Lunch out, it has become a tradition and unlike many family traditions, this is one I both enjoy and look forward to. Lunch with Mom and my cousin.
I am away from home a lot for work, if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you are well aware of this. Until earlier this year, I lived in Sacramento, an hour and a half drive away from my mom. Widowed now for coming up two years, aging and in deteriorating health, I’ve moved “home” until we figure out a better solution. This has been really hard for me. I’m sure it’s no picnic for Mom, either, and I’ve written plenty on this dynamic, too.
I am not totally satisfied with my livelihood these days, either. I have a fantastic job, no doubt. I am grateful. My work is satisfying and varied and interesting, the travel, though wearing and tiring, is fun and at least I’m not stuck in the same cubicle day in and day out. I am fairly well compensated and have competitive benefits. But. Yes, but. I am tired. I am bored. I have no direction for advancement. If I stay here I will never progress further. The travel wreaks havoc on friendships, relationships of all sorts and I’m certain constant upheaval, continual lack of sleep, restaurant food for weeks on end and wildly varying availability of exercise has to be less than ideal for my long-term health, which is one of my core principles. And then there’s Mom. How can I be here to help if I’m never here?
This week I am working from home, yet I have no teaching assignments. It isn’t a week off, I have plenty to do; expense reports, travel arrangements to make for upcoming trips, upgrading software, organizing materials for upcoming classes. I don’t get scheduled administrative time, so it piles up until one of these rare weeks comes along. These weeks are also the time I use to regroup, personally. I try to get back on track with my workouts, my clean eating routine, my organization and my attempts to assimilate my more wannabe minimalist lifestyle into my mom’s piles of paper, cupboards and closets of clutter and her knick-knack intensive world. Example; eight months after moving in now, the closet, desk and dresser in “my” room are still full of aforementioned things of Mom’s and I have piles of boxes in my room from which I must sift for underwear, shoes and purses. This all makes me a little cray cray.
The adjustment coming “off the road” where I live and dine in solitude, where I have almost certain quiet in the evenings, returning home where my whereabouts and activities are under constant inquiry, scrutiny, critique and question, where the TV is on full blast more of the day and night than not, where my comings and goings must be carefully and accurately detailed, where everything I say must be repeated, repeatedly, at louder and louder intervals, often with accompanying hand or body gestures, and where meal time is a constant barrage of questions to which there are no answers and lengthy, convoluted stories about people I’ve never met like, Mom’s hairdresser, her doctor, and other characters in her life. How she has accumulated so much personal data on these people I have no idea. She knows the names, national origins, livelihoods and every diagnosis for each and every family member for every individual she has ever encountered. I try to listen actively, to be present, as I preach, as I believe, and yet, the whole while I am thinking “this pertains to me how? What is the point of this story? Why am I being told this story? Is the only lesson here one of patience?” I crave silence, just a tad, if only a moment to gather my own thoughts so I can, perhaps, write an article or make a video or tell a story of my own from my travels.
I am happy to be home and can’t wait to leave again within about the first five minutes home. I am so out of sorts my first day or two home, I’m grumpy, I’m agitated and I hate that I feel grumpy and agitated. If I were a child I’d recommend a big, fat time out. In fact, I’d love a big, fat time out! More than anything. It takes me a few days to settle into some semblance of a routine of waking in my own bed, cooking, cleaning, working, working out, all while juggling Mom’s needs; errands, a chore here and there, figuring out why the TV only displays static, talking to the cable people on the phone to figure out why the TV only displays static, meeting the cable TV technician to demonstrate the non-functioning TV and to be the interpreter between Mom and the technician on why the TV only displays static, moving heavy objects, putting clean glasses back up on the top shelf, hanging the hummingbird feeders and answering tons of unanswerable questions and listening to even more stories.
I have a lot on my plate and a whole bunch of crap swirling in the toilet bowl that is my mind, these days. I want out of just about everything I’m up to my eyebrows in. My sense of duty and my pragmatic side are preventing me from making the changes I need to, want to and really, have to make. This is my personal struggle and one I am counseling myself on like I would a good friend or anyone who asked my advice.
