being the first women to work in Internal Communications for a National Telecommunications company. When hired, the manager told me “HR says I have to hire a broad, I give you 90 days.” — Today that department has almost as many women working in it as men. I’m proud I chose to rise to the challenge and stick with it.