I don’t always take my own advice. And years later I usually end up scolding myself for not listening to myself sooner. When I don’t listen to my really good advice on personal growth and evolution, I turn to some of my tried and true mentors, usually found on my Kindle and in my Audible library, provided I am afforded any quiet solitude. This week, in my car, alone, I had a good no nonsense smack up the side of the head from Jillian Michaels in “Unlimited”. I agree 100% with every passionately spoken word she said so emphatically, sometimes I felt like I was being scolded, in her self-narrated audiobook from Audible. It was just the right amount of practical advice, common sense and that “get off your ass and do it” attitude of hers that I needed. Her books have, without a doubt, changed my life. Whether you like her on TV or not, her books are the best and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend.
With my priorities suddenly straightened out again, thanks Jillian, I got almost everything accomplished yesterday I hoped to; an easy three-mile run, a chest workout at the gym, shopping for food for the week, bills paid, work, of course, and laundry. I got an article posted, though I’d hoped to maybe get a second from my backlog finished and posted, too. Today, I’ve accomplished much of what I set out to do, knowing that today was going to be partially hijacked with Mom’s doctor’s visit. I made it to the gym for stairs and yoga and I’ve posted a couple of articles. But, yes, most of the day was devoted to Mom and her doctor’s visit.
In my absence, while traveling or when living further away, my cousin has made herself available to my parents. She is retired and has moved from San Francisco to Sonoma, and so, is only about twenty minutes away. She is very socially active but always finds time to help my parents out, especially as my dad’s health deteriorated, ultimately leading to his passing at the age of 91, a bit over a year and a half ago. My cousin was there for my mom, often, in the year that followed before I finally moved home, and continues to be close at hand for these doctor’s visits in the neighboring town, as Mom is not real confident driving such a distance these days. For all of this, I am so totally and completely grateful. That my cousin has devoted her time and compassion so generously has allowed me to keep this crazy job of mine, with my wild travels, decent pay and good benefits for that much longer.
The past couple of doctor’s visits, though, I have been home and have been willing and able to take Mom myself. Still, my cousin comes, drives even, and, per our family tradition, this is all followed by lunch, somewhere fabulous. The lunches were tradition long before I ever tagged along, but now, when I am in town, there are more and it is merry!
My cousin, an artist, a photographer, and creative in any imaginable way, strongly opinionated in many ways, and several of those strong opinions I agree whole-heartedly with, I’ve learned. A few, I don’t. But that’s okay. Being my elder by some years, her children being my age actually, until now, I’ve never really had the opportunity to really develop a relationship such as a peer, a friendship, with her. And for this, too, I am very grateful. There are “family” similarities that cannot be denied, for example, the way we see things, which she easily expresses in art and I have the good taste to simply admire. We have a similar love of food and the outdoors, fashion and some basic philosophies about living life. I will admit, that through the years, as a child and young adult, I feared the differences we may have, based on our propensity to develop strong opinions. Hearing most of her points of view second hand, I almost wished to avoid visits so as to avoid any sort of butting of heads. Not that I seek to avoid people whose opinions differ from mine, but with family, and especially this family, it is sometimes the easier path. Thankfully, due to Mom’s routine doctor’s visits and our traditional lunch, I’ve had the opportunity to find that our differences are minor and rare. Example, I love polka dots, she scoffs at them. Big deal.
So, every few months, like today, the three ladies, our ages spanning three generations, pile into a car, drive to the neighboring town so Mom can see her doctor. After the doctor’s visit, we pile back in the car and decide on a place in Napa to enjoy lunch. At lunch we share stories, we share things that interest us, share artists and authors, ideas and philosophies. We enjoy an incredible meal and, most of all, the three of us enjoy each other’s company.
What in life do we avoid because we fear differences, adversity or conflict? Often those fears are unfounded, the differences, adversity and conflict are much more minor than we ever expected, once confronted, they are manageable, and, in fact, we grow from them. We learn new information, a new point of view, we learn, perhaps, acceptance and tolerance. We become better for the differences, adversities and conflicts we face, we become stronger, more confident. Sometimes, we discover that we have been, maybe, intolerant, closed minded, stubborn and by facing the difference, the adversity, the conflict, we grow. We may even change. Perhaps we even find the inspiration we’ve been seeking, or that we’ve been waiting for, to act as the catalyst for positive change in our lives. I will quote Eleanor Roosevelt daily until the day I die, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And if that is facing whatever you fear in the way of a difference, or adversity or conflict, then you will have overcome yet another measly fear and you can move on to conquer the next, another day. And with each fear conquered, we evolve towards the people we deserve to be. Make facing those fears, overcoming differences, adversity and conflict a tradition, just like a good visit and a fab lunch with Mom and my cousin after a doctor’s appointment.